DISCLAIMER: Legend of the Seeker and its characters are the property of ABC Studios, and Terry Goodkind. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To michkidd[at]earthlink.net
GNN BREAKING NEWS
'D'HARAN LOYALISTS INSTIGATE RIOTS OVER LEAKED RAHL ARREST WARRANT'
[The commercial for 'Biagra' fades to black, then fades up on anchor Lilly Johannsen. She has a serious look on her face, shuffling the papers on the news desk with one hand, while she presses a finger to the IFB in her ear. The CG at the bottom of the screen displays: D'Haran violence escalates.]
Lilly: Thank for staying with GNN and our continuing coverage of the riots breaking out across cities within D'Hara. Here's a recap of what we do know. Approximately ten hours ago, a top secret memo from the US Government was leaked asking for the D'Haran Prime Minister's help in the arrest of Darken Rahl. D'Haran Loyalists, those who wish to see the D'Haran government return to the rule of Rahl, took to the streets in protest of both the arrest warrant for Rahl and the Prime Minister possibly giving aid to US forces seeking to arrest Rahl.
[An image pops up on the screen, on the right side, a color headshot of Richard Cypher. On the left, a grainy black and white photo of Darken Rahl.]
Lilly: The arrest warrant comes after unconfirmed allegations that Darken Rahl attempted to assassinate Richard Cypher, the Seeker. This isn't the first time Rahl has been accused of criminal activity both inside and outside of D'Hara. While no charges have ever been filed, or evidence brought to light, rumors still run rampant that the heir to the D'Haran throne is also a criminal mastermind.
[The image switches to the infamous Larry King Live interview of 2007.]
Darken Rahl: These accusations are ridiculous and nothing more than a deliberate and despicable smear campaign against me and my efforts to give my people what they want. D'Hara was better under the leadership of Rahl. I am a man of peace, Mr. King. I believe in justice, honor and democracy. And if the people think they would be better under my rule, I am only attempting to give the people what they want.
CLIT ISLAND, LOCATION UNKNOWN
It had been a mistake. Cara turned herself into the MBI, told them she was a double agent and proceeded to spill her guts, telling them everything she knew about CLIT and the Mord'Sith. At the time, she just didn't tell them everything. She'd held back. After ten years within the organization, Cara found completely cutting her ties not so easy. She'd spilled her guts to the MBI but left out a few things, left, unrevealed, one last Mord'Sith hideout. She thought, at the time, it was a gift to her Sisters. A way for the Mord'Sith to continue to survive. Even Cara couldn't take 10 years of history and just throw it away.
Until today. The day her Sisters had tried to kill Kahlan, their unborn child.
The last Mord'Sith compound was on an island, twenty miles off the western coast of Costa Rica. Surrounded by a veil of magic, to the untrained eyes, it was nothing more than a stretch of water. Cara's eye was anything but untrained.
She scaled the sheer cliff wall on the south side of the island. Where the wall of the compound met the edge. A black dot against gray rock, her gear bag filled with weaponry softly clanked against her back.
Reaching the top of the cliff, Cara quickly took out the two sentry guards closest to her. She swung a cable-released hook over the wall then quickly climbed with the rope attached.
As she crested the wall, spotlights turned on as klaxon alarms pierced the night air. They'd been expecting her. Perfect. Shots rang out. Cara cut right, hard, running across the parapet, bullets pinging off stone, dusting Cara.
A Mord'Sith stood before the entrance to the sentry tower, guarding the staircase leading down. Cara pulled her semi, fired twice, then leapt over the guard's collapsing body. She kicked open the door to the stairwell, firing her weapons as she descended. Red leather clad bodies dropped in chaotic succession, littering the steps, the air smelling of gun powder and blood.
Reaching the floor level, Cara cracked open the door, peering quickly outside. Mord'Sith, 15 of them, with nothing more than their Agiel's in their hands and Cara understood. If this was to be a showdown between Sisters, it would be fought like Sisters.
Cara slowly opened the door to the stairwell. In her black, Mord'Sith-cut leathers, hands raised, guns dangling by the receivers with her thumbs, Cara sauntered out into the courtyard.
Leather creaked as multiple hands tightened around just as many Agiel's, the magic sounding like distant screams carried on the breeze. Cara dropped her guns to the ground.
"I just want you all to remember, I trained most of you," she drawled icily, casually pulling both the Agiel's tucked in her belt as she walked deeper into the courtyard, allowing herself to be circled. "And those I didn't train were trained by someone I did. You will lose."
The whisper of motion behind her and Cara lowered to a crouch, spinning on the ball of a foot. She swung her Agiel, the rod screamed as it caught her attacker against her lead foot, knocking the Mord'Sith off balance. Cara lunged forward, plunging the tip of her other Agiel into the woman's stomach. Lips curling into a snarl as the woman screamed.
It was on. They rushed towards in her a frenetic organized chaos, their numbers increasing as more filled in behind them. An army against one. The courtyard filled with the sounds of hissing Agiel's, punches and kicks. One, two, three at a time, Cara's enemies went down. The smile on Cara's face turned almost feral in intent. Agent of the MBI, Mord'Sith, the Shadow, it made no difference the title. This was who Cara was. Like she'd been built for it - battle, fighting, killing.
The last of the Mord'Sith's, cream of the crop, best of the best and still they fell before the Mord'Sith known as Cara Mason. Cara's muscles burned, her lungs ached, bruises formed upon bruises. Her vision went blurry as tears filled her eyes. These were her Sisters, her SISTERS. She'd trained them, fought side by side with them, broke bread, healed wounds, shared beds. Being a Mord'Sith was in Cara's blood, as were they. It seemed fitting they would die at her hands, the hands of a fellow Sister, it just didn't make it right.
An eternity later, as the sun cracked over the horizon, the battle was over. Cara stood, Agiel's in both hands, sweat dripping from her face, black leathers spattered with blood. With eyes angry and heated, she turned them towards the compound. There was still one more.
"DENNA!" Cara roared, pushing open the double doors to the compound as she stalked inside.
Boot heels on stone floor echoed off the walls as Denna, at the far end of the corridor, made her entrance. Agiel's, white and matching her leathers, grasped in both her hands.
"Welcome home, Cara," she purred.
"Why?" Cara hissed through clenched teeth.
"If you haven't figured that out? You're not as smart as I thought you were." She smiled emptily, tapping an Agiel against her thigh as she made her way down the small steps. "Your place is here. It's always been here. And you can never escape," she chuckled, edging closer across the floor. "Did you think you could hide from me? Did you think she would be safe in your little cave?"
"What?" Cara stammered.
"You can imagine my disappointment when I realized you weren't there. But, don't worry.." Denna stopped in her tracks. She raised one of her Agiel's, gazing at it reverently. "It was quick and merciful. It's strange though," she paused, brows crinkling as her expression turned to one of puzzlement. "Even at the end, she had this look on her face, like she really expected you to come and save her."
A scream tore up from Cara's throat, rage and pain and sheer fury. She launched herself towards Denna, running at full bore. Denna smiled in delight, gripping her Agiel's and as she ran towards Cara.
Their collision was a bone jarring hard and loud smack of Agiel against Agiel. Cara's red. Denna's white. Cara blocked one Agiel, only to feel the hard, stinging jab against her ribs. She spun with the blow, whirling around and backhanding Denna across the face. Denna mimicked, spinning, striking with her leading arm.
They moved like two swordsmen with double blades - parrying, thrusting, slashing and jabbing. Neither able to gain the upper hand.
"You know what your problem is, Cara?" Denna grunted through clenched teeth, through lips still smiling. Cara thrust down with both Agiel's, Denna blocking with her own, both pushing into the other. Until their faces were inches apart, separated by the connected Agiel's that hissed and spat. "You always thought you were better than me."
"That's because," Cara grit. "I am better."
Cara pushed again, sending Denna back, just enough for Cara to bring her knee up and into Denna's stomach. The air whooshed from Denna's lungs and she stumbled back, kneeling down with an arm over her stomach. She lifted her head, blue eyes twinkling and bright as her mouth pulled into a wide smile.
Denna darted towards the stairs, laughing like these were old times, Cara quickly on her heels.
The middle of the stairs and Denna turned, facing Cara while walking backwards up the stairs, her Agiel's at the ready. "You know why you can't win, Cara?"
"I know I'm going to kill you," Cara growled, clenching her fists tighter around her Agiel's as she stalked up the stairs. "That's all that matters."
"And then what, Cara? The MBI thinks of you as an embarrassment. You've turned your back on your Sisters. You're no longer the Shadow. And now?" she licked her lips, eyes alight as her words hit Cara like a blow. "You no longer have Kahlan. And what do you think the few allies you have left will think when they find out you lead the Mord'Sith straight to the great Kahlan Amnell. Even if I die, I win. Because, you? Have nothing left to live for."
The words burned like acid poured over her insides. Insides already hollowed out and empty. Because Denna was right - Cara had nothing left to live for. There would be no redemption, just constant pain and regret. Hollow, empty, cold, but there in the hollow emptiness that'd become her soul, there was one emotion left, one Cara drew upon as her eyes turned cold as ice and she stalked up the stairs towards Denna - rage.
She screamed, launching herself at Denna. And it was Agiel's against Agiel's, blocked kicks and connecting punches. Denna was right, Cara had nothing left to live for. Cara also had nothing left to lose. She channeled that rage into her Agiel's, her fists and legs. A game of equals tipped in its balance, Denna began to retreat with minute steps even as she fought back. The sarcastic smile on her lips faded into a grim line. Blocks turned weakened, Cara's blows began connecting without a counter.
Cara slashed and jabbed and kicked. Denna swung down, Cara pulled back then brought her Agiel down on Denna's wrist, the leather rod dropping from Denna's grasp and rolling across the floor. With the same hand, Cara swung upwards, knuckles catching Denna under the chin. Denna's head snapped up then back as she stumbled, drops of red clashing with the whites of her leathers. A swift roundhouse kick to Denna's other hand and her other Agiel was sailing through the air.
Cara dropped her Agiel's. She wanted to feel this. She grabbed Denna by her leathers, lifted then slammed Denna's back against the wall. A hand curling into a fist, she unleashed it against Denna's face. Hard. Again and again and again. For Kahlan. For their unborn child. For a love stolen, snuffed out. For herself, for daring to believe she could ever love.. and be loved in return. She'd lost everything but she still had one thing left. Vengeance.
Denna's legs gave and Cara lifted her, thumping her hard against the wall. She wrapped her hands around Denna's throat, arms trembling as she squeezed with everything she had. Glazed blue eyes suddenly sharpened, red painted lips curled into a gloaty smile and Denna started laughing. Laughing.
Cara eased her grip, just a little, gazing puzzled back at Denna. And Cara's eyes widened, a half second too late, at the realization she'd walked right into Denna's trap. A puff of air blowing, a stinging pain in her neck and Cara's vision went blurry. She brought her hand to her neck, pulling out the tranquilizer dart as her legs went rubbery. She slumped to her knees, then onto her back.
Denna's face, several Mord'Sith's filled her vision. Denna knelt down, leaning in close, she pressed her lips to the shell of Cara's ear.
"Like I said, in what world are you better than me?" she drawled, then rose back up to her full height. "Welcome home, Cara."
TWENTY-SEVEN MONTHS AGO
Denna's keening wail finally died out, mouth slack open, face frozen from the paroxysms wracking her body. She collapsed, facedown, onto the mattress, boneless body twitching and trembling.
"You're always.." Denna purred contentedly. "So good to me."
"Yes, Mistress." Cara lifted upright, rolling back onto her heels. Slowly, she pulled the Agiel from between Denna's legs, watching Denna's hips buck and twitch. She held the rod, sticky-wet and glistening, up to the light, examining her handiwork before tossing it onto the floor, discarded and immediately forgotten. She ran her hand over the sweat covering Denna's ass, then followed with her lips. She drifted upwards, with fingers then lips until her teeth nipped at the base of Denna's neck.
At this point in the proceedings, she would turn her lovers over with expectations of having the favor returned. But, there was no heat in Cara's touch, no desire in her lips. It was all by rote, the touching, licking, fucking. An hour of strenuous sexual activity and Cara had barely broken a sweat, her heart rate barely above normal.
Cara had become bored with sex.. if such a thing were possible. No, Cara realized as she pulled Denna's earlobe between her teeth, she'd become bored with sex with Denna.
For the past six months, Cara had no other lovers except Denna and this definitely wasn't by Cara's choice. The, now, Head Mistress always had a special interest in Cara. Lately, it was bordering on obsession. An obsession so strong Cara was beginning to think of getting out.
Denna shifted, rolling beneath Cara until they were face to face. She brought her hand to Cara's face, running her fingers across Cara's cheek, along her jaw. "You still haven't answered my question?"
"Which question is that?" Cara half-smiled. "Mistress."
Denna squinted her eyes, not sure if Cara was joking or not. "The question as to whether or not you'll agree to be my wife." Cara stiffened and Denna sighed deeply at the resistance. "You should be more than just an agent, Cara. No other agent knows as much about our organization than you. But, there are still secrets to be learned. As my wife, my equal, you'll know everything."
This was Cara's assignment, to infiltrate CLIT and learn everything about the organization. No one told her there'd be strings attached, serious strings. But what else was there? This wasn't just Cara's job, it was her life and it wasn't like life was presenting her with any alternatives.
So, she did what she was supposed to do - close eyes halfway, curl lips into seductive smile, run tip of tongue up jaw, kiss, seduce, conquer.
Cara leaned in, pressed her lips to Denna's, ran her tongue over Denna's lips then breathed into her mouth.
Wake up, Cara. Wake up, Cara. WAKE UP, CARA!!
Cara's eyes snapped open as she sucked in a hard breath. Head pounding, she opened her eyes at winced at the slice of pain the act induced. But, she didn't have to open her eyes to know where she was. She could feel it, in the straining of her arms from hands bound by metal and chains. The air on her naked skin. The chambers where enemies were tortured and agents broken. Cara was both and neither.
"Glad to see you're awake."
Cara opened her eyes again to the sound of Denna's voice. Denna had changed into white leathers not splattered with blood. Surrounding her, and Cara, were a dozen Mord'Sith. Faces Cara didn't recognize. Most likely trained by Denna and completely loyal to her.
Denna stepped towards the circular pit where Cara was suspended. She reached out, clasping Cara's chin hard and lifting her face. "Look hard, Sisters. This is the face of betrayal. Lies and deceit. But.." Denna leaned in close, eyes burning hot. "Once a Sister, always a Sister. And when a Sister makes an oath, a promise. She keeps it. No matter what."
"Seriously!?!" Cara jerked her face from Denna's grasp. "Is that what this is all about? Some goddamned dyke drama!?!"
Denna lurched towards Cara, the anger burning within her. "I offered you everything!" she hissed. "And you spat it all back in my face! For a Confessor!"
"Oh please," Cara huffed. "So you got dumped. Eat some bon-bons, watch Sex and the City and get the fuck over yourself!"
Denna jabbed the tip of her Agiel hard into Cara's ribs, the Agiel hissing and squealing. Cara pursed her lips, gazed back into Denna's eyes. Denna withdrew and Cara inhaled.
"Torture me all you want," Cara chuckled. "But I'll never stand by your side."
"Torture you?" Denna stepped towards Cara again. She snaked her hand out, grasping Cara by the back of the head, yanking. "You still don't get it, do you?" she growled, voice low and threatening. "I don't have to torture you to break you."
Denna released her grip. She stepped backwards, her lips curled into a knowing smile. Her eyes on Cara, she nodded her head and there was movement. A door opened, footsteps and the sounds of something being dragged and Cara stiffened at the sight of a prisoner being brought into the chamber.
There was a black hood over her face, her hands and feet were shackled together. She wore nothing more than a long t-shirt, her legs streaked with grime.
Another nod of Denna's head and the hood was pulled off. Black hair, blue eyes, pale skin. The world froze with that instance of recognition.
"KAHLAN!" Cara screamed. She yanked at her restraints, kicking with her legs, a fish caught on a line, she could do nothing.
Kahlan's eyes widened, her yells muffled by the duct tape over her mouth.
"Do you get it now, Cara?" Denna growled. "Do you understand? Your ability to withstand torture is renowned. But her?" Denna turned, hips swaying as she swaggered over to Kahlan.
"Denna.." Cara hissed. "If you touch her.."
Denna pulled her Agiel from its sheath. She lifted the rod, tilting the tip towards Kahlan's face, then lowered, pointing it at Kahlan's neck. Kahlan, held by the Mord'Sith flanking, jerked hard to no avail. "What do you think would happen if I touched her here? No, wait!" Denna's eyes brightened like a demented kid in a candy store. She turned her face to Cara as she slowly, dramatically lowered her Agiel, until it was pointing towards Kahlan's stomach. "What do you think would happen if I touched her here?"
The tiniest of whimpers escaped Kahlan's throat and Cara could already feel herself breaking.
"Denna," Cara exhaled, the fight instantly drained from her as she bowed her head. Denna was right, she didn't have to torture Cara to break her. "Please."
"What was that?" Denna stalked towards Cara. She gripped Cara's chin, lifting her head. "I couldn't quite hear you."
"Please." She could see Kahlan struggling against her restraints, head furiously shaking no. It didn't matter. "I'll do whatever you want. Just.. don't hurt her."
Denna leaned in closer, examining Cara's face with her eyes. "I believe you," she said, her voice still harsh. "But, I also know you. The moment she's safe, you'll be calculating an exit strategy. At the expense of my demise. Don't worry," she winked. "I planned for that as well."
Another nod of her head and a Mord'Sith swiftly moved forward out from the shadows. She held a silver tray, holding a small crystal vial filled with a glowing pink liquid. Denna grasped the vial, lifting it up to the light.
"I told you there were more secrets to be learned. I'm sure both of you," she cast her eyes towards Kahlan then back to Cara. "Are more than aware of the Sisters of the Dark's binding spell. We have something similar, created by our ancestors, back when we were still bound to the Lord Rahl. The spell had been lost for ages and only until just recently found again. What you're looking at Cara," Denna paused, admiring the vial, more for herself than anything. "Is a small piece of Kahlan's essence, her soul, if you will. The moment I drink this, that essence is inside me and we are bound. Permanently. If my heart stops," she lifted her eyes to Cara's. "So does Kahlan's."
"Denna," Cara croaked, as if the very word caused her physical pain. "I'll do anything you want. You've won."
Denna shrugged her shoulders, smiling coyly. "I know." Then, she popped the vial's top off with a thumb and downed the contents. Cara yanked at her restraints, as if by will alone she could pull the chains from the ceiling. Denna's eyes fluttered closed, she swayed on her feet, once, twice. Kahlan swayed as well, the strength in her legs failing and the Mord'Sith holding her by the arms pulled her back up to her feet.
Slowly, Denna opened her eyes. Drew the back of her hand across her lips.
"I.." Green eyes burned with hatred as she spat. "Am going to kill you."
Denna wagged a white gloved finger. "Uh-uh-uhhh. My heart stops? So does your beloved's. Lower her," she commanded and the chains hanging Cara by the wrists were lowered just enough so her feet touched the ground. Denna circled around, like a cat towards its prey, until she was directly behind Cara. She stepped over the wall of the pit, approached until leather met skin. Denna placed her hands on the swell of Cara's hips.
"There is," she husked into Cara's ear. "One more thing. One little incentive to keep you on the straight and narrow. Remove the tape from Kahlan's mouth."
Just like that, the tape was removed without any delicacy or hesitation.
"Cara," Kahlan pleaded. "Youdon'thavetodothis!"
Denna pulled Cara to her. Her eyes on Kahlan, she brought her lips to Cara's ear. "Choke," she whispered.
And Kahlan's words cut off. A panicked look filled her eyes. She jerked at her chains, bringing her hands to her throat. Face turning beet red, mouth slacking open as she forcibly sucked hard gasps of air into her throat.
"A Mord'Sith twist," Denna purred into Cara's ear. "Kahlan's essence is inside me. Not only am I bound to her, I control her. One word, one thought and I can end her life."
Kahlan dropped to her knees, one hand palm flat to the floor, the other grasping at her throat.
"All right." Cara began to feel something she hadn't felt in a very long time. Fear. "You've won Denna!"
"Have I?" Denna taunted. "Swear your allegiance to me."
Lips turned blue, Kahlan fell onto her side. Her panicked gasps for air slowing.
"I swear," she breathed like she couldn't believe the words coming from her lips.
"You promise to give yourself over to me?" Denna ran her tongue up the line of Cara's ear, smiling as Cara shuddered in revulsion. "Fully. Completely."
Kahlan's head moved, turning towards Cara with eyes glazed. Dying.
"I promise." She blinked through burning eyes as something wet and warm trailed down her cheek. A tear. And then another.
"Fully and completely, Cara? Spirit, mind.." her hands roamed, cupping Cara's breasts. "And most definitely body."
Her muscles strained, strained so hard her entire body was trembling, shaking, on the verge of convulsing. A feeling Cara had only felt once before, like a dam under too much water, she was breaking. It was all her fault. Her fault. She'd fallen in love with Kahlan. She'd put Kahlan in her orbit, brought this world to Kahlan's doorstep. Now, Cara's world was killing Kahlan. Their unborn child.
"Goddammit, Denna!" she hissed through her clenched teeth. "Anything you want. Anything. Just.."
Cara broke. She exhaled, long and ragged, deflating like a popped balloon as every muscle in her body un-tensed. "Please," she said with something resembling a sob.
"Good girl," Denna purred, gently placing her lips to Cara's cheek. "Breathe, Kahlan Amnell."
Whatever force held Kahlan's throat suddenly released. Her lungs acted instinctively, sucking in a long breath of air. She rolled onto her back, coughing and sputtering. Alive. Her hands immediately went to her stomach, her body sagged as she sighed in relief at what she sensed, what she felt, there. Life.
Denna stepped backwards, withdrawing her hands. "Get her up."
The agents reached out, pulled the still coughing Kahlan to her feet.
"Bring her to Cara. Let them say their goodbyes," Denna said, moving outside the pit. She paused, turning towards Cara. "I may be a heartless bitch. But, I'm a heartless bitch who keeps her word."
The guards moved Kahlan until she was inches from Cara. She reached up with her bound hands, cupping Cara's face as she pulled their lips together.
"I'm so sorry." Cara's face scrunched, chest wracking convulsively, like her body was trying to remember how to cry. Cara hadn't cried in so very, very long. "This wasn't supposed to happen. I didn't.."
"Shh, my love," Kahlan whispered, nuzzling their noses together. "I love you, Cara Mason. Don't you ever forget that." She pulled her face closer, bringing her lips to Cara's ear. "I will find a way to save you. Just, please.. you just have to hold on."
Denna watched with her arms folded over her chest, hips canted. She rolled her eyes at the scene playing before her eyes. "Enough," she waved a hand. "Take her away."
Just like that, Kahlan was jerked back and away from Cara, a hood forcibly shoved over her head. Flanked and held by agents, she was dragged away into the darkness.
"Kahlan!" Cara yelled out to her.
"Don't worry," Denna sauntered back into the pit. "As long as you keep your end of the bargain, I'll keep mine." She extended a hand and a thick, leather collar attached to a long, silver chain was quickly placed into it. Gently, almost lovingly, she wrapped the collar around Cara's throat. Denna thread the chain through her hand until she grasped the end. She stepped out of the pit as the chains binding Cara's wrists were lowered, the cuffs released.
"Now," Denna said as she swaggered towards the entrance, the chain dragging behind her until it pulled taut and the moment passed where Cara contemplated giving resistance. "Let's see if you can keep your word."
RAMSTEIN AIR FORCE BASE, RAMSTEIN, GERMANY
The helicopter hadn't even landed, feet from the surface, and Kahlan was already sliding open the door, hopping onto the helipad and rushing towards the entrance.
As customary in situations like Kahlan's, not that situations like Kahlan's had ever happened before, a Confessor and a Wizard of the First Order were waiting for her. To question, read: interrogate, Kahlan in regards to the last 78 hours. She'd awoken in a Paris hotel, signed in Cara's name and paid in full for the week, a 'Do Not Disturb' sign on the doorknob. She'd been out for two days. Taking a chance, Kahlan called the Confessor's, hoping, by now they'd realized the Burn Notice on her was false. They did. Within hours, Kahlan was at the airport being transported by helicopter.
Kahlan didn't recognize the Wizard. Who stood, hands clasped before him, in his customary robes. She did recognize the Mother Confessor and slowed her steps in recognition of how serious the situation truly had become.
"Kahlan," the Mother Confessor spoke softly, her face stern and serious.
"Where's Richard?" she almost snapped. She just needed one goddamned thing in this world to be right. "I'm not saying anything until I see Richard."
She was led to the third floor, the ICU ward. It was eerily quiet as she waded her way through Confessors and Wizards and Seekers, all there for Richard.
She stopped before the large, rectangular window to Richard's room, the door flanked by two Seekers. No one was allowed inside except registered personnel. Kahlan, despite having saved the world with him, despite having been engaged to him, was not registered personnel.
Her face paled, fingers shaking as she brought them to her lips to silence the gasp coming from her mouth. Richard lay on the bed, pale as a ghost. There were wires and tubes and needles attached to all manner of machines. His head was wrapped in gauze. His legs, both broken, elevated and covered in thick casts. There was Richard's right hand. No. The empty space where Richard's right hand used to be. Now, there was gauze at the end of Richard's arm where it should extend to his hand.
"Oh Richard," Kahlan sighed. She rested her forehead against the glass, guilt weighing down on her shoulders. He'd been there to save her and this had happened.
She lifted her head at the sound of a familiar voice, smiling for the first time in what felt like years as Zedd, in his wizard's robes, made his way towards her. The old man's mouth pulled into a welcoming smile, his face lighting up at the mere sight of her.
He opened his arms, wrapping them around her and Kahlan returned the embrace, pressing her face to his chest. She'd promised herself, as she watched Denna torture her wife, she wouldn't cry until she held Cara in her arms again. But, as hard as she fought it, she could feel the tears welling in her eyes.
Zedd cast his eyes darkly at the audience around them. Until they got the hint, milling away from Richard's room and giving Kahlan the privacy she'd earned.
"It's okay," Zedd cooed softly, his cheek to the top of her head. "It'll all be all right."
Kahlan stayed in Zedd's arms until her quiet sobs receded to panting sighs. Calming herself, she pulled away from him, his arm still around her shoulder as she turned to look at Richard.
"Darken Rahl did this?" she sniffled, wiping her eyes with back of a hand.
"Allegedly," Zedd sneered, Kahlan gaping at him with wide and shocked eyes. "Certain files proving Rahl's involvement seem to have mysteriously disappeared."
"Richard's going to be okay?"
"He'll make it through this. Richard's a strong one," he said, even if the belief didn't quite reach his eyes. Zedd inhaled deeply, his face turning solemn as he turned his gaze fully to Kahlan. "Kahlan?" he asked.
And Kahlan's brows scrunched, lower lip beginning to tremble because she knew the question about to be asked. She already knew the answer.
The tears she swore would never fall from her eyes, fell again. She looked at him with eyes distant and far away, because if she looked at Zedd, she knew she'd crumble. "They.." she paused, swallowing, crumbling. "They broke her."
Zedd reached out, pulling Kahlan into his arms again.
"I want her back, Zedd," she cried into his chest, setting her resolve. "I want her back."
TEN MONTHS LATER
CLIT HEADQUARTERS, NEW UNKNOWN LOCATION
Cara sat slumped in a chair, wearing nothing but black panties, combat boots and her collar. She'd earned the smaller one six months ago, an inch in width compared to the previous two-inch thick one. But, she hadn't earned the right to walk around the compound completely collar free. She sat in her chair facing the large bay windows of her quarters, watching the rain is it drizzled down in sheets against the glass. Her arm slung over the side of the chair, from her fingers hung a bottle of Irish whiskey, the contents almost drained.
Behind her, on the larger than King-sized bed, lay seven of her Sisters, exhausted, naked, curled around each other like snuggling kittens taking a nap.
The door to her quarters open, light from the corridor silhouetting the visit on the stone floors. The door closed and Cara didn't bother to turn to see who'd entered, just listened to the sounds of heels clacking across the floor. At this time of night, it could only be one person.
Denna, in her white leathers, approached. She set the netbook in her hands onto the floor before swinging her leg up and over Cara's lap, straddling Cara. She leaned in, running her tongue over Cara's lips before pressing their mouths together.
"I leave you alone for five minutes," she purred, fingering the metal clasp of Cara's collar. "And you go and do this. You keep.. exhausting your Sisters and there'll be no one left to send on missions."
Cara turned her head to press the bottle to her lips, taking another long pull. "It's not my fault if they're weak."
"No," Denna pouted in disappointment. "But it is your fault if you break the rules. I'm beginning to think you like it when I punish you."
"No more than you.." Cara sneered. "Mistress."
Denna chuckled. She reached down, grasping the bottle from Cara's fingers. Bringing it to her lips, she downed it, swallowing loudly, lasciviously, if one could swallow lasciviously. All the while, she kept her eyes on Cara, her actions louder than words - this is mine, everything is mine, including you.
The contents drained, Denna wiped her mouth with the back of one hand while using the other to set the bottle back on the floor. Drawing her arms over Cara's shoulders, Denna leaned in, connecting their mouths and kissing wantonly, purring throatily, rolling her hips. Cara returned the heat with the desire and passion of dry ice.
The kiss broke. Denna pulled a hair's breath away, rolling her lower lip into her mouth, gazing at Cara with conquering and hungry eyes.
"Tell me you want me," she husked into Cara's mouth.
"I want you, Mistress."
Eyes twinkling, Denna's predatory smile pulled wider. "Tell me you need me.
"I need you," Cara inhaled, gritting her teeth. "Mistress."
Denna shifted, lifting by her knees. Grabbing Cara's wrist, Denna pulled on Cara's hand, until it was between Denna's legs. "Tell me," she groaned, hips already grinding through creaking and groaning leather onto Cara's fingers. "How much you want to fuck me."
Cara couldn't hide her look of disgust and Denna laughed, allowing Cara to withdraw her hand. She lowered, drawing their faces closer again. "How much do you want to kill me right now?" she drawled, straight into Cara's eyes like she actually demanded an answer. "How much do you want to wrap your fingers around my throat and just.. squeeze?"
"Is that a question or a request?" she tilted her head, eyes narrowing and staring at the woman harshly. "Mistress."
"Oh Cara," Denna laughed, like an adult towards a petulant child. She rose, removing herself from Cara's lap and circling around until she was behind Cara's chair. Placing the netbook on Cara's lap, the machine flickering to life as she pulled up the screen, Denna rested her forearms on Cara's shoulders, her cheek to Cara's ear.
"I have a present for you," she said.
"Hurray," Cara said dryly, rolling her eyes. "More internet porn. Just what I need."
"Click the icon."
Cara was about to ask which one when it became self-evident - the one labeled 'Cara's Present'. She clicked and a video opened, filling the screen as it began to play, the screen staying black for several seconds.
"What am I looking at?" Cara asked impatiently.
Black turned to video, black and white security footage. A hospital nursery and Cara's breath hitched then she stopped breathing all together. The cribs were lined in two rows of ten, filled with sleeping, squirming, crying babies.
"This was taken three months ago," Denna whispered as the camera began to zoom in on one crib in particular. Cara stiffened to keep herself from trembling, blinking rapidly to stop the tears from building in her eyes. The camera zoomed in again, to the placard placed at the end of the crib.
"Isabel Amnell-Mason," Denna read aloud. "Isabel? That's your grandmother's name, isn't it Cara?"
Eyes glued to the screen, Cara turned her head slightly towards Denna. "Did you.."
"Do you think so little of me, Cara?" Denna sighed, disappointed. "Kahlan and precious, little Isabel are perfectly fine."
Denna ran a fingertip down the line of Cara's ear. "Let's call this a little insurance policy. A reminder of your promise and what's at stake. You've been straying outside the lines. Forgetting about our deal. And we wouldn't want sweet, innocent little Isabel to grow up without a mother, would we?" Denna stood, turning on her heel and heading towards the door. "You can keep the tape."
AYDINDRIL, NEW ZEALAND
Richard fidgeted impatiently as the technician finished with the last modifications on Richard's new hand. A combination of new technologies and old, magic and computerized robotics. Fused to his arm, covered in realistic skin, Richard watched the small pistons through the opened panel beneath his wrist as he wiggled his fingers.
"How does it feel?"
Richard, already smiling, lifted his head at the sound of Kahlan's voice. She stood, wearing jeans and a white, cable knit sweater, in the door to his hospital room, coat draped over the hands gently clasped before her.
"Weird," he said as Kahlan entered the room, taking a seat next to Richard's bed on the opposite side of the working technician. "Like, I know it's not my hand but it is."
"Everything's good," the technician said, closing the panel on Richard's arm then quietly leaving the room.
"I'm sorry I haven't been here to see you lately," Kahlan sighed. Richard awoke from his coma a month after Isabel's birth. He'd healed, for the most part, but still needed extensive physical therapy before he'd fully recover.
"It's okay, Kahlan," Richard smiled his Richard smile, reaching out and clasping his hand over Kahlan's, noting the dark circles under her eyes. "You look tired."
"I'm a mother with a newborn," she chuckled. "I'm supposed to be tired."
The smile on his face faded. He knew her too well. The bags under her eyes were too dark to be solely from a lack of sleep. "Kahlan," he said with a 'you can't fool me' tone.
Kahlan chuckled softly, lowering her head. Her smile faded as well, brows crinkling as she gazed at the gold band on her ring finger. She lifted her head, smiling like it was the only thing she could do to keep from crying. "Today's our anniversary," she shrugged. "Every time I look at Isabel, I see Cara. She should be here. I need her here."
"You'll.." Richard tightened his hold on her hand. "We'll get her back."
Kahlan slid her hand from Richard's fingers as she slumped back in her chair, inhaling solemnly, like she desperately wanted to believe his words were true and failing. Elbow on the armrest, she placed her chin on her hand, gazing blankly at the flowers, gift baskets, bags and bags of mail from well wishers. Richard Cypher, the Seeker, was beloved the world over.
"The Agency's written her off. They're not even looking for her," she snorted derisively, disillusioned. "No one will tell me anything. Even Zedd.." she stopped, noting Richard's sudden discomfort. "Richard," she sighed.
"He lied to me, Kahlan."
"He only did what he thought was best." They'd had this conversation multiple times and Kahlan said what she always said.
"Did he?" he asked, anger filling his voice. "What about my sister? I can almost understand lying about Darken Rahl, but her?"
This time, it was Kahlan leaning forward, clasping her hand over Richard's. "Parents, even grandparents, will do anything to protect their child."
They'd had this conversation dozens of times before and it was always the same, until today. Richard lifted his eyes, his gaze searching. "Would you? How far would you go to protect Isabel?"
Kahlan swallowed hard. She didn't have an answer.
Richard sleeping, Kahlan quietly exited his room. She frowned, pursing her lips at the now one guard outside of Richard's room currently busying himself by flirting at the Nurses Station.
"How quickly they forget," the old man's voice graveled and Kahlan nearly jumped in surprise. She turned to him and his face softened, lips pulling into a wide Zedd smile before the smile fell from his lips as he turned his eyes to Richard's door. "How's he doing?"
"He's still mad at you," Kahlan half-smiled. "If that's what you want to know."
She held up a hand, cutting him off. "I know. You were only protecting him. And, eventually, he'll forgive you. He just needs time."
"It seems time," Zedd grimaced. "May be a luxury Richard can't afford."
He tilted his head, bobbing it as he extended his elbow and turned on his heel. Kahlan thread her arm through his, the two walking side by side down the corridor. Zedd, his head held high but his eyes distant, spoke as he walked. "I'm sure you've heard the.. rumors."
Rumor. Information was always a precious commodity within the Agency's, a commodity Kahlan had found harder and harder to get a hold of in the past ten months. What she did get was gossip and there was only one rumor that was the hot topic of the gossip mill. "The rumor to replace Richard as the Seeker."
"Mmm," was all Zedd said.
Kahlan stopped in her tracks, tugging on his arm until he faced her. "Richard's the one true Seeker. They wouldn't dare."
"Would they?" An eyebrow craned high up his forehead. "With the Sword of Truth.." he used finger quotes, "missing and no clear evidence of Darken Rahl's involvement. Add in Richard's lineage, along with his current hospitalization and you have enough political ammunition to sow the seeds."
Kahlan could feel the guilt weighing on her shoulders as she lowered her head, looking back towards Richard's room. Guilt over how differently things might have been had she followed the Mother Confessor's advice by marrying Richard, and not her own heart.
"Kahlan," Zedd sighed, placing his hands on her shoulders. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to distress you anymore than you already are. I didn't come here to talk to you about Richard. I came to talk to you.. about your curse."
Her curse. Thankfully, it hadn't been passed on to Isabel but it was still there within Kahlan. In the beginning, after Kahlan returned to Aydindril, The Wizard's Order, upon Zedd's insistence, had worked furiously to break the spell. The ancient Mord'Sith texts were hard to come by, most had been destroyed or lost. The few volumes that still existed were hidden within the People's Palace of D'Hara. The Wizard's tried their best but all of their attempts failed. And the one that had come close, the pain was so excruciating, Kahlan blacked out immediately.
"Zedd." Kahlan shivered, recalling the memory. After she'd awakened, she refused any further attempts to break the curse, fearing it would hurt the baby, or worse. "Have you found a way to break it?"
"Maybe," his brows lowered, shadowing his eyes. "And you're not going to like it."
GNN SPECIAL REPORT
'FINAL PREPARATIONS UNDERWAY FOR US/D'HARAN SUMMIT'
Cooper Jones: I'm standing outside the Palace of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland where, in less than two weeks, the Prime Minister of D'Hara and the President of the United States will have an historic summit. Hopes are high for the summit, the last time two leaders of the US and D'Hara met was at the end of World War II, when President Truman met the, then, Lord Rahl of D'Hara, Panis Rahl, in 1948. And while hopes are high that these two powerful nations can build a bridge towards peace, fears are just as high. The Swiss government is reportedly spending up to 70 million dollars on security alone. Tensions between the two nations were strained with reports of the US seeking an arrest warrant against Darken Rahl, alleged to have attacked Richard Cypher in Venice. Cypher, has yet to make a public appearance since his fall from a building ten months ago. Members of the D'Haran Loyalist party continue to refute these claims.
[Image changes from Cooper to video of an interview. Cooper sits across a table with a middle-aged man with a thick mustache. The CG under his name reads Fmr. General Egremont.]
Egremont: These accusations are ludicrous. As is this continuous smear campaign to sully the name of Darken Rahl by our parties opponents, including [he wags a finger] your government. 'Darken Rahl's evil', 'Darken Rahl's searching for the Boxes of Orden to enslave mankind', 'Darken Rahl's a flaming homosexual who likes to dress up like Elron from Lord of the Rings'. It's all preposterous and, quite frankly, insulting.
Asleep, Kahlan stirred, then winced at the physical pain stirring caused. Unconsciousness quickly turned to consciousness as her mind recalled why her body was in such pain. A fight. The searing pain of an Agiel. Cara's Agiel. Cara. Blackness.
She rolled onto her side, ignoring the aches and pains screaming in protest. Eyes slowing opening, she waited for the blurriness to disappear as she gauged her surroundings. A large, barely decorated bedroom, with nothing but a desk and a dresser, no pictures on the walls, no computer, television or entertainment system, no little knickknacks or accruements to tell where she was or who's bedroom she was in.
Gingerly, Kahlan slid her legs over the side of the bed. She sat up, taking a moment until the spinning in her head and the rising nausea with it stopped. Everything hurt. EVERYTHING. Even her hair hurt. She'd fought the Shadow. She'd fought Cara. And she felt it. It showed. She wore nothing but panties and endless miles of bandages, around her ribs which spasmed every time she inhaled too deeply, her left thigh, right knee and calf, medical tape criss-crossed over her left shoulder and, the last mark she remembered receiving, a band-aid just over her left eye.
It wasn't the physical pain that caused the salt to sting her eyes. This pain went much deeper. She'd been used. Betrayed, even if it wasn't really a betrayal since Cara had been using her all along. It would have been easier, being used and betrayed, if Kahlan hadn't fallen so hard. Fallen for the rogue-ish and mysterious woman who always seemed to pop up wherever Kahlan was. She should have seen it. Blinded by her own desires, by the freedom being with Cara seemed to offer. Kahlan had already given her heart and soul, had Cara waited just one more damn day, Kahlan would have given her body as well.
Disgusted with herself, Kahlan grit her teeth, slowly rose from the bed. Everything within her seemed to scream at once but Kahlan soldiered on. Step by slow and painful step, she made her way to the dresser, reaching for clothes neatly stacked on top. Except, the world began to spin again. Hard. The nausea hit her like a freight train. Kahlan swayed, legs turning to jelly.
Then, there was an arm around her waist, holding her up. A body pressed against hers, taking the weight. Kahlan was almost relieved..
"You shouldn't be out of bed."
Cara's voice shot through Kahlan like ice water. She no longer felt pain or nausea, just pure, unadulterated rage. Kahlan swung back with her elbow. Cara easily ducked the blow. But, with them in such close proximity, Kahlan swung her elbow then, as she spun in Cara's grasp, wrapped her other hand around Cara's throat. Blue irises swirled with black until they were dark as midnight. The magic, the rage, surged from Kahlan, into Cara, then through Cara.
"Kahlan," Cara hissed through clenched teeth, her neck muscles straining under Kahlan's tight grip. "You can't confess me."
"Watch me," Kahlan growled. Sweat dotted her forehead, her body and her magic battling for dominance.
"Kahlan.." Cara wrapped her fingers around Kahlan's wrist and squeezed. "You can't confess me. I'm immune."
Which was impossible except it wasn't. Kahlan saw, in the green eyes that remained green, she felt it, the way her magic seemed to flow through Cara. Then Kahlan felt the pain in her wrist, which seemed to flare throughout her body as her magic dissipated. She gasped, hard and choking, the strength leaving her body as everything hurt all at once. The dizziness and nausea returned, worse than before, and Kahlan buckled at the knees.
Cara caught her, draping Kahlan's arm over her shoulder as she walked Kahlan back to the bed. Kahlan sighed in relief, in defeat, panting heavily as she laid back down, rolling onto her back and throwing an arm over her face. It figured, Kahlan thought, of all the people in the world, the one person immune to confession would be the one person sent to kill her.
"Are you," Kahlan spoke softly, the fight completely drained from her. "Going to kill me?"
"I already tried and, as you can see," Cara folded her arms across her chest, nodded her head. "I wasn't very successful."
"My body would disagree." Kahlan slid her arm off her face, tilting her head towards Cara. "You tried to kill me."
"And as far as the world is concerned, I succeeded. Kahlan Amnell is dead and it would be best, for both our sakes, if the world continued to think so.. For now."
Kahlan looked at Cara, watching her talk. The words sank in but they didn't register. They were nothing but white noise, nothing compared to the words Kahlan wanted to hear. "Why?" she asked.
"Why what?" Cara shrugged. "Why didn't I kill you?"
"No," Kahlan snapped back. "Why didn't you kill me the day you met me? Why'd you wait until after I'd fallen in love with you?"
"I.." Cara stiffened as if recovering from a swift blow. "I'm sorry."
Kahlan could only gape at her. Thoughts of killing the blonde running through her mind.. after she recovered from the blonde almost killing her. "Sorry? That's all you have to say? You're sorry?"
"What do you want me to say?" Cara flailed her arms, palms slapping against her thighs in exasperation. She was supposed to kill Kahlan. She didn't. She didn't understand the point in explaining any further.
"Forget it," Kahlan exhaled. She flopped onto her back, wincing as she placed the heels of her palms to her eyes. "Just.. leave me alone."
There was silence, stilted and tension filled. Kahlan kept her hand held over her eyes because she could feel Cara staring at her. Kahlan didn't have the energy to try and explain what even she didn't understand. She'd veered off the path set before by, well, everyone and it had led her here - close to death, battered and bruised, on the bed of the woman who'd tried to kill her.
The bed dipped and Kahlan stiffened, fearing Cara might try and touch her. And her heart skipped a beat at the thought, followed with a flutter deep within the pit of her stomach. Kahlan tight-rope walking the thin line between love and hate.
But, Cara didn't try to touch Kahlan. The curiosity became too much and Kahlan opened her eyes. Cara sat on the edge of the bed, elbows on her knees, eyes focused intently on the Agiel in her hand. Kahlan shivered, remembering the burning sensation against her skin.
"Cara," she said softly, voice tinged with worry, wondering what exactly Cara planned to do with her Agiel.
"This has been my constant companion for almost twelve years, almost half my life," she said, staring at the rod almost reverently. "It gives me clarity, focus, purpose. When I'm without it, I feel.. almost lost. Except.." she turned her head slightly towards Kahlan, features lost behind a curtain of blonde hair. "When I'm with you."
The moment the words left her lips, Cara was up and on her feet, heading towards the door. She stopped in the doorway, head barely turned in Kahlan's direction. "You should rest."
Denna, hips swaying like sex wrapped in white leather, stalked slowly on the catwalk overlooking the War Room, the cavernous space below the compound that was the heart of CLIT, like NASA only evil. On the far side of the room was a giant computer monitor, 20 feet high and 50 feet wide. A map of the world in black and green, with red dots representing an operation and a small window next to it streaming the operatives mission. On the floor, there were rows upon rows of desk lined together, where Mord'Sith's typed furiously on computers, spoke into their headsets in organized chaos.
Denna stopped, placing her palms outwards on the railing, leaning and canting her hips. The chain in her hand rattled lightly. Attached to the chain, of course, was Cara. Who stood next to Denna in her brown leathers, blonde hair still loose about her shoulders, hands clasped behind her back and standing at an attentive pose.
"What should we do today, Cara?" Denna purred.
"The same thing we do everyday," Cara huffed. "Try to take over the world.. Mistress."
"A joke?" Denna spun on her heel, eyes alight. "Did Cara Mason just make a joke?"
Cara didn't respond, at least, not verbally. Eyes forward, she merely twisted her lips into a distasteful sneer.
Back to the railing, Denna folded her arms over her chest. She gazed at Cara hard, examining her features, wondering if this was typical Cara insolence or the sign of something more. She raised her hand, drumming her gloved fingers on her chin. Then, her eyes brightened as her lips curled into a seductive grin.
"We have seven new recruits coming this afternoon," she said. "I want you to oversee their training."
Cara's head snapped towards her. "Me? Why?"
"Because," she swaggered towards Cara, leaning in, running a fingertip down the side of Cara's face as she purred. "If anyone knows about breaking, it's you."
Cara's flinch was minute, barely a twitch but a flinch, nonetheless. On anyone else, it would have been nothing more, a sign of fear. On Cara, as big a sign of submission as if she'd dropped to her knees and sworn her obedience. Denna knew Cara's weak spots. Knew how to draw the knife's edge over and over again.
Denna's smile broadened. She stepped into Cara, drawing an arm over Cara's shoulder as her finger continued to caress Cara's cheek. "When you're done, I want you to prepare a dinner for just the two of us. A romantic dinner, where you wine and dine me, astound me with your wit. I want to see you smile, Cara. Then.." she pressed her lips gently to Cara's, eyes dark and heated. "I want you to fuck me until I pass out. Understood?"
Cara's mouth opened to respond then quickly closed. She could wine Denna, dine her, fuck the woman until she went into a coma. But, smiling for her? As if she found it pleasurable? The very idea repulsed Cara down to her core. But, what else could she do? Denna had her bent over a barrel and they both knew it.
"Good girl. Now," she husked with eyes already closing. "Kiss me."
These were the only moments where Cara was allowed to show dominance. Moments Cara gleefully took, relishing the opportunity. She snaked her hand behind Denna's head, fisting her hair and yanking as her mouth pounced onto Denna's. She kissed Denna hard, sloppily, tongue battering Denna's into submission as the blonde's eyes practically rolled into the back of her head. Denna was always such a pushy bottom.
"Excuse me, Mistress."
Cara, thankful for the interruption, immediately pulled them apart, Denna growling in frustration.
"What is it, Sister Triana?" Denna asked in irritation.
"Forgive the intrusion, Mistress," Triana, with her olive skin, dark hair and cheeks dusted with freckles, bowed her head respectfully. "Darken Rahl is here to see you."
"Darken Rahl?" Denna said with a raised eyebrow. "This should be interesting."
He stood patiently in the Grand Hall, in his red and black coat signifying his position as the Lord Rahl. Behind him stood a sole D'Haran guard in a sleeveless doublet, exposing Adonis sculpted arms. The hood pulled far over his face, leaving only his chin visible. They were both flanked by a dozen Mord'Sith's standing in a double line formation, hands resting on their Agiel's.
"Darken Rahl," Denna spoke, sauntering into the hall. "I see your hair's growing back."
"Apparently," Rahl merely grinned at the slight as Denna took a seat on her chaise. "It's all about the conditioner."
"What do you want, Rahl?" Denna sniffed like she was bored, making a snaking motion with her chain to get Cara's attention, showing her dominance, to both Cara and Rahl.
"I am in need of your.." he bowed his head respectfully to hide his smirk. "Services."
"Why would I want to anything for you? The last time we exchanged services, you didn't exactly fulfill your end of the bargain."
"And yet," his eyes went to Cara, raking them up and down. "You got exactly what you wanted."
"Mmm," Denna inhaled at the scent of opportunity in the air. "What exactly did you get, Rahl? Richard Cypher's not dead. An invalid, maybe but he's still living and breathing."
Rahl lowered the hand under his chin, Cheshire-cat grin broadening. "There's someone I'd like you to meet." Eyes on Denna, he turned his head slightly to the man behind him. "Say hello, Richard."
The man removed his hood, revealing the face of Richard Cypher. Even Denna couldn't contain her surprised gasp as the Mord'Sith's surrounding Rahl and Richard snapped into fighting poses.
Richard stepped closer to his brother, smiling goofily like a five-year-old on his first day at the playground. He raised his hand to face level, wiggling it back and forth. "Hi," he said. "My name's Richard."
The Mord'Sith's, moving as one, pulled their Agiel's from their hips, the whispering screams getting louder as they stepped towards the two men.
"STOP!" Denna yelled and they all froze instantly. "Back away."
Denna rose from her chaise, eyes glued to Richard, hand gripping Cara's chain, forcing Cara to follow as Denna slowly approached the Seeker. She stopped inches from him, eyes examining him closely. Richard looked at her expectantly, like a puppy waiting to get its belly scratched.
"Oh Rahl," Denna purred, reaching up with her hand and caressing Richard's face. "What have you done?"
Cara, still not believing her eyes, turned to Rahl. "You were responsible for the prison break at Alcatraz."
"Very good, Cara," Rahl gloated. "You get a cookie."
Richard brightened. "Can I have a cookie, Darken? I like cookies."
"No, Richard," Rahl rolled his eyes. "You can not have a cookie." He nodded his head to Cara. "Yes, I was responsible for the break out. Give a scientist with the ethics and morals of a tsetse fly a half billion dollars and you'd be amazed at the results."
Denna licked her lips. She drew her hands over Richard's chest, unbuttoning his doublet. "And he's Richard? In every way?"
"Your Cara would know more about that than I would," he smirked at the fiery glare Cara sent his way. Dahl slowly circled, watching Denna as she examined the false Seeker. "There are a few modifications to be made. As you can see, Richard's dumber than a bag of hair but," he sighed. "Considering the source material."
One of the hands caressing Richard's chest lowered, and lowered. Richard looked at Denna, puzzled, unsure as to whether or not this was a new game. Then, Denna's hand slid between Richard's skin and his leather pants and Richard's mouth hung open, a ragged gasp choking in the back of his throat. "Darken says I'm not supposed to play with myself." He shuddered again as Denna's fingers tightened, turning his face to Darken Rahl. "Is she supposed to play with it?"
Rahl growled in irritation. There were many things he wanted to see, Denna molesting his fake brother right in front of him was not one of them. "Denna."
Richard shuddered, face convulsing like he was suffering from brain freeze as Denna slowly withdrew her hand.
"I want D'Harist Columbia," she said, turning to Rahl.
"Whatever it is you're up to, it involves you restoring the House of Rahl and proclaiming yourself the true Lord Rahl. If you want my help, I want D'Harist Columbia. I always loved Vancouver."
Rahl sucked a breath through his teeth. "I'll give you Saskatchewan."
"Oh please, don't insult me, Rahl," Denna rolled her eyes. "Nobody wants Saskatchewan. These are my terms. Agree or.. show yourself the door."
Rahl grimaced, rolling his forefinger and thumb against each other as he thought. In the end, D'Harist Columbia was a small price to pay for his grander plans. Acquiescing, Rahl bowed his head. "Agreed."
"Good," Denna grinned. She stepped to Richard's side, sliding her arm around his elbow. "Let's take this discussion to my chambers so we can sort out the details."
Cara, on her side, hands pressed together and under her pillow, watched contentedly as Kahlan slowly awakened. Lips already pulling into a smile, Kahlan's eyes brightened as they opened.
"Good morning, Mrs. Mason," Kahlan whispered, beaming as she leaned into Cara, pressing their lips together.
"Good morning, Mrs. Mason," Cara purred back.
"Have you been watching me sleep?"
Cara nodded her head. "Mmm-hmm."
"All night?" Kahlan asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Mmm-hmm," Cara purred louder. She reached out, twisting a finger in a long black curl. "I don't want to miss a second of you."
"Eventually, you're going to get tired?"
"Of you?" Cara feigned shock at the insinuation, then returned Kahlan's kiss with her own. "Never."
Kahlan sighed as the kiss broke, lips hovering inches from each other. "We should probably leave our room sometime."
"Why? It's not like you have any clothes to wear anyway," Cara grinned. Burning the hotel had been an accident, an accident with definite benefits. "Kahlan, honey, we're on our honeymoon. We're supposed to spend it in bed."
"For three days?"
"The suite's paid in full for the week," Cara wagged her eyebrows. "We have four more days to go. Or.." she kissed Kahlan again. "We could stay here for a month.." then drew her lips down to Kahlan's chin. "A year.." planted butterfly kisses across her jaw. "The rest of our lives."
Kahlan pouted, even though the idea of spending an eternity in bed with Cara sounded really, really good. Especially at the current moment, when Cara's lips found Kahlan's pulse point and nibbled gently. "But," Kahlan breathed. "I really wanted to go to the beach today and watch you surf."
"Surf?" Cara blinked, pulling her head back enough to look Kahlan in the eyes. Her eyes darkened as she grinned lasciviously. "You just like how I look in a wetsuit."
"Mmm-hmm," Kahlan nuzzled her nose against Cara's. "I also like being the only one to remove your wetsuit. It's like a sexy wrapper on candy that's all mine."
"I would like to take this moment to point out that I am already unwrapped."
"You are," Kahlan agreed. Then, she wrinkled her nose, face turning apologetic. "I also promised Richard and Zedd we'd have lunch with them before Richard left for DC."
Cara twitched in that way that wasn't supposed to be noticeable but Kahlan had become attuned to Cara long before they exchanged rings. She rolled into Cara, turning the blonde onto her back as their bodies molded against each other.
"Have I told you how insanely hot I find your random and completely irrational bouts of insecurity?"
"I am not insecure.. or irrational," Cara huffed, eyes finding something of interest on the ceiling.
"Cara," Kahlan waited until Cara was focused back on her. "I chose you. I married you. I love you."
"I.." Cara stammered, unsure what to say. It still astounded her that, a year later, they were still together. That Kahlan said 'yes' when Cara proposed and 'yes' again on a beach in front of everyone they knew as they exchanged rings. It wasn't insecurity, just the constantly lingering doubt that Kahlan had made the wrong choice. "You don't have to prove anything. Especially to me."
"I know. Well.." Kahlan wagged her eyebrows then brought her lips to Cara's neck. "Maybe this."
It was a complete and total Cara move, finding the pulse point and nibbling with lips and teeth. And no one had mastered it in such a way as Kahlan had. Cara grunted, eyes fluttering as her neck craned, offering herself to Kahlan's touch. It wasn't Kahlan's only touch, her hand drifted, finding Cara's breast, kneading and caressing. Pinching. Just the way Cara liked it.
"Kahlan," Cara panted, whimpered. Her fingers thread into thick, dark locks as Kahlan brought their mouths together once more. She didn't have to prove her love to Cara, she showed. One touch, one caress and Cara was gone completely, lost in Kahlan's skin, her fingers, her lips.
Their kiss, soft and gentle, quickly turned hurried, hungry. The mutual desire growing to a pulsing, aching need. Cara moaned into Kahlan's mouth, knees lifting as she opened her thighs wider to the teasing rolling of Kahlan's hips.
Kahlan lowered her hand again, nails scraping down the plain of Cara's stomach. Cara hissed, muscles twitching. Then, Kahlan's hand was between them, between Cara's legs and Kahlan's breath hitched at the feel of her wife's flesh against her fingers. How Cara tightened and squeezed as Kahlan slid into her. How touching her always felt like the first time.
"I love how.. wet you get," Kahlan breathed into Cara's mouth. With the hand under Cara's shoulder, Kahlan brushed her fingers against the back of Cara's neck. Just a little, just enough, for her eyes to swirl briefly with black, the magic to pour from her fingers and Cara grunted beneath her, twitching on Kahlan's fingers.
"Kahlan," Cara panted, almost pained with eyes gone hooded and glazed.
A growl, low and throaty, rumbled up Kahlan's throat, at her own dominance, at Cara's easy acquiescence. She lowered, mapped familiar terrain with tongue, lips and teeth. Hands sliding under Cara's knees, she lifted Cara's legs, pinned them with her hands to keep muscular thighs from clamping onto her head. Flushed, wet, vulnerable, Kahlan's lips hovered inches from Cara's sex. With eyes hooded and just hungry, she gazed up at Cara, watching Cara watch her as she eagerly licked her lips.
Cara hated this part. Cara loved this part. How Kahlan would just tease her with the most exquisite of tortures. The way her teeth would nibble on the insides of Cara's thighs. How her tongue would just circle around and around, prodding and licking and probing, but never where Cara needed her to be, never where Cara wanted her to be.
"Fuck," she grunted in a tone of pure frustration. "Kahlan."
"Yes?" Kahlan giggled, then ran the tip of her tongue straight up the middle of Cara's sex. "Will you have lunch with Richard and Zedd for me?"
She pushed her tongue into Cara's opening, circled around once then immediately withdrew. "Will you surf for me?"
"Goddammit, Kahlan!" Cara growled through clenched teeth. She craned her head, neck muscles straining as she looked down at the woman between her legs. "I'll do anything for you! Move mountains. Swim oceans. Steal the stars from the fucking skies. Just.. Fuck.. PLEASE!!"
Kahlan laughed then gave Cara just what she needed. Lips. Suction. Friction. Kahlan's mouth - lips, tongue and teeth - battering her clit. Kahlan's fingers - two, curled just so - pumping deeply inside her. All Cara needed and she came undone, thrashing and writhing on the mattress, hands balling the sheets into white knuckled fists, back arching as the keening wail erupted from her throat.
After the shuddering subsided to minor quakes, Kahlan gently and slowly kissed her way back up Cara's body. She brought their lips together, Cara purring as she always did at the taste of own her essence on Kahlan's lips.
Kahlan pulled back, placing her fingertips to Cara's lips. "I love you, Cara Mason," she whispered tenderly with sincerity and devotion. "And I will spend the rest of my life proving to you how much I love you."
AYDINDRIL, NEW ZEALAND
It wasn't a demotion. The Confessors were too polite, too regal an agency to call it such. But, a demotion it was. It started the moment Kahlan arrived in Aydindril after the assault in Venice. A civilian desk job in Public Relations while the Agency erased her burn notice, while she was constantly questioned, read: interrogated, about what exactly happened in Venice.
Kahlan had always been one of the Agency's best agents. But, after her breakup with Richard followed with her relationship with Cara, there were questions regarding her.. judgment. On paper, it certainly looked suspicious - an attack by Mord'Sith, the Seeker injured and clinging to life, the Sword of Truth stolen. All taking place at the residence of a former Mord'Sith, the Shadow, who alleges she's an MBI double agent, one who mysteriously disappears before the dust settles.
It's not that the Agency thought Kahlan was lying, they just didn't entirely believe her, and demoted her.
And Kahlan returned from her paternity leave to find her credentials partially restored, and a desk job within the Confessor Archives Department. Where she spent her days sifting, sorting and filing mountains of unclassified documents.
Hair piled into a loose bun, pen tucked behind an ear, Kahlan sat at a large table, going through the contents of the box ubiquitously stamped #924782. The contents were nothing more than innocuous inter-office memos regarding security for the upcoming D'Hara/US summit, where the Confessors would have a small presence. Kahlan's eyes had glazed over an hour ago. It was mindless, boring, busy work. And deadly dull. There was even a memo concerning what types of laces should be woven into the Confessor's robes.
Something sparked in the back of her brain, the thought to look over a page she'd passed over. Kahlan sat up, fingers pushing pages over each other until they stopped. And the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end, back straightening from the trickle of ice water running down her spine.
She read the memo. She read it twice, five times, ten times. Something within her screaming 'no, read it again!'. Kahlan's eyes went wide.
"Oh my God," she muttered under her breath.
Fingers shaking, she pulled her cell from her purse, hitting speed dial. The one number she knew she could trust, the one she could always trust.
"Hello?" Zedd's chippery voice filled her ear.
"Zedd, it's Kahlan. Can I meet you for lunch? I'll pay."
"I'm sorry, Kahlan but I.."
Kahlan grimaced. Today would have to be the day Zedd decided to skip on a free lunch.
"Zedd," she cut him off, her voice a little more serious. "I'd like to meet you for lunch."
He got it. "Tell me where and when."
For the first time in almost a year, Kahlan felt like a spy again. A real spy. It was all very cloak and dagger, meeting Zedd outside Aydindril for lunch. Someplace where she was sure she hadn't been followed, where no one would be monitoring her conversation. She chose a diner on the other side of the road across from the beach. A surf shack with tiki torches on the walls, Beach Boys blasting through the speakers and tables with surfboards for surfaces. It had been instinctual, choosing the place she and Cara went, where Kahlan loved to do nothing but sit and watch Cara surf.
Zedd was already there by the time she arrived, halfway through his burger and fries, napkin tucked into the front of his Hawaiian shirt. Kahlan sat across from him, forearms on the surfboard as she stared irritated at his plate.
"You weren't actually supposed to order lunch," she huffed.
"You," he paused, taking a sip of his beer. "Shouldn't have said you'd pay."
"Never mind." Kahlan shook her head. She could do what she needed to do while Zedd ate. She placed her purse on the table, pulling a folded sheet of paper out and sliding it across the board to Zedd.
"What's this?" he asked, wiping his hands with a napkin before picking up the memo.
"Just read it."
The waitress came over and Kahlan ordered while Zedd scanned the letter. He placed it back onto the table with a hard and heavy sigh.
"Well?" Kahlan asked expectantly.
Zedd sneered distastefully. "Only a government drone could make a memo about ladies undergarments sound so exceedingly dull."
"Seriously?" Kahlan gaped at him. "That's all you saw? Read it again."
He inhaled deeply. "I have no idea what I'm supposed to be looking for."
Kahlan rose, circling around the table. Standing next to him, she leaned over the table, pointing. "This was typed on a computer and printed out. This isn't a photocopy, it's the original. But, see?" she pointed. "Several letters are darker, double stamped. If this were written on a typewriter, all the same letters would be double stamped. But, here, it's only eight letters."
"My God," Zedd gasped, his voice like a saw over hard wood. "Mord'Sith."
"It's Cara, Zedd. I know it. And I know where she is, at least, where she's going to be."
"Kahlan.." he sighed.
"I know what you're going to say, Zedd," she pressed, her voice tinged with desperation. Because if Zedd didn't believe her, she'd truly be alone. "That I'm seeing things that aren't there but I'm not."
"Then you should take this to the proper authorities."
"Why? So they can ignore it, put it in a box, that I get the pleasure of filing six months later. They won't believe me, Zedd. And you know it."
"What if you're wrong?" he implored. His efforts to find Cara had left him repeatedly empty handed. It's not that he didn't want to believe her, just Zedd had very little family. With Cara in the hands of the Mord'Sith, Richard still recovering and not speaking to him, Kahlan was all he had left. And the very idea of her putting herself in danger, alone with no backup against one of the most dangerous organizations in the world, chilled him to his very core.
"If I'm wrong then I'll have an uneventful vacation and you can say I told you so when I get back." Kahlan closed her eyes, inhaling deeply. She was dangling by a thread over an abyss with no end. She was tired and frightened and alone. She was tired of being alone. "I need to do this, Zedd. Question is, will you help me?"
He placed his hands atop hers, squeezing gently. "You know I wouldn't be here if I wouldn't."
"Kahlan," Dennee implored, for seemingly the hundredth time. "Are you sure?"
Kahlan knew this would be hard. She knew this would be hard. The hardest thing she'd ever do in her life and it was still harder than she ever realized. Because so much of her screamed not to. She brushed her fingers gently over the crown of her daughter's head as her sister held Isabel. Memorized the downy softness of the fine hairs against her fingertips, the way Isabel tilted her head into her mother's touch, twitching and yawning before falling back to sleep. This was the hardest thing Kahlan ever had to do. It wasn't supposed to be this hard.
"Kahlan," Dennee asked again. "Are you sure?"
Kahlan swallowed the sob rising in her throat as her thumb grazed over Isabel's forehead. "No," she finally admitted. "But, if I don't, I'll never be able to live with myself. I have to put my family back together."
"At least.." Dennee paused as Isabel gurgled and Dennee shifted, gently bouncing the infant in her arms. Kahlan's face tightened, scrunching like she was trying desperately to hold it together, and failing. "At least, let me go with you."
"NO!" Kahlan snapped, focusing her energies. "I can't do this and worry about Isabel as well. I know she'll be safe with you." She softened, curling her lips upwards. "I'm coming back, Dennee."
"If you just spoke to the Mother Confessor.." Dennee's voice trailed. They'd had this particular conversation before. Kahlan had become 'persona non grata' to the Mother Confessor and, by extension, so had Dennee. Isabel gurgled again and Dennee looked down at the tiny life in her arms. The Mother Confessor may have not given Dennee a mission but her sister had. She inhaled deeply, lifting her head and giving the smallest of nods. "I'll protect her with my life."
"It's not going to come to that," Kahlan chuckled mirthlessly. She leaned in, kissing Dennee on the cheek then pressing their foreheads together like they used to do during the darkest days of their childhood. "Thank you."
Kahlan pulled away the moment she felt her sister's tears and Kahlan turned her eyes to her daughter. Because if she saw Dennee crying, she would cry and Kahlan promised herself she wouldn't. She bent down, hand still on the top of Isabel's head, she pressed her lips to Isabel's forehead, putting all the love she felt into the small contact as if she could push a piece of her soul into her daughter. She inhaled deeply, taking in every scent, every sensation.
Then, using every ounce of strength within her, Kahlan stopped. She rose to her full height, smiling weakly at her sister before she turned on her heel and walked out of Dennee's home.
It was the hardest thing Kahlan ever had to do. It was harder than she ever imagined. She didn't break until she'd closed the door behind her.
ONE WEEK LATER
A GNN SPECIAL REPORT
Cooper Jones: I'm Cooper Jones reporting live in Geneva, Switzerland. I'm standing before the Palace of Nations where, in less than an hour, both the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of D'Hara will give speeches before the United Nations. Afterwards, the President and Prime Minister will meet for an historic summit between these two powerhouse nations. Tensions between the US and D'Hara are still strained. With elections in D'Hara less than a year away, the pressure is mounting for the Prime Minister and his chances for re-election. Especially, with rumors that Darken Rahl, himself, is planning to run for the position. As viewers well know, the US rescinded the arrest warrant for Darken Rahl due to lack of evidence regarding his involvement with the attack on the Seeker, Richard Cypher. Who is still recovering and has yet to make a public appearance.
Kahlan tapped the pen in her hand animatedly against her chin as she watched Cooper Jones broadcast his report. A clipboard held to her chest, she wore a black, pin-striped suit, her hair pulled up into a loose bun and wire-rimmed glasses, looking all the world like the TV producer she was impersonating.
The segment went to commercial. Cooper Jones immediately bounded off the platform, racing towards Kahlan.
"Was that to your liking, Mistress?" he asked reverently.
"Yes," Kahlan glanced about, lowering her voice to a whisper. "I especially liked the emphasis on supporting the Seeker at the end."
Cooper beamed. "I know how much support of the Seeker means to you."
Kahlan nodded. Confessing the, then, rising star of the Global News Network had been an accident. It'd been Kahlan's first solo mission, chasing rogue members of the Dragon Corps. Jones was working on an undercover expose on black market magic. A case of mistaken identity, a dark alley in Mexico City and fates collided. Kahlan was suspended for a week, for using her powers against an innocent. The Confessor's were against using their powers to sway influence but, they weren't above using said influence now that they had a man on the inside. Neither was Kahlan.
"Thirty seconds, Mr. Jones," a PA announced.
"Thank you, Cooper," Kahlan placed a hand on his shoulder. "Continue being the best investigative journalist you can be.. And gay. And discreet. It would be best if people not know you serve me."
She waited until he bounded back towards the platform before turning and heading in the opposite direction. She made her way through the maze created by dozens and dozens of media trucks that filled the parking lot across from the Palace of Nations. Security was tight and ever present, armed soldiers in riot gear walked within and outside the perimeter of the media camp.
No one questioned when Cooper Jones asked for a second production truck for backup purposes should the first one experience technical difficulties. The second truck was sandwiched between the GNN truck and MNSBC (Magic National Services Broadcast Company).
Kahlan quickly took the small steps, opening the door and closing it quickly behind her.
"Kahlan," Zedd immediately growled at the sight of her. He sat in the Director's chair, before 30 monitors of various sizes, his hair pulled back into a ponytail so he could comfortably wear his headset.
"Anything?" Kahlan asked, ignoring his irritated protest.
"If there was anything to report, I would have told you. The spell I've cast feeds all the security cameras into my monitors," he explained. Again. Because Zedd was always fond of useless exposition. "And, I've inserted a facial recognition spell, focusing on any blonde female that enters the premises. It's powerful magic. It's also very thorough."
His speech didn't appease her. She grabbed a briefcase, setting it on a chair before she opened it, taking out her Confessor's daggers and two semi-automatic's.
"Kahlan," Zedd sighed. "What are you doing?"
"I'm going inside." She set her foot on the seat of the chair, lifting her pants leg and sliding a dagger between her calf and boot, then repeating with her other leg. Zedd merely sighed his protest. "Zedd!" she straightened. "She's here. I know it. Cara's here to assassinate the Prime Minister of D'Hara."
Zedd folded his arms over his chest, leaning back in his chair. "The Prime Minister's going to be in a lot of places over the next week. Places where assassinating such a public figure would be much easier."
"No," Kahlan shook her head. "Cara was a Mord'Sith, the friggin' Shadow, for crying out loud. She doesn't do easier. If she's here to do this, it'd be someplace very public and definitive so there'd be no doubt."
"That's a pretty huge 'if'."
"She's here and I'm the only one that can stop her." Kahlan picked up a gun, pulled the chamber, loading a round and tucked the weapon in the back of her slacks. "I'm going to get my wife back."
There was no point in arguing. Kahlan was already gone.
"What's taking so long?" Denna snarled in her seat in the back of the stretch limo. She crossed her legs, smoothing the hem of her white dress.
The Premier of D'Harist Columbia dabbed the beads of sweat forming on his bald head with his handkerchief, eyeing the four Mord'Sith's in their black suits flanking him. He was supposed to attend the event with his wife, until a call from the woman across from him at the last minute changed his plans. At the moment, he wasn't sure what he feared more, Denna, or what his wife was going to do to him when she saw him exiting the vehicle with five women on his arm.
"This is a high security event," he squeaked, adjusting his tie. "It will be slow getting through security."
Eyes, cold as ice, glared at him. "I thought a man of your prestige would be able to circumvent such matters," she taunted.
"You have to understand, this is highly irregular.."
"What's irregular," Denna purred, pushing back a stray lock of hair. "Are certain pictures of you in Whistler, sitting in a hot tub and drinking Crystal off the ass of someone who's definitely not your wife."
The Premier paled, swallowing hard and instantly pulling his cell phone from his breast pocket. "I'll investigate the hold up."
Cooper scored again, acquiring a media pass that allowed Kahlan to circumvent another scanning through Security. Unfortunately, it didn't mean this particular line was any faster. There was a hold up due to an old man using a cane who refused to be wheeled around in a chair.
Kahlan blew a hard breath, pushing away the lock of hair falling over her face. The line was on the side of the building, away from the entrance where dignitaries and other very important people would make their entrance. She gazed about the faces around her, her heart skipping a beat at the sight of blonde hair only to turn away in disappointment. Cara was here. It had been Kahlan's mantra since the memo made its way into her hands. Her hope had turned to desperation, fueled by the dull ache in her heart, the constant reminder for the past ten months of the missing piece of Kahlan's soul. Cara was here. Cara had to be here. And maybe, just maybe, if Kahlan believed it enough, it would be true.
She lowered her head as a Confessor, in her ceremonial white robes, walked by with a Wizard of the First Order next to her. Security was tight, thorough. Along with the large number of soldiers that could secure a small nation, the building itself was protected by a magical barrier, insisted upon and provided by the D'Haran's, a controversy unto itself.
Another limo rolled into the driveway, where news cameramen, paparazzi, security, in a flurry of activity, all made a mad rush towards the vehicle. The Summit had become the event, quite possibly, for the decade, and everyone made an attempt to attend. Kahlan watched with a passing disinterest and then she froze.
They were recognizable as they were unrecognizable. Mord'Sith. They exited the vehicle, four of them, looking all the world like nothing more than a security detail in their black suits, sunglasses and ear pieces with a coiled cord going from their ear to the insides of their collars. Their hair was the tell-tale sign, pulled back into long, ponytails that hung down their backs.
They exited the vehicle and pulled into a vee formation, flanking both sides of the door to the limo. The Premier of D'Harist Columbia exited, looking a bit sweatier than normal, and Kahlan almost breathed a sigh of relief. Almost. The sight of the next person to exit the vehicle made Kahlan's blood run cold.
"Shit," she mumbled under her breath.
"Kahlan?" Zedd's voice asked through her earpiece, along with the hard clacking of a keyboard. "What is it?"
"It's.." she had to force the word through her lips. "Denna."
Denna. Who made her entrance by extending her long legs through the opened door, glammed up like some 40's movie star in her white dress, white mink stole and matching heels. The Premier took her hand, then she wove it through his elbow as they, flanked by Mord'Sith, walked towards the entrance to the Palace of Nations.
Kahlan immediately turned, lowering her head and pretending to take a call on her cell so as not to be seen by Denna or the Mord'Sith.
"Keeper's balls!" Zedd grumbled in Kahlan's ear. "Kahlan," his voice lowered to a sympathetic whisper. "I'm sorry.. for not believing you."
Not believing her. For a moment, her brain didn't make the connection. She hadn't planned on Denna being here. She hadn't planned for Mord'Sith to be here. Then, Zedd apologized and Kahlan's mind assumed it was for the, now, almost impossible predicament - stopping an assassination attempt. Alone. Then, her brain made the connection, the moment she'd been praying for since her wife had been torn away from her all those months ago.
Because Kahlan had been right.
Cara was here.
The old man, the one who'd held up the line, slowly doddered his way through the lobby of the Palace of Nations. Nodding his hello's and smiling amiably, though no one paid him any attention. No one paid attention to a not very important old man. They smiled politely but impatiently, made a path for him, held doors open for him but, ultimately, paid no attention to him.
He entered the men's restroom, taking the handicapped stall at the far end and cursing under his breath in Ukranian over the stupidity of placing the handicapped stall at the farthest end of the room.
Outside the restroom, the sounds of commotion, muffled and distant, could be heard. The roar of applause, like a million bird wings taking flight. The President and the Prime Minister had arrived and the restroom emptied immediately except..
For one old man.
Cara yanked the prosthetic mask off her face, the gloves replicated to look like an old man's wrinkled skin. She lifted the lid off the tank and dropped them inside, then pulled a small vial from her pocket and poured in the contents. The water began to bubble as the mask and gloves dissolved.
She upended her cane, twisting off the bottom. Security was tight. They would have thoroughly checked all the tanks in the restrooms for weapons. No one would have checked inside the walls.
The acetylene torched flicked to life, the mortar between the tiles melting like butter as Cara made quick work of the wall. 15 inches by 15 inches and twice as deep, just enough to hide a duffel bag. To hide her Agiel's. Cara had been without them for a week while they sat unused and untouched, neatly stowed away behind the tiles. Her hands reached out immediately, gripping the hilts. The pain coursed through her, calmed and centered her. Better to focus on what she had to do, rather than the consequences of if she didn't.
Releasing the Agiel's, Cara stripped down just enough to tape the various pieces of the sniper's rifle to her body. Redressed, she exited the stall, attaching the ID badge with the word 'Security' in bold black letters onto her breast pocket.
Then, Cara entered the lobby.
"Anything?" Kahlan's tone was almost frantic. She'd briskly walked up and down the corridors, knowing to do so would be to arouse suspicion. And Kahlan was skirting the edge of coming up on someone's radar.
"No," Zedd, irritated, fired back. "Nothing."
She turned a corner, skidding to a stop and retreating behind the wall as Denna and her Mord'Sith's entered a room with a sign outside reading 'Guests of D'Hara'. Good, Kahlan thought. Denna not being in the Council Chambers hopefully meant she was here as a mere observer and not an actual participant in the assassination.
The doors to the Council Chambers had been shut twenty minutes ago. The proceedings broadcast on various monitors, the audio piped through the intercom system.
"Ladies and gentlemen," a voice said through the speakers. "The President of the United States."
"Think, Kahlan!" She pressed her palm to her forehead, squeezing her eyes shut. She'd studied the Shadow, back when the world typically assumed the Shadow was male. Kahlan's thesis on the assassin, back when she was in the Academy, had fast-tracked her to becoming a true Confessor. But, Kahlan didn't just study the Shadow. She'd fought the Shadow, she knew the Shadow. Cara Mason. And Kahlan had fought side by side with her, defended her and Cara had done the same, multiple times. More than that, Kahlan had fallen in love with her. She'd married her. If anyone knew the Shadow, it was Cara Mason's wife.
On the third floor of the Palace of Nations, down a non-descript corridor, behind a conference room door where a 'Closed for Maintenance' sign hung, Cara finished removing the tiles from the floor. The space between the tiles and the concrete slab that formed the ceiling was almost three feet high, a veritable crawl space. She pushed aside thick bundles of wires and insulation until it was nothing but smooth concrete beneath her.
The hole was small, no more than three inches wide. It'd been cut at angle through the thick sheet of concrete, through the expansive Baroque painting on the ceiling of the Council Chambers. The hole was small but big enough for the barrel of Cara's rifle. She didn't need a scope. There was no wind inside the chambers for her to calculate. Her target would be standing still and Cara had always been an expert marksmen.
"..the Prime Minister of D'Hara.."
Dell 'Chase' Brandstone took the podium, poised and composed in his business suit with a red and black sash across his chest, signifying his position as Prime Minister of D'Hara.
Cara held no ill-will towards the man. He was just one amongst many, a mission, a target. Some of her targets deserved their fate, some didn't, most were somewhere in between. Cara tried not to think about how this mission would change the fate of the world. She tried not to think about how Brandstone was married, tried not to think about his wife or his children and the giant hole she was about to create in their family.
The Prime Minister began to speak. Cara relaxed her breathing, listened to her heartbeat, felt the stillness between those beats as her finger tensed around the trigger. This wasn't personal, except, it was. Dell Brandstone wasn't an evil man, that Cara knew. He just happened to be the obstacle standing between Cara's family and safety.
Cara would always put her family first. Jaw clenching, she set her resolve. This was what she had to do. Must do. Cara inhaled..
And pulled the trigger.
She never saw it coming. So focused on the task at hand, Cara didn't hear the door as it quietly opened. Or felt the shift in the air as a body entered the room. In the fraction of time between Cara's finger flexing and the trigger pulling, Cara never sensed the hands reaching down into the floor and grabbing her by the belt.
The rifle fired, the bullet missing the Prime Minister's head by two feet and striking a man behind him. The Chambers erupted into chaos. Cara saw none of it. The hands jerked her out of the hole in the floor, tossing her haphazardly like a sack of potatoes.
Cara let gravity take her, tumbling across the carpet and rolling into a small crouch, ripping the Agiel's from their holsters, ready to face her attacker. She blinked, eyes squinting as if her mind couldn't quite process what she was seeing.
Kahlan. Cara blinked again. She was staring at Kahlan and a knife, sheer molten ore, sliced through Cara's heart. Her wife standing before her and all Cara could think was she'd failed. She'd failed to kill the Prime Minister of D'Hara. If Denna had the slightest idea.. Cara set her resolve, gripping the hilts of her Agiel's tighter as her eyes darkened. She would cherish this moment, burn it to memory to relive in the dark days ahead of her. But, she was on a mission - to save her family, to kill the Prime Minister - and, now, she'd have to do it the hard way.
Even if it meant going through one Kahlan Amnell.
Hands held up defensively, Kahlan backed a step. "Cara, wait!"
She ducked as Cara swung her right hand hard. The Agiel struck the wall, the magic hissing and squealing, chunks of plaster raining down. Kahlan struck back, shoving her fist into Cara's solar plexus. Without the protection of her Mord'Sith uniform, the blow went deep. Cara doubled over, the air whooshing out of her lungs. Kahlan struck again, a right hook to Cara's jaw, then quickly whacked Cara across the face with a backhand.
Kahlan circled, placing herself between Cara and the door, waiting. Cara wiped the blood from her split lip with the back of a hand, raising her head and a cold shiver went down Kahlan's spine. Cara's lips broadened into a wide, maniacal smile, showing the part of her that loved the infliction of pain, regardless of whether it was her own or someone else's. Her green eyes were bright but hard, the message clear - the only way she was going to stop was if Kahlan made her.
She rushed towards Kahlan, going full bore. Kahlan tried to sidestep it. Cara caught her with a shoulder, right under Kahlan's ribs and they crashed through the door to the conference room.
No holds barred, they spilled out into the empty hallway. Kahlan landing heavily on her back as Cara thudded on top of her. And Kahlan grit her teeth as the tip of an Agiel was shoved hard into her stomach. She shoved at Cara, pushing her away. They hadn't fought this hard since the time Cara had actually tried to kill Kahlan. While she had a gun and her daggers on her, Kahlan couldn't find it within herself to use them on Cara. Not this time.
Which put her at a significant disadvantage.
Cara swung again. The Agiel struck Kahlan against her blocking forearm. Cara swung her free arm down and Kahlan caught it by the wrist. They stood, locked like this, pressure against resistance, Kahlan pleading with her eyes, Cara insisting with hers.
Cara pushed, just enough to swing her knee into Kahlan's side. Kahlan doubled over then swung her head up hard, cracking it against the underside of Cara's chin. Kahlan released her grip, grabbed Cara by the lapels, lifting her several inches as she charged and slammed Cara against the wall.
Kahlan didn't know what else to do. She didn't want to fight Cara. She just needed a moment, a second to get through that thick skull of Cara's. So, Kahlan took both of her hands, placed them on either side of Cara's face and kissed her.
The kiss was hard, pressing, closed lips against closed lips. Then Kahlan felt the tiniest bit of tension leave Cara's body, heard the smallest of whimpers escape her throat as her eyes closed.
"Kahlan, please," Cara croaked as their lips parted and Kahlan pressed their foreheads together.
"Cara, look at me," Kahlan shook gently with the hands still clasped to Cara's face. "I know how to break the spell," she said and green eyes opened with the smallest glimmer of hope. "We have to break the connection between myself and Denna."
"How?" Cara asked.
Kahlan swallowed. "You have to kill me.. then revive me with the Breath of Life."
Cara looked back at her with sheer horror, like Kahlan had gone mad and it was infectious. Shaking her head, she shoved Kahlan away from her.
"Cara, wait!" But Cara was already hitting the door to the stairwell before Kahlan could get her bearings. She chased after her, Cara already a level up the stairs by the time Kahlan entered the stairwell.
Kahlan, her long legs pumping, took three steps at a time. Then, she suddenly stopped, realizing the only way to catch Cara Mason was to stop chasing.
"Her name's Isabel," Kahlan called out, her voice echoing against the walls. "I named her after your grandmother."
The stairwell became eerily quiet, Kahlan straining her ears to hear if Cara was still there with her. The seconds ticked by. Kahlan's shoulders sagged defeat, at the possibility of having lost her again.
"I know," Cara's voice spoke softly and Kahlan felt her heart skip a beat.
Placing her hand on the railing, Kahlan took a single step up the stairs. "You should see her, Cara. Our daughter." She took another step, slowly advancing as she spoke. "She's just.. absolutely perfect. But, she's just a tiny little baby and already her heart's broken. It's like she knows there's a piece of her missing and I can't fill the void.."
Kahlan stepped onto the landing, turning to the next set of steps, she could see Cara at the top of the stairs.
"She needs you, Cara," Kahlan pleaded.
Head lowering, Cara turned it just a fraction towards Kahlan, features hidden behind the curtain of blonde hair. "Please don't ask me to do this."
"Do you trust me?" Kahlan asked. She took one, two, three more steps. Cara didn't answer her. "Do you love me?"
This time, Cara did turn, looking at Kahlan with eyes that said that was, quite possibly, the stupidest question in the world. "With everything I am."
Kahlan reached with her hand, gently clasping it around Cara's right wrist as she walked the last few steps to put them on level ground. "Then trust me."
"You don't know what you're asking of me." Cara shook her head. "I can't.."
"I told you I'd find a way to bring us together again.." she clasped her other hand against Cara's left wrist. "I trust you, Cara. I believe in you. Believe in us."
Kahlan's grip tightened. She pulled Cara's wrists towards her, teeth clenching as the tips of both Agiel's pressed against her stomach.
Cara watched in horror as the pain took over, the back of her mind screaming for her to stop. There had to be another way. But, if she didn't trust Kahlan now, when would she?
The Agiel's hissed and screamed as the magic poured into Kahlan. Her eyes rolled into the back of her head, legs giving way as her heart stopped and she breathed her last breath.
Cara immediately wrapped her arms around Kahlan's waist, taking her weight and gently easing her to the floor. She lifted the Agiel's in her hand. Her Agiel's, her constant companions. She felt the pain flowing into her and, for the first time ever, it felt like poison. Dropping them onto the ground, Cara wiped her hands on her jacket.
She reached out, brushing her fingertips over Kahlan's lips. Lips she thought she'd never touch again. Gently, placing her hand on the crown of Kahlan's head, Cara lowered, until she felt the warmth of Kahlan's lips against her own.
"Please," she whispered. "Let this work."
She exhaled, feeling the magic flow out of her, the glowing wisps of breath drifting into Kahlan's mouth. The last of her breath exhaled, Cara kept her lips pressed to Kahlan. And waited.
Her eyes opened, brows scrunching in confusion.
"Kahlan?" She carefully shook Kahlan's head. She'd performed the Breath of Life hundreds of times, she was an expert at it. This time? It was taking too long.
"Kahlan?" she asked again, a little louder, a little more forcefully. "Kahlan!"
The horror hit Cara like a tsunami. Kahlan wasn't coming back. She grabbed Kahlan's lapels, jerking the brunette up. "Don't you do this!" she growled, but it was hollow and filled with nothing but pain. "Don't you make me do this and fucking leave me!" She shook even harder. "Do you hear me? Don't you do this! Don't you leave me!"
Cara lifted Kahlan into her arms, cradling her. "You're not the one who's supposed to die."
Kahlan wasn't listening. Not anymore.
"Cara?" Zedd chuckled, his expression both bemused and puzzled.
Richard nudged Cara with his shoulder. Cara blinked, turning her eyes to the wizard.
Zedd's smile broadened. "When I say 'you may now kiss the bride'? That's the part where you're supposed to kiss the bride."
The congregation of family, friends and invited guests all laughed at once, Cara trying not to glare as they did.
"And," Zedd continued. "I'd hate to think you burned all our clothes for nothing." He made a dramatic gesture towards the sarong wrapped around his long frame. And Cara shifted uncomfortably in her tux, being the only person who's clothes hadn't been burned by the fire caused during her bachelorette party. It wasn't her fault she was smart enough to forget her tux in the trunk of their car.
Cara took a quick glance at the faces of the people seated. They weren't there for Cara, she knew it and accepted it. She turned her gaze to the people standing next to her on the platform, even if they were all dressed in sarongs.
She swallowed hard, recognizing the sensation as she'd heard referred to as a 'lump in her throat'. She'd never say it, not in a million years, but this was her family - Zedd, Richard, Dennee and..
Cara willed her eyes to look at the woman standing before her, the soft smile, blue eyes filling with tears, head haloed by the floral wreath atop it. The lump in her throat grew bigger, heart hammering heavily in her chest. They'd been together for over a year and Cara still couldn't believe it. Cara definitely believed she loved Kahlan. She just couldn't believe the woman loved her back.
"Hi," Cara squeaked softly.
Kahlan tilted her head down, gazing almost shyly up at Cara. "Hi."
"Maybe," Richard offered, leaning his head towards Zedd. "She doesn't really want to marry Kahlan."
On that, Cara turned and slugged Richard on the arm.
"Ow! That.." he ran a hand over his bicep. "Actually hurt."
"Of course it hurt," Cara huffed. "And, don't be ridiculous. Of course I want to marry Kahlan."
Richard continued rubbing his arm. "Then, would you kiss her, fer crying out loud!"
"Kiss her," Zedd implored.
But, it wasn't Zedd or Richard or even Dennee's opinion that mattered. All Cara cared about was what the woman standing across from her thought.
An eyebrow rose coyly on Kahlan's forehead, head tilting, already leaning in. "Kiss me."
"Yes, ma'am," Cara purred. No one's opinion mattered but Kahlan's. Cara loved her. Kahlan loved her back. Cara lifted her hands, cupping her face as they brought their lips together. "I love you," Cara breathed with the softest of whispers.
"Mmm," Kahlan breathed back. "'Til death do us part."
"No," Cara tightened the hands cupping Kahlan's face. "You're never going to die. I won't let you."
With eyes blank and lifeless, Kahlan cradled in her arms, her chin resting on Kahlan's head, Cara rocked back and forth.
"It's ironic, don't you think?"
Cara didn't bother to lift to look towards the sound of Denna's voice. The blonde, now dressed in her white leathers and flanked by her Mord'Sith, took another sauntering step forward. She stepped towards Cara, leathering creaking as she kneeled down.
"All the.." she paused, sucking her lower lip between her teeth, squeezing the air into her mouth. She reached out, fingers brushing the hair off Cara's face and tucking it behind an ear. "Things you did to keep me from killing her and she dies by your hands."
"She," Cara growled. "Won't be the only one."
The hate and rage radiated off Cara. Denna chuckled, rising to her feet and backing away, knowing she'd poked the caged lion one time too many.
Reverently, Cara lowered Kahlan to the floor, kissing her gently on the forehead. "I'll be with you soon, my love," she whispered. It was a lie, she knew. Cara's place in the Afterlife had been secured long ago. Where ever she went, she knew she wouldn't be joining Kahlan.
Cara rose to her full height. Leather gloves creaking as she pulled her hands into fists. She no longer needed her Agiel's to feel the calming center of pain. She was pain, raw and aching. It flowed through, mixed swirled with the building storm of the hate and rage within her.
A warrior's cry erupted from Cara's throat and she charged. The first Mord'Sith was dead before she hit the ground, neck broken and twisted at an odd angle. An Agiel stabbed into her breastbone. It was like a mosquito trying to bite a bear. Cara grabbed her wrist, swung her fist across the woman's jaw. Then grabbed her Agiel, jamming it deep into her stomach. Her death was instant. More than she deserved.
Cara looked up to see Denna and the remaining two Mord'Sith retreating up the stairs. She charged after them. There would be no escape this time. Cara smiled gleefully, thinking of the many ways she was going to kill Denna. It would be slow and painful and Cara was going to love every minute of it.
A flight of stairs between them, Denna hit the roof, the door slamming hard as the last Mord'Sith exited. Cara swung her foot forward and kicked the door open. She immediately ducked at the Agiel aiming for her head. Outside the confines of the stairwell, the Mord'Sith attacked Cara at the same time, slashing, punching, kicking, stabbing with their Agiel's. Cara took the blows. Rage coursing through her, she no longer felt pain. Just delivered.
Denna circled, watching. The ever present coy and lascivious smile on her lips. There was nothing hotter than watching three - okay, now two - chicks fighting. It was almost as good as sex.
The last of Denna's personal guard fell in a crumpled heap. Denna pouted, like it was so hard to find good help these days, then turned her eyes to Cara. "And then there were two," she drawled.
"Soon to be just one," Cara fired back.
"What will you do then, Cara? Bury your wife," she taunted, watching Cara flinch at her words. "Raise your precious little daughter. What will you do when she looks up at you with her innocent little eyes and asks 'what happened to Mommy?'?"
The two circled around the roof like gunfighters before a shootout. Denna stopped, pulling her Agiel and holding it up as she gazed lovingly. "People like us were never meant for picket fences, apple pie and baseball. We're killers, Cara. Plain and simple."
"Maybe I am a killer but I'm still better than you."
Denna tilted back her head and laughed. "You still don't get it, do you, Cara? You can't win this fight. I made you. I trained you. I know your every move, your every thought. Do you really think I taught you everything? That I didn't hold back just a little to always make sure I'm the last one standing?"
Cara shrugged. "I guess there's only one way to find out."
Denna squinted her eyes, the smile on her face fading to a grim line. "I guess so."
Cara charged first, running at full bore towards Denna. Denna charged then, just a few feet before they would connect, she sideswiped the impact. Extending her arm, she clothes-lined Cara. Cara went ass over tea kettle, landing hard on her chest.
She rolled onto her back, lifting her forearms to block the Agiel swinging down. Denna's eyes darkened as she pushed. "It's not too late," she grunted. "To join me."
"Seriously!?!" Cara swung her leg up, striking Denna in the shoulder, knocking her away. Jumping to her feet, Cara spun, hitting Denna square in the chest with a spinning back kick. Stumbling, Denna's back hit the door to the stairs.
"Don't you get it?" she asked with the crack of a fist against Denna's jaw, using her fists in a flurry of punches to accent her words. "I'M.. JUST.. NOT.. THAT.. INTO.. YOU!!"
On the last punch, Denna's head jerked hard. Cara should have seen it, the glimmer in Denna's eyes. She should have seen it. And she did, only it was too late. Cara had been running on adrenaline that had now burned down to fumes. She'd fought Kahlan, lost her wife, took on four of the best Mord'Sith and Denna herself. Cara never saw it, just felt it, the Agiel jammed hard under her ribs, Denna pouring everything she had into the leather rod.
Cara screamed at the pain. Denna wrapped an arm around Cara's waist, jamming the Agiel harder as Cara stumbled backwards. She released her hold, swinging her white Agiel against Cara's jaw, striking again and again.
Cara's vision blurred, her legs went rubbery then her entire body tensed as Denna stabbed her again. Cara slumped to the ground, body twitching and spasming as Denna stabbed her over and over again, until she finally collapsed, completely spent.
Denna stood over her, pressing a boot to Cara's throat. In the distance, the sound of a helicopter approaching filled the air. "Like I said," she smirked triumphantly. "In what world could you ever beat me?"
"The one with ME!"
The fist came from nowhere, cracking against Denna's face with a ferocious intensity. Denna spun a full 360, turning around just in time to receive a boot to the gut. She stumbled backwards, eyes blinking back into focus to see..
Kahlan stood before a prostrate Cara, black hair whipping about her face, hands balled into fists, and blue eyes darkened with anger.
"You're.." Denna gasped. "You're dead!"
Kahlan smirked, tilting her head coyly. "I got better."
Then, it was Kahlan and Denna. Kahlan was all haymaker's and boiler maker's. She could have used her daggers but this felt too good, the feel of Denna's flesh breaking against her fists.
Coughing and sputtering, Cara rolled onto her side, not quite able to believe her eyes but grateful for the sight, nonetheless. Kahlan, her Kahlan was alive.. and kicking the ever loving shit out of Denna.
"This is for threatening my family!" Kahlan screamed with one last punch. And Denna - battered, bloodied, and bruised - slumped to her knees. Kahlan reached out with her hand, grasping it around Denna's throat, blue eyes swirling into black.
"And this is for fucking with me!"
The approaching helicopter, no more than fifty feet away, turned, exposing the open door on the side, a Mord'Sith raising the rifle in her hands and peering through the scope.
"Kahlan!" Cara screamed. She leapt towards Kahlan, grabbing her by the shoulders as the shot rang out. The bullet whizzed through the air, missing its target by millimeters as Kahlan and Cara fell flat onto the roof.
The connection broken, Denna coughed, holding her throat as she rose to her feet. Her lips curled a mocking grin of triumph. She turned, racing towards the helicopter swerving towards the building.
Kahlan and Cara swiftly jumped to their feet.
Denna jumped, the chopper bobbing from the added weight as her hands grasped onto the landing skid. Mord'Sith immediately reached for their leader, pulling her inside the cabin. The chopper veered away but not before Denna poured salt in the wound one last time, blowing the two women a kiss.
Kahlan screamed in frustration, pulling out the semi tucked into the back of her slacks. She fired, finger squeezing until she emptied the clip and the helicopter was out of range.
The helicopter suddenly dipped, black smoke billowing from the engine. Kahlan had scored a direct hit. The rotor blade stopped, sending the chopper into a dead spin. It spun around, bobbing and weaving over the media parking lot as the pilot fought for control of the vehicle, all to no avail.
The chopper landed with hard crunch on a grassy knoll. The blade whipped into the ground, breaking into a dozen pieces that sailed through the air.
"Let me through!" Kahlan pushed her way through the crowd of people standing around the wrecked chopped, albeit, a safe distance.
Soldiers circled the wreck, some pointing their rifles at the occupants within, others sprayed the engine with fire extinguishers.
Kahlan reached the edge of the crowd, a solider immediately holding up a hand.
"Ma'am," he commanded. "Please stay back."
Reaching into her breast pocket, Kahlan pulled out a black leather billfold and flipped it open. "My name's Kahlan Amnell, Confessor, MBI and that woman," Kahlan pointed, her eyes locking with Denna. "Needs to be placed under arrest for the attempted assassination of the Prime Minister."
The soldier's eyes widened at Kahlan's words, stepping aside and letting her through. Kahlan was a Confessor and a Confessor would never lie.
"Hello, Denna," Kahlan said, placing a hand on the opened doorframe and hovering over the blonde, her lips spreading into a coy smirk. "Welcome to the new world."
VANCOUVER, D'HARIST COLUMBIA, D'HARA
On any other day, the auditorium for the D'Haran Loyalist Party held all the excitement and raucousness of a tea party in a cemetery. Today was completely different. The room completely packed, with the energy and excitement of a rock concert. They were all here for one reason and one reason only.
"Ladies and gentlemen," a voice announced through the speakers. "I present to you DARKEN RAHL!!"
He strode across the stage, waving a polite hand to the crowd. Women screamed, fainted, flashed their breasts. Panties, and the occasional pair of boxers, were thrown onto the stage. Middle-aged men in business suits and balding heads stood on their chairs, swinging red and black scarves over their heads as they chanted.
"Rahl! Rahl! Rahl!"
Darken Rahl stood at the podium, pushing back a lock of hair from his forehead with a thumb. Hair now fully restored to its former and lustrous glory - it really was all about the conditioner. A hundred flashbulbs from the flock of media before him went off all at once. He stood on the stage, in his ceremonial red and black robe, the one his father once wore. The audience continued to roar and applaud even as Rahl raised his arms and waved for them to quiet.
"People," he gestured a placating motion with his arms, even while enjoying their adoration. Rahl placed his hands on the podium, as the audience finally quieted down and he leaned into the mic. "First, I would like to take this opportunity to publicly denounce the despicable attempt to assassinate our Prime Minister." The audience grumbled, showing their distaste for the Prime Minister. "While the Prime Minister and myself may disagree politically, we and the Loyalist Party fully agree that violence is never the answer. I have no doubts D'Hara will be restored to its former glory. But, it will be by the will of the people and not the actions of a lone madwoman."
The applause was deafening as the audience rose to its feet. The corners of Darken Rahl's lips pulled ever so slightly. He tilted his head, making sure the cameras got his good side as the flashes illuminated the stage like a lightening storm.
"Now," he paused as he retook the microphone, letting the audience settle. "In regards to certain rumors that I will be running for Prime Minister in next year's election.." The audience, once again, let their opinion be known with another wave of rowdy applause. Rahl smiled politely before interrupting their moment. "I am here to say, the rumors are false. I have no intentions of running for public office."
The room went deadly still. The sounds of faint sniffling, women but mostly men, began to carry over the room. A cry of 'NO!' was shouted across the room, repeated by more until it was a chaotic chorus.
"But, I am not here to talk to you about politics," Rahl continued, their voices quieting down once more. "But to share with you some rather joyous news that I hope will mean as much to the people of D'Hara as it does to me. As you know, I've been in seclusion for many months. My detractors would have you believe it's because I'm up to some nefarious and dastardly deed. A year ago, I learned some disturbing news about my father through some letters I'd recently found in our home. I'd always grown up believing I was an only child. You can imagine my shock and horror to learn that not only had my father sired other children but they'd been stolen from him, as well. Not just stolen from my father," Rahl pounded a fist on the podium. "But from the people of D'Hara who he proudly served. It was his dying wish that his family be reunited and that's what I've done. After much deliberation, we've chosen this day, before you, the most loyal servants of D'Hara, to make this most joyous of introductions. While my.. sister is a bit shy and still wishes not to speak publicly, I'd like to take this opportunity to present to you.."
Rahl stepped back from the podium, extending his arm dramatically. "My brother."
The crowd hushed as a figure stepped out from the side of the stage, the silence turning to a loud and collective gasp, then loud and angry 'boo's' as the man stepped into the light and towards Darken Rahl.
Richard Cypher, wearing a red and black doublet, stepped to the podium. "I'm sure all of you know who I am. I'm here to tell you, ten months ago, I wasn't on some rooftop in Venice and I haven't been recuperating in some hospital in Aydindril. I've been here, in D'Hara.." Richard paused, turning to glance at Rahl with a bright smile on his face. "With my brother. And, no, I didn't want to believe it when Darken Rahl came to me with the news. I'd been raised, like many outside D'Hara, to believe the Rahl family was evil. And it was my duty, as the Seeker, to make sure the House of Rahl never rose to power again."
Richard shifted on his feet, his eyes and face darkening with anger. "Then I took a blood test and everything I believed crumbled. I'd been stolen from my true family. When I went to my superiors telling them I'd be spending some time with my brother, they created the ridiculous story of Rahl attempting to kill me. They've even gone so far as to hire a double to pose as me!" Richard inhaled deeply, composing himself. "In these past months, as I've gotten to know my brother and my sister, I've also gotten to know the people of D'Hara. Not the lies, the myths, the rumors, but the real D'Hara. So, I stand before you, not as Richard Cypher, or the Seeker but as Richard Rahl, son of D'Hara, son of Panis Rahl.."
He stepped from behind the podium, walking towards the edge of the stage. The false Richard unsheathed the Sword of Truth from his hip, raising it high above his head, his voice loud and clear as he spoke. "I swear to you, I will do everything in my power to restore D'Hara to its former glory, to place D'Hara under its true leader - the House of Rahl!"
With that, the Sword of Truth glowed, flames streaking up the metal. The audience erupted into a deafening applause.
From the stage, a curled hand held to his face, thumb gently stroking his lips, Darken Rahl smiled.
"Stay on the white line," the guard behind the thick, bulletproof glass spoke to Kahlan through the tinny speaker. "I'll be watching you from here. You have five minutes."
Kahlan nodded, inhaling as a buzzer sounded and the metal gate before her slid open. She stepped through the entrance, almost jumping at the sound of the gate clanging shut behind her.
The women's wing of Alcatraz was smaller than the five separate wings for the men but no less imposing. A former military base turned prison, Alcatraz held the world's most dangerous prisoners - wizards and witches, practitioners of magic. The walls had even held several Confessor's and, at one time, a Seeker. Along with brick and mortal, steel and the world's most high-tech of security systems, the prison was also secured with a spell so strong, Kahlan could feel the magic humming beneath her feet as she walked.
There were only three prisoners in the women's wing of Alcatraz. Technically two since the third was currently in solitary confinement. There was an eerie silence compared to the men's wings.
Walking on the white line that bisected the corridor, Kahlan passed a darkened cell. Long, black hair streaked with gray spilled loosely down the Sister of the Dark's shoulders. She wore nothing but the Rada'Han about her neck as she danced within her cell to some ancient tribal beat only she could hear. As Kahlan passed, the woman stopped, rushing towards the bars of her cell, bony fingers wrapping around them.
"One from two," she chanted in a hoarse croak. "Black and white to gray. One from two, she'll serve the Keeper one day."
Kahlan shivered, staring at the woman's mad eyes. The Sister of the Dark released her hold on the bars, taking up her dance as she repeated the chant over and over. Kahlan continued walking, making her way towards the other occupied cell in the wing.
She inhaled again. Not out of fear but to quell the rising anger within her at the sight of the blonde woman in the cell.
Denna, in an orange jumpsuit, sat on the bed against the far wall, back slumped, legs crossed. As Kahlan stopped on the white line, turning to face her, Denna began to clap.
"Well played, Kahlan Amnell," Denna stopped clapping. "Well played. If I didn't know you were a Confessor, I'd almost swear you were Mord'Sith."
Canting her hips, Kahlan crossed her arms over her chest. "If it weren't coming from you, I'd almost take that as a compliment."
Denna lifted a hand, twirling a finger into the loose curls spilling about her shoulders. "Come to gloat then?"
"Something like that," Kahlan smirked.
"Well, I hope you enjoy," Denna leaned forward, placing her elbows on her knees, eyes darkening. "Because, I can definitely guarantee it's not going to last."
Kahlan chuckled, the last of her nervousness draining from her. "That's a pretty empty threat considering I'm standing here and you're.. sitting there."
Denna laughed, the mirth never reaching her eyes. "That's right. You still believe me being here is due to your keen acumen instead of what it really is."
"And what's that?"
"The piece of a larger picture falling exactly into place. Like you, Kahlan, I'm nothing more than a cog on the wheel, a very big cog, mind you but nothing more than a large piece of an even bigger whole. I am Mord'Sith. I lead.. but I also serve." Denna tilted her head, a taunting sneer on her lips. "Where's that confident smile of yours now, Kahlan?"
Kahlan shifted nervously. Part of her knew this was nothing more than a game, a way for Denna to get under her skin. But, she also saw it in Denna's eyes, that somewhere within all the lies there was a kernel of truth.
"Oh Kahlan," Denna sighed wistfully, rising from the bed and swaggering across the floor towards Kahlan. "In all the time you've known Cara, you really should have asked her a few more questions before you slid that ring on your finger. Because that one?" Denna pressed a curled hand to her face, like she was exchanging secrets, whispering softly. "Has secrets."
"What are you talking about?"
"I understand the attraction." Denna pressed her back to the wall, folding her arms over chest, placing an ankle over the other. "She is a beauty. She gets it from me, you know. The hand fisting your hair as she fucks you. The teeth clamping on the inside of your thigh. That little extra push of her fingers when she.."
"Denna," Kahlan growled, hands curling into fists.
"Sorry," she placed a hand to her chest, eyelashes batting demurely. "Did I touch a nerve?"
She could feel the anger rising within her. Denna was behind bars yet Kahlan felt like the one trapped in a cage. As a Confessor, she could tell whether a person was lying or telling a truth. Unless they were a Mord'Sith. Kahlan looked into Denna's eyes and saw nothing but deception.. and truth, with no way to discern which was which.
"One minute, Mrs. Mason," the guard's voice crackled through the speaker system.
"Oooh," Denna taunted. "Time's running out."
Ignoring the rules, Kahlan stepped off the white line. "Tell me what you know?"
"What will you give me in return?" She raked her eyes up and down Kahlan's frame. "A conjugal visit? I can definitely see what Cara sees in you. To taint all that.. purity. That's a temptation even a Mord'Sith couldn't refuse."
"Denna!" Kahlan snapped. "Tell me!"
"How about this?" Denna pushed herself from the wall, grasping the bars and placing her face between them. "Have you ever wondered why the MBI still hasn't found the agent that recruited Cara? Why they would let someone immune to the powers of Confession fall so easily into the Mord'Sith's grasp?"
"It was a set-up," Kahlan gaped. "From the beginning?"
"Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't," Denna shrugged. "I am a habitual liar with a penchant for torture. Maybe I'm telling the truth when I say The Powers That Be's interest in Cara is done. And maybe I'm lying when I say - your daughter?" Her eyes glinted wildly. "They've only just begun."
In a flash, Kahlan's eyes went from blue to black, her hand whipping out, reaching through the bars. Denna laughed as she jumped back from Kahlan's touch.
"TELL ME!" Kahlan screamed. "TELL ME!!"
Kahlan continued screaming even as the guards, trained in dealing with Confessor's, tackled her to the ground and pulled her, kicking and screaming, from the wing.
AYDINDRIL, NEW ZEALAND
TWO WEEKS LATER
"Kahlan?" Cara sounded completely drained as she spoke into the MBI provided cell phone.
"Cara?" Kahlan answered. "Oh my God! Where are you?"
Cara smiled, blinking slowly, tired, relieved. "I'm home."
Cara quietly slipped her key into the Amnell home. She'd spent the last two weeks in MBI 'custody', which felt more like 'imprisonment' as she was repeatedly questioned over both her captivity with the Mord'Sith and her involvement in the attempted assassination of the D'Haran Prime Minister. No lawyer, no phone calls, and no interaction with Kahlan.
That didn't matter to Cara. All that mattered was the safety of her family and, now, they were finally safe. She'd face interrogation, a trial, even execution if it meant keeping her family safe. So, she answered their questions, perhaps, leaving out some of the more 'salacious' events (where all of her appendages were at any given time was Cara's business).
But even Cara Mason, former Mord'Sith and the Shadow, had friends in high places, including a Seeker and a Wizard of the First Order. A couple of phone calls and it was decided whatever questions remained could be asked at the MBI facility in Aydindril. Just like that, Cara was on a private charter (with armed escorts, of course) to the Confessor's Palace. Where she was quickly escorted to another empty room, and asked ever more questions. Until day turned to night and Cara, completely spent, merely laid her head onto the desk and fell asleep mid-question.
A day later, Cara was released and she went home. When Kahlan didn't meet Cara at the airport, Cara thought nothing of it. It never occurred to her that no one had bothered to tell her wife that she was entering the country. Cara, never fond of either surprises or parties, didn't want a welcoming party. She just didn't expect the dead silence that greeted her as she opened the door.
All full Confessor's were commissioned homes within Aydindril. The Amnell home had been in Kahlan's family for almost 500 years. A two-story house with a low, thatched roof, white timbered walls and latticed windows that seemed to rise from the high-growth garden around it.
Cara had only been here one time before and never inside. Back when she was a Mord'Sith, those first days after Denna had ordered her to kill Kahlan Amnell and Cara was merely researching. Kahlan had always resided in DC, after which, she moved in with Cara in Miami. It'd been Thanksgiving, the last time Cara was here. And she'd stood outside in the garden, watching like some creepy stalker as Kahlan, Dennee, Richard and Zedd sat at the dinner table, laughing and eating. The casual familiarity between them. The Mord'Sith were trained to view such emotional bonding's as weakness but, seeing them, seeing Kahlan's face as she smiled so lovingly at the faces around her, it called to something locked away tight within Cara that she couldn't quite understand. At least, not then..
Cara understood now.
The house was more modern on the inside than the exterior. It smelled of fresh flowers cut from the garden, Kahlan's chicken soup and baby powder. There were still unopened boxes strewn about the first level, like Kahlan was still in the process of moving in though she'd been living in the residence for almost a year. Like she was still waiting for Cara to return, so they both could put their personal marks on their new home.
At the fireplace, Cara drifted her fingers over the mantle, and the seemingly dozens of photographs Kahlan had placed upon it - Kahlan and Dennee as children, a rare photo of Cara alone, their wedding photo. Isabel.
No more than a day old, tiny and pink and perfect, swaddled in a blanket and held in a smiling but tired looking Kahlan's arms.
Cara wiped her gloved hands on her jacket, as if the picture was old, fragile, about to dissolve into dust the first moment her fingers touched it. The picture stayed solid in her hands. She brushed a fingertip over their faces, mother and daughter together.
Cara, the photo still in her hand, turned from the fireplace and headed up the stairs. Their child was only a couple months old and, already, there was a baby gate installed at the top of the stairs. Probably by Richard, and Cara smiled, bemused at the thought of he and Zedd arguing over the instructions.
Slowly, she pushed open the door to Isabel's room. Instinctively knowing which door was her daughter's. Colored in soft shades of pink, probably Dennee's idea, it had all the accoutrements one expected to find in a nursery - crib, dresser with changing table, chair, toy box, brightly colored pictures on the walls. And still to Cara, it felt empty. Unlived in. Cara immediately knew why.
She made her way to Kahlan's bedroom. And it was exactly like Cara pictured it, after the multitude of conversations regarding how Kahlan would decorate the home in Aydindril. The master bedroom was the largest room on the second floor, decorated in muted colors, a four-poster bed, dresser, desk, Cara's foot locker from their Miami home. And, across from the bed where the evening sun spilled light onto it, sat another crib.
Cara knew Kahlan. Knew Kahlan would never be able to sleep without their daughter close by. Because Cara couldn't sleep, hadn't really slept in the past months, knowing her family was in danger.
She moved to the rocking chair next to the crib. Sitting down, a long, ragged sigh escaped Cara's lips, like her bones had completely dissolved. The tension she'd kept within her for so long, finally releasing. She was home. Really home, in the house that smelled like flowers and baby powder. In the room with the crib their daughter slept in. Home. The word had meant so little for so long to Cara, stripped of its meaning, perverted into something else by the people she'd spent almost half her life with.
A key slid into the front door and Cara's eyes snapped open.
"Cara?" Kahlan called out to her.
"Upstairs," she swallowed hard, suddenly thankful she was wearing gloves because her palms had begun to sweat. "The master bedroom."
In the grand scheme of things, it was a minor panic attack. Which Cara did not have. Cara Mason does not have panic attacks. Panic attacks were for the weak, as were doubts and anxieties and fears. And Cara felt all those things as she heard Kahlan ascend the stairs. Was she worthy, deserving? Would she bring her wife and daughter joy or just more pain?
The marriage thing had been easy to get accustomed to. Because marriage was easy. Nothing more than putting a ring on the finger of the one person you'd be having sex with for the rest of your life. Easy. But being a parent? Before, it had all been an abstract. So focused on protecting her family, Cara never considered whether she was qualified to raise a family. Mord'Sith did not raise children. They broke them. Cara couldn't stand the idea of breaking her own child.
Her hands tightly squeezed the armrests of the rocking chair as her eyes widened with fear. Kahlan would understand, right? She'd understand if Cara bolted, diving through the second-story window and getting as far from Kahlan and their child as possible to spare them any future pain.
But, her legs were rooted to the floor, her body frozen, eyes wide with fear as she, like a character in a horror movie, watched the door slowly open wider.
There was Kahlan's smiling face, bright blue eyes already rimmed with red. There was a blanket, something in Kahlan's arms wrapped in the blanket. "There's someone who really wants to meet you."
Kahlan stepped towards Cara, kneeling before her, lifting her arms and bringing the tiny bundle closer to Cara. "Isabel, this is your Daddy."
And then Isabel was in Cara's arms, Kahlan gently lifting the corner of the blanket off her face, and every single doubt in Cara's mind disappeared. This was where she was supposed to be.
"Say 'hi Daddy'," Kahlan whispered softly.
"Oh.." Cara looked down at the sleeping face and her voice went small and tiny. "Wow."
Cara had been broken before but never like this. Her insides seared but there was no pain, just an increasing warmth as if the locked places inside her had finally burst open. Where her heart ached and it made her happy.
Her body began to tremble with an excited, nervous energy. Her eyes burned and she blinked away the tears, watching a drop fall from her cheek, landing on Isabel's chin. And she brought her fingertips to her mouth, pulling the glove off with her teeth to brush the tiny drop of moisture away. Isabel's skin was so soft and smooth, almost delicate and Cara lifted her eyes to Kahlan's in disbelief.
"We did this?"
Kahlan clenched her lips, nodding hurriedly as a sniffle choked her lungs and she wiped the bottom of her nose with the back of a finger. "She looks just like you," she spoke in a pained whisper that was anything but.
Isabel yawned and Cara crumbled because it was the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen, even more beautiful than the birth of Night Wisps. Isabel yawned then sleepily opened her eyes.
"She has your eyes," Cara marveled as the little eyes slowly closed again. "Tell me everything."
"Everything?" Kahlan questioned.
Cara lifted her head to gaze upon her wife. "From the moment you found out you were pregnant, to the moment you put her in my arms. I want to know everything."
Everything she had missed.
"Okay," Kahlan nodded, reaching up to cup Cara's cheek with her hand. "Okay."
Evening turned to night and between showing Cara how to feed and burp Isabel, and between the two dozen pictures she took of Cara and Isabel with her digital camera (which she was totally posting on her ConfessorFriends page no matter what Cara said), Kahlan told her everything. Sure, there were still the two albums worth of photos to go through, and videos, including the one taken of Isabel's birth but, as far as words, Kahlan told Cara everything.
Lying on her side on the bed, head propped up with a hand, Kahlan watched Cara as she held Isabel, gently rocking in the chair. She thought back to that moment on the beach in St. Maarten, when the mysterious woman rose from the waters like a siren. It hadn't been instantaneous, except it was. Kahlan had fallen in love with Cara the first moment she saw her. And when she realized her instincts had been correct, Kahlan knew there was no one else she wanted to have a child with. Even if it took 'powerful magic' to accomplish.
"Cara," Kahlan chuckled, shifting on the bed. "You're going to spoil her rotten if you keep holding her."
Cara huffed. "Then let her be spoiled. I have no intention of letting her out of my sight." She lifted her head, green eyes focused on Kahlan. "I have no intention of letting you out of my sight ever again."
The green gaze stoked a familiar spark within Kahlan. Rising from the bed, Kahlan walked towards Cara, leaning down and gently sliding her hands until Isabel was cradled in her arms.
"Kahlan," Cara softly whined.
"I am not letting you spoil our child," Kahlan said and Cara knew there was no point in arguing because Kahlan was using her 'Confessor face'.
Cara stiffened in her chair as Kahlan turned and headed towards the door. "Where are you going?"
"To put Isabel in her bed."
"But, she's never actually slept in that bed?"
Kahlan turned, gaping at her wife. "How did.." she shook her head. "She's sleeping in her bed. It'll only be for a couple hours."
Kahlan cut her off with a look. Cara deflated like a puppy just whacked on the nose. Kahlan left their bedroom, Cara hearing Kahlan cooing to the baby through the baby monitor. In less than a minute, Kahlan was back, closing the door softly behind her.
"Cara," she cut her off, a heated look growing in her eyes. "I haven't been with my wife in almost a year. Let's just say I've built up a little frustration."
Cara's head tilted, a glint in her eyes as she rose from the chair. "Just a little frustration?" she teased, already pulling off her other glove as she feigned a pout. "I thought you missed me."
"Missed isn't quite the word I'd use," Kahlan said as they stalked towards each other.
"Then what word would you use?"
"Me?" Kahlan said, hands gripping Cara by the lapels and jerking her closer. "I don't use words."
The kiss was hard, bruising. Kahlan turned the two around and pushed Cara against the wall. She'd imagined this moment a thousand times. She never imagined the hurried and urgent need built up within her, like she needed to consume Cara, have Cara inside her. Instead of gentle and slow, the kiss was sloppy and wet, clacking teeth and dueling tongues. When Cara's hands thread into Kahlan's hair, Kahlan gripped them by the wrists, pushing them over Cara's head, pinning them to the wall with a hand.
Cara had been taken from her, possessed by another. Kahlan was taking it all back. Her other hand slid between them, fumbling with Cara's belt, yanking on it as she kneed Cara's thighs open. This. And Kahlan moaned into Cara's mouth at the sensation, of Cara's flesh, warm and wet, against her fingers. At Cara's quick and easy acquiescence, already rolling her hips, offering herself to Kahlan's touch.
Cara whimpered into Kahlan's mouth, like she was breaking all over again. She couldn't take back what had happened, the loss they'd shared, the missing time. All she had was now and, maybe, the future. She'd stood on a beach and made a promise. She was Kahlan's - mind, body and spirit. And she gave herself, with lips and rolling hips, saying the things she could never really express with words. Kahlan's faith, Kahlan's love, things Cara wasn't supposed to want, things she almost lost.
I love you. I am yours. All of me.
Then, the hand between Cara's legs quickly withdrew and Cara cried out in sudden frustration.
Kahlan dropped to her knees, jerking Cara's slacks down to her knees. Her eyes went black as Cara's scent filled her nostrils and she plunged forward. Palms flat, fingers digging into Cara's flesh to pull open her thighs, Kahlan clamped her mouth on Cara's sex. Cara rolling her hips, hand threading into Kahlan's hair as Kahlan jutted her tongue in a perfect rhythm.
But it just wasn't enough. Not for Kahlan. There were too many restraints, too many barriers, not enough skin against. Withdrawing her tongue, Kahlan rose to her feet.
They danced across the room, an almost awkward, clumsy movement. Connected at the lips, hands fumbled and yanked and pulled at the clothing between them. Then it was nothing but skin against skin and Kahlan pushed when the backs of Cara's knees hit the bed.
Kahlan clambered over Cara, growling at the sight of her wife, her love, naked before her. Then her eyes went soft, pained. Underweight, almost gaunt, Kahlan ran her fingers over the ribs now visible, the new scars on Cara's body.
"Oh, my love," she whispered, bringing her lips to the healed knife wound under Cara's left breast, like she could erase the scar with only her mouth. She lathed Cara's skin with her tongue, hands groping her breasts, fingers pinching nipples. Lips and tongue against smooth skin, stomach muscles trembling under her touch, Kahlan lowered.
Thighs on Kahlan's shoulders, with that first swipe of Kahlan's tongue, Cara's back arched, fingers curling the sheets into white-knuckled fists. She reached down with one hand, Kahlan finding it and their fingers threading together. A pained grunt, like a saw drawn slowly over wood, extended from Cara's throat. No more barriers, walls, or hiding places where she kept her 'weakness' locked tight. No more places for Cara to hide. For almost a year, she'd buried it, numbed herself to any and all sensation other than pain. All for this. All for her. When Kahlan touched her, slid her fingers into her, the magic just thrumming through her, Cara's walls crumbled, and she came undone as everything within spilled out.
Cara keened, a wail of ecstasy, anguish, pain and joy. Her body continued to tremble and shudder as Kahlan took everything Cara had to give. And everything Cara had continued to spill from her, like a dam under too much water. But it was more than physical. It overwhelmed Cara. She didn't fight it as her eyes burned and the tears fell. Cara didn't know how. Didn't know how to stop the wracking sobs convulsing her chest. Once it started, Cara didn't know how to stop.
"Oh Cara," Kahlan whispered gently, brushing her lips over Cara's. "My love."
Weak. Cara had become weak. She didn't think of what her former Sisters would say, or the looks of contempt and scorn she would receive. If this was weakness - to be loved, fully and completely, unconditionally - then Cara would be weak. She let Kahlan roll her into Kahlan's arms, as she sobbed uncontrollably into Kahlan's neck. Cara accepted this weakness, and curled into the embrace of the one person who made her strong.
Kahlan slid her arm over the mattress. Her heart suddenly skipped a beat, a moment of panic, frightened she'd woken from a dream and back into a reality where she still slept alone. She calmed, feeling the warmth of the mattress next to her, the languid soreness in her muscles that let her know the last couple hours were anything but a dream.
Cara was home. Kahlan didn't want to think too much about Cara's new scars, both internal and external. There would be time for healing, for all of them. All that mattered was she was home.
She was close to drifting back to sleep when she heard the subtle creaking of the rocking chair. Lips curling into a soft contented smile, Kahlan didn't have to roll over to know Cara was seated in the rocking chair holding Isabel.
"Cara," she mumbled sleepily into her pillow. "Come back to bed."
The creaking continued.
Kahlan breathed a chuckle. "You can bring Isabel with you."
The creaking stopped. The bed dipped with Isabel's familiar weight and Kahlan instinctively reached out to brush her fingers over the tiny forehead. She opened her eyes to see Cara, on the other side of Isabel, gazing back at her, hair haloed by the dim moonlight spilling into the room. And the contented smile on Kahlan's lips broadened as Cara smiled back.
There were still problems in the world - Darken Rahl, the false Seeker, Mord'Sith, Sisters of the Dark and on and on. Maybe it was selfish, Kahlan thought. But in this moment, the only world that mattered to Kahlan extended as far as the edge of the mattress.
She watched as Cara's face went serious, brows crinkling, lips pursing in that way of hers when she has something particularly uncomfortable to say. Then, Cara's face just.. relaxed, completely accepting whatever epiphany had come to her.
Cara leaned towards Kahlan, careful to avoid bumping Isabel and waking their child. She brushed her lips against Kahlan's, softly, tenderly.
"I love you," Cara whispered. Then she exhaled, surprised at how easily the words fell from her lips.
"I know," Kahlan grinned as she kissed Cara back, then traced a fingertip across Cara's mouth. This was her world. It had been broken, shattered into a million pieces and, still, they found a way to put it all back together again. They put it back together into something even better than before.
The way it was supposed to be.
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