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This adventure starts a time after "Tears" (Season Two) It is about old scars and new bonds, about friends and foes, about confidence and betraying. And about a love, that was never supposed to be...

Adventure / Romance
Age Rating:

Chapter 1

She stared down over the fields. Her eyes were fixed on the home of the Mother Confessor. As were her thoughts. Fixed on the place, where she should meet her again.

The setting sun wrapped the landscape into its warm colors, letting the grass seem greener on the plain ahead. The mountains along the horizon offered a proud impression in their majesty, white hoods covering their peaks; the roofs of the city at their feet beamed in an almost golden shimmer. And among them, the noble palace spread its walls like silver wings, seeming to protect both - city and people.

It was an amazing sight. Just a rare cloud shadowed the light around her as it sailed leisurely towards the horizon. The air had slightly chilled, a fresh breeze whispered through the leaves of the treetops behind her.

Her eyes took it all in, though her heart didn´t acknowledge it for its beauty. Her features were frozen expressionless as she stared at the shining walls of the palace, its white not yet touched by the red and purple flashes of the dying sun which would soon wrap their cloaks around it.

The Mord Sith was lost in her thoughts; she didn´t even blink as her gaze swept slowly up from the city´s roofs to the brilliant blue of the sky above. Her chin straightened as her eyes narrowed thoughtfully before she shut them close, taking a deep breath and held it for a long moment. Listening to the steady beat of her heart. Half expecting a sign.

She did not move, not until her horse fidgety stamped its foot.

"Hoh, boy, keep calm." She patted its neck absently, clenching her jaw, glaring a last time down to the shimmering walls of the palace, nodding slowly... As I will. I promise.

Slightly shifting her weight, leaning the rein to the side of its neck she allowed the black steed to turn around and to head back to their small camp, where her two companions awaited her, cautiously studying her face. Turning wordlessly as her cold gaze stared them down.


"They are here."

Richard stood by one of the large windows, that where so many along the side of the wide entrance hall that it almost seemed like a wall, made of shimmering silver glass, disturbed only by a few piles of polished stone. His gaze had focused on the sun flooded courtyard, watching how the Mord Sith were dismounting. His voice was low as he turned around to seek her gaze, his lips curled into a faint smile.

"She will be glad to see you."

The Mother Confessor frowned and shot him a brief glare from the corner of her eyes before she rose from her chair and turned to him. Her face was pale and showed hints of tiredness, a few freckles beaming in the light which shone through the windows. Only her eyes were shadowed by her white gown´s hood.

"There is no need for you, Richard, to tell gentle lies." Her voice was calm and even. "Have you sent Dennee to bring them up?"

He nodded with a sigh. A sad gaze wandered slowly over her figure. He felt his heart twisting with the thoughts of solicitousness that washed through his mind. With a few slow paces he approached her, looking seriously into her eyes until she dropped them down, avoiding his scrutiny. His hand reached out and settled on her forearm as a calming gesture, trying to force the bright blue of her stare back to his own. "Kahlan, we have discussed this. You should give her a warm welcome. So much has happened during the last two years, and ... so much has changed..." The earnest tones of his words didn´t hide the deep sorrow, flowing beneath their surface. "I will leave to D´Hara; and though Zedd will stay for now, he is much too busy in the Keep to care. You will need a friend when I´m gone. And she is a friend; you know she is! Forget the past, Kahlan, try to forgive. It was not all herfault. And you know that I will leave and she will stay."

She eyed him from under her lashes. With a deep breath she answered, sharply, her voice close to a hiss.

"And you KNOW that I don´t want her to be here!"

"Kahlan... I..." His eyes shifted, his cheeks blushed a little as he faced the three Mord Sith who had silently entered the room. To see their firmly set jaws told him clearly that they must have heard her last words. Seeing his reaction, Kahlan turned and straightened proudly, her features sliding easily into her Confessor´s face, as she´d been trained all of her life. Her hand reached towards the hood and drew it back to her shoulders in an unconscious motion. There was just a slight, almost invisible flutter of her nostrils that disturbed the calmness that had settled on her face while her chin had risen. The Mother Confessor, as she was known by her people. And feared by her opponents.

She didn´t blink when the Mord Sith bowed slightly, their voices sounding like one.

"Mother Confessor!"

Their leader glanced at her for the briefest moment before she turned towards Richard as her companions already had. This time their bows were deeper and their voices were filled with the tone of deep respect that had only been adumbrated in their previous salute.

"Lord Rahl!"

Richard´s face had brightened. His lips curled in a wide smile, his eyes were beaming. It was obvious that he struggled to suppress the need to jump on the red leathered women and embrace them heartily. It was so clearly written on his face that they stiffened automatically and synchronously took a step back.

Richard couldn´t help but grinned happily, his eyes searching Kahlan´s as if to reassure himself that everything was fine, now that the Mord Sith had finally arrived. But, seeing her, wearing her stoic Confessor mask, made him feel slightly uncomfortable.

He harrumphed, trying to override the brief moment of embarrassment.

"Cara! Raina! Berdine! We are so glad to see you! You´ve already been expected yesterday evening; we were informed that you had a camp just a league away? What has happened to restrain you from reaching Aydindril?"

While Cara dropped her eyes and studied the floor as if considering an answer it was the tall brunette who answered calmly.

"We decided that we should clean up after the journey before we reach the palace of the Mother Confessor. We didn´t want to give her... false impressions." The last words dripped pointedly from her lips like old honey. With a smirk she had turned to Kahlan, tilting her head and staring at her in blank curiosity.

Kahlan draw up her eyebrow ever so slightly. But in her voice lay no hint of anger at the provoking smirk of the Mord Sith.

"Though I appreciate to see you so considerate of my home, I may assure you it wasn´t necessary. No one would expect you after such a long journey to arrive without some dust on the famous shine of your leathers." She eyed the brunette from head to toe. "I welcome you and your companions to Aydindril! I hope you will enjoy your stay here, even if it won´t be for long." Her eyes swept over the three Mord Sith to make clear that her greeting was directed to all of them, avoiding settling on one of them specifically.

"So I assume you are Mistress Berdine! And as I recognize Mistress Cara" a short glance met the eyes of the meant blonde for just a blink "you must be Mistress Raina?" she nodded to the third. "Richard has told me that he chose you to accompany him to the Peoples Palace."

"Raina and Berdine will come with me, Kahlan." Richard dropped a calm reminder. "Cara is going to stay here at Aydindril to..."

"She will be your representation, Richard. That is what you´ve stated." For the first time she looked directly at the blonde Mord Sith, who hadn´t said a word yet but straightened now under the Mother Confessor´s scrutiny and Kahlan tried to keep her features calm and well-adjusted. "But have you ever asked her, whether she wants to stay? She might prefer to stay at your side and... protect you in D´Hara? What do you say... Mistress Cara?"

Cara´s eyes settled on the Confessor, glancing at her for a few heartbeats in a silent challenge.

"If my Lord orders me to stay, I´ll stay. After all, you should know that a Mord Sith has no such things like... preferences, Mother Confessor."

Kahlan stared back steadfastly, but felt her jaw clenching with the low, teasing voice, and she had to fight the sudden urge to close her eyes and listen to its echo in her mind. Instead she gave a wink to the massive door, where Dennee came out of the shadow and approached quickly, while Kahlan´s eyes kept staring with an expressionless blue at Cara for a few seconds longer before she broke the contact.

"I think you have already made the acquaintance of Dennee, my sister." Dennee had reached them and stood at Kahlan´s side, glaring at the Mord Sith with a distant expression, her chin raised and her shoulders squared. Her eyes settled on Cara for a long moment, before she allowed her lips to curl into a faint smile, acknowledging her with a short nod.

"She will see to guide you to your rooms. I´m sure, you will appreciate a few moments of rest after your journey. And, perhaps, your Lord Rahl will give you a tour through the main sites of the palace for your orientation?" Her eyes set on Richard, who beamed with joy as he nodded his agreement.

"I don´t think this is necessary, Mother Confessor" Cara dropped into Richards nod. Kahlan turned her head towards her with a raised brow, her eyes asking the question she didn´t voice. "You might remember, I´ve been to the palace before." She drawled lowly. Her gaze locked with Kahlan´s in an almost provoking way, causing the Confessor´s eyes narrowing slightly beneath her calmness. She nodded deliberately, not leaving the emerald pride that stared at her. A glare, that was bridging their distance strongly and firmly. A bridge, built of cold stone.

"You are right, Cara! But I can´t imagine that you´ve seen a lot of it, considering your... moonlight flit the day after your arrival." Sarcasm made her voice an almost biting winter breeze.

Cara´s nearly invisible flinch at these words wasn´t missed by both of the Mord Sith, who eyed each other briefly as they followed the short arguing. The petite auburn-haired was frowning, the light-brown one shot an icy glance at the Confessor. The tension increased very quickly, until Dennee stepped forward, nodding to the Mord Sith with a light "if you will follow me..." and heading to the door, resolved to save the situation by taking the Mord Sith out of Kahlan´s sight.

While the others turned, Cara stood rooted to the spot, her eyes still locked on Kahlan´s features, her body tense, her chin straightened. Emerald green stared against icy blue, none of them willing to give in. Just as Cara moved the slightest bit she felt Richard´s hand on her arm, pulling her into a turn and shoving her towards the door. He grinned widely as he patted her shoulder.

"Hey, you should definitely give your favorite Lord Rahl a chance to show you the palace... Did you know that they have a very nice drill ground here..."

Even after they had left, and Richards chatty voice went lost in the corridors, Kahlan stood stock-still, staring at the door that had closed behind them, the ice in her eyes melting slowly away, revealing a shadow of hurt. She finally turned and approached the window, letting her gaze travel over the city, breathing a deep sigh that almost sounded like a sob.

She didn´t even blink as her gaze swept slowly up from the city's roofs to the brilliant blue of the sky above. Her chin straightened as her eyes narrowed thoughtfully before she shut them close, taking a deep breath and held it for a long moment, listening to the steady beat of her heart. Half expecting a sign...


Cara hadn´t said a word since they had left the Mother Confessor. Richard had given them a tour through the palace, exhibiting some sort of pride as if it was his own. His guests had been hardly impressed, used to the giant architecture of their home in D´Hara. The Palace of the Mother Confessor was of a calm, awe-inspiring beauty, every detail of its architecture wisely set with purposes, bringing forth emotions of pride and honor, leaving the beholder to the humbly devotion that was appropriate, respectfully reminding of the very honorable majesty of the Mother Confessor. Not comparable with the massive, intimidating pomposity that the Peoples Palace in D´Hara stood for. For the Mord Sith, it was nothing more than an almost modest home for the Mother Confessor.

Hours seemed to have been rushed when they finally entered their quarters. Berdine and Raina shared a room that was large enough to be home for ten Mord Sith; It was richly furnished, a fire crackling contently in the fireplace and offering a warming comfort. But the most interesting to them was a large bed, standing by the opposite wall of the room. Berdine didn´t lose time and jumped onto it, proclaiming it hers with a smirk. Raina watched her with hungry eyes. She slowly approached her companion, hips swaying seductively, threatening her with her agiel in her hand. Her voice teased in a provoking way.

"Get out of my bed!"

"Who said it´s yours?"

"I say!" Raina threw herself on Berdine, trying to shove her out. Quickly they were rolling in a mock-fight, beating with fists and agiels until they found themselves in a tight embrace, moaning as their lips crushed together and tongues were moving in a raw, feverish dance.

Cara entered just in time to hear Berdine growl lowly "So who is in charge?" and Raina´s husky answer "You are, Mistress..."

Cara rolled her eyes annoyed at the sight and their low moans.

"You shouldn´t settle too snugly in here." She growled. In her voice lay anger that wasn´t due to neither Berdine nor Raina, but surged against them nonetheless. The tall brunette threw a glance over her shoulder, staring at Cara with a smirk.

"Looks like our Mistress is not amused, Raina!"

The petite peeped at Cara from under Berdine, studying her expression carefully. She nodded her agreement. "No, she definitely is not."

Cara´s eyes narrowed into a warning. But her sisters stayed completely unimpressed.

"Perhaps you should have taken the Mother Confessor´s offer and tell her that you´d prefer to return to the Peoples Palace with us? ... Though I dare doubt your mood would lighten then..."

Berdine had moved and now stood in front of Cara, her hands resting on her hips, staring at her with sparkling eyes.

"Seriously, Cara, you are hardly to put up with since Lord Rahl ordered us to come here. The idea that you have to stay here, alone between strangers, maybe even opponents, might be annoying for you. But I would have thought it far from causing you nightmares..."

Cara frowned and growled suspiciously at Berdine. "What makes you think about nightmares?"

It was Raina who answered before Berdine could get herself further into trouble. She spoke while moving to the dresser, heading to the basin, filled with water and clean clothes lying beside. She didn´t look at Cara.

"We are neither deaf nor blind, Cara! It started when Richard´s order appeared in the journey book. The unfortunate sister who had to tell you the news wasn´t the last one who suffered your mood then..."

"She had to learn her lesson!" Cara hissed angrily. "It wasn´t right to break into our meeting then, just to tell me that Richard wanted us to leave for Aydindril! She should have waited."

"Sure! And what IF she had done so?" Berdine scoffed, "Than that exactly would have been the reason you send her for days into the dungeons... Come on, Cara! Admit it! The whole journey has been a nightmare for you! The days brooding over your own thoughts, the nights flipping from one side to the other...Who do you think you can fool? Have a look into the mirror: you are a walking ghost! If I didn´t know you better, I would assume you feared the day you´d see her again!"

Cara was fast, stepping close and backhanding her forcefully, her eyes flashing with fury.

"Don´t you dare call me anxious! ´Cause I am not! And certainly not of her!" she snarled.

She stood frozen, her eyes staring daggers into the tall Mord Sith. She could hardly bear that hitting her hadn´t banished the smirk from Berdine´s face. And from Raina she heard a muttering that sounded suspiciously like "...kick a sleeping dog and it bites..."

Cara shot her a murderous glance, choking a sharp breath, apparently close to shout out. But then she huffed loudly, turned around and stormed out, the massive door thundering while clunking shut.

Raina sighed and thoughtfully watched Berdine coming closer to her, a sway on her hips and a promising leer on her lips.

"Has she ever told you what had happened? Why she left Aydindril then?"

Berdine shook her head no, but then claimed Raina´s mouth with her own before she could dwell on the subject...


A knock at the door brought her back from the past, where her mind had wandered around. The papers she had purported to prevent her from dinner at Richard´s side with their guests lay still on her desk, untouched, waiting for her attention. She didn´t care for now. Seated in her chair at the fireside with her eyes settled on the low crackling flames, she had forgotten the time as her thoughts had drifted far away, travelling through memories, painting living pictures into the flickering light. The resolute knock now called her back into her room and she sighed deeply before calling her visitor in.

Dennee entered and approached her chair cautiously.

"Kahlan? Are you alright? I´ve missed you during dinner; Richard said you´re still working..." Her eyes washed over the abandoned desk, and she frowned as she recognized, that none of the papers had been taken care of.


The sister´s gazes met. The blue of Kahlan´s coated with some tiredness that seemed not only due to the late hour. "I am fine, Dennee. I just... thought about..."

Dennee laid a diminutive hand on Kahlan´s shoulder and squeezed slightly.

"You should talk to him, Kahlan. I´m sure, Richard will stay if you just ask him. His place is here, in Aydindril, by your side. Everything could be as it used to be; as it should be! He needs only a sign... You should eventually get over your pride..."

"No. It is not that, Dennee." Kahlan looked up at her with a faint smile, leaning into her reassuring touch. "Richard and I... This is long over. Sometimes I wonder if it has even ever really been. But we both know that." Her smile widened. "No, I´m glad that he finally made his decision. These last years have weighed much too heavy on our shoulders. It is time to face the truth; to look ahead. He can still find someone to be happy with. He deserves it."

Her eyes sought the fire again. "We´ve already wasted too much time..."

Her sister moved to the second chair that stood close to Kahlan´s and took seat. Looking at the brunette she frowned.

"He has already found someone to be happy with...here! You are still caught in the past, Kahlan. I know that you look upon it as your fault. But it is not! That you´ve lost your child...it was the fault of this damned horse; it was an accident! And... that it was a boy... Kahlan, it wasn´t the curse of the sorceress; such fate happens by coincidence! – It would not be fair to blame Richard. He has suffered even more than you. He has not slept for weeks. He was close to crack up. You were down; You haven´t seen him in these days, but I have! It almost killed him." There was a fire in her eyes that told much of her compassion for him. And a hint of a silent accusation crackled lowly in her voice. "Being banished from your chambers...almost devastated the little strength he had saved." She leaned forward, her stare adjuring. Her hand moved to settle on Kahlan´s. "He loves you! He always did! And if you really want to see him happy, all it takes is to allow him to be your mate. You can still carry his children. And if you..."

Shaking her head, Kahlan interrupted her harshly. Her hand flinched from under Dennee´s.

"Dennee! Give it a rest! How often have we had this discussion? I´ve tried to tell you so many times! Why are you still pressing on that topic. Why is it that you always talk about him and his feelings? Why don´t you ever try to look at me? I was always expected to be his loving wife, the caring mother of his children, the strong Mother Confessor by his side... But see: I don´t love him, Dennee! And it might be a shock for you, but I don´t think that I ever really did! He´s been my friend, and he still is; perhaps the only true friend I ever had. And that I tried to see him as my mate was the biggest mistake of my life! I´ve hurt him, yes; but I wanted to do him good; and at least it hurt me even more! This pregnancy was far from being the glorious crown of our endless love like you still seem to believe; it is my duty to have a child, Dennee, those were your own words! Don´t you remember? We are Confessors, the last ones of a dying breed. And I rather wanted a trusted friend, someone wholeheartedly to be the father of my daughters than a stranger, raping me; I so feared the soulless copulation, lying with a living dead man. Just because he is confessed!" Her voice sounded hoarse and filled with bitterness. Reduced to a bare whisper when she continued. "And when I lost the child and had to face the truth of it being a boy... Even that hadn´t been right, Dennee; Sorrow was all what came out of the desire to accept his love.

I couldn´t bear it. I couldn´t bear Richard in my bed any longer! And I will never risk again having a male child..." Her eyes searched her sister´s and in her gaze lay all the pain that had been gathered for so long. All the suppressed emotions that she´d never allowed to surface. All the lost hope of a life she might have once dreamed of.

The delicate frame of her sister had straightened in the chair, her jaw firmly set and her posture speaking of a disagreement that Kahlan had already expected. The Mother Confessor sighed resigned, remembering all the conversations they had before. It was not the first time that she tried to explain these parts of her feelings to Dennee. Long evenings she had asked for her understanding; had tried to open her mind and her soul to her. But her sister had always been deaf and blind to it. It seemed to her, as if Dennee didn´t want to understand, as if she refused the compassion and the warmth that had always been part of their bond before. As if her sister was a stranger to her.

Sometimes Kahlan wondered, if the new body of her sister had been for the price of a new heart as well.

Dennee´s dress rustled brusquely while she stood. She stared at Kahlan angrily, her eyes narrowed, lips pressed into a thin line. When she spoke, her voice cut sharply into Kahlan´s mind like a cold blade, scratching her skin with disgust.

"You seem to forget, that you are not the only one who made sacrifices, sister. Don´t you think yourself a little selfish to forcehim to leave and allow him to bring this Mord Sith here instead, the one who murdered me? You ask me to see your feelings, Kahlan – but be honest: have you ever lost a thought about mine?"

And with that she stormed out, slamming the door with a shuttering noise that made Kahlan wince.

The Mother Confessor held her eyes shut, fighting back tears which she was too tired to shed. It always ended like this. Dennee storming away in outrage, leaving her with the nagging feeling of a guilt that she would probably never could pay enough for. Her mind recognized Dennee wronged her. But her heart ached with loneliness when her sister turned into the cold distance of her reproaches.

She dropped her head into her palms, covered her eyes and surrendered to the soft darkness. It didn´t take long before a face appeared in her mind and her heart twisted slightly. Richard would leave her a heavy burden. But she had sworn to allow him one of his own choices to stay at Aydindril.

Never had she thought it would be her.

"The one who murdered me..." Kahlan knew, her sister would never accept the Mord Sith living at the palace.

She didn´t even know, how she, herself could bear it, that the one who had hurt her deeper than anyone in all of her life would cross her ways every day from now on. She thought of the moment this morning, when Cara had stared at her, challenging, she remembered the emerald glance of her eyes, the cold pride that had pierced her and sighed.

Why her, Richard?


"Why me, Richard?" Her voice was angry as she stared at him with a frown. In a wild and frustrated gesture she pointed to her sisters. "Order Raina and Berdine to stay at Aydindril. They have become weak! They certainly would appreciate to live a lazy life in this palace..." The said Mord Sith stood at their horses, waiting for their departure. Raina chuckled at something Berdine had whispered into her ear.

Richard huffed annoyed. "It is enough now, Cara! I have asked you as a friend. But if this doesn´t work I will order you as your Lord Rahl! I need to know that you are here by her side. Because I trust you. More than I trust anyone else. And... You havesworn to protect her!"

She huffed annoyed, rolling her eyes in a helpless anger, muttering half to herself "But it´s ridiculous! I´m not welcome here!" Her eyes were beaming with disgust.

"You are! It just... needs some time. And I will not discuss this any longer." He winked loathly, dismissing her for the moment and turned to search Kahlan. Approaching her for their good-bye his heart skipped a beat. He felt nervous; He was going to leave. And this time, it was a final parting. More than that: it was surrender.

He had failed. His love had not been strong enough for the both of them. Though he had tried. So badly. But now all he could do to help her was leaving. Despite his aching heart, his sorrow. He had to give her the space she needed, before the resting piece of their friendship would fade away in the cold breeze of guilt.

Though he already feared, it would be swept away in a wave of fury as soon as she recognized how far he had really gone in his despair...


Cara sat in the darkest corner of the tavern; her hand held a cup of wine in a tight grip and a plate of fresh stew was steaming in front of her, waiting for her attention. The blonde did not care. She was busy shooting disgusting glares to the crowd that filled the room with constant noises of murmurs and roaring laughter. Her features were painted with an impatient anger; ready to stab the first with an agiel right into his chest who would dare talk to her .

These people were annoying. They were loud; they were plump; and they were much too trusting for her liking. She really missed the hidden glances she was used to, the hints of fear and the barely visible shivers that ran down the spines of strangers when they got aware of her leather. That tiny little instant, when their widening eyes betrayed the moment of recognition of who she was. And the feeling that always joined that little instant, shooting hot sparks of pride through her veins: the feeling of strength and power. The knowledge, that she had caught the better part of life: Upright. Fearless. And proud; while these poor creatures squirmed through the ground to her feet, scared from the mere reality of their own senseless fates…

Since her arrival in Aydindril these little instants had become a rare pleasure. The people knew she was a friend of the Seeker and a guest of the Mother Confessor.

Sure, she was treated with respect, if often in a mistrusting way; and still people peeped at her; but their eyes didn´t hold the right amount of fright that she would have appreciated; Instead they stared at her with a mixture of obsessive curiosity and allured horror; so openly sometimes, that Cara felt the burning need to punch into these silly faces to be soothed by fresh blood running from a gash.

She always won the inner battle to resist this urge. But there were times when she wondered annoyed how long she could go on like this.

The Mord Sith was bored to the bones.

Richard had said it would need some time. He had not said how long this time would be exactly. And now three weeks had already passed since her arrival to Aydindril, to stay as Richards's personal representative by the side of the Mother Confessor. She had sworn him to protect her, though Richard had never told her why Kahlan would actually need her protection. He only had ordered her to be near her. And to be cautious.

Cara gave a frustrated snort.

And how should I do so, Richard? She would not let me be near her; I follow her from the distance when she rushes through the Palace; but as soon as I try to approach she would turn away. Spirits, what exactly do you expect me to do?

The blonde pursed her lips and took a hearty draught of her wine, then spooning some stew into her mouth without even noticing it.

She would not even let me be in the same room with her…She hates me… The Mord Sith growled loudly.

Her thoughts wandered to the day when Richard had left Aydindril. His good-bye had been… weirdly short. And distant somehow. She remembered Kahlan, standing straight and with a shadow of sorrow spread over her features. The Confessor had embraced the Seeker tightly, a lonely tear rolling down her cheek. And when his little troop had left the Palace her glossy blue eyes had followed his trail for an eternity.

And she remembered how her own jaw had ached from clenching…

She had waited until Kahlan had turned, heading for her chambers before she had approached her, feeling a small lump growing in her throat, but the familiar teasing tone in her voice had covered her uncertainness.

"Now it is just the two of us, Mother Confessor. Time to tell me what myposition will be in your Palace."

Kahlan´s forehead had furrowed, her still watery eyes staring at her, slightly narrowed, thoughtfully and distant.

"I´m sorry, Cara? I don´t understand your question."

She had frowned; she didn´t like the rejection in the Confessor´s voice and her own tone was filled with certain sharpness when she spoke again.

"Richard ordered me to stay in Aydindril. By your side. And now that he´s gone, it is up to you to tell me what you expect me to do, or to be here. What my role will be."

Kahlan had eyed her with piercing deep blue brilliance and had smiled faintly, a smile that didn´t reach her eyes; answering in a calm, controlled voice:

"I don´t expect... anythingof you, Cara. Whatever the reason was why Richard has ordered you to stay; it has not been for a job waiting here for you. You are a guest of the Midlands and as such you may feel free to do as you like." And after giving it a quick thought:"as long as you would not harm anyone!" And with a short nod she was gone.

It had felt like a hard slap into Cara´s face, unexpected and raw.

The Mord Sith gritted her teeth and stared into her half empty cup of wine. By the Creator´s light! What did this woman think who she was? A Mord Sith could not "feel free to do as she liked"! She needed an order, a reason to walk among these people…

Besides - it was offending. She felt this sharp jolt rushing through her veins whenever the Mother Confessor met her with such... cold distance.

She had tried a few times more to get a talk to her. But Kahlan would not give her an audience. Whenever they met in the Palace - and Cara took care that they met often, if only fleetingly - Kahlan would stall her steps, briefly locking with the Mord Sith´s glare as if considering talking to her; but then she always turned around and rushed away. The closest Cara had come had been a few five minute meetings with Dennee. All of them had achieved the same result. And had left her chest filled with a murderous pressure of anger and frustration.

"…You can´t just walk in to talk to the Mother Confessor! It is not that easy to meet with her. You should know that Kahlan is a very busy woman, Mistress Cara. And the rare time she has is meant to give her the chance to recover from her many commitments. So..., if it is a question of a pressing petition, you may sign for the public audience after tomorrow…"

Never had Cara met cold arrogance as keen as it lay in those spoken words. Not even her former Lord Rahl had held such a tone in his voice. Cara had a clue that it was the desperate hate for her murderer that let Dennee handle her voice like a weapon.

Cara´s eyes had narrowed dangerously, not even trying to hide the anger in her growl. "You know that I am not a common bidder at the door of the palace! Tell her that I have to speak to her. Privately."

Dennee stared with a biting cold shimmer; an ice-covered surface of a lake in stormy winter nights.

"Who. Do you think. You are... to give meany orders? And why would she talk to you? You do not belong to here, Mistress Cara! Richard decided this against our will. And though I don´t know the exact reason why you left then, it must have been a serious one. But anyway; I can tell that you still are not welcome. Neither my sister nor I need you in this Palace. You would be well advised to stay away from her if you don´t want to wake her annoyance."

Cara snorted enraged into her wine and slammed the cup back on the table with a clanging reverberation, almost shattering it into pieces. The angry glare she caught from the innkeeper, who already wasn´t her best friend, she met with a dangerously challenging stare of her own, making him duck slightly while he turned swiftly to his guests with an annoyed growl.

The Mord Sith´s hackles still raised thinking of the insults. She remembered times, when Dennee would have regretted her words immediately. A Mord Sith would not allow a Confessor to treat her like any random wench. Cara´s first instinct had let her wrap her hands tightly around her agiels, her lips a thin line of rage. But she had been controlled enough to keep them sheathed and Dennee had dismissed her with a nod before she went her way, leaving a tense Mord Sith who gritted her teeth, cursing the day when her Lord Rahl had sent a message in his journey book...

The only thing that had held her at bay was the vow she had given to Richard.

And something else, whipping sharply through her chest that she couldn´t name. And didn´t even want to know what it was. But somewhere, deep inside her, she could feel it.

It was there.

Haunting her.

Drawing her inexorably near to the woman in white; the one who hated her.

On this day Cara had decided to make this Palace her own. And since then she had not reclined before she had drawn an inner map, marking every detail of the Palace. ..

Now she grinned contently to herself and gulped the rest of her wine. She knew she was able to follow the most hidden paths with closed eyes, step through every secret door and, unexpectedly, even spy unobserved on every room she wanted to.

Cara would not fail. She would be near the Mother Confessor; whenever and wherever she felt necessary to be near her. She would protect her. And Kahlan wouldn´t even notice...


"My Lady, the time has come. The presence of the Mother Confessor is urgently needed. I am sent to gain your affirmation on that matter."

The Confessor looked at him with narrowed eyes. She took a few moments to consider her answer, pacing fore and back. She had known this time to come, had expected it since weeks. She took a deep breath and turned to the envoy, which stood straight, waiting patiently for her words. Finally she sighed resigned and nodded.

"You may go and tell him, I will see for her departure as soon as possible. She will be there in time."

He turned immediately and rushed out. Dennee´s eyes followed him thoughtfully, small muscles in her cheeks slightly working.

"What did he mean, her presence is urgently needed?" Cara´s cold voice snarled from behind directly into the Confessor´s ear, who whipped around, startled by her unexpected appearance from nowhere. She would have sworn that no one had been around when she greeted her visitor. A spark of anger flashed at the blonde Mord Sith, before Dennee schooled her face into her trained Confessor mask.

"Oh, what a nice surprise! Our Mord Sith is weaseling through the Palace... Stalking the Mother Confessor again, Mistress Cara?" Cara ignored her words. She knew she had scared her, standing suddenly behind her, and smirked contently.

"It is nothing of your concern, Mistress Cara. Confessor´s duties... One of a Confessor´s duty is judgment. And it looks like Kahlan has to take care of a serious case in one of the kingdoms." She eyed Cara with an arrogant raised brow and turned to leave. But then she paused and looked briefly over her shoulder.

"Seems like you will lose sight of your prey for some time!" and chuckling she was gone. She missed Cara´s burning glare of distrust that bored into her shoulder blades.


Zedd sat at the large table near the fireside , as always magically drawn from the scents of fresh roasted meat and boiling legumes. His eyes followed the moves of all the serviceable girls and boys who rushed through the kitchen, while pleasurably chewing on a crispy piece of roasted duck.

The corner of his eyes twinkled with amusement as he watched the scraggy figure of Mistress Sanderholt who whirled through the room, surveying mercilessly her troop of aiders, being behind the cooks when they didn´t expect her and barking orders to the opposite of the stoves. He couldn´t stop watching. This thin and weak looking woman was a miracle to him. He had always expected the chief of a kitchen of this dimension to be a fat and jovial ordinary man or woman. But the chief of the Palace´s kitchen was of a completely different appearance. Mistress Sanderholt was a tall, fragile woman, her grey hair tightly drawn back, her features resolved and self-confident, and her voice clear and decided. She emanated a natural authority; but in her eyes laid warmth that could melt ice in a winter storm if she only wanted to.

She was equally feared and respected; but bottom lines, everyone loved her.

And her stews were the best Zedd had ever had the pleasure of tasting.

The bony wizard fished for another crispy piece of duck when the door slammed open and a red leathered woman stormed inside. Cara´s eyes promised trouble when she caught the frightened glare of one of the girls who had almost slipped a plate of legumes, startled by her sudden appearance.

"What?" she snapped ominously, tilting her head and staring her down. But before she could scare the girl even more Mistress Sanderholt shove the maid aside and build up in front of the blonde, hands on her hips, rebuking her with a stern stare.

"Where are your manners, Mistress Cara? I told you often enough you should not dare frighten them!" She waved her hand to the wizard. "Go, have a seat with Zedd and take some duck." And muttering in a softened tone, unimpressed of the murderous expression in the green eyes piercing her: "you should really eat more regularly! Thin as a dragon fly! I suggest you taste the stew, I´ve made for the Mother Confessor..."

Cara frowned deeply but turned without a word and took seat beside Zedd. The old wizard sat with round eyes and an open mouth, agape, as always, not believing how easily that woman had a go at the Mord Sith. It was not the first time he witnessed how she reprimanded the blonde, who always stormed into the room in a heat of anger and frustration, apparently looking for an object to vent her spleen at.

And he was even more stunned to see Cara immediately calming down, being scolded like this. There had been times when much less would have led to an agonized Mistress Sanderholt at the screaming end of an agiel...

Once, after Cara had left, he had asked the head cook what her secret was. How it was that she was not afraid of the blonde Mord Sith. And how she was able tame her so easily. The slender woman had smiled impishly.

"There are two magic words, Zedd. The only ones that reach her mind..." she grinned widely:"MOTHER. CONFESSOR. "And chuckling at his expression she nodded amused. "This girl will always calm down if she sees only a chance to get news from Kahlan!"

The more often he watched her dealing with the Mord Sith, the more he tended to believe in her words.

Cara felt his stare and shifted her head to look at him, contorting her face at the sight.

"This. Is nasty, Wizard! Close your mouth and swallow it down." she snapped. And then growled peevishly, pointing annoyed to Mistress Sanderholt. "She seems to know nothing about Mord Sith. Should I kill her just because she is naïve?"

Zedd started chewing again, shaking his head slightly with a wide smile on his face;

"I´m sorry, Cara. I was just... surprised." He giggled lowly. "But I am very grateful that you don´t intend to kill the most adorable cook I have ever made the acquaintance of." His eyes smiled mischievously, their corners crinkling in amusement.

"What for? It would be more fun to torture a certain starving wizard in a certain keep..." she gave a grumpy answer, but he could see the hint of a grin in the corner of her lips.

"And what is it that leads you into these holy halls, Cara? I assume you stormed in with a purpose, didn´t you?"

Cara chewed on her bottom lip when she faced him. She thought a moment about how starting.

"I... was looking for you. And I thought you might probably be found here." She shrugged. "I didn´t know who else I could speak to..." Her voice sounded annoyed and Zedd raised an expecting eyebrow, waiting for her to continue her speech.

"Is it right that Richard left you a journey book? And do you have any news from him?"

Zedd nodded staidly. "He has started to reorganize the People´s Palace. There are a few things that he could not accept. And a few people who would not accept him. But he is confident..." He watched her carefully. "Cara..., am I wrong if I assume that this is not what you are asking for?" When she remained silent, chewing on the inner side of her cheek while her eyes trailed patterns on the table, he sighed.

"C´mon, my dear. What are we really talking about?"

He felt it tugging on a few heartstrings when he noticed the forlorn expression that washed swiftly over her face. She took a deep breath before she blurted out.

"Why am I here, Wizard? What has Richard intended, leaving me in Aydindril?"

He tilted his head, sorrow sweeping briefly over his face. He knew that Cara was more than frustrated; she was almost desperate. The last month she had done anything to achieve her goal and get closer to Kahlan. But the Confessor would not tolerate the blonde hovering over her.

The old wizard sighed, thinking of times where the two of them had been friends; when Kahlan had gotten closer to her former enemy than he or Richard would have ever dared to expect to; especially considering that Cara was the murderer of the Confessor´s sister.

He remembered how the brilliant blue of Kahlan´s eyes used to beam with affection when they sat at the fireside of their small camp and another piece of Cara´s stubbornness would crack Kahlan up. How Cara used to cock her hips, provoking the Confessor until she would blush without fail, while a mischievous smirk lay in the corner of the blonde´s lips. There had been ease and levity in the air when they squabbled, despite the world around them doomed to fail...

Zedd frowned, wondering where those times had gone. . .while Cara´s angry voice called him slowly back from his mind-travels.

"...as if she can´t trust me. I mean it is the same like it was in the beginning; remember? When everything she wanted was to kill me?" She huffed annoyed. "I would not even be surprised if she slept again with her daggers under her pillows." Her hand slammed on the table. She looked at him with hurt in the jade of her glare, clearly at a loss.

Zedd shrugged weakly. "As far as I know, she always does."

The Mord Sith stared at him in disbelieve, her brows deeply furrowed.

"This is ridiculous, Wizard! Why would she do that? She is at home here. This is HER Palace; these are HER people; her sister is always by her side. And her beloved Richard only waits for her to call him back. All she ever wanted. She is supposed to be happy! Her heart should fly!"

Zedd watched her breakout contemplatively. He gave her a sad glance, shaking his head when he answered with a low voice:

"Heavy things don´t fly, Cara."

She frowned even more as their eyes locked.

"Kahlan is a very mighty woman. And a very lonesome mighty woman. Enviousness and malevolence are lurking at her every turn. The last years have taken great toll of her. I don´t know what you´ve heard, but believe me, Cara. Her heart has no reason to fly..."

An emerald fire burnt in Cara´s eyes under her knitted brows, sparkling with questions and concern. "You are speaking in riddles, Wizard." She leaned in, bringing her face close to his and slowly shook her head, her gaze literally pierced Zedd while she snarled: "I am done with everyone talking without saying a word! I need answers! Now! Tell me, Zedd, what happened to her? Why is it that Richard left Aydindril and why did he leave ME by her side, apparently against her will?"

The old wizard dropped his eyes and sighed resigned, knowing that this time he was trapped. He felt unsure of how much he should tell her and what Kahlan would expect him to conceal; he did not want to betray the Confessor´s trust. But at least, he was convinced that Cara deserved to learn about the events while she had been in D`Hara. When his gaze shifted to watch the blonde´s expression thoughtfully he noticed Mistress Sanderholt, staying silently behind the Mord Sith, nodding approvingly with a faint smile. And so he took a deep breath and started to tell what he knew about it.

"Do you remember when we travelled to Aydindril? The Keeper had lost, the rift had been sealed. And we had discovered that Kahlan and Richard... they could be together! Richard loved her more than his own life; she had tried to confess him but failed! He was immune to her power..." He smiled with the memory. "Ahh. This had been such a blissful moment." He glared at Cara. "I know you didn´t show it; but you felt their euphoria, didn´t you? Everything seemed to come to a happy ending...

But on our way to Aydindril during the following weeks something changed. I am still not able to name it, but the closer we came to Aydindril, the more Kahlan became strangely quiet; you must have noticed it too, Cara. Though I first thought it to be her concern for what would await her here, I soon recognized that there must have been other things that weighed her down. Perhaps you remember how she became suddenly serious every time Richard appeared by her side. Her moods changed almost in a breath. In one moment she laughed with you light-heartedly and with the next heartbeat she looked at Richard like a wounded deer and retreated into her shell. Something strange had caught her mind. Whatever it was, it slowly changed her every behavior. And the nearer we got to Aydindril, the heavier it weighted on her.

Even my grandson, your Lord Rahl, the Seeker of Truth, noticed her strange mood after a while. He told me later, that he tried to put the blame on her nervousness. He thought she felt simply unsure and inexperienced and that would have led to some kind of shyness.

Well, he was wrong.

After you left the Palace..." Zedd paused and eyed Cara curiously, tilting his head. " - Cara, will you tell me one day why you have gone then? I have never understood what made you leave...-" her eyes narrowed on him impatiently and he hurried to continue. "well, after our arrival things got even worth. Kahlan burrowed completely into work, avoided everyone and especially Richard; she was rarely seen at dinner or breakfast, always pretending she had no time. She didn´t sleep enough and it happened that I saw the traces of tears she shed when she was alone in her rooms. We could literally watch her getting sick. Richard tried everything to get over the walls she had built around herself. But Dennee was the only one who she allowed by her side. Oh yes, the little sister was overjoyed to assist her in resuming the first chair." Cara frowned slightly at the tiny spark of sarcasm in the wizard´s voice.

"To be honest: looking back it seems to me like it has been her merit that Kahlan finally turned toward Richard again. Dennee adored him and she seemed very eager to see them married. She did her best to convince her sister of Richard´s true and deep love, and she pressed her that he was the one... And Richard? He conveyed his love in every way he could think of. He was always around and tried to ease her the best he could. He was appreciative and patient. He anticipated her every wish, even when she had none; decorated her chambers with flowers, which she never seemed to notice; organized candle light dinners, which she never attended. He tried to assist her in her commitments and one day he even insisted to take over a few of them.

It was enough to make her livid. She yelled at him in a sheer fury! Dennee could barely calm her down. She said things like that it all was Kahlan´s fault, Richard only wanted to help and that she was an ingrate; however, on this evening Dennee had a private meeting with her sister and apparently she talked some reason into Kahlan. Things changed, slowly."

Cara had followed his speech with narrowed eyes; her features were stony, except for the twitching of the thin line of her lips that had almost lost its color from being pressed firmly together.

Zedd took a deep breath, his eyes focused briefly on the empty plate on the table. When his gaze shifted hopefully to Mistress Sanderholt it was the dark sea-green glow of Cara´s merciless glare that brought him back to his speech in an instant. Sighing he continued.

"After that evening Kahlan became a little moderated; she allowed Richard to care. And finally they became close enough that she allowed him to accompany her into her chambers...I hoped then it was coming to a happy ending, finally. Kahlan seemed to be... as... content as she could be." He sighed deeply. "And Richard? He was aglow with happiness! He was a big grinning sunshiny boy. Well, it didn´t take long and Kahlan became pregnant. Finally she was honestly rejoiced. But it was obvious, that her pregnancy wasn´t easy, and Richard was expelled from her chambers, "cause she needed some rest badly"." The wizard shook his head sadly. "If you ask me today, I would say she was more than grateful to have an excuse to banish him from her bed. Poor Richard; He could barely accept it. But at least he tried to make himself believe that it was because of the baby, that maybe her hormones were to blame, and that it would all get better as soon as the baby was there.

Dennee was always by her side. She was mother and sister and nurse to her; took care of her wellbeing, held her commitments at bay and arranged that Richard could spend most of the time close to them. She managed somehow that Kahlan seemed to thrive in their care, but she still held up parts of her somewhat solitary live.

On one day, it was in the end of her fifth month, she decided to go for a ride alone." The pale blue of Zedd´s eyes became watery with the memory. He briefly looked up to meet Cara´s intense stare, shrugging slightly in a sort of apologize. "You know her. She can be very decidedly. She didn´t allow Richard to accompany her. And after some arguing which ended in an angry hassle he let her go." The wizard paused. A lonely tear made its way down the bumpy skin of his cheek.

"Her horse came back, galloping straight into the stables; covered with sweat and blood. And horrified." He closed his eyes, his voice a scratchy melody of pain. "She was found two leagues away. Unconscious. She had an arm and a few ribs broken... and she was bleeding." He shook his head, seeing the hurting images vividly in his mind. "She had lost so much blood... It was a miracle that she hadn´t died... I did what I could. But I could not do enough... the following day... she lost the child." His face was contorted, emotions drawing deep furrows on his forehead. His next words barely a whisper.

"It was a boy."

The air around them tightened into an audible silence. Cara sat frozen, staring into nothing, a distraught expression on her face. Her surrounding had faded; the clanging of dishes sounded as if far away, muffled behind an invisible wall of batting. A thin streak of wetness glistened on her cheek as she closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. Her hands moved to her sides, searching for the familiar pain of her agiels, trying to soothe the burning agony in her belly. She swallowed hard against the lump in her throat, taking a few moments to regain control over her features. Only slowly she got her focus back on Zedd´s voice, who continued to narrate.

"Something inside Kahlan has broken then, she is not much more than a puppet on a string, dedicated to her duties. Her body recovered over the weeks, but her soul never stopped bleeding. On the surface she never betrayed her feelings, she simply refused talking about it. She never told anyone what had happened. She worked hard to regain her force and went back to her duties. That was the time when she sent Richard to D´Hara, wishing him to distract him from his grieving. He was the one who broke down, his mourning flowed thickly through the Palace and Kahlan had neither the strength nor the willpower to solace him." A sudden wave of anger swept briefly over his face."For sure, Dennee was there, trying to comfort him, but he rebuffed her very decidedly. As you know he travelled to the People´s Palace for almost six months. When he came back he tried to regain Kahlan´s heart, but all he got was some distant friendship. Whatever had been between them during all that times of fight against Darken Rahl and the Keeper, it had been gone, had not been enough to let them live a life together. Richard had a hard time to admit it to himself. For some months he tended to visit the taverns of Aydindril to drown his sorrows. Kahlan tried many times to talk some reason into him, their quarrels were audible all over the palace, until even their friendship was on the edge of shattering. So, eventually he decided to leave." Zedd looked at Cara with a resigned sigh. "And that is when he decided to bring you here. He is desperate. He still loves her with every fiber of his being. But after all he has recognized that he means no good to her. For you he knows and expects you to be loyal and trusted. For his own sake, he needs to know that a true friend is by her side if she needs one. And more than this." His tired eyes locked with hers, piercing her with his intense glare.

"At last, Cara, there have been times when we all considered you to be her friend. Maybe we see you as her last chance; that youmight be able to call her back to life; "

Cara glowered at him without seeing him. Zedd could literally watch the muddle of emotions whirl behind her forehead. Every muscle in her body seemed to be tensed. After what felt like a small eternity filled with heavy silence, she slowly stood, clenching her jaw and turned around without a word, pacing out of the kitchen. Only when the door clung shut behind her she quickened her pace, until she reached the palace entrance and started to run.


The constant murmurs finally dimmed, the line of the petitioners was slowly getting smaller. Like on all these days, when the public was allowed to bring their petitions up to the first chair of Aydindril, people had besieged the palace since early morning hours to be heard by the Confessors. The day seemed to stretch endlessly; time had passed as viciously as resin bled from tapped wood. Some had stood in groups while waiting, heatedly debating their cases, others had sit silently, brooding, and some had waited nervously, permanently fidgeting with their packs, completely intimidated by the unfamiliar and impressive atmosphere inside these halls of the palace. Simple peasants were waiting beside noblemen, men beside women, servants beside soldiers. To the first chair it did not count who they were and were they came from. They had all the same right to speak to the Mother Confessor in these public audiences. A few of them had even brought their own food, jealously watching that no one came too near to steal it. It was not necessary, though, because the palace´s servants saw for all of them, providing them with food and water while they awaited their turn. Mistress Sanderholt, who was all around, watched over all, surveying a fair dispersal and offering calming words every now and then or a warm hug if she felt it needed,.

While the setting sun already started to wrap the palace into a beaming orange light Kahlan felt exhaustion nagging at her mind. Finally she found the last ones standing in front of her; a family, coming from a small village near Aydindril, who had arrived on late afternoon; an almost palpable aura of despair wavering around them. Despite their late arrival they had been allowed to line up with the others. All of them had the same right to receive her imparted attention, her compassion and her patience. Kahlan would never complain. But after more than 12 hours and uncounted cases to judge she got tired, her focus became a little blurred and she sent a silent plea to the spirits to let this day come to an end. Her head wanted to burst with all the worries that had rained down on her constantly during the day, and the image, that flickered up whenever her thoughts lost a bit of their focus, hadn´t make her duty easier.

- It had been on her way to the council hall this morning. All at once she had felt her; sensed her before her eyes had seen her. A tickling on her neck had made her gaze search for her. The blonde had stood silently between the pillars, barely visible; her face shadowed with an unfamiliar expression of sorrow as she stared at her querying as if staring right into her soul. The same moment she realized Kahlan´s scrutiny, she had turned and melted back into the shadows like a ghost, and the brunette had shortly wondered if she had not been. Since then she felt unable to ban that look from her mind. To ban the question of what that look might have tried to tell her…

An ungentle nudge from her sister, sitting to her left, almost startled her now. Dennee had spent her day with her own hardly smaller line of people, listening to petitioners who sought for her judgment in easier cases, like some kind of neighborhoods rows... Now she joined the last two hours of Kahlan´s audience. She awaited the end of the hearing impatiently and the distractions that draw her sister´s mind away again and again made her nervous. She shot her a rebuking glare, barely restraining from tapping her fingers on the arm rest and sighed relieved when Kahlan´s gaze eventually focused again and caught the tears that streamed from the eyes of the peasant´s wife. An instant pang of guilt shot through the Mother Confessor´s chest.

The family standing in front of her had appeared with two of their children, a blonde girl of maybe four years snuggled into her mother´s arms, peeping shyly to the highest authority of the Midlands while chewing on its thumb, a gangling boy in his fourteens or fifteens, standing slouchy beside his father, traces of dried tears drawing thin lines into the dust that covered his cheeks. They had come to ask for her help because her second daughter was missing.

"When did it happen?" Kahlan asked carefully. The father tried to keep his voice steady. "It happened today in the early morning. Tom..." he pointed to his son, who´s eyes already brimmed with tears again, "Tom had left her on a small clearing beside the river. She had found a blessed bird and wanted to take care of it and he told her to wait for him while he wanted to check his springs. He says he was gone for only 10 minutes!" The boy nodded wildly while new streaks of tears wet his cheeks, "but when he came back she wasn´t there. He searched himself for a long time. He came home when he could not find her and then we went all to search for her." The tall and beefy man now sobbed uncontrolled like a child. "We could not find her either! We are afraid that she fell into the water and the river has taken her..." His teary eyes locked firmly with the deep blue compassion of Kahlan´s gaze. "Please, Mother Confessor, we need your help! She is just a little girl" his voice cracked and his deep bow threatened to turn into a break down to her feet. "What is her name?" Kahlan asked softly.

"Her name is Carolyn, Mother Confessor" he was barely audible while his wife sobbed desperately and clung to the perturbed looking little one in her arms.

The Mother Confessor stood slowly and approached them. But she stopped when sudden fear appeared briefly in the mother´s eyes, reminding her bitterly that wrapping her arms around the woman and solacing her would probably force only more despair because their horror of her magic. She suppressed a frustrated sigh and made do with a gentle, reassuring look into the teary brown eyes while she called for her guard.

A soldier hasted immediately to stand straight in front of her, waiting for her orders.

"See to it, that thirty of our men will accompany this family and help them search their daughter Carolyn. She is a blonde girl of nine years. I expect them to check every stone in the area and down the riverside for at least five leagues. The neighbors have to be asked if they have seen her or if they have noticed something. Anything! And they will see that messengers leave to the near villages to inform everyone about Carolyn´s missing. They will report directly to me."

The peasant broke into tears of relieve, a hint of hope shimmering through the wet veil and he fell to his knees, trying to get a grip of the hem of her dress and press his lips to it. "Thank you, Mother Confessor. With so many men we will find her. Thank you so much for your help!"

Kahlan gestured him to stand and looked at his wife, sorrow for her loss tugging painfully at her heart and her eyes narrowed in honest compassion.

"I wish I could do more, my child. May the Spirits be with you." She stood still in her calm Confessor´s posture of strength until they had left through the wide wooden door. Only then she allowed her shoulders to sack and her face contorted in sorrow. When she turned to Dennee her gaze told a lot about her fears.

"Dear Creator, I hope they will find her. That this little girl is alive..."

Her sister slowly rose and sighed. "It is a tragic...But, don´t you think it´s weird? It almost resembles the case in this other village on the far side of Aydindril, ten days ago. Do you remember? It was after that bad weather was moving over the region. Two girls are missing since then; they were seen last time beside the stream as well."

"Their names are Miriam and Naddy. I have not given up on them yet. I still hope that they will be found and safe..." she gave her sister a sad look, "...as Carolyn should be."

"She surely is, Kahlan. By now the river is untroubled." Dennee looked thoughtfully and murmured: "Though maybe it´s not just a weird coincidence... I mean, little girls have never vanished before a Mord Sith settled in here..."

Kahlan whipped around and stared at her, anger sparkling in her eyes instantly. "Dennee! I will not allow you to create such silly rumors!"

"You will not allow me..." Dennee mocked her lowly, quirking a brow, but then shrugged insouciantly. "I´m just saying... Ah, forget it. You know how little girls are; maybe she followed a gaudy butterfly and has just lost her way. Her father is right. With the assistance of so many men they will find her soon."

Dennee´s black dress rustled lowly as she walked by, linking arms with her sister. "Now let´s go for dinner, Kahlan. Mistress Sanderholt has prepared some meal for us and already awaits us in her realm since hours. It has been a long day." Kahlan nodded acquiescently, still holding a slight frown on her face. Though there was nothing less important than dinner now. She felt no hunger; but she appreciated the idea to sit at the large table in the kitchen instead of her empty chambers, and listen to Mistress Sanderholt, who had always some news to tell to soothe her mind; some gossip from the town, or little rumors she had heard from the soldiers… Or talks she had had with the wizard; ...and the Mord Sith...

While walking through the palace, Dennee told her more details about the messenger she had met the day before.

"They are in a massive inner crisis. King Sadom has not much more time to live. And as he has no heir the sons of his brother are combating for the throne. The King tried his best to solve the problem on his own. But as the envoy reported, it has already created too much a stir. The two of them are instigating peasants against merchants, noblemen against soldiers. They corrupt the people in many ways to gain more power. Our help is needed." She shot a glance to her sister from the corner of her eyes. An almost adulating smile played around her lips.

"I think it is time, Kahlan, for the Mother Confessor to return to the tradition of traveling for judgment. Comorra needs your help. Their case does not concern the welfare of the Midlands. Therefore we can´t order them to ask the council. But if you, as our highest authority, will judge it, you have a good chance to avoid a civil war inside their frontiers. Which would probably lead to much more riot in their neighbor realms.

And at last, I am convinced it would be a good break for you, Kahlan. You need some time away from the palace, where everything must remind you of…the past."

Kahlan sighed and shot her a huffish glance, annoyed by her always slightly monishing tone; decorating some kind of a sneer. "Can it be that you are trying to cajole me into leaving?" Seeing Dennee´s eyes struck and hurt, she swiftly put her hand on her arm to calm her and smoothed her voice. "I will consider it, okay? Let me talk to Zedd. I think we can arrange a little journey. Comorra is just an eight days ride away. Zedd and I would be back in less than three weeks... The next council meeting is called for the end of the month. Do you think you can take my place for the time?"

The black robe swung in a whirl as Dennee whipped around with proudly beaming eyes, swiftly bowing before her, a satisfied smile brightening her features. "Of course I can, Mother Confessor!"


Standing at the edge of the trees her eyes traveled dreamily over the silhouettes of hills and mountains. Kahlan loved this place. Since her childhood it had always been her personal refuge. In this spot live seemed to ease for a while and her heart could settle for a rest...So she hoped it would do today, before her soon departure for Comorra.

It was one of the rare grateful moments when she allowed herself the luxury of reveling in the beauty that were the midlands in this late springtime; let the jaunty sounds of chirping birds gently caress her ears; the light breeze that whispered through the leaves tenderly kiss her tired soul. She shut her eyes closed and raised her face into the warm sunlight; every inch of her skin seemed to tingle with appreciation. With a deep breath she inhaled the fragrances around her, the scent of wild flowers that flattered her senses, the earthy flavor that still remained from the early morning´s dew. Something close to a long forgotten happiness flickered through her veins. An overwhelming feeling of lightness danced briefly through her mind. She had taken off her boots; the childish need to feel the strength of young grass under her bare feet had become too urgent, and now she hummed lowly at the soft tickling at her soles.

Only slowly she realized that it was not the grass that tickled at her feet. She could not help but chuckle, gazing at the soft nose that snuffled on her bare skin.

"Hey, Shadow, have I missed something? When has meat become your new favorite?" Kahlan turned slowly to pat the horse's neck beneath the dark waves of his mane. His head rose, soft dark brown eyes watching her cautiously, while he chewed devoutly on a mouthful of lush, green blades. His ears perked up briefly, quickly relaxing again. He jostled his head playfully against her chest, making her stumble back a little. While a small puff of air escaped her chest a wide smile spread over her face. Her eyes beamed with affection when she approached the huge animal again.

"You too enjoy it, don´t you?" With a tender smile she reached out to gently scratch the spot between his ears where she knew he liked it the most. "It´s much too rare that we can steal us away, I know. I should give you more opportunities to stretch your legs, to just run and leave the stables behind. I´ll try to do better, I promise. At least, we will be on a long ride soon..." She stroke softly over his back. The fur, of a light grey, shimmering with a warm shade in the color of nutmegs, felt still slightly dump from the long gallop that had brought them here. With a patient smile she allowed him to rub his forehead heavily against her arm before his head ducked down again, plucking more grass and herbs and chewing noisily.

"Do you know what the secret of such moments is? Why I love it to be here? No?" She turned back to the sight, leaning against the horse´s side, staring up to the clear shapes of the mountains.

"It´s the peace you find here... peace of soleness. Simple living. There is only you and me and the sky above. There is no one who observes you. No one who´s reminding you to your duty. No decisions... No commitments..." her voice drifted away until it was nothing more than a murmur. A sigh stole its way from her lips. Her gaze became thoughtfully.

"No chains..." Her eyes narrowed slightly. She pushed off the soft wall of Shadow´s side and strode the few steps to the log where she had left the saddle and her boots, settling on the wood and leaning back to the trunk behind her. Her eyes returned to their little travels along the horizon. Shadow followed her leisurely and started grazing by her side.

Chains and ropes... Kahlan took a deep breath. Had not that been the recurrent theme in her life?

Looking back she felt like she had always been wrapped and tied, like her entire life had been that of a prisoner. Like she couldn´t remember a single day where she had been granted the chance to be only herself.

Kahlan Amnell. No more, no less.

Almost forgotten the lucky carefree days when she was a little girl. The bright love she had felt in the warmth of her mother´s embrace. Her childish happy freedom had abruptly ended the day her mother had died; the gentle reins of loving education suddenly substituted by hurting iron chains with which the world had bound her...

Chains of pain and guilt; put around her wrists by her father, roughly binding her to his will.

Chains of heavy weighing duty; put around her mind by the Sisters of the Light, perpetually softly monishing her that her lifewasn´t hers.

Chains of strong concern and purpose; put around her heart by Richard; tightly wrapping her into his all consuming love – until she could not breathe anymore.

Kahlan squeezed her eyes shut and clenched her jaw; her features contorted with painful emotions; shaking her head slightly...

Be honest, Kahlan. This is not the whole truth. There have been days when you have been just yourself. The Confessor felt tears welling up in the corner of her closed eyes. She tried to swallow them down but failed. A few drops slipped from under her lashes and left a glossy trail on her cheeks.

There had been one who had never tried to bind her.

No ropes... No chains... Just truth and being.

Time had been too short...

The only one, who had never bound her, had abandoned her; had left her with the hollow echo of a never ending emptiness.

Her voice almost cracked when her teary gaze settled on her four-legged companion.

"She´s back, Shadow!" she told the horse. "Cara is back! And... Everything else has returned with her." Kahlan sighed deeply, stroking his soft lips. "I don´t know what to do." Her eyes shifted to the big brown one that watched her cautiously. "I really tried to sustain it. I thought I was done with these senseless feelings. I tried my best to be strong; avoided her as well as I could. But…" she buried her face in his mane and whispered:

"... I see her face... her eyes... and I can´t help but see her as I did before... "


Beady-eyed the Mord Sith followed her every motion from beneath the trees. Watching over the Mother Confessor secretly, Cara had come close to feel the moments when Kahlan was going to flee; to sense when she decided to steal away from the palace and rushed to the stables. It happened rarely, but she would be on her heels. Always. She knew the Mother Confessor would not allow her to follow, but she felt compelled to do so. She kept on telling herself it was because Richard had let her vow to be near her and see that she was safe. And how else should she have been able to be prepared incase that anything – or any one – would try to harm the Confessor, if she would let her strive alone through the woods.

But somewhere deep inside her mind she had long recognized that the vow to Richard had been of no need. It was not for him that she was here;

The Mord Sith gritted her teeth and cursed inwardly; realizing that these two years in which she had done everything to find back to her true essence, to being a Mord Sith, no more, no less; that it had all been in vain.

All the times she had spent in the dungeons, forcing Berdine to train her; her hanging in chains; her bleeding under the screaming touches of an agiel; her longing and her efforts for regaining her former condition as a true Mord Sith; all her newly settled power and control… everything had swept away in a single heartbeat on her arrival in Aydindril; when her eyes had locked with these blue diamond's as they had seared straightly through her walls and burnt all her defenses into ashes.

Defeated before the battle even had begun.

She hardly suppressed a growl, gripping her agiels; hating this helpless feeling of her own weakness; but she had no choice. After all she was still Mord Sith. All she could do was keeping focus on her duty.

Cara huffed annoyed, thinking of Zedd, who hoped that she of all people could help Kahlan. This crazy big old fool...


The Confessor shot a last glance to the mountains, steeling her mind for her return to the Palace and stood decidedly. It was time to head back. With some effort she shoved her melancholic mood aside and hauled the heavy saddle on Shadow´s back as gently as possible, starting to arrange the cinches to fix it. The horse stood patiently, waiting for her to mount, appreciating the soft tone of her voice.

"Maybe the time has come to come to an arrangement. At last," she shrugged faintly, "it does not seem as if she will simply disappear again..." her eyes swept slowly over the near logs, searching for her boots. Shadow received an absent pat on his back, while she huffed: "I can´t help, you know. Sometimes I could swear she is near. Watching me... She seems to be always around. Even if I can´t see her, I can feel her every presence..."

Shadow´s neck muscles tensed slightly as if on a cue, his ears swiveling back. Kahlan watched him attentively as he lifted his head a little, his ears now focusing on the tree line behind them. She huffed with a faint smile. "Do you understand now what I mean?" she whispered, and then inhaled fatalistically, biting her lower lip. Well, she already knew she would soon have to face her. So why not now? She straightened before her voice echoed through the air. She didn´t turn around, knowing her words would be heard anyway.

So be it...

"I know you are there, Cara! You can get out of the trees. You are unmasked."

She had to wait a few heartbeats until she finally heard her approaching. Slowly she turned to see the Mord Sith coming out of the shadows. Kahlan clenched her jaw as she was not prepared for her blood speeding up in its flow, not for the slight brushes like of feather light wings tickling the walls inside her belly as she watched her sauntering near; the familiar trademark sway in her hips caught her breath for a moment. Her hands held the reins of a tall black horse that followed her steps, head held high in pride, as if mirroring Cara´s own posture.

The blonde stopped an arm length away, tilting her head and eying the Confessor with a provoking smirk.

"I´m sorry, Mother Confessor. I had not intended to frighten you."

Kahlan´s lips smiled resigned. "No need to worry. You did not frighten me, Cara! You are following me since weeks. Am I finally allowed to learn about your reasons though?"

The blonde cocked a hip, her eyes washed over the grey horse which had turned and now faced her, watching her intensely, the muscles of its neck still tensed, its ears perked up warily. The sea-green gaze shifted to Kahlan´s bare feet, lingering there for a few moments while she arched her brows and then looked up into her eyes, her voice somewhere between mocking and perplexity.

"I thought it necessary that someone should be near you, in case someone would try to barge into your...privacy. Or you were looking for some... audience." Her lips started to curl into a grin.

Kahlan had blushed fiercely when she got aware of the childish sight she must offer with her bare feet, her boots still lying somewhere between the logs, but her eyebrow rose resolutely. "I hate to disappoint you, Cara, but no, thank you! This is my last opportunity to come here for a while and I feel absolutely comfortable spending some time of my own here. I don´t need any...audience!"

Forehead furrowed, the Mord Sith slowly cocked her head." Are you sure? I mean... I watched you: You are talking! ...To a horse!"

Kahlan couldn´t help but smile at the wobbliness that swept over the blonde´s features, her eyes narrowed on the horse, her hand gesturing almost reproachful to the beast that held its head just a few inches above Kahlan´s shoulder. A swift glance to the brown eye that stared suspiciously at the Mord Sith, told Kahlan clearly that neither horse nor Mord Sith trusted each other. If a horse could frown, Shadow would do. She stepped aside, out of the way between them and then gestured emphatically seriously from horse to Mord Sith and vice versa.

"Shadow, this is Cara, the Mord Sith! ...Cara, this is Shadow!" Now she smiled openly, affectionately beaming at the grey horse.

"And he is not just a horse… He is my friend!"

Cara´s brows climbed up, still eying him with a distrusting glare. "Your friend." Her entire posture was made of disbelieve when she gave a small snort of disgust and shifted her bemused eyes to Kahlan. "Strange friends you have made. What has happened to your tradition to engage in some ordinary people? Are they not enough friends to have a talk to?"

Kahlan looked at her briefly, slightly stiffening while her brows furrowed. When she answered, a distant wave of bitterness washed faintly through her words: "People... come and go, Cara... It happens that they just decamp." She shook her head. "They are not trustable."

Cara set her jaw and stared fixedly on her own boots, literally feeling Kahlan´s voice drop heavily on her shoulders. Why did it feel like she had just received a slap? Frowning she heard the Confessor move and looked up to see her walking to the log, fishing for her boots while she kept speaking.

"Shadow is different. He will not shy away! He trusts me. As I trust him."

Cara looked bewildered. She tilted her head thoughtfully and blurted out: "But, was not this the horse that caused..." she pointed to the huge beast, not finishing her question.

Kahlan whipped around, anger flashing from narrowed eyes under deeply knitted brows.

"Who told you?" She almost hissed, but when no answer came, her features slid easily into her Confessor´s mask, controlling any signs of emotions; only her voice holding a clear warning.

"Whatever you heard, you may consider half of it as random palace-gossip. And for the rest?" Her chin rose while her brows furrowed. "I am alive! And I am fine. And as I do not blame him for losing my child, no one else has the right to do so. He saved me! In many ways. There is nothing more to say." She held one of her boots and settled on the log to put it on, small muscles in her cheeks working, hardly visible. It was the only sign of some inner turmoil.

Cara´s gaze lingered thoughtfully on her for a few heartbeats, lips pursed, eyes slightly narrowed and a faint crease crinkling her forehead. Finally she turned and put the reins over her horse´s neck, mounting in an easy, swinging motion. Sitting straight and silent she waited for the Mother Confessor to set the bit of Shadows bridle, before she mounted too and headed towards Aydindril without a word, forcing her horse into a slow trot.

They rode in silence, with stiffened shoulders and stony faces. But side by side.

Only their horses showed their stressed mood, threatening each other with flattened ears every now and then, evidently bothered by their unfamiliar closeness…


Cara took the horses to the stables and then stood in the opening of the box. The tall grey horse still eyed her wearily with half-flattened ears and a tense neck. Apparently Shadow was unsure of what he had to expect of her. The Mord Sith leaned against the wooden frame and looked him over. At last the horse decided that this human was momentarily of no danger and his ears peeked up in curiosity, though his neck kept tense.

"Her friend, hm?... Saved her, hm?" Cara pursed her lips and shook her head. With a challenging glare she moved her hand slowly, what made the horse lift its head and lay its ears close to its neck. The blonde grinned.

"You better arrange with me, friend! Cause I am her friend too, though she doesn´t want to see it. And if you really saved her" her hand dropped the apple she had held, "I very appreciate that." Still grinning she turned and left.

Shadow waited until she had vanished, before he ducked his nose and searched for the apple...

Stepping out of the stables she had to blink against the sun, not sure if she really saw Kahlan standing there on the first step of the wide staircase that led to the palaces entrance, waiting for her with impatient eyes, tilting her head as the blonde stopped astonished.

"Are you coming eventually?" The question sounded peevish and Cara considered briefly an icy retort, but then headed wordlessly towards the steps. The brunette did not wait until she reached her but turned around and while heading to the entrance she stated over her shoulder: "I think it is time that we talk about your... position in this palace."

Cara fixed her gaze on the white marble stone she set her feet on and followed in silence, her lips twitching into a smug grin. This was definitely going to be the best day she had ever since she came to Aydindril.


They made their way through the palace in silence. Cara followed the Mother Confessor just two steps behind, carefully observing their surroundings. Most of the guards on duty acknowledged the Mord Sith by the Mother Confessor´s side with stealthy glances, some even allowed a frown when they passed, but Cara simply stared them down, shooting dangerous flashes to every guard who narrowed his eyes on her being so close to the Mother Confessor. None of them dared to show their distrust openly, but it was clear that the entire palace would know about the news in the shortest of time. They reached the entrance to Kahlan´s working chambers without any interruption, though. But then, in front of the wooden doors, the Confessor stopped, wordlessly giving Cara a hesitating side-glance, a small doubt washing briefly over her features. Yet, while the blonde already started frowning, wondering if she would retract at last, the Confessor took a deep breath and pushed the door open, beckoning Cara to follow her.

It was not the first time that Cara entered the working chambers of the Midlands highest authority. But it was definitely the first time that she entered them unhidden. She couldn´t deny herself a smirk when she stepped inside, head held high and shoulders straightened proudly. Though at the sight of Dennee, who sat at the far side of the wide, comfortably furnished room at Kahlan´s desk and now shifted her gaze expectantly, her brow twitched disturbed. The fragile Confessor raised immediately, her eyes darkening at her sight under deeply furrowed brows. Beside the desk Cara noticed Zedd, who just stopped pacing nervously at their entrance, raising a brow at her with no less surprise than Dennee.

Four pairs of eyes switched bemused from one to another, Dennee´s swiftly narrowing angrily at the unexpected sight of the blonde, who withstood her stare with a demonstrative nonchalance, still wearing a barely hidden smirk on her lips.

Kahlan stopped in front of the desk, her gaze sweeping briefly over her sister with a questioning smile and finally settling on Zedd.

"Dennee; Zedd? What are you doing here?" Even her soft voice was filled with a smile. It was far too rare these days that she met her old friend and she was happy to see him, though slight concern wanted to crawl under her skin when she met his nervous eyes.

"What is SHE doing here?" came Dennee´s gruff retort. A hostile finger pointed at the Mord Sith, who stood just a step behind Kahlan.

The brunette followed the direction and her eyes briefly met Cara´s stoic gaze. "We have some matters to talk over" she answered with a short shrug, as if it was the most casual thing ever, clearly not intending to explain things further to her sister. Dennee´s face contorted with disgust as she eyed the Mord Sith angrily. Yet, she had caught Kahlan´s tone; she would not answer her question of what such matters might be. So she shot one crabby glare to the blonde before passably smoothing her voice to declare:

"Zedd has found strange news from Richard in the journey book. It seems to be important and I think we should talk about thisfirst!" She waved her hand arrogantly towards Cara, addressing her in a dismissive gesture. "You... may ask later for a meeting!"

A frown settled instantly on her sister's face. Kahlan rebuked her with narrowed eyes and a calm but monishing voice.

"Cara will stay. You know she is Richard´s deputy while he´s absent and it is surely meant for her ears as well if he sends important news!"

All the three of them noticed the short flash of rage in Dennee´s eyes before she was able to school her features and dropped her gaze wordlessly. Kahlan turned and leaned on the desk top, her back straight; her curious eyes met Zedd´s with an affectionate smile, waiting for him to speak.

Cara had followed the short arguing without any visible signs of her thoughts. But now she felt a sudden twitch in her stomach as her gaze settled briefly on the beautiful frame of the Mother Confessor, a swift and confusing wave of warmth passing through her chest. She resisted the attempt to curl her lips and instead bit her cheek and frowned to focus on the words she heard.

"I found this in the journey book this morning." Zedd handed the Mother Confessor the opened book. The heavy leather of its cover felt warm and slightly vivid in her hands. A faint, mixed scent of dark forests and stretching grass plains, like a slight breeze of upcoming rain swept through her mind, like it always did when she came to hold a journey book. Kahlan had never been sure if it was the book´s magic, telling her of the many places it had seen, or if her mind was cullying her.

Running now over the page she recognized Richards hand in a jiffy. Her features slowly changed from curiosity into worry while reading, before she eventually lifted her gaze to Zedd´s pale eyes with apprehension.

"What does this mean?" Without looking at the blonde she passed the book to Cara, sensing her by her side. The Mord Sith swiftly read it over, slightly furrowing when she finished.

Zedd, I need your assistance here. It is indispensable that you travel immediately to the People´s Palace. I expect your arrival as soon as possible.

Send Dennee my kind regards, I hope she is fine – and give Kahlan a hug, tell her I think of her, and give Cara… a smile. (... she wouldn´t appreciate your hug...)


A slight snort was heard of the blonde. The Mord Sith did not even want to think about being pulled into a hug, especially not if coming from a certain bony old wizard.

Zedd cleared his throat, before he looked sternly into the brunette´s eyes. "This means that I have to go, Kahlan. I have no idea why he´s calling me. But you know him; there must be some serious reasons for him if he sounds so urgently. Richard seems to be in some kind of trouble, or he sees things approaching."

"But why does he not tell us his reasons? Why does he hide them?" Kahlan shook her head, a deep line knitting her forehead. "This is not like Richard, Zedd. He would not order you without any further explanation. He knows that he perturbs us..."

A huff came from her sister. "I really can´t see why this should perturb us, Kahlan. Maybe he was just in a hurry and didn´t have time to declare what it´s about?" Dennee shrugged weakly. "If he thought we´d have reason to worry he surely would have given us a hint."

"Or... he did not want everyone to know about it!" Cara drawled lowly. Kahlan turned towards her, staring interrogatively with furrowed brows. "You say he does not trust us?"

Cara merely shrugged. "He had time enough to greet all of us; which would be certainly an unforgivable lavishness if he was in a hurry. So why not tell us what´s the matter?"

Dennee snorted noisily. "Like if you would know him. You are talking about things you have no clue of! Richard knows we are his friends. And of course he trusts us. All of us." And as if giving it a second thought, she eyed Cara slowly and meaningfully from head to toe: "Although…"

Kahlan ignored their little hassle and addressed herself to Zedd. "As far as I know he has not written for longer time now. Or was there something else? Something particular? Perhaps in his last notes? Anything?"

The wizard stared at the book and frowned thoughtfully, shaking his head. The slight sway of is thin white hair made him suddenly look old and almost weak. It could have been just the way he dropped his head with slacked shoulders, but Kahlan noticed it anyway. If they weren´t in a serious meeting, she would have run to him and hugged him, just to show him how much she cared. Instead she gave him a glance of scrutiny, waiting for him to continue. "No, I have considered it already... Just yesterday he sent a short note that he was happy that Verna has arrived and sent her regards to everyone. But no concern in his words. It was nothing but a short hello. I twisted it into every meaning I could think of. But I´m sorry, I can find no deeper message lying in it.

And that is the other reason why I feel disturbed. Bags, ladies, this is slap-bang! Something must have happened there. Something he cannot – or does not want to speak about with any of us through the journal book. But whatever it is, if you agree, and I very appreciated if you would, I will leave tomorrow. I can reach the People´s Palace in less than ten days and see what´s going on..."

Dennee had moved and approached while he spoke; now she grabbed his arm hard, turning him to face her. Her face held the features of a Confessor on duty, authority and determination hung in the air around her. "I already told you Zedd, you cannot leave now for D´Hara! Everything is prepared for your journey to Comorra. They need our intervention; better today than tomorrow! And you will go there tomorrow. You know how tense the situation in Comorra is actually. They can´t wait any longer for our help. We can´t let them down now! You would not want to be responsible for a civil war there, would you?" She straightened in resolve and folded her arms under her chest, untouched by the swift angry glance he shot her from under his bushy brows, frowning deeply at her presumptuousness. "Richard will need to be patient until your return." She looked fiercely into his eyes, her gaze almost conjuring.

Kahlan still leaned on the desk plate, her eyes travelling in thoughtful zigzags over the carpet, reflecting on what she had heard. Now she looked up at Zedd and nodded slowly. A faint, reassuring smile flowed along with her calm voice.

"Do not be worried if you have to leave, Zedd. I acknowledge the concern in your eyes. And I agree with you. I can´t imagine Richard merely playing with our concerns. If he says it is indispensible I believe him. But you should not go unguarded. We can give you a few men to accompany you. "

Dennee had whipped around while she spoke, her eyes had widened in surprise, mixed with a rush of quickly heated anger on her features. Never had she expected Kahlan to overturn her conviction. Her stare was a flash of fury that burned on Kahlan´s skin; though the brunette pretended not to notice, her eyes still resting on Zedd with a supporting smile.

The old wizard broke into a smile and sighed relieved. "Thank you, dear one. I hoped you would agree with me. And for the men – there is no need. I know my grandson; he will send a quad or two to guard me. I´m probably supposed to meet them right after reaching the frontier to D´Hara. And until I´ll meet them I can well look out for myself. You know, I am yet not as weak as people may think, I still have some ideas if I get into trouble..." he wiggled his white brows and grinned whimsically.

Dennee stared at her in disbelieve. "Kahlan! You cannot allow him to go to D´Hara. What about Comorra? Do you really want to leave them stranded? You disappoint every hope they might have rested. If you do not go there, you practically sentence Comorra to war!" Her hands gestured fiercely, her voice was on the edge to screech. "You will betray everything you are taught! It is.. your duty!.. as the Mother Confessor..." finally it seemed to leave her speechless.

The Mother Confessor stood and circled her desk, taking seat in her chair. She leaned back, pursing her lips, crossing her legs and looked up. She faintly noticed how the Mord Sith retreated almost automatically a few paces to stand now a step behind her. Taking a deep breath she shook her head slowly, obviously pondering the alternatives.

"I do not intend to abandon them." She said firmly. "I will travel to Comorra. And I will leave tomorrow, as it has been decided. But I will go there without Zedd."

For a moment her sister looked at her with widening eyes, just as though she had declared she considered to walk the whole way to Comorra nakedly. In the next heartbeat she had pulled herself together, though her sneering voice still sounded a little strident.

"And how exactly do you propose to go there? Kahlan! There is a reason why Confessors always traveled with their wizard by their side. You cannot go there alone! There might be a troop of 50 men accompanying you, but they have to stay outside of the King´s Palace. You will be unguarded while stirring up a hornet´s nest!" she shook her head peremptorily. "Even considering such a risk is irrational, sister!"

Kahlan sat upright, her brilliant blue gaze had settled sternly on her sister. For an instant she felt tempted to laugh bitterly. Dennee had really become an enigma to her. Had not she been the one who declared their journey to Comorra the only way to avoid a civil war? And now, instead of searching a solution for their new problem, she only insisted on Zedd´s company?

Resting her elbows on the arm rests of her chair she folded her hands in her lap and raised her chin. Looking steadfastly into her sister's wrought-up gaze she cocked her head, knowing that her next words were going to agitate her completely. Firmly holding Dennee´s dark grey gaze, she said calmly:

"Don´t worry, Dennee. I will not be unguarded." Kahlan set her jaw decidedly and inhaled deeply. "Cara will go with me." She almost smiled at the sound of a sudden small gasp from behind and briefly imagined the look on the blondes face. But she did not turn to face her. Instead she watched Dennee´s features slipping in disbelieve, her expression swiftly changing from surprise into fury. She tried to keep her voice calm and smiling while she continued. Though her words were resolved; she did not intend to discuss her decision.

"As a Mord Sith she has the capability to guard the Mother Confessor. And I can tell she´s a fierce warrior. Besides she will be allowed to stay by my side in the palace of King Sadom. I am sure she will be a worthy substitute for a wizard. You should not worry about that. We will leave tomorrow as it was planned; together with Zedd. First we will accompany him to the frontiers. From there we will go on to Comorra. That means just a loss of two days until we´ll reach King Sadom´s palace. And all the same we make sure that Zedd´s journey is safe, just in case that trouble lies on his way. I don´t want him to travel alone if Richard thinks of...whatever a problem it might be." She waved her hand impatiently to interrupt Dennee´s weak attempt to drop in.

"In the meanwhile the troop can go ahead to prepare our arrival in Comorra. I want you to inform them of their new orders. See for it that they understand that I don´t want them to interfere in any situation they´ll find there before our arrival! But they should make clear, that the Mother Confessor expects the people of Comorra to respect law and tradition of the Midlands. And if anyone dares to ignore that, they will not like the consequences. They will make camp a league away of their palace and await us there. Before I will meet with his nephews I want to speak to King Sadom alone. Please, prepare a message for him about that."

Her sister was still staring at her, her lips pressed into a thin line, barely controlling her emotions. Now Kahlan nodded slowly. "I think that is all for the moment." She briefly dropped her eyes to the desk, before finally turning to face the blonde Mord Sith, who stood motionless a step behind her chair. She tilted her head and asked, faintly teasing:

"Now, does this kind of a position meet your approval, Mistress Cara?"

The blonde Mord Sith wore a stern look on her face as she shortly bowed her head in respect. "Your wish is my order, Mother Confessor." Kahlan saw the corners of her lips twitch ever so slightly. "Well, so be it." The brunette stood and gave a tired smile. "I am sure you want to speak to me privately, Dennee.

Zedd; Cara; we will leave tomorrow after sunrise."

The wizard bowed with a warm smile on his face, blinking reassuringly at her and left, but not without shooting a brief glance to the Mord Sith. Cara hesitated for a second, but when the Mother Confessor tilted her head at her and waited, she finally turned and left too, though frowning disapprovingly.


Kahlan waited until the door had closed, before she sighed and turned to face her sister. Dennee had moved and now stood beside the fireside, staring into the low sizzling flames. Kahlan could not see her face; she had dropped her head, hiding behind her long curls. The brunette regarded thoughtfully for her a long moment, before she finally approached her.

"Dennee?" It shortly struck her when she saw the hurt in her sister´s eyes, entangled with silent reproach as she turned and looked at her. The grey blue of her gaze veiled with a watery shimmer, her face even paler than usual; underlined by her long loose curls in the color of mahogany. Her frame looked slim and fragile and flexed somehow, as if under a heavy weight. But yet, while the familiar feeling of guilt welled up in her chest, Kahlan had the distinct impression of looking into the eyes of a stranger, meeting her with upbraiding and disappointment. She sighed deeply.

"No, please, don´t look at me like I sentenced someone to death, Dennee. I don´t know what the problem is: you wanted me to go to Comorra? I will go there! You wanted me to go there protected? I will do so! So what is it that stirs you so much?" She shrugged uncomprehendingly.

The younger Confessor gave her an exasperated look. "I can´t believe you decided this without talking to me! You just ignored my every opinion, Kahlan! In front of her! As if I was no more than one of your underlings. I don´t get you anymore!

After all, sister, what am I for you? I am good enough to assist in the matters of duty! I was good enough to prop you up when you arrived here, seeming more dead than alive! I was good enough to take care of the Midlands AND of Richard while you let yourself go for weeks, grieving over the death of your child. I have always supported you; even when you selfishly decided to not have another child with Richard. I have done everything for you, Kahlan. And that´s what you give in return? The minute this red leathered monster steps into the room I am written off? Am I not worthy to discuss your decisions before you are running into action? I... I am deeply disappointed, Kahlan. I thought I meant more to you by now... And" Dennee shook her head as words seemed to leave her, and finally huffed "I don´t trust her!" and stared at her, her cheeks now flushed in a deep purple, her anger raining down on Kahlan like liquid sparks of embers. Kahlan frowned, tilting her head towards her sister, surprised by the burning heat that swept from her words, and hurt by their sharp edges. Closing her eyes she inhaled deeply, wondering briefly why it was, that Dennee always brought her close to tears. She dimmed her voice into a calm and reassuring tone.

"You know you are wrong, Dennee! You are my sister. I love you, more than you will ever acknowledge; and I so very appreciate you by my side. I always did. But...fact is that I am the Mother Confessor. I am the one responsible for all of the Midlands and yes, I make decisions! And if you don´t like them, I am sorry for that. Since I came back to Aydndril I have always involved you into my business. I know I did. I have taken everything you have offered so eagerly. And maybe I have taken too much from you. I am very grateful for all your love and your help. But see, you can´t take the duty away from me and carry it on your own shoulders." Her gaze softened, seeing how the younger´s temper calmed down, until only frustration was left on her features, her cheeks losing slowly their dark shades and her eyes shifting down in slight embarrassment.

"And as for Cara... Dennee, I am certainly not looking forward to travel with her. But it is not a question of personal liking. It is just reasonable. She is a warrior and it is like you said, I can´t go there alone. Hey," she offered a faint smile, her hand reaching out to lift her sister´s chin gently, searching her eyes. "at least you will be freed of her sight for a few weeks. That isn´t too bad, don´t you think so?" Kahlan wrapped her arms around her to pull her sister into a light hug. "Everything will be okay, Dennee." She softly stroke her hair like she had done so many times to solace her little sister through scaring nights. A part of her ached, feeling the still strange slender form tense in her arms and heard her muffled voice of frowardness.

"I do not want to imagine how that monster will scoff at me now, after I have told her she should stay away from you just a few days ago..."

Kahlan pulled back so she could look into her sister's eyes, lifting a surprised brow. "You have talked to her?"

"She went by and demanded once again to see you. I got rid of her..."

"Again? Does that mean she asked before to speak to me? Why... You never told me?"

Dennee shrugged casually. "There was no reason to bother you. She just gave herself airs..."

The Mother Confessor frowned absently. Thinking of the many chance encounters with the blonde, when she had wondered why Cara not tried once to speak to her. And the light stitches of disappointment she had tried to suppress.

Had she wronged the Mord Sith?

She took a deep breath but decided to put the question off. Thinking about the journey, Cara by her side, stirred up enough in her already...

She still remembered the flutter in her stomach she had felt watching the blonde sauntering near on the clearing before.

Kahlan sighed heavily. Fearing the days she was condemned to spend alone with her on their journey...


The three men stood straight as she entered the room. She had ordered them to the meeting after her talk with Kahlan this afternoon. The troop was prepared for the journey since days and eagerly waited to leave. She knew they would accept her new orders without hesitation. But all in all it meant to define some parts of their quest anew.

Dennee draw her hood down and let her gaze sweep over them in a scrutiny. She obviously liked what she saw, given to the tight-lipped smile she offered.

"Confessor" they greeted her with an addicted bow.

Her hand waved a short impatient interruption. "I bring new orders for you. The plans have changed. The Mother Confessor will guide the wizard to the frontiers of D´Hara before she heads to Comorra."

They watched her attentively, none of them asking for the reasons, waiting for her to continue.

"As for you and the troop that means that you will head to Comorra and will prepare her arrival there. Our account executive will await you. Give him the message" she handed a sealed roll to the mountain of a man who was the one in charge, apparently in the rang of a captain. "I have explained the details therein. You will support him in every matter.

Once the Mother Confessor arrives I expect you to do everything that is needed to guarantee the success of your quest. Is this understood?" The three of them bowing as one.

"Confessor, if she is not traveling with us, is it allowed for us to ask who will guard her on her journey?"

Dennee´s eyes narrowed. "She will be with the Mord Sith at her side. She will be the one to guard her. No one else." She tilted her head with a cold glance. "And that leads me to the next..."

Nearly half a candle mark later she left the room, a satisfied glow in her gaze as she headed to her chambers. Things were set properly. If everything went right, Comorra would be fruitful.

While she rushed to change before meeting her sister and the wizard for dinner a part of the walls behind her moved quietly, uncovering a hidden door to one of the many small corridors that led through the palace, original meant as short cuts for the servants on their daily ways of duty; but most of the long forgotten.

The Mord Sith stepped cautiously out into the hall. A thoughtful frown lay on her face as she cocked her hip, hand resting firmly on her agiel, her emerald gaze burning into the back of the vanishing figure in the black robe...


Zedd sat at his desk in the Keep, a plate with fruits beside the journey book, and thought about what might expect him in D´Hara. Richards's message troubled him more than he had admitted before, he had no clue what could be behind all this. But he knew, the boy would not carelessly demand him to travel the whole way out of missing his old grandfather.

But what a pity that it had to be right now! The fact that he should fail to serve Kahlan as a wizard should, as it had been their duty all over the centuries, caused a little lump in his stomach. He had the feeling to abandon her, and he very much disliked how Dennee had reacted. Something about her made him...uneasy. She had always been a little hyped up. She had forced herself on Kahlan ever since her return to Aydindril. He had a weirdly sinking feeling about her. And it seemed as if it had become even worse since Cara had arrived.

The wizard furrowed his bushy brows; he hoped, that Kahlan would come back to her normal strength soon; the more so as Cara had told him of rumors she´d heard in town... rumors of a repining council...Kahlan was the Mother Confessor and the Midlands needed her. Her sister was nothing but a weak alternate. SHE was born to the task, she had power and might to keep the midlands safe and peaceful, though she seemingly had forgotten a good portion of all that; in fact, today had been the first time he had heard her voice rising to override her sister´s word...

He had spent most of the past months in the Keep, had brought himself up to date, had buried into reports about everything that had happened in the Midlands since he had left a quarter century ago. Two apprentices had arrived from the old world, sent by Verna and her sisters. He had his hands full; the timing for a longer journey, either of himself or of Kahlan, couldn´t be worse. He was worried about leaving Aydindril abandoned, the council listening to Dennee and vice versa.

It felt a little like leaving a roasted pig at the feet of starving wolves, ordering them to watch over it...

But he would go all the same. Only the Spirits knew why Richard had sent for him. All in all, it was obvious, that it was exigent...

And beside his concern... well, he was just a curious old wizard. It had been a while since he had seen something else then the Keep and the Confessor´s Palace. And he looked forward to meet his grandson. And Verna.

Zedd sighed and opened the journey book. He felt a breeze like of an upcoming storm, the faint scent of sweat and dust emanating from its pages.

"I am leaving tomorrow. Kahlan and Cara accompany me to the border. They will head on to Comorra. I´ll meet your quad at Woodside...

I hope you have good reasons for forcing an old man out of his comfortable chair, my boy...



Kahlan rode in surprisingly comforting silence with the Mord Sith. Zedd sat on a ponderous brown gelding, which shuffled unhurriedly far behind them, trotting a few steps every now and then, before losing contact, but then slowing down again, and whenever she turned to look out for him he grinned and seemed to be content with it.

So it was the Mother Confessor and the Mord Sith who leaded their small troop. Cara was mostly a few steps ahead, surveying their surroundings suspiciously, but Kahlan could feel how her attention turned towards her secretly whenever she made a sound. She smiled amused, comparing the blondes stiffening shoulders with the swiveling ears of her horse, which reacted all the same. It was bonny, how she held the tension for a few heartbeats before she allowed her muscles to relax again. Kahlan´s eyes were confined to the sight, the playful change of pliant moves in harmony with the horse's rhythm and the sudden tightening of muscles and straightening shoulders when her attention went behind. She found herself provoking their attention by small noises, a sudden gasp for air now or harrumphing then, just to watch the blonde straightening and listening behind with slightly tilted head. Kahlan felt weirdly content to see that she still had some kind of power to evoke some reactions of the blonde. Occasionally she pressed her teeth into her lower lip to suppress a chuckle.

She knew it was a sappy joy, but it was a joy anyway.

It did not take long until Cara huffed lowly, finally realizing the Confessor played a game, and reined her horse to wait for her to catch up. She did not turn to face her, but her pursed lips had an annoyed shape when Kahlan came alongside. The brunette shifted her eyes, barely suppressing a shy smile. But then she lifted an eyebrow, pointing to the horses.

"Seems they get used to each other…" Their first words spoken in hours had the blonde look slightly confused; but indeed, the shining black neck of Cara´s horse kept relaxed as Shadow swiftly rubbed his cheek against his new companion as a welcome. Cara frowned halfheartedly, murmured a low "traitor!" but she let the reins hang lose, allowing the black beauty to answer with a playful jostle. She considered a moment to feel a sting of envy at how easy it was for the beasts to arrange with the new situation. As for her, she was far from feeling comfortable.

Four days had already passed since their departure from Aydindril. On the first day they had quickly found a reasonable order to ride: Kahlan took the lead, for she knew best the road to D´Hara, Zedd kept in the middle, and Cara rode behind, content to have both of them in sight and making sure to be able to react to any threat from wherever it should appear. The Mord Sith had felt relieved, for she was not forced to the side of the Mother Confessor, not knowing how she would deal with such closeness. Though she so longed for, but feared the holes it would slowly cause in her meticulously build defenses, like steady water eroded its coastline. ..

Leaving Aydindril she had been the first who mounted. Zedd had given Dennee a short and strangely tense hug, taking her best wishes for his journey before mounting his horse. Cara had covertly grinned contently at the strong impression, that even she was treated with much more heart by the old wizard then Dennee. Not that it was of any importance, but a soupcon of gratification had crossed her face anyway.

Kahlan had embraced her sister heartily. The Mord Sith had not heard the words been spoken between them, but she had caught the short glance Kahlan shot secretly towards her before she gave Dennee a reassuring smile and a peck on her cheek, turning finally around and mounting elegantly.

Cara and Dennee had changed a long, disgusting glare while the others were already heading out of the palace. A glare that warned of vicious consequences should the other get in her way.

They had started in a distant and tense mood; their first stop was spent in strained silence. Only Zedd had tried to do some conversation but had given up his attempt when none of his companions answered his babbling. With nightfall Cara had left their camp for hunting; and when she came back, she found the Mother Confessor asleep. She had taken watch from Zedd. But when her time was up she did not wake Kahlan. Instead she spent the whole night sitting on a log, content with watching her sleeping in pondering silence.

The moment, when the brunette´s eyes finally snapped open, just a candle mark before sunrise, had caught her smiling with warmth that had no trouble to outplay the resting glow of the small fire. There had been a sudden wave of heat rising briefly in Kahlan´s chest, pink spreading over her cheeks, but before she managed to smile back, Cara had swiftly changed her features into her Mord Sith mask and stood. A hoarse "Watch is yours!" was all the blonde let out before lying down on the other side of the camp fire and pretending to fall asleep in an instant.

Though she didn´t. The pounding beat of her heart in her ears detained her. That, and the burning anger, being caught in such silly embarrassment...

The next morning had been only a little easier; Zedd was back to communication and this time he found Kahlan gave in, answering at least a few of his silly questions, even taking his offered jests as an opportunity to grace the world with the bright beauty of her smile; Cara noticed. And she noticed the brunette glared at her from the corner of her eyes, shyly, though her gaze didn´t linger. She bit her cheek every time she felt her eyes on her, fighting back the need to answer her glare, fearing to lose herself in the abyss of their blue.

The familiar routine of their journey had slowly leaded to a faint ease between them, though. The evening of the second day found Zedd sitting at the fire, smiling a happy smile as he watched the two of them talking; well, at least as much as a Mord Sith talked, a few short sentences here and there. He did not listen, but he felt the calm that ever so slowly started to supersede the strain. They were well on their way; there was no need to be worried about their journey after he would leave them...

But Cara was worried. She had spent good parts of the days pondering on what she had snapped up while eavesdropping on Dennee´s meeting. She felt peculiar angry with herself, being unable to name what had lain beneath the words she had heard. Something bothered her, but it kept out of her reach. The whole situation had been weird.

Cara knew how a soldiers´ brain worked. They were used to receive their orders and do what had to be done. They weren't supposed to ask questions. The three Dennee had met were all the same.

But, beyond being loyal and accepting their task, there had lain something alien in their reaction. And Cara twisted her brain to get what it was. The men had not simply assumed their orders, they had ... inhaled them, burning to take them, eagerly waiting for getting started; they had been dogs, scratching at the door to finally get out. She had not seen their faces, only Dennee´s, as she had peeked on them, but their stiffened postures and their hoarse voices had told her enough.

And what on earth meant Dennee´s strict instructions relating to Cara?

While hearing Dennee mentioning her, the Mord Sith had half expected that the Confessor would commission the men to attack her, to put her away secretly while Kahlan would be distracted in Comorra. She had assumed that Kahlan´s sister would offer some false pretenses to allow the men to assassinate her while she slept... Anything!

But instead she was surprised to hear Dennee´s explicit instruction that she, the Mord Sith, had to be taken care of! By all means! However their quest in Comorra would develop, they would stand with their lives that Cara would return to Aydindril.

The words rolled zigzag through her mind, but as hard as she tried to figure it out, it did not make any sense. Dennee might be all sorts of things, but she was certainly not her friend! The tiny hairs on her neck rose, sensing the threat that lay in front of her. Cara smelled a rat when there was one.

There was something damned fishy about it.


When the first shadows of the upcoming night flooded their little camp on their fourth evening, they had settled into an almost familiar association, Zedd prepared their dinner and Cara and Kahlan went together to pick some more firewood. The wizard´s eyes followed them until they vanished between the tree lines. He sighed contently. At least, Richard´s decision to bring Cara to Aydindril had been right. Since Kahlan tolerated her near presence the emotional crusts that wrapped the Mother Confessor so tightly slowly started to soften; her features had already brightened a few times, when her smiles had reached her eyes; a beautiful sight, which Zedd had already feared he would never enjoy again. And Cara´s blossoming sarcasm showed him, that she became more and more self- reliant around the Confessor. Her presence was as refreshing as he ever remembered. Perhaps there was hope. There was a good chance, Kahlan would return from her quest in Comorra with much more energy, much more power then she had owned in the past years.

Zedd grinned mischievously. Dennee would not be pleased. A stronger Kahlan surely meant much less influence for her little sister. Less power over her. Maybe, Kahlan would finally free herself from the viper´s voice, who always attempted to poison the Mother Confessor´s mind, to hold her down.

The wizard blew a chirpy whistle while rummaging through his pack.


The two women walked quietly between the trees, Cara held a few large wooden pieces in her arms, when Kahlan suddenly stopped her, a hand gripping her elbow, a finger crossing her lips to demand silence, tugging Cara to hunker down. The blonde was much too surprised by the unexpected touch, her eyes pinned to the hand on her arm, to question the Confessor.

When Kahlan realized her stiffened, almost fending motion, she turned, glancing at her with beaming eyes, filled with pure joy, and pointed ahead.

There, between the bushes, Cara saw a romp of a big flurry ball, rolling through the dust as if moved by ghost hands. There was a low hissing and a sudden squeak. The spitting ball divided and separated into two chubby cubs of some kind of a very huge cat. Their thick fur was an almost yellow brown, speckled in black and dark-brown, looking incredibly fluffy and cuddly. A mask, bounteously drawn around their eyes, as well as their clumsy little paws dipped into a shimmering black. They tussled, competing passionately; one mewed and tried a roar while scratching at the others neck, then caught its brother´s ear and chewed on it with oblivious dedication. Its little prey hissed and scratched, before a loud and angry meow was heard as it suddenly rocketed high in attempt to dodge a tiny paw. It bared its tiny little teeth in an attempt to look intimidating; but in the next heartbeat it watched passionately the twitching tail of the other, stalking it and finally jumped on it with all four legs...

Their play was droll, their lumbering banter a living picture of cuteness. Like all cubs, all over the world, they were lost to the world while playing. They were just captivating...

...Kahlan was captivating!

Cara found herself staring mesmerized at the brunette, who chuckled voiceless, her brilliant blue gaze fixed on the cubs, pure bliss shining on her face. Her lips had slightly parted, curled into a permanent wide smile, her teeth shimmering as she pressed them slightly on her lower lip; tiny wrinkles in the corner of her eyes twitched with her silent chuckles. Her hand, that had moved to tug some hair behind her ear had stopped, her fingers absently caressing her own earlobe.

The Mord Sith felt hypnotized. A heated wave started to whirl in her chest. The little hairs on her arms rose in a chill. There was no way to avert her gaze from the sight. And when Kahlan´s eyes widened suddenly and she tightened the grip of her hand on Cara´s arm in excitement, Cara barely noticed the giant elegant cat that appeared out of the bushes, purring loudly, greeting her cubs with a few soft licks. Then it stood motionless, a savage diva, while the cubs jostled hastily under her belly to feed on her teats. A low snarl came from their mother as she proved the air, trying to get the winds that flew along. Finally listening suspiciously to the flowing breeze in the air the cat meowed loudly and left unhurriedly in natural, majestic grace. Hastily followed by two vividly bouncing furry balls.

Kahlan waited until they were far out of sight and then stood slowly, her happy chuckle grew loud and she leaned against a tree, gasping for air. Her entire features glowed with exaltation as she tugged Cara to her feet. The blonde had let lose her grip on the gathered wood and it thudded to the ground. For a moment she just stood, her eyes round and glowing a dark green, her gaze still pinned to the clear blue pools in that beautiful face.

All in a sudden Kahlan felt her heart pounding heavily somewhere in her throat as these incredible green eyes pierced her, mesmerized her. She felt as though her gaze was trapped in their depths; as though air went thick, too thick to breathe. She didn´t realize her move, but the next she felt were Cara´s lips on her own, hard, burning with an aggressive hunger; mixed with an almost possessive anger. A sudden untamed instinct welled up in her and answered fiercely without fail, pressing against these full lips; a wild and savage reaction. Her mouth shot open, letting a throaty growl escape her when a hot tongue entered eagerly, sweeping over the edge of her teeth, claiming her mouth imperiously. Kahlan´s entire body felt as if set aflame.

It held only a second.

Then, closing her eyes, a sudden flash of panic shot through her veins, swept along with the hurt of long denied emotions; the gash in her soul, which had never really healed, dehisced and instantly started bleeding painfully.

Gasping for air she freed herself from Cara´s grip and pushed her roughly back, reaching out and setting a swift, biting slap in the blonde´s face. Staring breathless and wide-eyed, feeling tears welling up and drudgingly fighting them back. Stunned by how naughty Cara was. Stunned by how fraudulent her own body reacted, flouting the knowledge that lay buried inside. The knowledge, that agonizing sorrow and hurt and – in the end - deadly hollow emptiness came from allowing her heart that kind of fever.

Her face had gotten pale; cheeks had lost the faintest hint of color; her eyes were narrowed under deeply knitted brows. All she heard was her own blood, roaring in her ears like muffled war drums.

Cara stood frozen, her features set into a stony mask; only the emerald green that burned from her narrowed eyes betrayed her own shock. She had not planned to kiss the Mother Confessor. It... had happened; her attack had been far beyond her control. And seeing Kahlan, seeing how her look changed from sheer horror into a biting ice cold blue that seared into her own eyes, she realized that she had made an unforgivable mistake; out of the weakness of an uncontrolled moment. She almost winced when Kahlan stepped closer and leaned in until Cara could feel her breath tingle over her skin in a hot wave. The Confessor´s barely audible voice scratched painfully along her cheek, crawling into her ear like acid.

"NEVER. DARE. TOUCH ME. AGAIN! YOU!" Cara felt wetness sweeping over her skin when Kahlan shook her head ever so slightly. "you have no right!"

Closing her eyes, the Mord Sith bit her cheek until the bitter metallic flavor of her own blood graced her tongue, grounding on the smallest pain she could get. Only a moment later she more sensed than heard the Confessor turns and flees.

Cara stood statuesque, her eyes closed, her chest barely heaving with the effort to control her breath, small muscles in her cheeks working hectically. A few heartbeats later her legs started to run.

Zedd sat alone on a log beside the fire, staring into the flames with his sad pale eyes. He seemed to be taken aback when he saw her returning to their fire place, trembling and troubled as she was; first he wanted to speak to her, but noticing her wrecked mood and following the harsh gesture of her hands to stop his speech he quickly gave up his attempts. Instead his shoulders sacked and his concern gave way to sorrow as he respectfully gave her the space she obviously needed.

She took her bedroll and arranged it with shaky hands in a distance. Her barely controlled features distorted as soon as she lay down. She bit her lip, trying to center herself. Kahlan stared into the darkness for a small eternity, her breath was heavy, her eyes settled on the flickering shadows that danced their taunting dance over the forests edge; but her look went inside her mind, searching for something to hold on; anything at all.

It was a futile attempt.

There was nothing but dark vacuity awaiting her. After a while she shut her eyes and decidedly began struggling for sleep. All she wanted was to escape her troubled thoughts; the heavy chain that tightened her chest. But hard as she tried, pressing her lids close, searching calmness in the darkness behind them, she found herself unable to stop trembling; Peace lay far out of her reach. Green eyes were haunting her; lips, violently pressed on her own, were drawing constant pain through her veins. Burning like fire in her guts; leaving a small trace of ashes on her soul. And a small trace of tears on her cheeks.

Some candle marks must have passed, before she finally heard Zedd settling for sleep. She knew that meant he had given watch to the Mord Sith.

Cara was back!

The thought alone was enough to flood her eyes. To let tears quill from under her lashes, hidden sobs break her breath. She felt her entire body quivering and was sheer unable to stop it.

For weeks now Kahlan had put much effort into keeping her countenance. Had restrained her emotions and focused on politeness and manners.

But today... Cara´s touch...

The aggression she had put into something that could have been meant as a kiss...

It had been too much. Her walls had tumbled down. And there was no strength left to rebuild them.

Kahlan became bitterly aware that she would never find any peace if she would not finally ask the question that had been torturing her during the last years. She just had. to know...

She rose slowly, wiping her cheeks dry, swallowed a last sob and searched through the night for the blonde, finding her cowering on a log on the far side of their small camp, barely visible if not for the shimmering moonlight on her silky blond mane.

The Mord Sith sat quietly, her tense back to the fire, and stared into the near treetops. Mad thoughts whispered through her mind, feelings of shame and fury raging equally inside her. All she could think of was the expression on Kahlan's face; an expression that could only be named as blank horror. Horror she had caused. Because she had lost control; had gone too far...

Cara slowly lifted her hand to palm her cheek, frowning; gritting her teeth; still feeling the trenchant echo of Kahlan´s impetuous stroke.

The Mother Confessor hated her. So much was clear.

Never before, not even in their first days, when she had wrapped her hand around her throat in that cave, promising to kill her if she would trick her, never had her voice sounded as cold and hollow as it had sounded today.

"Never. Dare. Touch me. Again!..."

Cara´s eyes burnt dryly. Her lungs had barely enough space to breathe.

She had run. Just run; trying to get her mind clear; resolved to leave Kahlan behind...

It had not worked.

It never worked.

Finally she had returned, once again surrendering to the familiar pain inside her belly. A pain that had never left her since the day she had been sent away on that morning two years ago...

The moment she heard a twig breaking somewhere to her left, her eyes flickered instinctively over the tempting darkness to her right, as if searching for an escape. She did not feel prepared for talking... It would make no sense anyway. Her hands reached for her agiels, appreciating the stinging pain that shot up her arms immediately, clinging to its force.

Deep lines started to crinkle her forehead.

She would not apologize!

It had always been Kahlan who had expected her to be honest. To embrace her emotions, instead of denying them. It was not her fault that she... felt... something. And it was not her fault that this... something... was strong enough to break straight through her walls into her petrified Mord Sith heart.

It had been her perdition two years ago.

And probably it would be her perdition now.

The Mord Sith expelled a small puff of air and dropped her head. Kahlan would send her away. Like she had done before. She would be denied to be near her, to protect her. Again...

Cara bit her cheek and shut her eyes for a heartbeat, steeling herself for what she knew was about to come; and waited.

Time passed by, minutes stretched agonizingly, but nothing happened. Finally the blonde huffed and turned her head. Her gaze travelled slowly from the ground to her feet to the figure that stood there, leaning, no, pressing close against a tree as if her slender form tried to conflate with the dark, rough bark. Her face looked paler then the moon itself, framed by a halo of gloriously tousled hair, marked by traces of tears which had left her eyes shadowed with faint scarlet.

Cara clenched her jaw and put all her anger and defiance into her glare as their eyes locked. Still the brunette did not move nor say anything; just stared at her like a hurt deer, beforehand blaming the predator for its near death.

Her lips almost not stirred, her voice coming in a husky whisper when she finally spoke, but it reached the blonde´s ear like if she had yelled at her. "Why, Cara?"

She watched how Cara tilted her head, frowning deeply. Her irate, sea green gaze telling that the blonde did not understand her question. Kahlan bit her lip and swallowed, then tried again.

"Why? Why did you abandon me? Why had you to hurt me the way you did, Cara? …What happened?

If getting Richard was all you wanted, you should have found other ways. It was not necessary to break my heart to gain his.

I trusted you, Cara! Despite everything I was taught in my life. Despite everything I believed in. I was ready to give it all up... for you. Can you imagine what that meant for me?" Her voice cracked. The Confessor huffed desperately.

"But you decided to use me for your own goals. I think I at least deserve an answer, Cara. Tell me. Why?..." Kahlan´s cheeks were glistening; her eyes nothing but a dark blue plea.

Cara´s entire posture mirrored her lack of understanding. She shook her head, stunned by the words and already furious for the reproaches swaying with them. Her words came as a suspicious snarl over her lips.

"What are you speaking about, Confessor? I have never used you. No," she growled, "I was foolish enough to think of you as a...friend." She almost spit the word.

"So did I. And so much more, Cara!" Kahlan´s words dripped with bitterness. Her eyes never left the confused features of the Mord Sith. She stared at her a few heartbeats long, trying to restrain her voice before she blurted "But it was you who left me. Who broke my heart when you rode out of Aydindril without so much as a last glance…"

The blonde eyed her intensely, forehead still wrinkled distrustfully, her lips pressed into a thin line; fighting for words that didn´t come to her. Finally she dropped her gaze, blonde strands covering her face as her crumbly voice stumbled over her lips.

"I... couldn´t. If I would have looked back... I would have lost the strength to obey you."

"To obey me?" Kahlan almost screamed, staring at her in disbelieve.

"You had sent me away, Confessor. You had ordered me to leave; You had made your decision, and I was in your way. Your way to be with Richard. Like you had always desired.

You were just a spoiled brat, tossing its toy away…"

Her voice went lost as she turned and looked at the Confessor with narrowed eyes, hurt and bitterness shimmering faintly in her gaze.

"Spirits, what...? I don´t understand." Kahlan had puffed off the tree and looked down on her, searching in her eyes for the meaning of her words, frowning deeply; the blonde stood and straightened to meet her gaze at eyelevel, lifting a defiant brow.

"You accuse me that I have simply abandoned you, Confessor? You should know it better! I never would! At last it was you who banished me from your life!"

The Confessor knew she was unable to read a Mord Sith against her will. But this one time she would have given half the world to see through the Mord Sith´s walls, to tell if she was playing a cruel game again…

They stood for what felt like an eternity, both their bodies tensed, assessing each other warily; like fighters, waiting for an opening to attack.

Each of them thinking of scars that had been left; of bleeding wounds;

Touches, used to burn with passion.

Whispered confessions in dark blue nights... Long proved to be lies.

At last Kahlan shook her head and huffed to break the silence that had quickly built up into a tremendous wall. She turned away and stared into the night's darkness, folding her arms, trying to hide her pain behind her Confessor mask. Her voice had taken a controlled, chilled tone.

"Stop playing games, Cara. I remember too well our arrival to Aydindril. I was going to speak with Richard. To tell him, that I could not take him as my mate. That my heart - and my life - was yours. I was prepared for his anger and his fury, the thought of it had caused nightmares, you knew that; it had pressed me more and more during our journey to Aydindril... I only felt strong enough because I knew you by my side. And then, before I could do so, he told me that you were going to leave...

I was stunned, Cara. I did not want to believe it. But when I came down to the courtyard, you already mounted your horse and galloped away. You did not even say good bye!...

I was not even worth to get a last glance back…"

Her voice sounded as hollow as the inanition in her chest felt.

While following her words with a dark frown on her face, ever so slowly the blonde´s expression changed from defiance to anger and finally into confusion; her eyes became glowing with upwelling heat; a spark of comprehension tiptoed into her mind. She focused on the near shadow of a black tree when she asked hoarsely.

"What did he tell you?"

Kahlan shot her a side-glance, quickly turning away again when she felt Cara going to turn towards her, trying to meet her gaze.

"The whole and nasty truth. Which you obviously, had not the guts to tell me yourself. He told me that you always wanted him. He told me of the times you had tried to seduce him during our journey ever since you were gone with him to the future. And failed. That you had already told him about us. And that you had only been playing games." The words dropped from her lips as a spat. "To show him that I was easily willing to betray him, that I was not good for him." She gave a short, bitter laugh. "You were right there at least. I was not good for him..." She dropped her eyes to the ground. "And when you had to realize that he would not follow you, that you had lost your own game, you´ve run away... Probably without wasting a single thought to what you had done to me." She gritted her teeth, fighting back a sob that threatened to break the silence that followed her words. A lonely tear marked her pale skin but Kahlan did not move to wipe it away, did not want to show how much it hurt. She heard the blonde inhaling deeply a few times and finally turned to face her.

Cara stood with closed eyes, her entire body tight; the familiar small muscles in her cheeks tensing in a frenzy rhythm. When she opened her eyes, her gaze was hard, as were her words when she lowly stated: "And you believed him."

Kahlan stared at her, frowning, "What else could have made you leave without a word, if not such a madness..." she snapped.

Cara turned to look at her. Her eyes softened a little, something approaching to regret swept along with her gaze, travelling slowly, almost tenderly, over her face, following the small trail the tear had drawn, focusing finally on her eyes and sinking deep into the clouded blue she found there. For a moment she chewed on her words. Finally whispering, almost reluctantly:

"He lied."

Kahlan froze. Her eyes pierced the blonde with icy brilliance. She felt her thoughts slowing down to an almost immeasurable viscous flow. It took an eternity for the meaning of the words to settle in her mind. And all she could offer was a whispered "you are insane!"

Cara only eyed her. A gaze of grudging certitude that scratched at her long kempt bitterness, trying to tear the bricks out of her walls, slowly causing first small gaps. Kahlan gasped slightly. Denying the port where her thoughts wanted to anchor. She straightened defiantly, growling a disgusting answer.

"I am a Confessor. He could not lie to me..."

Cara´s shoulders had sacked, but her face was a stony mask.

"I don´t know how, but he tricked you." She locked with Kahlan´s eyes as she added "as he tricked me."

The piercing blue of the brunettes gaze pinned her to the spot, the beautiful frame a tight statue, waiting, almost frightened, for her next words. Cara bit her lip, then turned and addressed the nearest tree with her words.

"He came to me shortly after our arrival. He was... compassionate. Regretful. He wanted to talk to me. He said, you had told him about us. He said, you had confessed him that you wanted to know how it feels with a woman. And that you were sorry for that. That it did not mean anything to you. That your heart belonged to him; And that your love for him had never faltered. He said you had asked him to send me away. Because you were ashamed and would not be able to bear it if you had to tell me yourself.

He had a message prepared for the People´s Palace, declaring me to be his deputy and had my horse waiting for me, already packed with supplies for the way. He said if I would feel anything for you, if only the smallest kind of respect, I should go immediately...And that he felt so sorry! But that he had to order me to leave... For you...

He was almost eager to get rid of me..." Her voice was expressionless, her jaw set. It was not up to her to judge her Lord Rahl.

Kahlan had followed her words motionless. She had forgotten how to breathe and only noticed it when her lungs eventually protested burningly. Now she gasped for air, a sudden nausea threatened to smash her down and she backed off to a tree, leaning heavily against it. Memories rotated in opposite directions, her world faded away, and slowly she sank down to the ground, crouching there, staring at the ground while trying to catch her thoughts. Her brain refused the comprehension. She shook her head, whispering "this can´t be true..."

Cara did not stir. She watched how Kahlan swallowed and finally shifted her eyes to meet her gaze, rising to her feet. And she impulsively gave what no one else would ever receive: she opened her mind widely and allowed the Confessor to look inside, to look into her deepest hiding places, let her see behind her walls and find the truth there.

The brunette´s glare went lost in her own eyes for a few, endless heartbeats, a frown build up on her face and deepened, her long hair shimmered as if catching the moon light as it swayed slightly in the nights breeze as she eventually shook her head. Then she suddenly snapped for air and the creepy sound of an endless stretched painful moan filled the air. Her wide eyes stared in a dark midnight blue at Cara for one more heartbeat and then suddenly she turned around, storming back to the fireside, dropping beside a blissfully snoring Zedd to galvanize him fiercely.

"Zedd! ... Wake up! ... Zedd!" The wizard snorted disturbed, slowly coming around. Opening his eyes he found himself grabbed by two strong hands and faced by burning blue diamonds, piercing his own eyes furiously. He needed a moment to realize it was Kahlan who shook him mightily.

"Did you know it, Wizard?" She almost yelled at him, agitating him again violently. "Did you know it?" When the answer was nothing but a confused frown, he heard her screaming as her hand shot from his clothes straight to his throat.

"Answer me!" She shouted enraged, her eyes growing dark, her hand wrapping firmly around his puckered neck.

For a moment he was stunned at her aggression, could not find the strength to move. A flash of trepidation claimed his mind.

"Kahlan!" Cara´s voice cut the air, her fist wiped the threat off Zedd´s throat, catching the Confessor´s hand in a firm grip. She held her tight against her fierce resistance, did not let her go, forced her to stand and tugged her away from the wizard. Her strong gaze stood Kahlan´s wrath until she sensed her calming down. Only then she loosened her grip, let the Confessor rip her hand free with an angry rough yank, huffing loudly, while the blonde turned and eyed Zedd briefly. He sat upright, agape, his eyes wide in shock.

"You okay, wizard?"

He nodded slowly, croaking: "Thank you, Cara! That was a close thing..."

His gaze searched for Kahlan, who had sacked at the still slightly smoldering fire, her eyes shut, a mixture of fury and despair painting her features. He saw how she clenched her hands into fists, saw her knuckles shining white, and he looked bemused up to Cara.

"Spirits, what have you done to her? And what did she mean, did I know it? Did I know what?"

Cara never took her eyes off Kahlan, watching her warily. Her hands were wrapped firmly around her agiels.

"Get up, wizard. Night is over. I bet she has a lot of questions..."


Silence covered the small clearance like a heavy, raspy blank; even the first shy songs of early birds seemed reduced to shriek little protests against the cruelty of life…

Zedd sat at the fire, a long forgotten piece of bread in his lap, his fingers crumbling it absently into tiny nuggets. His features were those of an old, weak man. His shoulders were sacked, his wrinkled face as pale as ashes; aged by years. His eyes were boring senseless holes into the air. He did not move; heavy thoughts an almost palpable cloud around him.

He had listened, but for long he had not understood the meaning of what he heard.

Kahlan had been on the edge of leaving Richard?

For... CARA?

Richard ... a selfish bastard, a dastard traitor?

The happy-smiling son of his daughter... a reckless louse?

These had been the words that an exasperated Kahlan had yelled. Her franticness had seared him. She had spat the words as if she accused himself of manipulation, of treachery. And he still was not sure she did not. A storm of hurt and fury had raged on her features, had contorted her face into a foreign mask as he had never seen one before.

Cara had leaned quietly and tensely against a tree nearby ever since they had settled around the fire, her narrowed gaze never leaving Kahlan. Nothing on her features betrayed her thoughts; but the Mord Sith noticed every blink, every breath Kahlan took, knowing that just a thin cover of a fragile control held the Confessor´s wrath at bay. She had a feeling as though it could break down in an instant and let her fury sweep along everything in her wake...

The Mord Sith and the wrath were old friends. It felt familiar; but she had long taught it submission. And now she didn´t allow it to prey on her mind. The shock that had lain in the truth, that Richard had tricked them, that he had ruthlessly sacrificed both their hearts and their lives for his selfish visions of his own happiness; it had briefly cut her to the quick, before she had buried it under her walls.

Sure, if it had been anyone else, she would go and make him suffer, would tantalize him with all her might for the rest of his miserable life. But then...

It was Richard.

Lord Rahl.

And it was an undeniable fact that she had betrayed him, that she had allowed her foolish heart basking in feelings for his bride. She knew she deserved all the hurt and the pain that came from deceiving the Lord Rahl. Endless years of repeated training had anchored this knowledge in her mind. It held her upright now, despite her burning insides and despite the knot in her stomach, which grew constantly while watching Kahlan going through the tremendous muddle of hurt and fury, hearing her yelling and her being on the edge to lose control eventually.

It felt surprisingly right and comfortable to fall back into her natural role of a silent watcher and protector, standing beside, almost pretending to be uninvolved.

- At last Kahlan had broken down, grief turning her features into pale stone. She had asked him with a broken voice, tears swaying in her words, how it had been possible; how Richard had been able to lie deliberately to her face. Zedd had closed his eyes sadly; he did not need his wizard's power to see the truth.

"Wizard´s first rule…" he now whispered. Both women looked at him, frowning. Waiting for an explanation.

"Wizard's First Rule: people are stupid." He briefly startled from Cara, who almost jumped on him in an irate rush before he even had the time to inhale deeply, her eyes flashing with anger; but Kahlan furrowed her brows at her and shook her head once, stalling her steps with just this small gesture.

"People are stupid; given proper motivation, almost anyone will believe almost anything. Because people are stupid, they will believe a lie because they want to believe it is true, or because they are afraid it might be true. " (Wizard´s first rule by Terry Goodkind)

Cara´s dangerous growl was coming from deep inside her throat.

"You are speaking to the Mother Confessor, Wizard! You will not dare to call her an imbecile!" The blonde heard a snort beside her, puffed out from Kahlan, who burrowed her face into her palms, exhausted, giving a short, mirthless laugh. "But he is right, Cara!" slowly her figure slacked, every last hint of strength eventually blown away.

The Mord Sith watched her cautiously with narrowed eyes, her hands clinging to her agiels, firm enough to make her knuckles go bloodless. For a second she wished fiercely, Richard would appear from under the trees. She would eagerly throw the bond overboard and bash him. Badly...

It was not right!

Even after these years had passed, the truth about Richard was hurting Kahlan too much. It seemed to burn a hole into her walls, searing deeper with every moment that passed, stirring through vicious emotions it found buried inside, boiling them up and letting them spill like a flow of lava, welling slowly over its barriers, covering the surface around the eruption with glowing crusts. Like lava leaving a path of destruction in its wake. Cara felt bitter helplessness sharply nagging at her guts. A feeling that was weird and threatening. That she did not like. Her jaw clenched as a low angry growl welled up in her chest and she bit her lower lip to suppress it.

It did not come to her mind that Kahlan might not feel all this hurt for Richard...

After a long silent moment Kahlan sighed deeply and shifted her eyes to Cara. She looked bleary-eyed, her cheeks glowed a pale shimmer, a few freckles beamed reproachfully in the early beams of an obtrusive morning light. She straightened her back, ready to face the truth. Resignation and shame were flowing slightly with the fresh morning breeze.

"He is saying, Cara, that it was my fault. I never questioned his words. I never looked into his eyes and searched the truth.

I trusted him more than I trusted you. Because... it seemed so clear, so true … so self-evident..." her voice rasped through the air, spreading flying slivers of shame and guilt. "I... I am sorry, Cara!" she whispered desperately without looking at her. Slowly she stood with her jaw set and approached Zedd, reluctantly laying a hand on his shoulder. Her pale face looked tired, but in the depths of her eyes a few hints of the flames of fury were still glowing. Yet her voice was honest, her self-reproaches swaying along with every word. "I am sorry, Zedd. I was mad to be angry at you. I had no right to yell at you..." she briefly closed her eyes and sighed a short breath of despair. "...or lay my hand on you. Zedd! I... would have harmed you by a hairbreadth...Please believe me, I am so sorry! Never in my life had I intended to harm you. I am terribly ashamed of what I´ve done! I do not expect your forgiveness. But..., I hope... " her voice brimmed with deep bashfulness. He patted her hand soothingly and then pulled her into a firm hug. "Never mind, dear one. It is me who has to apologize. I have been an old fool, all the time..." His eyes searched hers. "If only I had had a clue of... you and Cara. I was blind! I just thought you had gotten friends...I would have never imagined..." His face crunched apologetically as he shifted his eyes sheepishly to Cara.

"I assume I owe you an apology too, Cara." The blonde tilted her head towards him and frowned. Wondering why Zedd would feel any sorrow for her. And on the spur of the moment she was not sure whether she liked the idea. Her dark stare was rather daring than appreciating his compassionate tone.

"I hope you understand that I am really ashamed of what Richard has done to you. He had no right..."

Cara kept a straight face as she merely shrugged. "He has every right, Wizard. He is the Lord Rahl." The words were spoken keen and clear, but they were not offering any emotions.

The blonde did not miss the brief glare, filled with hurt, that went sailing along from the Mother Confessor, before her blue eyes dropped first to the ground and then closed while she inhaled deeply. Cara could literally see how she gathered control and then straightened; when she looked up again, her face was wearing her Confessor´s mask in its perfection.

"It is time to leave. We have still a good way ahead." With a swift glance to the morning sky she proved the time they had lost already. Her eyes found Zedd´s, calmly nodding.

"I think we may reach the frontier right after midday, Zedd. If you speed up from there on you will arrive at Woodside in early sunset light. There should be that quad waiting for you..."

Zedd had informed her about Richard´s note, pronouncing an escort awaiting him at Woodside. "Would you want us to accompany you by there?"

The wizard stared at her, his eyes still filled with sorrow, not responding to her question.

"Kahlan, I am so sorry..." she cut him short, raising her palms in defense and turned around, starting to kick dust into the lasting glow. Zedd breathed a deep sigh, his eyes searching Cara, but the Mord Sith only shrugged and started packing her stuff. Kahlan obviously did not want to talk any more. And Kahlan´s wish was law to her.

Zedd inhaled one more deep breath and climbed clumsily to his feet. He would try again when they reached the frontier, before he would take leave of them. His heart ached with trepidation; he could not break away as long as he was not sure that she would not retrieve again in that damned cell of pain, she had been trapped in far too long already...


Kahlan had extinct the small fire and now crouched to gather her pack. A small noise briefly caught her attention, but before she was able to give it a name, suddenly the storm broke out.

All at once the air was filled with the murderous howling of a pack of bandits, breaking through the bushes, the furious screaming of Cara´s agiels, unsheathed in a blink, the blonde´s warning hiss and Zedd´s surprised scream


Her mind registered it all the same, but her body needed too long to go round. Just a split second too long; time enough for an arrow to reach her, sharply scratching through the leather that covered her upper thigh, angrily gashing into her flesh.

It was just a scratch, her shout of pain barely more than an irate hiss, but it was sufficient to stir up all recently felt wrath and frustration and let it boil up into tremendous rage. Kahlan´s world exploded into a heated wave of fury. Her eyes were flashing sparks of destruction as she grabbed her daggers. She whirled around and flew against their attackers.

A horde of brute looking outlaws was running to them; bruisers, armed to the teeth with axes and swords and coarse looking bludgeons, swinging their weapons in a skilled way, their faces exuding determination and sheer blood thirst.

Cara was already a few steps ahead, fiercely striking her weapons against barely protected flesh. Howls turning into screams and whines as agiels made their way. She came upon them like a hurricane, whirling forcefully, instinctively reaching for the right spots to fell them in a blink, emerald green fire burning in her eyes.

Kahlan met the first in her way with a furious blade, sliding easily through his throat, blood spreading in a short spring. She did not wait to see him fall; her right boot came up in a swift whirl to kick one into his chest and sent him backwards, right into the move of the one behind him. The Mother Confessor caught a swift motion from behind the blonde and hurried to back Cara as another one dared to strike at her sneakily. His last view was a silver blade, sticking in a bloody hole in his chest before his eyes welcomed eternity´s darkness.

Cara turned briefly, her lips almost pulled into a smirk. She shot her a burning glare that Kahlan recognized immediately. She had seen it many times, fighting side by side with the blonde, feeling the rush of adrenaline sending hot sparks through her veins. Feeling save and sure in the eye of the storm, knowing that Cara would rather die before allowing anyone to harm her and being resolved to do the same for the blonde.

It was the glare that promised "My life before yours!"

Kahlan returned her glare for the length of a heartbeat with matching fire, before she turned towards the toe again.

The two women were now encircled by a few more than ten men. Without words spoken the Confessor and the Mord Sith rearranged their positions in pliant moves, each back protected by the others force. Cara could sense the murderous fury radiating from Kahlan´s moves like a comforting hand stroking over her back, the familiar comfort she had always felt when fighting at the Confessor´s side. Their different fortitudes were melting into one combined harmony, leaving their attackers powerless against the deathly elegance of their strikes.

Kahlan saw wizard´s fire emerging to her right, saw three men going aflame, their dying bodies flying through the air. She swiftly turned to get a peek on Zedd´s situation, right in time to see four red leathered figures approaching him straightly. Her heart skipped a beat.

"Zedd! There are Mord Sith! You must move! NOW" she cried out, meeting his glance for an instant, seeing him nodding and then he was gone.

The Mord Sith stalled their steps immediately, changing silent glares, then turning to rush back into the forest, one of them sending a regretful glance to the small battle field before they vanished.

Kahlan hadn´t even the time to frown. One of the remaining bastards just jumped on her with an absurd scream. She killed her last attacker with a vicious stab of her dagger, her narrowed eyes following his slow fall into a silent death. Ripping her dagger out of him she looked around to see Cara finishing another one, elegantly going down on a knee before him and stabbing his now unprotected chest unerringly. A satisfied smirk graced her lips, while a last one was lunging at her from behind. The blonde ducked away in a swift motion; and found him falling lifeless to the ground at her side, a dagger protruding from his back. Looking up, her eyes caught the brilliant coruscation in Kahlan´s glare.

For a second, the Mord Sith strangely felt like coming home.

Panting heavily the two women stood and checked swiftly their surroundings. None of their attackers were seen upright. Lifeless bodies were spread on the ground, a single one squirming painfully in a small distance, a stream of blood welling from his belly, soaking the earth around him.

Cara was on him in a flash, grabbing his shoulders and pulling him roughly into an upright position.


The Confessor was at her side, a surreal familiarity with the situation sneaking through her mind, as she reached out and grabbed the man´s throat. Her stare briefly reminded Cara to stay away. In this moment she was strongly aware of Cara´s closeness, felt the heat of the battle still emanating through her leathers, tasted the ghost scent of her sweat on her tongue and felt the touch of her beaming eyes in a wave of dark satisfaction. She knew her own eyes held the same heat and her heart wanted to jump at the simple clarity of her feelings...

But then she focused on her task; the man stared at her in increasing panic, he coughed blood with every breath he took. Kahlan caught him with her gaze, an almost gentle smile settled faintly on her lips.

Time slowed down to zero.

The world as it existed around them ceased. Nothing rested. She held his eyes trapped in her own and slowly lowered the barriers of her power, setting it free. A thunder with no sound, rippling the surface around them. In a tremendous but almost tender wave it washed through him, cut his soul lose and swept it away on its rolling wings until no trace of it was left inside him. Filling the now empty space with all consuming love and devotion. His eyes went black, for an instant mirroring the emptiness of his mind before he went limb, shuddering with the sheer need to please his new mistress.

The first thing Kahlan recognized when she recovered into reality was the supporting hand on her back and she briefly closed her eyes for a thankful heartbeat. Opening them again, she stared with a fierce glare at the confessed man.

"Command me, Confessor..." he coughed in a rush of blood.

"Who sent you?" Her cold voice cut through the air like keen steel.

The sudden singing sound of an arrow interrupted her question. His body shuddered and his eyes broke, staring lifeless into nothing. Cara was on her feet before the dead man hit the ground. Her eyes searched the tree line, but their foes were gone. Huffing annoyed she reached her hand out to help Kahlan up. A dark growl came from her lips. Kahlan lifted her eyes.

Cara´s gaze was clued to her leg, mesmerized by the small streak of fresh blood. Without thinking her fingers stroke softly over her thigh, following the red trail until they found the gash. She pressed her palm on it, frowning.

"... You are hurt!"

Kahlan followed her eyes and smiled, the warmth of her touch melting with the light pain of the small wound. She laid her own hand on Cara´s, but the blonde instantly tugged hers away.

"It´s a scratch. I am fine..." She looked around, searching for a sign of the wizard.

"Zedd? ... Zedd!" It took a few anxious moments but she finally sighed relieved when she heard his hoarse voice answer.

"I´m here!" His bony figure appeared beneath the trees. He looked tousled, his thin white hair stretched into every possible direction, but he approached quickly, seemingly unharmed.

"Oh, thanks the Spirits. You are okay?"

Zedd grinned halfheartedly. "It takes more than a few bandits to bring me down, dear one!"

Kahlan offered a smile, but her eyes narrowed in concern.

"They were not some common bandits, Zedd. It was no coincidence that the Mord Sith were with them. The attack of these bastards was a distraction. I could swear they came for only one purpose – they were behind you, Zedd!" Deep concern lay in her glare as she faced him.

Cara approached them after inspecting the corpses. Her features were downright self-pleased, a smug grin curling her lips, a brow cocked mischievously. Her entire expression a picture of complete satisfaction. Obviously at least the Mord Sith had totally enjoyed the skirmish.

"These were no simple bandits!" she called out. "I found a few of D´Haran uniforms beneath their rags. Former soldiers, I guess. Look at this one here" she pulled up a dead arm from a body she was just going to step around, "he wears even the mark of the elite troop of Darken Rahl."
Kahlan saw a blurred black scar on the dirty skin.

"This was a horde of renegades, and whoever has ordered them, they were eager to give their lives..."

Cara smirked, as if she had made the joke of the week. She finally joined them and now stood beside Kahlan.

"This was not a simple raid. It was a red herring." Pursing her lips, her gaze slowly slid from Kahlan to Zedd, arching an eyebrow at him, drawling lowly: "And you, Wizard, were the aim!"

The two women stood in silent harmony, both eying his lanky figure with questioning stares, but Zedd had no answers. His hands went into the air; helplessly shrugging he shook his head.

"Don´t look so reproachful ladies! I have no clue what this is about!"

"Do you think this might have been part of the reason why Richard sent for you?" As usual, Kahlan used her head for thinking further ahead. "We can´t leave you at the frontier, Zedd. We will bring you to Woodside..." her voice was filled with concern. She didn´t expect any arguing and turned to gather her things. Cara followed her wordlessly and the wizard did not really intend to object. His forehead was crinkled when he slowly mounted his steed...


"Darken Rahl!"

Cara´s portentous voice echoed into the pondering silence they had kept while riding.

Kahlan frowned. "You mean...?"

"He is the one who may order a Mord Sith. He is the former master of these soldiers. He is back!"

The Mother Confessor sighed. The thought had already come to her mind, fleetingly, but she had not announced it out loud. It was not very likely for him to crawl out of whatever a hole he had kept hidden in during the last years. He had no more powers; so any risk he would take by showing up would bring him closer to the Keeper´s revenge. And he was not the man who eagerly embraced this possibility.

Zedd seemed to share her opinion. His white hair flew from one side to the other when he shook his head thoughtfully.

"I don´t think so, Cara. To come back he would need his powers back, at least a good portion of it."

"It is his hand we´ve seen here! He may be a coward, but he is a master of ploys. I did not know the Mord Sith from my time at the Peoples Palace. And they were not pleased to leave the battle without fighting us. It needs a strong personality to prevent them from something against their will. They will do only for their Lord Rahl. And who else would these Mord Sith follow."

She eyed the wizard with her eyes thoughtfully narrowed.

"But as much as I think about it, I get no idea how they knew you were there. They certainly did not follow us, I would have noticed. They must have known we were going to come along this way; so they awaited us."

Zedd stared at her. His eyes narrowed in disbelieve. He felt as though his head wanted to explode in a split second, when he realized... Kahlan watched him as his features suddenly froze. Her brows furrowed deeply, her eyes sending a questioning glance.


When his eyes shifted towards her, they were filled with painful doubt, as if he feared his own husky words.

"The only one who knows that our plans had changed and that I was going to Woodside... who was informed that you both are coming with me... who knows which route we are taking..." he paused and shook his head...

"Zedd?" Kahlan´s voice held strong concern.

"...is Richard!"

For a moment they all seemed to hold their breaths, the sudden silence weighing heavily on their shoulders.

Cara was the first to speak.

"That is ridiculous, wizard." She shook her head decidedly. "Richard would never bring any harm to Kahlan."

Zedd let an indignant bushy brow climb up his forehead.

"Oh, forgive me if I was pretentious enough to be shocked by the thought he would bring any harm to his grandfather" Zedd´s sarcasm was wasted at the Mord Sith. She only shot him a puzzled look.

Sudden assistance approached unexpectedly northbound. Cara saw them first, had noticed the move in the shadows of the tree line before the others had gotten a hint of them. She jumped from the back of her horse. Her agiels were in her hands in a blink, starting their ominous singing whine and Kahlan reacted out of instinct, grabbing her daggers and then turning swiftly in her saddle to see what the threat was.

Two Mord Sith stepped into their way. All the three of them stiffened, the Mother Confessor jumped from her horse to stay at Cara´s side, while Zedd stayed on his gelding´s back. He silently cursed the antique that was his body, which had lost a lot of his former litheness during the last thirty years. He intended to interfere from the saddle if needed. Just hoping his horse would play along...

But then Cara lowered her agiels. Her shoulders relaxed as her brows rose and her head was lightly tilted, waiting for the two approaching Mord Sith with pursed lips.

"Cara, you have slowed down! A few months ago, we would have needed much more effort to get so near before detected..."

A smug grin lay on Berdine´s face as she stepped closer.

"You would be dead right now if you were not long acknowledged, stomping through the woods like a drunken shadrin."

Cara´s smirk was even deeper than Berdine´s as she snarled. Her eyes seemed to beam with something that Kahlan would have named...pleasure? Though, a rough and savage pleasure it was. Kahlan watched as Cara´s face seemed to brighten a little and found that she liked it.

Raina closed the gap on them and smirked as well.

"Mistress Cara! Always a pleasure to meet you! And in such a good mood..."

Cara shot them both a keen, expecting glare and Berdine huffed lightly, but turned to Kahlan.

"Mother Confessor!" they bowed slightly and nodded briefly to the wizard.

Kahlan tilted her head in grace; her eyes washed over the women. They wore their red leather uniforms and their agiels. No more.

"Why have you left your horses behind to sneak on us?" she asked, frowning suspiciously.

Berdine grinned, glaring at Cara with clear amusement.

"We apologize, Mother Confessor! Last time we met Mistress Cara, she was in the mood to first mow us down and then ask later. We did not want to risk being at the pointy end of an arrow if we approached openly."She looked at Kahlan with an open grin. Kahlan lifted a brow and gave Cara a brief, questioning glance, but the blonde slightly shrugged at her sister, still smirking.

"You deserved it then."

Kahlan hid her disport, dropping her eyes to the ground and shifting them towards Zedd, who had dismounted his horse and stood now at her side.

"So, why is it that you were ambuscading us here, Mord Sith?" His voice was not remotely amused. His pale blue stare seemed almost hostile as it pierced the Mord Sith.

"Hoh, keep your hair on, wizard! We are coming in peace!" Berdine raised her hands quizzically. Though she had furrowed her brows and her eyes narrowed slightly.

"Your grandson, Lord Rahl, sent us to guide you to him. He told us we should wait here for you, just in case..."

"Richard is in Woodside?" Kahlan´s shoulders stiffened, her voice was cold. Her face darkened as her brows furrowed.

"You will forgive our distrust, Mistress Berdine, but we had a not so pleasant encounter this morning. And haphazardly there were some Mord Sith involved..." Zedd explained shortly.

Berdine frowned deeply and changed a look with Raina, who nodded thoughtfully, her face darkened as well, as though a foreboding shadow was washing over them.

"This near already..."

"What are you speaking about?" Kahlan did not like the way the both of them seemed to communicate silently. "I would be very thankful if you would let us in..." Her eyes had narrowed impatiently, shooting ice blue sparks at the Mord Sith.

"I´m sorry, Mother Confessor. But we did not expect him approaching that fast."

"Whom?" her voice trembled.

"Darken Rahl!" Kahlan sensed Cara straightening and knew she wore that look that said "I´ve told you..."

"He is on his way through the Midlands. We do not know what he is planning, but he is gathering his allegiances, which includes all the Mord Sith who were not willing to follow Richard. And again a good amount of bastards who deserted the troops after Richard took them over. Not to speak of those who are paid to follow him.

As far as we know, he again lusts after D´Hara."

"How do you know?"

"Sister Verna has arrived from the South. She has brought a lot of news, particularly about some apprentices who are learning in the Wizard´s Keep. At least one of them seems to betray you, a spy of the mighty wizard who apparently is at Rahl´s side...and there are rumors about vanishing girls, probably recruited for Mord Sith trainings...

But we should hurry. Lord Rahl awaits you in Woodside. He will tell you all the details there. "

The Mord Sith turned around, heading to the place where they had left their horses.

"No!" the word, calmly spoken by Kahlan, hovered over them like rolling thunder from afar.

Three pairs of astonished eyes settled on Kahlan. Only Cara seemed untouched by her veto.

Kahlan stood straight and decisively, her hands entangled. It was the Mother Confessor, the Midlands Majesty who spoke.

"I will not go to Woodside. I have no intention to meet with Richard.

Zedd, you´ll be in good hands with Mistress Raina and her sister. See that you learn everything Richard and Verna know. And then hurry back to Aydindril. You must warn Dennee and take care of this apprentice. Support my sister in every way needed. She should call the council to inform all lands of the Midlands.

Cara and I will go to Comorra. There is still a civil war to avoid. We have our troop waiting there for us. We will be back to Aydindril as soon as possible. Then we will take care of this problem."

Berdine and Raina changed one more meaningful glare.

"I beg to differ, Mother Confessor." Berdine almost squirmed. "Lord Rahl awaits all of you in Woodside. You have to come with us.."

The Mother Confessor shot her an icy glance.

"Or what?" Kahlan´s brow lifted arrogantly; her eyes had the warning shimmer of dark steel, her voice was a dangerous growl. She leaned forward, pinning Berdine to the spot with her burning stare.

"You may tell your Lord Rahl, that I do not care any longer what he awaits from me! And that he may thank his stars that I am not going to meet him."

The Mord Sith stood a little dumbfounded. Berdine frowned at Cara, who smirked again. Berdine tilted her head as though asking wordlessly what the blonde had done...

Cara shrugged and stepped a little closer, eying her sisters intensely.

"You´re staying with your life for his wellbeing! Is that understood?"

Raina smirked. "So much concern for an old wizard, Mistress?"

The blonde eyed her coldly.

"The Mother Confessor would never forgive you... And you do not want to learn what that means..."Before she turned to mount her horse she had a look of smug satisfaction on her face as she nodded at the Confessor. If anyone was trustable, these two were.

Kahlan turned towards Zedd.

"I am convinced we can trust them. Do you agree? If not..."

"No, dear one. Cara knows them. She would not allow me to go with them alone if we had the slightest reason to mistrust them. And they are the personal guards of Richard...

I will hurry to be back in Aydindril. I promise. But you too should be careful, Kahlan!"

She smiled and patted his arm. "You´ve seen this morning: they are behind you, Zedd! Rahl seems to plan something against Richard, and you are a rock in his way. He is not interested in us. Comorra is far from being an aim if you are heading for D´Hara. I do not think we have an acute problem."

Zedd sighed, reluctantly chewing on his next words, his pale eyes pleading intensely.

"Kahlan, before you leave; ... please, promise me you will not retreat into your shell again!" The Confessor frowned. He shortly hesitated, his gaze swept over Cara, who had already mounted her steed, and then added lowly:

"She is worth the fight, Kahlan! Do not give up on her now..." He searched in her eyes for an answer, seeing them clouding faintly as her cheeks blushed.

"I know, Zedd." She whispered, then pulled him into a brief hug before she hasted away.


The two horses had fallen into a slow, steady trot. The sound of their hooves on the stony road was an almost synchronic rattle. During the last hours the scenery had changed into a wide, slightly wavy plain; here and there spotted by a gathering of weathered rocks, which were building up into little hills; some of them as huge as the Confessor´s Palace, craggy and angled; others hardly more than a huddle of stones. The bigger ones were home to small copes and scrubland. The spots between sprawled with lush young grass. Little animals like hares and pheasants startled and rushed away every now and then while the horses trotted along.

The women on their backs had been taciturn ever since they had left the wizard and the two Mord Sith at the frontier.

Cara kept herself busy; her eyes were vigilantly travelling nonstop along the road ahead and sideward; wary as always. She focused on her task, blocked her mind to what had happened recently; concentrating on the one thing that remained: guarding the Mother Confessor. Keeping her safe and unharmed. That was all that mattered.

She did not allow herself to think about the woman at her side. Much less about the both of them. Did not want to think about how these last years would have looked like, if fate had led them on another path; what her life would have been if Richard would not have betrayed them.

Such thoughts were not real. Thoughts like that would not change anything. Passed by. Had not meant to be. They had been fools. It had been a dead end from the very beginning.

Things had changed. Kahlan was no longer her companion, no longer the woman whose presence felt so naturally at her side in battles. She was the Mother Confessor. The Midland´s highest authority. A queen above queens. And she, Cara, was still just aMord Sith.

There was nothing left to say about it.

And while there was a part of her, the silly, childish Cara-Mason-Part, that wanted to scream against that fact, wanted to be something she could never be; wanted to reach out for the Confessor and touch her; eagerly desired to be touched; touched by the one who was meant to kill the likes of her with her touch only; wished to go back to that stolen happiness she had felt in her arms once...

There was the other, stronger part of her, the one that ruled her, that was Mistress Cara, that willingly embraced the pain that was the fact, that she did not deserve such happiness. That it all had been a mistake. That she had betrayed her Lord Rahl long before he had betrayed the both of them.

So, whenever the silent scream of her Inner-Cara-Mason tried to echo through her mind, her Inner Mistress stabbed an agiel into her chest, viciously repeating Kahlan´s words again and again...

.Touch Me. Again! ...You have no right!

The words kept ringing in her ears. And Mistress Cara knew the Confessor was right. She had no such rights. She was Mord Sith. Mord Sith were not made for such rights.

So she rode in stoic silence, eyes narrowed; her jaw clenched and her back stiffened; never bothering to even peek at the woman to her left. Despite all these little sparks of aching longing that shot briefly through her veins; occasionally; when she felt her blue eyes resting on her hesitatingly. Despite her need to answer her stares;

And she was thankful for her strength that kept her distant.

Kahlan, at her side, was more fidgety. The first leagues of riding alone with the Mord Sith had been filled with pondering silence. The brunette had thought all the happenings of the night and their consequences over and over. There was so much to think about. And the new appearance of Rahl was the smallest of her concerns. She could not comprehend how Richard had been ruthless enough to disdain her heart and her soul; to disdain the right that he had always been fighting for: the right of self-determination... What had he thought who he was?

But the longer time stretched, the more her thoughts tended to put her wrath behind her; her disappointment; yes, even her hurt; the more her mind focused on the woman at her side. Her eyes settled on the blonde again and again.

The one who was her fate.

Had ever been.

- Would always be!

She thought about last night; about the months before; the years...

All that had happened; all that had already been lost.

Until Cara had kissed her.

- And I have rebuffed her.

Kahlan almost whined; knowing that she had expelled herself from Cara´s feelings the moment she had rejected her. She had sensed how the blonde had retreated, how she had went hiding behind her Mord Sith walls. And now she seemed inapproachable and offish. The icyness of her walls reflecting her glares as if jealously defending the blonde against them.

Kahlan could only imagine the ways the blonde had tried to get over her feelings before; she guessed that Cara had been in the dungeons, that she had forced a sister to train her, to beat the memories out of her mind. And she felt guilty. But that did not compare to the guilt she felt for having hurt her again.

The Confessor fought against welling tears, realizing that she had probably missed the one chance to revive their love.

Though she had seen it in her eyes; the instant before the blonde had attacked her with the kiss. There had been something shining in them. Kahlan was sure of that. Cara had not forgotten.

And neither had she.

Kahlan had tried, had desperately blocked it from her mind; until at last she had lost herself in fighting it.

Zedd had been right; she had lived in a cell. Had been a prisoner in her own mind. She had not been complete; these years without Cara had ripped her apart...

And she desperately wished being whole again. Being with Cara! She wanted her love. Needed her love.

She would not survive losing her again.

Kahlan closed her eyes, sighing a silent pray to the Spirits. To give her the strength to break through these walls, to tear them down. That she would be granted another chance...

It was towards evening when from west clouds loomed to concoct, quickly mounting up into threatening thundery clouds. Within short time towers of dark shadows gathered to create a wall of blackness, golden evening sunbeams struggling in a futile battle against their moves, quickly fading under their overwhelming superiority. Soon the already ruddily sun ducked shyly behind the first messengers of rain, as if hiding from menacing flashing lightning at the horizon.

Kahlan searched the sky, concern in her eyes. Vapors of grey veils came hastily rushing along. She turned towards Cara and called her.

"We will need shelter, Cara. Have you seen something?"

Cara´s eyes swept over the karst territory. A hill to their left offered a small conglomeration of trees among huge rocks, possibly hiding a shelter for them. She pointed into the direction.

"We should try it over there. Perhaps there are enough rocks to shield us against the worst."

The two women pushed their horses, which eagerly speeded up their pace, already nervous at the change in the weather pattern.

It took them a good while to find a path between the rocks. Angry breezes turned into raging winds. Yanking at them, hunting them as if they were prey for them. Clouds greedily ate the light away while first heavy drops smacked against their skin. Doggedly they stemmed against the winds. A rolling thunder growled afield. And then the floodgates of heaven opened in a sudden. Rain darted down on them in a thick veil, almost blocking their sight. Shadow whinnied nervously when a lightening startled him. Kahlan jumped from his back to lead him carefully on the slippery path to a black hole in the rocks that lay ahead. She had barely heard the blonde shouting, but seen her arm pointing in its direction.

When she finally reached the entrance of the cave, she was soaked to the skin. She tugged Shadow inside and immediately pulled the blankets from his back, wrapping one around her wet, shivering figure. Then turned to explore the cave.

Outside Cara had reached the entrance as well. Before following Kahlan she made a few steps to each side of the cave to make sure that there was no surprise awaiting them, neither an animalistic nor a human one. She did not find anything suspicious, which was not astonishing, given to the fact that only fools would be out in such weather.

"Fools like us..." she muttered through the cascading water while she turned to finally get into the cave, hoping it would offer enough space for all of them. Her black steed did not wait for her invitation but jostled past her.

Inside there was black darkness surrounding her, except for a faint shimmer of grey light, reaching just as far as the horses stood. Shadow was easily seen, though his wet fur had darkened, but Cara´s own horse seemed to be swallowed by the darkness immediately.

The Mord Sith turned to look around. A huff escaped her lips when absolutely nothing was to be seen, as if a blindfold had been put over her eyes. She made a few unsure steps, then stopped and listened. Nothing! Frowning she strained her ears a little more.

That tiny spark of panic that wanted to rise in her chest as she realized that Kahlan was not near made her growl in anger against the blackness.

"Kahlan?... Kahlan?" She thought she heard a rustling somewhere and stepped carefully forward.

"Kahlan?" her voice a hoarse, muffled call.

"I´m here, Cara! I´m right here!" Her soft dark voice sounded surprisingly near and Cara took a few more steps, until she almost barged against an invisible soft form. There was a brief low chuckle and a hand fumbling for her arm, gripping tightly and tugging her further, until she felt the warmth of a gentle breath touching her skin.

"I´m right here..." The whispered words flew spherically. Another warm wave of air was carrying them towards her ear. The grip on her arm softened, the hand stroking gently up and down.

Cara stiffened. A creepy, sudden wobbliness stirred her insides, adding to the odd feeling of being blinded that frayed her nerves, making things difficult. She could not see Kahlan, could not rate her mood. Her eyes struggled against the darkness to gain at least a hint of sight.

"We... need to make a fire." She muttered, her voice far from her intended snippiness.

Another low chuckle.

"Hmm... do we?"

Cara felt a second hand brushing against her stomach as if haphazardly, before gliding easily over her drenched leather, sneaking along her waist to her side and trailing slowly a path upwards. Her body went tense. Her left hand wrapped around an agiel, her right clenched into a fist. She tried hard to stay focused.

"Kahlan, we should..."

"Shh..." a solitaire finger swept over her face and found her mouth to seal it firmly, jailing her words behind her lips. It lingered there for a few heartbeats, as if hesitating to leave their softness, while a smooth body closed the distance between them, slowly leaning in until Cara could feel the mounds of her breasts heaving slightly against her own chest with every breath she inhaled. She tried to flinch, a perturbing feeling of some nervous uncertainty building up in her stomach, but the hand on her arm swiftly slid to her back to hold her in place with soft but determined pressure. The finger on her mouth was joined by another soft pad, stroking tenderly along the welling curves of her lips, drawing their lines back and forth. All along the way soft, warm breathing stroke her cheeks.

Cara closed her eyes and swallowed against the small lump in her throat. There was an increasing pressure of firm breasts against her chest. And a confident hand on her back, that started traveling upwards. Slowly. Caressing its way to her shoulder, to her neck. A shiver ran down her spine and for a moment Cara wanted so badly to believe it was because of the chilling wetness of her leather. But when the hand crawled through the rain-soaked strands of her hair to massage her scalp; as it glided slowly further, fleetingly stroking her earlobe and finally settled on her cheek; as a thumb stroke over her closed lips, she couldn´t hold back any longer the tiny noise that welled up, answered immediately by a small puff of warm air that swept along her skin, just as though a breath was released in relief.

And then she felt her mouth, feather-lightly sweeping over her skin; finally searching for her lips, meeting them with a tender brush.

"I missed you."

Nothing more than a whisper. She couldn´t help but imagine the look on Kahlan´s face, imagined how her eyes slipped close as her soft lips brushed against hers, pressing shyly, then parting, allowing the tip of her tongue a brief lick; a timid request for entrance.

Cara nearly forgot how to breathe. Sudden warmth twirled in her belly.

This couldn´t be real. Just a surreal dream like all the dreams she had dreamed before. She remembered every single one of them. When she had clung desperately to the memories of these finger´s touch, sweeping over her skin; when she had tasted the ghost of her soft lips on her own;

When Berdine had trained her... Until dead faint had graced her a pause.

She had fought these dreams! And she had failed.

This couldn´t be real.

What if she would wake up again into that painful empty reality, like so many times before...

She stifled a moan.


This had to be real.

She wanted it to be real.

She was here, touching her, leaning into her. It was her voice that whispered into her ear. It was her body that tried to melt into her own... She could feel her. Smell the precious scent of her skin...

Cara felt her walls dangle, and clenched her jaw while waiting for the fear to rise up.

"I missed you... so much. To feel you." The blonde barely suppressed another moan. Her heart fluttered.

If Kahlan said it again, she would break. She knew it.

And Kahlan did.

While a hand stroke ever so slightly her side up and down, sweeping softly over the swelling of her breast, sensible fingers knowing the exact pressure to make her nipples hard without been touched.

"... I missed you Cara..." a broken whisper, rolling through the air, echoing in her mind...the muffled sound of a tiny sigh...and Cara was no longer able to defend her walls.

In the next moment, when soft lips brushed against hers, Cara let go of her agiel and gripped her upper arms, groaning; pulling her roughly closer while shoving her back all the same, until the cave´s wall intercepted their move. Kahlan felt sudden need and desire dance again her heating skin and let her take over willingly. She groaned when hard stone, thickly covered with soft moss, hit her back. But she eagerly delivered herself to the greedy lips that pressed on her own as if only her breath would grant living, that feverish tongue that begged for entrance, which was instantly granted. Both of them were entrained by the wave of need, of desire, of hunger that consumed them, their hands fumbling through the blackness, desperately searching for contact. Cara buried her fingers in the wetness of Kahlan´s hair, pulling her closer. Her lips pressed hard on Kahlan´s, ravishing her mouth. She moaned as her tongue slipped in to meet its counterpart, touching and stroking fiercely, falling into a possessive dance. Pushing forth and pulling back in a frenzy rhythm as if fighting for dominion.

Though, dominion was no matter.

Hunger and passion were. Longing and starving for years were.

Kahlan felt strong hands cupping her cheeks and almost whined. Her leather gloves were cold and wet and slippery and sent shivers down her spine. The contrast between the chill of her grip and the feverish heat of her lips and her tongue couldn´t feel more delicious. Her strong grip fanned her flames, made her blood race. She heard her own growl when Cara drew back, just a little, gasping for air, barely able to mutter her name...


before the Confessor´s lips crushed back on the blonde´s. Cara made a husky noise as she dragged her teeth along her lower lip, slightly biting down, then pulling it into her mouth and sucking. And she moaned dedicatively as the taste of Kahlan´s lips exploded on her tongue; instantly rewarded by a groan from Kahlan. The Confessor´s palms fell off Cara´s cheeks, gliding over her shoulders. Her nails scratched greedily along the line where bare flesh, cooled by still lasting raindrops on smooth skin, heated under her touch, and thick, heavy, lubricious leather made her want to rip it apart. They parted again, panting heavily.

"Kahlan...I..." Cara tried to fight against the darkness. She brought her hand to her mouth and roughly pulled her gloves from her hands, desperate to feel what she could not see. Her eyes stared through the blackness and imagined Kahlan´s face; heated; how her cheeks probably blushed; the way her eyes would change from brilliant blue shine into the depth of velvety midnight; the way she would bite her lower lip as she waited for Cara´s hand´s to return to her skin... Cara almost whined as she briefly hesitated, as her insides surged against her already damaged walls with a wave of doubt. Kahlan sensed the moment without touching her. Felt the slight change in her breath as she was close to retreat. Sudden fear welled up in her chest. If she would lose her now...

All she could do was wrapping her arms around her, holding her tight, whispering her name.

"Cara..." She fought back tears. "Cara. Please. It is alright. I am right here." She kissed her fiercely.

"I will not let you go again."

Her head fell against Cara´s shoulder, burying in the curve of her neck. Her lips left a soft trail on the wet skin there.

"I love you Cara."

Her hand stroke the damp leather that denied her the sensation of her skin. She lowered her head; let her tongue wipe away the chill on her collarbone. She wanted to taste so much more of Cara. Wanted to lick the rain off from her skin. Wanted to bask in her scents. And wanted to feel her bare flesh. Wanted to know how it felt to fill her. To be filled by her.

"I belong to you. Please, let me love you." Her desperate whispers singing with deep emotion.

Her teeth pressed down on the soft welling where leather ended. She felt Cara slightly pushing her breasts against her mouth. A hopeful smile faintly curled her lips on Cara´s skin.

"I know you still love me, Cara! I felt it during the last days. I have tasted it on your lips last night. I´ve seen it in your eyes this morning... You want me Cara!"

Her hands travelled along her leather; caressing the texture of it's moistly smoothness.

"As I want you... I love you!"

She could feel how Cara´s body trembled slightly; how she went fluid; how her muscles lost a part of their tension.

And finally every fiber of Kahlan´s body cheered when she heard Cara groan as she gave in, as her hands cupped her cheeks to pull her close, to kiss her with desperate determination. Her mouth telling her what words never could. She did not restrain any longer, her tongue claimed Kahlan´s mouth possessively, exploring the delicate depths in strong moves. Groaning again.

Kahlan was real. She wanted her.

She loved her...

And Cara broke. A hundred times.

As she surrendered to Kahlan.

As her tongue explored the heat in Kahlan´s mouth; as she tasted her scent.

As she heard her moan and as she felt her trembling.

Her hand fumbled through the blackness and found the mounds of her breasts. Closing her eyes she forced her fingers slowly into the small slit between leather and flesh, feeling her bare skin, smooth and fresh, the delicate peak eagerly hardening as demanding fingers tweaked.

Kahlan yelped and arched against her hand as she touched her nipple. A stretched moan filled the cave as Cara lifted her breast half the way out of its leather nest; just enough to reach for the hard knob with her mouth. Kahlan felt her knees buckle slightly, a hot wave heading for her center as the blonde licked and nipped and sucked it deep into her mouth and started a feverish game of sucking and biting and licking until Kahlan felt as though her entire body stood in flames. The sensation of Cara´s wet attention on her nipple almost made her collapse against her. She felt wetness pouring between her legs, heard her own passionate groan.

The Mord Sith pressed her hard against the wall, her thigh searching contact between hers. She cursed lowly as the fresh chill of wet leather greeted her.

"We should get out of the leather." She panted breathless between two nips.

"Hmm..." Kahlan hummed lowly. Cara lifted her head and huffed as she could not see her expressions.

"No... Kahlan! I mean... you are wet!"

One more chuckle and the tip of her tongue against her lips.

"Mmm... yes... I am..." dragging her lip into her mouth and sucking firmly, then released it. Her hips rolled heavily against Cara, grinding longingly.

"For you..."

Grunting in frustration Cara pulled roughly back. Kahlan almost wailed at losing her lucious lips before she managed an anxious huff.

"Cara?" Slight despair lay in her whisper, sudden fear that Cara would turn away.

"Kahlan... I can´t... I just... I can´t do that without seeing you, Kahlan. I... need to look at you! Do not move Kahlan. Promise." Her voice kissed her ears in a heavy breath. Then she heard her move, heard a suppressed curse when a stone was kicked out of the way and could see her shadow appear beside the horses. The sight stirred her desire; consuming her every senses. She took a step closer but then stopped. Her wide eyes never leaving the slender form of Cara, she moved with clumsy fingers to tug at the straps of her leather. An angry groan left her lips when the clammy leather did not obey her impatient orders at once, but eventually she succeeded in losing them.

In the faint light from outside Cara rummaged hastily through her backpack. Stuff was jerked out and flew aside disregarded. Until she found the small wooden stick Zedd had given her years ago. She took it together with the few firewood they had gathered before and turned to go back. A few steps, before she sat down and proved the ground with her hands. It was rocky and even. The wood was quickly set into a small heap and then she put the stick on it and murmured the words Zedd had taught her. A faint glow appeared, and then a small flash of lightning - and the wood was aflame.

She smirked contently, biting her lip; her gaze lingered for a moment on the warm flickering light, listening to the pounding of her heart. She briefly closed her eyes and inhaled a deep breath as she heard her approaching, feeling the heat of appreciation welling up in her nether regions. Her back tingled as she felt Kahlan stepping closer, a shiver running down her spine. She slowly stood. Her voice was husky.

"I... hope you..."

Her breath stopped as she turned around. Kahlan was just an arm´s length away. Her skin shimmered like fluid silver in the flickering light.

All over her body.

She stood naked, in all her beauty. Her long dark hair cascaded over her back in thick wet strands. Framing the majestic line of her neck. A few strands falling on her chest, leading to her full, firm breasts where half- hardened dark rosy nipples begged for attention.

Cara moaned slightly as she fought against the instant need to cup these wonderful breasts, to test their weight, to close her mouth around these proud peaks. She swallowed hard. Her eyes were barely able to leave that beautiful spot and travel further down, caressing the firm line of hips, the seductive little cave of her belly button and were finally caught by the small triangle of dark curls, vanishing between strong and slender thighs.

This time the low sound of Cara´s moan was close to a whimper. Never before had she felt such an excitement. Such a wave of all consuming emotions. She lifted her gaze to look in Kahlan´s eyes. Saw the nervous expectance there, the veil of questioning doubt covering her dark blue stare.

The blonde moved slowly, her tongue darted out to wet her lips, her dark green gaze sparkling with not only admiration but something more, something so much deeper; something that hit Kahlan with delicious impact. Her hands reached out to cup her breasts, lifting them slightly and then circling these precious nipples with her thumbs. Hot sparks raced through her veins at the sensation of this first free touch, reaching straightly for her core, successfully setting it on a wet fire. She briefly closed her eyes, let her body be flooded with this sensation until her skin prickled. When her eyes slid open again, she found Kahlan´s gaze lingering on her with such longing, that it felt as if she was stroking her face with silky fabric made of passion and desire.

"Like them?" she asked almost shyly, covering her hands with her own.

"I do." The blonde whispered back. "Everything." She looked into her eyes, as her hands massaged her breasts, pressing firmly and squeezing. Kahlan gasped for air, but her gaze held hers as she moved her hands and fumbled at her laces.

"Get out of it" her eyes wrapping her into dark velvet, half demanding, half begging. Cara did not need a second request. She stripped, seductively revealing her secrets in pliant motions, her gaze never leaving Kahlan´s eyes, watching as they changed from their velvet softness into dark sparkling stars in midnight sky. Kahlan stood motionless, her chest heaving, her breasts moving up and down in soft waves. Her eyes were glued to Cara´s motions. Admiring every inch of skin that was freshly exposed; the generous mounds of her breasts, the tight line of her stomach, the amazing curves of her hips; her entire body as perfect as if hand carved by the Spirit´s own artists.

A deep sigh was heard when Cara stepped out of her leather, when Kahlan had at last free sight on her beauty.

They looked at each other for a few heartbeats that seemed to stretch into a lifetime, feeling the exciting and unique sensation of being nude. For probably the first time in both their lives completely freed not only from clothes, but from all their veils, their chains. For the first time freely appreciating the others grace. Her beauty.

Her everything.

It was Cara who finally reached out and pulled her close, moaning into her mouth as their lips found each other, as their breasts moved together, pressing and rubbing skin to skin, nipples hard, while their exploring hands traveled over valleys and mounds that fitted so perfectly into their palms. The blonde guided her roughly to Kahlan´s blanket that lay spread on the ground. She forced her on her back, quickly covering her body with her own, straddling her hips and leaning heavily against her.

Their kiss was fierce. An unmistakable seal to their emotions. Kahlan closed her eyes and moaned as Cara´s lips traveled along her jaw, down her neck. As she felt her hot tongue marking a trail between her breasts.

"Oh, Cara..." her hips rolled against the blonde and her eyes snapped open, watching in awe as the blonde licked at her nipple.

"Mmm... that´s good..." Cara lifted her eyes and looked at her, smiled against her flesh and the teasing pain of a bite, followed by a smoothing lick and tender sucking made her arch against the blonde with a throaty noise, followed by another moan as she felt her lapping around her nipple.

"You´re tasting... like spring... and... mmh ..." Cara bit teasingly on the underline of her right breast, sucking and lapping copiously, while a knowing hand slid over her stomach and down to short curls, ghosting over their surface.

Kahlan almost purred, her chest pressing against Cara´s fervent tongue. Her thighs parted willingly to allow her hand more space for further explorations. She felt her center clenching and her juices gushing. Everything inside her seemed to move towards the blonde. She could barely restrain from begging for her fingers.

Cara looked at her, intensely watching as she squirmed under her touches. Her gaze dark and deep and tempting. Apparently she was enjoying the sight of her face, where passion and longing and need were clearly written. Kahlan looked at her with rounded eyes, feeling her entire body ignited with desire, with need for more. For all... Lips parted, her teeth pressed into her lower lip, as her hips bucked.

"Cara. Please..."

Her eyes still lingered on her face, as she slid two fingers inside, thrusting lightly, tasting carefully the feeling of her insides which welcomed her with clenching muscles and heated wetness, silky moisture soaking her fingers and spreading over thighs and against her own core as she rolled her hip; as Kahlan´s moan filled the cave in a stretched sound. Until she closed her own eyes, relishing these delicious sensations. Feeling Kahlan moving under her skin, around her fingers.

"Cara!" Kahlan trembled, her muscles clenched and relaxed against Cara´s as she felt her wet tongue trailing down, as her fingers were pulled out of her dripping center to stroke firmly along her folds, coating every spot with her own sweet arousal. This was so much more then she had ever expected. More than she had ever dreamed of. So much more than their former touches and kisses could have promised. She had not known such feelings were possible; feelings of ceasing to exist as a single woman, of been overtaken with love, of melting into another person. Of touching flesh as if touching soul. She wanted to scream her love out loud, wanted to become one with this woman, who held her body, her heart, her soul.

Her everything.

"Oh... Cara!" she gasped a longing demand.

Cara felt her shiver as she lowered her body; kissed her locks; her eyes lifted once to drink in the love in Kahlan´s clouded blue gaze before she dropped her face and buried it into the soft and curly hairs that covered her slick folds; where thighs spread wide to welcome her lips, her tongue. Where the exciting flavor of Kahlan´s arousal exploded on her tongue as it stroke firmly along her entire length.

Cara moaned into her wetness. She wanted to savor the taste of her mate like she had never wanted to savor anything. Because that she was.

Her mate.

As clear as she had ever recognized any truth, she knew this woman was the one. To love her.

To possess her.

Her tongue stroke and pressed, then pushed into Kahlan, reaching far inside, while the tense body beneath her trembled all over; she pulled slowly almost the whole way out, then pushed even harder and deeper; feeling her insides tight and coating her tongue with the most precious taste she had ever experienced. Little noises came from Kahlan, a moan, a whimper, a hissed breath...

"Oh Spirits... Ahh... Cara!" The brunette´s rapid panting spoke of the near edge.

Cara even increased her ministrations. She was not able to hold back; she was filled with the urge to serve her, the need to bring her that bliss of release. Her mouth was covering Kahlan´s clit and sucking fiercely as she again pushed two fingers deep home. Kahlan whimpered, her hands clutched the back of Cara´s head, pulling her impossibly closer as her hips bucked and rotated against her mouth; she felt the walls around her powers shutter, felt her body teetering to the edge.

"Cara... we... careful" she panted between her rapid breathes.

A gaze of moss-green passion met her clouded midnight blue. Questioning.

"You will ...trust me Kahlan?" she whispered in a breathless plea. "I´m yours,..." In this moment Kahlan knew she could not dismiss her. She would trust her. She needed to trust her! "Yes!"

Cara looked at her in awe, pushing a third finger inside, thrusting fiercely, inexorably; reaching deeper and deeper with every thrust. Then she moved to set her mouth back on her folds, let her tongue feast there greedily; she curled her fingers and twisted, guided her along the edge, gently and fiercely, and finally Kahlan arched savagely while her name dropped in a long stretched loud moan from her lips. And then she screamed it out loud. As she let go, the shuddering waves of her climax reached for Cara. As her center clenched fiercely; as a new fount of moisture welled up and dripped along her hand;

And when Kahlan´s eyes went black, a thunder with no sound rolled into Cara, rattling through her mind; it caught her breath as she felt it reaching for her soul, touching it tenderly before contently rolling away. Leaving the both of them shivering against each other, overwhelmed and worn out, panting heavily; unharmed and with a never before known blissful lightness;

Wrapped into sweat and heat and the others arms.

And into the miracle that was their love.

The early morning light that broke through the opening of the cave found them still lying tightly embraced at their small fire. Cara had found the second blanket sometime in the night, when exhaustion and satisfaction had made them languid, no longer able to bear another wave of passion. She had wrapped it around Kahlan, who was cuddling closer than possible, half covering the blonde´s body with her own. Her head resting on her chest, close to her heart beat, her breath stroking in soft, warm waves over her breasts.

Kahlan had reluctantly given in when sleep had finally demanded its right; Cara had watched her with shimmering eyes and tenderly stroking hands. Her eyes had spent the time admiring the precious wonder that lay nestled nakedly to her skin. Trustingly...

Her Confessor...

Kahlan awoke with a purr, sprawling lazily into the touch of Cara´s hand, which nuzzled softly through her hair, stroking, massaging. Kahlan´s hair had always been one of her secret weaknesses. One of the many weaknesses that Kahlan had brought. She still loved the sensation of this raven wave of heavy silk gliding through her fingers.

"Mmm,... Cara... this... feels.. mmm... oh how much... I... mmm...You´ve not forgotten...,"

The blonde chuckled lowly.

"...how to turn a Confessor into a babbling toddler? No, I have not forgotten." Kahlan could hear her smile as she breathed a kiss to the top of her head. She allowed her palm to start a tender travel over tanned skin. She would never get tired to feel her, to touch her. She knew it.

They lay in silence, enjoying the other´s touch.

Until Cara sensed Kahlan going tense, holding her breath for a few heartbeats. Tickling wetness rolled from her face onto the blonde´s skin. She frowned.

"... what is it, Kahlan?"

"Nothing. I... just... thought about what we missed these years... - I have hurt you, Cara! I´m so sorry..."

"No, Kahlan... be not." her answer was only a breath.

Silence. And then...



Kahlan swallowed; hesitation taking her breath; Cara´s hand did not stop nuzzling her hair. The Confessor´s voice was close to breaking.

"Perhaps... I know I do not deserve you after all... But..." she bit her lip, gathering all her courage before she whispered:

"Cara, can you imagine your life with me?"

She held her breath, sending a desperate pray to the Spirits that this had not been a mistake...

The hand in her hair paused, a moment stretched in agonizing silence. Then Cara cupped her chin and forced her to lift her head and look at her. Her wide dark green eyes wore the sternest look Kahlan had ever seen in her face. Much less she had ever seen such a shimmer in her eyes. Cara shook her head ever so slightly.

"Kahlan... I cannot imagine my life without you!"

The Confessor broke into the brightest, most beautiful smile and then leaned in and kissed her tenderly with glowing eyes, before she dropped her head back to where it belonged and sighed relieved.

"That´s good..."


It was late morning when Kahlan woke up; alone; it wasn´t her mind that recognized that fact first, but her body already yearned for the missing warmth at her side. Still a little dizzy with sleep her thoughts sauntered to the Mord Sith who should be near her...When she finally opened her eyes a small frown lay on her face.

She found herself firmly wrapped into the blanket; the low sizzling fire gave content cracking noises, like whispers and low chuckles of people from afar. Beside her waited a warm cup of tea.

Kahlan looked at it with a little awe. A smile settled on her face, admiring the cup with dreamy eyes.

Her Mord Sith was caring...

Closing her eyes she sipped a few mouthfuls and let the liquid warm her guts. Finally she lolled and turned, her eyes searching for the blonde.

As if on demand, the Mord Sith entered the cave in this exact moment. Holding a cup of tea of her own she stepped in just far enough to find a soft spot along the moss covered walls, then turned and leaned there motionless. Her green gaze starting small travels along the landscape outside; gliding over the horses that were grazing there, the clouds which were now sluggishly sweeping in exhausted bunches after the stormy rabblement of the night.

Kahlan watched her and smiled. She doubted that the blonde really saw anything of it as lost to her thoughts as she seemed. Her face held a strange expression of wonder, mixed with something close to easiness. It was a soft and incredibly touching sight; reaching straightly for Kahlan´s heart and filling her chest with warmth. The Confessor felt unable to avert her eyes.

The blonde was stunning.

At last Kahlan stood slowly, as quiet as possible, wrapped her still heated body into the blanket and stepped cautiously behind the Mord Sith.

"Good morning, stranger." Smiling she pressed a tender kiss to her shoulder. Cara let out a small snort and leaned back, rubbing her head softly against her.

"I would think you knew me by now."

Kahlan hummed. "Oh, I do. But there is so much more to learn...Until now I mostly knew the Mord Sith Cara. From the woman Cara I had only gotten a few glimpses before last night..."

"Hmm... And now? Disappointed by her?" the blonde asked playfully, but not without a hint of uncertainness.

Kahlan sighed a smile against her ear. Her voice was a low murmur.

"I already had a very faint idea about her, you know? But I was far from doing justice to her. Now I know she is the most Adorable. Lovable. Worthiest and Strongest woman I´ve ever known. And certainly the both of them, the Mord Sith and the woman that lives inside her make the most perfect creature the Creator ever allowed walking on Her precious earth." She pressed her lips to her shoulder, slightly teasing her skin with teeth and tongue, feeling the shiver she caused running down.

And then she added in a low, solemn voice:

"And I am rootedly grateful, that this woman and her Mord Sith, chose me..."

She breathed another tender kiss to her neck, before she whispered in her most earnest tone. "Thank you, Cara. I mean it!"

Cara slowly moved and looked at her over her shoulder, the wonder in her eyes even deeper than before. Until a teasing slap on her back startled her.

"But now, you should leave the entrance and go inside, Cara."

"And why should I do so?" A smirk curled the blonde´s lips.

"Cara - you´re naked!"

Cara chuckled. "Oh yes, I remember! I always adored your sharp senses, Confessor..."

This time Kahlan slapped her back in mock indignation.

"And what if a hunter comes along? Or if some savage creatures attack us all in a sudden? You have not even your agiels with you."

The Mord Sith growled, her eyes narrowed instantly. "Don´t worry, Kahlan. I would strangle them with my bare hands before they could harm you."

Kahlan chuckled; but when Cara turned and she noticed a slight frown on her face she recognized that it had been a solemn promise. Her eyes beamed as she leaned forward, brushing her lips slightly against Cara´s ears.

"Maybe I just do not want to share this sight with anyone... maybe I am just a jealous lover..."she purred.

The blonde turned around and now stood in front of her, grinning mischievously, her empty cup clanked to the ground. She raised her brow and pursed her lips seductively, knowing exactly the effect it would have on the Confessor. She tugged at her arms until Kahlan opened the blanket and let the blonde slip in. Cara took it as an invitation to press her naked skin, chilled from the fresh air outside, against Kahlan´s warmth, rubbing her breasts against hers; wrapping her arms around her while the brunette closed the blanket behind her back.

"In this case, we should consider sealing the entrance with a giant rock; and never leave this cave again..."

Kahlan groaned when she felt knowing hands searching under the blanket for the right spots.

"Oh... How I wish we could..." She hissed sharply as meddlesome fingers sneaked between her legs, ghosting through her locks. Her forehead settled heavily against Cara´s.

"Mmm, I wish... but you know... Comorra..."

Cara kissed her fiercely, her tongue promising things that made Kahlan blush.

"We have waited two years..."she purred in a dark voice. "I´m sure Comorra can wait a few hours now." She licked her bottom lip and stared into her eyes in a challenge, still grinning, then slowly lowered her head and kissed and licked her way down, vanishing behind the blanket´s cover while a throaty noise welled up from Kahlan´s chest and she pressed against the cave´s wall to steady herself.

Comorra quickly faded from her mind as other things became much more real...


The wizard watched his grandson from his place at the round table in the small snug of the inn. From the tavern behind the walls the noises of other guests welled in muffled waves, a roaring laughter breaking through every now and then. It was filled with frequents and soldiers, the latter keeping suspicious eyes on the villagers while a handful Mord Sith guarded the door to the small adjoining room, where Lord Rahl greeted his grandfather.

Inside Berdine and Raina stood straight and motionless at the door, their eyes following a pacing Richard. His face was hard, his eyes narrowed; Zedd knew he was listening only halfheartedly to the conversation between him and Verna. He guessed a good part of his mind was with the women he had expected to arrive with him, but who weren´t. He hadn´t asked why, but Zedd knew they would need to talk later. The wizard´s brows kept furrowed while he tried to concentrate on Verna´s report.

The Sister of the Light stared at the table. She looked tired and aged, but still emanated that stern kind of beauty that had always been able to cast a spell over him. Only by now it was disturbed by deep lines across her forehead; lines which had been carved by strong concern and foreboding calamity.

"Darken Rahl has been living close to the former barrier for quite a long time. He had claimed an abandoned Mord Sith temple and from there he sent his scouts to D´Hara. Apparently they have been successfully searching for the scattered allies of their Lord. I´ve been told that during the months more and more Mord Sith arrived there, as well as quite a lot of soldiers and other darksome figures. He gathered them all around himself. I guess he has a nearly two hundred men and Mord Sith, not counting the ones who waited for him when he started to march.

It must have been two months ago when he began his journey from the temple to the north. My scouts followed him, so that I was able to track his path. At first he and his allies headed straight to the People´s Palace. And they seemed to march at a good pace. I assume he intended to surprise the Palace while Richard stayed in Aydindril. Certainly he thought it would be easy to have a good part of his army back on his side without the need to fight before Richard would even get aware of him.

But a few weeks ago they suddenly slackened and then changed direction to the east. They entered the southern parts of the Midlands. I assume that was when Rahl got news that Richard had arrived at the People´s Palace and taken his righteous place as Lord Rahl. Apparently he does not intend to go into an open battle and I´m afraid he has developed a plan which includes some mad tricks inside the Midlands. Probably he tries to ploy Richard. And probably that means he is on his way to Aydindril."

She watched Zedd frowning as he considered her words.

"Did he cause any harm on his way yet?"

"A few villages he came across have tasted his anger when they were not instantly convinced to submit to their former tyrant. But you know him..." Her eyes clouded. "He is not one to be patient. After he has made a few examples of his... peremptoriness,news spread quickly. The far south of D´Hara is already crouched in fear again. But since he travels in the Midlands he is far more guarded. He does not want to gain more attraction than strictly necessary. It seems as if he has divorced his little army into many small troops, sneaking on different paths; hiding from curious eyes and connected by runners between them. By now we do not know where exactly he hides himself."

Zedd sighed and shook his head. The crinkles in his cheeks seemed to deepen as he clenched his jaw.

Verna searched his eyes with an angry fire in her brown glare. "We must stop him, whatever he plans. Or he will bring great harm to Aydindril. To all of the Midlands! And to D´Hara." Her stare bored into Zedd. Richard had stopped pacing and now put a hand on his grandfather´s shoulder.

"As far as we know he has already started to sneak his tentacles behind our defenses."

Zedd shot him a questioning glare. Richard´s face was shadowed as he nodded to Verna, asking her to continue. She briefly closed her eyes and inhaled deeply before she spoke again. Her voice had taken a husky tone.

"The two young fellas I have sent to you, Zedd. I have chosen them personally with great care. They were talented and ambitious young wizards. You know, Zedd, how very much I appreciated your offer to teach some of my pupils and guide them on their way to become true and honorable wizards. They were like family to me..."

The old wizard frowned as he saw her trembling and felt his blood rushing through his veins in quickened waves. Her voice had lowly darkened, as if grieve was flowing with her words.

"On my way to Richard, a few leagues before the frontier to the Midlands, my horse balked as a startled pack of wild dogs attacked us from out of the tree lines beside the road. I could chase them away; but... I was curious of what kind of prey they had tried to defend..."

A sob broke her breath; some tears rolled down over her pale cheeks. Zedd leaned forward and patted her arm soothingly. When she looked up, her eyes had veiled with hurt.

"It was Connor´s dead body. He..." she stopped again, trying to swallow against the lump that kept her words caught in her throat.

"What happened to him, Verna?" Zedd asked gently, his eyes resting compassionately on her gaunt face.

"He... Oh Zedd! His body had been skinned; and then thrown into the woods as though he was no more than any dead cattle." Her voice almost broke and she gritted her teeth to not lose her poise. Zedd sighed deeply, pulling her tense body into a gentle hug while his eyes searched Richards. His grandson´s face was contorted with sorrow and heating anger. Barely able to hide his lust for revenge for the murder of the young wizard. After a few moments Verna pulled away and took a deep breath to gain control over her voice.

"It is my fault." She whispered.

"I should have warned them more precisely. I should have prepared them more carefully for the dangers that waited on their way." She looked up at first Zedd, then Richard with her teary eyes, searching for their reproaches, but only found compassion and sorrow in the wizard´s glare and fierce determination in Richard´s.

"Do you know how that could happen?"

"At the time they left I did not know yet that one of the wizards who were sworn to the Sisters of the Dark had recently escaped from his prison and seemingly intended to join Rahl´s army.

I do not know if it was planned, but I assume he followed Connor and Jackson for quite a while. And when he got the chance he must have separated them." She clenched her jaw and straightened a little, shifting her eyes to stare at Zedd intensely.

"I think by skinning him he stripped Connor from his powers and then took his features, so that Jackson did not suspect anything wrong. I am sure he is a helper of Darken Rahl. And he is now in Aydindril. And if I am right, the heart of the Midlands is in great danger! As are Kahlan and her sister!"

While listening, Zedd´s lips had become a thin line and now he stared to the nothing. His elbow rested on the table, his forehead sank slowly into his palm. He breathed heavily, as if feeling the threat already thickening the air. Sheer horror reaching for his heart and gripping it tightly.

A dark wizard in the Keep. Walking openly through the magical halls. Learning details he should never learn. And freely entering the Confessor´s Palace.

This meant much more than just danger... This could easily lead to catastrophes.


"You have sent for me, Confessor?"

He could see her outside, leaning against the frame of the balcony and watching the courtyards, where a newly arrived group just dismounted their horses. He took the chance to feast his eyes on the curves of her slender form, his lips twitched into a sneer. When she turned and entered her working chambers, striding to her desk and seating on her chair before she shifted her eyes to her visitor, his face had long taken an expressionless mask.

The young man in front of her stood straight. He seemed in his early twenties, though Dennee knew his age could be as well a few hundred years. Where he came from, the dimensions of time did not work as they did here. He was a tall, broad-shouldered, handsome guy, dark green eyes glowing self-confident from under his almost black brows. His dark-brown hair fell in loose waves to his shoulders. His chin was outstanding, and his hooked nose gave him the appearance of a hungry hawk. He bowed his head, though she did not acknowledge the slightest devotion in his gesture.

Dennee eyed him briefly with an arrogant expression of disdain. But when he looked up he saw into the calm mask of a Confessor.

"Wizard Connor! I have heard you are a talented and well informed wizard. Well, I guess you have noticed that during the last days an increasing amount of messengers has arrived to Aydindril. They are coming from different kingdoms and shires. But they all have the same news to tell. There is a threat walking through the Midlands. Words flow that Darken Rahl seems to be the cause of the concerns. By now it is not known exactly what is going on. But as Zedd is not here it will be up to you, as the elder Wizard on duty, to make sure that our magical defenses will be prepared when Rahl shows up. Your younger colleague... what was his name? Jackson, right?" The wizard nodded shortly.

"Well, he will assist you. How far has Zedd introduced you to Aydindril´s protection systems before he left?"

"The wizard hasn´t granted us much more than a survey yet. I don´t know if that will be sufficient for what you are asking from me." His green eyes met hers with an expecting glance. "I might need further informations." His eyes took a wily glance. "Or maybe we should wait until Wizard Zorander will be back?"

The Confessor watched him thoughtfully, and then tilted her head. "I do not expect him back to Aydindril so soon... Most of the information lies in the Keep where only the wizards have access. But possibly I will find some papers in my sister´s working chambers. I will see what I can do. I will let you know then."

She waved a hand to dismiss him but he stood still.

"What else do you intend to do, Confessor?"

Dennee raised a brow, surprised by his bold question.

"I don´t know why you ask, but I will meet with the council in a few days. By then I will have heard all the messengers and gathered every detail they know."

"Do you think the council will listen to your advice?"

Dennee frowned angrily and shot him a warning glare. He was here as just an apprentice. How could he dare questioning her?

"Oh, I am sorry, Confessor. I did not intend to offend you! I apologize if I am too prying. I just...heard a few things." he briefly bowed again, then stared at her mischievously while she raised a demanding eyebrow.

"The Mother Confessor is not here to take care of the problem. Instead she prefers to travel with a Mord Sith in a disputable mission while little girls vanish wherever they have been seen and rumors spread, that this Mord Sith might be the head of a troop close to Rahl, kidnapping the girls on his biddings."

Dennee had straightened and watched him suspiciously. "What else have you heard?"

He dropped his head, hiding the smirk on his face. "I have heard that a part of the council does not trust the Mother Confessor anymore. That they say, she has weakened during the years. And that she is under the influence of this Mord Sith."

His eyes watched her from under his brows as he drawled pointedly.

"It is said, that the leadership of the Midlands should be considered anew..."

He did not miss the brief flutter of her eyes. But she quickly hid behind her confessor mask again. Her voice was cold when she answered after a while, nodding slowly.

"I thank you for the information. I would very appreciate you to stay vigilant further on."

The Confessor rose from her chair. The meeting was over.

Connor bowed one more time; not waiting for her order to leave he turned and strode out.

Dennee´s eyes followed him with burning disdain.

She did not like him.

But she needed him.


Cara rolled her eyes when Kahlan´s knee brushed against her own again. She looked at her in mock annoyance. "You disturb my horse!"

The brunette grinned and pretended to stare ahead.

They were close to a village, intending to stay there for the night before reaching Comorra probably around tomorrow early afternoon.

It had been an easy ride up to here. The storm of the night had cleared the air, a cheerful sun had watched over them as they had settled for a rest at the river side. Appreciating the opportunity of bath after lunch. Cara had been taken by surprise, but clearly enjoyed how unashamed Kahlan felt in her presence, playfully teasing her, thankfully taking every opportunity to touch her, stroking her skin; soon they had found themselves in the other´s arms again. Passion had washed them away in heated waves.

It had cost them quite an effort to finally continue their way...

Now Kahlan patted Shadows neck, still wearing a smile. Her eyes swept over the black ears of Cara´s horse and she pointed at him amused.

"Does he have a name at least?"

"Black" Cara shot instantly. "And before you ask: no, he is not my friend. He is just my horse!"

Kahlan laughed, shaking her head, thinking of the day Cara had followed her to her clearing. So much had happened since then. She still smiled when she turned and eyed Cara. The blonde was staring pensively at the grey horse Kahlan rode, a slight frown on her face.

The Confessor waited a moment, tilting her head as the blonde´s frown deepened.


The Mord Sith shifted her eyes, her sea green gaze met hers almost reluctantly. Kahlan saw how she chewed her lip and knew something burned on her tongue. She cocked her brows questioningly. The blonde dropped her eyes back to Shadow´s neck and another moment passed by before she asked in a husky voice:

"What happened the day when..." The Mord Sith bit her tongue. She suddenly assumed that "when you lost your child" would not go well for Kahlan. So she continued: "...when Shadow became your friend?"

The sudden silence that followed her question made her regret her boldness immediately. She barely dared a sidelong glance to the Confessor. In an icy wave she felt the tiny hairs on her arm raise as she saw her face.

Kahlan had frozen. Her face had lost its color, she stared to the nothing; the sparkling blue of her eyes seemed substituted by a dark grey, as if heavy rain was suddenly veiling her mind. She obviously swallowed against tears.

Cara shifted uncomfortably in her saddle, aghast of Kahlan´s reaction. Not knowing how to recall her silly question, she cleared her throat twice, and then reined her horse, gripping Shadows lines as well and bringing them to a halt.

"Kahlan?" she leaned forward, grabbing her arm and forcing her to turn and look at her.

"It´s okay, Kahlan. You do not need to talk about it. I´m sorry... it was a silly question; forget it, okay?"

Kahlan dropped her eyes absently; a single tear had made its way over her lashes and rolled down her cheek. Cara scowled and squirmed slightly, cursed herself for being so boneheaded. Her hand reached out and wiped the drop from her cheek.

"I am sorry Kahlan, okay? I´m sorry..." Her voice was a helpless whisper; but it reached the Confessor and she looked at the blonde, forcing an ever so faint smile, and nodded. With a sigh she gripped the reins and pushed Shadow into a trot, pulling her hood up, as though she tried to shield herself against the world. The Mord Sith huffed lowly, biting her lip, gripping an agiel in an unconscious motion and followed.

The Mother Confessor seemed to regain control over her emotions within some long moments. When the edge of the village appeared on the road ahead, Cara was still a horse length behind her. Finally Kahlan turned. Her face was earnest, but the color had returned to her cheeks and when she smiled at her, it reached her eyes as she waited for her Mord Sith. Then she saw that Cara´s hand had tightened around her agiel, and she frowned. The blonde´s shoulder´s were hunched, her eyes were hard. She dropped them to the ground before Kahlan could lock their gaze.

The Mother Confessor sighed.

"No, Cara! Don´t be angry with you! It´s okay, really, it is." She reached out to lay her hand on the blonde´s arm. "You have every right to ask. It´s just... I was not prepared." She searched for her eyes... and for the words to explain that the memories were painful. That she wanted to tell her, but not right now. That she might need time...

"Mord Sith!"

They both startled with the shrill.

"Mord Sith! They are Mord Sith!" Sheer horror lay in the screaming voice.

Kahlan turned to see a few people run from the fields ahead and racing towards the puny fences that surrounded the village. A boy still screamed out loud.

"Father! Mord Sith are coming!"

two dozen men appeared from nowhere, most of them peasants, holding any kind of weapons they had been able to grab in their haste: forks and ax's, even a scythe; a few guards with swords in their hands rushed to their lead.

Cara had straightened. A deep scowl crossed her face as she pushed her horse to pass Kahlan and settle in front of her. Unconsciously Kahlan proved her daggers and followed the Mord Sith on the fly.

They stopped close to the crowd. Cara jumped out of her saddle and built up in front of the men, her menacing agiels pointed to their line. Her face emanated fury, her eyes had narrowed, her jaw was set tightly. Kahlan saw her pose and knew she would not hesitate to kill all of them if she only got a reason. She dismounted and stood straight just a step behind her Mord Sith. Waiting.

A tall and coarse man with a rusty sword that he held as though it was a hammer stepped in front of the men. He had only eyes for Cara. His aggressive voice seemed to be meant as a weapon as well.

"Get along with you, bitches! Here is no space for you and your kind!"

Kahlan saw women behind the men; their faces were frightened, but they held a strong grip to more forks and a few bludgeons. The men had half circled the two women and raised their weapons towards them.

A few shouts were heard:

"Send them to the Keeper!"...

"Let´s show them how we treat monsters!"...

"You won´t get our girls!"...

Cara straightened even more as she snarled dangerously.

"We have no intentions to hurt you. But I will not ask for your reasons before I kill you. You do not know whom you are impending!" She stepped closer, her agiels singing in anticipation; she would strike at the slightest move of him.

That was the moment when Kahlan strode past her, her hand swiftly brushing her arm in a soothing gesture.

"Kahlan! What do you think you are doing?" Cara hissed. But Kahlan stepped in front of the man who seemed to be the leader. As her hand moved to pull her hood down he raised his sword and put its tip to her chest. Cara jerked briefly, but held her position as Kahlan only frowned and raised her chin. When her hood fell to her shoulders a breeze made the dark flood of her hair flutter around her. A startled murmur rushed through the little crowd in front of them. Whispers and gasps.

"Drop Your Weapons!"

The Mother Confessor´s voice echoed clearly and with the force of majesty that didn´t allow any disagree. Cara shifted her eyes briefly, surprised by a tone as she had never heard before from Kahlan. The woman in front of her had lost the slightest sign of Kahlan´s softness; it was the Midlands sovereign that raised her voice. Unmistakable. Unquestionable. And angry.

The man in front of her winced unsurely, but his sword kept its position on Kahlan´s chest. His companions flinched as well, their faces contorted between defiance and fright.

The brunette stared at him coldly, her eyes shimmering with searing blue ice.

"Who speaks for you?" The Mother Confessor finally demanded, ignoring the swords tip that almost touched her skin. Her gaze swept along the line of men to make sure they all felt addressed.

The man before her scowled with narrowed eyes.

"I am."

Her eyes met his again, staring him down with her iron glare;

"So you are the one who leads his men to greet the Mother Confessor with weapons? Who is responsible for daring to threaten me?"

She stepped closer, her entire posture emanating an ice-cold power as she shoved his sword aside unyieldingly, slowly reaching with her hand for his throat, catching his eyes with hers. Gasps were heard from his people. Again her voice echoed loudly.

"Put your weapons down! Or you will suffer by the hand of the Mother Confessor for your disrespect! Each of you!"

The first men lowered their weapons reluctantly, shifting their eyes anxiously to see how their companions reacted. From behind a woman hasted through their lines.


The mountain of a man under her hand squirmed to shout out.

"Stay behind, woman! This is not your business!"

The woman, a chunky brown-haired in her late thirties, came not even to a halt beside him before she slapped his neck fiercely.

"You stupid ox of a husband! Can´t you see whom you threaten? Put your silly sword down and bow before the Mother Confessor like it behooves you!"

And as if she just realized she herself stood in front of her Majesty, she blushed deeply and sank to her knees.

"Mother Confessor, please forgive us!"

Kahlan´s steely stare softened immediately, calm warmth radiating from her eyes as she looked at the woman kneeling in front of her. The rest of the crowd hesitated shortly, but then more and more of them went down, until only Jacob, still with her hand wrapped around his throat, was standing.

Kahlan pulled her hand away and stared into his eyes with a blue burning fire, forcing him to his knees with her glare only. Then she turned and addressed the woman, who still held her head close to the earth in humbleness. Her voice was stern, but had lost the warning.

"Rise, child. And tell me why you people presume to greet the Mother Confessor with swords and forks."

The woman stood slowly, not daring to raise her head; deeply embarrassed and furiously blushing.

"Please forgive us, Mother Confessor. We did not recognize you. We only saw the red leather of..." words failed her and she only nodded slightly into Cara´s direction.

Kahlan´s eyes narrowed into a deep frown, raising her voice for everyone to hear her words. She pointed with her hand towards the Mord Sith by her side.

"This woman is my personal guard. She is friend and confidant to the Mother Confessor. She stays with her life for not only my wellbeing, but for all of the Midlands! Threatening her means threatening me! I will not allow that."

Cara still stood like a statue, shooting wary glances around. Only her eyes twitched at Kahlan´s words.

She turned and addressed all of them, who were still kneeling, not daring to move if not for their surreptitious eyes as they watched what was going on.

"Lay your weapons down and rise. I will not judge over you. It seems you are frightened and I assume you were thinking you defended your village."

Swords and forks clanked to the ground while they stood, their stares intimidated and sheepish, some shifting uncomfortably.

Kahlan looked at the big man who still kneeled.

"Your name is Jacob?" He nodded.

"Rise." He obeyed.

She eyed him a long moment, her eyes shooting ice again

"I respect your bravery to stand against the Mother Confessor´s touch to defend your family. But I will not forgive your fatuousness. Fortunately this village is graced with prudent women. You´d better thank your wife for her intervention." His wife grinned proudly.

"Now why are you frightened?"

The woman spoke instead of him.

"There have been several attacks of Mord Sith lately, Mother Confessor. They have stolen girls. Four are missed within a two days ride, and one has been caught just a league away two days earlier... We... We don´t want to lose our girls to these monsters." She flinched as Cara shifted slightly. Kahlan changed a dark glare with her friend, frowning. These were bad news.

"Please forgive us; but we have lost too much already..." The woman´s words were barely a whisper.

Kahlan´s gaze softened. She reached out and laid a hand on the woman´s arm.

"Do not be worried. I forgive you. You had reasons to distrust us first.

We will stay for tonight and talk about it tomorrow before we leave. Actually we came here to search for a room for the night..."

Jacob seemed to come alive; hoping to make amends for his earlier behavior.

"We have a nice inn, Mother Confessor. Please let us offer you a warm place to sleep and food and beverages... whatever you need." He offered assiduously.

Kahlan´s gaze met his earnestly.

"No. This village has forfeited the honor to host the Mother Confessor for now." She watched as he dropped his head shamefacedly. Her gaze searched the surroundings, freezing on a small hill nearby which was crowned with a light copse.

"We will have camp on this hill." She looked at the people and raised her voice once more in a calm but admonishing tone.

"I expect it to be a calm and uneventful night. Any perturbance, no matter of which kind, will be seen as a personal affront. You´d be well advised to take care of that."

Without waiting for a response she turned, shooting Cara a short glance, and mounted her horse. The Mord Sith let her eyes glide over the villagers in a last daring glance and then followed Kahlan wordlessly. Soon they were heading to the top of the hill, while several groups of villagers rushed to arrange small posts around the hill, resolved to at least stand watch over the Mother Confessor and her Mord Sith for the night.


Kahlan dismounted and turned, waiting for Cara. The place she had chosen offered a light carpet of thick grass and a good view over the village at their feet. The Mord Sith jumped to the ground with her jaw set and an angry glower in her narrowed eyes, blurting out:

"Why did you do that?"

Kahlan´s eyebrows arched in surprise.

"Would you have preferred to stay in the village, where everyone is eager to convince us of their regret? That would have meant an endless evening, discussing and soothing their concerns about having offended us. I didn´t know you'd come to like basking in crowds."

"That is not what I meant."

"Why then, what did you mean?"

Cara looked at her, her eyes beaming rebelliously.

"You put yourself between me and their weapons! They were close to striking!"

"But they didn´t."

"Why did you do that?"

The Confessor searched her angry countenance and their eyes locked as she grabbed her arm.

"Because I love you, you stubborn creature! And I will neither allow you to risk your life in a needless skirmish, nor will I allow any of my people to insult you."

For a stunned moment Cara met her with disbelief, struck by the meaning of her words; but nonetheless, not yet willing to give in, she growled crabbily.

"They are simple peasants; I would have taught them a lesson of respect in no time at all."

The corner of her lips twitched amused at Cara´s stubborn objection.

"They are simple peasants; and they are good people!" The blonde snorted huffishly. "But they were hell-bent on defending their families. And they were scared of you!" She didn´t miss the confident grin that crossed the blonde´s face briefly, before pursing her lips; a hint of tribute sneaked into her tone as she growled.

"...You were not so bad either..."

Kahlan couldn´t help but chuckle. She leaned in for a brief kiss.

"Thank you!"

Cara grunted.

"Zedd would have hated you for rejecting a warm meal and some nice beverages."

Kahlan sighed and nodded regretfully. The blonde was right; her own stomach had been growling in anticipation of a good meal.

They started to prepare their camp for the night and soon a small fire crackled and their bedrolls looked enticingly comfortable, already arranged close to the fire, Kahlan´s in front, protectively flanked by Cara´s from behind. The Confessor sat at the fire, rummaging through their bags for their food leftovers; the dying sun dipped in the sky with lights of red and orange glowing when unsure footsteps cracked through the bushes. In a blink Cara was on her feet, agiels unsheathed. Eager to not startle them a feminine voice called out cautiously.

"Mother Confessor? Please excuse the disturbance. I´ve come to bring you some food..."

From the shadows of the trees the robust wife of Jacob stumbled into their sight, acknowledged by a glorious eye-roll of the Mord Sith, who turned and gave Kahlan a meaningful glance.

The brunette stood slowly and gestured for the woman to come closer. A warm smile had settled on her face.

"What is your name, child?"

"Roseanne, Mother Confessor. But everyone calls me Rose." A shy smile brightened her round face as she approached, carefully avoiding Cara´s dark stare. In her hands she held a big basket, filled with bowls and mugs, seductive scents wafting to them.

"Thank you, Rose." Kahlan granted her a heartwarming smile. "This is very generous of you."

"The whole village helped in preparing a nice meal, Mother Confessor. And Jacob has donated a mug of his best wine." She blinked sheepishly. "He is a good man. They all are. You should know that we are much better hosts than your first impression has proven to be." She waved a hand towards the village. "We would really like to invite you..."

Kahlan shook her head in regret.

"No, Rose. We appreciate your endeavors. But my words were final. Though you may tell your friends the Mother Confessor does not bear them a grudge."

Rose nodded sadly.

"Then I wish you a good night. You do not have to worry; all our men are standing watch at the foot of the hill." She grinned slightly. "Be sure, none of them will find sleep tonight." A small gloating grin crossed her face as she turned and walked back to her village.

Kahlan shot her Mord Sith a triumphant glare, pointing to the basket.

"See? Good people!"

Cara´s epic eye-roll made her laugh.


"We will have to leave early tomorrow. I think we should rest as the others do."

Richard tried to avoid his grandfather´s scrutiny.

"I know. But we should talk, Richard."

"Why, I thought we were clear, Zedd:

We will divide; Verna and you are going to Comorra to inform Kahlan and Cara while I am riding directly to Aydindril and warn Dennee. Berdine and Raina will come with me, as will a small troop of my men. As soon as you reach Kahlan you´ll be safe with her troop too. And D´Hara is under the protection of my army. Everything will be fine. Darken has no chance to surprise us."

"That is the plan. And I am sure it makes sense.

But what I meant was the fact that Kahlan refused coming with me to meet you…"

Richard shot him a warning glance. His face had frozen.

"I do not want to talk about it, Zedd."

"I don´t care if you like it, Richard." Zedd snapped. "I just want to know why you did what you did!" The old wizard tried to keep his voice calm, but seeing his grandson scowl made him angry.

"What has happened to the young man who believed in everybody´s right to live his own life? How could you treat them like that? You´ve always pretended to love her! More than your own life!

But in fact, with what you did to her you´ve almost destroyed her!"

Richard stared at him with narrowed eyes.

"She´s told you?"


The younger man huffed and asked with sheepish puppy-dog eyes.

"How are they, Zedd? Have they found a way to get over it? Is she happy to have Cara at her side?"

Zedd´s eyes shadowed briefly.

"Things were not easy for both of them. But lately they seemed to have gotten a little closer. Until…"

Richard stared questioningly.

"Last night something must have happened between them; and they finally learned the truth of your betrayal." Zedd shook his head, still feeling utterly aghast. "I have never seen Kahlan in such a fury. She was frantic. If not for Cara, she would have hurt even me in her wrath."

He watched Richard grinding his teeth and dropping his gaze to the floor. He went to his chair and sat down heavily.

"She will never want to see me again…" he murmured under his breath.

"That might well be." Zedd´s voice held more sarcasm than he had intended. "But is it a wonder? You destroyed every bit of affection she ever felt for you! I can´t believe that you acted so deceitfully and cheated them."

He took seat beside his grandson and sighed deeply.

"Richard, help me to understand: why did you do this?"

When he looked up, Richard´s face was tired, his voice bitter.

"I had never intended to go that far. Really, Zedd, you must believe me. I love Kahlan, I always did! And Cara was my friend. I will never forget that she saved my ass a hundred times.

But then... I´ve never felt like that before! Two years ago...

When we were on our way to Aydindril, I noticed that something was wrong with Kahlan. I just couldn´t name it, but I felt she was retreating from me.

One night, it was the second night before we reached the Confessor´s Palace, I woke up and found her place abandoned. I was worried and sneaked after her. And then I found her sitting by Cara. She cried. And...," he snorted bitterly, "Cara, our hard and emotionless Mord Sith, the one who had always played hard to get; she pulled her into a hug; she stroked her hair! She whispered to her until she had calmed down. And then…" his lips pressed briefly into a thin line, his hands balled into fists before he regained control.

"Kahlan kissed her! Not the kind of a gentle kiss on her cheek as I had seen before. I first thought Cara would flinch angrily. But no, far from it! She answered her kiss… she leaned in..." Richard´s cheeks were a dark crimson, the picture in his mind still stirring his fury.

"Zedd, she touched Kahlan! In ways I had never been allowed to touch her…They were so close together..." Richards face had hardened. He looked into his grandfather´s eyes as if expecting him to agree.

"I was shocked. I did not want to believe my either my eyes nor my ears. When I finally managed to back away, I went into the woods and let my wrath guide me. I did not return to camp until I felt controlled enough to see them without beating them.

The following night things went nearly the same. Then we arrived in Aydindril. Everyone was tired and went to sleep. But I couldn´t. I was agitated, hurt and furious!

I sat with Dennee, we were drinking too much and at last I told her what I had witnessed.

Dennee was shocked too, but she was also furious. She said she would not allow Cara to stay another minute longer in her Palace. She said Kahlan had to be freed from her destructive influence. She said it was my duty to do something. And that it was just a phase, that Kahlan had just made a mistake, which she would soon recognize if only the Mord Sith would vanish.

And so we planned to tell them stories to make Cara leave and Kahlan to forget her." His voice became earnest, as if trying to make Zedd see the necessity of their acting then. The wizard stared disapprovingly, not believing how naïve Richard had been.

"Did you really believe she would simply return into your arms after losing her love? Believing she´d been abandoned?"

"We were sure, that once Cara had left, Kahlan would come to her senses.

But…time went by and she didn´t…" He looked at the wizard, searching for his understanding.

"I really love her, Zedd. I thought I did the right thing! I wanted to protect her! I was sure Cara would have hurt her sooner or later!

Zedd! You know her: how can a Mord Sith ever love someone at all?"

"So why didn´t you tell her the truth when you saw her... breaking?" Zedd asked dismayed.

"I tried, Zedd. Twice. But Dennee said it would be wrong. That she knew her sister. And she was right after all.

And then... she became pregnant..." His eyes seared as he locked them with Zedd´s pale blue, his left palm hit his chest twice. "It was my child she carried to term. If I would have told her then, I knew she would reject me. I would never see my child growing up..."

Zedd´s face displayed an odd mixture of disgust and compassion. He breathed heavily, feeling a weight on his shoulders he felt too old to carry. Richard´s voice had lowered, until it was only a murmur.

"When I went to the People´s Palace I was already determined to tell Cara the truth. But she had changed. She was hard and distant; even more Mord Sith than ever before, at least since I had first met her. I couldn´t trust her reaction, so I returned without telling her.

At last it took me a few months more and all my strength to decide to leave and bring Cara back to her. I hoped they would find a way to one another without my having to tell." He looked up again, his gaze teary and forlorn. He only shrugged helplessly as words failed him.

Zedd eyed him pensively. What he saw wasn´t the proud ruler of D´Hara, not the Seeker of Truth.

He saw a young fool, a love-sick young man in despair. It gripped at his heart to see his grandson like that, knowing he had made an unforgivable mistake. But he also saw Kahlan and Cara in his mind. He saw Kahlan, not being herself for years with her soul ripped apart, and he faintly imagined Cara hanging in chains...

They sat in silence for a long time. Each of them caught by their thoughts. Finally Zedd shook his head in resignation. Ponderously the old wizard came to his feet. He patted Richard´s arm briefly and sighed exhaustedly.

"It will be a hard day tomorrow. We should go and rest." He sounded tired.

Richard looked up, his voice raspy.



"Do you think they will ever forgive me?"

"I… don´t know, son."

Richard huffed, nodding briefly. His eyes bored into the wizard´s, half-plea and half-resignation.

"Will you?"

Zedd looked at him with deep sorrow.

"I am honestly disappointed in you, Richard. Kahlan is like a daughter to me; you damned her to suffer more pain than your worst foe would deserve. And Cara... I have no words for what you did to her.

But, you are my grandson; and I love you." He shrugged helplessly. "I can´t help but probably always forgive you."


The Confessor raised a brow while she reread the fresh note in her journey book. She had sensed it the moment she had entered her working chamber. Maybe it had been the faint odor of sweat and blood that emanated the thick pages that had drawn her attention.


We are en route to Aydindril. Can´t tell you details right now. Please inform the council that we are asking for a gathering. Make all necessary preparations for Aydindril´s safety. Set the troops on alert. We will arrive in approximately four days.

Don´t trust anyone!

Take care, Richard

Her eyes swept over the letters again. A faint smile curled her lips.

So you´re coming home Richard... That´s good!

I missed you...


Cara was far from feeling calm. She paced nervously around their small fire, searching constantly for the faint flickers of fires below them.

They had enjoyed a fabulous dinner; a real banquet compared to the last day's menus. But she wasn´t ready to rest. She didn´t trust the simple peasants who stood watch around the hill. And she felt utterly uncomfortable at their fire. Kahlan had become awkwardly quiet, staring into the flames; her third cup of wine emptied already. Cara had the faint feeling that the Confessor´s mood was her fault; but she did not know how to break the silence. So finally she announced she would go, check the posts. Kahlan kept staring into the flames and hummed absently. The blonde huffed and rushed into the wood.

The first fire she sneaked on was held by five men. One of them shouted a warning long before he got sight of her. All of them were to their feet in a blink, their faces grim, their hands holding ax´s and swords. Cara stepped into the light with a scowl. She did not say a word, just eyed them fiercely. They stood straight, staring back with defiantly raised chins, shifting uncomfortably but not wavering, until she nodded satisfied and retreated into the shadows.

She checked every single post. And found all of them well guarded. The men seemed bound and determined to watch over them, giving their lives if needed.

They wouldn´t stand for long in case of an attack, but at least they would certainly make enough noise to warn them.

Finally she returned to the edge of their little camp. She stopped under the trees and watched the Confessor quietly for a few moments from the shadows. Her heart squirmed seeing Kahlan, knees drawn up to her chest, her chin resting on them while her arms were wrapped tightly around her legs; hooded eyes under furrowed brows still settled on the flickering light of their campfire. Her face wore an expression somewhere between sad melancholy and bitter heartache. Cara sighed and stepped forward, not missing the small sigh that came from Kahlan and immediately she felt almost guilty for disturbing her.

As she was going to take a silent seat opposite to her, Kahlan shifted her head, searching her gaze.

"Cara, please, sit with me."

The Mord Sith hesitated only briefly. It sounded like Kahlan expected something of her that she couldn´t name. But how could she withstand the plea? She moved slowly and settled behind her, stretched her legs to each side of her and felt awkwardly misplaced. Kahlan scooted back, fumbling for her arms to wrap them around her waist, until one hand rested on her chest, feeling her heart beating in slow, dark beats.

"Thank you for being here." She whispered.

Cara frowned a little. Where else would she be? Her hand twitched as if she wanted to grab her agiel but knew that wouldn´t be right. So she did the only thing she felt suitable. She cuddled up to Kahlan, buried her face in her hair and hummed into her ear...

Finally she felt how the brunette relaxed a little; she leaned back against Cara and sighed, her fingers entwined with hers her thumb stroking softly the back of her hand. When the blonde already started to believe she was going to drift off, Kahlan´s low voice reached her ear.

As if flowing with the night- breezes from afar; telling a bedtime story to a troubled child...

"You may find hundreds of books In the Wizard´s Keep, filled with every detail the world knows about the creatures that are named Confessors. All of their history, their lives, and their power is written there in ancient letters. I spent a lot of my childhood being taught who I am; where I come from; why I exist...

Confessors were made by wizards. They´ve been created as a weapon, you know, just like Mord Sith were. In the time of the Great War they were meant to divide the light from the dark. They were unique. The wizards created in them the ultimate power; a gift and a curse all the same; to see the truth and to judge in a final sentence; to turn living people into an undead shell of a slaved soul by their touch alone. The war was finally won through the aid of this weapon. The Confessors were granted to live further on, to save the Midlands from ever getting into such disasters again. The strongest was named the Mother Confessor, leader of the Midlands, to guide and to protect their people with wisdom and love.

The people of the Midlands love the embodiment of peace and justice the Mother Confessor pictures for them and they respect her deeply. But they fear the person behind the picture, her vicinity. And most of all they fear her touch. They fear it more than they fear the Keeper himself.

That is what makes Confessors very lonesome women.

Our education takes care of that. We are intensively prepared for our task; and for the solitude that will be our life. We learn from an early age to rely on nothing but our own resources. We learn to use our gift for the greater good, to act with no doubt and to make terrible decisions. Decisions, which would cause endless nightmares to normal people.

We dispossess people of their souls and leave them as slaves to our will. Even those we love. Without the slightest hesitation.

We guide our people into war and death if we may save the Midlands by doing so.

We even kill our own child if it is born as a boy.

All these things we do because of our unmistakable knowledge that it has to be done.

Though, sometimes, very rarely, it might come to pass that the Mother Confessor loses faith in her wisdom. That the task ahead is too heavy a burden; that she comes to doubt. Maybe even despairs of it.

But a despaired Mother Confessor who can´t follow the right path in due course can quickly lead to the final downfall; of herself... and of the Midlands.

The wizards knew that. And they have taken care of it. The legend tells that "they create a power that will live for the single purpose to advise the Mother Confessor in her despair. She alone will be able to call for it, and only if no other way will be seen.

A creature, equal to her, living to wait for her call; to help her see the truth. To save them all."

The creature the legend speaks of is a white dragon.

It´s said that all over the centuries there had always been only one of her kind.

She will always be a female. She lives for hundreds of years; in solitude; in the highest peaks of the mountains. And when she feels her end is near, she takes a mate. It doesn´t matter which kind of dragon the male would be. She will lay a single egg and it will be another white dragon female. And when the little one hatches she is going to die, leaving the task to her daughter; living lonely in the crowns of the range until the call reaches her.

Then she will come down from the mountains and judge for the Mother Confessor. "

"What does that mean, she judges for the Mother Confessor?" Cara felt strong concern furrowing her brows. She had no clue, why Kahlan told her of legends. But she felt her tense body trembling slightly in her arms a few times. And she heard her voice; as if coming from a distance. A distance that glowed in a dark and frightful light.

The fingers entangled with hers tightened their grip almost unnoticeably.

"She is said to be gracious to the Mother Confessor. She approves to the decision she is going to take... with absolute certitude; no matter how hard it might be.

If so, she shimmers in an icy blue, like the ice that covers the peaks she comes from. She will wrap the Mother Confessor´s heart into her icy strength and transmit her power. And the tender touch of her wings will be solace to the Mother Confessor.

But if not, she glows in a light orange shine like the falling sun and blows hot breezes of disgrace and the Mother Confessor knows her decision is wrong. And her warm tears will only stop when a new decision is made."

"How often does it happen that a Mother Confessor despairs and calls for her?" Cara kept her voice low and soft, as if trying to soothe her with her voice alone; not daring to disturb her telling.

"The first who called her was the first Mother Confessor, Magda Searus.

With her husband´s, Wizard Barracus, suicide her world crashed. In this time the last battles of the Great War threatened her people. She was alone and inexperienced. She had to send 1000s into their certain death to save ten times more. She gave the order to attack, before their foes could overrun them; but the burden that she literally sentenced them to their death almost drove her insane..." Her voice lowered as if going lost in the distance.

"And then…?"

"Five generations passed before the dragon was called again.

The Mother Confessor was of a young age, her mother had been ill and she had passed her title to her daughter much earlier than usual. But then dark powers cast a spell on her, so that she finally wasn´t herself; they used her reputation to turn the people of the Midlands on each other in destructive battles until at last her daughter saw no other chance then to fate her own mother to die.

It is said, that the white dragon glowed in a shimmering blue and that she cried tears made of ice.

She embraced the Mother Confessor with her wings and gave her the strength to do the right thing…

That was the last time she came down from her summits."

Kahlan´s whisper stopped and her body shivered slightly and Cara felt her insides burning with a question she didn´t dare to ask. So she wrapped her arms tighter around the brunette and just held her.

They sat quietly for long moments, the silence only broken by Kahlan´s deep, cautiously controlled breaths, fingers flexing nervously on her thighs, until Cara couldn´t bear it any longer. With the softest of whispers she asked carefully:

"Kahlan? Why do you tell me this legend?"

An almost tentative sigh escaped the other woman, and when Cara already began to believe, she wouldn´t answer at all, she heard her ragged voice.

"It was the anniversary of your departure…

I´d lived for months with Richard by my side. It had been…difficult…

I felt so empty! So vacuous; as if standing beside myself and watching my own life passing by meaningless.

But there was the child I felt growing inside of me...

I had made my decision. I wanted to leave all of it behind, wanted to focus on my daughter, be the Mother she would deserve…

So I rode up to my clearance to say good-bye. To my dreams;

to what life had never granted me…"

Her words dimmed to a broken whisper and she briefly closed her eyes.

"To you, Cara.

My heart was filled with grief and sorrow; I cried a lot and… I don´t know how, but at one point I had my dagger in hand; its tip pointed straight to my heart.

And suddenly everything seemed so clear, so easy. I would leave it all behind! The pain; the torture; the disgust I felt thinking of the nights with Richard; my self-abhorrence…"

Cara held her breath and gritted her teeth to suppress a moan. Her eyes had narrowed with sheer hatred. Hatred for the man who had caused Kahlan´s pain… And hatred for her own failure...

Kahlan continued; her words running from her mouth as if on their own.

"SHE was there from out of the nothing. When I heard her savage roar I refused to react; I was ready to welcome death…. It was Shadow who reared up against her attack. All I saw was a glowing red monster, blowing hot breath against Shadow and giant wings and claws that hit him. I know, it was just his panic that made him fight, but in that moment it felt as if he defended me. And finally I came to my feet to fight, not wanting him to die for me.

That was the first time he saved me.

Panicked as he was he didn´t recognize me and his hooves were everywhere. I felt a hard blow to my belly and I knew instantly he had killed my child.

That was the second time he saved me.

At last he found his legs ready to run and he stormed away.

SHE was still there. She glowed in a deep fire-red, her breath seared my skin; her claws had ripped a few awful wounds.

But as soon as Shadow disappeared and I fell she calmed immediately. Her glowing fire dimmed quickly and she settled beside me. I remember her skin, covered with a light fur, warm and soft. She now shimmered in a calm blue, just as I´ve been told in my youth. She wrapped me into her wings and her blue eyes shed hot, bloody tears. She cried for me and for my losses.

Never before I had felt so beloved.

I must have passed out; or perhaps it was she who took my mind on a journey. I don´t know.
I saw pictures of a future world, reduced to rubble.

I saw soldiers looting and pillaging.

And I saw Richard, swinging the Sword of Truth furiously. He massacred villagers and peasants. He was the Bringer of Death. He knew no mercy.

I saw his sons standing behind him; gloating over the spectacle. They were three. And then I could see his eyes and suddenly I knew he killed only to please them. He was confessed.

Then they looked at me and sneered.

"Do you enjoy the show, Mother? Confessor?" they scoffed...

And I... stood helpless; chained; and with that collar around my neck." Kahlan´s hard voice dripped with bitterness. Cara found herself stroking the Confessor´s arms soothingly while biting her lip until she tasted blood; letting its metallic flavor center her. She did not dare to breathe, did not want to startle Kahlan, who seemed lost in her memories.

"When I opened my eyes I found she was staring at me with a warm blue glow.

And I swear, Cara, she talked to me.

It weren´t actual words she said, but it felt as if she planted the meaning of her thoughts into my mind."

"What did she say?" Cara breathed.

"She said she felt sorrow for all my hurt. And she said "it´s not yet over; there is much more pain lying in your path before the aim will be reached. It´s up to you Kahlan. Fight for your heart and you will save your people all the same. Do what must be done. As hard as it will be. Do not hesitate.

Dead souls do not belong to the world of the living."

She stayed with me until I could hear faint shouts. They were coming to save me. They had been alarmed as Shadow returned alone to the stables..." she breathed audibly. " - that was the third time he saved me.

In the next moment she spread her wings to leave and I passed out again."

Kahlan inhaled deeply. Her voice had become a lost, monotone sound.

"I assume Zedd told you the rest of the story. I lost my child. And I´m ashamed that I felt almost relieved. Shadow´s hoof had saved me from killing my own son. I was spared doing "what must be done". His dead soul had already left the world of the living..."

She fell silent. Her tense body felt hard as stone in Cara´s arms.

The blonde cradled her softly, breathing warm breathes to her neck. She felt numb and appalled. Finally she reached for the Confessor´s stiffened shoulders to turn her around.

As she looked into her stony face the trail of fresh tears that trickled silently in a constant flow over her controlled, unemotional mask almost ripped her apart. But there was something more in her eyes.

In the abyss behind the blue she saw and felt sparks of something familiar. Something she had seen before in the eyes of others; when they had been close to getting lost in their own world of pain; just before they had tumbled over the edge and their mind had broken.

Cara frowned. Her worry increasing as she felt Kahlan´s flat eyes lingering on her with some kind of a desperate plea, as if silently asking her to save her, with something akin to a primal fear glowing in the depths of their darkening blue.

The Mord Sith came to her feet. Her eyes held Kahlan in a tight embrace, while she lifted her stiff body into her arms and carried her to their bedrolls. She set her gently down and started to help her out of her clothes in careful, almost tender motions; Kahlan moved on her gentle commands, but didn´t seem to acknowledge what she did, her mind still absent, caught almost completely in sorrow.

She wrapped her into a blanket and stripped quickly to join the Mother Confessor. Seeking to comfort her she started to plant soft kisses on her eyes, her cheeks, her lips…

Kahlan barely reacted. So she cupped her cheeks.

"Look at me, Kahlan!" softly at first, but when no reaction rewarded her, her tone became more forceful, until at last she sighed and forced her face into her hard Mistress expression to order the Confessor harshly. Only then her eyes looked finally up to her; staring at her as if from afar. Cara grabbed her shoulders tightly, her voice sounded hard and determined.

"You will let go of it, Kahlan! Now! I am here. I can bear your pain." She watched Kahlan´s eyes slowly coming to life as her words reached her mind; saw the slight shake of her head as she instinctively flinched from the meaning of the blonde´s offer.

"I…" The blonde stopped her frightened whisper by covering her mouth with her hand in a resolved gesture.

"You want to hurt me for what I did. I can feel it. I abandoned you. I left without a word. All you´ve endured you endured because of me. Somewhere buried deep inside you there is a part of you that wants to hate me for that. That´s okay Kahlan. Do not fear it. I will teach you to embrace that hatred, so you will be able to embrace your love too…"

While speaking she pulled Kahlan near, gripping her arms and guiding them to her skin, pressing Kahlan´s hands hard against her own flesh, raking the brunette´s stiffened fingers on a cruel path up and down, again and again; all while holding her eyes in an unwavering lock; one moment searching her mouth in demanding anger; then biting painfully the flesh on her shoulder, Cara forced Kahlan to defend; at first reluctantly, but soon with an increasing heat; her breath hitching, her hands fighting against Cara´s brutal grip until finally they started moving of their own, landing a few angry blows on her chest, then wrapping her arms around the blonde where her nails scratched deep red lines; until her icy blue eyes glared at Cara and her lips searched Cara´s; and reluctantly burying her teeth into her bottom lip, only to tense their grip as she tasted blood; licking it desperately from the blonde´s skin as if sucking liquid life from her lips.

And finally she gave in into the battle of pain and passion; she let go of her hurt, her fears and her sorrows; making love to the blonde with a burning aggression as she had never thought she´d be able to. All while tears streamed in an endless flow down her cheeks…

In this night it was Kahlan who broke.

It wasn´t the kind of a break-down as it had been for Cara´s walls of protection; not the final submitting to long denied emotions. It was the painful break-out of a prison that she had built for herself; a frightened battle against her own demons who had suppressed her for so long; a break out in waves of heated anger and savage passion, following Cara who guided her, who tore the chains down for her escape and didn´t flinch as she felt all the bruises and scratches she left in her wake.

Who offered her body and her soul freely and unquestioningly to catch Kahlan before she could fall.

Until the release she had so desperately searched for left her empty with exhaustion and made room for a new strength.


„Confessor. The council is waiting for you in the great hall."

Her guard bowed deeply, as he waited patiently for her response. He still remembered how the Confessor had admonished him harshly last time when he had forgotten to do so. Now he waited patiently for her response.

Dennee stood on the balcony. Her eyes travelled over Aydindril, taking in the majestic beauty of her city, while her mind planned for the meeting that lay ahead; she imagined the council was nervously waiting for her appearance;

There had been many a meetings before. Whilst Kahlan had been on her quest, busy saving the world, it had been Dennee who had represented the first chair of the Midlands. And even when Kahlan had returned, she was never the same woman who had left before. She had often asked herself if it had been wise to pass the first chair back to her. But it was Kahlan who owned the title. And she had always done her best to support her. She knew her sister loved her, though sometimes she felt a distance between them, like cold needles on her skin.

Dennee sighed and turned.

"I´ll be there in a moment. You may call Wizard Connor to join us."

The guard nodded briefly and left.

The Confessor looked into the mirror at the far side of her room and nodded reassuringly to the face it showed.

"Well then. No need to be nervous. You can do it!"


Finally they had left the village behind; but not without meeting with their local council and the news they had told had been alarming.

During the last week there had been several raids reported. Each had involved at least one quad of Mord Sith. They had always been supported by mercenaries; the kind of brutal and reckless bandits who enjoyed their own cruelty.

It wasn´t the same as it used to be in former times. Cara had been silently furious of how the Mord Sith had entered the homes of the girls, destroying and killing whatever and whomever got in their way. The girls had seemingly been taken haphazardly; their families, if they survived at all, had been recklessly cast aside and left to the ruins of their existence.

This was not the art of recruiting as Cara had known in former times. Not the careful choosing of future warriors. This was more the way Triana had raged through the village when she had left Cara to die through the hands of furious villagers.

"They are leaving a trail. This is not just a gathering of new girls as Mord Sith recruits."

Finally the blonde turned in her saddle to look at Kahlan. Her face was grim, heated anger burned furiously in her eyes.

"Have you noticed that the trail is following ours? Or to be more precisely: it is running ahead of us? They always appear a few days before we come through the region; and as results we find villages, where the people are frightened of us, hate us even. Not that I´m not used to, but their wrath is directed at you too! Someone is trying to turn your people against you, Kahlan. And I bet I know who it is…"

Kahlan nodded thoughtfully.

"I think you are right. But I can´t see how that makes any sense." She frowned.

"Somehow Rahl must have gotten information about our journey. Obviously we were wrong in assuming that he has plans just for Richard. He is in the Midlands; his followers are reaching for us. But why don´t they simply attack us? If they know where we are, it would be just as easy to ambush us."

She shook her head helplessly. Her expression shadowed briefly as she sighed frustrated;

"Will there ever be a time when things are just…easy?"

Cara frowned. She still felt a little unsure of Kahlan´s mood.

"Are you okay?"

The Confessor looked at her while tilting her head. An unexpected smile crossed her face. A smile so bright that golden sunbeams seemed to be forced through the cloud covered sky.

"Will you continue to ask me that every few minutes?" She reined Shadow and leaned over to lay her hand on Cara´s, searching her eyes with a solemn blue shine.

"I´ve been a prisoner of my own demons; I was sick with grief and rage, yes. I thought I could never bear to speak about what happened then.

And now?

I do not know how to explain; it is as though you… in a way you gave my mind the breath of life. Somehow you killed the demons that haunted me. I´m… feeling relieved!

You save me. I have no words for what you did last night."

Her hand gently touched her leather on a spot covering a bruise on the blonde´s chest, where she knew she had left one of many marks of angry passion, her eyes tenderly caressed the spot.

"You understand my darkest side as no one else could ever do. You made me whole again." She nodded slowly, her gaze drowning in Cara´s sea-green eyes.

"As for your question...Yes, I am okay!

And I always will be, as long as you are by my side."

She pressed her leg to Shadows side, so that he shifted towards Black; close enough to let her cup Cara´s cheeks and pull her into a passionate kiss, letting her tongue speak the language Cara would surely understand.

She only pulled away to laugh when Black started to prance nervously.

"You´re sure he is just your horse? Sometimes he seems very much like his Mistress, always on the run…"

Cara scowled at her horse, grunting. "He is most definitely just a stupid horse. A friend would not get nervous when my lady bounces on me!"


The members of the council were engrossed in discussing the reports received from the many messengers that had arrived during the past week. Dennee had given them a detailed report of the news. Some of them had been able to tell some more worrying incidents from their home realms. Others, the ones coming from the northern parts of the Midlands were shocked and aghast of what they heard.

One of the ambassadors, an old man with shaved head and bushy brows, finally voiced their worries.

"Fact is that mad mobs of bandits and Mord Sith are destroying our lands with their destructive onslaughts! They are kidnapping our young girls, wherever they come along. What has the Mother Confessor decided to do?"

Dennee straightened in her chair.

"My sister had left for Comorra before we got first reports. When she left she didn´t know about the raids and thus hasn´t made any decisions at all. Right now Lord Richard Rahl, the Seeker of Truth, is on his way to stand at our side. I expect him to arrive with a small troop within the next few days. And I have seen to it, that Aydindril´s safety protocols are prepared. Wizard Connor is here to answer your questions concerning that.

Until now there has been no visible sign of what Rahl or his Mord Sith are planning. And no one has reported any build up of troops around our lands. But if so, we will be prepared. The Mother Confessor is supposed to return within another week. I have called you because the Council needs to be informed, but for now I do not see any imminent threat."

"Is it true that the Mother Confessor left with the Wizard and that... Mord Sith?" Dennee´s eyes shifted to the Keltish ambassador, Prince Devron, who had stood while asking, his tall figure emanating aplomb with his back straight and his chin upturned. His brown eyes were challenging. He was a cousin to Prince Fyren, the one who had once claimed the first chair and had been confessed by Kahlan. Though everyone knew she had acted justly, saving Aydindril from his cruel grip, it was clear that Devron, as most of the Keltish people, still held a silent animosity for the Mother Confessor. His posture one of aggression, he swept his arm towards the rest of the Council. "We all know that this Mord Sith has lived in your palace for several months. And rumors say that girls had vanished before your sister left."

Looking straight into his square-edged face the Confessor nodded with narrowed eyes. She had expected him to mention it. Her gaze was lacking emotion.

"It is not just a rumor, as you certainly know already. There have been three girls missing from different villages nearby Aydindril. It seemed obvious then that they had become victims of the river. The Mother Confessor had ordered our guards to assist in their retrieval. Sadly, though, they didn´t find them." She thoughtfully tilted her head.

"Well, now for sure it seems to be very likely they were caught by Mord Sith too."

She swept her eyes over the councilors before looking back to Prince Devron. A brow arched up arrogantly.

"But I would very much like to hear what you really want to say. I am sure you agree with me that this is not the right time to hide behind insinuations, wouldn´t you?" Her voice was cold as were her eyes. Everyone´s attention turned to the tall man from Kelton. He stood up in front of the council and let his eyes sweep over its members meaningfully, making sure he had everyone´s undivided attention. Then he turned slowly to eye Dennee. When he spoke again his voice had a sharp, indignant edge.

"The Mother Confessor has been out of Aydindril for quite a long time and she didn´t care for the fate of the Midlands as was her duty. It is obvious that while she joined the Seeker of Truth in his quest, she has also made some odd friends. I have heard, that this Mord Sith has been by her side for almost a year."

A few murmurs were heard from the council members, causing the small muscles in the corners of his brown eyes to briefly twitch when he heard it.

"By their master, the tyrant Darken Rahl, whom we all remember too well, Mord Sith are trained for killing. And Confessors are their preferred prey. You, Confessor, have experienced this in the most painful way! And, please correct me if I´m wrong; wasn´t it this particular Mord Sith, who is with your sister now, who killed you then?"

The councilors seemed to hold their breaths. No sound was heard. Prince Devron´s voice now cut the air sharply.

"How can it be, I ask, that a sworn enemy of the Midlands and the Confessors walks freely beside the Mother Confessor? How can it be, that this Mord Sith returns to the Confessor´s Palace, right before her kind starts kidnapping young girls? And how can it be, that the Mother Confessor is on a journey with said Mord Sith - right when the Midlands need protection against such heinous attacks?"

He looked around to meet their glares, making sure that he had their attention. His voice rose angrily.

"I say we cannot trust a Mord Sith! We do not know that she does not serve her own master. We all remember well that Mord Sith were the ones who murdered our Confessors. I do not know which kind of spell has been cast over the Mother Confessor that she is blind to what is plainly obvious. As for me, it seems that said Mord Sith is deeply involved in the recent raids! It seems that the Mother Confessor is no longer able to focus on her main duty: to serve the Midlands!

It seems as though Darken Rahl has smuggled in one of his servants to weaken Aydindril and the Mother Confessor. Somehow she has been blinded. I say the first chair shouldn´t belong to the Mother Confessor any longer, because she is no longer trustworthy…"

Murmurs were heard from the various members of the council. A good handful looked shocked at his words, some were upset and burst into loud discussions; but most of the voices sounded more than just hesitatingly approving.

The ambassador spun around to look at Dennee.

"It is well known, that even you, Confessor, do not approve of your sisters behavior. I say it is time to make a change! You´ve been representing the first chair for a long time now. And again it is you who takes responsibility now. I suggest that the council passes the title to you and names you the leader of the Midlands!"

Half the council burst into cheers...


Watching Kahlan from behind Cara´s mind tried to get a grip on something that had been nagging at her ever since Kahlan had changed into her Confessor´s dress, angrily feeling it always slipping away.

The Mother Confessor rode with her back straight and head held high. She was the very picture of majesty. And beauty.

Cara couldn´t tell if she liked the change. She loved Kahlan in her leather dress. It held so many memories of their former journey. Wearing it meant wearing passion and fire; in it Kahlan was the warrior that Cara had come to love; the woman that had taught her and shown her the path to live a life where feelings didn´t strip her from neither from her pride nor from her honor.

Changing into the white dress made Kahlan suddenly a queen, leader of not only one realm but sovereign of all the Midlands; she seemed to glide easily into another world and Cara felt almost a little abandoned.

Though she felt pride as well. Pride that this woman had chosen her; that the Mother Confessor not only allowed her by her side, trusting in her protection, but that she who emanated an amazing power and strength, capable of bending whole armies to their knees with her fierce glare only, that this woman would suddenly turn around and smile at her with soft, loving eyes, as though she was worth it.

Cara sighed. They were close to Comorra. Just a few leagues ahead their small troop would have made camp to await them. The coming days would be filled with politics. She briefly considered what it would feel like if Kahlan would really name her her mate one day.

A mischievous grin crossed her lips. Dennee would not like that...

The Mord Sith stiffened. Dennee! She had not thought of her ever since the stormy night in the cave. Kahlan had simply occupied every corner of her mind;

She stared at the white covered back that swayed gracefully with Shadows moves ahead, frowning. A slight tingle in her stomach stirred her... The blonde tried to focus on that nagging little voice that called for her; until she remembered.

"What is it, Cara?"

Kahlan´s soft voice ripped her out of her thoughts. Still frowning somberly she looked up.

"I was thinking about your sister..."

Kahlan´s gaze changed from amused curiosity into resignation. Frowning as she turned away and let her eyes travel along the road ahead. She took in a long deep breath.

"She will not be amused about us... But..., she is my sister! She will need time, but eventually she will accept you."

"She hates me." Cara pursed her lips, considering her words. "And… I don´t trust her."

Kahlan frowned slightly annoyed.

"Try to be fair, Cara. You killed her! That is not the best way to start a friendship."

"I am not speaking about that but about this journey."

The Confessor gave her a questioning look. "Which means...?"

"I can´t tell you what it is. I just know something is wrong. I witnessed her meeting with the leaders of the troop the evening before our departure." Kahlan´s eyebrow lifted disapprovingly. She had a faint idea how Cara could have witnessed their meeting. "It gave me an odd feeling... Kahlan! She ordered them to stay with their life for my. safe. return. to Aydindril!"

The blonde shook her head. "I have thought it over; I cannot see the reason why she would order them to watch over me!"

Kahlan eyed her intently, her brows deeply furrowed; confused. She was weighing the options. The strong tension between the Mord Sith and her sister had never been a secret. Yet Cara was the most attentive person she had ever met. Nothing could ever escape her attention. And she was not one to trifle with her concern. If anyone but Cara would have told her that they didn´t trust Dennee she would have laughed.

But Dennee, on the other hand, was her little sister. She knew her since she had let out her first cry. Dennee was short-tempered and tended to act impulsively; her decisions were often made hastily; she was jealous and liked to take center stage… But she was most definitely not perfidious.

"Maybe she just wanted to show them that despite your well known antipathy she would not appreciate if you would have...problems on the way. Our troops have not forgotten yet how your sisters raged through the Midlands when Darken Rahl was in charge."

Cara scowled at her, clearly doubting her words. And she heard what Kahlan hadn´t said: that she had been part of these Mord Sith then… She grunted audibly. But before she could give a sharp response a loud voice echoed from ahead.

"Mother Confessor!"

Kahlan looked up the road, where a small group of seven riders had appeared, briefly pulling up their horses before pushing them into a gallop to approach quickly.

The Confessor turned her face towards Cara, a reassuring smile on her lips.

"We´ll talk later, Cara. Now it´s time..."

And turning towards the approaching soldiers she put her Confessor mask on and awaited the men with straightened back and raised chin.


Prince Devron strode towards the door where the two guards stepped aside to let him in.

The Confessor did not rise from her chair as he entered her working chamber. Her head still hovering over the papers that lay sprawled over her desk, she only shifted her free hand and gave him a wave to approach. He managed a brief glance on the title of the paper she was signing. It seemed to be a letter of appointment.

His lips curled slightly, obviously assuming it to be his reward.

Finally she shifted her gaze and stared at him with cold eyes.

"You´ve stirred up the councilors. They were agitated when they left."

"I told nothing but the truth, Confessor. They will have something to consider in the coming days."

"What you spoke of was rebellion!

The council has no right to name another Mother Confessor. The title is not given by councilor´s elections."

Her brows furrowed above her steely glare as she hissed.

"If you ever dare again to step over the barriers in front of the council, you should consider the consequences before raising your voice. This is a warning, Prince Devron. Next time I will give none."

He blushed in helpless anger at the blunt humiliation.

"But, Confessor..."

She stopped his speech with a harsh gesture, leaning forward and pointing an angry finger at him.

"You will do as I ordered! No more, no less! Is that understood?"

His shoulders sagged, his head dropped in suggestion of a bow, gritting his teeth.

"Yes Confessor. Please forgive my impertinence. I acted in the best intentions."

Her eyes rested on him with deep disgust. With narrowed eyes she watched him straightening again.

"I did not ask for your best intentions! I thought my orders were clear.

You may leave now. I expect you to act more prudently when the council meets after tomorrow again! Some of the councilors will seek your advice before then; be careful what you tell them!"

He bowed shortly before turning and heading for the door. His steps far from the proud strides he had shown before.


The small group stopped before the Mother Confessor and they dismounted quickly, going down on one knee, bowing their heads and thrusting their fists to their chests as one.

"Mother Confessor!"

Kahlan looked down at them with warm eyes from Shadows back.

"Rise." She addressed their leader with a joyful smile. "Captain Rikes!" She gave a short nod to the man who stood in front of her. He was a tall, well-muscled soldier with short brown hair, which showed a lot of grey around his temples and a proud green gaze that now rested openly on his sovereign with a light glow of adoration.

"Welcome Mother Confessor! I am glad to see you. Knowing you were travelling without your wizard and since we expected your arrival yesterday we began to worry..."

Kahlan gave him a gentle smile and shook her head.

"There had been no need to worry. I am under the best protection of Mistress Cara here." She gestured towards the blonde Mord Sith who sat straight on her horse, just half a length behind Kahlan. Her face an expressionless mask, only her steely eyes narrowed on him. He acknowledged her with a short nod, a tiny frown crossing his features as he looked at her, and then addressed Kahlan again.

"We made camp just a league away, Mother Confessor. I assume you´ll appreciate a little comfort after your journey. Your tent is prepared, and I saw that a dinner is waiting for you." His lips curled ever so slightly when he added with a mischievous grin: "I hope you still like roasted lizards."

Cara arched an eyebrow, but Kahlan grinned. "I see Captain Rikes, you still know the best ways to keep a troop at its best while afield …" Smiling she turned to Cara. "Captain Rikes here has been my tutor in battle tactics when I was younger. He has given me soldier cooking lessons, cause a soldier needs to appreciate whatever a meal nature offers, even if only the bad taste of lizards…" she turned again.

"You should let your men mount. I would like to reach the camp before sunset."

The soldiers mounted and taking Kahlan and Cara in their middle they forced their horses into a trot, Captain Rikes riding beside Kahlan.

"Tell me, what is going on in Comorra." The Confessor looked at him expectantly. "Have you talked to King Sadom?"

Captain Rikes face became serious.

"Things are not easy there. We arrived four days ago. I sent a messenger to King Sadom to ask for an informal meeting. Up to now he did not receive me. As we were ordered I did not try to force him. But I sent note that you intend to see him before you meeting his nephews. Today I finally received an answer. He awaits you."

Kahlan saw his furrowed brows and heard the somber tone in his voice and tilted her head with a light frown.

"What else?"

"The city of Comorra is clouded by aggression. The people are in an evil mood and are close to uprising. The day before yesterday I took a few of our men and tried to get a feel for the current situation. We only faced a wall of cold silence. We barely made it back to camp without using our weapons as some younger men tried to pick a fight.

We are not welcome here, Mother Confessor!

Last night our guards were attacked by a handful of drunken men. They shouted insults and one of my men has been stabbed with a knife…"

She stared at him in disbelief. He stared back, strong concern in his eyes.

"His wound is not deep. I arrested the attacker, so you might question him. But to be honest, I fear for your safety, Kahlan!" He didn´t seem to notice that he had called her by her name and Kahlan didn´t seem to care, but Cara frowned deeply, her face wearing an expression of angry disdain.

"How can you be supposed to guard the Mother Confessor if you´re afraid of a few drunken peasants?" Her growl made him look at her with his proud eyes, sparks of rising anger crackling in their depths. He lifted his chin defiantly.

"I am not afraid of a few drunken peasants, Mord Sith. I am Adam Rikes, first son of Aaron Rikes, first guard on duty as my father has been and his father before; and I´ve dedicated my life to serving the Mother Confessor since I´ve been able to handle a sword.

All while you and your kind have been chasing our Confessors, seeking to kill them for your master…I would give my life for her!"

Kahlan stopped Cara, who was already looking as though she was about to jump on him and stab her agiels into him, with her hand cutting the air.

"Stop it! Both of you!" She gave Cara an admonishing glare, and then turned to the Captain with cold eyes.

"This is Mistress Cara you are speaking to! She is my personal guard and more than this, she is my friend. She is a woman of honor and I trust her with my life. You will treat her with respect! Is that clear?"

His narrowed eyes were still on the blonde, his jaw set, but he nodded reluctantly.

"As you wish, Mother Confessor."

Kahlan looked fiercely at Cara again, raising a brow expectantly, until Cara too gave a short nod, dropping her eyes. Kahlan could tell by the thin line of her lips that she was furious. A faint wave of pride made her lips twitch slightly;

Her Mord Sith tried to behave just because she asked her to.

"Have you heard anything about the King´s nephews, Captain? How much are the people turning against each other? Has there been fights in the city?"

"I am sorry, Mother Confessor. After our first attempt proved fruitless I decided it was prudent to keep our distance. I did not want to provoke further trouble before your arrival.

All I can say is that people are strongly aggressive. But there is no obvious reason I can see."

Kahlan nodded, a thoughtful frown settling on her features. They rode in silence for a few moments, until the Mother Confessor straightened, her expressionless mask back in place.

"Well then. I will ride to the Palace tomorrow morning. King Sadom will have to satisfactorily explain the situation.

Cara will accompany me. I want you, Captain, to set your men on alert. The people of Comorra need to understand that we are here to help them. But I do not want to be surprised by silly actions of some of them if they won´t."

They reached the camp just before dusk. Captain Rikes had tactically chosen a plain wide area that provided no hideouts for any uninvited guests approaching. Cara counted the tents. Fifteen simple grey tents as they were usually built for soldiers were surrounding a larger white one in a wide circle. That would be the one for Kahlan she assumed. The flag of the Mother Confessor as she had seen it everywhere around the Confessor´s Palace in Aydindril swayed in the light evening breeze on its top. Beside the big white one there was another, smaller in size, but obviously offering enough room for a group to hold meetings.

Soldiers sat at several fireplaces, the flavor of roasting meet swept through the air. Around the camp she saw up to ten guard posts, some on horses, for watch.

As soon as they got in sight of the camp a horn was blown, its dark thundering sound announcing their approach.

Cara couldn´t help but felt impressed at how quickly the soldiers came to their feet and gathered to greet their sovereign. They stood in two rows for the Mother Confessor to ride through. When their little procession reached the first guard, he dropped on his knee and as if this was the signal for his companions, all of them did so, dropping their heads and hitting their chests with their fists.

The Mother Confessor lead her horse through their rows with head held regally high. Cara followed on her heels, Captain Rikes staying even with her. The rest of the soldiers stayed behind the camp´s edges. Kahlan made a beeline for her tent in the center. She stopped only when she reached the entrance and shifted Shadow to meet her soldiers with calm blue eyes and a clear strong voice.

„Rise my children." They came to their feet, though most of the heads kept bowed.

"The Mother Confessor greets you. I am glad to see the camp optimally prepared. You´ve done well. Now go back to your meals. I want you all to be at your best for the coming days." She gave a graceful nod dismissing them.

"Captain Rikes, please call your lieutenants. I expect them in the meeting tent." The Captain bowed and dismounted. Cara eyed the men suspiciously as they slowly went to return to their places at the small fires. Something in their movements seemed strangely familiar to her.

Kahlan glided from Shadow´s back, giving the rein to a soldier and waited for her, calling her with her soft, low voice and a certain glint in her eyes.

"Let´s go inside, Cara. I need a few moments with you alone…"

The blonde followed her through the tent flap, bringing their bags in and dropping them beside a chair. She turned around, her eyes travelling over the, for what was a field tent, richly furnished interior with a small desk and a few chairs, a little lounge in one corner, a tiny private tent made of heavy curtains where probably the bath tub stood discretely hidden. Thick soft carpets covered the ground and a few large candles would secure enough light for working on papers even after dusk.

Kahlan watched as the blonde´s gaze stopped at the sight of a large bed in the darker area of the tent. She saw her pursed lips and the smug brow that climbed up.

When their eyes finally met, Cara wore a smug grin.

"I assume I am supposed to stand watch here while you´ll be asleep?"

Kahlan chuckled, the blue in her eyes sparkling mischievously.

"You are supposed to lay here. With me." She stepped closer and cupped the blonde´s cheeks. Her lips brushed teasingly against hers.

"There will be enough men outside on duty while we are here… You´ll have time to attend to other… duties." Her tongue pushed between these full, red, alluring lips of Cara, only to sink eagerly into her mouth as the Mord Sith allowed her entrance. In a blink the world seemed to cease around them, leaving nothing but the heat of their kiss and the pressure of their touches…

Until Cara pushed her softly back. "We should stop before we can´t anymore, Kahlan. Your men are waiting!" The promises in her jade gaze that swept against Kahlan made the butterflies in her stomach flutter excitedly. But she nodded in resignation and turned to leave the tent, her back straightening and inhaling a deep breath.


The Confessor looked back over her shoulder. "Mmm?"

A deep frown had settled on the blonde´s face. She stared at her with sudden confusion.


"Why didn´t she order them to stay with their lives for your safe return?"

Not understanding at first what Cara spoke of, Kahlan frowned and stalled her steps, as Captain Rikes voice was heard.

"Mother Confessor? The men await you."

She shrugged apologetically towards the blonde and left the tent. "Then let´s go, Captain."

Cara rushed behind, her face the very expression of intense pondering.


When they entered the meeting tent, the group of five lieutenants, formally standing at the round desk in the center of the room, bowed deeply immediately. Cara waited for them to lift their heads; curious of whom she had eavesdropped with Dennee. She hadn´t seen their faces, but she was sure she would recognize them anyway.

Kahlan strode in front of them with sure steps.

"Lieutenants, I thank you for the good preparations of this mission. Now that I am here we need to set the troop up for the coming negotiations. Captain Rikes has already given a short report of the happenings since your arrival... Now I am interested in your personal observations. Then I will decide how the troop will be positioned while my discussions with King Sadom and his nephews."

She looked around. None of them had lifted his head yet. With furrowed brows, her gaze searched Cara´s briefly, before returning to the soldiers at the desk. Her voice had a sharp edge of sudden tautness. Without turning towards him she called for the Captain.

"Captain Rikes! Since when are lieutenants of Aydindril´s troops too shy to face the Mother Confessor?"

The gurgling little noise behind them met the sudden whine of Cara´s agiels. Kahlan whipped around, seeing the Captains eyes going wide before they dropped to the point of a blade that protruded from his chest. Time seemed to slow down as she watched aghast how her old friend sagged to the ground, saw how Cara stepped protectively in front of her with her agiels ready to strike.

Behind the falling Captain a face appeared, barely visible in the shadows. Kahlan froze, gripping Cara´s arm, drawing her back a little, and closer to her side.

With a smug grin, and an arrogantly lifted eyebrow the familiar figure of Darken Rahl stepped over the bleeding corpse at his feet, wiping disgustedly the blood from his hands with a silky white cloth, and then dropping it carelessly.

He looked up and a bright smile appeared on his face.

"Ah I´ve been so looking forward to finally see you again, Mother Confessor! Cara!" He snickered. "Though I doubt my delight will be shared by any of you…"

Kahlan stared at him, her arm still resting on Cara´s in a hard grip. Her narrowed eyes seared with icy blue into him, her words cutting the air like sharp blades of steel.

"Though I always thought you were just a fool, Rahl, I did not assume you were stupid enough to walk into a camp of Midland soldiers; considering your lack of powers it was a stupid idea; which you will regret."

"Kahlan, Kahlan, you should not underestimate me." His grin had even widened.

Her voice was a dark shout to her men. "Get him!"

They rushed.

But instead of attacking Rahl, they circled the Mother Confessor and the Mord Sith, who grunted audibly, shooting savage glances around, searching for the weakest spot to attack while nearly a dozen Mord Sith entered the tent. For a moment Kahlan stared stunned into the men´s empty faces.

They were like stone; only in their eyes flickering a soulless passion.

"Dear Creator! Cara!" she whispered appalled. "They are all confessed!"

In this moment she felt Cara´s arm disentangle from her grip and spinning around she saw her falling, an arrow sticking deep in her chest.

While her eyes widened in horror, a whispered "NO!" fell from her lips, a blue flash erupted from Rahl´s outstretched hand and crackled into her chest with a blow so hard that the air was pressed from her lungs. She cried out in pain and rage, but no sound left her throat. The blue bolt burnt into her skin like boiling steel, filling her chest, her limps and finally her entire mind with hot, glistening pain.

Finally Rahl lowered his hand. The searing blue lightning ebbed instantly to a faint loom and then vanished.

Kahlan sagged to the ground as if every bone inside her body had melted into ashes.


Her world had ceased. Reduced to a wavering black, hollow nonentity. No sound to be heard, not a single spark of light to be seen;


Her weightlessness the only thing she acknowledged as it slowly changed, gained importance, until it dawned to her that it wasn´t its lightness, but its heavy weight that counted.

She was nothing but a meaningless weight in a meaningless darkness.

Hanging in chains...

Sparks of boring pain crawled slowly into her consciousness, melting together, planting little heaps of hot, burning fire into her bones. She tried to shake them away, but moving only caused some more hurting small explosions.

The moment of awakening ripped her out of that calm, merciful emptiness with blunt cruelty, throwing her into a world of pain without a warning.

Kahlan gasped, trying to fill her lungs; fighting for badly needed air; her body struggled for some balance between the here and now and unconsciousness. The first thing her blurred mind noticed was the surge of pain coming from her shoulders, joints wrung to almost dislocation.

As her body swung uncontrollably and her chest heaved heavily, she hardly heard a filthy voice murmuring from afar -

"She´s ready My Lord!"

- and she couldn´t take a breath before something seemed to rip her belly open, filling searing flames into her entire mind, crashing through her body; she heard a piercing scream and somewhere in her mind she briefly wondered how someone could let out a creepy sound like that. But then, as the sound cracked, the oddly hard scratch in her throat reached her understanding, telling her it was her own mouth that had let it out...

Kahlan´s eyes snapped open. Sweat covered her forehead and trickled down her temples. Panting heavily she tried to clear her vision. Slowly her eyes adapted to the view; flickering lights against dark walls, a ghostly face emerging and staring at her with hard almond eyes, their position irritatingly beyond parallel. The face slowly stretched into a body, tightly covered in red; hair drawn back in a straight dark braid hanging loosely over the shoulders. She acknowledged cheekbones, as sharp as if carved by a chisel. And a red rod pointing at her chest just an inch away from her bare skin.

The moment she recognized it was a Mord Sith, the woman swung her agiel and landed it with a hard blow across her face.

Her head flew back and hit the chains hard; she felt blood trickling from the corner of her lips. Kahlan moaned loudly. Instinctively her hands tried to get free to defend and strike back. She heard the chains rattling while sharp bolts of pain cut through her wrists and shoulders. She could barely avoid another moan.

And then she heard him. He stood behind her. His soft, oily voice tingling against her ears with barely a whisper.

"Shsh, Kahlan. Do not fight it. Fighting is futile; you will only hurt yourself if you fight. I don´t want you to hurt yourself."

She felt his hand gliding down her rips to her waist as he circled her to come into her sight, making the muscles in her abdomen cramp in defense. She shut her eyes and gritted her teeth, her bound hands high above her clenching into fists.

When her eyes opened, he stood right in front of her. He had stepped back, a smug grin lay on his face as his gaze travelled luxuriously over her. All of a sudden she became terribly aware that she was at his mercy; hanging in chains; helplessly; naked, except for the small leather bands around her breasts and her hips.

And the metal collar around her neck.

A spark of panic settled in her mind, instantly starting to nag at her strength; but then a picture flickered up.

Her beautiful face; an arrow;

- Cara! -

She wheezed as the memory shot into her mind.

She straightened her back as much as possible and raised her chin, ignoring the ever present pain; suddenly very awake; feeling a wave of rage surging through her insides, building up into a flood of hatred. Her eyes met his with icy blue, shooting daggers into him.

Rahl stood silently, his lips curling into an amused grin as he watched her change. His hand reached absently for his chin to stroke it.

"Ah, now you´re awake!" He smiled his mincing smile.

"Welcome to Comorra, Mother Confessor. It is a pleasure to offer my hospitality to you." He swept his arm around as if presenting her regal chambers.

"Or, to be more specific, welcome to the dungeons of King Sadom´s Palace." He snorted slightly and arched a brow in his typical priggish manner. "Well, for now they are my dungeons. And you are my precious guest herein. I hope everything is to your liking, Mother Confessor? I had to improvise a little, I apologize, but I think it will do..." His mocking voice and his gentle smile tugging at her nerves, Kahlan´s narrowed eyes still pierced him. She panted heavily, struggling to gain control over her body.

When she spoke she tried to sound bored, but with the first word, more a croak than a word, she knew she failed miserably. She broke up and inhaled a deep breath and started again, yet her voice sounding low, but clear and disgusting.

"Say what you want Rahl. Or kill me. As you did with Cara..." She tried hard to hide the fear she felt, anxiously awaiting his answer...

- Dear Creator, make that she received the Breath of Life.-

"I am not here to kill you, Kahlan. I am here... toteach you."

As if sensing how much she graved for hearing what happened to Cara he did not lose a single word about her. The deep frown that appeared on Kahlan´s face forced his smug grin back to his lips. She looked at him with deep disdain.

Make him talk, Kahlan! -

"You shouldn´t be here at all, Rahl. The last I´ve heard was that you found a dirty hole and crawled in to lick your wounds somewhere in the barren lands in the south...like any kicked dog would do... Beaten… and powerless."

His eyes narrowed slightly, just for a heartbeat, and Kahlan tensed, almost expecting him to beat her, but the moment passed and he wore his priggish smile again.

"As you might have noticed, I can´t complain about lack of powers. Actually, I would say that I gained some very specialpowers; different than before they might be, but, believe me, not less effective..." he grinned contently, his eyes looking down to his hands as he rubbed them together.

Kahlan´s mind raced. It was true; the magic he had used to beat her had been strong and exceptional. Yet she had no idea how this could be?

- Don´t let him know how much you need to hear about her, Kahlan -

"So I assume you have another deal with the Keeper? Dooming the world again for your goals? Or is it just some sort of a cheap trick you used against me?" The challenge in her voice did not go unnoticed. For a moment he looked at her ponderingly, obviously considering his words carefully to not reveal too much.

"Let´s say, a powerful friend has agreed to support me on my way to band the Midlands and D´Hara together. To everyone's welfare, if I may say that." He finally grinned mischievously.

"Welfare…" she huffed a disgusting laugh."As always, you are sacrificing innocent people for your hunger for power. You´ve already left a bloody trail in your wake, Rahl. What happened to the girls your Mord Sith captured? Are you torturing them here in the dungeons?" He just grinned mildly, stroking his beard. Her eyes hardened.

tell me about Cara! -

"And Zedd? You´ve tried to capture him too! Why didn´t your underlings take the opportunity to kill us all when they ambushed us?"

He raised a brow, as if scandalized by the pure thought of killing her.

"As I said, Kahlan, I do not intend to kill you. I want you to live. I have other plans for you and your little band..."

Kahlan´s heart skipped a beat.

- Please, Creator, does that mean Cara is alive? -

He ignored the flicker in her eyes and playing with his fingertips he continued almost dreamily.

"Did you know, Kahlan, that you can strip a wizard from his powers by skinning him alive? And if you do it right, you can even use his power yourself then…" He snickered and lifted his eyes to meet hers.

"I should have known that you two ladies wouldn´t simply abandon the old fool." He shook his head in regret. "What a pity my Mord Sith couldn´t catch him. Just imagine, his powers adding to mine... Ah, I can´t wait to get him... alive of course."

Kahlan stared at him, horror lying in her wide eyes. He told the truth. He would skin Zedd if he caught him... Swallowing hard she tried to control her voice. But she couldn´t help her words coming out as a whisper.

"But Cara you´ve killed..."

He raised a brow at her, in his eyes a hint of curiosity.
"Would that disturb you, Mother Confessor? Caring as always? Has my Mord Sith sneaked her way into your heart? Or should I assume it´s hope that I did?" He leaned a little closer. "Jealous? Because my dear brother has a soft spot for blondes in red leather?" A cruel smile crossed his lips while his voice was soothingly mild.

"Don´t worry, Kahlan. My Mord Sith is back to where she belongs... I will not let her be killed before she hasn´t paid her bills..."

Kahlan briefly dropped her head, feeling her heart tumble in her chest, trying to hide her uncontrolled relieve behind the dark veil of her tresses.

- Dear Creator! Thank you. So much!-

She struggled to put her mask on her face and looked up.

- Keep him talking, Kahlan! -

"What about Comorra? Spreading rumors of a civil war was a trick, wasn´t it?"

Now he laughed. His head thrown back he laughed heartily. When he stopped, he looked at her with some odd compassion in his eyes. Almost cheerily he chatted away.

"Oh Kahlan! You were so easy to fool!

King Sadom has been so generous to lay his palace at my feet. He seems to be of a vengeful nature... Hasn´t it been you who confessed his only brother back then? And for mere nothing at all... Mm, I always knew that women are not capable to understand men´s needs..."

The Confessor blanched. Her thoughts went to that day in the past. When her eyes turned back to him her face was a mask of disgust, her voice dark and filled with abhorrence.

"His brother... He descended on that village with a whole gang of drunken soldiers. They killed the men and gathered the women. He chose a few for himself; they were not even old enough to be called a woman; he ceded the rest of them to his men; to be tortured and raped." Her eyes shot fire.

"He deserved what he got!"

Rahl shrugged, his lips curled up.

"Well, my dear. Apparently King Sadom doesn´t see it the same. He was much too eager to hook up with me when I promised him he would get his revenge...He´s starving for your agony."

Kahlan panted. The pain in her shoulders burned, she felt blood trickling from her right wrist. Yet she tried to keep her chin up and her head clear.

"What about his people? What lies did you effuse to win them over?"

"Why, the people of Comorra are convinced that the Mother Confessor came to take their King and his nephews, to swallow their proud city and gain control over their land." His eyes scoffed her. "She is such a naughty woman, that Mother Confessor! All she can think of is power and might. But this brave people are ready to stand up to her." He grinned amused. "They are thankful that I brought my men and Mord Sith to help them. I am a hero to them!"

Silence settled between them as he enjoyed her resigned expression. He watched her chest heaving, listened to her heavy breathes. He could tell she felt pain. The wrinkles in her narrowed eyes and the tiny pearls on her forehead and bosom betrayed her. Apparently he liked what he saw.

He was going to turn and address his Mord Sith, who waited silently behind him for his orders, as her hoarse voice stopped him.

"What for, Rahl? You can´t win. Richard has taken his rightful place as Lord Rahl. D´Hara is blooming under his reign. Your time is up!"

She watched him straightening and then he turned around and snapped.

"Your precious Richard can´t cope with the job! I know the people of D´Hara. They need a strong hand to lead them. My brother is nothing but a knock-off of a leader. They will only be pleased to crawl under my protecting cloak..."

And while his eyes caught hers trapped, searing their blue veil with his suddenly hard and steely gaze, he approached slowly, closing the gap between them until his nose almost touched her cheek. She could smell his sour breath, the scent of sweat and blood that emanated from his skin and tried hard not to retch as her stomach revolted. His intimate, whispering voice was now dripping with darkness.

"But all this is just a part of the deal...You want to know what this is about?

It´s you, Mother Confessor!

You are the prize in this game! My revenge on you!

You have no idea what it felt like to be in the Keeper´s brutal grip. Knowing that a simple woman had caused my failing! If not for you, Richard would have never had a chance against me. For all the times you duped me, put paid to my plans; for the time the Keeper had me in his hands! For the tortures I´m gone through...

You will pay for it!

I will make you scream; will taste your blood;

I will break you, Kahlan Amnell!"

Kahlan closed her eyes and swallowed against the rising panic. She felt his hot breathe scratching along her sweaty skin and tried hard not to squirm. He noticed and continued even more hateful then before.

"I will take your powers and teach you submission.

Your beloved Midlands… they will be mine! I´ll destroy everything you believe in.

I will possess you!

I´ll make you my queen and you will carry the fruit of my loins.

And when the point in time has come that I´ll get tired of you, I will free the world from the curse of confession.

You´ll be beheaded, Kahlan Amnell."

He licked a slow, agonizing trail along her jaw, his hand sliding briefly over her breasts, before he retreated. For a moment he just watched her, watched how her pale face tensed, her lips lost their color as she pressed them tightly together.

But then he shrugged lightheartedly and smiled benevolently.

"See, a great future is awaiting you!"

Kahlan felt the cold grip of despair tugging at her heart, but she braced herself and inhaled deeply, glaring at him with defiance.

"Never! You will never possess me! I rather die than be yours. You might torture my body, burn my skin, break my bones. But you´ll be never able to break me. I swear!

And never you´ll have the Midlands! You forget that right now, in this very moment, a Confessor calls the Council in Aydindril. My sister will never allow that you seize power over our lands. She will fight you, as will Richard. You have no choice, Rahl! You are doomed to fail!"

Her heart stumbled as she saw his mouth quirking into a mean grin. She felt as though she standing on thin ice, already creaking under her weight.

"So sure, Mother Confessor?" His eyes bored into hers.

"Do you remember your men in the camp? They didn´t even try to defend you, Kahlan! Because they lost their mind and their souls! Living only to serve their mistress

Who. do you think. has taken their souls?... It hasn´t been you, Kahlan…"

She stared at him with wide eyes, a low groan escaped her lips, a cold shiver made its way down her spine, filling her limps with chill that seemed to freeze the blood in her veins; his words stabbing her heart like cold steel.

The ice had broken, she was drowning...

- No...

This can´t be true! Dennee would never… -


Berdine´s gaze followed thoughtfully the swinging of her Lord Rahl´s backside. She chewed her lower lip, an unmistakable sign that something was bothering her.

"What are you thinking about?"

Raina´s soft voice made the brown-haired Mord Sith shift in her saddle and turn towards her. She gave her love a brief look, tilting her head.

"He is not himself since the wizard has left. I wonder what is going on in his mind…"

Her gaze went back to Richard´s tense back. He was riding alone ahead of them in pondering silence. Raina eyed their Lord knowingly and nodded slowly.

"He has been under pressure ever since the Sister of the Light appeared and told him about Rahl. But the old fool made it even worse." She shrugged. "I do not think it is all about Rahl´s return." A faint grin crossed her face.

"If you´re asking me, I would say that a certain Mother Confessor is occupying his mind. And maybe a certain Mord Sith, who is gone on a journey with her, too…"

Berdine snickered lowly.

"You are right. He should have better thought it over when he ordered Cara to stay in Aydindril…"

Raina sighed.

"I think he has thought it over. He just didn´t realize then, that in consequence of bringing them together they would eventually find out the truth. And now he regrets." her voice falling into a little gleeful singsong "But now it´s too late…"

A faint grin on her lips Berdine nodded, thinking back to the evening when Zedd had confronted Richard with the past. The men hadn´t realized the two Mord Sith standing watch beside the open door. Silent guards they hadn´t noticed. Following their discussion Berdine and Raina had shared a few meaningful glances under furrowed brows. Soon Berdine´s expression had slowly changed from curiosity into some dark anger.

Richard´s words had explained a lot of Cara´s odd behavior during her time at the People´s Palace.

In this night Berdine had been in a grim mood, having been forced to torturing her beloved Mistress because of her Lord Rahl´s imbecility. Of course it hadn´t worked to beat the Mother Confessor´s image out of Cara´s mind! As for her, she knew, whatever happened, she would never be able to forget Raina´s image! And Cara was even stronger than she was. It had been a useless attempt! A self imposed punishment for a broken heart. If she had only known by then what had been the reason of Cara´s angry mood…

"Someone should smack him! Hard!" she had growled it several times. And Raina had only been able to calm her down in her arms by promising she would; someday…


The sun had climbed high in the sky when they finally reached Aydindril. Richard ordered the small troop of fifty soldiers and their leaders to camp in sight of the city gates. Only his four Mord Sith were allowed to join him; he deliberately ignored the disapproving expression on his captain´s face, who seriously insisted in coming with them.

"Confessor Dennee is informed about our arrival and awaits us. This is an amicable encounter. We will not need military cortege!" had been his words...

Now, riding through King´s row people bordered their way, watching their little procession riding along silently, with dark, almost hostile expressions.

"Lord Rahl will have to explain what exactly "amicable" means for him." Raina muttered lowly as they entered the courtyard, where the Palace´s home guards stood already expecting them, with straight backs and stony faces.

"Confessor Dennee and the Council await you."

They guided them through empty halls and silent corridors; the dump sound of their boots on the marble floors was the only sound they heard. Richard walked with stiffened shoulders and narrowed eyes. He couldn´t help but feeling the familiar paintings on the walls eying their march suspiciously.

Finally they came to a halt at a tall open gate. A marshal stumped his stave three times with a thundering sound to announce their entrance.

"Lord Richard Rahl, Seeker of Truth, and his cortege ask for permission to be heard!"

Richard glanced at him with his jaw set.

He had to wait until the marshal received a wink from inside and let them pass.

The Lord Rahl strode with long, sure steps as though he owned the hall. His head held high, a smile on his lips, he headed straightly to the large chair at the head side of the council. From the corners of his eyes he registered people watching them from the galleries, citizens, Lords, soldiers, women in precious robes. At the large table, arranged in form of a wide U, the open side inviting guests to step among the council members while being heard, every seat was occupied, their owners staring at him with some aloofness.

Though Richard had joined meetings during his time in Aydindril, he had never seen all of the councilors together; there had always been a few chairs left empty because their owners were busy with whatever a councilor had to do.

Dennee sat upright in the First Chair. Approaching, Richard frowned even deeper as he eyed her. She wore the white dress of the Mother Confessor and though he had half expected it - after all she was Kahlan´s representative on the First Chair while her sister was away - seeing her in that particular dress, Kahlan´s rightful sign of her rein, stirred something inside him.

She looked good.

But it just didn´t feel right!

Her Confessor´s face brightened a tiny bit, almost unnoticeable, and in her eyes he saw briefly a warm glimmer as she tilted her head to greet him.

"Lord Rahl! So you finally arrived."

He bowed respectfully, and then straightened, sending a glance around to greet the council.

"Confessor Dennee! Councilors! I am sorry for the delay, but I came as fast as possible." He looked around. "I am glad to see you have called the Council. I assume that means everyone is informed already?"

She looked at him, her face slightly hardening, and arched an arrogant eyebrow.

"Well, while you preferred to restrain any information about whatever a threat you came to know about, we got news from different lands of the midlands. We know that Darken Rahl roams the streets of the Midlands and that his... partisans..."she halted, tilting her head with narrowed eyes towards the Mord Sith, who had stopped before the table round and arranged in a lose half circle, their bodies stiff and slightly turned, so that they were capable to survey the entire hall. Suddenly her voice sounded cold: "...that his partisans are invading our villages, kidnapping girls and murdering their families..." and concluding in a teasing tone: " Is it that what you wanted to tell us?"

Richard frowned and stared at her with slight irritation. That was not exactly how he had imagined her greeting. He answered in a calm but slightly admonishing tone.

"I am here to support you, Dennee. Obviously my brother has returned and is playing games. I bemoan the losses he caused. But we have no time to lose. I think it is important now that we stand combined against him."

The silence seemed to thicken the air as Dennee eyed him wordlessly. The Councilors sat with tense countenance, their faces stressed as if awaiting something happening every moment before their eyes. Dennee set her jaw. Finally she sighed and raised her chin, a tight smile gracing her lips.

"Richard, the Midlands are grateful for any support against their foes. But all the same I am sure you will understand that we have to be careful.

You have been to D´Hara for a long time. And now, coming back, you´re accompanied by people who fought the Midlands not so long ago. We don´t know much about your brother´s intentions. Though, his influence might be immense. How can we be sure that he has not infiltrated those who pretend to follow you now?

I ask you for understanding that I merely follow your own advice to not trust anyone.

The Council has berated about that. And it is decided that we will not take the risk that Rahl´s agents will walk freely in this Palace. We cannot trust Mord Sith. Therefore I ask you to not see it as an aggression that I am going to order your Mord Sith to be guided to their chambers where they will stay under arrest until we know what we have to expect."

Her eyes not leaving his, staring at her from under deeply furrowed brows, she gave a short wink and immediately a small troop of guards entered the hall.

In the same moment, without hesitation, four agiels were drawn and filled the air instantly with their impending sounds. Richard´s face contorted in disbelieve, he whipped around and stared at his Mord Sith, standing belligerently in front of the home guards who circled them carefully, swords drawn; waiting for orders.

"Lord Rahl?" Berdine had a feisty voice as she called him without looking at him. Richard saw how she took a step aside to protect his flank. He turned just in time to see Dennee waving her men to a halt. She raised a brow at him.

"Richard, please tell them to lay their weapons down. I do not want to let anyone be hurt. But if they dare striking I will not hesitate to shoot them!" He acknowledged the resolve in her voice and looked up. On the gallery above her he found ten archers aiming at them and he knew they had no choice. His eyes locked with the Confessor´s as he set his jaw; breathe barely controlled he scowled at her; he straightened and despite the rage he felt rushing through his veins he ordered in a clear and calm voice:

"Sheath your agiels and take them off. I want you to lay them here on the table."

He could literally hear how the four women gritted their teeth, how they choked air in angry hesitation. The silence in the hall wavered heavily above their heads.

It was Raina who questioned again, as if she hadn´t understood his words.

"Lord Rahl?"

Without turning, his gaze glued to the woman in white, he snapped harshly:

"This is an order, Raina. Do as I say."

Their leather creaked as if in protest as they reluctantly obeyed. Four agiels landed with dumb sounds on the table at his side, Berdine banging hers down angrily, shooting daggers at him from burning eyes. He didn´t react. Still holding Dennee´s gaze with his narrowed eyes he continued, barely controlled rage burning in his words.

"You will follow the guards to your chambers and stay there until I give you new orders."

The Mord Sith changed fierce glances, Berdine´s hands were clenched into fists, Raina´s face was a dark crimson, but eventually they lined stiffly up behind the guards and allowed them to guide them out. Only then Richard turned and followed their tense backs vanishing through the doors, his eyes glowing with suppressed rage.

There was a fire in his glance when he revolved eventually to meet the Confessor´s gaze, drawling through his teeth.

"You should know that you will have to answer me, Confessor, if they´ll have as much as a scratch when I see them again!"

Dennee sagged a little in her chair, a mild, tired smile crossing her face.

"I am sorry, Richard. I know this is hard for you. Do not take it personally; I only do what is needed. We all very appreciate that you came, but you should not forget that you were the one who wanted me to prepare Aydindril against the threat; to set our troops on alarm. We should talk privately about the circumstances."

She slowly stood, nodding briefly to the Councilors, who had followed the scene in tight exertion and now seemed to slowly start breathing again. While they all bowed their heads in return, Prince Devron just tilted his, acknowledging her with a tight smile. Her lips twitched ever so slightly as her gaze pierced him warningly until he dropped his head; then she put her calm Confessor mask on and ended the meeting.

"That is all for now. The Council may leave. But I expect you to stay disposed; I´ll call you again as soon as we get more news..." She turned to the tall man in a grey cloak who had waited silently in the shadows beside her chair.

"Wizard Connor, please see to it that the Mord Sith will have all what they need." He nodded his understanding and left. Then her gaze searched Richard.

"Richard, would you please follow me to my working chambers. We might have dinner there while we´re talking things over."

And nodding towards him to follow her she strode out regally, Richard resolutely on her heels, his face grim, his lips pressed into a thin line and his knuckles white as his hand wrapped tightly around the Sword of Truth...


"Richard, look at me." Dennee asked him kindly.

They had spent more than an hour talking and still his wrath was awake. She studied his hard face, finally placing a hand on his arm.

"You will see, things will come to a reasonable end. The Council just follows the rules. You can´t deny that the circumstances demand weariness. As soon as we can be sure that your Mord Sith can be trusted they will join you again." She ducked her head in order to catch his eyes.

He inhaled deeply and then lifted his gaze. His jaw was still set, but the fire in his eyes had dimmed to a faint glow. He sighed, almost defeated.

"Okay, Dennee. I understand why you´ve set them under arrest, but however you want to prove their loyalties, you have five days. If you don´t set them free by then, I will! And I will fight my way to them if needed!"

She granted him a soft smile.

"There will be no need, Richard. Just trust me." She sighed as she leaned back.

„We should use the time to find a strategy. What do you think Rahl plans? Has the Sister of the Light told you any details?" Richard shook his head.

"She had no further information; except…"

"Except what, Richard?" She leaned towards him, her eyes watching his face closely. Her brow rose as he frowned thoughtfully.

"The wizard, you demanded to look after my Mord Sith. Is he one of Zedd´s apprentices?" She nodded.

"His name is Connor. He and his companion arrived here a few months ago. They were sent from the Palace of the Prophets. Why are you asking?"

"Verna… she said one of Zedd´s apprentices might be a traitor." Concern lay in his eyes as he watched her frowning and then shaking her head.

"That can´t be. Since Kahlan has left I worked with him to prepare our security. I think I can say I´ve come to know him. He is vigilantly thinking of every possible gap in our defenses. I can absolutely rely on him. Your Sister Verna must be mistaken."And, striking an easy tone, she changed the subject.

"As you´re mentioning her: why isn´t she, and Zedd, with you? I was sure they would join you? Zedd would be really of great use here; he´s needed…"

"They are on their way to Comorra." Her brows rose surprised. "We agreed that Kahlan and Cara should be informed as fast as possible. They will pick up with them and as soon as they can leave King Sadom´s palace they´ll return by the shortest route. I hope they reach Aydindril within the next eight days."

Dennee hummed absently, her gaze thoughtfully settling on the dancing flames in the hearth. Richard waited a while, but as she seemed to drift away with her thoughts he stood and approached her. "You should go and rest, Dennee. As I will. It´s been a long day. Let´s talk tomorrow." He cupped her cheeks kindly and pressed his lips to her forehead. The low sound of a small sigh rewarded him.

On his way out he turned once again.

"Be careful, Dennee. This Wizard Connor is an obscure person… We should have an eye on him."

With that he left. Dennee watched him go, a shadow falling over her face. The white line of her teeth sank into her lower lip as she turned and let her gaze go lost in the flickering light in the hearth.


Richards steps could still be heard as a new visitor entered her rooms. He found the Confessor sitting at the hearth and staring into the fire and harrumphed slightly to be acknowledged.

"Could you calm him down?"

Her fragile frame did not move. But her voice was hard and her face set into a stony mask.

"He´s wrapped around my little finger... Richard shouldn´t be of your concern." She lifted her gaze and turned towards him, her lips pursed, glaring at him with some reluctance.

"But there is not much time. He is not known for his patience; I don´t think I can steady him for more than a few days.

Go, send your messenger to him. Tell him time is pressing. Zedd and this Sister of the Light are on their way to Comorra!" She pierced him with cold eyes. "And Richard just advised me to have an eye on you! He did not elaborate on why you make him feel suspiciously, but you will stay in the shadows, without attracting further attention. Is that understood?"

His brow climbed slightly up, but he smiled a tight smile and nodded. His eyes spreading little sparks.

"Did you have any troubles with the Mord Sith?"

"They were not pleased of their treatments, especially that brown-haired... what´s her name? Berdine? She fought as though she had an army at her side. We lost three guards, a few others are gone to the healer. But nothing I couldn´t handle. They are locked up and under surveillance." His lips quirked up satisfied. "I made them taste a bit of what is awaiting them ..." She shot him a disapproving glare. The Mord Sith belonged to her!

"What about the prince?" he quickly changed the subject. "He doesn´t seem to have a strong lock on himself…"

"Prince Devron owns the same foolish mind as his cousin did. Give him just a little prospect of gain in power and he loses his head. We can´t trust him…"

He nodded. "I´ll take care of that."

"Fine. That´s all." She waved her hand to dismiss him.

His dark grey cloak flowed behind him like a ghostly wave as Wizard Connor wheeled and left.

Not a candle mark later a falcon shrieked as it headed southward through the night.


Cara waited for the point where pain turned into something different; she waited for the adrenaline to flow in her veins, carrying the intoxication into every cell of her body; waited for the cuts and bruises starting to fade, dimming to a blanket of heat and pulsing vitality, filling her with a new fresh strength, the feeling of being wide awake. The corner of her lips grimaced a spiteful grin.

That uninspired Mord Sith in front of her was failing miserably in her task.

She was young, inexperienced and certainly too weak to be in charge; probably in her fifth or sixth year of training. This girl should have served cleaning the Mord Sith bath rooms instead of being honored with spending time in the dungeons...

Obviously Rahl suffered a serious staff problem.

The young woman was very much focused on her work, carefully avoiding the risky spots, but trying to cause enough pain. She worked her agiel on Cara almost mechanically; stab to the left, stab to the right; blow across her face and a twist on her belly. As if she had a plan in her head and she didn´t dare to deviate from it. All but passionless.

It was annoying.

The good thing was that it left space for her head to wrap around Kahlan´s fate.

Cara didn´t remember the arrow hitting her heart, but she remembered the look of sheer horror in the Confessor´s eyes the moment she acknowledged that all her men were confessed. Closing her eyes she still wanted to growl, wanted to stab her agiel into the one who had caused it, wanted so badly to rip him into pieces. But then her world had gone black and she had found herself in chains in this rotten cell, not knowing where Kahlan was, what had happened to the Mother Confessor; all she could do was bat the thoughts away that tried to overrule her mind; that image of Rahl killing the woman in white, the only one;

Her only one.

Cara clenched her hands into fists, clasping at the furious thought that he would certainly have some mad ideas why he would keep her alive...

Another passionless stab into her belly... Cara hissed in frustration like a riled cat of prey.

The hag-ridden squealing of tired hinge hooks interrupted her thoughts and assuming that Rahl made his appearance a smug grin settled on her face.

"What do you think you are doing here?" Rahl´s snarky voice startled the Mord Sith and she turned to look at him confused.

"My Lord?"

"Can´t you see that she laughs at you? I ordered you to prepare her for me! Look at her; Can´t you see the grin on her face..." In a rush he backhanded Cara heavily, as if to wipe that grin away. The blonde laughed out loud.

"Oh,I hoped you´d come for my personal entertainment, Rahl, eventually. If you let this schoolgirl do the job any longer you risk killing me through tedium. It´s nothing but boring."

In a hard blow his hand met her jaw once more. She could see anger flashing in his eyes and smirked with bruised lips; but then he wheeled to his Mord Sith and batted her agiel from her hand, staring her down.

"Go, see that her place gets prepared in the other cell. Garen will take over your job here." His gaze was an angry blue fire as it seared into her eyes. She dropped her head and turned on her heels, her shoulders slightly sagged. His eyes set into small slits, he called after her. "And you will not speak to her!" She stopped and straightened, but did not look back. Cara saw how she set her jaw, but her voice was low and submissive. "As you wish, My Lord!" and she was gone.

He turned and smiled at Cara, who´s body tensed suspiciously, while his gaze went on a ride over her bruises and the dark marks that painted her form. As if on its own his hand reached out, almost tenderly, and slid to a black spot under her ribcage, where her skin had broken and blood trickled ever so gently from the gash. He licked his lower lip subconsciously as his fingertips wiped blood off, bringing it to his still smiling mouth to be sucked clean while his eyes caught hers with a lustful stare. He groaned lowly.

"Hmm, your taste still does things to me, Cara. I missed it; your blood; your sweat; and all the other moistures we used to share... Tell me, do you still think of all the pleasures we shared?" His oily voice crawled into her ear like a slimy worm, drilling its way through her mind. She pursed her lips, her eyes narrowed snidely, her answer a sheer scorn.

"If you are speaking of the nights you bored me to death with your dirty little games? You are badly mistaken if you think of them as pleasure. I knew my vexatious duty, no more, no less..." A smirk settle on her bruised lips. "Did you know that we tossed up for who had to be the one to put up with your little skills in bed?" She grunted a laugh. "It was better a punishment for failing than a day in the dungeons would have been..."

He smiled at her thoughtfully, seemingly untouched by her words; his hand reached behind and winked for Garen to hand her agiel to him.

"I see, you still try to keep your head up; pretending you rather follow my little brother, Cara. But you and I, we do not need to play acts in that matter, do we? We both know who you really belong to; who made you this adorable Mord Sith you actually were before Richard´s stupid intervention; who is the Lord Rahl you would die for..." The low, coaxing sound of his voice felt like painting her skin with heated honey. She waited; her eyes set into small slits, half-expecting the buzzing sound of a swarm of wasps allured by it, or the deadly strike of a bear´s paw, scratching this sticky skin off her flesh.

"See, what I´m offering you is the chance to come back; to come back to your family. And you will not even lose your face, Cara. You may still pretend you´re only giving in because you´ll be trained. I understand your need. I´ll give you what you´re craving for. The strength, the honor, the pride; the knowledge that you´re serving the only man who can bring you down… Who deserves your submission because he earns it.

All it needs is to break for me, just one more time." His fist slammed the agiel into her chest, pressing it harshly into her skin and dragging it slowly down to her belly. His eyes glowing as they bored into hers. The sudden pain flashed through her mind and made her gasp, but her gaze didn´t waver. That was what she had waited for, what brought the fire in her heart to new flames. She laughed while panting, spitting at him.

"Dream on, Rahl! Richard is the true Lord Rahl. He and Zedd. And Kahlan. Are my family. My place is at their side. You will never change that; as hard you may try.

You are not even worthy to clean the floor they walk upon." A smug grin graced her lips.

"Though I would give a lot to see you kneeling before her and lick the crud from her boots."

The agiel´s harsh, angry bite split her lip before it burned into the skin of her neck, sucking the air from her lungs, drawing bloody lines down to her chest. He only pulled it away as he felt she was almost fainting, his tongue licked blood from her chin and then he stepped back. A cruel smile on his lips, he handed the agiel to his Mord Sith, Garen, who´s eyes started beaming and her smirking lips told clearly how much she was going to enjoy her task.

She hadn´t forgotten yet that Cara had deeply embarrassed her the last time they had met. In front of her sisters.

Rahl shrugged regretfully.

"Well, it´s your choice, Cara. But you should know the options. You will die, someday, in honor, for me; or you´ll die soon and ignobly through the hand of the Confessor." A satisfied grin passed his face as he saw her eyes narrowing and her chin rising warily. He couldn´t help a chuckle.

"No, I´m not speaking of the whore in white who joined you. But the little sister of your precious Mother Confessor doesn´t care that much that you see her as family. She wants her revenge on you; and who am I to stand in her wake? I promised her that she´ll get it. That she´ll get you.

You will pay your debts, this way or another. Choose well!"

He winked Garen to take his place. "She´s yours. Just see that she stays alive!"

And with that he left, leaving the blonde in chains staring with murderous eyes at the Mord Sith who whispered under a blossoming smile.

"So who is in charge here now?" - before her agiel slammed down on her.


"There they are! I can see the tents!"

Verna straightened in her saddle to see above the hill where the first caps of tents rose over the horizon.

"Ah, and not a minute too early. I´m starving for a good meal…" Zedd stretched and grinned, instantly sniffing the air for hints of roasting meat over camp fires.

Verna eyed him incredulously, but her lips curled into an amused grin.

"We would have reached here much earlier if you hadn´t insisted to stay for a nice meal at this inn; let me see, wasn´t it just three hours ago?"

Zedd seemed a little choked.

"Powerful magic needs powerful nutrition, my dear. You of all people should know that!"

Verna laughed. "I´m sorry, Zedd; but if I would eat just the half of yours, all my powerful magic wouldn´t help against the resulting immobility… I can´t believe that you´re still such a bag of bones!"

He smiled whimsically. "You may see it as a gift, but in fact it´s a curse that the Creator decided to make me starve for all her wonderful gifts and never grants me a pause..."

While twaddling they had gotten closer to the camp when suddenly Zedd´s good-natured grin froze and he reined his horse harshly. Verna looked surprised, but seeing his eyes narrow and strong concern settling on his face, she followed his example and dismounted, hastily tugging her horse into the bushes near the road to come to a halt beside the old wizard with a deep frown on her features.

"For the Creator´s light! What is it, Zedd? What have you seen?"

He still stared at the campsite, his gaze travelling along the tents, meticulously scanning their lines.

"Something's wrong… I thought I saw a Mord Sith walking there."

"Zedd!" Verna shook her head, slightly amused. "Cara is with Kahlan, don´t you remember? She is a Mord Sith!"

It gained her a scowl from under his bushy brows. "That Mord Sith was not blond; she wore a long dark braid!" he hissed.

Verna inhaled sharply. Dismay spread on her face and turned her gaze into a dark wave of worry.

"But… that would mean…"

"…that Rahl was faster than we were." Zedd huffed. "I only hope that Kahlan and Cara have escaped."

"And... if not?" Verna sounded almost hopeless as she looked at him, as if searching for his confidence, waiting for his assurance that the Mother Confessor and her Mord Sith were safe.

Zedd had no answer.

They watched the camp carefully and after a while they were sure Zedd had been right. There were more than five Mord Sith in the camp and they had even detected some men in D´Haran uniforms and others in an odd mixture of Aydindril´s colors and D´Haran armors.

It was clear: this troop was incontrovertibly Rahl´s!

They moved deeper into the bushes, hoping that their short appearance had been gone unnoticed by the guards and eventually settled between some imposing rocks almost two leagues behind the camp. Though the sun wasn´t too low yet, Verna put fire to a small heap of branches but took care that the light wouldn´t be seen outside of their small shelter.

Zedd sat quietly and stared ponderingly at the nothing. Verna didn´t disturb him. She didn´t know Rahl as well as he did and had the strong feeling that it was best to give Zedd´s mind enough space to consider the options before setting a plan out.

Finally he stretched as if awakening after a long, nice nap.

"Before we can decide what to do, we need to know what´s going on, in the camp and in Comorra! Which of these locations would you prefer?"

Verna grinned half-heartedly.

"I don´t think I´ll pass for a Mord Sith! So, I´ll go to Comorra!" Zedd nodded, as if she had been supposed to do.

"Well, then, you should pass for a respectable market-woman. Just…" he eyed her attentively, his lips slightly curled. "…a few changings here and there and a basket with chickens and you´re quite perfect!" She arched a suspicious eyebrow that he deliberately ignored.

"I´ll go to the camp." He stood and went to the horses, pulling his bag from the chestnut and putting it on the ground,; then he stepped back and waved his hands while murmuring a long line of strange words. The bag stretched and tightened until it was a great basket; muffled cackle was heard from under its cap. He grinned contently and turned to Verna, who immediately lifted her hands, palms up, to stop him.

"Thank you, Zedd, but before you´re giving me a dress of feathers I´ll change myself! Hurry on, we´ll meet back here at midnight."

Still grinning he nodded and mounted intricately, than waved a goodbye to her, his eyes hugging her kindly.

"Be careful, Verna!"

"You too, Zedd!"


He watched as the men settled around their fire, the smell of roasted rabbit made his mouth water but thankfully his stomach made no noise, yet.

Zedd had stopped at a little fountain before he came in sight of the camp and changed his appearance with some powerful magic, trying different images until he choose that of a chubby peasant, ready to put an imbecile expression on his face if one of the guards noticed him. Though that wouldn´t stand against a scrutiny, it would do for a superficial consideration, he hoped. He left his horse there and sneaked into the camp.

Among the soldiers he found many civilians who were walking around freely. It seemed as though they were from the city, come for catering the troops or dealing with some supplies. Some were joining Rahl´s men around their fires, listening to their stories and even sharing their meals. Every now and then roaring laughter was heard.

Zedd sauntered between them as if he was one of them, looking for a place where he would inconspicuously find some information. Eventually a group close to the biggest tent drew his attention. Surrounded by more than a dozen listeners hanging on his lips, a tall and chunky soldier, half wrapped in the dark blue of Aydindril, half covered by the bloody red of D´Hara, was actually bragging about the dangerous capture of the Mother Confessor.

"That silly whore had no chance to recognize us as Lord Rahl´s men, because we were all dressed in the uniforms of their army. You should know, our ingenious Lord Rahl has an astute arrangement with her sister who is obviously dreaming of the First Chair. So she willingly dismissed her troops and let us follow the Captain of the homeguards instead. We, and a handful confessed, who have nothing in mind but bringing the Confessor´s pet, that Mord Sith Cara back to Aydindril where she will be confessed and killed..." He roared with laughter.

"You should have seen her face, guys! I will never forget this expression of sheer horror in her eyes as she recognized what happened. And when her Mord Sith pet was shot.

But Lord Rahl topped it all: He was all mocking at her and then he raised his arm and sent a damned blue lightning into her. Her scream was just marvelous..." He slapped his thigh and everyone laughed. Zedd tried hard to force a grimace on his face that could be seen as a grin, but he felt chills running down his back. Thankfully he heard a voice asking what he didn´t dare to ask, but what bothered him deeply.

"But where is the bitch now? She isn´t dead you said. Lord Rahl has her chained in the dungeons? What are his plans for her and her... pet?"

Zedd listened closely.

"Indeed, my friend. He has her chained in the dungeons. And that perfidious Mord Sith is hanging in chains, too. Well, as much as I know our master, he will enjoy some pleasure with them..." he blinked twice, exaggeratedly confidential and burst with laughter again. But seeing the questioner staring blankly at him he became sincere, remembering that these people believed that Rahl was the good guy in this game. .

"As we all know, she tried to conquer your city and wanted to behead your king. This is high treason. Lord Rahl will bring her to Aydindril and there she will be judged. We have order to be ready for departure any time now."

He gripped his empty cup and stared inside, as if hoping to find a fountain of ale at its bottom. But when the cup didn´t refill of its own, he looked around, and his eyes settled on Zedd.

"Hey, fatso! Go, bring more ale!"

Zedd nodded eagerly, glad for an excuse to run away. He had heard enough...

Leaving the camp round about ways, trying not to draw attention to his path, the sudden shriek of a falcon perplexed him. Worriedly, his eyes searched the sky, that was already dark and way out of the hunting time for the bird. Zedd frowned as he saw the fragile shadow of the little raptor rattling in the air, just above the group he had recently overheard. The wizard sidled carefully through the rare posts and stopped when he felt safe under the bushes. He turned and sought the sky again, a knowing grin blossoming on his face as he saw the falcon had followed him and now stood in the air closely as if waiting for a sign.

Zedd rose his hand and clenched it into a fist, wrapping the sleeve of his cloak around it, then let out a short, sharp whistle.

Instantly the bird swooped down and landed on his fist, sharp eyes jerkily scanning their surroundings;

"Hey there, little beauty!" Zedd blew a tender breathe against the bird´s breast, while his free hand reached for the small parchment roll that was attached to his claw. "Let me see what you gotta tell..."


„Cara?... Cara!"

The voice emerged through the nothingness to touch her like a soothing breeze, chilled the heat of her skin and stroke over her bruises like a healing balm.

"Cara... please!"

The blonde smiled subconsciously, trepidation in the sound scratching at her mind like fingernails scratching her back. It reminded her of something. Something sweet and undeserved, too precious to be hers; still all that mattered. She sniffed for its flavor, wanted to breathe it in, taste it, savor it...

"Cara... please, wake up! Look at me!"

She wrapped the sound tightly around her nerves like a thick cloak against winter´s icy winds. Kahlan...

Her eyes shot open.

She needed a moment to adapt to the rare light, but, yes, there she was!

For an instant her eyes beamed with a blissful light, before she frowned deeply as she realized Kahlan was half standing, half hanging in chains, barely covered by two small leather bands; and bruised. In a rush she jumped to her feet and made a quick, shaky step towards the brunette, only to be yanked back sharply as her chains stopped her move. The Mord Sith growled loudly; not for the pain but for the frustration and the rage that boiled up in her.

"Oh Cara!" Now her voice brimmed with tears, a sob of deep relief escaped her mouth.

"What have they done to you?" Barely a whisper, desperate and sorrowful. Cara opened her parched lips to answer, but only a croak left her throat. She tasted blood and knew it was her own. Pain covered her body. She swallowed arduously.

"I´m fine." A crooked grin that looked more a grimace settled on her face. Her eyes swept over Kahlan´s figure. She could tell they had been almost kind to her. She wore bruises and marks, but no bones seemed broken, her skin hadn´t been ripped from her. Her beautiful face showed a small gash at her left brow and a longer one at her right temple, blood still trickling from it, and her tousled hair stick together around the wound. But all in all she seemed not hurt dangerously. She eyed the bloodied collar around her neck, and huffed helplessly.

Cara´s eyes found the teary blue that stared at her. For a moment they just shared their gazes, silently, putting everything into this look, trying to reach out and touch the others skin and soul with all its intensity.

Finally Cara broke their contact, feeling she would lose herself in the brunette´s soul if not. She looked around, wondering why she had been brought into Kahlan´s cell. She found that young Mord Sith, Rahl had send off so harshly before, standing tensely at the entrance to the cell. Her eyes staring blankly at them, her face expressionless in a way that made Cara frown.

That was not a trained mask she wore... it was sheer lack of... anything.

She shifted her gaze back to Kahlan, giving her a smile as soft as she could manage.

"What happened to you? How did he get you?"

Still holding her eyes Kahlan sighed resignedly.

"He has magic! I don´t know...some sort of power I have never felt before. It has almost torn me apart..." She looked at her as if apologizing for that she hadn´t been strong enough. Hadn´t escaped. Cara watched a sad frown crossing on her face. Then the brunette´s eyes widened and new tears spilled from their corners.

"Cara... Dennee! She´s on his side. She´s sold me out." Despair painted her face and made Cara´s heart clench into a thick clump. "She wants you, Cara! She wants to kill you..."

Cara dropped her eyes and nodded slightly.

"I know. He...made me an offer." The question in Kahlan´s eyes was almost audible.

"He wants me to join him again, let him break me." Her eyes narrowed. "If not, he´ll deliver me to her revenge."

A muffled moan. Blue eyes filling with desperate resolve. The Confessor set her jaw, shaking her head ever so slowly.

"You have to flee, Cara!"

Kahlan knew it was stupid to hope for an escape. But it was all she could think of. She would neither allow Cara to break for this monster, nor would she ever allow that Dennee confessed her! She would fight for her, at all costs.

The blonde stared at her blankly, her eyes wrapping Kahlan into a tight embrace, her head waving a no.

- Never! My life before yours! –

- You must! –

- Not without you! –


- I love you! –

- And I love you! –

Their eyes talking beyond words, their hearts beating jointly, they found strength in their oaths, subconsciously straightening, preparing for a fight they wouldn´t surrender so easily to loss...

They didn´t even look up when the door slammed open and Rahl entered the cell. He didn´t say a word, just watched as they both tensed, a wicked grin blooming on his face. Then he noticed Kahlan didn´t hang in her chains but had been lowered enough to find a halt on the ground. Frowning he turned to the Mord Sith.

She dropped her head immediately and murmured lowly:

"You demanded that she´d stay conscious. She wouldn´t have if I wouldn´t have eased her just that little."

Kahlan shot her a stealthy look from under her lashes. That wasn´t exactly what had happened.

- When the girl had entered the room, the coarse guard who had been on duty had been close to her. She still heard his low, menacing voice and felt his hands groping her bare flesh.

"Do you know what we did to your kind? When we chased them down? Two or three of us were always there to share their prey..." He had laughed. A hoarse, lewd sound that had made her shiver.

The young Mord Sith had approached without a sound, suddenly ripping him off her, her steely eyes tossing icy spears into him as she had dragged him to the door with an unforeseeable force. Her low, growling voice, pointing the words she didn´t say aloud, had been nothing but an audible nightmare to him.

"She´s Lord Rahl´s. I´ll give you this one chance to vanish. If I will ever get sight of you again - you´ll! be dead! Is that understood?"

She didn´t need to say more. The guard had taken a flight as if the Keeper himself was after him...

The Mord Sith had turned, her face as expressionless as Kahlan had ever seen one, and wordlessly she had lowered her, allowing her a solid, if shaky stand and her shoulders an appreciated relaxation.

Ever since then she had stood at the door, motionless, expressionless... All while that Mord Sith with these intense dark almond eyes had dragged a bloodied Cara inside and fixed her at the opposite wall...until now her Lord Rahl stared her down.

So he seemed to accept her answer, or just wasn´t in the mood to beat her;

He focused on Kahlan and Cara, smiling his priggish smile and crossing his arms in front of him.

"My dear ladies! I hope you enjoy your little cell sharing... I thought it easier to... convince you of your options if you´d be able to share your... experiences. Since you are friends, or even, as Cara had named it, family..." He grinned and approached Kahlan until he stood close enough for her to feel his hot breath sweeping over her skin.

"What a pity that time is too short for teaching you now... See, a little bird told me that our presence is needed in Aydindril. We will leave there tomorrow. So I ask you to behave on our way. Will you? Because we will have no time to deal with aggressive, mulish captives while we´re riding..." His brows arched questioningly, as if he just asked a little favor of them.

Both the women shot him disbelieving glares. Kahlan rose her chin, spitting her answer with a disgusting voice.

"You are insane if you expect us to cooperate! There is no way you will have us joining you without fighting you with every breath we take! I swear! You won´t get it the easy way, Rahl!"

He ignored Cara´s murderous look; instead he focused on Kahlan with regretful eyes.

"Well, it´s your decision, my dear. But do not complain then..."

A voice from the door emerged. The sudden sound of it was chasing all of Kahlan´s blood in a hot rush from her heart, forcing a stifled moan to fall from her lips. Cara watched her face pale, panic crawling into her eyes and she yanked at her chains helplessly.

From the shadow at the door, the slender form of a woman approached.

"I told you they wouldn´t listen, Rahl." Long, silky blonde hair, a simple black dress swaying pointedly around her figure while she came closer.

"Nicci!" Kahlan´s voice almost broke with her whisper. She was panting heavily, her eyes had widened in terror.

Cara´s chains rattled noisily as she squirmed, trying to break free; every nerve yelling to jump onto the sorceress who barely gave her a look, staring at Kahlan as if trying to magnetize her.

Rahl stepped aside, giving the way free for Nicci to get close to Kahlan, who´s body had started trembling uncontrollably, her head shaking a voiceless no as the woman closed the gap between them.

"Do not dare touching her!" Cara yelled. Nicci shot her a brief, arrogant glance, but quickly turned towards Kahlan again, her look changing into almost tenderness, piercing hers with warm eyes; a tight smile played on her lips.

"I don´t want to hurt you, Kahlan. Be not afraid. It will be much easier if you´ll play along" Her eyes, glowing intensely adjuratory, locked with Kahlan´s, which had become dark as midnight. The brunette still trembled, but felt unable to say a word.

Then Nicci´s hand shot out and slammed the dacra into the Confessors side. Cara cried out loud.

Kahlan screamed, her body shook heavily, her head thrown back in fear and pain, until she broke down after what seemed to Cara like an eternity, her head dropping to her chest, her hair falling over her face like a veil, hiding her misery.

When Nicci finally stepped back, her eyes watched curiously how Kahlan came to her feet, looking around in the cell, a confused expression on her features. Then her gaze found Nicci´s and she broke in an adoring smile, staring devotedly at the sorceress with loving eyes.

"Command me, Mistress!"

Nicci smiled at her softly.

Cara broke in her chains like she´d never broken before.


She found herself lying in a real and comfortable bed when she woke up; the feeling of soft fabric holding her in a gentle embrace elicited an involuntary sigh as her limbs stretched carefully. She had to blink a few times against the many torches that enlightened the chamber.

"Finally! I thought I´d have to wait forever..."

The sound of Nicci´s annoyed voice startled Kahlan enough to let her come to her feet in a rush, almost stumbling as she jumped from the bed to approach the blonde eagerly, her head dropping devotedly to her chest, barely noticing that she was dressed in a thin nightshift that was anything but modest.

"I´m ...I´m sorry Mistress. Please forgive me..." Anxiously she lifted her eyes, watching as the blonde arched an amused eyebrow and the corners of her lips curl, visibly enjoying Kahlan´s endeavor.

Nicci leant relaxed beside the hearth, an elbow propped on its brink, and looked at her, expectantly. An alarming shakiness crept through Kahlan under her stare, not knowing what Nicci was estimating; She felt the prickling urge to look around and see if anyone was here, watching them; but she didn´t dare to abandon the blonde´s gaze and so she waited until Nicci allowed a small grin to settle on her lips, waving an arm as if to invite her to look around, pointing in a seductive voice:

"No need to worry, Kahlan. We are alone!"

Kahlan hesitated only briefly, but then followed the motion of her arm and glanced around, mindfully searching the chamber for any movement. They seemed to be in the guest´s wing of King Sadom´s palace. A swift look to the windows showed the time to be early evening, dusk already setting outside. Slight relaxation settled on her when she acknowledged that Nicci had spoken the truth. They were indeed alone in the chamber, which was richly furnished in warm colors and with some alluring comfortable pieces of furniture.

With a contented little smile she turned to her Mistress, her eyes glowing intensely, staring at the sorceress and feeling a part of the tension fade away, giving way to a much stronger emotion.

Then suddenly her arm lifted, as swift as an arrow, her eyes sparkling blue flames and she slapped Nicci in the face; hard; with all her might.

Though the sorceress had felt a sneaking suspicion of something like that coming, at last she wasn´t fast enough to duck away. With a hollow sound her head banged against the frame of the hearth and Kahlan groaned her appreciation as she noticed blood trickling from a scratch on her cheek immediately.

For a moment both of them stood as if rooted to the spot, staring at each other with beaming eyes; Kahlan´s gaze brimming with fury, Nicci straightening harshly, eying her in a mixture of bored annoyance and bugged lenience, her hand cupping her own cheek, her jaw moving tentatively, ensuring that nothing was broken.

The sorceress scowled as she pulled her hand back and found blood smearing her fingers. Hissing she shot Kahlan an angry glance.

"Silly goose! If that´s your way to express your gratitude, you may rot in the dungeons next time..."

Hissing back, her expression one of deepest disgust, Kahlan snapped:

"What did you expect? A gentle embrace for trying to confess me? Again? You´re a fool! What kind of game do you play this time?"

Nicci stared at her, a hint of a smile crossing her face.

"It´s not a game, Kahlan. Just a very impressive show!" Nicci said with something in her voice that sounded very much like honest tribute.

"Hats off, Confessor! You are a remarkable talented actress... This love in your eyes…" Her teeth blinked as her lips parted for a small, mirthless, throaty laughter. "Even I almost believed I´d confessed you!"

Kahlan couldn´t find it in her to join her amusement. Instead she shook her head, frowning deeply.

"You´re stark raving mad!"

Nicci dropped her gaze for an instant, as she considered the words;

"You may be right..."

But then shrugged shortly and strode slowly to sit on one of the chairs beside the hearth. She shifted her now cold gaze towards Kahlan and waved her hand invitingly to the second chair.

"Now, can we leave that pointless violence behind us? We have to talk."

Kahlan bit her lip and watched the blonde warily; her hands clenched into fists, her chest heaved with her attempt to control her panting. Her nerves were already stretched to the edge and sitting comfortably beside the sorceress that pretended to have stolen her soul was not meant to calm her. Somewhere in her mind she heard a voice screaming "RUN!"

What if she hadn´t played a game, which Kahlan had no idea what it should serve to, but just had failed to confess her? What if the blonde decided yet to give her confession another try?

The Confessor had the strongest feeling of being caught in a surreal dream. The cruel reality a nightmare.

She could still feel the pain of Nicci´s dacra, slamming into her flesh. Still felt her entire body trembling with panic, anxiously awaiting the moment when her soul was going to be ripped out of her; and she still couldn´t believe that this moment never came.

Kahlan remembered how Nicci had stepped back, pulling the dacra out of her and how she had furiously sought her insides for that all-consuming love and devotion she didn´t feel at all. She remembered the white beaming bliss, when acknowledging that she was the same as before, and then hearing Nicci´s words echoing through her mind:

"It will be much easier if you´ll play along." Along with her adjuratory stare...

And suddenly she had seen that Nicci offered her the chance to get out of the dungeons and at least win time to maybe somehow find a way to end Rahl´s plans...

And so she had made her decision to play along. Despite her screaming heart when she saw Cara break down in her chains; despite the urgent need to cry out that it was all just a show; she had lifted her eyes with the same hollow love she had seen so often in the eyes of her confessed; with the same soulless devotion she had once felt for the sorceress before;

And she had called her "Mistress".

Obviously Rahl had been tricked by her performance; yet he had pressed an agiel into her chest, just because he was able to, until she had fainted. But after all she was here, with her wrists dressed and her bruises nursed.

The brunette gritted her teeth. Instinctively her eyes started one more watchful ride along the corners of the chamber, as if expecting an ambush, a sudden act of cowardice. But then again, why should Nicci wanted to murder her when just a few hours ago she had made such a show of confessing her.

It made no sense.

But... did anything of Nicci´s actions ever make sense?

Kahlan looked at the sorceress again, her eyes set into slits, biting the inside of her cheek. She felt like a lioness, penned into a much too small cage, rubbing her skin against rusty bars while moving forth and back, feeling a savage growl scratching through her throat.

Nicci watched her silently; patiently; waiting until she would regain control over her worries and finally take the few steps and alight on the chair to her side; and eventually Kahlan did; though with her back straight and her shoulders stiffened; her regal, calm Confessor mask had found its home on her features.

"Fine." She huffed. "Let´s talk then, Nicci. I am curious to see how you´ll explain this madness..."

The blonde leant back and pursed her lips, choosing her words carefully.

"You are in an unfortunate position, Confessor. Lord Rahl..." she drawled the title sneeringly, "...has built up an extensive ploy for you. You are trapped. And your prospects are nothing but pitiful."

Kahlan frowned slightly, rising anger putting a flimsy color to her cheeks. She knew herself that her situation was anything but pleasurable. She didn´t need the blonde to remind her...

"What you don´t know yet, is that my own position is not very much different. I wear a collar like you do. I´m trapped as you are. But in my case, he has found a way to use my magic and to control my every step."

Kahlan tried to keep her mask, just her eyes narrowed confused.


Nicci ignored her question and continued.

"I´m offering you a deal, Kahlan. A deal that might be your rescue as well as mine. And if we succeed we will all be satisfied and live happily ever after..."

She tilted her head and sent a questioning glance to the brunette,

"In the end you might save your Midlands and return to your tedious Mother-Confessor-Life as if nothing happened at all..." She quirked an eyebrow. "Interested?"

Kahlan stared at her, not quite sure if Nicci had indeed gone mad or if the sorceress was honestly expecting that she´d nod her agreement and that was it...

"I want the whole story." Her voice was calm and low, but it was an order nonetheless. Nicci´s eyes flashed briefly; a short, angry spark. But she gave in, shifting her eyes to the twitching dance of the fire and sighed.

"I´m sure you remember our last lovely encounter, Confessor? The one an arrow ended so cruel? Well, after your lap dog of a Mord Sith shot me down, and you all had vanished, Rahl and a few of his Mord Sith showed up. He ordered them to give me the Breath of Life, but not before he had put an ugly collar around my neck. He carried me to the south and made me serve as a guinea pig for his Mord Sith. Especially for some newcomers that needed a lot of training for their skills. I haven´t counted how often I died and was revived though... It was no pleasure to meet the Keeper if ever so briefly again and again...Often enough he trained me himself, if he was in the mood." She looked at Kahlan, in her eyes a hint of bitterness that brushed ever so slightly against the brunette´s mental walls.

The Confessor swallowed it away.

"You do not really expect my compassion?" she growled.

"Oh, you´re disappointing! I thought Confessors hearts are made of sheer compassion, aren´t they?" A crooked smile curled her lips.

"Well, to cut a long story short: He did everything and then some more to take revenge on me. Until he found that he might use me and my powers for his own advantage. I think he has read it in one of the thousand books he gathered in the temple we lived in. And some agents of his found the matching wizard in a dark cell in the old world and freed him."

Kahlan leant in, now listening closely.

"What are you saying?"

"That Rahl, supported by a very naughty wizard from the old world, has created a damned collar that is able to redirect a not too small amount of my Han to him."

Kahlan inhaled sharply.

"You mean he can use your Han as if it´s his own? How is that even possible? Your Han cannot be transferred to another person if not with your agreement!"

Nicci sighed and looked at her as though she was a schoolgirl, asking silly questions.

"You do not listen. It´s not transferred, Confessor. As I said, he hasn´t taken my Han, he redirects it to him. And not all of it, but enough to scare someone like you with blue flashing pain... For the most powerful effects he still needs my support, that´s why he can´t risk losing me and why his Mord Sith aren´t allowed to lay hand on me anymore."

The Mother Confessor stared at the sorceress wide-eyed; that Rahl had gained parts of Nicci´s Han was as much fascinating as it was horrifying.

"How does it work then?"

Nicci raised her chin, presenting her the steely collar she wore.

"Do you see this thing? Take a good look at it! You will not find a latch there. Wizard Connor has put a spell on it while it was fused around my throat, end to end, still glowing. It connected to my Han as soon as it connected to my skin. The resting piece then was cut off and set around Rahl´s wrist as a bracelet. These metal bands are made of one, they are magically connected, and the smaller one has taken the knowledge of my Han to him and allows him to use it as if it were his own."

Kahlan frowned thoughtfully. Her mind travelled to the moment when Rahl had sent a blue lightning into her; there had been a short steely flash as he had lifted his arm...

"That means to disarm him you have to take that bracelet off."

"This is not possible, because it was fused around his wrist, too. So unless you cut his arm off, it cannot be taken from him."

"And I assume you´ve already tried to cut his arm off?" It was not so much a scoff. Kahlan didn´t expect Nicci to be prissy if it was about her freedom.

The blonde huffed. "Through the bracelet he can sense if I´m intending to harm him. I have no chance to come close enough to even raise a sword if I´d try. And my magic is useless against him, because the bracelet acknowledges it as its own. My Han cannot harm him, as much as my Han would never harm me."

The Confessor leant a little closer, an amused look on her face.

"I see. And now you want me to cut his arm off?" She had meant it as a joke; but her small sneer froze when she watched Nicci keeping her expression deadly grave as she nodded ever so slowly.

"You can´t be serious, Nicci! He would never let me come close enough to do such a thing!"

The sorceress shrugged her shoulders, as if Kahlan did just not see what lay in front of her.

"He wants you! And he thinks you are confessed. Sooner or later he will order me to bring you close to him! And you will have the chance to confess him – or kill him. No wait, you may first confess him and then order him to die; slowly; painfully." She nodded with a flush of serenity; obviously that image pleased her mind.

Now it was the Confessor who huffed annoyed.

"You forget the very small detail that I´m wearing a Rada Han!"

With a slight sneer Nicci quirked an eyebrow at her.

"That has not to be so forever..."

Kahlan straightened. The prospect of getting rid of the odious collar was more than alluring. Nicci grinned as she saw her reaction.

"Slowly, Confessor. I will not set you free only to have you stab me in my back. But I will do it, if we have a deal: we are working together, at least until we put an end to Rahl´s plans. And to him."

The brunette eyed her suspiciously.

"I do not trust you. How do I know that this is not a trick?"

"If I wanted, Kahlan, I would have killed you down in the dungeons." She leant closer, that adjuratory look back in her eyes. "I give you my oath. I will do nothing against you as long as we are working together."

With an ice-cold blue glow Kahlan stared into Nicci´s eyes, searching for the truth behind her words. Nicci´s gaze did not waver; she allowed her to sink deep into her mind until the Confessor flinched back, a stunned look on her face.

"You´re speaking the truth." The murmured words evoked a thin smile from the sorceress.

"Then do we have a deal?"

The brunette leant back in her chair, her calm Confessor mask settled on her features. She regarded Nicci a few moments quietly, before she finally tilted her head.

"I have one condition."

The blonde shot her a questioning glare from under furrowed brows.

"Free Cara!"

Nicci stared at her disbelievingly, and then snorted a small laugh.

"Are you crazy? Even if I would want to, and I assure you that I do not, how should I get her out of the dungeons? She is too precious to him. She´s guarded by Mord Sith and, not to forget, there are at least five confessed men who have the only wish to bring her back to their mistress. I´m not a fool! Forget your silly infatuation with that Mord Sith; she is as good as dead..."

Kahlan returned her upset stare with visible regret. At last she sighed and stood, returning to the bed where the small leather bands, which had covered her in the dungeons, lay on the carpet. She stooped to pick them up and started slowly to loosen the bands of her nightshift. Nicci´s eyes had followed her with clear distrust and now her voice came in an angry wave.

"What are you doing?"

Kahlan briefly glanced at her over her shoulder, an innocent expression on her face, but quickly turned away again.

"Oh, I merely change for the dungeons. Since we haven´t a deal I thought you would take me back there..." With a twist of her hand the nightshift fell down and Kahlan gripped one of the bands to wrap it around her hips. "Would you please help me? I have no idea how this thing can be fixed..."

A hand ripped the band from her hips. When she turned she faced an enraged Nicci, whose eyes only briefly swept over her bare breasts, but quickly settled on her face again. She waved with Kahlan´s white dress and jostled her back until she sat on the bed. The white dress landing in her lap as Nicci tossed it towards her. Nicci´s rage made her eyes shoot sparks but Kahlan only set her jaw and raised her chin defiantly.

"Will you free her?"

The blonde rolled her eyes.

"Fine! If it is your heart´s desire, then be it. But I don´t care if she dies with the attempt."

"And I do not care for what happens to me. So do not forget, that I can always interrupt the show. All it needs is just a wrong look at you and they all can see I am not confessed. I´m very curious how Rahl will take that..."

They stared at each other like two lionesses baring their fangs, menacing, ready to attack. At last Nicci sighed resigned and wheeled. She took seat in her chair again.

"Now that we are clear about that, do we have a deal?"

Kahlan couldn´t help a small smile while she searched for her corset and found it lying with the rest of her clothing in another corner.


Nicci´s lips curled into a tight smile, too, while her gaze followed curiously a naked Kahlan walking regally through the room and gathering her clothes, before eventually dressing into her Confessor´s robe.


Verna observed the movement in the camp, where soldiers and Mord Sith were rushing around, obviously preparing for their departure.

"Looks like your little trick has worked." She granted Zedd at her side a commendatory smile.

The wizard grinned widely. "Indeed; they do not behave like they are worried about an old wizard and a charming Sister of the Light. You owe me a nice meal!"

Verna chuckled.

Zedd had found the falcon from Aydindril. For wizards, falcons had always been the best way to send notes between their allies, because in difficult times one could never know if a traitor would read the lines in a journey-book. Falcons were raised by wizards and acknowledged them by their magic. They were fast and inconspicuous little messengers. That this one had made Zedd out had been a very lucky hazard. Zedd had given Verna that little note to read; but she hadn´t been convinced that his trick would have the desired effect. Zedd had changed just a few words in the parchment and had sent the falcon off to bring it to Rahl.

Instead of Connor´s warning that the wizard and the Sister of the Light were close to Comorra, Rahl would read now that Zedd and Verna had been arrested in Aydindril. The rest, like the pressing advice to hurry up with their travel, he hadn´t changed. It would be much easier to try whatever a trap they might set while Rahl was on the journey anyway. He had too many allies in Comorra.

Though, Zedd had no idea yet if they would be able to rescue the women during the journey. They needed a plan to free The Mother Confessor and the Mord Sith.


Cara sat on the ground of her cell, scooted close to the wall, her back pressed against the clammy stone. Knees drawn to her chest, she stared into the nothing. Her mind had stopped thinking, as her heart had stopped feeling. If Rahl wanted to kill her, she would appreciate the final stab. The world had lost its meaning to her.

Her life had ended the moment Kahlan had been destroyed by Nicci. And since she had no chance to reverse it, she could as well stop breathing.

The pain, searing through her chest, had been like no pain before; shattering her entire life into a heap of lost hopes.

Her breaking had been fast and furious.

After Rahl had agieled the Mother Confessor until she fainted, they had hauled her away from her; Cara had screamed, had clamored; she had tried to rip her chains out of the walls to strangle Rahl with them. Kicking and biting savagely she had scared even Garen, who had looked at Rahl with a helpless plea for assistance against her fury.

He had simply stopped her heart to bring her down.

The breath of life had brought her back, but she wasn´t the same anymore. She didn´t react to nothing, just crawled up at the wall and there she was.


After studying her a while Rahl had left and ordered the young Mord Sith to have a wary eye on her, not knowing what would come next if she regained her reason. Garen was happy to take watch outside the cell. As much as she had enjoyed her little triumph over Cara before, as much had the blonde suddenly become an eerie ghost to her.

Cara didn´t look up when the heavy wooden door opened now. She seemingly didn´t acknowledge Garen who entered, followed by Nicci and Kahlan.

"I´m ordered to assist King Sadom with his nephews. Until I return you are responsible for her. Mistress Nicci here has come to instruct her for the journey."

The young Mord Sith nodded her understanding and then Garen was gone.

Kahlan didn´t stir beside the door. She didn´t dare to lift her eyes from the ground, afraid that the briefest look at Cara would betray her.

It had been hard enough to make her way beside a ranting Nicci through the palace, the sorceress two steps ahead and Kahlan following closely. Nicci had made a show of her annoyance whenever they crossed someone´s way, barking at Kahlan every now and then. Kahlan had felt all their mischievous stares like needles pricking her skin. Always expecting the sudden shout of someone pointing at them; exposing their lie. With every muscle tensed she had rushed behind her mistress, anxious to be the very picture of a soulless slave. Though, Nicci had been more than convincing in her role. Enough so to make Kahlan shudder with the thought that this could have been reality…

But she wasn´t sure if her strength wouldn´t leave her all in a sudden if she was going to take a look at Cara. Thus she stood as if pierced to the ground. She only noticed that she held her breath when Nicci patted her back in an almost gentle gesture to remind her, her teasing whisper slid into her mind.

"You should take a breath, before you faint, silly!"

And loudly she ordered her to stay at the door, causing Kahlan to nod eagerly with an adoring glance.

"I will, Mistress." And dropping her head again, the brunette hid her frown behind a flood of dark hair.

Nicci turned and sauntered to the blonde, who cowered at the wall as though the world around her didn´t exist.

The sorceress came to a halt when she reached her, crossing her arms and waiting for a reaction, which didn´t come. Raising an annoyed eyebrow she kicked the Mord Sith´s thigh.

"Hey!" A second kick brought the blonde faintly to life.

In slow motion Cara lifted her head, a slight frown washing over her face as she recognized who stood in front of her. Her veiled green gaze quickly shifted to the space beside Nicci. Though she pulled herself together and snarled blatant hatefully.

"What do you want?"

Nicci snorted a huffed sound.

"That is quite a good question. If only I was able to do as I want, I would probably kill you."

A wave of dark green detestation surged against her, before Cara´s gaze searched the cell and finally focused on the brunette beside her young guard. For a few moments Nicci watched how her chest heaved heavily, before Cara looked back at her. Her face was empty.

"You already did."

Nicci eyed her with a puzzled look. She had expected a furious Cara, a Cara who would spit at her, threaten her, promise her to torture her to death… She had been looking forward to a last challenge before she would allow Kahlan to let her in. Now she crinkled her forehead, a few different expressions crossing her face, such as wonder, followed by irritation and then by disgust.

"Is that all? No "I´ll kill you" or "I´ll rip your guts out of you"?" Shaking her head she frowned thoughtfully. "You disappoint me. I don´t know why I thought you a real Mord Sith once. I liked your all-out strength. But… obviously I overestimated you. I should let you rot in your chains…" She stared down at her opponent, stunned at how defeated the blonde seemed. As no answer came, she huffed noisily.

"I don´t even know what I´m doing here..." And with that she wheeled and strode back to Kahlan, who immediately lifted her beaming eyes, brimming with hope and happy anticipation.

Nicci waved her hand impatiently, scowling at her.

"You have FIVE. Minutes!"

For a heartbeat Kahlan was all smiles, but then she hesitated, shooting a brief wary glance to the young Mord Sith, which hadn´t moved yet, and leaning in she murmured questioning:

"Mistress?" Disbelievingly she watched a small smile settling on tight lips, when Nicci lifted her hand to gently stroke the bronzed cheek of the young Mord Sith. For a moment the Confessor thought the moss-green eyes of the girl flashing with the slightest affection, before it was easily swept away.

"Everything is fine, Confessor. If I say so, Jona doesn´t see you and doesn´t hear you. You are not here. Am I right, Jona?" Nicci almost purred.

A hint of a smile, which was in fact just a tiny relaxation of her features, made Jona look as though a sunbeam had touched her clouded soul. It was gone before Kahlan could decide if she´d really seen it; the Confessor frowned, but then just rushed to Cara.

The moment she saw her black boots appearing in front of her, the blonde gritted her teeth to suppress a low distressed moan that welled up in her throat. She closed her eyes, desperately wishing she could banish the sight of her; her fragrance; the sweet sound of her voice.

But the brunette didn´t vanish.

"Cara?" Kahlan´s heart was a clumsy rock in her chest as she looked down at the blonde. She went on her knees and laid a hand on her shoulder, tears in her eyes as the blonde flinched heavily.

"Go away!" The Confessor´s stomach clenched fiercely, hearing her voice low, raw and warped.

"Please, Cara… It´s me, Kahlan!"

In a sudden boisterous move Cara gripped her arm and twisted it painfully, stretching her chains as much as possible to hold her in an almost cruel grip, forcing a brief shriek from the brunette. Blazing jade green seared into her from the Mord Sith´s contorted face.

"NO! You are not! You may look like her. May sound like her. Yes, you may even have her smell written all over you. BUT YOU ARE. NOT. KAHLAN!" Cara pushed her roughly back, a sound like breaking glass falling from her lips; Sinking back to her cowering position she growled lowly.

"Whatever your Mistress wants you to do, it will not work on me. GO AWAY!"

Kahlan looked down at her, a sad smile crossing her face.

- Dear Spirits! Why do I always hurt this woman? She deserves so much better than me… -

She scooted closer and cradled Cara´s cheeks with both of her hands, strongly, holding her even when she fought her hands fiercely, forcing her eyes to her own bright blue ones.

"Look at me, Cara! I am NOT! CONFESSED! I LOVE YOU!" Slowly; adjuratory; piercing Cara´s confused gaze she leaned in, until her lips brushed softly against the blonde´s.

"Are you ready?" Nicci had a certain feeling for the wrong moments. Kahlan growled annoyed and turned her scowling face slightly to bark over her shoulder:

"NOT NOW!" Her gaze swept back to the Mord Sith.

Looking back at Cara, she bit her lower lip at the sight of a stunned Mord Sith, jade green eyes staring disbelievingly, the shimmer of doubt and hope equally glowing in their depths. Her heart skipped a beat, and all she could do was leaning in, magnetized by the moment's intensity.

And then she kissed Cara, pressed her mouth softly against her lips which had parted to gasp as she was bellowing so harshly at Nicci; followed her heart as she felt the blonde moving against her; dipped her tongue shyly into the sweet depth of her mouth, moving ever so gently while stroking her cheeks. And smiled, when a low moan danced along her tongue as Cara finally answered her kiss.

They parted only reluctantly, the blonde following her retreating lips as if trying to make their kiss last a tiny bit longer.

Frowning, Cara was surprised to find all her shattered pieces had flown into place again. She felt whole as she watched Kahlan smile brightly, as she lost herself in the abyss of her blue, shining eyes.

The moment stretched; emotions flowing between them like a silky breathe.

Until Nicci raised her edged voice, obviously bored to the bones from watching them.

"You should hurry on, ladies. It is not like we have the whole night…"

Kahlan sighed and Cara rolled her eyes exasperatedly; but then frowned and looked greatly upset.

"Would you. Please. Tell me. What this damned crap is supposed to mean?" The blonde squirmed in her chains as she involuntarily gestured with her hands.

"Kahlan! I thought you confessed! The way you looked at her…

Damned! What happened? And why is she even allowing you to talk to me?"

"I´m sorry Cara. I know I scared you to death…" Cara raised her brow and scowled, causing Kahlan´s face to brighten even more.

She took a few minutes to explain to her Mord Sith all the events leading up to Nicci´s plan. The plan she had agreed to be a part of.

The Mord Sith listened with an increasing frown. When Kahlan finished, the blonde shook her head and growled disgustingly.

"Of all the stupid plans I was forced to participate in since I met you, this is by far the most stupid I have ever heard of! It is madness! One wrong glance and he will eat you alive! You cannot be serious, Kahlan! This is Nicci! She is a maniac in every way! You can´t trust her." Her stringent voice was close to breaking. She had locked her gaze with Kahlan, trying to convince her with her draconic stare.

Kahlan sighed. A faint smile settled on her lips. She shrugged briefly, almost apologetically.

"I know. But, see, she wants to use me. So, why not turn the tables? We can just as well use her!" She pierced Cara´s disapproving eyes with an intense blue fire in her own.

"Cara! This is the only way to get out of this madness. And we get the chance to frustrate his plans... I need to go to Aydindril." And adding a desperate whisper: "I need to see Dennee!"

Cara saw the tears in her eyes and knew, she wouldn´t be able to talk any reason into her. She set her jaw, still scowling.

"And she´s agreed to free you!"

Cara shot her an exasperated glare.

"NO!" Shaking her head she stared at the brunette, making her point that she wouldn´t leave her.

"You must! I need you to get out of here. You are the only one I can rely on! You must go to Aydindril and gather my allies. Try to find Zedd and Richard and Verna. Together with them and the heart of the homeguards we will have a good chance to end Rahl.

Only you can do what must be done. Please, Cara!"

Groaning the blonde squirmed a little. Of course was Kahlan right. She was of no use if she spent the time hanging lazily in chains. But every fiber in her entire mind screamed at the thought of leaving her, with no one but an erratic Nicci at her side.

But looking into her pleading eyes she couldn´t resist. She huffed defeated and nodded, instantly rewarded by the feeling of strong arms, pulling her close and holding her. A shiver ran down her back as she felt Kahlan´s warm breath brushing against her neck.

When the Confessor retreated, her face was serious.

"Swear to me!"

A questioning look on her face, Cara frowned.


"That you will stay alive! That you will not dare risking too much for any silly attempts to rescue me. Swear it Cara! I couldn´t bear losing you." Her gaze was a blue glowing, desperate plea. "Everything- but not you! Swear to me!"

Cara clenched her hands into fists. The Mord Sith wanted to shout out that this was nonsense, that she wouldn´t leave, that she would kill Rahl and then Nicci and burn this damned Comorra to free her. That the Keeper himself would not be able to stop her, and that she didn´t care if she would survive, if only Kahlan would be safe….

Under deeply furrowed brows Cara´s dark green eyes locked with hers and her lips moved as if on their own, whispering gravely: "I swear."


Almost growling her anger Nicci hastened through the palace. Exasperation radiated from her narrowed eyes as she tried to catch up with the Mother Confessor, who strode forcefully ahead, apparently not minding if the sorceress was coming or not. Nicci was close to bursting with anger.

Hadn´t it been enough to bear their visit in the dungeons? Hadn´t she proved her willingness to cooperate with the Confessor and her odd desires for a certain blonde Mord Sith? What was this crazy woman now after?

Nicci huffed.

How annoying it had been for the blonde to watch the two women in the dungeons before. Their goodbyes so highly emotional; Cara wearing a scowl and a wistful draw on her face and Kahlan´s blue eyes shining with unshed tears when she hugged Cara tightly a last time, leeching on to the Mord Sith as if never wanting to let her go. Their desperate whispers had swept to Nicci´s sharp ears through the dark lights of the cell like far chirrups from the woods. Silly warm sounds in rough cold surroundings...

Behind her furrowed brows Nicci had watched them from her shadowed position at the cell´s entrance, gravely wondering what had become of the proud Mother Confessor, who once had matched her maternity spell with so much honest rage that she had demanded them vehemently to kill her, knowing too well that that would have meant her own death as well. Who had run to her in the desert of the pillars of creation without hesitation; to confess her and use her, instead of just killing her – only to become victim of her own powers instead. Who had fought with greatest resolve and would have given her life to defend the Seeker.

What had come over the Mord Sith who had been the strongest weapon in the defeat of the Keeper? Always controlled by grim purposefulness and unmistakable logic? Never minding the way; just heading for the result. Who had battled with such an incredible self-contempt and with a murderous clarity that it was almost recognizable as pure arrogance.

Nicci had fought them. She had done everything to bring them down. Had tricked them and had tried to sell them out – together with all of the living – to the Keeper.

But she had always respected them.

Seeing their behavior now, in this moment of parting, feeling the moldy air prickling with their thick emotions, her respect had ceased like fog under early morning sun. These women weren´t the strong warriors she had come to know.

They more seemed like the soft but rotten pieces of formerly strong wood, soaked and softened from lying in the morass of their emotions. In one word: They were miserable.

Nicci didn´t understand the sense of feelings. She didn´t remember how they actually felt. Of course she knew common sensations like hunger, or thirst, or cold, or pain. Such sensations were familiar to her, though they didn´t affect her anyway. And she knew that common people felt much more. That they even appreciated to surrender, to be guided by deeper emotions like affection; love; hatred; happiness; lust and woe. Their emotions giving them an aim in their miserable lives. And Nicci appreciated it for giving her the opportunity to use them, to lead people, to get what she wanted. Possibly she had known some of these feelings herself, in ancient times, in a time that had long ceased to be real. But if so, they had long lost any meaning to her.

All she noticed now was a strange feeling of discomfort that crept through her as she watched them. And a pang of something she decided to identify as anger, though it wasn´t as familiar as anger normally felt to her. It was the way the two women managed so easily to ostracize her, to ignore her every presence. Gave her a feeling as if she was of no importance in the cell.

Kahlan and Cara had simply blanked her out.

First disgusted, then increasingly angry she had gritted her teeth. With an annoyed side-glance she had noticed the young Mord Sith at her side, standing with slightly tilted head and curious eyes, who watched the scene quietly, wearing an almost soft shimmer in her green eyes; and it had been enough to bring the huff out that had pressed against her lips for several minutes now. Rolling her eyes unnerved, she had found herself at the end of her tether.

"Enough!" she had barked. "We have to get back before Rahl gets suspicious." Her voice hard and impatient. Maybe a little too shrill; a little too pressed.

Kahlan had shot her a dark stare, but she had obeyed reluctantly.

A last kiss, a last glance, filled with concern and regret. Cara straightened; the softness in her eyes had ceased as Kahlan inhaled deeply and stood, her hand reaching out to stroke Cara´s cheek one last time, her lips breathing a voiceless "I love you"; and a lonely tear lay hidden in the corner of her eye.

The Confessor had walked towards Nicci and while approaching her she had visibly changed with every step into the strong, powerful Mother Confessor Nicci knew. Arching a brow Nicci had watched her transformation, had ground her teeth at the bitter taste that suddenly lay on her tongue. She swallowed it down and her fierce glance had admonished Kahlan harshly to submit into her role and though the Confessor had answered her glare with a keen glance of her own, she had bowed her head and lifting it again, her entire features, all her body language was one of deep devotion; her eyes glued to the sorceress, seeking only for her acceptance.

An audible, throaty growl had been heard from Cara. The rattling sound of her chains had given voice to a frustrated huff she wouldn´t allow to fall from her lips.

Grinning triumphantly Nicci was already about to reel, when Cara´s voice had suddenly cut the air, setting her words in a slow, dark, threatening manner.

"Just so you know! Witch! - If you let her be harmed in any way; if it comes to your mind to betray her; if she, however, suffers any pain because of you – I swear! I will find you! And I will see that you choke on your filthy grin. You will wish you would have never met her. There is no hole in the world where you´ll be out of my reach. You´ll be mine! Do not forget this. Never!" Her eyes were made of steel, their iciness causing even Nicci a chill to run down her spine. But instead of showing the slightest sign of disturbance she set a mocking eyebrow and a sneer and turned, winking arrogantly over her shoulder:

"Jona will let you know when the time has come. Be prepared!"

And thus said she left with her head held high, Kahlan, tense but obediently, on her heels.

She had set a good pace, pondering silently about the Mord Sith and the Confessor, when she finally noticed that her Confessor was missed. Reaching the first floor Kahlan had turned to the left instead of following Nicci into the direction where the guest chambers laid.

And now Nicci found herself rushing behind a fake-confessed Mother Confessor who apparently had her own ideas of where to head to.

Finally reaching her she hissed sharply.

"What in all worlds are you thinking you´re doing here?"

"I have to see King Sadom!"

Kahlan hurried on, not even deigning to look at her, much less slowing her steps.

Nicci rolled her eyes in an exasperate gesture, then gripped her arm fiercely and brought her to a halt. Kahlan sighed deeply, but when she looked into Nicci´s eyes the sorceress faced the deep devotion that was coming to be Kahlan´s trademark glare.

"Don´t be silly, Kahlan? King Sadom is not our affair." She gestured to the walls. "If anyone sees you walking these halls on your own account... You may as well run around shouting "look at me, I´m not confessed!" We will both be sentenced to death if Rahl gets aware..."

Kahlan looked at her, an expression of utter resolve lay on her face. She nodded slowly, lifting a brow with a sarcastic smile.

"Then I suggest you do your best to make sure they see Sister Nicci heading to King Sadom's chambers, while I´m merely following my mistress, wherever she leads me."

And with a teasing tilt of her head she turned and took her pace again, leaving it up to an exasperated sorceress to catch up with her and finally take the lead, though scowling fiercely ahead while a mirthless smile settled on Kahlan's lips.

While rushing behind Nicci, her Confessor mask replaced by an anxious eagerness spread over her features whenever they crossed the way of some of the many servants, Kahlan´s mind wrapped around King Sadom.

Nicci had used it as an excuse to get rid of Garen so Kahlan could meet with Cara. But Kahlan knew instinctively that it had been the truth: Garen had helped him with his nephews to bring them into the dungeons.

King Sadom was willing to sacrifice his own nephews, judge them for high treason and sentence them to death, though their only betrayal had been that they hadn´t agreed with his decision of conniving with Rahl. They had been loyal to the Mother Confessor, they had stood up against King Sadom´s newly built alliance with Rahl and now they would die because of their honest loyalty.

Kahlan wouldn´t let that happen.

Eagerly she searched for a plan, chewed on the few small possibilities and yet she couldn´t figure a way out to free them. The white dragon came to her mind, her words flickering behind her lids out of the nothing:

"Do what must be done. Do not hesitate…"

The Mother Confessor set her jaw decidedly. She would wait for an opportunity – and hope that Nicci played along…

They reached King Sadom´s working chambers unmolested. Only then they were stopped as the two guards, who were positioned at the door, crossed their lances in front of the entrance when the women approached. Their eyes stared straight ahead, they didn´t move nor shifted their weapons, until Nicci stepped angrily close to the chunky soldier to her left and growled at him, pointing her words in a low but nonetheless daunting way.

"I am Lord Rahl´s personal assistant. I´ve come to see the King. Let me pass!"

He visibly straightened and turned his head, scowling at her, and then eying the raven-haired woman at her side for a very long second. Eventually setting his gaze back on Nicci, he spit disgustingly, his narrowed eyes sparkling with barely hidden hatred.

"What I see is Lord Rahl´s collared slave; the pet-sorceress who dared to put an abominable spell on the Mother Confessor so that she lost her honor, her mind and her soul to you. You are the bitch who sells the Midlands out to a tyrant…" He had to struggle to bite his own tongue as he noticed his companion´s fierce, adjuratory, and warning glance. Only reluctantly he braced himself, small muscles under his cheekbones working fiercely, and stepped aside, his face a stony mask again. But Nicci, seemingly untouched by his words, heard his low groan as she passed him.

"May the Keeper rip your soul into bloody pieces and feed it to his beasts."

She stopped and granted him a false smile, almost purring sarcastically:

"Hmm. Does your beloved King actually know how you feel? Because I am curious as to how he will react when I tell him. Surely he will rip something out of you …; probably your tongue at least;" and thus said she slammed the door open and sauntered inside.

Kahlan trotted behind, her shoulders sagging and her head dropped, barely able to fight against the urge to grant him at least a sad smile of gratitude for his loyalty.

The two men, whose loud, upset voices immediately stopped, turned harshly when they entered the room. One of them was Rahl, who had apparently had a fierce discussion with the King. When he faced the blonde sorceress his face was barely hiding his resentment. Frowning deeply he stared at Nicci as if he was seeing an appearance.

"Nicci! What a lovely surprise to see you! Why is it that I didn´t expect your presence in these chambers? Aren´t you supposed to prepare for our departure?"

In his very own priggish way he spoke in a gentle tone, but nonetheless the air seemed to prickle as his cold eyes pierced the blonde. Her answering tone was one of bored arrogance.

"I looked for you, Lord Rahl."

"I can´t remember that I called for you?"

"But, My Lord! Didn´t you demand me to bring the Mother Confessor to King Sadom, so he might at least be able to admire the result of his… assistance provided to you?" She nodded a greeting towards the King, who stood behind his secretary, in his eyes a greedy glow as he watched the shy appearance of the Mother Confessor, standing devotedly behind the blonde. Nicci saw his face beaming expectantly and she didn´t hide her amusement. The King was a small man, his impressive paunch much broader then his shoulders, his pale face spongy, bloated and graced with little, shining, scarlet blotches. Bushy hairs sprouted out from under his vest at his chest and his neck, though there were only a few thin hairs adorning his massive, blank skull.

Nicci tugged Kahlan, who struggled to keep her submissive expression, in front of her, shoving her closer to the greedy eyes of the King; grinning mischievously as she watched his thick tongue darting out to wet his lips.

"Look at her, King Sadom and enjoy it. This is what you sentenced her to be. This is your revenge!"

The King didn´t move, just stared at Kahlan, whose shoulders started to stiffen under his glare; Nicci bored her nails warningly into her back. From under her lashes the brunette sent her one of those glances which others could easily define as a confused question, only Nicci knew it wasn´t.

Rahl watched the scene with narrowed eyes, on his face a mixture of distrust and amusement.

He had long gotten used to Nicci´s idiosyncratic interpretation of serving him. She still made her own decisions, even after all of her training, and though she had come to accept that eventually she had to submit to his will and his will alone, she had never lost her own individualism.

It had never been his honest aim to break the former Sister of the Dark. Much more he enjoyed the satisfaction to see her submit to his will while being fully aware of her helplessness against his might.

But during the years, the longer he had her in his grip, the more often she´d died during her training and had been revived by his Mord Sith, the more he gained conviction that she would never give in... the more he tried to break her at last.

The witch had withstood every pain, every humiliation and even when he started to call her into his private chambers to teach her his own very special lessons of submission; he had never been able to break her bored arrogance.

Rahl had grown accustomed to her thorny manner; there were even times when he enjoyed her presence, her unmistakable ability to dig deeper into wounds, even if these wounds were his own...

Until she again overexcited him, scoffing at the implications of her own horrid deed at that time when she had been after the Seeker. When she callously made him livid with rage, deriding him in bed. Until he forgot all reasons and he drubbed her perished. Trying to lose a bit of this all consuming tension that ruled him.

His eyes settled on the Mother Confessor. A mischievous grin appeared on his face. This was how he had always wanted to see her.

Shy, devoted and eagerly waiting for him to do his bidding.

The beauty of her, that had always radiated strength and power, defiance and determination, seemed so much more seductive in her soft weakness. That was how women had to be. The proud Mother Confessor was gone. The woman he saw was ready to be ruled, to be taken. His gaze travelled greedily over her slender form, resting on the constant heaving of her cleavage. Her eyes were glued to Nicci´s lips, eagerly waiting for her mistress to tell her what she could do to please her. He didn´t notice how she struggled inwardly to keep her role, how her lips pressed tightly together in attempt to not lose an angry groan, to not spit into his face.

Unconsciously he licked his lip, than stepped towards the sorceress and her pet. Kahlan felt a shiver running down her spine as his hand reached out to grab her arm almost painfully and pull her close.

"Come here, Kahlan. It is time to greet your mistress´ master like it behooves you."

His smug grin made her stomach cramp, his hot breath in her face caused her hackles to rise and she barely managed to turn her head before his mouth met hers, her eyes desperately searching for Nicci as if asking for her demands; the blonde saw the urgent plea that swept along with her gaze and the tiniest curl of her lips proved to Kahlan that she knew. Clearly amused she eyed the brunette for a long moment and when Kahlan had almost lost hope that the blonde would help her out, she suddenly sighed audibly, turning to Rahl, and arching a sarcastically eyebrow while she let out a low chuckle.

"Ah, My Lord! Always too impatient... But I am afraid she is not yet fully prepared for your requirements. Didn´t you agree that she has to learn a few lessons before she is to be yours, and yours only, when we reach Aydindril? That you will take her when all the authorities of the Midlands will be ready to witness her submission to you?

Until then I´ll teach her everything that will make her a worthy lay for you, My Lord. At last, we do not want to disappoint you because of a momentary impatience, don´t we? You deserve nothing less ...than complete... satisfaction..."

Kahlan kept her eyes glued to Nicci, who smirked slightly at Rahl, knowing he wouldn´t lower his guard in front of the King. And, as expected, Rahl arched a brow suspiciously and looked her over, his hand still gripping the Confessor´s arm tightly. The air between them seemed to flicker as his narrowed eyes seared into Nicci´s gaze, but it did nothing to wash away her smug arrogance. Eventually she could feel how his features relaxed ever so slightly and he nodded with a mincing smile on tight lips.

"You are right, Nicci. Where at last is the fun in raping her right here and wasting the glory of her subjugation to my collared witch and my fat friend here? She deserves a much greater audience when I finally have her moaning and pleasuring me, her Lord."

Kahlan heard his words with greatest alleviation, but just when her tensed muscles started to relax a little, she felt pulled harshly against his chest, his free hand pressing fiercely on her back to bring her closer until she could feel his heart pounding against her own breasts. She swallowed hard, not able to avert her eyes from his, filled with naked desire, trembling under his fierce grip and panting, knowing she wouldn´t have a chance if she started fighting. She did her best, gathering all her strength to bear this without showing her rage. She could feel her power boiling up, scratching at her collar, roaring against its walls, but helplessly chained.

Slowly, apparently very much enjoying the fearful look in her eyes, he pressed his wet lips on hers and all Kahlan could do to not vomit whilst gritting her teeth and thus refusing his violently demanding tongue entrance where it didn´t belong at all. It pushed heatedly between her lips, against her teeth. He tried a long moment to get through, but eventually, with a frustrated groan, he let go of her; but not without biting down on her lower lip hard enough to break its soft skin and then, already retreating, he licked the sweet bloody trace he had left clean.

"Ah, Kahlan. Your taste is delicious. We will have so much pleasure, once you are mine..." and turning with a triumphant smirk towards Nicci, who looked as bored as she could while watching his little show of dominance, because that's just what it had been.

"You better take care that she´ll be perfectly prepared."

"Of course, My Lord." She bowed slightly, as if in submission. "But until then..." Nicci winked Kahlan to her side, who eagerly followed her demand, squirming free of Rahl´s grip, glad to escape his obnoxious proximity. Nicci stared at her with hard eyes. "Until then it will please me, Kahlan, if you will fight him with all your might, if he ever tries to get close to you again without my permission. Do you understand me? You will not allow him to lay hand on you, unless I demand you to be with him!" Kahlan, her wide eyes still beaming in an exasperated deep blue, hurried to nod her understanding.

Nicci smiled contently, turning towards Rahl again. "Just to ensure you´ll be not led into temptation, My Lord."

He felt the small spark of anger rising in his chest at her effrontery, as usual.

But all the same, he couldn´t help the small grin that crawled over his face as he breathed in her hatred that he could sense radiating from under her skin with every smoothly covered word.

As usual.

Still grinning he turned to leave, but not before shooting a depreciative glance towards the King who had never taken his eyes off the Confessor, who seemed to him a helpless puppet in the hands of her mistress and Lord Rahl.

"Stop drooling, Sadom. You may touch her. But do not forget that she´s mine!"

And, approaching the door, "See that she behaves, Nicci. And then be ready for our departure! We will leave with the first light."

A nonchalant smile on his lips and a smug look in his eyes he winked Kahlan a last time.

"Can´t wait for Aydindril, my dear..."

And then he was gone. His chuckle waving behind him like a flag until the door closed.


Kahlan stood motionless, inhaling a deep breath and allowing her eyes to shut close while trying to regain her composure. When she opened them again she found herself just inches away from King Sadom´s spongy face, his little pale eyes glowed feverishly and a thick, plump thumb lifted to draw the line of her lips. Immediately the color in the Confessor´s eyes changed dangerously from their freshly recovered brilliant blue into a sharp edged shade of thunderstorm. From the corner of her eyes she noticed Nicci leaning apparently totally relaxed at the wall beside the King, saw her watching the old fat man as his gaze feasted on her body. Cearly, the sorceress did not bother to interrupt the King´s moves, watching uninvolved, in blank curiosity, and Kahlan gritted her teeth in increasing anger.

"Mother Confessor! Or should I say: Mother Confessed?" The King laughed with a filthy cough. Kahlan straightened, drudgingly controlling herself, while her hands already clenched, longing to feel his padded throat under her grip.

"I never hoped to see you like this: a soulless slave; at the mercy of the will of your master, your hated foe." He leaned closer. "Tell me wench, how does it feel to have lost everything. To do the bidding of that whore who devastated you like you devastated my brother?" He brought his hand up to grip her hair, tugging her closer, searing her with the hateful sparkling in his stare.

Nicci frowned at his words. Slowly, her jaw set, she pushed off the wall and approached with a sneer.

"You should watch out what you´re saying, Sadom." Her voice low and threatening.

"Shut up, whore! I have waited too long for this moment. I will not allow Lord Rahl´s plaything to ruin it now."

With a side glance the brunette saw Nicci straighten, anger washing over her face, her eyes changing and for a brief moment Kahlan could have sworn they gleamed in a heated yellow, before she answered coldly.

"I am sure, the Mother Confessor would teach you willingly how it feels if you so badly want to know..."

His paunch bouncing with his roaring laughter the King let go of Kahlan´s hair and turned briefly to Nicci, shooting her a wide grin, before he wheeled back and, using the momentum, backhanded Kahlan fiercely.

That was the moment when Kahlan let her mask fall. Her cheeks were burning, her stare filled with icy coldness; not the tiniest hint of devotion could be found on her features anymore. Sadom furrowed his brows as he noticed something had changed. Instinctively he stepped back; but Kahlan was faster. Her hand shot up and wrapped around his throat in a blink and clenched strongly.

The Confessor felt the roaring force of her gift stirring up in her and let herself drown in the familiar wave of power. A dark growl fell from her lips, noticing how it retreated again, chained by the collar around her neck. Though, fueled by her anger, her hand tightened around the King´s throat even more.

For a fierce heartbeat King Sadom was close to panic, looking into the dark blue fire in her eyes, feeling her deadly resolve and her barely controlled fury surging against him. He squirmed under her grip.

"Call her off, witch! Your Lord will not be pleased if she´s killing his strongest alliance!" His voice quavered, it sounded more like a begging than like an order.

Nicci sauntered closer, a trace of serenity blooming on her face as she patted Kahlan´s shoulder ever so slightly.

"It would really please me, Kahlan, if you would take your hand off King Sadom´s throat now. I think he will wet his pants if you don´t..."

Growling, Kahlan tightened her grip around his throat even more.

"I don´t mind your pleasure! And if he dares wet his pants in front of the Mother Confessor, I´ll make him suck them clean!"

She watched his eyes widen in horror. Too late he recognized that Kahlan was not at all the pet-confessor she was supposed to be.

"You... you´re not confessed?" He stammered, panic eventually hitting his mind in a sudden rush, before he calmed slightly, his eyes settling on the steely band around Kahlan´s neck. A nasty grin appeared on his lips while he started struggling against the brunette´s hard pressure.

"You...can´t confess me!" He panted. "You are helpless against the power of your Rada`Han!"

Kahlan groaned loudly, knowing he was right. Forced by her fury she held the King anyway, slammed him even into the wall, deadly enraged, barely satisfied by the cracking sound as his skull hit the stone. She heard Nicci stepping closer and then felt her standing by her side, leaning forward and whispering cheerfully:

"Rada´Hans can be removed..."

And Kahlan felt a sudden sting burning into her neck as Nicci laid a fingertip against her collar and sent a spark of her Han into it...

With her gift unexpectedly uncaged, Kahlan seemed to gleam from inside out as time slowed down to eternity; as a thunder with no sound reverberated from the walls and her eyes took the color of polished onyx, beaming briefly with all consuming love, tossing it into the man and planting it into the Kings devastated soul for the rest of his miserable life. ..


Richard slowed his steps and came to a halt as he heard voices. Angry voices. They came from Dennee´s working chamber, where he had assumed he´d find the Confessor, intending to talk to her about his Mord Sith. Hesitatingly he approached, cautiously avoiding any noise.

The man´s voice was hard and cold; kind of an annoyed growl.

"Things are as they are! It is not the time to doubt the ways now. You should not forget that you were the one who induced it."

"I don´t. And I still deem it best for the Midlands and all of us. I just... don´t like spreading such horrible rumors. At last she is still my sister."

The man laughed mirthlessly.

"Your sister? You sold her out, Confessor! If this is sisterly love, it is of no greater value then the muck in the stables."

For a moment Dennee remained silent. Finally she answered with audible tension in her voice.

"I didn´t expect your understanding. She has changed. And the Midlands need a strong hand to lead them."

"So we are clear then? You will not get in my way?" Obviously she agreed, since he sounded a little softer as he continued.

"You will see, if the people of Aydindril think of her as a lunatic witch, they will eagerly bow to you as their Last. True. Confessor. No bloodshed will be needed. He will take her to D´Hara and you will be the next honorable Mother Confessor."

"You better speak the truth, wizard Connor... - How can I be sure he won´t betray me?"

"Don´t you have already received the first part of your reward? I know you are spending every free minute in the dungeons. And as soon as that Cara joins her sisters your revenge will be completed. So, why would you doubt his word now?"

"He is not known for his reputation, at last."

"Then, Confessor, you will have the honor to tell the truth about him in the future..."

Outside, Richard stood frozen in the shadow of a pillar.


His mind raced. Incredulousness stubbornly covering the first sparks of rage that were already gnawing at his guts.

This couldn´t be true!

Dennee would never...


His steps roared like thunder through the empty halls as he headed for the stairs that would lead him down into the guts of the Confessor´s Palace. His face was a dark red flame, his lips pressed into a thin line of rage. The gentleness in his eyes was gone; all that remained was the burning heat of his boiling anger.

Richard´s grip was tight around the hilt of the sword; it´s glowing fury added to his own, stirring his flames to a barely controllable firestorm.

If it was true... if he found them where he assumed he would find them...

If Dennee had truly dared to betray him...then, for the Creator´s sake...

He batted away the small voice of reason that admonished him constantly to calm down; though the rage of the sword was stronger.

The stairs seemed to never end, driving deeper and deeper into clammy caves, until he finally reached the lower levels. All of a sudden he found himself spit out into a small hall, sparsely lit by a few torches; a simple wooden desk surrounded by three chairs the only furniture. The guard-room was abandoned. Richard faintly remembered that he had met guards on duty on the first floor. They had let him pass as he had proclaimed the Confessor personally had sent him to check on the prisoners...

He had assumed correctly that they weren´t allowed to enter the lower levels of the dungeons.

Not with the precious captives inside these cells...

Panting heavily he checked on the few corridors that led away from the little hall. Seemingly leading into the darkness of nothing. Though Richard knew that in fact they were the way to pain and misery...

Without thinking he chose the closest channel and rushed inside, ripping door after door open; steeling himself for what he would find. Only he found all of the cells abandoned.

A dark growl boiled up in his chest as he came back into the guards-room, finally taking a moment to focus on his surroundings. He held his breath, straining his ears, and listened into the darkness.

Yet all, his ears notified to his mind, were the heavy pounding of his own heart.

"Berdine!" His voice thundered demandingly. "Raina!" and again he held his breath.

There. A small noise coming from the dark depth of the hallway to his left.

It didn´t take him a second thought before he started to run.

He found them in the last cell. The door stood wide open, a taunting sign that they weren´t supposed to be any kind of a threat anymore...

They hung in chains on opposite walls of their cell. It wasn´t the way Mord Sith chained their victims usually. The way, Richard remembered too well how awful it felt.

Instead their arms were spread wide above their heads, stretched to the left and the right like giant wings, their feet touching the ground with only their toes, fixed to the walls behind them with a thin but sharp chain. Their necks collared tightly and also anchored into the stony wall. Sharp steel threatening to strangle them if their heads would drop in exhaustion.

Berdine had one eye opened, the other one hidden behind the blue and green shimmer of her swollen lid; her body a bloody mass of bruised flesh and dried blood; her face swollen and marked in the different colors of violence.

She stared at him with her one healthy eye somewhat reproachfully and Richard could have sworn that she tried to lift a brow mockingly.

"Nice to see you, Lord Rahl! What held you up for so long?" Her voice was a ridiculously teasing hoarse caw.

Richard looked her over, his narrowed eyes gleaming intensely. The deep frown on his face didn´t cease at her joke. Instead he turned and took two steps closer to Raina, who hang unconsciously in her chains, her arms nearly dislocated from her shoulders, her collar cutting deeply into her throat since her head wanted to fall to her chest.

For an instant he wondered if she was still breathing, which seemed almost impossible to him and his heart clenched with sudden fear. With a loud groan he unsheathed the Sword of Truth, its sudden angry ringing the voice of his fury since his throat wasn´t able to bring a sound out. It cut the air in a red glowing rush and Raina´s head dropped freely as the chain broke. Just two strikes later her arms were liberated and Richard tossed the sword aside to catch the unconscious woman into his arms before she could hit the ground. Carefully he lay her naked body down and stroked her hair, a deep, aghast sigh escaping his throat.

Grey eyes, filled with regret and sorrow, travelled over her maltreated body. He felt barely able to bear the misery. Clenching his teeth; shaken to the core.

Almost reluctantly his gaze lifted to meet Berdine, who had put a crooked smirk on her flayed face, now that she saw her love freed.

"Tell me, Berdine, who did this to you? Who is responsible for that?"

The whispered question barely covered that he knew already, just didn´t want to believe. Though he needed to hear it from her, needed her words to verify his fears.

Berdine did not answer. He watched her glance turning into a deep scowl as her eye shifted to the entrance behind him, watched her whole body stiffen and suddenly noticed, though too late, the faint scent of lavender.

"I am Richard!"

Without making a noise she had entered. Now, standing in the entrance, her head held high, her face carved in stone, her grey eyes radiating an iciness that seemed to freeze the air around her, the sound of Dennee´s voice hammered into his ears as if trying to blow his mind.

Richard wheeled around; surprised by her sudden appearance he instinctively grabbed for the sword only she was faster, kicking it far out of his reach.

Richard froze, his gaze wrapping around the Confessor, disbelief ruling his expressions.

"Dennee!" The sound of her name spoken softly, as if trying to awake a sleepy child.

"By the Creator´s light. What are you doing, Dennee? They haven´t done the crime you accuse them of. They are not traitors. You have sworn to treat them fair..."

Richard had stood while he spoke, leaning forward and searching her eyes for answers, which he wasn´t sure he wanted to hear at last. Quickly it became obvious that Dennee wasn´t in the mood to ease his troubled mind.

She looked him over with narrowed, hard eyes.

"You are blind Richard. You have always been. Too weak to face the truth. You like to pretend that there is a light in even the darkest souls." Her gaze wandered to the limp body on the ground, the shifted back to meet his eyes.

"But you are wrong! Look at them: they cheat you! What you are seeing is not the slow torturing of two innocent women to their death. It is a mirror to what they have done a hundred times to others. Men and women. Children even! They´ve never asked for reasons. They never doubted what they did. Dispiteous they destroyed too many lives. They deserve to suffer the same excruciating pain..."

Dennee´s grey eyes beamed with freshly ignited hatred; hatred that lay always beneath her countenance, swaying with every move, every thought; never asleep, normally dimmed to a barely smoldering glow, but always willing to come to life at the smallest opportunity.

"They. Are. The Evil! They deserve what they get. And, believe me, this has only just begun. I will not allow them to die before their mad queen, that maledict Cara joins them." Her gaze seared into Richards, now heated by the passion of her hatred, which flowed almost palpable in the air he breathed.

"She will pay with all her blood for what she did to all these innocents. I will rip her flesh in stripes off her bones... for my loss... For drowning my own son..."

Her voice broke as tears streamed down her cheeks and uncontrollable sobs stopped her speech.

Richard stood motionless. His eyes were glued to the Confessor who seemed to be at the end of her strength; Sorrow and compassion equally written on his features as he listened; regret for her losses and her agony.

He felt torn. There was the urge to wrap his arms around her familiar fragile form and wipe away her tears. To hold her and ease her troubled mind. To help her out of the dark, mirthless space her mind was living in.

But there was the sound of Berdine´s heavy breathing behind him. He could feel her eyes lying on his shoulders like heavy weighing rocks and knew she expected him to stop this madness...

Slowly, cautiously, he reached out to touch Dennee´s arm, tugged gently until she gave in and then pulled her into his arms. She writhed slightly but soon leaned her head to his shoulder and sobbed silently into the crook of his neck. Ever so gently his hand stroke her head while he hummed soothing sounds into her ear.

Berdine´s huff was heard but ignored as he stood with the Confessor in his arms for a few long moments, until Dennee´s tears finally stopped quilling and her breathe came evenly, her sobs reduced to small hicks every now and then.

The soft moan from behind that was merely like a painful sigh made him turn his head carefully to see Raina coming slowly to consciousness. He caught Berdine´s eyes, which stared at him in silent accusation, every muscle in her body tensed under her bruised skin, her chains stretched tightly as she leaned forward as if she tried to reach Raina, who moaned again and moved ever so weakly.

He stroked Dennee´s back one more time and then gently shoved her back, all while murmuring calming words to her.

"It is okay, Dennee. I´m here. I know your pain... I will be here to help you. You can always rely on me. We will find a way to get over it, okay? I´ll be there. You will see... everything will be fine."

He looked into her face with his soft grey eyes, giving her a reassuring smile.

"So, are you okay now?" She swallowed and nodded with glassy eyes, answering his gaze with a faint smile of her own.

Richard sighed relieved and turned to kneel beside Raina.

"Then let me free them now. It is time to...

He saw Berdine´s good eye go wide, but before his nerves allowed acknowledging the danger, he felt her hand around his throat, clenching fiercely. Aghast he turned; his stare met hers, the Confessor´s eyes suddenly beaming with glaring winter´s ice as she shook her head ever so slightly.

"No, Richard...I will not allow you to remove their chains."

Sorrow briefly crossed her features, reduced her voice to barely a whisper.

"I´m sorry Richard. But sooner or later I´d have to do this anyway. I wish I had another choice... Forgive me, love."

Her power crashed into him; he felt the world cease around him, barely granted to acknowledge the spark of fear that swept ever so briefly through his mind before his soul vanished in a sudden blow; all that rested was the light that was his mistress, her eyes losing a sad tear and all he wanted, all he could think of, was to catch it with his lips and turn it into a joyful smile on her face; oh, if he would only be granted to please her...

He shifted his gaze to hers, anxiously offering his every might to serve her.

"Command me, mistress."


With narrowed eyes she watched suspiciously how the young Mord Sith approached her. Every muscle in her back tensed; distrust building up around her, as if expecting a sudden attack.

It had been hours since Kahlan and Nicci had left and the two Mord Sith, the blonde in chains and the young brunette guarding the entrance, had never taken their eyes off each other, warily observing the others every move; No word had been spoken. Their only communication a few thoughtful frowns sweeping over Jona´s features and some fierce, challenging glares from Cara.

And nothing had happened that would make a difference now, which could be named a reason for her young guard to come closer.

All of a sudden, as though she had received a secret sign, Jona had pushed off of the wall and had started to move and Cara´s back tightened in expectation of the worst.

Pursing her lips, her eyes narrowed threateningly and she cocked her head while her hands clenched into fists.

"What?" she snarled belligerently.

Jona looked at her, a faint shy smile touching her face as if offering an excuse and shrugged lightly.

"It´s time."

The hard frown on Cara´s face deepened.

How could the younger say it´s time? There had been no sign, no noise or anything that made a difference to the hours before. What made her decide that now it was time? Cara didn´t trust her; she still felt trapped somehow.

If Jona noticed her animosity, if she had any emotions at all while she kneed beside Cara, whatever she thought of her strained expression, she didn´t reveal anything. Calmly, almost apathetically, she freed the blonde, who jumped to her feet in a blink and already stood at the entrance when Jona looked up.

The heavy wooden door kept unimpressed as the blonde kicked it angrily. Cara growled; impatience tugged at her nerves and Jona couldn´t reach her fast enough to unlock the yoke. The blonde almost ripped the key out of her hands, but the small brunette held it tight in her fist, lifting a brow and shaking her head decidedly.

"Don´t worry, Mistress Cara. I´ll bring you out of here. But you´ll need to trust me."

Anyone else would have felt pinned to the wall by Cara´s fierce glance alone, only her young guard eyed her shyly and indulgently and opened the door, walking out as if planning a nice Sunday afternoon walk.

Cara followed, wearily; peering around; half expecting an ambush as soon as she left the cell. Yet she found the depths of the corridor outside were empty.

"They are busy, preparing for the departure. If we avoid the most frequented corridors we´ll get out easily." Jona winked her to follow and though the blonde felt distrust clenching her guts, she finally decided to ignore the feeling. It was worth a try.

Anything was better than cowering chained in a dark cell while Kahlan constantly risked being caught with her every moves...

And if it was just a trick, Cara would see to it that Jona would always remember it as the biggest mistake in her life.

Quietly Jona led them through the labyrinth of channels and aisles, her feet easily knowing the way. Not once did she hesitate, carefully avoiding the few spots where loud voices betrayed people nearby. They came close to main halls a few times; but whenever Cara´s hackles started rising because she had the strongest feeling that they would run directly into the guards behind the next corner, Jona turned at the last second and took a different branch.

Finally Cara found herself suddenly breaking out of the palace into the open space of a dark night, a fresh breeze greeted her sweaty skin and a few thick clouds sailing lazily through the sea of stars above. She stood in silence and closed her eyes, sucking a deep breath, for once enjoying the lack of fustiness, tasting the faint scent of earthy flavors, sleeping flowers and silky moonlight; and the hint of a sad smile crossed her face.

Kahlan would have loved it.

For an instant, bliss-filled blue pools appeared behind her closed lids.

The Mord Sith groaned and gritted her teeth, turning to the dark walls towering behind her threateningly. She straightened and raised her chin, staring with wistful eyes.

- I´ll come for you, Kahlan. I swear! –

A tiny noise came from her side, reminded Cara that she wasn´t alone; there was Jona staring at the palace´ walls as well and grinding her teeth. Her eyes were hard as was the draw around her lips. Something sparkling faintly in her gaze, a whiff of pride and triumph and particular relief...

Cara arched a brow at the sight and a smirk settled on her lips.

"Look what we have here. Is it a Mord Sith who is glad she escaped her master?"

The younger twitched as if caught. Her gaze met Cara´s briefly, the blonde saw her cheeks reddening, but quickly she turned and pointed to somewhere at the tree line beside the campfires that glowed in a distance.

"The horses are bound over there." And again she took the lead, followed by a quiet blonde.

They found the horses bound in a few long rows, always more than a dozen at a time. Most of them were saddled, though their bridles had been hung at the ropes, allowing them to feed on the heaps of hay at their feet. At the outer range of the lines a few guards were positioned for watching over them, paying only small attention to the very unlikely approach of a thief, coming out of the woods and apparently not wasting so much as a thought to even more unlikely threats coming from the palace. There was a constant flow of people between the palace, the town and the camp. Everyone was more or less excited for their near departure.

Jona headed carefully to the closest row of horses, tall black beasts like the ones Mord Sith usually rode. Cara hesitated briefly, her eyes searching along the line, faintly hoping it could be Black she was going to steal. And indeed, she found him standing among the others, he the only one who wasn´t munching lazily but scanning his surroundings with his ears swiveling forth and back as if in nervous expectations.

Cara grinned.

-Good boy! –

Turning towards her young companion her eyes caught another row of horses, standing closer to the palace, all fully saddled, but not wearing packs as most of the others. An elegant grey-white head, framed by a dark long wave of a mane rose above the others and the blonde couldn´t help a smile.


She frowned as she saw a blood-red saddle-blanket beneath a comfortable saddle, made of thick soft leather. The golden emblem of Darken Rahl, woven into the blanket, seemed to glow in the reflections of the campfires, dancing teasingly before Cara´s eyes as their lights hit Shadow´s back.

With a hard scowl the Mord Sith turned to the young brunette.

"To whom do these horses belong to?" Her voice was an angry growl.

Jona looked to where her tense arm pointed and furrowed her brows, not understanding her question. Wasn´t it obvious to whom they belonged? That they were the steeds of Rahl and his Mord Sith cortege?

"The silver one! WHO will ride him?" Her dark angry growl was pressed out between hard lips. Jona´s eyes focused and a confused brow climbed up her forehead.

"He´s wearing Rahl´s personal saddle on Rahl´s personal blanket. So I assume it will be Rahl who will give him the honor..."

Turning towards the blonde she was surprised to find her staring furiously at the tall silver horse, and then hissed at her, never taking away her eyes of the horse.

"You´ll take the third one in the row of the black beasts over there!"

And before Jona knew what happened, Cara had melted into the shadows of the night between the trees, leaving a very disturbed young Mord Sith behind...

Cara approached the small group of horses carefully. The clouds in the sky helped to stay out of sight of the guards until no more trees were left to grant her cover. She accepted the risk to go down to her knees and crawled closer, while the familiar sense of adrenalin rushing through her veins made her lips twitch into an appreciative smirk. The closer she crawled, the more the horses got nervous, Cara could feel them pawing the earth with their hooves, some lifting their heads jerkily, tugging at their ropes. All while she sneaked between them, murmuring low, soothing sounds:

"Hooh, keep calm, guys... no wolf. just Mord Sith... wooh, good boys..." – until she reached Shadow. He stood motionless, his ears perked up curiously, as if waiting her, watching her every move. With a small roll-over she finally landed exactly between his legs and – Thank the Creator! – he didn´t explode in a rush of panic but slowly lowered his nose and jostled slightly into her side, giving a tiny buzzing noise to greet her.

Cara smirked relieved and patted his cheek.

"Hey there, friend! Glad to see you´re fine."

It took her just a few moments to loosen his ropes and snatch the bridle that hung there, which she swung over her shoulder and stood up. Scanning thoughtfully the line of the guards and after briefly weighing her options she made her decision and straightened.

She tugged at Shadows line and led him calmly out of the group of horses; carefully she checked around. The guards were watching the opposite part of the camp; on her side, people were coming and going. Not even attempting to hide she strode forcefully and self-confidently, Shadow at her side, towards the palace walls. From the corner of her eyes she saw that the guards were talking with some peasants, not paying much attention to the Mord Sith who apparently had come to bring Rahl´s horse to their Lord.

A soldier approached and respectfully stepped aside as her fierce, arrogant glance dashed against his. He bowed and ducked and it took him a long moment before his brain realized something was wrong.

Somewhat irritated he looked back and watched the blonde Mord Sith suddenly changing direction and rushing into the darkness of the tree lines. It hit him like a blow...

The Mord Sith had her hair cut!

"Hey there! Stay still!"

His shout alarmed his companions and all of a sudden the formerly peaceful night brimmed with shouts of alarm and the rushing of soldiers, grabbing their weapons, while others called out in confusion, trying to find out the reason for the sudden excitement...

As soon as Cara heard his screaming she had started to run, tugging Shadow along.

"Go Shadow! Go!" The silver horse reacted quickly, first falling into a trot but quickly starting to gallop at her side. Cara run as fast as she could and when they reached a speed high enough to give it a try she finally gripped Shadows mane and let her feet push her off the ground. In a smooth motion she pulled herself into the saddle and immediately pushed Shadow forward, who straightened eagerly and let his hooves eat the ground away as he left the camp and the angry noises far behind them...

The last the men heard was the thundering sound of his hooves, still rolling between the trees where Shadow had long vanished...


Rahl fumed. Two of his men and a Mord Sith had been unfortunate enough to stand at his side when one of the guards had entered his chamber to report Cara´s flight. Screaming in rage he had run his blade through them without thinking; blindly giving vent to his fury. Then stepped over their lifeless bodies and, followed by his guards, stormed into the dungeons, where Garen waited for him, her body stiffened, her jaws clenched tightly; knowing what was to come...

His ravaging went on in the cell, snarling and roaring, his sword hitting against the walls and even the chains, which he felt as though they were mocking him as they hung empty and abandoned where they should bind Cara to his grace.

No one dared to go inside while he raged. They all waited outside, sharing anxious gazes, and ducked out of his way when he reappeared. Except Garen.

Stoically she held her ground, taking it calmly as he backhanded her twice, his eyes burning into hers.

"Where is that Jona?" he growled.

Garen lowered her gaze and shook her head slowly.

His beats were hard, but she deserved it. She didn´t know if Cara had forced the young Mord Sith to be her guide through the palace or if she had even killed her anywhere.

She certainly didn´t mind Jona´s fate. But it had been her duty to survey the younger to see that her Lord´s precious prey wouldn´t escape. And she had failed.

In a way she felt almost disappointed that he didn´t kill her for her failure.

Worse: She felt ashamed.

And she would never forgive that!

Finally he calmed slightly and straightened. Garen saw his eyes beaming with murderous fire, but he managed to control his features, turning to his entourage, breathing heavily.

"We´re leaving. The sooner we arrive to Aydindril, the better."


Sunrise had faded a candle mark ago when the baggage finally started moving. Kahlan hadn´t expected such an amount of soldiers. She remembered the camp from her arrival; there had been only a dozen tents. But obviously Rahl´s men had used the days well to gather some of their dispersed alliances for the combined advance towards Aydindril. Letting her gaze travel over the little army she bit her cheek to help a proud grin.

- So many! And they haven´t been able to stop Cara. –

But her cheeriness ceased as soon as her gaze settled on the back of her tormentor. He sat in the saddle of one of the black horses with his back straight, though she could see how he clenched his fists every now and then, still enraged. Unconsciously her hand reached for her cheek, where he had landed a mad blow when he came out of the dungeons.

She had instinctively gripped her daggers, but the keen voice of Nicci had held her back from attacking.

"Kahlan!" she had yelled. "Let him go."

Something in the sorceress´ voice had been a sincere warning that she played with her life. So she had obeyed, like everyone would suppose her to do anyway.

Rahl had scowled at Nicci, his eyes narrowed, hissing threateningly.

"I will discuss this with you in my tent. After sunset."

His mad eyes had held Nicci´s for a long, tense moment, before he had turned and mounted his horse. Frowning Kahlan had watched the blonde pale.

She wondered what Nicci had heard between his words. And somehow she felt like not wanting to know...

Kahlan shifted in her saddle. At least they were on their way to Aydindril. The only place where things could be readjusted.

And if the Creator would grant her to stay alive, she would see Cara there.

Riding in silence she didn´t look back to the walls of King Sadom´s palace, where a lonely old fat man stood on the battlement, tears streaming his cheeks while he watched his mistress leave. He stood still until the last glimpse of her white gown had vanished, then sighed and went to his chambers.

He had displeased his mistress. But he would eagerly do now as she told him. Following her orders he would please her.

And that was all he wanted...


It was her first night back in freedom but Cara didn´t enjoy it. She spent it sitting moodily on a log beside a tiny fire, caught in deep thoughts, staring into the darkness of the woods, where she knew the fires of Rahl´s camp were in a distance. She didn´t eat, didn´t sleep. Just stared into the night.

First she had considered the possibility that she had caught a fever in the dungeons because of the numb feeling that had befallen her mind. Or that perhaps Rahl had put some kind of a spell on her. But she felt the lack of magic and the longer she sat, the less she could deny the true cause of her trouble.

She felt as if with every blink blue eyes were staring at her, teary blue eyes; agonized and longing. So she tried to not blink anymore until her eyes stood aflame and her body worked against her will, shutting her eyes close for the shortest instant, saving her sight.

Cara tried to focus on what Kahlan had asked her to do. She knew she had promised, had sworn to her even. But she just wasn´t able to stand up and leave. The nagging trepidation that tugged at her guts was too strong, too present. So she sat unmoving, waiting for the moment it would vanish and let her be the strong Mord Sith she actually was supposed to be...

She completely ignored her young companion, who sat opposite her.

Jona had finally found her around midday, after what had seemed like an eternity to the girl, filled with a steadily increasing feeling of insecurity of what to do if she would lose Cara´s track.

When she eventually reached her, after foregoing the little army of Rahl, Cara had reacted as though she was a straying dog, merely seeking some comfort in her neighborhood. The exhausted young brunette defiantly raised her chin when the blonde barked at her.

"Your job is done!" The hostility in Cara´s voice together with her cold gaze gave the air a chilling touch. "I´m out of the dungeons. You can go back to your mistress! Leave me alone!"

Cara´s voice had brimmed with disdain, but the young brunette only stared back with stubborn green eyes, her jaw set, and shook her head slowly but resolved while she straightened, standing as tall as she could.

"I am not going back. Lord Rahl will skin me alive if I do."

And holding a frown, lowering her gaze, she added from pouting lips: "And she is not my mistress."

The snort Cara let out wasn´t one of amusement. She shot her a fierce glare, but, after all, she wasn´t in the mood to discuss. Neither was she in the mood to fight her. So she shrugged and turned abruptly and allowed her to stay. Simply deciding to ignore her.

They were some strange companions as they sat silently; bound by circumstances they both hadn´t asked for, meant to fight each other, but at last sitting together like some weird kind of confederates. And in the end, while brooding through the night, somehow Cara found herself feeling halfway comfortable with her quiet presence...

Well..., that was before the girl decided to become talkative...

"What is wrong with you?"

The sudden sound of the young girl´s disbelieving voice ripped the blonde out of her pondering.

Cara´s questioning scowl would have made others duck and try to melt into the ground, but Jona didn´t even seem to acknowledge it, continuing with an expression of bewilderment.

"You know that you risked everything? ... Only to free a horse!

First you wouldn´t leave the side of a... Confessor! Who is the living nightmare to every Mord Sith... and then, barely escaped his grip, you walk openly through the lines of Lord Rahl´s men, as if asking for their arrows. Just... to free a horse?" The brunette put all her anxiety and frustration into her words, a slight accusation swinging in her tone.

The blonde shifted her gaze briefly to where Shadow and Black snoozed peacefully. Through the dark green of her eyes washed an undefined shimmer as a tiny crooked smile swept over her face.

"He´s not just a horse. He is... a friend." She could almost hear Kahlan speaking as she answered the question. Then, adding with a short growl: "And a Mord Sith wouldn´t leave a friend behind in the claws of their enemy..."

Looking back at the younger one, she found her eyes settled on her in thoughtful discomposure. A few heartbeats long their gazes kept locked, Cara´s shooting a challenging beam from under her lashes, Jona staring with pensively furrowed brows.

Finally Cara huffed annoyed and lifted her hands. "What?"

Jona looked to the ground, obviously hesitating, but then shrugged and murmured:

"You... left HER behind..."

The silence that followed her words quickly became a heavy weight on her shoulders. Suddenly nervous, she slightly ducked her head before letting her eyes cautiously search Cara´s again.

The blonde Mord Sith sat upright, her tense back as straight as if forged of iron, her narrowed eyes flashing furiously, small muscles jumping in her cheeks, her full lips pressed into a thin line. Her hands had clenched around her agiels; Jona saw her knuckles shining white and slowly seemed to shrink before Cara´s eyes, like a browbeaten child, waiting for the threatening fist to come down on its face, only that it wasn´t terror Cara saw in her eyes, but resigned acceptance...

Though her anger burnt hotly under her skin the blonde paused and frowned; slight confusion replacing the fury on her features. Her forehead crinkled while she watched Jona ducking deeper, her head dropping down in acquiescent expectation.

Finally Cara stood, glancing down on the younger for a few more heartbeats with a scowl and finally snarled.

"I´m taking first watch. You should get some rest." And with that she turned and headed for the woods, faintly shaking her head.

It was only a few hours later when Cara shook Jona awake. The young Mord Sith came to her feet in a blink, immediately alarmed and ready to fall into action, as she had been trained for. Cara raised a brow.

"We´re leaving."

Jona frowned but didn´t ask the question that lay on her tongue. Instead she nodded wordlessly and grabbed the few things she had to pack, following Cara into the woods.

Their way led them away from the camp, back into Comorra´s direction...


It had been a long and exciting day for the both of them, and the old wizard felt a little ashamed that Verna had insisted she take watch. But, she was a Sister of the Light. And that meant that she was not only a very powerful but an equally stubborn woman. Besides, he had to acknowledge that his bony figure ached all over. So he had lain down and soon his snorting was the only sound for Verna to be heard.

Though the soft footsteps went by unnoticed, her Han shot an electrifying spark through her veins and warned her long before the strangers appeared; she kicked Zedd briefly and had her Dacra already in her hand when the shadows emerged from the woods, pointing at the two figures, that stepped closer, one after the other.

"Stay back!" Her shout alarmed Zedd, who had barely time to come to his feet, once more cursing the burden of his age. Trying to look most daunting he lifted his hands into the night sky and repeated Verna´s words, adding a thundering throaty growl.


"Or what, wizard? You´ll let rain fall down from the sky? I´m already frightened to the bones..."

Cara stepped into the little light of their fire, wearing a smug grin, which quickly turned into a frown as she watched Zedd´s face brighten up and seemingly preparing to jump on her and pull her to his small and bony chest.

"Cara! Thanks the Spirits! You are alive!"

Verna stood rooted to the spot, her Dacra still pointing to the second shadow.

"Lay your weapon down, Verna. Cara and Kahlan are here!" Zedd beamed with joy and winked into the night, clearly expecting Kahlan following Cara out of the woods. His features froze when another Mord Sith appeared instead of the Mother Confessor. Young eyes looking him over warily, her expressionless face not betraying her thoughts. Keeping a distance, while Cara settled on a log beside the resting embers.

"Kahlan is not with us." Her eyes settled on the glow, a hard line drawn around her lips.

Zedd frowned confused, shaking his head.


"No buts, wizard!" She scowled at him. "She´s not here!"

Zedd acknowledged the frustration in her voice with trepidation and sighed. He winked Verna to sit with them, briefly turning to the young Mord Sith who stood straight behind Cara, but then changed his mind. -The blonde would demand her to the fire if she thought it necessary...

"Now, where is she, Cara? What happened?" his voice trembled as he couldn´t hide his solicitude. He almost dared not asking, fearing the worst.

The blonde gritted her teeth, briefly thinking of the darkness in a cave and a thunderstorm outside, her fingers dancing unconsciously over her own thigh as if playing with strands of raven hair. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, focusing on their arrival at Comorra...

Zedd and Verna listened closely, as did the young Mord Sith behind them. Jona had her head tilted and a look of wonder washed over her features every now and then. The way the blonde changed her voice whenever she mentioned the Mother Confessor, the deep emotions that lay hidden and came swirling beneath her words, the way her fists clenched until her knuckles almost beamed through the darkness... This wasn´t a Mord Sith was giving report...

Jona didn´t notice, but Zedd raised a brow when he saw a faint smile settling on her stern face.

It took Cara just half a candle mark to inform them and neither Zedd nor Verna interrupted her talking. Though, both their faces contorted in terror when they heard of Dennee´s confessed men and how Rahl had murdered Captain Rikes. When Cara came to the point where Nicci had confessed Kahlan, Zedd seemed close to a heart attack while Verna buried her face in her palms, squelching a low, barely suppressed sob – and then their eyes widened in shock as they heard it had been a fake...

"...Well, when I smelled roasting meat I went to see who is so careless with Rahl´s little army ahead and his alliances in his back..." She shot Zedd an accusatory glance. "So, here we are." Cara came to the end of her telling.

Verna smiled at her apologetically. "It´s my fault. I thought Rahl´s camp is far away enough to take the risk for a small meal."

Cara scowled at her.

"And what if King Sadom sent men after him, to underline the alliance with Comorra?"

Verna shot Zedd a brief side-glance, then turned to Cara and the Mord Sith saw tiny wrinkles around her sapient eyes twitch as she grinned mischievously.

"Well, let´s say - I do not expect King Sadom to be a threat anymore..."


Zedd and Verna had kept hidden in Comorra as simple merchandisers until Rahl´s troop had departed. They had watched them vanishing after the great agitation that Cara´s flight had caused. While Verna had been on the edge, eager to follow them at once, Zedd had slowed them down, gathering a few supplies before leaving the town. He thought they didn´t need to hurry, wanting to follow them in a secure distance.

Right when they finally headed to the stables to fetch their horses, the sudden sound of the King´s herald´s trumpets startled them, announcing the King himself to meet his people in the big square in front of his palace. That nervous tension that had lain over the town ever since they had arrived had suddenly grown into the agitated silence of the quiet before the storm. The townsfolk were confused of what was happening and quickly ran together.

Verna had tugged Zedd into the crowd, curiously waiting for the King´s appearance.

And then he had stepped out of the Palace. The sad figure of a little, fat man; flexed shoulders; teary eyes. Only straightening when he finally stood on the huge platform in the midst of the place. His gaze travelled slowly over the crowd, though he didn´t seem to acknowledge even one of them. Then he nodded absently, whispering as if to his own ears only and turned and winked to the Palace´s entry, from where a brawny man in dark leather wearing the mask of the deaths man approached, leading two younger men in chains.

Expectation and tautness wrapped the crowd into deadly silence as people came to recognize the young men´s faces. Zedd saw lips pressing into thin lines; saw women shaking their heads in disbelieve, wide eyes filling with tears. His hands clenched into fists, trying to strain the anger that built up in his stomach while he waited for the King´s speech.

And then his voice, surprisingly clear and strong, sounding somehow sanguinely even, demanded their attention.

"People of Comorra! Praise the Creator! Today is a historical day. It is the day when Comorra will come to peace again. Peace with our allies. Our true alliances."

A low acquiescent murmur swept through the crowd.

"We have had guests during the last weeks. And you did well to grant them hospitality as it is known for our People for as long as we can think back. Only this time... it has been wrong! All of you, my children, you have been deceived!"

Another murmur. This time sounds of doubts and questions clearly swaying along with it.

"Lord Rahl has betrayed you! And I, your own King! I, who should care for all of you, more than I should care for my own good, I havebetrayed you!"

Zedd and Verna shared a surprised look, Zedd lifted his shoulders in a helpless gesture at her questioning eyes. They turned again and watched King Sadom bowing in devotion before his people.

"...I am deeply ashamed of what I did.

Of course you will ask what betrayal I´ve done. I am standing right here to answer these questions of yours:

Well...I told you awful falsehoods, my children!

You were told about the Mother Confessor being a traitor, about her insane alliances with viperish Mord Sith;

That they steal girls all over the Midlands to build up a new army of Mord Sith who should stay at her side when she will come to occupy your land;

The lies that she only lusts after your land, that she intends to enslave you and reduce you to servants to her envy-corroded mind;

It... has All! Been! Just that:


The crowd surged closer to the podium like a swarm of humming bees, agitated shouts of disbelieve echoing from their midst.

The King stood unwaveringly, his eyes now beaming with the fevery passion of someone who finally, after a long struggle, was about reaching his goal. He raised his hands and waited for the silence to settle again, then turned and waved towards the young men standing in chains behind him, their faces hard.

"Look at my nephews! I have sentenced them to death for the betrayal of denying my wishes, for standing up for their beliefs. I have selfishly wanted to murder them, for no other reason than that they are so much wiser then I am. They have looked beyond Lord Rahl´s mask; they have seen that we were all following the evil! While I was blinded by my thirst of revenge! I even covered up for Rahl. He was the one who has kidnapped so many of our girls, innocent children of Comorra and the Midlands. He scared them to death; he murdered their family, only to throw out a nightmarish lie about the Mother Confessor..." Tears had started spilling from his eyes and the crowd watched in shock how their King turned into a sobbing picture of misery. He needed a moment to brace himself. But finally he continued with a deep breath.

"I can see now, that I am no longer worthy to be your King. And the Creator knows, I might have never been worthy the honor before...

I have sent a small troop of men to free the girls I allowed Lord Rahl to keep them hidden in an old castle nearby. They will need your help. I beg you to take care that they are nursed and nourished, before they return to their homes.

This... will be my last deed as your King... before my nephews will take my place and lead you into a new age of peace with the Midlands and sincere and honest faithfulness to the Mother Confessor; the one in white who was always ready to fight for us and will never cease to do so:

I, King Sadom of Comorra, plead guilty for high treason, on the people of Comorra, on all of the Midlands and on the Mother Confessor. For that I am sentenced to death. The judgment will be enforced here and now."

He turned and winked to the deaths man, sighing as he approached.

"Do your job, my friend."

And thus he kneeled and put his head on the blog while his last tears dried. A faint smile settled on his lips as he waited for his execution. No one heard his whisper.

"I hope I´ve pleased you, Mistress." His eyes dropped close...


"... Well, when we left Comorra the town was still somehow paralyzed. I think they will need a few days to come back to any semblance of normality. The close colluders have been arrested. King Sadom's nephews are busy rebuilding some normality." Zedd grinned proudly, as if it had been his own triumph that Comorra was safe again.

"We had a short meeting with them and could convince them that they´ll send a troop as soon as possible to support us against Rahl. But it will need a few days to ensure that the renegades will all be under arrest."

And Verna smiled relieved, adding with a soft voice:

"Right now they are preparing the return of the girls. I´ve heard there are almost eighty scared children to be tended to..."

Cara inhaled deeply, her gaze settling on a point in the darkness, where the camp of Rahl would lay in sleepy silence in a distance. A crooked smile appeared on her face and Zedd saw the proud shimmer in her eyes.

"Looks like Kahlan managed to confess him... And that means that she´s teaming up with Nicci." She turned to throw a brief thoughtful look at Jona, who still stood silently behind them. Her eyes shimmering as well with a tiny spark of pride, like faint mirrors to Cara´s.

"Dennee!" The wizard suddenly huffed and hit the log he sat on. Agitated he stood and started pacing. "– I can´t believe that she went this far! I knew she had been jealous ever since we had reached Aydindril. And everybody could see her waggling her hips in front of Richard!" He shook his own hips to underline his words. Verna raised a brow. "Everyone except Kahlan of course..."

"You know Kahlan had been occupied by her own demons..." Cara snapped sharply, scowling at him. Zedd ignored her.

"She has always made allowances for her little sister... Damned, that girl has returned from the underworld! She should have known that this place changes souls...! We all should have known!"

He stalled his steps and eyed her with scrutiny. "Kahlan is right. We need to gather alliances if we want to stop Rahl ... you have to go to Aydindril, Cara! Immediately. Verna and I, we will stay close to the troop. I can cast a spell that will send an alarm if anything happens... "

Cara had jumped to her feet, stepping close to Zedd, her gaze searing furiously into his eyes, her voice a pressed snarl.

"I. Will not. Leave her. Behind!" She turned and glared at the both of them, making her point. Zedd stared back and moments passed in challenging silence. Until a low small voice was heard from behind, where Jona stood, forgotten by them:

"But...you have sworn to her."

Again the young Mord Sith ducked under Cara´s furious glare, but she shrugged all the same, a faint apologize for reminding her to what the blonde so doggedly tried to ignore...


Kahlan trembled.

Her skin seemed to burn. Passion washing over her, a sigh stumbling over her lips while she held her eyes closed, savoring that unique, pure sensation of feeling her lover´s beautiful face dropping down to her cleavage. Waves of pleasure and bliss swirling together with longing in perfect harmony through her entire body. A deep moan escaped her throat, her body shifted in an attempt to get even closer...

The world outside had long lost any meaning. Her reality had gone, reduced to that overwhelming sensation of being touched, of enjoying warm soft skin brushing against her own; of basking in love and desire. She could feel her, breathing against her breasts; felt her teeth sliding sharply along the soft mounds until they found the hardened peak and cautiously scratched over it, before her swollen lips sucked it in and started their arousing wet play of licking and sucking. An explosion of slippery heat that made her whimper and squirm; trying to arch even deeper into these devouring lips. She heard her own low soft growl and suddenly gasped as she felt a knowing hand being pressed between her thighs, resting firmly and almost motionless on her sex. Her eyes shot open to beam at her lover. Kahlan bit her lower lip, a pleasant shiver ran down her back at the sight of Cara: face heated, lips still wrapped around her nipple as she slowly bit down on it, playfully, a light smirk grazing her features, while the blonde´s eyes never left hers, brimming with an incredible lust and a fever that seemed wrapping Kahlan into goose-bumps. She ached for more, clutched her hands desperately on Cara´s back, pulling her closer and narrowed her eyes, inhaling the sight of the Mord Sith´s overwhelming arousal which she found clearly written all over her face as she bucked her hips fiercely against her touch, against her red leathered waist, trying to get more friction, rubbing the gloved hand through her slickened folds.

Spirits, how she had missed her!

Kahlan briefly closed her eyes, releasing a moan of pure fervor while her hips rolled against her Mord Sith, who managed a brief chuckle between heavy breaths. Brushing one finger slowly, teasingly over the brunette´s dripping entrance, pulling it back again, then dragging it teasingly along her sex, all while watching in awe Kahlan´s face revealing her pleasure, allowing her passion to take control.

"You like it, Confessor?" the rough, feverish whisper rolled along with the rhythm of her motions, kissing her ears with its husky voice. All Kahlan could do was just look at her with parted lips, her hips never ceasing of rolling in longing harmony with Cara´s touch, panting, drowning in her brilliant jade-green eyes as though they were the long missed fountain in the desert of her life.

Finding the breath for an answer was a labored thing.

"You know... that... I do, Cara."

Cara´s jade eyes took the shade of storm-lashed sea hit by a rare sunbeam, as they were glued to her lips, her own mouth mirroring Kahlan´s twitching and when the brunette buried her teeth in her lower lip with a whimper, Cara couldn´t hold back. Two fingers entering Kahlan passionately she crushed her lips onto hers, her tongue eagerly conquering the sweet depth of her mouth, pushing fiercely, matching the rhythm of her now feverishly working hand, sharing breath and sweat and precious wetness with her Confessor and Kahlan arched against her, feeling her insides melting around Cara, her muscles clenching while satelessly greeting her every thrust with the fierce bucking of her hips... –"Cara..."

But then...

It was a shock when she felt the sudden loss of Cara´s weight. Her eyes snapped open. For an instant Kahlan struggled heavily to stop her panting at the confusing sight.

In a blink lust turned into fear.

Heated passion gave place to the cold grip of panic that clenched around her heart:

The blonde stood, trembling, staring at her with unfamiliar trepidation contorting her face. Her wide eyes pinned Kahlan to the tree she suddenly found herself leaning against. She wanted to raise her hands, wanted to reach out for Cara, to stroke her cheeks, but her hands didn´t obey her and she jerked at the ropes that held her back, feeling panic rising in her chest, freezing her guts. Her mouth opened to shout out but her voice kept bound in her throat, nothing came out. All of a sudden she felt wetness on her face and faintly realized that tears were streaming from her eyes, despair overwhelming her. As if from afar she saw other Mord Sith taking Cara in their midst and then had to watch helplessly the horror of Cara, who shook her head; slowly at first, defiantly; then fiercely, uncontrollably; tugging desperately at invisible hands around her throat, while her eyes first widened, staring at Kahlan with heartbreaking intensity, as if wordlessly pleading for her help; then, at last, lost their life, while dead black flooded them.

Through her bewildered sobs Kahlan heard the other Mord Sith laugh an eerie laughter. The shriek, hollow sounds making the air shudder around her, and when they turned to stare at her triumphantly... she saw all of their eyes had gone black...

Her terrified scream echoed harrowingly, sounding even to her own ears like an otherworldly howl.

"No! Noooo!"

When Kahlan felt strong hands suddenly gripping her shoulders she fought them tooth and nail. Suddenly her hand came free and she shot it up without a thought and wrapped it around a throat, furiously willing her power to crash into her foe.

A soft slap landed on her cheek; she faintly heard a familiar voice whispering exigently with stifled force straight into her ears. A gloved hand pressed on her mouth, fiercely squelching her screams.

"Kahlan! Wake up Kahlan! It´s me! Cara! Look at me. I´m here. It´s okay, I´M HERE..."

Kahlan struggled to open her eyes and tried to focus while sobs still shook her tense body. Her chest heaved with her panting, chilling sweat covered her breasts, and tears turned her view into a blurred vision of a dark grey shadow that held her down.

Only slowly her muscles relaxed slightly, her brows furrowed, disbelieve crawling over her features as she eventually identified the shadow as the dirt covered face of Cara, staring at her with a deeply concerned frown. The intense glow of her green gaze seemingly her strong bridge to reality.


In the next moment she sat upright, her arms wrapped tightly around her Mord Sith who gently stroke her hair and murmured soothing noises, giving her the time she needed to calm down. But finally Cara pushed her back and looked at the brunette with furrowed brows.

"You´re ok?"

Kahlan took another deep breath and nodded slowly. "It´s just... I had a bad dream..."

Then, realizing where she was and that Cara shouldn´t be here at all, she frowned deeply, staring at the blonde with confusion.

"But what are you doing here Cara? And how did you even get in?" She automatically whispered, though her whisper was an agitated sound. The blonde smirked and pointed to a dark corner of the tent, where the tight material had been unremarkably loosened from the ground.

"I know D´Haran camp building usually isn´t very perfectly done; they do not fear intruders..."

"But... the guards... Cara you are insane risking to..." The blonde´s lips on hers stopped her speech and quickly Kahlan gave in, knowing reproaches made no sense. Besides... having Cara right here, right now, feeling her lips on her own was the best thing she could imagine...

Their kiss grew passionate, tongues and hands underlining what they wanted to say but hadn´t the words for. Until Kahlan pulled back breathlessly. Biting her lower lip her eyes hasted over the beloved features of Cara, trying to not miss the slightest twitch of her eyes or lips; at last brilliant blue locked with jade green and her hands lowered reluctantly. She tilted her head questioningly.


Cara pouted briefly, but then went serious.

"I know I´m supposed to be on the way to Aydindril. And I will go there! But only with you! I´ve come to take you out of here!" Seeing the NO already forming on Kahlan´s lips she gripped her arms and rushed on.

"We´ve found Zedd and Verna. They have told me that Comorra is freed and the King executed. If Rahl hears about that he will instantly comprehend what that means! You are not safe, Kahlan...

We can flee from here and go to Aydindril together. Richard and the homeguards will help us to set things right there..." Her eyes were begging for her to agree. Kahlan sighed, her hand reached up to cup Cara´s cheek.

"I wish I could, Cara. But you forget the RadaHan. And that we will need Nicci´s help..."

"But... you confessed the King while wearing the RadaHan!"

"I didn´t. Nicci had freed me for the confession. But she had to put it back, so that Rahl wouldn´t get suspicious. She is the only one who can take that thing off without the key..."

Cara stood abruptly and paced. Her features grew dark even under the dirt that covered her face, visibly flaring up.

"Then I´ll get the key!"

"NO!" Kahlan almost yelled. "Rahl has it and he will kill you if you get close enough to touch him!"

"And where is that Nicci now? How is it even that she walks around without her pet nearby?"

Kahlan swallowed and set her jaw. Worry was painted across her face as she answered lowly.

"Rahl has called her to his tent in the evening. I... I´m afraid that right now she´s paying the price for your escape..."

Cara stopped pacing, a deep frown settled on her face.

"You´re not telling me that you feel sorry for her?"

"She knew that would happen. And still she helped us."

"It was part of your pact!" Cara whispered enraged. "She did this only because she wants something from you! Namely that you risk your life to kill Rahl!"

"So, she fulfilled her part while I have not yet."

The Confessor watched the blonde´s shoulders sag. Her hesitating green glance tugged at her heart, but she had no choice. She reached her arms out to pull the blonde close to her. When Cara gave in and sank to her body, her lips kissed her cheek tenderly, before she pleaded softly into her ears.

"I can´t come with you! Trust me. I have nothing to fear on the way. Rahl wants to present me as his wife, his personal triumph, to the council. And Nicci saw to it that he will not touch me until then..." She looked deep into Cara´s eyes, willing her to trust her.

"We can´t win this fight if we are not playing their games. Only then I will have a chance to hear the truth of Dennee, to find out what is going on in her mind. Please, Cara, go to Aydindril. See that our allies know that we are still fighting for the Midlands, no matter what rumors they may have heard... Be my eyes and my ears in the Palace! And if necessary be my hand. Do whatever you think has to be done! The only thing... "Kahlan´s gaze went searing... "Stay away from Dennee! Not for her sake but for yours! She will not hesitate to confess you. You must! Stay! away from her! No matter what happens!"

Cara eyed her wordlessly for some long stretching heartbeats, and then brought her hand up to pull the glove from it with her teeth and reached out to touch Kahlan´s face. Slowly drawing the lines of her jaw, her lips, the bridge of her nose; her gaze followed her own track until she curled her fingers in her raven hair, savoring the feeling of them gliding through their soft and heavy luxuriance.

When she locked eyes with Kahlan again her face was stern as was her low voice.

"Zedd said you wouldn´t come with me. But I had to try.

I´ll do as you ask, Kahlan. I and Nicci´s little friend Jona, we are going to Aydindril. Zedd and Verna will stay behind and accompany you at a distance." She reached into one of the secret pockets in her leather.

"Zedd gave this to me. He has put a spell on it." In her open palm lay two little flat polished stones in the shade of onyx. "They are connected to each other. And so are we. It will start glowing, and so will its counterpart. If you are in danger it will burn in my pocket and I´ll come for you, I swear; no matter what stands in my way." Her eyes beamed at Kahlan for a few heartbeats before she shrugged a little mischievously.

"You shouldn´t use it for a jest, so. The wizard has the third one..."

Kahlan laughed. A little, but nonetheless wonderful bright laugh and the soft padded part of Cara´s heart cheered at the sweetness of its sound.

They spent the rest of the time talking about secret ways in the Confessor´s Palace, people Cara should search for, signs that would identify her as a trusted friend to the Mother Confessor.

Cara left just before sunrise, not before kissing Kahlan passionately once more, holding her tight, almost desperately, and then turning abruptly and rushing out; vanishing in the twilight like any shadow among shadows.

Kahlan sat still, her eyes shut tightly, holding back the tears she refused to let fall. Vehemently telling herself that this wasn´t a good-bye, but a promise. A promise that they would meet again. That she would come back to her soon.

When she opened her hand to stare at the warm stone in her palm she couldn´t help at least one lonely tear falling, smiling as she saw the onyx already beaming in a light orange shimmer...


The first night Nicci returned shortly after Cara had left. Morning light just dared to peer timidly at the edges of horizon, the first scattered sounds of the awakening troop outside were slowly turning into the thickly woven carpet of a constant busy noise.

Kahlan was still sitting on the edge of the simple wooden framework that was meant to be their bed, her eyes hooded, absently kneading that flat little stone that glowed faintly in her palm. Hearing a harsh voice, she barely found the time to come to her feet before the tent´s entry was ripped open and a hulking soldier, whom she faintly recognized as one of Rahl´s personal guards, one of the second row behind the Mord Siths, hustled the sorceress inside; forcibly enough that Nicci landed flat on her belly with a puffed groan, tousled blonde strands swinging across her face, covering her eyes and expressions. Kahlan shot him an angry flash, filled with dark fury, but quickly hasted to Nicci´s side, kneeling down; frowning in concern when she found the blonde panting heavily, her face wreathing in pain, her eyes closed tightly.

"Nic..." Kahlan bit her tongue and shut her eyes close for an instant, trying to reclaim her role of the confessed Confessor. She hardly managed.

"Mistress..." She whispered aghast, reaching out to offer her assistance for Nicci to stand, but her hand was roughly batted away.

"Get off..." the blonde hissed between gritted teeth, slowly pushing herself up on her arms, while her face contorted into a mask of disgust that covered her obvious pain.

Spiteful laughter came rolling from the huge shadow that was the guard, carrying a smell of booze to Kahlan, making her frown nauseated.

"Take your mistress to bed. She will feel a little exhausted from... the fun... she had tonight..." His sneering face literally begged Kahlan to be punched. "Lord Rahl wants to leave in a few hours. She should be able to mount a horse... ´til then." And, already turning away, he added: "...though I´d bet she´ll have problems with sitting upright..."

His barking laughter ceased into the twilight of dawn, leaving Kahlan with the nagging feeling of guilt and helplessness clenching her insides as she watched the blonde crawling towards the bed.

It was obvious that Nicci was hurt, that her muscles denied her obedience; but still she snarled angrily at the Confessor, who wasn´t able to hold back any longer and grabbed her arm to help her up, to haul her onto the mattress and as soon as she lay down started to pull the black cloak open. Nicci struggled faintly against her assistance, but winced as her arms fell weakly to her sides. The gown parted and revealed her abused form to Kahlan´s eyes, which turned dark in an instant as she gasped involuntarily at the sight.

Nicci´s black dress clung to her body only in tatters, dark and bloody marks painted her skin, blood trickled from a few wounds, some looking as if caused by teeth, some as if from blades. Her breasts, only covered by a small black stripe of a lasting rag that couldn´t hide much from the brunette´s aghast scrutiny, had been apparently treated with agiels, given to the color and the still lasting faint web of veins spread all over the blonde´s chest; Kahlan assumed a rib or two broken, right above her heart;

Rahl had killed her at least once during the night...

Blue eyes went hard as they looked the blonde over. The Confessor set her jaw and Nicci noticed how her face lost its color; the distraught look from her wide eyes stirred Nicci´s fury even more. She acknowledged pity when she saw it. Kahlan swallowed against the small lump in her throat and then asked in a hoarse voice.

"Nicci... I am... – what has he done?"

The blonde looked at her with blunt cynicism.

"Nothing he hasn´t done before. So you may keep your compassion. Just get out of my way; my Han will heal me if you only leave me alone." Her voice was nothing but a hostile, bitter groan, that made Kahlan retreat reluctantly, watching with narrowed eyes as the moaning sorceress turned onto her side and found the smallest of comfort as she curled up, breathing heavily; the Confessor didn´t dare to move until the breathing went even and she was halfway sure that Nicci had fallen into a fitful slumber. She hadn´t to wait for long time; one more proof of the deep exhaustion that had befallen the blonde sorceress. Only then Kahlan stepped back, carefully avoiding a noise, until the canvas of the tent hit her back softly and she allowed her muscles to relax a little and sank down against its weak support.

The brunette sat crouched down, her knees drawn closely to her chest and waited. Her expressions settled into her Confessor mask, no emotion allowed; motionless watching Nicci´s Han doing a slow, almost unremarkable healing...

When the guards appeared, after what felt like a lifetime and just a breath all the same, and brought orders to break camp, the sorceress, though far from having regained her strength, managed to walk almost as arrogantly as ever, back straightened and head held high.

Kahlan felt a heated rush of hate slamming through her veins as she caught Rahl sneering in their direction as he mounted his horse...

The second night they came for Nicci a good while after setting camp. The troop had already enlightened the fires and laughter was heard, along with the hollow sounds of clanging metal dishes and on occasion a few angry shouts in the growing darkness; the scent of roasting meat long weaved through the air, and the troop had settled for their meal as the canvas was suddenly harshly pulled aside and a wordless Garen stepped inside, a slight smirk pulling at the corners of her lips, an arrogant eyebrow arched above cold eyes.

Kahlan stiffened. She instantly knew what that meant and her heart pounded lividly as she turned to Nicci while her eyes searched the blonde´s. She hadn´t expected that Rahl would call for Nicci so soon again. The day had passed by without a sign that he would...

The blonde sorceress had been taciturn during their ride and Kahlan respected her silence, though she felt an increasing need to talk, to offer her some reassurance, if only in a verbal gesture.

Yet, all she could have offered were her own all-dominant nauseated thoughts of hate and abhorrence.

So she had spent the day, riding quietly a few steps behind the blonde, with narrowed eyes and a tense jaw; thoughtfully watching Nicci´s stiffened moves, which told her enough about exhaustion and pain that apparently still lasted in the blonde´s bones and muscles.

Reaching the campground the Confessor had been the first in their tent, inspecting swiftly the small opportunities their little furniture offered. When Nicci entered, Kahlan pretended to have a quite comfortable seat on the carpet, gracefully leaving it up to Nicci to occupy the bed.

The blonde huffed annoyed, but settled on the bed without further comment; watching under furrowed brows as the Mother Confessor allotted their food on two plates, diligently adding half of her own portion to Nicci´s plate and offering it to the sorceress wordless but decidedly.

The blonde growled.

"I swear - if you try to pet me, I´ll forget my good manners and show you what it means to have a sorceress as your mistress..."

It gained her nothing but a cold glance from icy blue eyes.

"Stop being silly, Nicci. Your pride alone will not heal you. You will need your strength when we are going to annihilate this bastard; all of it! And I have the strongest feeling that his time is near..."

The brunette´s hard voice brimmed with barely suppressed disgust.

They ate in silence. Until Garen´s sudden appearance.

Now Kahlan rushed to Nicci´s side, laying an arm on her shoulder.

"Mistress; you can´t..."

Nicci glanced at her warningly; then shrugged her off and stood and walked past her. Her expressions pure haughtiness, she gestured to Kahlan to stay where she was, while she addressed Garen in an utterly bored voice with an even more bored sigh:

"Why am I not surprised that he chooses to send for me – though a dozen red-leathered wenches beg to lick his boots for his attention..." She leaned closer, piercing Garen with her sarcastic blue glance, whispering confidentially:

"I´ll tell you why: `cause you are just some incapable figures; not worth his attention;" and loudly, already stepping out of the tent with a scornful laugh, she added:

"And he knows that too well!"

And thus she vanished into the night. Garen flashed Kahlan a blistering glance, that made the hairs on the brunette´s arm stand on end, before the Mord Sith turned and left...

Breathing heavily, her lips pressed into a pale thin line, Kahlan stood long after they had gone. Until the dull pain in her jaws, caused by her continuously grinding her teeth called her attention and her inner turmoil made her pace while her mind whirled.

The next hours she paced back and forth; eight steps to the left; turnaround; eight steps to the right; turnaround...Only breaking when an odd nightly sound was to be heard outside; wondering immediately if it had been the muffled cry of a blonde woman...

Kahlan tried her best to calm down. Telling herself that she couldn´t do anything for Nicci. She tried to ban the images from her mind; but failed:

More and more there was another face that looked at her from the depth of her mind, bruised and abused, committed to the sick sexual perversion of a maniac; at her Lord´s mercy,...

By the time they brought Nicci back, long before dawn, in a much worse condition then the night before, Kahlan had walked a few leagues into the ground of their tent. Her jaw, her head and her back ached from her stiffened motions, but she forgot all of it the moment she looked at Nicci...

Heated fury flashed through her veins, an overwhelming feeling of hatred that momentarily held all of her mind hostage, leaving barely enough space for the vow she made to herself...

That Rahl would pay for his crimes. That the Mother Confessor would see to it that this walking evil would vanish from the world of the living. Once and for all...

The third night, when Garen appeared in their tent, wearing that cruel sneer again, Kahlan waited for her in the shadow beside the entrance.

The Mord Sith hadn´t taken the second step inside, when she suddenly was caught by a strong arm, wrapping around her chest, holding her body violently pressed against the Mother Confessor, while the blade in her free hand scratched in a violent promise against Garen´s neck. The startled woman had no chance to react other then listening wide-eyed to the roughly hissed words that reached her ear:

"Go and tell your master that my mistress will not come tonight. I´ll kill everyone who tries to take her from here!" and leaving a small ring of blood just above the edge of the red leather she pushed her away.

Garen whirled around, agiels to her ready; but facing the obvious insanity in Kahlan´s face, seeing the burning passion in eyes that were the color of midnight, she wasn´t sure as how to deal with it. A fight against her would easily lead to a disaster...

Lord Rahl wouldn´t be pleased if she killed the Mother Confessor...

Huffing disgustedly Garen turned slowly, carefully, as if anxiously hoping not to startle a growling wolf, and after shooting Nicci, who had watched the scene with surprised furrowed brows, a threatening glance she walked out of the tent, barking audibly at the guards to have a watchful eye on the tent and then she was gone.

Kahlan inhaled deeply and relaxed visibly. The expression of insanity on her face vanished into thin air.

Looking her over with a crooked grin, a sarcastic eyebrow climbed up in Nicci´s face, which was still shadowed by the ceasing colors of Rahl´s violence of the former night, the swells on her jaw and eyes still reminders to the awful events then.

"I´m honored, Confessor. Who would have thought that the Mother Confessor goes on revenge mode for her hated enemy, a former Sister of the Dark?" She chuckled, a hand instantly flying to her chest and pressing against a rip as the chuckle turned into a cough.

Kahlan waited until the blonde had regained her breath, her eyes beaming in a dark, passionate blue; and when she finally answered her voice emanated deep conviction and authority, as only the Mother Confessor owned.

"I do not know, how you became who you are. But I assume you were born as all of us were, with no feelings of hate and violence in your heart. Hundreds of years have carved your soul; and obviously you allowed the wrong voices to be listened to.

You are my enemy. But I do not hate you. Though there has been times I wouldn´t have hesitated if there had been a chance to kill you. And if such times return, I will not hesitate at all.

But, as dark as your soul might be...

Nothing!... NOTHING! In all the worlds! ... entitles a man to treat a woman like that!

And – NO! WOMAN! In all worlds... ever deserves to be raped and abused! Not even one! Never!"

Kahlan´s glance pierced the blonde intensely; her cheeks were burning and a slight frown crossed Nicci´s face at her heated words.

They stared at each other for a few moments; Nicci wearing a wondering expression under thoughtful furrowed brows, Kahlan standing regally, looking at her with deep blue eyes in which the blonde saw no disgust or accusation for her hidden.

At last it was Nicci who shifted her eyes in an almost sheepish motion.

"You´re thinking of your Mord Sith, aren´t you?"

Kahlan´s eyes took on an even darker shade as she clenched her jaw at the mentioning of Cara.

"I do. And I will kill him for everything he did to her. But he deserves to be killed for the fate of so many." Her voice was suddenly soft as she reached out and lay her hand on Nicci´s shoulder.

"And believe me; his death will be for what he did to you as well..."

The night passed without another visit from Rahl´s lapdogs. They both knew it was sheer luck, that Rahl didn´t come himself to rake them over the coals. But it seemed he had decided it was too much of an effort and instead preferred to find his pleasure in the arms of his Mord Siths.

And Kahlan was sure she didn´t want to know the details...


The walls of the city shone bright in the warm light of midmorning; the intense colors of the mountain range at the horizon, of the unearthly green plain that was home to the city, and the sweet sounds of the excited chirping of a few birds in the trees above their heads were at least disturbing, if not deeply annoying for Cara. Everything around her seemed to pulsate in an idyllic world, while the blonde Mord Sith couldn´t help but swallow against the foul taste of its falseness. She turned to the young man behind her, her arms crossed, a brow climbed up her forehead, snarling at him.

"What do you mean, he is not himself?"

Her angry eyes caused him to growl with a similar angry huff and crossing his arms, as if to mock her, he snarled back.

"The Seeker, your beloved Lord Rahl, is gone. Confessor Dennee destroyed him. He is confessed, an empty shell, a soulless slave of Dennee." He huffed once again and frowned at her, gesturing with both his arms into the air. "You, who´s been at the Mother Confessor´s side for so long, should really know what confession means…"

His body language mirrored the same confused impatience and distrust as the blonde´s did.

Jona stood quietly aside, watching their argument cautiously. She had ambushed him just an hour ago, and it had taken a lot of… persuasiveness... to bring him out of Aydindril and make him meet with Cara. His hostile attitude had barely been held at bay by a few well aimed pokes with an agiel on their way. The fact that Jona wasn´t very skilled with her weapon wasn´t something a complete layperson like this Benjamin would have acknowledged. So he followed her…request, albeit with a look on his face as if chewing on horse dung all the way…

But after hearing what Cara had to tell him his mood had changed ever so slightly. He held the short note that Kahlan had written in hands and he recognized, with certainty, it to be written in the Mother Confessor´s hand, the tiny thumb sketch of a butterfly in one corner the secret sign of her free will while writing.

"Well, as I said, you can´t rely on him. You need to look for new alliances!"

He scrutinized her with dark brown eyes that made her skin prickle under its unforgiving sharpness. Something that she hadn´t experienced since her Mistress had proved her to be a real Mord Sith.

"But if it´s true what you tell me, if the Mother Confessor is in Rahl´s hands and her sister has changed sides…" he fell into a pondering silence, his thoughts obviously running away; still hardly believing what Cara had told him. Finally he sighed and shifted his eyes to lock them with jade green. The Mord Sith stared back, tilting her head expectantly, watching as grim resolve settled on his face. He slowly nodded.

"May the Spirits be with me. It might be the worst trap the world has ever witnessed. But, if trusting two Mord Sith is the only way to save the Mother Confessor and likely all of the Midlands…"

He straightened proudly.

"Then, Mistress Cara, I´m your man!"

Looking him over the blonde couldn´t help a small, satisfied grin.

"I know. Kahlan said you would be."

Brown eyes beamed swiftly in a shy pride at her words, giving him suddenly a very boyish expression. Causing Cara to frown deeply.

- And I can only hope you were right Kahlan. Look at him…He´s…a boy!

"So what is your plan?"

She sighed relieved. At least this boy knew to avoid babbling.

"I need to know the names of the first row of the home guards. Who of them can be trusted? And who cannot. How far will their men support them if they stand against Dennee. We aren´t allowed even the smallest of mistakes. If only one of your men has changed side, or feels insecure, he has to be banned from our plans. Dennee hates me and she puts every Mord Sith into the same row with me. She will not hesitate to kill us, even if it´s for the price of Kahlan´s life…"

Benjamin shot a brief glance in which she found something meaningful, something she would have called… sorrow? A flash of anger shot up from her belly as she crossed her arms, frowning impatiently.

"If you have something to say, then say it, Captain Meiffert . There is no place for distrust between us anymore."

Shaking his head the Captain gave a brief mirthless smile. "No. It´s not distrust. Though I´m honestly not excited to trust you, I´ve heard of your… friendship… with the Mother Confessor. She is the one I trust, with all my life and my honor. As will most of my men.

But, there is something else you should know. Richard Rahl arrived with a few Mord Sith at his side. Four of them, to be exact."

Cara lifted a brow, unconsciously setting her jaw. She was sure she knew of whom he spoke.


"Confessor Denee helds them prisoner. They are kept in the deepest holes of the dungeons. No one is allowed to see them." He swallowed and for an instant seemed to squirm slightly under her scrutiny.

"Are they… alive?" Her voice had a rough edge.

Now he looked straight into her eyes, his posture one of helpless uncertainty.

"I can´t say. None of us has seen them since Dennee put them in chains. Their only visitor is the young wizard Connor, but even he seems to be much too busy as of late. As far as I know he´s responsible for Aydindril´s security. And with Rahl being that near, he´s probably much too distracted to see the prisoners…"

Cara stared into nothing, pursing her lips and wearing a deep frown. Chewing her bottom lip she paced a few steps. Just a few, then stopped and looked at Jona with thoughtful eyes. The young Mord Sith raised her brows questioningly, not sure if Cara even saw her.

"Well then." Cara turned to face Captain Meiffert again. "We need to get them out of there. Any suggestions?"

Benjamin briefly grinned halfway resigned, acknowledging her as being his general from now on, just by her tone.

Captain Meiffert looked much younger then he actually was. He remembered too well the last time when Mord Sith had some say in Aydindril. The war against D´Haran´s tyranny. The blood in the streets. The tortures his people suffered. He had fought at the side of the famous Captain Rykes in the first line, had seen brothers and fathers and sons fallen under D´Haran swords. Had heard their screams under the blows of these brutal weapons they called agiels.

He had sworn then, that if the Mother Confessor would ever return and reclaim the first seat, if she would bring peace to the Midlands and hope to his people… She would only have to give a wink - and he would gladly die for her; give his life for her sake.

And now he found himself called to the side of a Mord Sith who claimed to be his Lady´s confidant, her dearest friend; planning to free some more Mord Sith and to fight against the only Confessor that lived in Aydindril right now if need be. He sighed, daring to ask one more question, just to get over his hesitation.

"What if Rahl doesn´t wait until he reaches Aydindril. What if the Mother Confessor is already dead?"

He hadn´t even the time to take a breath before Cara was upon him, grabbing his shoulder forcefully, her agiel hovering over his throat, humming its awful sound. The blondes face slowly approached until he felt her heated green eyes burning on his skin like glowing coals.

"She is NOT!

She will not allow him to kill her. She needs us to be here and ready. So stop hesitating and wasting my time. If you´re not ready in her service, say it. Now."

She pushed him away, watching him stumbling with her green burning glare, her nostrils flaring enraged. Her expression promising the worst if he would take even one false step.

There was wonder literally written on Captain Meiffert´s forehead as he allowed an ever so faint smile curl his lips.

Cara frowned even deeper, tilting her head impatiently.


His grin grew wider. Her eyes narrowed more.

"There is more to your relationship with the Mother Confessor than just respect or even friendship, isn´t there?" He didn´t even try to hide the amusement evident in his voice.

Cara straightened, dark green eyes shooting warnings as she eyed him suspiciously.

"I do not know what you´re speaking of; Captain!"

Offering a brief chuckle the man nodded lightly.

"Don´t worry, it´s okay; Mistress. Thus, at least I can be sure you can truly be trusted..."

He moved and passing her to mount his horse he briefly patted her shoulder comradely, which gained him the deepest scowl he had ever seen on a human face.

Grinning very boyishly he turned and took the reins of his horse and mounted easily.

"C´mon, ladies, we´ll have a meal for you and a paddock for the horses at my cousin´s farm. He´s been active in the resistance. I´d put my own ass on the line for him and he would die for Kahlan if need be. He will also have some clothes for you that are not that ... Mord Sith-ish, ´cause downtown isn´t a safe place for Mord Sith these days."

The blonde stared him down, still showing a scowl, but finally looked briefly at her younger companion and nodded. This man was obviously an honorable, if although an annoying, ally and they would find a way to work together.

For Kahlan...


Without a sound the small door cracked open, and the woman held her breath, standing stock-still, waiting cautiously for any sounds in the hall and only leaving the hidden aisle when she felt sure that no one was around. She stepped tensely into the hall and closed the door, which seemed to disappear immediately, its edges seamlessly melting into the tapestry.

Mistress Sanderholt straightened and let out the breath she had held during the last moments. This was definitely not her game. She wasn´t made for sneaking through secret alleys; one day, she was sure, the heavy pounding of her heart would be heard through the walls and would betray her...

Her hands wiped at her dress as if to brush some dust away and a faint smile conquered her lips as she turned around to walk back into her kitchen realm.

The very moment her body started moving she suddenly felt alarmed, her hackles rising, an inner voice screaming in fear, but it was too late. A hand clutched her mouth from behind and stifled her cry under its rough pressure while a low growl crawled into her ear:

"Don´t. make. a noise!" – and forced by a jerk she managed a tight nod, before the door reopened and she was shoved back into the hidden aisle. With a faint clang the secret entrance closed again and it took Mistress Sanderholt an endless second to swallow against her panic; her heart was still racing; but then she exploded. She savagely fought the hands in smooth leather off that held her in their tight grip and turned with angry eyes – only to meet Cara´s amused glance.

"Mistress Cara!" The cook hissed enraged and for an instant it seemed as if she wanted to raise her hand and slap the blonde on her face.

Cara smirked contently, acknowledging her with an amused brow climbing up as she looked the tall grey-haired woman over, who stood trembling, clearly torn between anger and relief. "...Mistress." The mocking in her voice caused the cook to huff under her panting.

"Spirits, did you intend to kill me? I almost felt my heart bursting out of my chest..." Cara´s grin only widened. "This is NOT amusing, lady!"

But eventually Mistress Sanderholt regained her composure and relaxed ever so slightly.

"Why are you..." she looked around, frowning, searching Cara´s companions. "How did you get here? Where did you come from? And...where is the Mother Confessor? - You should be careful, you know? It´s not safe! Neither for her nor for you to walk openly through the Palace..."

Before she was able to continue her quickly shot questions Cara´s eyes narrowed in annoyance and caused her to stop and give the Mord Sith time to answer.

"Now, do I seem to walk openly? Why do you think stay we hidden in this aisle while talking? A hidden aisle that you are obviously used to walk...?" She furled her brows at this, piercing the woman with the steely green of her stare, but finally pursed her lips, as if considering how much she should reveal to the other.

"I arrived yesterday. And Kahlan... isn´t with me." Seeing the frown on the woman´s face deepen she added: "Not yet!" Green eyes glared at the cook whose face contorted with too many questions...

"I will tell you. Later. For now I have some questions of my own, and you are the only one I can trust inside these walls." Her stare locked with the warm grey of the chief-cook´s. Uneasiness swept over her face; feeling forced to rely on this woman caused a hint of anger that made her glare a frown and her teeth grit for a second.

"We need your help...Kahlan said she trusts you with her life! And so will I."

Cara´s gaze darkened as she leant in and let it sear into the older woman´s eyes. Her voice grew deeply earnest, her stare drilling into the woman´s very soul.

"I ask you, Mistress Sanderholt; are you ready to fight for the Mother Confessor?"


The dungeons were silent. No sound was heard, not the rattling of chains, not the panting of a prisoner, not even the faint rustle of a rat hustling through the straw... nothing but dead silence.

Cara´s entire body was tense, the familiar flow of adrenaline in her veins held all her senses wide awake. Somehow she had the strongest feeling that something awaited her in the darkness. She tried to avoid the faintest noise as she sneaked through the caves. The tingling in her belly a faint echo of former times, of battles and attacks, of risks and danger...

She counted the aisles until she reached the one she had come for. Pausing in her steps she strained her ears once more. Still no sound...

A faint grin was allowed to blossom on her face as she stepped forward, sneaking along the cells until she reached the last one. The door was closed, a thick lock carefully bolted, but that was no hindrance for the Mord Sith. The key lay in her hand already and she didn´t hesitate to put it into the lock and turn it around. The heavy wooden door conceded under a protesting creaking and gave way and immediately Cara jumped aside, as if already expecting the two shadows that dove out of the darkness like rabid dogs, sending sharp cries through the thick air, one heading for her legs, the other lunging for her chest and shoulders; missing her closely; falling to the ground and rolling off under loud cursing...

The blonde quickly kicked the smaller one who seemed to buckle with pain and jumped onto the taller, wrapping her hand around a throat and crushing her into the wall behind her, tasting the sticky smell of sweat and dirt and dried blood that emanated from her opponent. She frowned disgusted, hissing sharply.

"Is that the appropriate way to greet your Mistress, Berdine? I thought better of you...I´ve come to get you out of here... though if you prefer to play silly games, I may as well get you chained again!"

"Cara?" Berdine´s eyes had widened, acknowledging whose body pressed against hers and she went limp. A short glance assured that Raina was okay, and then fell back at the blonde´s face with honest surprise. Ever so slowly a smirk appeared on her lips and she raised her hands in defeat.

"You can get off of me, Mistress; unless you want to make out right here and now, of course..."

"Phew, if I had such intentions, your scent would have nipped it in the bud right now." Cara scowled and pushed her roughly once again against the wall, before she let her go and stepped back. Green eyes travelled over the naked skinny appearance of Berdine and a frown settled on her face, turning to Raina who just made it to her feet and stood, slightly swaying like a blade of grass in a faint breeze.

"I´ve seen you in better conditions..."

Berdine shrugged. "We are alive. Which is more than we would have expected just a few days ago."

Noticing Cara´s unvoiced question she continued lightly.

"First I thought this insane Confessor would kill us; and then I tended to believe we would starve to death by thirst..."

"And why is it you didn´t?"

Cara´s voice held an accusatory shade, just the faint curl of her lips betrayed how much she appreciated finding the two of them, though weakened, bruised and haggard, at least still breathing and able to move on their own.

"A few days ago a woman came in. She didn´t speak much, but she freed us from the chains and brought a few blankets, a basket with food and, thank the Spirits, water. We weren´t even able to hold ourselves upright, or else we would have fled right then. She tended to our wounds and then disappeared."

Raina growled behind them. "But not before she bolted this fucking door again... that crazy Samaritan."

Cara nodded her understanding.

"Mistress Sanderholt. Brave enough to take care of you, but not trusting you enough to let you out. Such a smart woman..."

Berdine´s eyes flashed briefly as she snorted snidely, shooting her Mistress an annoyed glance.

"So, are you trusting us at least? I mean... Aren´t we supposed to move out of here? Like...NOW?"

Cara turned wordlessly to lead them back to the guard's hall, where they found Jona sitting on the edge of the small table, with her fingers tapping a nervous rhythm on the wood. She straightened when they approached and, ignoring the two naked women at Cara´s side, she addressed the blonde in her low, pestering voice.

"You´re taking too much time. The cook warned us that a few guards may come around upstairs for changing soon..." A brief glance from flashing green eyes silenced her and she lowered her head. Cara grabbed the small heap of clothes that lay beside the girl and tossed it towards Raina and Berdine, who looked at the shirts and trousers with obvious disdain. It was Raina who shifted her eyes first and scowled.

"You are not expecting us to wear these peasant´s rags?"

The blonde rolled her eyes. "Would you prefer to run around like that?" She pointed at their naked forms. "It´s necessary to avoid any attraction. And until you are leaving the Palace, it will be better for all of us if you look like one of the many servants..." She waved her hand towards Jona. "Like she does."

And indeed, Jona wore an oversized shirt in a grey-white that was sloppily stuffed into her waistband. The tight braid she usually wore had given place to a thick ponytail that barely managed to tame her brown curls which framed her features and softened them as they swung over her shoulders in a light dance with her every motions. No one would have acknowledged her for a Mord Sith... if not for the agiel that was attached to her belt. Berdine´s eyes drawn to the red rod like moths to the flame. Though she didn´t say a word as she dressed like Cara demanded. Just a deep frown betrayed her dispraise.

As soon as they both had put the clothes on Cara led them out of the dungeons, Raina and Berdine doing their best to keep up with Cara´s quick steps while Jona backed up. The two Mord Sith were barely able to hide their exhaustion, but the blonde never paused to let them recover, until they reached the upper halls, which they found abandoned when Cara stepped cautiously out of the stairways, warily scanning the room before she winked them to follow. But instead of heading towards the first floor from where they could leave the palace if they reached the main hall she turned to her left, where a small alley led to the inner circles of the Palace...

Berdine and Raina exchanged a bewildered glare, a matching frown on their faces. But they didn´t lose a word; if for their heavy exhausted panting and the painful weight of their feet that made every step a challenge or if for their blind trust into their Mistress they weren´t sure.

But Cara knew that neither Berdine nor Raina were in any condition to run or to fight. And she knew too, that they both would rather die while pretending then ask for a rest. So she hadn´t even considered to bring them out of the Palace. Instead she´d decided to hide them under the eyes of their foes until they regained their strength.

She knew the risk, knew that the smallest mistake could lead to their death, but she trusted.

Trusted in Kahlan, who had sworn that the few people she had named, would give their own lives to help her...

The two freshly freed Mord Sith were close to collapse when they finally reached the end of their small path, which opened into a little hall that Berdine immediately recognized as the anteroom of the great meeting hall, and she stood rooted to the spot.

This was where they had waited for Dennee and the council to call them; this was from where this wizard Connor had dragged them into the dungeons... She felt Raina stiffening at her side and knew that she thought the same.

But much more than her memory of that embarrassing day it were the figures of six home guards, standing opposite the little entrance in the otherwise empty hall, obviously awaiting them, that made her tired muscles tighten. The sudden heat of threatening expectation flooded her mind and her body and she quickly took two steps ahead, building up in front of Cara, Raina immediately at her side, their eyes fixed on their opponents who stared back in an uncertain hostility, weapons in hands, ready to strike. Berdine gave a hiss back to Cara.

"We´ll hold them up so you can get out of here! Move, Cara!"

The low snort of the blonde caused Berdine to scowl over her shoulders.

"You wouldn´t stand a minute against them! And how are you intending to fight - with your bare hands against their swords? Or are you going to bite them down? Forget it." And with these words Cara passed them easily and staggered into the open space, ignoring Berdine´s huff as she noticed that not even her agiels had found their way into her hands. She walked up to the young brown-haired man who stood in front of them, his five companions warily watching her every step. Tilting her head she crossed her arms, looking at him with a triumphant look that said: Haven´t I said? Here we are...

His brown eyes held a bit of amusement as they twinkled slightly. He nodded towards the Mord Sith who had followed Cara closely, looking as though they were ready to jump on his men, if only to scare them to death since they had no weapons except for Jonas agiel, which, much like Cara´s, still stuck in her waistband.

"Are they all?" Cara nodded. "What about the other two?" Cara´s eyes went hard.

"Like the cook said; we found their corpses in an abandoned cave down there. Looks like they were killed right after their imprisonment. Though their bodies have still been tortured long after their death... Sadistically..."

Benjamin Meiffert´s face shadowed with honest regret. "I´m sorry, Mistress Cara. Though I hope you can see that it´s not the Confessor´s Palace and Aydindril - or the people - to blame..."

Cara waved her hand impatiently, the fury she surely felt kept well hidden behind her stoic Mord Sith features. "Forget about it..." And pointing behind the men to the wall: "We have no time to lose. Up to now your precautions have worked. We haven´t met a single guard on our way." He confidently grinned his boyish grin. "But we shouldn´t tempt our luck..."

He agreed with a short nod and gave order to his men. "You´ll return to the dungeon´s entrance and do as I told you. If anyone asks - Confessor Dennee gave strict order that no one is to enter the dungeons. Though I do not expect anyone to ask. Rahl is close, the Council is in constant meeting and the Wizard will probably stay in the Keep and prepare whatever he´s up to. But if their escape will be detected you will have to answer to me and Mistress Cara! Is that understood?"

Their fists flung to their chests. "Ay, Captain!" And while three of them passed the women, heading for the way the Mord Sith had come, and two took their guarding positions at the huge door that led to the Council´s meeting hall, Cara winked her friends to follow and walked beside the Captain to the wall, where, when Benjamin pressed his hand to a particular bow on the wooden carvings, a door swung open and invited them into a small aisle that led them deeper into the Palace´s heart...


Mistress Sanderholt awaited them in the large storage cellar behind the kitchens. Her cheeks were painted a nervous red, but her eyes beamed decidedly. She shortly eyed Berdine and Raina who were stumbling at the end of their strength and an apologizing smile met their hostile glances.

"You´ll get to rest soon..."

"Do not bother. We´re not breaking down yet..." Berdine snarled, throwing her a deeply condescending look.

They rushed on trough some more cellars, filled with corn and supplies of daily catering, all neatly arranged. One room held hundreds of bags, thousands of jars in all colors, another heaps of wood and, entering the last one, they found barrels over barrels, small ones and large ones, the typically heavy scent of a wine cellar wavering through the air. They stopped and scanned the walls, but neither of them found another door to lead them out. They stood confused, their eyes searching hectically, until the chief-cook stepped close to a huge rack that took almost the whole wall at the end of the cellar and turned around.

"Here we are."

Cara lifted a brow as did Captain Meiffert. A sly smirk settled on Mistress Sanderholt´s face as she raised her hand, and, without shifting her eyes, near-blindly found the hidden crank and pulled.

Her entourage stood stunned as the whole wall seemed to tremble, before it slowly pivoted half a turn until it stopped, opening to a huge chamber, completely furnished with a secretary, a few lockers, a round table and chairs for at least 10 people, and several beds along its walls. The ground was covered with thick carpets, which swallowed up every sound as they stepped cautiously inside.

Benjamin Meiffert´s eyes had widened in disbelief as he turned around and scanned the room.

"Spirits! Where are we?"

Mistress Sanderholt grinned proudly. "This is the Confessor´s secret rescue chamber..."

Cara, not half as stunned as the home guard was, had stiffened as she acknowledged a scraggy figure sitting tensely on one of the beds. She pointed with angrily narrowed eyes.

"And WHO is that?"

Quickly the elder woman stepped protectively in front of the figure that was a young man, wrapped into in a long dirty brown gown and anxiously peering over the cook´s shoulder.

"This is Jackson; Wizard Jackson to be exact. He is the other apprentice that came from the Old World. He came down from the Keep a week ago. He feared for his life and was about to flee; but I was able to convince him that he had to stay, in case Zedd would need his help against Wizard Connor..." She set her chin defiantly. "He can be as much an ally as any of us. So don´t you dare to frighten him, Mistress Cara!"

The blonde rolled her eyes and then looked around, slight despair settling in her belly as her eyes travelled over the little group of conspirators; this was becoming an odd troop of hers: a captain of the home guards, who she couldn´t be sure if he really trusted her with every fiber of his being, a young Mord Sith who wasn´t even a real Mord Sith, a chief-cook who seemed decided to rebuke her for the smallest misbehave, a wizard apprentice that seemed scared to death by her very appearance... – her eyes focused on her sisters – and two wrecks of Mord Sith, who were barely able to stand upright...

The sudden faint pulsing in her pocket, where a small flat stone was hidden, caused her eyes shut close and sigh deeply. She gritted her teeth, trying to calm her agitated mind. This was Kahlan; she was close, she could feel it. She was thinking of her...

Cara set her jaw.

- Creator! If you really exist - Help us! You cannot wish Kahlan to be doomed... So! Help us! –


Their journey was coming to an end. Their surroundings all too familiar, the colors warm and promising; even the bird´s songs sounded as though offering a warm welcome; but Kahlan felt frozen inside. With every league they got closer to the Confessor´s Palace her heart constricted even more.

Before dawn they would reach Aydindril and she had never felt so anxious before. It felt as if the world around her tightened on her chest, as if the sun and all the light was eaten away by some dark shadows, that, she knew, were only existing in her mind; but yet, it felt as if some faint rubbing was slowly erasing her heart and her soul. As if some foreboding telling was stealing the sense of her life...She gasped in a sudden despair...

Rahl had informed them this morning that he intended to meet with Dennee instantly after their arrival. He had ignored Kahlan, as he had ever since she had attacked Garen. Instead he directed his words at Nicci, the warning threat in his voice evident. And as usual, Kahlan had kept her gaze to the ground, cautiously avoiding his eyes as to not betray any of her feelings. He still seemed convinced of her being confessed to the sorceress. And at least he hadn´t made another effort to call Nicci into his tent; though he had seen to it that anything that could be handled as a weapon had been taken away from them. Actually their journey had felt as if riding in a cell of glass; though surrounded by guards, no one spoke with them, no one bothered to pay attention to them; Their days had been filled with a numb habit, and they had never dared to question it, fearing the consequences of being asked. They mounted in the morning and lined up with the others and in the evenings they entered their tent and found their simple meal prepared. And after an endless, though much too short night, which Kahlan spent mostly sitting unsettled on her blanket before a fitful slumber would eventually overwhelm her tired body, they mounted their horses again...

Nicci´s wounds had healed. The blonde sorceress had lost her biting arrogance when being alone with Kahlan. Instead something like a calm acceptance had settled between them. Three nights ago she had even offered the Confessor to share the mattress and though hesitating for a good while the brunette had finally given in; knowing that she needed to be as rested as possible when she´d face her sister.

At first she had felt squeamish and awkward sleeping beside the sorceress, feeling the heat of her body warming her back; her nerves had been tingling, her mind had kept listening distrustingly to Nicci´s every breath; but eventually she had closed her eyes and, wishing it was another blonde who laid at her side, who´s breath stroked her neck, a faint smile had found its way to her lips as she thought of jade green eyes smiling at her...

It had been her first dreamless night since they´d left Comorra.

When she woke up she´d found herself in the light embrace of a still soundly sleeping Nicci and despite her involuntarily stiffening body, she allowed herself to indulge for a short moment in the warm solace the touch offered... until...

"Feeling melancholic, Confessor?" - Nicci´s low teasing voice had startled her.

She quickly stood as Nicci pulled her arm back, hiding away, covertly wiping the tear that drew a sad line on her cheek.

"I´m just... nervous. We will reach Aydindril soon..." She hid behind her Confessor mask and turned; only to be honestly surprised as she found something close to compassion on the blonde´s face.

"... and you´re missing her. You´re anxious she hasn´t made it..." The blonde´s voice was like a soft breeze as she continued:

"Don´t lose heart, Kahlan. We will do it, I know that. You´ll have her back..."

The look in her eyes was one of reassurance. The hostile edge had gone, had made place for something else; something, Kahlan wanted so badly to rely on. She stared at the blonde who already had turned and rummaged through her pack, searching desperately for a hint...perhaps, she considered briefly, perhaps the snippy sorceress was really going to become something like... an honest confederate; maybe a friend even?

The moment went by.

She couldn´t help a slight snort, turning and wiping the thought away.

Anyone... but Nicci... –

- And now she looked over the plain that separated them from Aydindril, her fist tightly clenched around that small, lightly pulsating stone; and for a moment it felt as if it was her own heart she felt beating in it. The bright glance of the city´s walls already shimmering in the distance, the familiar glow of snow-covered mountain peaks in an afternoon light hovering over the roofs; she felt tears welling up and struggled hard to fight them back, swallowing and biting the insides of her lips in an attempt to keep her countenance.

Nicci reined her horse beside her and let her gaze follow Kahlan´s thoughtfully.

"Do you think they already found them?"

The Mother Confessor didn´t need to ask what she thought of. She just stared ahead and sighed.

They both had noticed the faint whiff of a cloud that had went along with them and settled over their camp on every evening, fading away every now and then, but reappearing a short while after. It had travelled ahead this morning. The sorceress as well as Kahlan had known that Zedd had tried to tell them that he and Verna were leaving their side; he had decided to ride ahead and reach Aydindril before the troop; and Kahlan and Nicci expected them to search for Cara and Jona, to finally join forces with them and the allies, which, Kahlan prayed, they had hopefully found...


Captain Meiffert arrived on schedule. And Cara watched attentively as she noticed he didn´t come alone. Nine men followed him as he entered the rescue chamber.

Nine! Out of twenty.

Cara furrowed her brows as she counted. So not even half of the leaders of the home guard had been chosen by the captain. Though Kahlan had spoken of twelve or even fourteen they could trust completely. The blonde looked them over disparagingly, then turned and frowned at Benjamin.

"What happened?"

He huffed in frustration.

"Lord Rahl happened! The Sword of Truth happened!" Benjamin´s face was a heated red as he almost yelled. "Commander Jelkin and his brother had asked to be received in audience yesterday. They wanted to talk to Dennee, wanted to make her reflect her intentions. They thought she would listen if only someone speaks openly. As far as I´ve been told, they insisted once more that Rahl can´t be trusted; and that the Mother Confessor must be trapped if really she joins him.

But Dennee didn´t want to hear anything of it.

And as Jelkin´s tone grew louder and as he made a step towards her... she made Lord Rahl stop him. His brother... lost his head as he tried to hold the Seeker back..." He looked up and glared at her, his eyes beaming with senseless questions:

"They were not even armed!"

His shoulders sagged, he looked almost defeated.

"And, since she found they died guilty of high treason, their families are doomed too, they will now lose their pension." His eyes set into slits he was the very picture of suppressed rage. This wasn´t what he thought justice, this was not what he had been sworn to live for...

Resigned he waved his hand towards the men at his side. "These are all. Ross and Crandor have left the Palace this morning. They are named to be members of Rahl´s escort..."

Cara nodded thoughtfully.

Nine then.

At least nine were better than none. She looked into their eyes and found them staring suspiciously at her, slight confusion settling on their features as they acknowledged her as the Mord Sith that Richard Rahl had left behind when he had gone to D´Hara.

"You haven´t told them yet...?"

"I thought it better to leave it up to you to let them in on it. So questions might be answered first hand." She nodded again, somehow appreciating his cautiousness.

Kahlan had been wise, advising her to search for him before any other.

She swaggered to the big table, every step a mark of pride, and then turned, raising a brow as she waited for them, watching as they approached warily, suspicious eyes scanning the room and deep frowns blossoming on their faces when they noticed an agiel at the waist of the youngest woman; some thought the scowls on the two other women´s faces felt familiar somehow, as if already seen before... on the faces of two Mord Sith, when they were ordered by their Lord to lay their weapons down...

The men sat with their backs stiffened and their shoulders tense. Cara just stood in front of them, her jaw set, her narrowed eyes daring them until all and every one´s gaze was on her. When all their noises had come to an end and it was so quiet one could hear a pin drop, she inhaled deeply.

"I will not waste your time with courteousness, gentlemen. You are here because Captain Meiffert trusts you. And because I have no other choice then to trust his judge. Though I can´t say I like it." While drawling the words her gaze travelled slowly along the line of men and found all of them were staring at her, matching mistrust on their faces.

"You are the leaders of the home guard and thus all of you have sworn an oath:

To stand with your lives for the Mother Confessor!" With satisfaction she watched them straightening proudly as one. And slowly she leaned forward, her voice rolling into their ears like threatening thunder from afar, her eyes searing them with dark green fire.

"Now, I want to see what your vows are worth.

I´ve come to call on your oaths."


The chamber was filled with low noises. People in stunned discussions.

Captain Meiffert allowed them these few moments to clear their heads. But finally he raised his voice and called their attention.

"My friends, you´ve heard the telling. And I stand here to assure you that everything you´ve heard is right! Mistress Cara is the trusted friend of the Mother Confessor. Every word she says is true. The Mother Confessor is in Rahl´s hand and it was Confessor Dennee who betrayed her.

Her fate depends on us!"

He paused. Let the tension of the words seep into their minds. Then strongly continued, his voice raising with every phrase:

"So I ask you:

Are you ready to fight for the Midlands?

Are you ready to fight for the one true Mother Confessor?

Are you ready to fight for Kahlan Amnell?"

He found his last words, though called out loudly, overtrumped by the shouts of his men, their fists flying to their chests, standing straight and proud, and their answer thundering as one:

"Long live Kahlan Amnell! Long live the Mother Confessor! Our lives before hers!"

Cara stood aside, watching their faces glowing with eagerness and feeling the heat in her belly increase as she listened to their shouts, clearly ready to stand up, to staunchly defend the woman who was their leader, who owned their lives, their hearts, their every souls...

And when Berdine leaned in and whispered into her ear:

"They may not be D´Harans, but I have to admit, they are quite close..."

She swallowed. Allowing herself a moment of weakness. Thinking of a beautiful face and brilliant blue eyes that smiled at her reassuringly when she said softly: "They may not be D´Harans, Cara. But you´ll see they are honorable. And if you guide them, I will not worry..."

- Thank you, Creator!...-

In this very moment the voices suddenly fell silent. The men stood rooted to the spot, their weapons already in their hands, as they watched alarmed how the secret door to the wine cellar swung open, revealing a tall scraggy figure and a smaller, hooded one, slowly entering the chamber.

Cara´s features were immediately painted by alarm, but before she was able to say a word, Mistress Sanderholt pulled Zedd into her arms and hugged him heartily.

"Not a moment too early, Wizard!" Cara finally snarled, adding in an almost hostile tone: "what made you leave her?"

Zedd grinned warmly. "I am happy to see that you haven´t lost any of your charme, Cara."

He shoved the cook, who beamed up at him, honestly relieved to see him back and alive, an arm length away and gave her a dispraising look.

"Now, my dear, I hope you are not going to let me starve any longer? I think I smelt fresh stew when we walked near the kitchen..."

Mistress Sanderhold gave him a lenient smile and showed him the big basket she had brought for the Mord Sith. Cara, following him with a deep frown, let him go and approached Verna, who just lowered her hood, greeting her with a tight smile, acknowledging immediately her current condition. The Mord Sith trembled.

"How is she?" the blonde whispered under her breath. She felt her chest constricting as she anxiously searched in Verna´s eyes for a sign, a sparkle; anything that would tell her that Kahlan was safe. Air suddenly felt too vicious to breathe. And her heart skipped a beat as Verna nodded softly, reassuringly.

"She´s fine. He hasn´t touched her..." She gave her a comforting smile and then rushed to join Zedd with his meal.

Cara was left alone. And all of the noises around her ceased into thin air. All she noticed were her hands, tightening around the hilts of her agiels;

She closed her eyes, a soundless vow dropped from her lips, while she imagined the oceans of deep blue that were the beautiful eyes of Kahlan...

- And he will get no chance to do. I will kill him before he lays hand on you, Kahlan. I swear I will...


The Confessor´s fingers almost cramped the quill. She had a feeling as if the document stared at her accusatorily; she could feel its disgust literally tickling at her mind. Dennee scowled at the letters that seemed to dance on the parchment.

"...that Kahlan Amnell is to be unseated as the Midland´s sovereign. Her title, "Mother Confessor", as well as the associated rights are to be passed to the remaining Confessor, namely Dennee Amnell..."

It had taken two weeks and still the Council wasn´t completely convinced that this was the only way. But at least it had turned out that poor Prince Devron, who recently lost his life in a deplorable hunting accident, had seeded the right doubts in their minds.

She was so close...

Dennee furrowed her brows, staring at the reproachfully gleaming document. Yes. Of course, she was about to reach her aim through a tremendousness as the Midlands had never seen one before.

But it was not her fault! Kahlan had lost her sanity! To begin with, she sent Richard away. Richard! The one, who was born to be the Mother Confessor´s mate; who offered everything a Confessor could hope for! He had loved her...but Kahlan had banned him from her life. This fact alone proved that she wasn´t in her right mind.

And she had grown weak. If it hadn´t been for her, Dennee, Kahlan would have broken down right after she´d lost her child. But there was no time for weakness. A new age lay ahead. Times of compassion and empathy had ruled too long. People needed a strong hand to guide them. Hard decisions had to be made. With Rahl in D´Hara as an ally she would see that the kingdoms would finally unite into one, that the Council would be abrogated, so that no more time would be wasted in endless days of berating. Her word, and her word alone... would be law; to ensure that the Midlands could prosper under her guidance at D´Hara´s side.

It made her shiver with excitement, thinking about it.

She threw the quill on her desk and raised her hands, thoughtfully watching their slight tremble.

With a huff she stood and walked to the windows, immediately joined by Richard, who gently laid his strong hands on her shoulders, softly kneading her muscles. "You´re looking tired, Mistress. You´re working too much. Let me ease your tension. I´ll massage your shoulders."

A mirthless smile crossed her face as she waved him off.

He hadn´t disappointed her since his confession. He served with passion, anticipated her every wish. And he was an excellent, if only a little uninspired lover; like all confessed were, following her demands and her every innuendo eagerly and without objection...

If not for his craven submission, which was really boring at times, she would say he was the perfect mate.

"Richard... Kahlan will soon be here."

He breathed a kiss on her shoulder.

"I´m not interested in Kahlan anymore, Mistress. You know that I only love you!"

She smiled briefly. "Of course you do, silly. You are confessed."

"Oh, I am sure, I would love you even if confession would leave me an option" he gently stroke her arm. For a moment her eyes followed his hand, before a sigh left her lips.

"You wouldn´t... But that doesn´t matter.

So, you know Kahlan almost as well as I do. What do you think, Richard: will Rahl really be able to control her? What if she stands in front of the Council and denies her betrayal? What if the Council believes her more than us?"

"Don´t worry, Mistress. Wizard Connor has done a good job spreading the rumors. I think half Aydindril sees her as the monster that sold their daughters. The Council cannot flout the people."

"You may be right. But... You know, she has a special power on people. She always had..."

Richard blew a warm breath to her neck.

"Then, do not let her stay in front of them. See that she can´t speak to the Council." He shrugged against her back. "Best would be if you send them all to their lands, so that they can´t meet her. And once, Rahl has taken her to D´Hara, you´ll be the only Confessor remaining, and you´ll have the title without further questions..." He beamed at her as she turned, looking commendatory into his devoted brown eyes.

"Does this please you, Mistress?"

She smiled wider, slowly nodding. "It does; indeed; it does..." Then, chewing her lip, she briefly considered another thought... "Do you see her as the monster? Be honest."

He smiled, happy to be able to answer her.

"Kahlan could never be a monster. She loves her people and abhors injustice. She is the most honorable person..."

She raised her hand to stop him, sudden anger searing into his gaze as she turned and stared him down. Richard winced instantly, his features contorted in helpless despair.

"Please forgive me, Mistress. I… I thought you wanted me to be honest..."

Scowling she held his eyes trapped in her own, almost enjoying this moment of mental violence; it made her feel better when he ducked and crouched before her. Not till she could see tears welling up in his eyes her gaze softened eventually. She tugged at his vest, pulling him closer, and hissed with her voice hard:

"Listen, Richard. Everything she does; ever did; and ever will do… is despicable! The mere thought of her is enough to feel awkward. From now on, you will see her as the monster! Will you?" He nodded eagerly.

"Of course, Mistress! She is a monster!"

The Confessor smirked. "Fine. And now you may kiss me."


"The Council is leaving!"

Benjamin whipped around to Mistress Sanderholt who just entered their hideout, Jona, disguised as a maidservant, on her heels, both carrying big kettles; delicious scents suddenly wavered through the room. The chief of the home guards shook his head as he declared disbelievingly.

"That can´t be! Since days they prepare for Rahl´s arrival. And for the trial on Kahlan."

The chief cook only shrugged.

"I´ve seen them breaking up. They were in a hurry. It´s said that Dennee announced that their lords, queens or whoever their leaders might be, have called them urgently to report; before they make their decisions..."

She looked around, slightly embarrassed as she found everybody´s eyes on her and muttered sheepishly:

"Is anyone here to help us with these kettles?"

Cara narrowed her eyes on Captain Meiffert, who hit his fist against the wall, grinding his teeth. "Dammit!"

The blonde nodded as she absently clenched her fists around her agiels. "This isn´t good. Kahlan relied on her right to speak to them..." She paced a few steps, her eyes drawing zigzags on the ground; an exasperated hiss came from her lips, while her narrowed eyes spit fire...

"I knew she would try to trap her. She doesn´t trust Rahl´s control over her. She knows Kahlan too well. And she fears her..."

Berdine sauntered over from where she had stood; looking interested, but not worried.

"So, then these are good news after all. Or do you really believe her sister or this crazy wizard aren´t prepared for simply killing her the moment she opens her mouth and speaks the truth in front of the Council? Not to speak of Rahl, who is never hesitating to give the maniac?"

The Mord Sith shook her head. "Besides – if the Council has left, we don´t have to take care of them neither. Who knows how poisoned they already are against the Mother Confessor. That leaves us the space we need to focus on Dennee, on this crazy wizard and Rahl..."

One of Benjamin´s men behind her snorted audibly:

"..and of half the home guards, of Rahl´s men, of probably a dozen Mord Sith , oh, and a troop of - the Creator knows how many soldiers; not to mention the mob in the streets, for no one knows how the people will react, after they´ve been poisoned for weeks with false whispers and rumors. All while our Mother Confessor is held prisoner and bound by a Rada Han..." He glowered around.

"Let´s face the truth guys: we have no great chance to win this fight!"

His Captain´s icy glare met his and made his mouth snap close. Sheepish silence followed his words until Cara rolled her eyes exasperatedly and then let her gaze travel over them with glowing passion, staring into their eyes, one by one, while a disgusted growl came over her lips.

"What are you? A bunch of wussies? Fearing your own shadow?

Or are you the ones the Mother Confessor trusts with her life?

If she will lose it, then only because YOU abandoned her!"

She finally bored her gaze into the one who had spoken, closing the gap between them, her breath literally scratching over his stubbles, making him duck ever so slightly as her eyes burned into his mind. Somehow her voice had the threatening sound of a lioness´ hungry growl.

"I will not allow that! Do you understand me? You. will do. Everything! to free her! And if you´ll ever stand before the decision - your life or hers - then, may the Creator help you, you´ll make the right ! decision..." The feverish glance in her stare emphasized her words impressively. She waited, not letting him out of her ban until he straightened indignantly and proudly hit his fist to his chest.

"Of course I will!"

Only then she did step back, raising a brow expectantly to the others, who hurried to follow his example.

Mistress Sanderholt grinned and covertly nudged Jona, who instantly shot her a disgusting look in return: "Dear Creator, I´m quite thankful she is on our side..."


"Jackson was right. It looks like Connor has managed to get control over every magical barrier I´ve put out. Aydindril is widely without protection. And... We have been up the hill and checked on the Keep." Zedd and Verna had returned from their check and the deep scowl on his face spoke volumes of the results. His pale eyes burned in an angry shimmer. "I don´t know how this varmint got it, but he´s put up some spells that even I can´t pass without being detected."

Cara´s face had darkened while listening to his report.

"You mean you are too weak to get through!" She pierced him with rage and all but hissed. "So what happened to that powerful magic you're always boasting about, wizard?" Her index finger pointed angrily.

"He´s just an apprentice! Your apprentice, as I remember it..." Her voice rained on him acidly.

Sensing the sharp retort that lay on his tongue Verna lay a calming hand on Zedd´s arm and glared at the blonde exhorting.

"Connor is a wizard from the Old World. He might be much more powerful than any of us can assume. He only wears the guise of an apprentice. It´s not Zedd´s fault. If you want to blame anyone, than blame Rahl, ´cause he pulls the strings!"

Cara scowled. Though she knew the elder woman was right. Her fist slammed on the table and she huffed as she stood to start pacing again. Her mind whirled.

There had to be a way to protect Aydindril against Rahl´s troop.

All through the years in Rahl´s service she had grown accustomed to his thinking. He was not one to just have a friendly visit in Aydindril, asking Dennee for Kahlan´s hand and then ride contently away. He had a plan. And since Captain Meiffert had informed her that Dennee´s scouts had announced a bigger troop on its way to Aydindril, she found her worst assumptions well affirmed.

Rahl wanted all:



AND the Midlands...

- And Kahlan´s stupid sister will deliver it before she recognizes his perfidiousness...

There had to be a way... If Aydindril fell to Rahl…

- Kahlan will rather die than flee and abandon her people...-

The wizard interrupted her strained musing.

"Where is Benjamin? Wasn´t he supposed to be here when he´s not on duty? As things are now, we should ensure that we know exactly where our men are positioned when Rahl arrives. " Zedd looked around.

"He´s gone to meet his cousin, one of the guerillas in former times. Apparently he hopes to talk to some veterans of the resistance..."

A brief smile brightened Zedd´s puckered face.

"Why. That´s a good idea."

Cara shortly rolled her eyes, and then scowled at him peevishly. "I´ve told him there´s no time to listen to the stories of some sentimental old men; but he insisted in leaving. He´ll be back before darkness, he said."

The wizard raised a brow and smiled leniently. Since their arrival he had noticed Cara´s grumpiness growing with each passing candle mark. She had insisted that he took care of Berdine´s and Raina´s condition, but he hadn´t been able to convince her to have a rest herself. He had a clue that it was concern for Kahlan that was constantly and fiercely gnawing at her mind.

- Dear Spirits. Who had ever assumed that the ability to such an amount of love was sleeping behind her masks…-

"Do not judge them before you know them, Cara. There has been a time when Aydindril relied on these sentimental old men... Just wait and see... after all, we can need as many people on our side as there are willing to join us."

And then he strolled over to join the home guards that had taken seat around the table and scooped masses of food into their mouths.

Seeing him leaving, Jona approached without a word and handed Cara a dish of her own, something close to a faint smile shyly tugging at the corner of her lips. Cara´s eyes softened ever so slightly as she took the bowl and nodded a light appreciation.

Berdine had a frown on her face as she watched Jona silently walking to the far side of the room to eat alone, as usual. "I wonder who she is...and where you found her."

Cara followed her gaze and smirked when her eyes met the brown-haired Mord Sith.


Raising a mocking brow Berdine puffed a little air out. "As far as I know, isn´t it Kahlan who should be jealous?"

The blonde´s smirk grew into a sincere smile, a gentle breeze of tenderness briefly sweeping over her features, her answer just a breath "Kahlan can be sure of me. And she knows..."

Berdine eyed her covertly as she stared into the nothing. For a fleeting moment there was an unfamiliar expression on the blonde´s face, something that Berdine had only ever known from Raina so far, something that spoke of dreams and hopes and believing. Something, that she had always assumed to be buried deep inside the blonde and that somehow had finally awakened and now jostled briefly to the surface.

Though, as quick as it had happened, the moment was gone and Cara´s face was back to its usual impenetrability. Only Berdine still smiled a little but then she picked up the matter again.

"So, where did you find her? And when did you train her?"

Cara snorted. "I haven´t trained her. Rahl´s lapdogs have."

Berdine frowned. "Then why does she accept you as her Mistress?"

"Does she?"

"Cara! She´s very much your personal shadow. She serves you without ever questioning. She´s as submissive as I´ve ever seen one. Still she has more strength than a simple pet. So, even wearing these silly clothes, I can see she´s one of us!" Berdine ignored Cara´s quizzical gaze. "And no Mord Sith surrenders to a Mistress if she´s not trained for..."

Cara´s eyes focused thoughtfully on the girl that sat on the bed with her bowl in hands, her back tense, as if awaiting something to happen, her eyes warily flickering to every unexpected sound, such like rough laughter from the men at the table or the clatter of a dish… But Cara knew Jona was very aware that Berdine was talking of her; she just didn´t show.

"Who said she´s a Mord Sith?"

Berdine frowned and gave her a questioning glance.

"Because I think she isn't. Of course she was... trained to be. But she never became one..." Cara finally looked Berdine into the eyes and held her gaze as she drawled lowly.

"I think she´s a chameleon..."

Berdine´s eyes widened as she stared at Cara as if her Mistress had lost her mind.

"A chameleon? Cara, you´ve gotta be kidding! Chameleons do not exist. They are just a tall tale. Which has never been proved..."

"And yet here she is. She joined Rahl´s little troop and was trained and served, but they never realized that they hadn´t been able to break her. All of them saw her as a sister; a weak sister perhaps, but a true one. Even Rahl trusted her enough to have her watch over ME! And do not think that Rahl underestimates me. He never did. But he overestimated his influence on her. You should have seen her, Berdine. I myself thought she´s a sister. She was perfectly adapted to them.

And now she perfectly adapts to me. Trust me. She IS a chameleon."

Berdine´s eyes had fixed on the girl that had her head tilted, as if listening from afar to their talking.

"But... how is that possible? I thought the selection had grown into perfection over the centuries..."

"It probably has. Girls are chosen carefully; only the softest souls are elected trainees. I do not think that one develops into a chameleon during her training. It is not about revenge or hatred against the sisters. No. I assume chameleons are created long before they are chosen. Garen couldn´t break her... because her soul has been broken long before her training even began."

Berdine turned to Cara, her quizzical gaze causing the blonde to shrug.

"She doesn´t speak a lot. But from the little I´ve heard I can tell that she lived with a monster before the sisters took her away. She´s been abused in the worst possible ways and she´s been flogged all her life. She lived in constant fear and pain ... I think she only survived because she developed a strong sense for what someone expects from her – and the immediate and constant adaption to her surroundings. So she appeared as the soft and kind soul the sisters were looking for, but inwardly there was nothing left to break when her training began. Though, they didn´t capture her; they actually freed her!" Cara shifted her eyes back to Jona, who still sat expressionless and watched the guards. Berdine didn´t miss the hint of warmth in her green gaze and suppressed a smile.

- Only the softest are taken...

"The day the sisters demanded that she killed her own father must have been the happiest day in her life..."

Berdine let her eyes settle on the girl thoughtfully.

"But how did she survive among Mord Sith?"

"She watched others break and simply pretended to break too. She´s a perfect pretender. You have to look closely to notice that she lacks the passion."

Her brown-haired friend nodded slowly.

"So you are the first she trusts enough to open herself to you?"

Cara snorted. "I´ve confused her. She thought she knew how Mord Sith are, but then she met me. A Mord Sith who broke the rules and who´s in love with the Mother Confessor… oh, that, and her Mistress asked her to follow me."

Berdine frowned.

"Didn´t you just say she wasn´t broken by Mord Sith? How can she have a mistress then?"

"Her mistress didn´t break her, well, at least not the common way; instead Nicci was the first person who offered her some sympathy; I don´t know exactly what happened, but put two and two together - Nicci allowed her to kill her during her many trainings and pretended to be broken after that for a good while when no other Mord Sith had been able to break the sorceress before. That boosted the respect of not only her sisters but Rahl was impressed too, which made life much easier for her. That Nicci´s breaking didn´t hold for long was accepted as due to her particular powers. I assume that for Nicci it was nothing more than a game, but for Jona it changed everything...

She would do anything for the sorceress."

Cara straightened and turned, giving Berdine a strained smirk .

"And I am quite sure that means she will do anything for us; ´cause we will free Nicci along with saving Kahlan."


The troop, some eight hundred men as of late since all the formerly divided groups of Rahl´s men were finally joining their Master on his way to Aydindril, had set camp just outside the walls of the town. Rahl had given order to bring them to him right after reaching the campground. When they met him in his tent his eyes had literally drilled excitedly into hers, enough so that she ducked behind her Mistress as if fearing his slap.

Nicci hadn´t been of any support. She had stood straight, looking at him with her usual arrogance that wrapped her into a blanket of unattainability.

"I´ve known your recklessness, Rahl, but begrudging me even the few moments to refresh after a long day´s ride...that´s rude."

He ignored her taunting tone and gave her a sultry look over, almost purring.

"Your beauty doesn´t need any refreshment, Nicci. Neither does your pet need it. There will be time for that when you move into your private Palace chambers." His lecherous eyes settled on Kahlan as he reached out to pat her head as if she were a 5-year-old and leered.

"You mean when I move into her chambers..." the sorceress snapped and nodded to Kahlan who tried her best to show a happy smile at the mention. Rahl laughed.

"You´re mistaken, Nicci, if you expect this to be for your personal pleasure. She´s mine! You better not forget that. And once we are in the Palace... it will be me who lies with her." He grabbed the brunettes arm, pulling her close. Kahlan´s eyes widened in sudden panic that was not all part of her role as the confessed.

"Mistress?" The frightened pleading in her voice was met by an annoyed huff from the blonde, as she reached her hand out only to find it wiped off Nicci´s arm like any bothersome fly.

"Shut up, silly goose!" The sorceress hissed and addressed Rahl with a look of appreciation. "Oh yes, please, free me from that burden. She´s nothing but a vexation. And given to what you are used to..." she flashed a sneer towards Rahl, "I truly doubt you´ll find any pleasure in bedding her. I´ve tested her skills... it´s annoying. Beside that she´s lying numb like rotten wood, even for her mistress, she´ll never bring herself to handle your little...handicap." The sneer had widened into a wide smirk, while Rahl´s face reddened in a short flash of fury. In one pliant motion he released Kahlan´s arm to backhand Nicci forcefully. Her head flew aside and blood trickled from her lips when it came back. Only her smirk hadn´t vanished.

"And there I was sure I´ve already made you regret boiling me alive..." He scoffed with narrowed eyes.

She stared. A world of hatred in her eyes... Finally leaning in ever so slightly and drawling lowly.

"All I regret. Is. That the boiling water didn´t suffice to not only deform your paltry cock and make it a nasty futile little worm, but failed to boil your every guts..." Without any forewarning, his fist landed on her cheek with an ugly sound, sending her to the ground. Kahlan gasped appalled and instinctively threw herself between them before he was able to kick his boot into her ribs. Almost automatically she started begging, her every stance the confessed soul...

"NO! Stop, please stop Milord. Don´t hurt her! I´ll do whatever you want, just please do not hurt her anymore..." She sank to her knees while a sob fell from her lips, "Mistress? I´m so sorry Mistress..." She almost wept while stroking the blonde´s cheek, and when Nicci looked up and into her eyes she found true sorrow in her blue gaze.

Rahl watched them with obvious disgust, rubbing his hands to soothe the pressure he felt. Longing for his fist to land once more on soft flesh... This was so...obnoxious!

To see this formerly proud woman, begging and whimpering for her mortal enemy, was so...wretched; he barely restrained from spitting at her.

Disgustedly he rolled his eyes and stepped back, putting a little distance between his own glory and these pitiable figures that were just coming to their feet again, the blonde´s eyes shooting daggers at him, while her miserable pet ducked anxiously at her side, eagerly arranging the long blonde locks and trying to wipe her black dress clean.

"Well, for now you´ll keep that burden, Nicci; do not forget though, that I´m aware of your every moves. If you´ll use your magic in that Palace, your collar will tell me. Just in case you try to take any advantage of being the one to pull the Mother Confessor´s strings... You should be aware that soon I´ll kill you to free her from your will; and time will see then if I find you worthy again to receive the breath of life..." His narrowed eyes easily transferred the murderous consequences as he glared at Nicci. But then he broke into his priggish smile.

"And since she´s so eager to serve you, you will demand her to do as I say. I want her to represent the Mother Confessor while riding through Aydindril..."

So Nicci, her Mistress, had ordered her to be the Mother Confessor; to wear her pride and her unquestionable sovereignty together with her calm Confessor mask as if she still owned it. And she had nodded with beaming eyes, an eager "Yes, Mistress!" dropping from her lips as Rahl had stood aside, watching her with a slyness that made her shudder inwardly.

She knew he looked forward to see her riding among her people, stripping herself of all her dignity on the way; while she literally disrobed in front of their staring glances and revealed the ugly betrayer they would see in her, the one who was in cahoots with the tyrant;

Who had sold their little girls to this monster...


She remembered not many a times in all her life that had felt at least comparable to the helpless pain that this ride home stirred in her heart, but only twice things had hit her harder than this: the pain she had felt the day the white dragon had come for her. And, even worse than that, only the pain that Cara had left in her wake when she rode out of Aydindril had felt even more unbearable.

But she knew that she had to endure it. She had made her decision long ago, to do anything to avoid bloodshed among her people. And though during their journey back to Aydindril her doubts had grown immensely, doubts that her role as the confessed wouldn´t stand against Dennee´s scrutiny, that her sister wouldn´t listen to her; doubts that Nicci wouldn´t turn against her as soon as she regained her Han;

Though she wanted to moan when she thought of Cara, who was right now somewhere out there and risked her life for her;

Though she feared that her Mord Sith, her friend, - her mate - who she missed fiercely with every beat of her heart hadn´t found a way to gather their allies…despite all that she was decided to do what needed to be done to end Rahl once and for all times.

This way... or another...

So she found herself beside a snotnosed Rahl, who had claimed the honorable middle of their row. Nicci rode on Rahl´s left, showing as much arrogance as ever, appearing as though the very thought of making their way to the Palace was the most boring thing she had ever experienced.

Kahlan was positioned to his right, a visible sign of his newly gained highness over her.

She felt lonesome and forsaken on her ride along the walls of icy silence that had built around her people, who stood as if frozen along the streets of Aydindril; some watching with bitterness on their faces, some with deepest disgust; others with nothing but blank despair. A few were openly crying. Which was what cut deepest into her heart.

Though, Kahlan held her head high and smiled, because Nicci had ordered her to smile; but inwardly her heart shattered into pieces, seeing their faces contorted in accusation and disdain;

They had almost reached the Palace when a man suddenly broke through the crowd and thwarted them. He had no eyes for Rahl, seemed oblivious of the home guards who escorted them, nor did he seem to acknowledge the Mord Sith who immediately encircled him with their agiels in their hands, held back by a simple wave of their Master´s hand.

Instead his eyes were glued to the woman in white, beaming in a feverish glance, making her heart wrench in a way that threatened to break the feeble control she still owned.

"What have you done? How can you bring him here? Mother! Confessor!" Tears streamed his face.

"Have you all forgotten? Have you forgotten that our sons, our brothers and fathers died during war? I´ve lost all of mine... They died in battle. For the Midlands... For you! ... Have you forgotten the blood spilling, the slaughter HE brought?..." He stood in the middle of the street; his entire body shaking with his grieves. His voice was near breaking when he continued and she knew she would never forget the despair that painted his features.

"You should be thankful, Mother Confessor; as I am! That your Mother died too early; so she doesn´t have to see the disgrace her own daughter brings to the Midlands, to Aydindril...to her every kind! She would turn over in her grave.

Kahlan Amnell! You are... a shame for your kind..."

The Mother Confessor stared at him, mesmerized; unable to avert her eyes from his pain-stricken face. She shook with suppressed emotion but she didn´t dare to let the tears escape, only her eyes shifted, silently pleading the man to move back before Rahl would lose his patience.

But instead, the fool took one more step – and then he spit at her.

As if in trance Kahlan watched his spittle missing its aim and sailing onto Rahl´s boot and it caught her breath as she could sense the wave of rage that swept against her when Rahl, who winked the closest Mord Sith, narrowed his eyes and nodded. In the next moment she saw the man falling to the ground and heard his scream as an agiel kept pressed into his chest, until he didn´t give any reactions at all...

The Mother Confessor barely held back a moan; she bit her lip, hard; her mind seemed to retreat as her powers roared in an irate revolt against that damned collar; but before her wrath washed her senses away the strong eyes of Nicci, that seared into hers behind Rahl´s back, admonishing her with her glare as if speaking aloud, offered an anchor that she thankfully accepted. And though biting her lip and her violently clenched fists showing deep white knuckles, though she shut her eyes fiercely and swallowed against the lump in her throat...she managed somehow to not lose control over her expressions. Cursing him silently. Vowing to make him pay...

When she opened her eyes and her gaze washed over the slight chaos that had broken loose in the first few lines of the audience, she met the dark brown glance of a brawny man, who covertly smiled at her. Ever so faintly. But with warmth. And reassurance. Noticing her attention, he briefly lifted the hem of his vest and his smile deepened.

Kahlan blanched as she saw the little strip on his chest, shining blue over deep red.

The color of Aydindril over the blood they were willing to shed for freedom...

The Mother Confessor stared incredulously. And when he shifted his gaze to his left her eyes followed... and met the gaze of another... and one more... and then some, all wearing a hint of a fierce smile, their eyes filled with deep faith... and suddenly she felt warmth filling her heart, reaching her eyes as her stunned gaze swept over the crowd.

There, in the rows of her people she could watch the resistance coming back to life. Men and women, hidden in the crowd, all wearing their secret signs; decided to fight...

Kahlan shot a brief side glance to Rahl and breathed relieved as he was too busy watching his Mord Sith dragging the corpse away. So she allowed her mouth forming a voiceless "For Aydindril!" and watched their fists flying slowly, unobtrusively, to their chests – before Rahl finally forced them to continue their way.

He didn´t notice that Kahlan sat a little straighter in her saddle when they finally reached the Palace.


Yay!! Done! J

This is the first part of three final chapters – I just hope there is still someone out there who wants to read this…and likes to tell me so ;) It took me much too long, I know, but it´s been an incredible hard and exhausting – and exciting! – work; I never gave up on it, so, hopefully, you too haven´t…

This piece will be posted in three parts, every day one from today on.

So: Welcome to “The Long Broken Chains Weekend!”


Kahlan didn´t dare to shift her gaze openly when they entered the courtyard; Rahl now riding half a horse length ahead, she and Nicci following side by side. She held her head low, covertly studying the scene from under her lashes. Acknowledging the taut figure of her sister, who stood straight at the top of the marmoreal stairway, glancing at the arrivals with cold eyes…

She swallowed; shivers ran down her back.

Dennee wore white.

The color of the Mother Confessor...

In this very moment her blood seemed to freeze in her veins as Kahlan realized with some finality, that her sister had given up on her.

Rahl rode up to the stairs, showing his priggish smile as he reined his horse, a short nod his only offer of some respect to the Confessor.

Dennee looked him over, her eyes glowing in a dark grey shade. Hidden behind her Confessor mask her gaze travelled slowly over the little troop that lined quickly up behind him. Five rows of four soldiers at a time in D´Haran uniforms, flanked by ten proud members of her home guard whom she had sent to escort her guest; their royal blue shining defiantly against the red and golden colors of Rahl´s own men.

Finally her eyes settled on the Mord Sith who stayed close to their Lord, counting twelve women in red leather, looking each and every one over with a hostile glance. Her face grew a little harder as the corner of her lips dropped ever so slightly.

At last her gaze focused on the brunette at the sorceress´ side, holding her head low, avoiding her scrutiny. Kahlan struggled hard to keep her role as she felt her dark grey stare boring into her. Her hands already wanted to move, wanted to grab her sister´s arms and shake her to her senses; she felt as if trapped in a nightmare, wanted to yell but knew, no sound would leave her throat;

It was as if time had slowed into a vicous compound; seconds falling like heavy drops of blood from a gaping wound; bursting in small explosions on the bottom of her mind.

Finally she almost sighed relieved when Dennee shifted her gaze back to Rahl, who had watched her every reaction; a fox watching a rabbit.

"What have you done to her?" Dennee´s voice was low. Her left brow lifted, her eyes were shimmering with distrust.

Rahl smirked slyly.

"Well, your sister wasn´t willing to cooperate. So I allowed our dear Nicci here, to bind her to her will and thus make her an easy travel companion." He shrugged a little amused.

"She is... confessed."

His eyes raked over Kahlan´s tense body, now beside him, with a sadistic grin.

Dennee frowned.

"Didn´t you say you wanted her to be yours? And now you gave her to the sorceress?" Her voice held a sharp edge.

"Oh, that shouldn´t bother you. Kahlan is bound to Nicci; and since Nicci knows all too well that she is bound to me – Trust me. I have your sister under my control ...In time I will free her from Nicci´s will." His hand reached out to stroke Kahlan´s cheek almost tenderly, a finger under her chin finally forcing her head to rise. The Mother Confessor set her jaw, still avoiding her sister´s gaze. She tried hard to keep control over the slight trembling of her muscles.

The very instant her eyes met her sister´s glare, Dennee´s expression changed ever so slightly. Kahlan felt her heart clenching tightly as grey eyes grew hard.

This was the moment of truth...

The charade was over!

She should have known it. Of course! What had she thought how she could stand her gaze! She couldn´t pretend when her own sister stared right into her soul. It had been an asinine attempt.

All her hopes crashed down on her as she held the gaze of her sister. Her face almost empty, yet trying to transfer her love; to remind the woman who she was; to wrap her into the comfort of their common history, their childhood, their destiny... All without saying a word, without even twitching a muscle.

Dennee just stared at her for an endless moment; nothing in her eyes gave away her thoughts. At last she turned to her cortege, where Richard stood close to her, his hand resting tightly on the heel of his sword, his gaze filled with loathing as he watched Kahlan.

Appalled the brunette recognized this loathing giving way to that familiar devotion of the confessed as he shifted his eyes to Dennee and she couldn´t help a tiny moan escaping her throat, instantly feeling Rahl´s scrutiny at the barely audible sound. Quickly she resorted to Nicci, who had watched the scene with a deep scowl, silently praying that Rahl hadn´t rumbled her yet. The turmoil that brewed up inside her chest suddenly threatened to choke her; the deafening sound of her blood, howling through her veins, seemed so close to reach his ears...

But if Rahl was bothered, he gave no sign. Instead he dismounted his horse and winked his troop to do the same, and then mounted the stairs to approach the Confessor, who just called the leader of the home guard and gave her orders.

"Captain Meiffert! See that Lord Rahl will be shown to his chambers and my sister and... Nicci... to her rooms." She turned and addressed Rahl personally in an arrogant voice.

"For your men I have rooms prepared in the stable tracts. As for them..." with obvious disgust her gaze drifted to the Mord Sith, who had followed their Lord closely; "if they do not want to return to the camp outside the walls, too. You certainly do not expect me to offer my hospitality to..." She stopped her speech in an attempt to keep her nonchalance, only nodding towards the Mord Sith, now standing straight and warily, awaiting his answer.

Rahl smiled innocently, his oily voice sounding a little admonishing.

"Why, you shouldn´t fear the company of your own ally, Confessor. Have I ever given you any reason to distrust me? No. See, I am here to fulfill our contract. And my Mord Sith have nothing in mind then to serve me. So, denying them your hospitality could easily be mistaken as an offending act. I´m sure, you wouldn´t want that, would you?"

Dennee´s eyes narrowed as she set her jaw, recognizing the barely hidden threat. Though, after a tense moment she raised her chin and nodded shortly towards the Captain, who immediately winked to his men.

"Escort Lord Rahl and his cortege to their chambers. I will guide the Mother Confessor..."


He turned and looked at Dennee questioningly.

"You will escort our guest Lord Rahl personally. We wouldn´t want him to get lost in the Palace." Her eyes pierced him, saying what her mocking words kept hidden: - and don´t allow him a move on his own! –

He had no other choice than bowing respectfully and answering: "As you wish, ConfessorDennee." Only then she turned and smiled at Richard, who broke into a happy grin, nodding eagerly as she asked him friendly.

"Would you be so kind and accompany me, showing Kahlan to her rooms, Richard?"

Still smiling she turned and, as if in expectation of a rejection, she added sweetly: "That´s the least I can do to welcome you home, sister!"

And so they entered the Palace and headed to the privacy of their chambers. Dennee nodded politely towards Rahl as their ways separated. They would meet in a candle mark for dinner. Her gaze admonished Captain Meiffert to be wary and then she turned to lead a tensely silent Kahlan beside a wary Nicci through the hallways to the private chambers of the Mother Confessor, followed by a few more home guards with empty faces, and by Richard, who shot distrusting glares at the brunette, his fist holding the Sword of Truth tight, ready to unsheathe it to defend his mistress if this monster, that he had formerly known as his beloved Kahlan, dared to attack her...

In some distance, hidden behind a pillar, a shadow watched them. Last rays of golden sunlight reflected briefly from blonde hair as the Mord Sith straightened. With her jaw set her fists tightened around her agiels; jade green eyes staring daggers into the back of the Confessor who strode beside Kahlan...


Benjamin Meiffert gritted his teeth. He knew Cara would be deeply disappointed that he hadn´t been able to guide the Mother Confessor himself. They had hoped to gain a little time to speak to her freely – and of course he had noticed Cara´s fierce glare at the mentioning that, perhaps, the Mord Sith could find a few moments to speak to her alone...

Now Dennee had taken six of her confessed guards and he only hoped the Mord Sith wouldn´t try something stupid when she saw Dennee at Kahlan´s side.

Most of the home guards were under Dennee´s control by now, some by their own will, some not. He was glad, though, that it hadn´t happened to one of the members of their little conspiracy. They would have been doomed if one of them wouldn´t have hesitated to tell their new Mistress everything...

The Confessor had told him blankly that it had been necessary, because these men had tried to conspire against the first seat. He had shown his understanding and hadn´t hesitated to assure her that the rest of the home guard was fully committed to her wise decisions.

If she had asked, he would have even sworn the oath.

Though, of course, it wouldn´t have meant anything...

But, obviously, since Cara had ordered them to openly offer their deep devotion to Dennee, the Confessor trusted that Wizard Connor´s insidious lies had stirred the men´s abhorrence enough to follow her unquestioningly, since she was the last Confessor, the one who would save the Midlands from the Mother Confessor´s madness...

Benjamin wondered if her confidence was the result of the Wizard´s forked tongue, too. The Wizard, whom he still had no idea what exactly his role was in this game.

He rushed back to their hide-out, after leaving Lord Rahl and his Mord Sith in their rooms; four guards kept watch to ensure that they´d stayed there until dinner.

Though they were guests to the Confessor, Dennee´s order had been unmistakable.

He was already too far away to hear them suddenly choking as a wizard web fell silently over them, while Wizard Connor knocked politely at Rahl´s door and grinned as he heard Rahl´s oily voice calling him in...


"We need to talk, Kahlan. Alone!"

Nicci straightened and narrowed her eyes on Dennee. Hissing a scoffing snort. As if the Confessor had suggested some childish ideas.

"That wouldn´t make any sense, Confessor! You know what confession does to its victims. Your sister isn´t the one you knew before. If I am not with her, you can´t expect a single reasonable answer from her."

Dennee´s cold eyes met hers for a brief moment, shooting dagger´s into the sorceress; then she nodded towards Richard.

"Take her out and do not let her come back in before I allow it!" Her voice held an edge as sharp as broken glass.

Richard grabbed Nicci´s arm and dragged her towards the door without circumstance, his vice like grip not leaving a choice for her. Furious she turned her head and shouted at Kahlan: "You will not say a single word, Kahlan!"

A mirthless smile graced the brunettes face.

"It´s okay, Nicci." Sad blue eyes focused on Dennee´s slightly amused face. "She already knows..."

Kahlan heard the blonde hiss appalled, but then she and Richard were out and she was left alone with the woman, who was her sister – and yet wasn´t, somehow...

Being left alone, a moment passed in icy silence. Kahlan gritted her teeth, searching for words, but didn´t find the right opening; until her sister finally took over.

"So, you dare playing games with me, Kahlan?" Her eyes burned with deepest disdain.

The air around her held a chill that caused Kahlan a shiver. Her shoulders sagged as she turned, her face no longer held the mask of devotion. Suddenly she felt naked, stripped of her disguise that had felt like a second skin to her recently. Her emotions, her anxiety and her sorrow; her pain... Dennee could see all of it settling on her features, as she raised her gaze to her; as she looked at her with blue eyes filled with shimmering hurt.
"Isn´t it you, who has been playing games?" Her voice was a faint whisper. Her next words hauntingly, begging for answers.

"Hasn´t it been you, who wore a mask all this time? Pretending? What happened to my little sister, Dennee? I don´t know how to deal with you now. I look at you! But I can´t see you... All I see is disdain, and hatred, and odium."

Kahlan made a step to approach her and almost winced as Dennee flinched, staring at her raised hand as if it were holding an invisible weapon.

"What have I done to deserve this madness, Dennee? What have I done that made you turn against me? You sold me to my worst enemy! You are conspiring against me - and against everything a confessor believes in! You´ve even confessed the Seeker!

Do you have a clue what that means to me? YOU... were everything I had! My family!" A lonely tear draw a sad trail down her cheek.

Her sister´s face had grown cold while she spoke. With eyes as hard as the marble stone under their feet she hissed a snide answer.

"Family?" She huffed. "You have long forgotten the meaning of the word!" The bitterness in her words scratched sharply into Kahlan´s ears.

„I believed in you, Kahlan!...

I tried my best to put my doubts aside; to comprehend you when I came back and found you in ally with that blonde monster; I tried to be the sister you wanted to see in me. But eventually I had to acknowledge that Rahl had been right. All the time I spent in the Underworld, listening to his accusations... - he had been right!

You have betrayed me!

Not alone that you tolerated this Mord Sith at your side; that monster that killed your own sister. The beast that caused my son - your only nephew! - to be drowned by his mother's hands…

No, not enough so.

The evening you returned to Aydindril; when I had to hear from Richard that you had fallen for her seduction; I recognized then that you couldn´t be my sister any longer. That you had changed. Changed into a ruthless, selfish woman who didn´t care for the pain she caused.

I tried to bring you back. To lead you; I saw to it that she vanished from your life. I took care that Richard got the chance to regain your heart. Though I already loved him and dreamed of a life where he would join me instead of you; I´ve locked my own desires into the deepest prison of my heart." She shook her head, a shadow washing over her features.

"He was so in love with you, so blind to your every ignorance. He had no eyes for me! You have no idea how much I suffered. How much I cursed you and that incredible spell you always weave around the people that surround you... But still, though I could see him hurt more and more, I did everything to support you.

Because it was the only thing I could do…

For him."

Kahlan listened appalled. Her words raining acidly into her ears. Deep sorrow welling up in her chest , making it hard to suppress the tears.

"Why… You never said a word…"

Dennee´s steely grey stare bored a dark hole into her heart.

"What for? You had no sense for your surroundings...

Do you remember the day when you lost your child?

That was the day I started to truly hate you! For all the suffering you caused; for rejecting him; for almost destroying him.

You are not worth his love!

All the time I wished it would have been you who stayed back, when the Rahl´s quad shot me. They should have taken you, and not me! If I had gone to Westland instead of you, everything would have been better. Richard and I, we would have saved the world together and we would have lived happily, while your Mord Sith would have killed you..."

She stared at her with so much hostility in her eyes that her skin started prickling under its stitching.

"But now I will bring the Midlands to their right order. Rahl will take you to D´Hara, and I will take your place as the Mother Confessor and set things right!"

Kahlan felt the ground beneath her feet tremble and open a gap that threatened to engulf all and everything she had ever believed in. Memories of shared times; heated discussions; bitter rejections…all of them falling in place right now.

She swallowed against the sudden devastating trepidation that claimed her heart. Dennee spoke truth. She hadn´t seen what had bothered her sister all the years. She hadn´t been there for her; had lost her without even recognizing her heart breaking…

She had been occupied with her own grieving, with her own demons that haunted her.

She had failed! When her sister had needed her most…

It took all her strength now to raise her eyes and meet her sister´s gaze in honest dismay.

"Dennee…" she couldn´t help the tears welling up. "I´m sorry! ... So sorry! ... You are right, I was selfish, letting my own grief overwhelm me. I was blind to your feelings…" The brunette nodded sadly.

"I probably deserve your disgust. If only you had ever talked to me. Not the way you talked actually; not the accusatorial, the reproaches…if you had only had the heart to tell me…

You would have found me listening… I swear." The latter just a whisper, trembling with dolorousness and regret…

Kahlan looked her over, hoping for something in response and since nothing came, the deep sadness in her eyes slowly gave way to determination.


Though I´ve hurt you like I never wanted to hurt anyone; though I can´t make things undone…


There is nothing that lies between you and me that entitles you to sentence Aydindril, and all of the Midlands, to fall to Darken Rahl! Can´t you see that he uses you and your despair? Do you really think he is one to share? As much as he already succeeded poisoning your mind - He will not leave and let you reign over the Midlands. He will not let his brother survive! He will trick you. He has a troop of nearly a thousand men waiting for his orders; he will use Nicci´s powers…

Dennee! Wake up!

You may hate me, punish me for your hurt; but. PLEASE! Do not follow him." Tensely she leaned closer, trying to catch her eyes, to touch something she wasn´t sure it was still alive, waiting for an answer and when no came her shoulders slumped resigned. Finally, barely hiding her hurt, she set her jaw and whispered:

"I will talk to the Council and reveal his plans…"

Dennee hadn´t stirred. Her features hadn´t softened. Kahlan didn´t even know if she had listened. Just now the corners of her lips twitched into a tight smile as she raised an eyebrow.

"The Council is not here to listen to you. I´ve seen to it that you will not poison their minds.… Say what you want; my contract with Rahl has been signed long ago. And he never disappointed me. He allowed me to come back to take vengeance.

You won´t change my mind, sister. I can see clearly what you´re doing: trying to save your Mord Sith. But soon I will make her regret that she ever betrayed her Lord by joining the Seeker… and that she seduced you.

You´ll get what you deserve, Kahlan. You will watch when I confess her. You will watch her die. And after that, being bound to Rahl´s side, you´ll be reminded of what you´ve done to Richard and me, every day of your life."

Her eyes burned in a lunatic fever, sickening the air around her. The brunette watched helplessly as her sister turned and strode to the door, pausing before opening it. Looking back over her shoulder she showed a biting grin.

"You better come to terms with things, Kahlan. Though you´ll lose everything… At least you will finally conceive a few bastards and continue our line. Isn´t that what you always craved for?"

Her chuckle was left when she went out, ordering Richard to let Nicci enter and then vanished with her confessed mate.

Nicci rushed in, concern in her eyes as she came close to Kahlan, who stood rooted to the spot, tears spilling freely. The Confessor didn´t move, as if not aware her approaching.

"What has she said? Will she tell Rahl…?" Nicci feared the worst.

Kahlan shrugged faintly and shut her eyes close, feeling her stomach curl and twist. Finally she took a deep breath, trying to swallow her sobs. When her gaze shifted to meet Nicci´s alarmed stare, the look in her eyes was one of hopelessness.

"Does it still matter?"

With narrowed eyes Nicci watched her tears falling and her face grew hard, as did her voice.

"It does, Confessor! We have a deal, remember? We will not give up until Rahl gets what he deserves!"


"Connor, my friend! Tell me, how are things here in Aydindril? Is everything prepared as I ordered?"

Rahl sat on his chair by the fireside, wearing a smug look on his face; one of his Mord Sith indulged in massaging his shoulders, another took care of his feet. He winked Connor to take a seat.

The sly smile on Connors face deepened as he approached.

"Everything is fine. Aydindril awaits his Master. The Keep is prepared. The rumors are spread widely. I do not expect much resistance. And the Confessor is a lamb that follows my guiding…"

Rahl lifted an eyebrow.

"Now is she? Actually I had the faint impression as if she´s a little... fractious?"

The Wizard shrugged lightheartedly.

"I let her indulge in her desire to be the one in charge. She has no idea that she´s just part of the game."

"Hmm; well, that might be more fun like that. I´m really looking forward to see her face when she acknowledges that she will join her sister´s fate…" Rahl grinned amused.

"So, where is the wizard? Is he bound in the dungeons or do you have him chained in the Keep?"

"The Wizard...?" Connor frowned confused. „You´re speaking of Wizard Zorander?"

Rahl´s feature fell into a huffish scowl.

„Now, how many wizards do you have in your dungeons? - Of course I´m speaking of Zorander!"

"But…Milord. We´ve... we´ve sent you a falcon. To warn you. That the wizard followed the Mother Confessor to Comorra…"

He received an icy glare.

„The falcon arrived. Though it told me that Zorander is arrested! Here! in Aydindril! We prepared our departure immediately after that!" Rahl´s voice, though low and controlled, held a sharp edge. For a moment he stared at Connor pensively and then startled his Mord Sith as he stood abruptly and started pacing. These news were quite perturbing.

- If the old fool wasn´t imprisoned, he was out there; probably planning to frustrate his plans…

After all, time was running short.

"Go, see to it that the Keep will be ready. Tonight my troop will attack and take Aydindril…"

Nodding his agreement, Connor retreated hastily, heading for the Keep to prepare for his master´s battle.

Though he didn´t look forward to his task, he would do everything to make sure of Rahl´s victory. Everything! Too long he already craved for his reward – for gaining the first chair in his own realm, in order to reign over the Midlands in Rahl´s place…

"Garen!" Rahl´s angry voice called her to his side. In a second she stood straight before him, a barely visible smirk twitching at the corner of her lips, knowing his orders would be to her liking.

"Your time has come. Go and search for her. You´ll probably find her near Kahlan´s chambers. This is her weak point. Her loyalty will draw her close to her like moths are drawn by firelight;" A sneer tugged at his lips. " ... and she will burn like they do…"

Garen´s eyes beamed, a spark of anticipation glowing in their darkness as she nodded. "Yes, Milord!" He grinned at her eagerness and playfully lifted an admonishing finger.

"You will not kill her! At least I will grant Kahlan´s little sister her reward before she loses everything else."

And with that he sent her out, passing the guards who stood still paralyzed under the wizard´s web. Three of her sisters following close behind.


Cara hasted through the hidden aisle, Jona close on her heels. Her thoughts whirled.

Benjamin´s report had been short and precisely describing her worst fears. To her it was obvious:

Rahl planned to overtake Aydindril. With his troops alert outside the walls, his Mord Sith close around him, it was just a matter of time. Hours rather than days. The blonde Mord Sith was convinced that Connor had a part in this game, so she didn´t waste a thought on the wizard to defend Dennee or the Midlands in any way. Instead she had a clue that the Keep would be involved in Rahl´s plan and that Connor was the one who would strike fiercely and unexpectedly with some unknown magic...

Their former plan had been quickly adapted. Once again Cara had enjoined them to remember their oath, to be ready to give their lives for the Midlands; for Aydindril...

...and for Kahlan´s sake, if need be.

With proudly beaming eyes she had watched their fists flying to their chests, knowing that they had long come to see her as their leader in this battle. The blonde didn´t doubt any longer that they wouldn´t hesitate to kill – or to be killed. They all knew their places and when they rushed out to fulfill their own little missions, the air had brimmed with determination.

Her fists clenched tightly; Cara gritted her teeth.

She so needed to see Kahlan. The longing so powerful, that it threatened to shatter her urgently needed control. She couldn´t allow her hopes to overrule her reason.

Though, perhaps there was a chance to get through to her, to see her; If ever so shortly.

For a moment Cara could almost catch her low, soft voice stroking her ear, nearly felt her lips brushing feather lightly against her own...The Mord Sith closed her eyes, inhaling deeply, as if trying to catch a hint of Kahlan´s precious scent on the breeze.

Perhaps she could even free her now, while she was left alone with Nicci who had the power to release the collar and allow the brunette to regain her full strength. Of course, Rahl would acknowledge that Nicci used her magic, but, being locked in his own chambers, he wouldn´t be able to react quick enough; so there would be a chance that Zedd could free the sorceress from her own collar before...

The Mord Sith felt her heart thundering in her chest like a cracked up beast warping against the bars of its cage in helpless despair...

How often had she walked this path in the past? Watching over Kahlan from her secretly hidden spots, in times when the brunette had stubbornly rejected her every proximity. Feeling so close and yet so separated... A spark of pain shot through the blonde.

They had come such a long way...

We´ve wasted so much time Kahlan...What for? To end up here? Finally knowing that I am made to love you, but yet, separated? Has it all been in vain? ...what if we die today?

The thought shot up from the darkest pit inside her mind, briefly catching her breath. Cara barely noticed how she swallowed and gritted her teeth, straightening involuntarily.

- Kahlan wouldn´t die!

After all she was Mord Sith. And among all the strong warriors that were her former sisters, she was one of the strongest. She would certainly not fail her Confessor, her Queen;

... her love!

To see Dennee walking arrogantly beside her sister earlier had caused an immense wave of hatred washing through her mind. She had to struggle to not drown in it.

Kahlan had looked so exhausted, so vulnerable... While Dennee had worn that look of triumph on her smug face...

Cara hardly heard soft steps coming close behind her as they reached the hidden door that led to a small hall close to the Mother Confessor´s chambers.

Jona´s warm hand settling suddenly on her shoulder confused her for a short instant; she turned hastily, almost expecting to meet the azure brilliance of Kahlan´s eyes...

Her young companion looked at her with light concern. A shy smile graced her lips as she whispered.

"You´re okay?"

Immediately the soft shimmer in Cara´s eyes vanished into thin air. Her glare went hard.

"Of course I am" she snapped lowly. "Let´s go."

Carefully avoiding any sound she opened the door. Half-stepping outside, her eyes shifted left then right, alert for any movements in the hall. Though, obviously nobody was near, so they stealthily rushed out.

The two of them found themselves in a short distance to the alley that led to Kahlan´s private chambers. Cautiously Cara sneaked along the walls until she could peek into the alley, at its end counting two guards at the doors, standing straight, their lances crossed in front of the entrance. The blonde frowned. If Dennee had ordered only two of her confessed to guard the Mother Confessor and a very powerful sorceress, then she had to be either very stupid or extremely self-confident. And though Cara believed that both were possible, she didn´t make the fault to underestimate the Confessor.

Scowling the blonde retreated in a soundless move. She had reckoned with a minimum of four, probably even six guards, two at the door, and respectively two at both sides of the alley.

Something was wrong. She could feel the hairs on her arms standing up to all end in sudden anticipation; the air seemed to thicken around her and when she spun around, her eyes seeking Jona, she found the girl standing with her back pressed against one of the pillars, scanning warily their surroundings.

A soft chuckle came from another pillar.

"Looks like we´re detected, sisters." And from behind the shining marble a Mord Sith stepped into their sight. Three others following her example, shoving the corpses of four guards they had held hidden behind their pillars, away and all of them sauntering closer, slowly encircling Cara.

"Garen!" The blonde huffed annoyed."... Still hoping to be in charge?" Cara, though smirking smugly, tried to keep an eye on all four Mord Sith, following their pliant moves from the corner of her eyes; widely aware of their every motions, while apparently focusing on the one who grinned at her, her viperish almond eyes shining cattily. Faintly the blonde noticed Jona still leaning tensely against the pillar, not stirring, watching the scene as though she wasn´t involved. A frown sneaked onto Cara´s face.

The four Mord Sith apparently completely ignored the girl.

Garen nodded to her sisters, who approached Cara from three sides, their agiels humming in expectation.

"You might not appreciate it, Mistress Cara... but actually it´s been me all the time who was in charge! See - We knew we would find you at last nearby the Mother Confessor. And now I´m here to collect Lord Rahl´s silly little pet and bring it back to its master, who allowed it to stroll around for a little time, feeling free to make its own decision... which were so very foreseeable." The Mord Sith reveled in Cara´s obvious confusion.

"Surprised?" She laughed venomously. Her eyes literally beamed a dark fire as she mocked her:

"Lord Rahl has tricked you! He let you escape, knowing you would be a vexation on the journey; knowing you would come here and try to help your beloved Confessor.

He knows you, Cara! Better than you know yourself!" Garen grinned perfidiously as Cara´s eyes narrowed, shooting daggers at her.

"He created you, or had you forgotten?"

A barely visible nod made two of her sisters suddenly lunge at Cara before she had a chance to answer. Her agiels screaming in rage, the blonde was instantly prepared to strike back; whirling around she blocked a mean strike from behind and, spinning forcefully, she hit her agiel across the face of her attacker. Not faltering she used the momentum to run her shoulder into the woman at her right, her left boot wiping her feet off the ground, using her full weight and landing with a satisfying crack on a madly wrinkled arm. A scream of pain erupted from her foe. Cara stopped it with her agiel crashing to the throat of the woman, ending her agony – and her life.

In the same moment she winced harshly as another agiel bit into her back like a rabid dog, scratching along her spine; it made her bones explode in a red blur behind her eyes.

Cara gasped and gritted her teeth; trying to shove the excruciating pain aside. She gathered all her strength to suddenly jump to her feet and swiftly turn, shooting the power of her weapon into the chest of her opponent, watching with narrowed eyes how the body went limp, as the corpse fell to the ground...

It was not more than an eye-blink later, that she felt an ugly metal click around her throat, the sound of a chain rattling behind her.

Cara screamed in rage. In an instant she turned, vehemently blowing her agiel against the third Mord Sith holding the chain in hands, which led to the collar around the blonde's neck. Cara ripped it free with a surprisingly powerful turnaround, the other woman staring stunned at her as she closed the gap between them, stepping close and burning her gaze right into her, her hands coming up and stoking her agiels, one to the pulse point of her throat, the other on the deadly spot over her heart...

The last the woman saw was beaming hatred in green eyes that stared at her from the face of an avenging angel.

Cara stood over her, gasping, then slowly shifting her eyes to meet Jona, who stood still at the pillar, her face as expressionless as Cara remembered her young guard had looked in the dungeons of Comorra.

The frown on the blonde´s face deepened. "Jona?"

A rough jerk at her neck forced her to turn around with a growl, only to be met with a new attack as Garen surprised her with a quick grip at her hand, closing another metal ring around her wrist while her agiel blew into thin air as she tried to strike at Garen´s smug face.

After all it was almost too easy to chain the blonde, her obvious confusion distracting her from striking effectively. Her resistance disappointingly weak...

Garen had Cara´s agiels snatched out of her hands in a blink; her dark almond eyes glaring triumphantly at the blonde. With a spiteful smirk she leaned in and whispered:

"I told you, I´m in charge, remember?

So now, be a good pet and return devotedly to your master´s side, as it behooves you." She laughed and straightened, jerking violently at the chain, and then giving Cara another blow of her agiel cross her face. Still smirking satisfied she watched blood trickling from the blonde´s temple, then turned to finally address the girl in a patronizing voice, who still hadn´t moved, her eyes glued to Garen with an almost empty devotion:

"You´ve done well, Jona. Lord Rahl will be very pleased with you. I think you have earned your reward. Come here, you may hold her chain... You´ll see, I didn´t lie when I told you there is nothing as satisfying as the very first time you walk a pet..." Finally Jona stirred, slowly sauntering closer, a shy smile playing on her lips.

"Thank you, Mistress."

Cara, still gasping, crouched in her defeated position, watching her. Her voice dripped with disgust as she snarled:

"Jona, don´t do that! She´s not your Mistress! You´re not dependent on her! You are above her, above her wishes and orders!"

It gained her another fierce yanking at her chain. Cara hissed as the collar threatened to choke her. Her gaze spoke murder as she stared at Garen, who almost laughed.

"Better you take your agiel out, Jona. This pet isn´t ready to behave..."

Jona nodded and slowly unsheathed her agiel, considerately viewing Garen, who´s gaze kept focused on the blonde, who obviously, though her hands were bound and a chain controlled her, still threatened to attack every moment.

The young girl couldn´t help a smile when she found the spot she´d searched for. Her gaze briefly shifted and met Cara´s, beaming as she saw the blonde´s short nod.

Garen too saw it and a frown shadowed her face; but she had no time to interpret the blonde´s expression, since in this moment a sneaky dagger found its way between her rips straight into her heart, stopping its beating before she could make a sound; she was dead before she acknowledged Cara´s smug grin under a mockingly raised eyebrow...

Jona lowered the corpse carefully and pulled the dagger free. Shifting her eyes it was the first time that Cara saw her openly pleased, a glimmer lying in the depth of her moss-green gaze. She literally beamed with pride and even Cara couldn´t help a tight small smile as she stated:

"I did it!"

The blonde nodded approvingly. "Yes; you did it." She bent down and grabbed Garen´s agiel with both of her bound hands, offering it to the younger while a smirk settled on her lips.

"Looks like you´ve just earned a second agiel."

Jona took it carefully and shook her head as if in wonder, but then focused on Cara.

"What about your chains?"

„The collar will stay where it is. But I´ll need my hands free if we are to disturb their dinner..."

Jona quickly checked Garen´s pockets for the key and loosened Cara´s handcuffs. Then they went back to the hidden door in the wall and Cara knocked briefly.

The door opened immediately and Berdine and Raina, wearing their full leathers, stepped out, and quickly collected the agiels from the dead Mord Sith. Raina eyed Cara carefully.

"You´re okay?"

"Of course I am." She shot a brief glance to Jona, who still had a faint smile of excitement on her face. "Though, if Jona hadn´t told us... I´m not certain Rahl wouldn´t have dumbfounded me..."

Berdine approached, pouting openly as she looked the corpses over.

"Why is it that you always get the fun part, Cara? While we are to stay stuck in a narrow aisle and get bored to death."

Her Mistress granted her an eye roll. "We need to take care of that mess before Dennee sends for Kahlan and Nicci; which would be very soon if I´m right. And you should be there too when Rahl arrives with the rest of his Mord Sith."

While they hid the corpses in the secret aisle, Raina sneaked to the entrance of the alley to get a peek at the lasting guards, who hadn´t stirred, their lances still crossed, as if they hadn´t noticed the fight. Now she returned with a small frown on her features.

"What about the guards?"

Cara shrugged. „They are confessed and their Mistress ordered them to keep watch over Kahlan and Nicci. Nothing else is of any interest for them. So, even if they´ll be questioned, they will only tell that Mord Sith came to kill their companions – and then vanished. I doubt Dennee will interrogate them adequately."

The faint sound of thundering boots, announcing the soon arrival of their owners made them turn to leave; just the blonde looked back at the doorway, a shadow briefly sweeping over her face, her jaw clenched.

Berdine watched thoughtfully as she sighed and reluctantly turned to vanish in the depth behind that small door, her chain rattling lowly with her every move.

Before following her friend the tall brunette tilted her head and eyed the doorway pensively.

You must be a very special person, Kahlan Amnell, if she allows herself get chained for your sake... Though... You´ll better be worth it...


When Rahl entered the dining hall, followed by his Mord Sith, Dennee had already taken place at the head end of the table. Behind her he acknowledged four men of the home guards, though, looking more attentively, he easily counted more standing in the shadows along the walls, watching over the scene silently. Rahl had no doubt that some of them, if not all, were confessed and ready to fight to their deaths if only the Confessor gave a wink. He raised a brow in smug amusement and shortly lifted his hand. Immediately the women in red leather came to halt, the last ones inconspicuously retreating a bit and quickly melting into the shadows of the marble pillars, too.

In front of the table a few men were kneeling, their heads low, their gazes shifted to the floor and... what was that? Were they... crying?

A little bewildered Rahl seeked for Dennee´s gaze and found the Confessor staring at him with features chiseled into polished ice, her eyes flashing indignantly.

"This! Is entirely your fault, Rahl!"

Raising his hands in pretended innocence he smirked. "Why, I swear, I didn´t touch them!" Taking a closer look he recognized the men. They were the confessed soldiers Dennee had sent to Comorra in order to guarantee Cara´s return to Aydindril. Obviously they had reported their failing, devastated that they hadn´t been able to fulfill their Mistress 'command.

Approaching, Rahl showed an amused grin. "Would you please explain yourself, Dennee?" His voice was close to purring.

While Dennee stood, Richard rushed eagerly to her side, hoping for a sign that his service was needed. Rahl raised a brow as he watched his brother. .

"We had a deal, Rahl. How dare you showing up without my prize?"

In that moment the door opened and a few guards led the Mother Confessor and the sorceress in. Hearing her last words, Kahlan´s eyes shot instantly to her sister; frowning as she felt tension sickening the air. Reluctantly she followed Nicci to Rahl´s side.

The fact that Rahl ignored their entrance did little to calm her frayed nerves. Apparently Dennee hadn´t told him of her charade. Yet. But the gnawing feeling, that Dennee was unpredictable, still caused her stomach to clench nervously.

Back in her rooms she had spent the time pacing, trying to claim control on her troubled mind. Nicci had watched her, patiently listening to all her spoken out thoughts of self-reproaches and worries. Until Kahlan had slumped into her chair at the fireside und silenced. Staring into the flames, her face painted by exhaustion and deep concern. Finally she had hid behind her palms and whispered desperately: "Spirits, please! I just pray that Cara is alright…"

Nicci sighed.

"She is Mord Sith!" as if that was reason enough to calm Kahlan´s worries.

The brunette had looked at her. Her eyes shimmering with tears she didn´t allow. Her hair swaying slightly as she shook her head.

"I had no right to send her here… She is alone and surrounded by furtiveness! She risks her life! For me! What if she wasn´t able to convince them to follow her? …If Dennee gets her… she will not hesitate to confess her!"

Her gaze had gone lost in the flames. "I will die along with her if that happens…" Her lips pressed into a thin line she had fallen silent. There was nothing more to say.

Nicci´s eyes narrowed.

"Enough, Kahlan! Pull yourself together! There is no sense in dying before we even know what happened to them. Cara is not alone after all. Jona is with her. And as far as I know her, your Mord Sith is probably swaying her hips in front of some home guards right now, leading them to fight for you!" She leaned in and put a hand on the Confessor´s cheek, forcing her eyes to meet her own fierce glance.

"Your sister isn´t the one you remember, Kahlan! I´ve been close to the Keeper for a long time. I know what the Underworld does to formerly innocent souls. You´ve lost her! Long ago. Try to accept it.

But for you, as for the Midlands, it´s not yet over. You WILL destroy that bracelet, you WILL bring him down! So don´t you dare giving up now." Her hand had settled on Kahlan´s arm, pressing tightly, and her gaze had held a burning passion, that didn´t allow Kahlan to just resign. The Confessor had looked into her eyes, almost thankful for the arshness od her words, feeling her strength slowly wrapping around her own mind, until she felt strong enough to claim some of Nicci´s passion for herself and finally she had nodded.

"You are right. My sister isn´t any more. I need to let her go…"

... Though, entering the dining hall and seeing Dennee, she instantly knew she couldn´t…

Dennee had no eyes for them. Her icy glare still bored holes into Rahl who apparently kept completely unimpressed.

"Mistress?" With a whine one of the men lifted his head, tears running down his cheeks.

Dennee stared at him disgustedly. Her voice sounded like a hissing snake.

"I told you you´ll stand with your life… You failed! Now follow my order."

Assuaged, the man smiled, as did his companions. And without a sound their bodies went limp, life drawn out of them by an invisible power.

Kahlan winced.

Rahl still watched untouched, only his eyebrow twitched mockingly as he shifted his gaze to Dennee.

"Are you questioning my honor, Confessor? I said you´ll get your revenge on Cara. I do not remember promising I´d drag her here personally."

"Which means?"

"That there is no reason to worry. I will give you what you crave for."

A frown blossomed on Dennee´s face. Her face hard, her chin pushed forward, she demanded answers.

"So, where is she? You´ve had her already chained! But my men reported she escaped from the dungeons…"

Rahl smiled leniently.

"Well, I think we have some more things to discuss first… Take a seat and let´s have dinner."

A growl erupted from the Confessor.

"I´m not in the mood to play your games, Rahl. Do I have to remind you that you are guest in my house? My hospitality might be easily pushed to its boundaries." Her eyes never leaving his she twitched her hand briefly. Richard straightened and gripped the Sword of Truth. Its steely ringing, his cold gaze, directed at Rahl as he pulled it halfway out of its sheath, as much as the muffled sound as the home guards straightened as one, made the air suddenly brim with threat. The Mord Sith instantly pulled their agiels, their low whining adding to the already charged atmosphere.

For a very long heartbeat Rahl and Dennee stared at each other while their open hostility made the air sizzle around them, none of them willing to break their stand.

Kahlan stood with gritted teeth; unable to do something against the shiver running down her spine she held her breath, feeling trepidation choking her up, making it difficult to inhale. She almost expected them to start bloodshed at any moment. But finally Rahl let his shoulders relax and shook his head towards the Mord Sith, who reluctantly sheathed their weapons; though their tense muscles kept ready to go into action, their eyes kept narrowed, flickering between Dennee, Richard and the home guards.

"Ah, Confessor! Why so distrusting? I assure you, your... prize...awaits you.

You shouldn´t think that little of me, you know? See, Cara hasn´t just escaped then. I allowed her to escape. And in close company of one of my Mord Sith even..."

Kahlan blanched as she felt the little hairs on her neck raised in a sudden icy chill. Her hand on Nicci´s arm squeezed tightly, while the blonde sorceress furrowed her brows at his studied casualness.

"Since you told me of that odd little relationship between your sister and my Mord Sith… I watched them closely in the dungeons of Comorra, and witnessed their perverse affection… and I decided to not put a leash on my lapdog, but let her walk herself to Aydindril. It was obvious that she was going to reappear as soon as her Confessor arrived. I´d easily collect her here without dealing with her annoying resistance on our way. And," his priggish smile now reappeared on his very smug face. "…what shall I say? It worked as I planned."

Nicci could feel Kahlan´s hand tremble on her arm and tried to give her an admonishing glare without drawing Rahl´s attention. For a moment she was startled by the look on Kahlan´s face, though. The Mother Confessor was close to lose control, her eyes wide and shimmering, her lips parted and her breathing heavy ; she was the very picture of someone loosening the ground beneath her feet.

Rahl, however, just nodded to his closest Mord Sith, who instantly turned and walked to the entrance, opening the door and calling someone in.

Just a moment later Nicci heard a low, deep, hag-ridden moan that fell from Kahlan´s lips as Jona entered the hall, a triumphant smirk on her lips; dragging a chained and collared blonde behind her...

"Cara..." Her voice was nothing but a barely audible whisper of despair. Kahlan felt close to break down. She didn´t bother the open gloat on Rahl´s face as he watched the blonde. She didn´t notice how Dennee´s features suddenly started gleaming in greedy anticipation, her face literally contorting into a mask of feverish, sadistic lust. All she saw was the blonde Mord Sith, bleeding from her temple, collared and beaten; her hands bound with rough ropes, stumbling into sight with the savage expression of a caged lioness.

"We found her close to the Mother Confessor´s chambers, as I assumed. Angry and defiant as always. She hasn´t lost a bit of her crabbiness. Two of my best Mord Sith have died in attempt to chain her." He turned to face Nicci as he continued with something in his voice, a peculiar sing sang, that twitted the sorceress and her assumed friendship with the brown-haired girl.

"Though dear Jona here was able to take her by surprise; oh yes, I was right! She has weakened; in former times she would have never considered one of her sisters a trusted friend... Well, isn´t it funny, that now, that she´s started to trust, it´s the first time that she´s truly betrayed?..." He smirked at Nicci, whose face was set in stone, only her eyes delivering what she felt in this moment; eyes that said – I should have known better than to ever trust you... – as they settled on Jona with bitter disgust.

"To her knees!"

Jona wrenched at the chain while the Mord Sith at her side kicked the blonde into the hollows of her knees. She fell down with a groan, her eyes flashing fire, her bound hands instinctively darting to her side, seeking for her agiels; only to find the sheathes empty.

Kahlan´s breath caught as she saw Cara biting her lower lip in order to center herself.

"Hand her over to me!"

Rahl raised his brow and turned at the growled demand, as if he had already forgotten about the Confessor, who had made a few slow steps forward as Cara had entered, and straightened; barely able to control the urge to wrap her hand around the blonde´s throat. His brow twitched amused.

"Not so hastily, my dear… You know the old saying? - Quid pro quo, Confessor! Tell me, where is the wizard?"


The city lay wrapped into twilight; it was that time when colored images turn into shadows, when first forebodings of nightmares sneak around corners that, just a few moments before, held laughter and light and now threatened to drown in darkness…

The two figures on the walls walked side by side. Their eyes travelled warily along the near bushes and trees that seamed the main road out of Aydindril. The fires of the campsite glowed in a not too far distance, the unavoidable noises that a thousand men produce came flowing with the light breeze that bloated her hood. She shuddered inwardly, fully aware that these noises were not real, that they seemed to be put out to soothe those ears, listening closely; expecting them.

"Do you really think he can cope with all three city gates?" Verna didn´t look like she trusted Jackson´s abilities entirely. They had left the young wizard apprentice on the city walls to the north, where they hoped the smallest risk lay buried. Rahl´s troop had settled outside the south-eastern gates. And that would be where they´d start their attack. Given that Cara was right and Rahl felt confident enough to not expect much resistance. Zedd sighed.

"We have no other choice then to trust his powers, Verna. He´s got the minor gates to hold up. I just hope he has spent enough time practicing while I´ve been away. The spell I´ve put out isn´t too complicated to not been supported by an apprentice´s hands. Let´s hope the best."

His pale blue eyes wandered along the walls to settle on the shadow of the Keep that towered over them in a distance; deep worries sweeping over his features.

"I´m much more concerned about that Connor. I still have no idea what he´s putting on in the Keep. Since he left the Palace I can´t help but feel my stomach grumble. There´s something's lying ahead we are not at all prepared for..."

Verna nodded. She had the same feeling of some dark foreboding that she couldn´t name; she too felt her insides trembling with faint anxiety... Her gaze swept over the streets she overlooked from their stand, watching the people down there. Wherever her eyes settled she found peasants walking or standing in small groups, talking, seemingly enjoying themselves, though it was already late evening and sunlight long turned into shadows, eating the colors away; slowly delivering the peaceful city to darkness. Looking closely, she acknowledged the hidden glances people shot to the walls and their tense moves. Every now and then some would change their positions as if consciously deciding to approach the gates to the south and the east of the town´s surroundings.

She remembered Benjamin´s confidence when talking about the resistance. But she hadn´t expected him to even understate their amount. Since early evening they had gathered silently, more and more of them emerging from varying districts of the town. By their ways of moving around and by their clothes she could easily differ between simple peasants and noble men. There were merchants as well as servants. And she knew that Benjamin would send as many soldiers as he was confident he could do without in the Palace.

A tight smile appeared on Verna´s lips, when she observed a few smaller groups of men, three or four at a time, leisurely and pointedly unobtrusive walking between the gates. Their odd behavior, their non-talking and their heavy cloaks despite the warm evening air held something suspicious. Verna tugged at Zedd´s sleeve, pointing towards them.

"It has already begun…"

With his fingers clenching nervously the old wizard watched how the people in the streets gathered around them, circling them in an indiscernible distance, ever so slowly trapping them in their middle.

"Hey guys! It´s a nice evening, isn´t it?" The jovial sound of the voice was only faintly heard on the walls. A bear of a man, member of the blacksmith-guild of Aydindril, stepped towards one of the strangers, clapping his shoulder comradely and tugging at his cloak. "Much too smooth for such a heavy cloak…" Zedd winced as he saw him ripping the cloth off his shoulders with a sudden yank, revealing the dark red leather armor of Rahl´s troop. Unforeseeably fast the blacksmith grabbed both sides of his head and, with a hard jerk, he snapped the soldier´s neck before he or his companions had a chance to react. Beside him his fellows had already sheathed their swords and killed the soldiers, who were short taken and gave no appreciable resistance. The same happened to the other four little groups of intruders. There was barely a fight, the killing went silently and the corpses were drawn to the main gates to be piled up there, ready to be set aflame by Zedd´s fire as soon as the troop would try to invade.

With a grim smile on his lips the blacksmith shifted his head towards Zedd and Verna, who stared back from the top of the walls. He raised his chin and hit his fist to his chest. The greeting of a soldier, prepared for the battle.

Their foes would get a nasty surprise...


"I´ve sent a falcon to inform you about Zedd´s intention to meet Kahlan in Comorra. If you haven´t caught him… ", Dennee shrugged arrogantly, "…well, I do not think it important. Connor is absolutely capable to take his place. He will be a worthy substitute at my side."

Rahl looked her over with an odd mixture of disbelieving and increasing anger.

"Are you really such a goose, Confessor?" He shook his head, then swept his arms around as if embracing the entire hall and huffed audibly. "Do you really think all of this serves to give you what you want? That I want the wizard to support you?

This is not about you, Dennee. Take a step back and look at the bigger picture…" He watched her as she stood with her brows deeply furrowed; something close to anxiousness sneaking into her glare.

"I am. Lord Rahl! The least that bothers me is the silly little pettiness of a resurrected confessor.

I´m going to take my place on the first chair of the united realms of D´Hara and the Midlands. I´ll have the one and only Mother Confessor at my side and I will appoint a governor for the Midlands… though that will not be you!" A smug grin curled his lips.

"You… will stay at your sister´s side; as it should be. Once she´s Lady Rahl she´ll need her personal maiden..." He watched her blanch and smirked.

All the while Cara had kneeled in the middle of the hall with tightly clenched jaws and fists, covertly taking in the situation from under deeply furrowed brows. She checked the positions of Rahl´s Mord Sith, counting eight of them, one had taken hold of the end of the ropes that bound her hands. The blonde let her gazes wander along the walls, acknowledging every man who stood warily between the pillars, mentally dividing them in friends and foes. A light shuffle from behind her made her turn slightly, seeing a flash of red leather blinking from the shadows. A whiff of a smirk crossed her face, before she straightened and focused on Rahl and Dennee.

"Now, do you finally recognize your own fatuousness? Confessor?" Her voice cut the air with scoffing sharpness. "Did you really expect a maniac like Rahl to have the honor of loyalty? To even know the meaning of the word? Look at you now, dunce! After all it´s you who has been tricked! As it had to be expected!" She laughed bitterly. "How one single woman can be that daft I will never comprehend..."

Dennee loosened her glare from Rahl to narrow her eyes on the blonde, her hands twitching at her side as if hardly restraining from wrapping around her throat.

But before the Confessor could make a move Jona jerked viciously at her chain to silence her. Rahl gave the girl an approving smile.

- Cara! No! Do not nettle her. She will not take it…

Kahlan had sought rescue behind her Confessor´s mask, though she breathed heavily. Her mind whirled. How had Rahl been able to trap her?

Why had Cara allowed herself to be chained?

Kahlan clenched her hands into fists, her nails digging sharply into her palms. It made her blood boil to see the blonde chained; she couldn´t fathom that that could have happened... The Cara she knew would have fought to her death before anyone would have put a collar around her neck.

Slowly the Mother Confessor felt her heart sinking into the viscous lake of guilt; realizing that all, the blonde had done, she would have done for her; she was the only reason why Cara wouldn´t want to rather die than get chained.

Her mouth was dry. The blonde Mord Sith had shot her a brief glance when she entered, a flash of jade green that had instantly marked her soul for all times; but now she avoided her eyes, as if she didn´t want her to look at her misery. She swallowed against the thick lump in her throat that caught her breath.

If only she had a weapon...

Her eyes shifted to the men in the shadows. She needed a sword, a knife;

Anything that would allow her to bring Rahl down and get to the blonde.

Nicci had put her hand on her arm, gripping firmly, but Kahlan didn´t even notice. The sorceress tightened her grip, feeling Kahlan´s urge to move.

"Stay here!" she all but hissed. "We need to wait for the right moment. You MUST bring him down first, Kahlan. If you put passion before reason you´ll have no chance to save her!"

"I... can´t wait..."

"You must! He is still in control of my Han; you´ll be dead before you reach Cara!"

Kahlan stared at her, her eyes shimmering a clouded blue, her brows furrowed, hesitating. She gritted her teeth in attempt to stay focused; her lips pressed into a thin line; finally she surrendered, offering a faint nod, before her glance returned to her Mord Sith.

Just in this very moment, when their eyes met, a fleeting smirk played on Cara´s lips and she gave her a short blink from fiercely glowing eyes, before her features fell back into frustrated rage.

Kahlan felt her heart flip as she stared at the blonde incredulously. She couldn´t believe it.

The sudden realization that the blonde just pretended the beaten victim struck her unexpectedly. Her knees buckled briefly, in the back of her throat a lump fastened with knots, her stomach suddenly danced. She swallowed hard, before finally she moved to let her eyes sweep along the walls, searching for a hint that would approve her assumptions, but found nothing suspicious. The brunette huffed through gritted teeth against her nervous uncertainty as she tried to focus on Rahl´s and Dennee´s keen argument.

Dennee had turned back to Rahl, appraising his words; her face put on her Confessor mask, though her low voice held a slight tremble that was far from royal highness.

"I warn you. You are stripped from your powers Rahl; you cannot deny me my place on the first chair. You are here, in the lion´s den; my guards can take you down easily, your Mord Sith won´t stand against them. They are far outnumbered. And in the Keep, Wizard Connor has an attentive eye on your troop. He has some magical surprises for them in case they dare attack. And you know how...sensitive... D´Harans are reacting to every magic?" She leaned closer, her fierce stare burning into Rahl´s, pointedly spitting her words. "They will run. Like hares!

So, no worries! Aydindril is thoroughly prepared against your betrayal."

Confusion blossomed on her features when Rahl´s expressions turned into a grin that slowly increased until finally he laughed out loud.

Then suddenly, while his steely eyes held Dennee´s stare, he jerked his arm up and pointed to one of the wide windows to the south.

Abruptly Nicci writhed in sudden pain, her hands flying to the collar around her neck as a splendid blue flash erupted from Rahl´s hand and shot out over Aydindril´s roofs, dipping the city for some long moments into an eerie blue light, before his hand finally dropped and the flash ceased, leaving Nicci, who had fallen to her knees, gasping for air. Still holding Dennee´s eyes, which had widened and filled with trepidation, he pursed his lips and snarled pleasurably:

"You´re wrong, Dennee!

It´s ME who is prepared! ... In this very moment my men are entering your precious city. They will take Aydindril and hand it to me on a silver plate.

It´s your people who will run like hares when Wizard Connor will teach them a magical lesson as to who will be their new leader...

Oh, and you shouldn´t rely on your guards, Confessor. My men are just about to enter this hall and together with my Mord Sith they are extremely eager to kill all of you in case you decide to be foolish enough to compete with me..."

Some home guards behind him moved, not waiting for the Confessor´s order; he didn´t look at them but stretched his arm and swung it along and hot blue flashes pinned them to the spot, while their faces contorted in pain.

As did Niccis...

The air in the hall had fallen thick. Tension wrapping tightly around every one´s mind.


Zedd and Verna stood rooted to the spot as the blue shining dipped half Aydindril into its eerie light. Every movement inside the walls stopped, heads lifted to the sky to stare in shock and wonder.

Then, all at once, the storm broke out.

From between the trees and bushes masses of Rahl´s men stormed the walls, branding against the two main wooden gates with determined weightiness; only shortly they hesitated as they found them still closed, but when Zedd, with the twist of a hand, made the main gate swung wide open, their wave followed immediately to flood the opening. The first men already stumbled into the small heaps of corpses piled up there, and Zedd waited a long stretched moment until he raised his hands and, putting all his might into it, he sent the first massive flash of wizard´s fire straight into their lines.

A wall of flames built up among the trapped soldiers, setting two dozen of them and the corpses aflame. They screamed in pain and shock, and, running blindly, some bodies among them flickering like living torches, the ones that survived the first heat stumbled straight into the lines of the resistance. Swords and axes found their aims in a merciless battle as they hacked indiscriminately their way. Soon blood was coating the place.

Verna had her hands lifted, murmuring sounds in an ancient voice that seemed incoherent words, but they were taken by the breeze and swept to the ground outside the walls. In their wake the earth began to tremble and shudder, rippling the surface of the road and yanking at the grassland that seamed it. First stones were lifted into the air, and then small rocks joined their dance. Bushes, ripped from their roots, flew against the hundreds of men and horses that came still galloping from the trees.

The Sister of the Light seemed to shimmer in an orange glow as she stood on the walls, tensed to her limit, her hands sending earthquakes against the foe. The sight of her shining figure was ghastly enough to cause the first lines of Rahl´s men to rein their steeds, but soon the power of the ones behind them dragged them along. Flying rocks crashed into bodies, ripping bloody holes into their bulk; yet, it wasn´t enough to stall the assault.

Inside the walls the resistance, long accompanied by soldiers on massive horses, who had hurried to defend the walls when the blue lightning had erupted, had formed a wide barrier against the attack; Zedd was sending flash after flash of magical destruction, his face crunched with the effort, his breathing already coming ragged.

"They are too many. We need to close the gate!"

Verna struggled to get out of the haze her incantation had wrapped her in and nodded. She stepped close to Zedd and together they managed to push a massive blow of tightened air against their attackers, enough so, to cause a gap between their lines that allowed Zedd to swung the gates close, blocking the echelon.

For an instant the world seemed to stop as if everyone held their breath at the unexpected interruption of the battle. But within a heartbeat the air exploded again into howls and shouts, yelling and shouted orders.

Rahl´s men used the time to form up their lines before they would run against the walls. Archers gathered in their first rows, small heaps of dry branches were piled up and ignited.

Inside, Zedd watched the resistance gathering their casualties, dragging them out of the muddled combat zones, filled with corpses of men and women and horses. Too many were left, lying in pondering blood, empty eyes staring into the sky.

"We won´t be able to stop them. Much too soon our powers will be depleted, and then they´ll overrun us."

Verna looked down to the streets of Aydindril, watched the men and women clenching their hands around their weapons. Benjamin had seen to it that the armories of Aydindril had been opened by his men and many a swords and lances and bows had found their ways into the hands of innocent civilians. They seemed more then resolved to fight for their freedom.

But would all they could give be enough?

In the meanwhile more soldiers had arrived from the Palace. Their horses stamped their hooves in nervous impatience. Feeling the threat, smelling the scent of blood and fire, they knew that they were expecting an attack...

Zedd had stepped to her side. His eyes washing over the crowded streets, he wrapped an arm around the woman.

"Rahl has only a small troop of maybe a thousand men. Don´t worry Verna; Aydindril will stop them! Most of them might lack the experience, but they all own the brave hearts of heroes..."

In this moment they both heard it. A sound like a growl of an enormous beast, a flutter as if of thousand wings, a piercing shriek that echoed from the walls and made their ears burn.

Zedd turned slowly, his eyes widening as he looked up to the Keep; his features contorted into a mask of consternation.

"Bags! ...What... in the name of darkness is that?"

Verna´s eyes widened in shock as she blanched. She stared at the dark green glowing fog that erupted from the Keep, moving as if a living creature, continuously changing its shape as it grew into the sky, welling up from the roof in an endless stream. In its edges there were giant claws, the upper part appearing like a massive callow skull with an atrociously torn snout, baring eerily shimmering green fangs, streaks of green ragged fog wavering thickly around the spot that could have been its neck, resembling a lions mane and, shining in a lighter, lucid green, enormous wings seemed to sprout from its back.

Slowly the figure reclined, as if inhaling a deep breath, and then it pushed forward, covering half the hill of the Keep, and it roared...

The earsplitting sound washed over them like a thunder filled with torrid splints of fire and thousands of needles that bored deep into their skin.

On both sides of the walls people fell to their knees, pressing their hands to their ears and howling in pain. Some found blood running from their ears, a few suddenly jumped to their feet and started running their heads blindly against the walls. Horses reared up, screaming in pain and fear, their eyes wide in panic. Kicking hooves stumped on ground and bodies as they tried to flee. Within a second chaos ruled the site.

When the beast´s voice ebbed, they saw some rags loosening from its foggy shape, rolling and swaying down the hill, transforming into eerie figures, half birds, half dragons, talons splayed from terrifying wings, giving shrill shrieks that seemed to settle right into their mind and rip at their consciousness.

Verna suddenly moved, grabbing Zedd´s arm and tugging him with her as she started to run.

"Verna, what..."

"He´s awakened Rhagdar-Rhass! The Evil! ... The Soul-Demon..." She ran as fast as she could, heading towards the Keep.

Stunned Zedd stalled his steps for a second but stumbled as she jerked fiercely at his sleeves and hastily he rushed to run at her side, frowning as he watched more frazzles of green fog loosening from the creature and rolling down the hill, changing their forms while approaching, transforming into eerie weird beasts with wings that seemed to singe the air with their flutter, flying towards the walls while stretching sharp claws to rip men apart... He heard screaming erupting from the battle field...


"It´s the creation of death. The dark wizards developed it to erase all of the living in case they would lose the war. But soon they lost control over the beast and so they banned it into the Deep Nothing that lies behind the Old World. It should be buried there for all times!" She had almost lost her winds as Zedd jerked her to a halt.

"You mean… THIS is the Demon of Souls? I´ve heard of it. It´s frightening every living creature to death, setting horrifying images and voices into their mind, ripping them apart from inside out. They rather kill themselves to escape... But... Verna! It cannot be true that he brought it to the Midlands! It would have destroyed everything in its wake! How is it possible..."

Verna looked at him. She would have smiled at his horrified expression. If she were not that horrified herself.

"You don´t understand, Zedd. He hasn´t brought it on his way through the Midlands. He must have brought pieces of the magical barrier to the Deep Nothing and he found a way to connect them with their origins, so that he could break through and thus opened a channel for Rhagdar-Rhass. There is only one way that this can happen: he must settle himself into the barrier, allowing the beast to use his body. He is the channel! And thus, he is Rhagdar-Rhass!

Zedd, we need to get to him and kill him, before he kills us all!"

"He will detect us before we get close enough!"

"That doesn´t matter. While he is bound in the barrier, he has to focus on the beast to not lose control..."

She watched him nodding his understanding.

"Well then, let´s not waste time with running my old legs to stumps." Zedd tried a lopsided grin as he lay his arm around her; and with a twist of his free hand he lifted them both and made them levitate just a few inches, turning towards the Keep. Gaining speed, they soon vanished into the night...


Dennee´s gaze flickered to Kahlan, frowning, narrowing her eyes on her as if trying to assess what her sister would do in her place. Briefly Kahlan felt her helplessness washing against her; The feeling so familiar; reminding her of earlier times, lifetimes ago, when Dennee used to hide anxiously behind her, hoping Mistress Sanderholst´s first rush of anger over another silly childish escapade rained down on her mostly; and she could feel her heart soften ever so slightly; almost wanting to reach out and wrap Dennee into her arms, to protect her like she always had...

Though, instead she watched as her sister´s gaze shifted to Cara and hardened. Grey eyes burning in an icy hatred as they met her own glance again; and the moment her lips parted Kahlan knew she was going to sell her out...

"Well, if you´re so well prepared, Lord Rahl... You certainly long noticed that my beloved sister, your wanna-be bride, and your sorceress muck around with you?"

The words she drawled tripping with scorn, she shifted her eyes to Rahl and relished as he frowned deeply, obviously not knowing what she spoke of.

"Or haven´t you realized until now, that Kahlan is as much herself as she´s ever been? Can it really be that they tricked you?" Her features lightened as her smirk grew, shooting her next words like pointedly set arrows into his smugness.

"Now look there! Who would have expected this?! Lord Rahl, the proud and omniscient, all-powerful leader of the mighty realm of D´Hara! Made look like a fool! By two women he so thoroughly has under control. Tricked by his pet-sorceress and her biggest enemy conspiring together...

No doubt they´re planning your downfall, Rahl!

Who knows what else happens without your knowledge...

Tell me, if it is so easy to trick you, how do you want to be sure that Connor isn´t just another traitor in your own rows?"

Rahl´s eyes had narrowed into small slits as he now turned ever so slowly, looking between Nicci and Kahlan, already feeling hot fury surging inside of him as he watched the sorceress straightening in unconscious defiance; and then, suddenly, with a forceful drive, he backhanded her, laying all his strength into the blow.

The impact lifted Nicci a few inches; she flew as if hit by one of Zedd´s air-tightening blows, before her body crashed to the floor; a faint crack could be heard as ribs broke.

Instinctively Kahlan made a step towards her to defend her, as she had grown used to during the past weeks; but Rahl had already his fingers digging painfully into her arm, grabbing her, pulling her close with murderous violence. Kahlan tried to flinch as his breath brushed against her cheeks, but his livid eyes, burning in a feverish rage, took her hostage; she found strong blue shining in there - borrowed power of Nicci´s Han – that seemed to erase every thought of defense, while his free hand hauled out, preparing to deal a blow that would certainly not only break her jaw. She saw it coming, but felt unable to move the slightest bit. For the length of a heartbeat Kahlan had the strange feeling as if time slowed down. She could hear the thundering of her own heart like a muffled war drum, felt herself blinking and the weight of her lashes rest heavily on her cheeks, and somewhere, deep inside her she could feel the dull roaring of her power, struggling to come alive, to warp against its prison, to break through the bonds of that collar and raise a storm...

From the corner of her eyes Kahlan saw Cara turning, saw her eyes widening as she realized Rahl´s intentions, saw her lips forming a "No!" and felt her own eyes brimming with tears.

- "Forgive me, love..."

In the next moment a hundred things seemed to happen at once...

The door yanked open and nearly thirty men pushed inside; Rahl´s men in the stable tracts had only waited for his sign to enter the Palace and, leaving a trail of blood in their wake, they now hasted to their Master´s side, swords already smudged with blood from their rush through the Palace.


Cara yelled and spun around and kicked the Mord Sith holding the rope into the stomach. As if by magic a dagger blinked in Jona´s hands. She swiftly cut through the ropes around the blonde´s hands that were held up, while from the shadows behind Berdine and Raina came flying to Cara´s side, each one dropping an agiel into the blonde´s hands and instantly building up with their own agiels; ready to attack the line of Rahl´s protectors.

They faced a densely wall of red leather and whining agiels, barely acknowledging a whirl of white behind Rahl´s Mord Sith as Kahlan finally squirmed under his grip and tried to fight his brutal force.

Cara heard Dennee shout out to Richard: "Get them!" and saw him rushing to where Rahl and Kahlan were raveled in a deadly embrace. While Dennee, flanked by six of her confessed, made her way to come for her.

"Jona, go get to her! Protect the Mother Confessor!" And while Jona rushed to strike her way with both her agiels Cara prepared to meet her deadly enemy...

The home guards, already throwing themselves into the fight, seemed to divide their lines; half of them rushing to Dennee, grimly striking against women in red leather and soldiers in D´Haran armors, immediately engulfed in forceful strikes and blows, blindly decided to defend their Mistress; while the rest of them headed straightly to the midst of the battle, aiming for Rahl and entirely resolved to free the Mother Confessor. The sounds of battle soon filled the air.

Kahlan was still barely able to block Rahl´s blows, her mind struggling against the thick curtain his borrowed power weaved around it. She saw Rahl´s teeth blinking as he snarled; she heard the sounds of battle, singing steel and whining agiels mingling with screams into a melody so very familiar; coming as if from afar; as if trying to rock her to sleep; she desperately called on her power to get her mind clear, to swipe the magic away, to get out of the numbness.

Rahl seemed oblivious to the heated battle around them. He felt confident for his men and Mord Sith to bring it to a swift end without the aid of himself and the sorceress´ Han. He focused on that face in front of him he hated so much, shooting sparks of magic into the brilliant pools of her eyes, fascinated as they burst into tiny silvery stars when they crashed into their blue, dragging his power back and slamming it forward again, feeling her numbness growing as her defense slowed. A sneer settled on his face. He didn´t care anymore if she survived eventually to be his bride; for now, all he wanted was to teach her a lesson of mastery and power she would never forget. He didn´t see Nicci crawling close, didn´t acknowledge her glare as she tried to get to her feet, didn´t even hear her heavy panting as she forced her hurting body to get upright.

Though the moment he decided to dump a blue flash into her and finally break her, Kahlan screamed. The sound swelling into a short, keen crescendo of pain.

Confused he stared at her. Knowing that it wasn´t his own power that made her bent over, feeling an odd pain erupting from his wrist, he shifted his gaze behind her, only to realize Nicci´s stretched arm; he heard the clangor of bursting steel and watched appalled the collar around Kahlan´s neck shattering into pieces; hot flashes of blue shimmering Han now meeting Kahlan´s bare skin, burning a searing mark into her nape.

Her scream ebbed as Nicci´s arm dropped and the Confessor´s own power roared to freedom, washing fiercely though her blood, filling her limbs with new strength and took the lead of her mind. The might of the sensation caught her breath and her eyes, just clouded and close to breaking, now radiated an unearthly blue that threw dark midnight sparks to him as she met his glare.

His hand was still tightly gripping her arm as she straightened to face him.

Out of the turmoil behind them suddenly Jona appeared at their side. Blood staining her face like gruesome paintings she held her two agiels in one hand, stretching the other one, holding a dagger towards Kahlan, but before she could put it into the Mother Confessors hand she saw Richard breaking through the fighting men, the Sword of Truth glowing a deep orange as he lifted it high into the air to strike with all his might, his eyes beaming in a barbarous passion as he prepared to do as his Mistress had ordered.

"Kahlan!" Her scream mingled with Nicci´s who watched wide-eyed how the sword briefly stopped at the highest point as if considering the reason to strike, but then lowered in a deadly blast.

From the corner of her eyes Kahlan noticed the orange glow dashing down, if heading for her of Rahl she didn´t know but instinctively she warped aside, against the resistance of Rahl´s arm that clung to her, until she was suddenly free and a sharp pain hit her side.

She fell and rolled over her shoulder to come back to her feet in a swift motion, feeling a hurting fire in her side. Confused her gaze went down, searching for the source of it, and found blood all over; for a moment she felt her heart freeze, gasping appalled at the sight.

Rahl´s fingers were still digging into her, his arm clenched in a cramp. But what was clinging to her was just the tyrant´s forearm. Where formerly the elbow would bind it to its upper part was now a bloody mass. Kahlan looked back to him and found him standing behind her, staring at the dripping stump where the sword had cut his arm off, a bloodcurdling moan erupting from his throat, while his eyes slowly shifted to meet her in stunned horror.

Kahlan eyed him coldly, slowly plucking his hand off of her and turned, ignoring Richard who was already squirming at the whining end of Jona´s agiel and searched for Nicci. She found the sorceress crouching close, still panting from the massive blow she had gained before. Though, acknowledging Kahlan´s trophy in her hand, her glance filled with dark appreciation. The brunette twitched her brow, her eyes whirling with black, and, tossing the blood-dripping piece of flesh and bones to her feet, she growled: "He´s yours!"

Not waiting for Nicci´s reaction she bent, wincing as a flash shot up her chest from where the blade had met her own flesh after cutting through Rahl´s limp. Though, with her power whirling free in her veins she succeeded to ignore it.

This was not the place to feel pain. Not the time to feel it.

Cara was somewhere in the turmoil, and Dennee!

She felt almost as if she could hear her Mord Sith calling for her. She grabbed the sword Richard had dropped as Jona came upon him and didn´t lose any more time…

Behind her, Nicci had picked up the forearm, stroking gently, with almost loving tenderness over the small blood-smeared bracelet that was forged around the wrist and sneered, slowly shifting her gaze to Rahl, who stood as if paralyzed, staring terrified at his hand that clutched to the stump, watching his life´s liquid sputtering from frayed veins. When he finally noticed the sorceress´ glare he shook his head with frightened wide eyes.

"No!" he breathed, stepping back; which gained him a mocking laughter.

"No worries, Rahl" she drawled. "I´ll burn… the wound…" Nicci glared at him and waved her hand and this time it wasn´t a flash, but a wall of blue shimmering light that shot towards him. "As I will… burn… your guts…

and the rest of you…"

Her features grew calm and peaceful as she watched how in a cloud of blue flames Rahl, the tyrant, finally ceased to exist, his flesh turning into ashes until the hungry flames sighed satisfied a final hiss and then died slowly…


Finally, after what had felt like hours, and quite a bit worn out, Zedd and Verna sneaked into the room that held the upper part of the main tower. Their way had gained them a few new scars as they had passed barriers, some of them meant as warnings, others to be deadly traps for anyone who dared pushing forward into the Keep. Most of them were old friends to the wizard, who had put them in place himself, but others were new and even more powerful; harshly defending the Keep´s heart.

Connor had done a damned good job; his barriers had been unforeseeable and malicious. Twice they had ripped Verna from his side seemingly setting her aflame; only Zedd´s quick reaction had saved her and it was sheer luck and the aid of his strong grip that she hadn´t stumbled into her death when a false barrier had opened through the wall of the tower, leading her straightly to fall into the dark depth. She bled from a deep gash in her thigh, drops of blood trailing her steps.

Zedd wasn´t much better off. Though his wizard´s magic had allowed him to finally lead them up to this chamber. Instinctively he had known where Connor was to be found...

The spell he had put out to prevent their ears from the beast´s roaring voice had been of great support. But it did little to prevent their eyes now from the horrifying picture that welcomed them in the tower´s heights:

Two layers of a green and turquoise shimmering barrier erupted in the middle of the empty room; their edges didn´t touch the room´s walls nor its floor or ceiling. They hovered weightlessly, small streaks of lightning weaving a constantly moving web on their surface, not unlikely of what Zedd remembered from the boundary he once had raised to separate Westland from the magic and the danger that was Darken Rahl. Horrid dark shadows wafted inside the light; they could see skulls looking at them from empty eyeholes under black, smoky hoods, edges of their black gowns made of fume trying to sneak through the green and reach for them.

But the most horrifying detail in this picture was Wizard Connor.

The wizard from the old world had disrobed from his disguise. No longer did they see a young apprentice with handsome features and a strong body.

The creature that hang freely between the layers of the barrier was a little, scrawny man. Tuckered skin hang from his limps, his chest vaulted inward, long thin strands of yellow-white hair loosely covered his skull; arms and legs stretched to near tearing him apart, hands and feet barely protruding through both parts of the boundaries walls; his mouth was torn open, his horrified stare came from eyeballs that threatened to quill out of their holes. He squirmed as if hanging in chains and suffering unspeakable torment.

Though the worst of all were the streaks of thin green fog, emanating from his every orifice, mingled with deep red blood that leaked to the ground in thin rivulets while the fog crawled to their side of the glowing green walls, slowly swirling up into a cloud that permeated through the walls and windows of the room, through the roof and up to build that eerie creature that was sending more and more frazzles from its cloudy shape, like a swarm of nightmares, rolling and storming and flying down the hill, while their shrieks never seemed to cease.

Verna gasped at the sight. Zedd felt her trembling as her hand settled on his arm. He looked appalled as his eyes met hers.

"Are you sure his death ends it?"

"It will. The beast is still imprisoned in the Deep Nothing. It would take many more hours to let its whole power come through this small channel. The moment the channel is closed, the part that´s already here will lose contact to the magic and cease.

The question is how will we close the channel? My Han can´t get through...

Zedd, can you send some sort of a killing spell through the barrier?"

"I´m afraid not; these walls are made of ancient magic. There´s no spell known that would be able to get through and still unroll its power..."

"Destroy it?"

"Within this short time? Far beyond our abilities."

"Then how could we..."

"I… will have to make contact..."

"No, Zedd! As soon as you try to get near his body, the beast will turn against you and tear you apart. It smells you. You are a wizard of the first order, one of the kind that banned it. You are it´s enemy! I can already sense how it´s searching for the source of this..."

"But we have to get through to him to kill him."

Stubbornly Zedd made some bold steps forward, until a sudden wall of green fog swept against him, streaks lashing out to claw at his figure as if with razor-sharp blades; he could feel how flesh was ripped from his shoulder, screamed as searing white pain shot through his chest. He barely escaped as Verna got a grip of his cloak and tugged him back to the doors; watching anxiously as the fog halted, as if considering consciously to follow them, and then retreated and welled up to the roof.

Cautiously she dragged his bony figure through the door and slammed it shut.

The old wizard was panting heavily; sweat covered his face. Verna looked his wound over, than met his eyes in concern.

"Will you listen to me next time?""Will you listen to me next time?"

"Good girl! What am I supposed to do? Sit down and twirl my thumbs while this beast destroys all we were fighting for?"

He coughed.

Verna stepped to the near balcony and looked out, sighing in frustration as she watched more and more of these unearthly dragon-birds heading for Aydindril. Their shrieks becoming a constant braying whistle...Shivers ran down her spine as she imagined the tortures the beast would cause about the city walls, merely hoping it would hit Rahl´s troop first.

"We´re doomed Zedd. There is no chance we can stop it." She whispered under her breath. Resignation and sorrow already wrapping their arms around her. Guilt. For having failed. Its bitter taste burning in the back of her throat.

"There MUST be a way!" Zedd had clumsily approached;

Verna smiled at him sadly.

"You´re not one to give up too easily, are you?" He flashed a crooked grin and she couldn´t help but snort and nod resigned.

"Well then, if there is a way to stop this, you better come up with it soon. Because it´s growing stronger and stronger with each of this damned fool´s heartbeats."

Zedd stared at the fog welling up from the roofs like thick smoke from a fireplace. His thin lips pursed as his mind tried to get a grip on the fluttering thought that danced through a corner of his brain. Finally he blinked twice and he looked at Verna with a mischievous glint in his pale eyes.

"I think I have an idea…"

"That is."



"Yes. Fire! I do not know for sure if it works; but it´s the only thing I can imagine it might work.

See, we are not able to destroy the barrier, nor get through it. But maybe we can just…conflate them."


"And thus Connor will no longer hang in the in between, but his body will either fall into the Deep Nothing or get out on our side. If we get a grip on him here, we may destroy him. If he will fall out of the barrier on the other side. He may well rot in the Deep Nothing… And the beast with him."

Verna had lifted a suspicious brow.

"That sounds a very foolish idea, wizard."

"Have a better ass in your sleeve, nun?" He snapped.

Her eyes narrowed in slight annoyance.

"I´m not a nun. I am a Sister of the Light. And you are lucky so, because without my Han your wizard fire would be hopelessly wasted on this old magic…"

He grinned at her chastising glare.

"So be it than. I need to gather some supplies in my chambers. Try to secure this room as best as you can. The beast must not escape through a hole in the walls or a crevice in the floor… But do not come too close. I do not want to lose you!"

Verna nodded, touching his forearm with her gentle hand, searching his eyes.

"Be careful, Zedd. And please,… hurry!"

And hurry he did. He couldn´t recall a time when his legs had carried him as fast as they did now, seemingly light and strong as he jumped down the stairs, passing magical barriers on his way with almost ignorance, feeling a mixture of knowledge and boldness securing him.

Soon he opened the unobtrusive door to a small room and stepped into the faintly lit chamber filled with shelves, containing the oddest materials in boxes and mugs and baskets. Both, their amount and their weight causing some of the rags to bend under their load.

Zedd´s eyes travelled hastily along their lines, searching, while his mind tried to focus on that little box made of yellow bone he had come for.

He stood frozen, his chin lifted and his eyes shut as if trying to prove the winds, focusing on the one thought; and finally a small smile tickled at the corner of his lips as he suddenly blinked and made a few steps between two racks, reaching out and grabbing the small box from where it had lain hidden beneath a few books. He opened it carefully and picked out the small egg-like stone which shone an almost black sparkling green.

Stroking it tenderly he threw the box away and, clenching his fist tightly around the item, he hurried back.

He found Verna standing in the room, leaning tensely against the wall, while the prickling of magic told him that she had done as he had told her. He could sense the dense cell of tightened air that encircled the room, brimming with the magic of her Han, leaving enough space to not gather attraction by the fog which was still welling from Connor´s tortured body.

It would certainly not stand long enough to hinder the massive cloud of the beast if it decided to attack with its full force. But as long as there were only small streaks of fog that brushed against it, he was quite sure it would do.

Verna looked at him expectantly. He grinned, lifting his fist and showing her his little trophy.

"This is a boundary stone. It is a leftover from ancient times; the last one if I am right. All boundaries and barriers have been put up with their aid. It serves as a multiplier of the forces the wizards used to build them. That´s why it is nearly impossible to destroy them, because the power that created them had been far beyond every magic the world has ever known. I used one to separate the Westlands…

I thought, if it creates them maybe it´s able to change them, too…"

"So, we do not know how it will change it…"

Zedd shrugged.

"Well, we will know soon…

We just need to bring it exactly under the gap between the layers and concentrate our magic on it."

He looked at her, laying his hand on her shoulder and squeezing gently.

"Whatever may come out of this. It´s been a pleasure to have you at my side, Sister Verna."

Her eyes flickered a grey blue as she touched his hand reassuringly; then he turned and bent down, carefully taking aim and then he threw the stone and held his breath as it slithered easily close to the barrier, almost stopping a few inches too shortly, but a small push from Verna´s Han placed it exactly to the spot.

Inhaling deeply he straightened, shooting Verna a fierce glance and then they both lifted their hands…

The air seemed to tremble as they gathered their powers to let them explode into a heated ball that shot towards the green shimmering wall. Verna saw the wide eyes of Connor widen even more as the ball burst on the barrier. First it seemed as if the green constricted, as if the fire that erupted from the ball was deflected and burnt into the air against the walls. The eerie smoke came to a sudden halt in its flow as if confused for a moment, before it gathered on their side, building up into a cloud that started to whirl, sending a low humming that increased.

Verna felt its force washing against their combined energy, her hands already cramped as she tried to withstand the beast.

"You must not concede Verna! Hold on! Try to aim for the stone!"

Zedd´s voice roared against the growing humming noise as his hands started shaking.

As they shifted their shaking hands and the magic hit the small stone with all its force, a sudden glistening light erupted from under the barrier, blinding them both. A scream, filled with horror, reverberated from the spot they knew the wizard hang between the slayers, and suddenly the entire tower seemed to moan as sparks threw out of the walls.

"More, Verna!" Zedd shout out; the heat grew into a murderous fire that burnt dangerously close to them; the stone glowed a deep red and angry sparks bit into their hands and faces, burning their flesh.


"I can´t control it!"

"We must get out of here!"

He held one more heartbeat, then yelled: "Now!"

And they both ran.

Out of the door and to the balcony, looking up and seeing the beast whirling and spinning while it roared in rage. Behind them, through the open door, flames shot out; as did from the roofs.

Zedd grabbed Verna´s sleeve and pointed down the walls.

She shook her head; frightened as she saw water glistening in what seemed like a league beneath them. Her arm tried to rip from Zedd´s fingers, but the old wizard held her in vice-like grip.

Pushing her forward and once again looking deep into her eyes.

"Trust me."

And then they jumped. In the very moment when the tower exploded and left nothing but fire and heat and Connor´s black burning limps…


Cara threw a brief glance to the fight where home guards met D´Harans in fierce swordplays, the sounds of steel to steel, screams of rage and pain and frustration mingling with the high pitched whining of agiels. She saw Benjamin wielding his weapon against two brawny soldiers, his normally calm brown eyes brimming with the heat of fierce rage she had never expected to find there. She knew the reasons for it; knew them nagging at his mind, urging him to go on. She knew, that his disgust for Dennee´s furtiveness, the wrath he felt for her betrayal that had let to so much suffering and eventually this fighting, as much as his deep felt troth to the Mother Confessor and his concern for her safety would spurn him on. She could trust him. Clearly he and his men were heading towards the woman in white Rahl held in his fierce grip.

Cara felt her heart racing, knowing she couldn´t fly to her side herself. Dennee was too near. The Confessor wouldn´t hesitate to go for her own sister if only she could hurt Cara by doing so. Thus Cara would have to stay and fight her, in order to hold her back from Kahlan. Berdine and Raina were at her side, swinging their agiels against any red leathered figure that dared come close enough from behind; Rahl´s Mord Sith who had turned towards them attacked in a cruel, decided wave, but Berdine and Raina didn´t wither; striking and dealing blows forcefully, they kept standing their place; deadly warriors on their field of honor, where mercy had no place. Though, instead of fighting their way towards Kahlan, as she had instructed them before, they stayed close to Cara, as if intending to defend her.

Her brows furrowed the blonde growled annoyed and hissed between two strikes.

"Go! Now! Protect Kahlan!"

Berdine hit a Mord Sith and let her agiel dance violently across her temple.

"Benjamin and his men will. We stay!"

"That´s an order!"

"Forget it!"

"Disobeying is not acceptable, Berdine!" Her growl grew threatening, while her agiel bit murderously into a muscled chest of an invasive soldier. Her friend kept unimpressed, snapping defiantly, while she pressed the tip of her weapon onto her opponent's chest.

"You may punish us afterwards. For now, just deal with it."

All while Dennee approached, slowly, but inevitably. The men encircling her gave their all to prevent her from any harm, swords pierced chests of friends and foes; confessed as they were, they didn´t discern between D´Harans, Mord Sith and Midlanders. Their only aim was to protect Dennee as she strode straightly towards the blonde Mord Sith, casually lifting her hand to confess a man in red armor who had managed to break through her shield of abulic protectors.

The long stretched moment of weakness that followed inevitably was thoroughly compensated by the men around her. It did only little to slow her down, now, that her prize, her revenge was so close…

Cara felt close to exasperation, the kind she had never felt before, in an intensity that made her chest constrict; unable to reach the Mother Confessor, unsure of how Kahlan´s situation was, she stroke against another Mord Sith, her frustration leading to double hard blows. Her opponent dodged the strike and landed a swift hit to her shoulder, pressing her weapon hard against her. The blonde gritted her teeth, her blood boiled in rage; the triumphant grin on the woman´s face ceased quickly as Cara jerked her leg upward and grabbed around her neck to push her face fiercely against her knee. Hearing her jaw break compelled a cruel grin on the blonde´s face.

With even more energy Cara went on, dealt blow after blow, kicked and dodged, whirled and blocked. The red of her leather eagerly swallowed blood, while her deadly dance never lessened. Corpses gathered around her and her sisters.

Until finally she felt trapped between Rahl´s Mord Sith and Dennee´s body guards. Suddenly she was glad to have her sisters at her side, backing her as she turned to face the confessor´s attack.

She found herself confronted with five attackers at once. Two of the men had given their lives on the way, but the bearish force of a confessed D´Haran filled the gap easily. His strike came with brutal force, no longer ruled by reasons or tactics, but blindly heading for her.

Cara saw the blow coming and tensed. Her agiels crossed, she jerked her hands upwards to block it. But what she didn´t expect was the fact that the soldier had no intention to kill her. Instead he turned the blade in the last moment and wiped forcefully with its flat side. The impact, as he dashed her wrists hard, flung her around, both her agiels ripped out of her grip. She gasped and, jumping forward, her outstretched hand tried to catch at least one of her weapons, and clenching it tightly she rolled up and came to her feet in one swift, pliant move.

Jade green eyes shot fire as she spun around to bring the man down… - and stopped in her motion as a strong hand wrapped around her throat.

The Confessor had stepped into her move and used Cara´s drive in her favor. The blonde literally swung into her grip, Dennee just had to clench her fingers and elongate the drive to force her to the ground, two of her body guards jumping immediately to drag her arms back and step on her calves to hold her down. Her eyes, which had just spoken murder, widened in shock, but suddenly calmed as they fixed on the Confessor hovering over her.

Dennee stared her down. She relished in the moment, enjoyed the sight of Cara´s heated face. Almost curiously she watched as a pearl of sweat made its way down the blonde´s forehead, drawing a line along her temple and down her cheek, finally dropping to her chest. A faint smile settled on her lips. She felt no haste.

Time was hers.

The blonde was hers.

This was the moment she had dreamed of for so long. Thrilled shivers ran down her spine as she felt Cara´s pulse hammering against her palm, felt how the Mord Sith squirmed slightly under her touch, a brief attempt to escape her grip, to deny her fate. Though there was no chance to do so. And Dennee knew that Cara felt it, that the blonde knew…

Dennee relished in all of that. She took it in and savored it as her eyes searched the jade green orbs in her victim´s face; waiting for the panic to rise in her gaze, waiting for her final revenge.

The world around them had ceased. In this heartbeat, time didn´t matter. Nothing mattered any more. They were one in the times being. Dennee´s visions reduced to this face, to these eyes…Dark green sparks flashed through her grey gaze as a tender smile settled on her lips.

And Cara stared back. Though there was no fear, no panic.

There was simply accepting.

In this split of a second the Mistress Cara, the Mord Sith, retreated willingly; she stepped back into a corner in her mind and allowed the woman, Cara Mason, the one who had been deprived all of her life, to finally rule her last second.

Feelings washing through her in an overwhelming wave, flooding her mind with bright, forceful calmness, easing her like nothing had eased her ever before, and weighing her down all the same. Some of them like gentle, warm breezes; stroking her heart; some like heated fire; burning her soul.

Feelings of sorrow; that she had failed; that she would not be able to safe the one she had learned to love, the one who owned her heart, her soul; that all of it would be destroyed and she would never be able to tell her how deep her feelings truly were..

Feelings of regret; for she had wasted so much time; for she had listened to the wrong voices, had allowed them to lead her; for she had followed the wrong paths for too long, ignoring the shyly shimmering bliss that had lain on the wayside; had waited for her while she had walked in arrogant boots of pride and honor on her silly path; if she had only been strong enough to pick it up and claim it her own when time had been hers to do so…

She even felt a pang of almost relieved exhaustion. No longer able to bear all the fighting, the struggles…

But above all, like a soft, comforting blanket, there was a feeling of warmth in her heart and never before known gratefulness, lifting the shadows around her and wrapping her into its .

For the time she had been granted, if ever so short;

For been allowed the experience, the preciousness of love and being loved;

For the memories of shared moments that now flooded her mind; that somehow seemed to be able to stretch this very heartbeat into a tender lifetime…

An almost peaceful smile settled on her lips as she shut her eyes close.

- Thank you, Kahlan…For allowing me to love you… for the love you gave me…

And then she stopped feeling at all as the power of confession slammed into her…


Kahlan had fought her way blindly. She didn´t care on which side the people stood, that the Sword of Truth fell. No one would hold her up. No one! All she had in mind was to get through the fighting, to not lose time to get to Cara.

A D´Haran stepped in her way, his sword pointing straightly to her chest as he suddenly blocked her path. She faintly heard someone yelling: "Nooo!" - but didn´t acknowledge her own voice. The sword already lifted, screaming in rage, she whirled into a spin and beheaded him; the power of the sword cutting through his neck as if cutting through thin air; blood sprayed onto her, smearing her face and her dress; she didn´t even notice. Much less did she notice the tears quilling from her dark blue eyes, until they took her sight. Sobbing in despair she wiped them away, only briefly faltering to search for the spot where she had gathered a glimpse of the blonde Mord Sith just a second ago.

What she saw made her blood freeze in the same moment, taking her every breath:

Berdine and Raina were fighting side by side against the last standing Mord Sith. Raina bled from a heavy gash in her shoulder, but she seemed to own an inhuman strength as she just saved Berdine from a sword-blow, lashing from behind. The sword owner was killed with decided heat.

Next to the two there were three home guards standing, weapons to the ready, but not joining the battle. They just stood like a living wall, vigilantly shielding their mistress behind them.

Kahlan saw Dennee´s white dress shimmering. And she saw a flash of blond hair. Her Mord Sith, kneeling in front of her sister.

The instant her mind realized with bare brutality that her sister´s hand had wrapped around Cara´s throat, that there was no chance she would reach her in time, ... that she came too late…

Somewhere deep inside her, something cracked. It constricted. And then it shattered into pieces…

And a power, so strong that it burst through her veins in a rush that made her body sway like leave-covered treetops in a storm, roared to life. Her body shook in heavy convulsions, her eyes blinked once, twice; and a bloodcurdling scream erupted from deep inside her chest.

The fighting around her came to a halt. Heads turned around, eyes filled with shock and terror as they watched the Mother Confessor straightening, her eyes opened into dark black pools, edged by blood-red shadows; her face a blood-smeared mask; her stare washing briefly against them all.

Before her power could sweep against them, Raina threw herself onto Berdine, they both crashing to the floor and quickly rolling aside. Benjamin and his men jumped out of her way, immediately acknowledging the deadly wrath of the Con Dar they had been told of in old-wives´ tales in their youth; their eyes were wide and filled with fear as they ducked; most of them were just blown aside as if by an icy wind; they rolled to the far end of the hall as if they didn´t have any weight at all.

The last D´Haran soldiers, who hadn´t yet noticed that their master had gone, were too frightened to react. Their feet felt like they were nailed to the ground, their eyes glued to that eerie ghost of destruction that came rushing their way. Staring wide eyed and mesmerized, they had no chance to avoid their fate, their eyes went black and they crumbled to the ground, squirming and begging for her orders.

"Die!" she hissed coldly, her voice a growling thunder; not waiting to see them obey, running through their line, knowing only one aim.

Dennee had released her power in the blink of a second, staring into the black emptiness of Cara´s eyes, feeling her power washing though her enemy, appreciating the mighty sensation of her triumph, which seemed to fill her entire body with pure energy…

When suddenly a cruel grip around her own throat violently dragged her away from her victim; she turned with a howl; enraged to be disturbed in her revenge, her hand jerked up to wrap around the intruder´s throat; she barely recognized her own sister clenching her fingers tightly, pressing as if wanting to choke her. She was slammed into the nearest pillar, her sister´s eyes, eerie black diamonds in a mask of vengeance, pierced her own, which were flashing dark green sparks.

Each held the other´s throat in a fierce grip; both their eyes were black as their powers were released into the other.

The air around them crackled and rolling thunders rippled the floor in endless waves, though no sound was heard except for their heavy panting. Where just a moment ago there had been heated fighting, the hall had fallen into a frozen silence. Everyone held their breath, watching appalled how the two Confessors collided.

Their spirits blazed down on each other in a place far beyond the real world, where time and space didn´t exist. Kahlan´s wrath seemed to glow in a fierce light, wrapping around the dark clouded hate that was her little sister. Dark green layers of burning aggression surging from Dennee´s power. Caught and choked by the Mother Confessor´s remorseless determination. Their fight was murderous, the impact tremendous. Neither of them willing to forgive, they surged against each other in violent heat, struggled to the end of their strength;

Dennee was the weaker one, had always been; though while her body soon trembled and was close to collapse, something held her upright, something so strong that it seemed to come from an unknown might, a destroying force of odium that was not her own.

Its magnitude burnt through Kahlan´s veins, setting her soul aflame.

Helplessly her allies watched as Kahlan writhed and squirmed, howling in pain and rage; her eyes widened, their black depths, edged in heated crimson, seemed to almost swallow the light as she repelled. Panting and growling she seemed close to lose the fight, but she didn´t wither; until she finally seemed to retreat, gathering the lasting streaks of her power for one more blow, then slammed it with her full force into the cloud of green wavering power. Pushing grimly, her spirit watched as the fog started whirling, then reared against her merciless grip and then finally ceased…

And Kahlan broke down.

Slowly her eyes cleared. Gasping for breath, trembling, with her hand still clenched around her sister´s throat, she followed the unconscious body to the ground. There was a cold hand twisting her heart as she could feel her sister shaking; saw her bleeding from the corner of her eyes and from her ears. Instantly she knew the damages were too serious to ever be healed.

Kahlan panted heavily, tears were streaming down her pale cheeks in steady dolorous rivulets as she held her sister´s body, cradling her, weeping and sobbing…

"Nooo…Dennee… no! …What have I done?… little sister… forgive me…what have I done…" Her voice cracked as Dennee´s eyes fluttered open, cleared into their familiar grey, for once devoid of any madness; but filled with pain and torture that contorted her face and made her body cramp heavily; and Kahlan felt her own love choking her as a faint smile tried to settle on her sister´s exhausted features.


"Hush, sweetie, hush… you need to rest, little sister." She tried to smile back at her, but her lips didn´t want to obey as usual. Her gaze shifted to the Mord Sith who lay a few steps aside, her slender body writhing in pain, convulsions ripping through her limbs.

It tore Kahlan apart. "Cara…" her sobbing almost swallowed the name. Dennee opened her eyes, panting and coughing a little, as she tried to turn her head. Her hand clenched around Kahlan´s wrist.

"I´m sorry Kahlan… I´m sorry…" she coughed blood, drawing a thin line from the corner of her lips.

"Shh…it wasn´t you, Dennee. I know that…"

"Rahl… the Keeper… they… planted the seed… I… too weak…"

"Sshh…" Despair in her eyes, Kahlan looked around, searching for a helping hand, for some strength, anything that would be able to turn back time. Raina stood with her shoulders sagged; Benjamin watched from a little distance, not daring to come closer, Berdine had rushed to Cara. All their faces held the stunned expression of helpless despair…

Kahlan cried. Her gaze met Nicci´s, who just limped near, blue eyes pleading frantically.

"Please… I need help!" The sorceress held her gaze, her lips a thin line as she regretfully shook her head.


Kahlan felt the tiny, tortured voice cutting deep into her heart. Cara had managed to push herself up, her hand stretched to reach for her mistress.

"No, Cara… no…" she whispered under her breath. Her blood run cold, her insides twisted. Every fiber of her being wanted to reach out, to hold her love, and soothe her. Yet, she couldn´t let go of her sister neither… Both were dying.

Alone her heart had long decided to fly out to the Mord Sith, while her body still cradled Dennee.

She stiffened as suddenly she felt a cold blade brushing softly against her arm. Kahlan struggled to lose her gaze from the blonde, confusion furrowing her brows as she saw the dagger in her sister´s hand.

"…her only… chance, Kahlan. You can… save her."

Kahlan stared at her, not believing the meanings of the word. She shook her head vehemently. "No!... Dennee…I can´t."

"You can. For her… I´m dying… rather by your loving hand…I… only little time resting! ... she… no time at all."

Tears blocked her sight as Kahlan´s hand wrapped around the dagger as if on its own decision. Her eyes were drawn to Cara; her mind heard the faint sound of words a white dragon had told her in a moment of deepest despair…

"Do what must be done… Do not hesitate. Dead souls do not belong to the world of the living…"

"Mistress…please…?" That was all that was needed to break the Mother Confessor.

Kahlan shut her eyes close and swallowed hard, gritting her teeth. A strange but forceful calmness raised in her mind as she opened her eyes, looking at Dennee with the brightest brilliance of blue, love flowing freely from the depth of her heart and her sister smiled in appreciation.

"Thank you. For everything."

Kahlan put the tip of the blade to the spot over Dennee´s heart and bent down, kissing her forehead tenderly, then whispering into her ear: "I love you, little sister"

She felt her smiling against her cheek as Dennee´s hand wrapped around her own in surprisingly strength, urging her hand forward. She barely felt the pressure as the blade cut into her sister´s heart, but she caught her last breath, whispering softly "I love you too…"

Her weeping almost choked her as she gently kissed Dennee one last time, then lowered her head to the floor, her gaze instantly searching for Cara, crawling as fast as she could to the side of the woman and, pushing Berdine aside, she put her palms to the blonde´s cheeks, stroking tenderly, allowing a faint smile to tuck shyly at the corner of her lips.

"Cara?... Look at me! Cara?" The empty gaze that only briefly touched her eyes, before trying to sweep to Dennee, the pain that was still written on her features, the shiver that ran through her body as her eyes closed and her muscles went limp; it was all too much.

Kahlan collapsed against Cara; she buried her face in the blonde mane and wept heartrendingly, barely able to breath.

"No, Cara, please! … Stay with me!... Cara! …Please…. Do not leave me!"

Stunned and appalled Mord Sith and home guards watched as the Mother Confessor covered the Mord Sith´ face with kisses and tears, over and over again, shaking her, then cradling her; whispering, then yelling… and as no reaction came, she finally straightened, drowned in tears, though her eyes already started to whirl with black fire.

"You!" she bored her stare into Berdine. "Give her the Breath of Life!"

The tall brunette lifted her eyes, not ashamed of the tears spilling freely and slowly shook her head.

"I´m sorry, Mother Confessor… The Breath of Life will not work. The damage confession causes to a Mord Sith is… not reparable…" Her whisper was a sad breeze from afar.

Kahlan stared from eerie empty eyes, refusing the finality the words held. For the Mother Confessor it seemed as if the world retreated, leaving her in a deep grey emptiness where her vision spun and…


From behind them a rustling was heard as Nicci resolutely shove the Mord Sith aside, stepping closer and kneeling behind the lifeless body. Her face was determined and hard as she scowled and slapped Kahlan´s hand away. Pressing her palm to Cara´s heart she closed her eyes, focusing on her Han as she searched for a hint of life in Cara´s body. When just a second later her eyes lifted, they bored with a fierce glance into Kahlan´s.

"She is not yet gone. Her spirit is still there, Kahlan!"

And she placed her palms to each side of Cara´s head, mumbling voiceless words, while a faint blue glowing emerged from her hands, slightly crackling as it vibrated against the Mord Sith´ temples.

Kahlan looked at her. Not knowing that her eyes whirled with black. All she knew was that this woman was her reason to live. She wouldn´t survive if the spark of hope Nicci just planted into her heart wouldn´t improve.

Ignoring the power of Nicci´s Han tickling her skin, she bent down, her hands desperately cradling the blonde´s cheeks, stroking tenderly; she buried her face in her hair and whispered passionately into Cara´s ear.

"I´m here, Cara! …I´m right here. Waiting for you… Please…I love you Cara!… You don´t want to leave me. I know you do not….Please!... you can´t leave me!... I… I do not want to live in this world without you… You are my life, Cara! My love! … Please! ...Remember our cave? Remember your doubts? You didn´t want to believe because you were afraid...But now...Youknow I love you! I´ve always loved you …Come back to me, Cara! … I need you…" Sobs choked her whispers but she went on, swearing her love to the blonde, brushing her lips softly against Cara´s… Kissing her lids, her cheeks, while her tears, mingled with the blood on her face moistened the blonde´s tanned skin.

Only faintly she heard people gasping as Cara´s hand suddenly twitched once, and then once more.

Shifting her face, it caught her breath, the back of her throat suddenly constricted, as jade green eyes fluttered open, confusion beaming at her from the dizzy and exhausted but still most beautiful gaze she could imagine.

Nicci jolted back with a shriek as her Han was faintly reflected. Her palms glowing a deep red as she blew a breath against them and rubbed them together to ease the tension, scowling at the blonde. Though, her scowl quickly gave way to a sheepish smile, as Jona stepped to her side and stroke her back in a soothing motion, looking down at her so proudly that the sorceress felt her cheeks flushing a little.

Kahlan had no eyes for them, not for anything; her gaze was glued to the blonde, stroking her beautiful face with tender eyes, hungrily soaking up her features, as Cara tried hard to come around; not getting enough from the clouded shimmer in her eyes, the embarrassed red on her cheeks that blossomed quickly as she looked around, finding a dozen pair of curious eyes beaming at her with clear relief; the frown that grew on her face as she met Kahlan´s eyes and the way she bit her lip as she slowly checked her from head to toes. Worry creeping into green eyes under lids that felt almost too heavy to be kept open. It was obvious that she had to struggle to get her arm lifted, to wipe the brunette´s tears away.

"You´re alright, Kahlan?" Cara´s voice was a weak and scraggy breath, but the sound of it seemed to brighten Kahlan´s face. She pulled her close, ignoring the pain that shot through her side, where blood was still tripling from the wound Richard´s blow had caused.

"I am. Now I am."

She brushed her lips softly against Cara´s, her heart skipped a beat as she met their softness, tasting the salt of tears and sweat, almost hesitatingly she allowed the tip of her tongue to stroke these lips tenderly before she retreated, losing her gaze in the dazed green, despair and passion melting into relieve, that made her chest widen and her heart cheer.

Kahlan couldn´t speak, she just held her close and looked at her, a brilliant smile playing on her lips whenever Cara´s still confused gaze met hers.

"You´re bleeding…" the Mord Sith finally whispered;

"It´s nothing. It´s okay, honey... We will heal. Everything will be fine…" Kahlan smiled as she felt the blonde went limp in her arms. Consciousness giving way to weakness and so urgently needed resting;

The brunette still held her tight as her own body gave in to the sweet emptiness of fainting…


Raina and Berdine stepped aside as the Mother Confessor passed them with a tight smile on her lips; she still looked pale and exhausted, deep shadows edging her eyes which had lost their brightness as she now looked at them questioningly.

They shook their heads and she sighed; shortly hesitating before she opened the door and entered her sleeping chambers. Her gaze went instantly to the bed where she saw her lying, as she had lain for five days now.

Kahlan felt her heart constricting, as it did every time when she came in, hoping to find her awake and feeling crestfallen every time anew.

Nicci had said she needed time; her body as well as her soul needed time to recover from the damages. That no one could say how long she needed, or if she would wake up at all. No one had ever heard of a Mord Sith surviving confession.

Kahlan vehemently refused to accept the possibility that she wouldn´t wake up. But there were moments when her heart seemed to fall, when despair threatened to bring her down, as it did now.

She had been unconscious herself for nearly two days. Berdine and Raina had watched over their sleep, not allowing anyone to get in, except the sorceress and Jona, whom they treated with respect and prudence. Richard, who had been revived by Raina after Jona had stopped him, and who had strolled sheepishly around the Mother Confessor´s chambers like an abandoned dog; he had asked a few times to see them but had been resolutely rejected. Mistress Sanderholt, who had insisted that she had to care for them and had brought fresh meals and mugs of water, had been allowed to enter once a day; her deep sighing when she found the food untouched had already become a habit.

When Kahlan´s eyes had finally fluttered open she had found herself in her bed, her arms wrapped around the blonde they had lain down beside her. They had been cleaned up and someone had tended to their wounds, and Kahlan assumed it had been Berdine or Raina, because they weren´t wrapped into the long, prim nightshifts Mistress Sanderholt would have used, but into short, fresh-smelling and comfortable chemises.

Kahlan had spent hours stroking the blonde´s face and arms, tracing her features tenderly, whispering into her ear, telling her all the silly little things love let come to her mind. She had been sure that Cara would open her eyes at any moment and had smiled in anticipation until the corner of her lips had started aching.

As did her side. Nicci had tended to her wound, doing her best to close it without traces, but she wasn´t a healer; and Zedd was missing.

So, when it became obvious that Cara wouldn´t just wake up, she had finally left their warm and safe nest and had dressed to take care of her duties.

Aydindril had survived. Kahlan stood on the walls, Captain Meiffert at her side, and looked at the piles of corpses that were prepared for the funeral just outside the walls. The beast had mainly ravaged about Rahl´s troops, but also a many brave people from the resistance and soldiers from her own troop had lost their lives. Though, thankfully Zedd and Verna had found a way to stop it apparently, to end its existence. She clenched her jaw, looking to the Keep that loomed in a distance, the tower nothing but a frayed ruin, still smoldering slightly into the clear blue of the skies, and she felt the dampness on her cheeks as tears had quilled. Tears of grieve for all their losses, and tears of anxiety, for they didn´t know yet if eventually finding Zedd and Verna were among the dead…

When they finally found them on the river banks close to the Keep, she ran towards him. Weeping like a child she clung to him, letting all her emotions quill until there had been no more tears to shed.

Zedd and Verna had jumped into the water just in time before the Keep´s tower exploded, destroying the magic boundary and Connor. Their hands were burned seriously, but Nicci had helped them, if a little clumsily, though the wizard had grumbled he rather lived with stumps than regaining his hands by the Han of a Sister of the Dark.

Walking among her people during the following days Kahlan saw many eyes filled with sorrow and grief, their tears matching her own, but all the same she felt their pride, the strong feelings of confidence and relief. She smiled at them and thanked them for their strength, for their bravery. Hands reached out to touch her, which felt odd, but comforting all the same. They shout out "Hail to the Mother Confessor" and she barely suppressed her own grief as she smiled and waved her hand.

And she felt her heart swelling with pride and love, when people asked how Cara was, when she saw sincere concern in their eyes. Concern for her Mord Sith´ well being.

Benjamin, who followed her every step, watching carefully that the Mother Confessor wouldn´t overexert, did not try to hide the shimmer of deep affection in his eyes when he told her of Cara´s time in the Palace; when he described with some pride and awe how Cara had managed to convince them all and had led them...He showed her to the secret chambers were their conspiracy had been raised. She watched him almost swooning over Cara with beaming eyes, and raised her brow, slightly amused; until she lifted her hand to calm him.

"Captain Meiffert."

"Mother Confessor?"

"Benjamin, - I may call you Benjamin?" Taken by surprise, he nodded, slightly confused.

"The last weeks have been a tight and awkward time for all of us. And I am glad to say you have proved your loyalty in the most honorable way; I want to thank you. You´ve become a close friend to me and... my mate. And, knowing I can trust you with my life, I hereby name you Major General of my troops, which includes the home guards, Aydindril´s troop and all troops of the Midlands."

"Mother Confessor! I´m... I´m honored..."

"I assume that, as the second leader of the troops, you will ask for a vacation in order to arrange your personal affairs. I have heard some rumors about a very pretty girl in town, who likes to ogle you... Which I think is absolutely comprehensible. You are a handsome man, Benjamin. And I´ve been told that you have wedding plans...

So, if you consider to take a break, and maybe, make that girl a very happy Mrs Meiffert, I suggest you take this break now...before you might get lost in an impossible fantasy..." While she smiled, her brow climbed up expectantly.

He looked confused, but when he got her words, his cheeks became a deep crimson.

"Mother Confessor! ...I... I swear... I would never... be assured I..." He stumbled over his words.

Kahlan smiled brightly.

"I didn´t expect it otherwise. Though, thank you Benjamin!

Cara, as soon as she has recovered, will of course be your general. Her orders will be your laws;"

She smiled leniently. "And believe me, she´s not an easy chief..." And she saw the mischievous spark of a knowing grin washing over his features as he nodded.

The Mother Confessor felt content that they had found a dear friend in her new Major. They continued their walk in harmonious silence.

Though, after seeing to it that life in Aydindril found back to some sort of normality, every afternoon she returned to her chambers in hopeful anticipation; only to find Cara still lying as motionless, as she had left her.

Kahlan sighed.

Today had been the obsequies for her sister. Her grief had weighed her down, but there had been that strange peace settling in her mind as she had set flames to the funeral pile. Images of Dennee had danced through her mind, putting a faint smile on her lips; her little sister, her smiles, her laughter. Zedd had lain his arm around her but she had brushed it away, stepping close and taking her cold stiff hand in her own; knowing that it had been Dennee herself who had decided to go, that her death meant her freedom;

That she had gone in peace and had found her place now somewhere in the light, where no harm would come to her…

"Good bye little sister... I love you."

And she had watched as the flames had claimed her body, wrapping her sister in their warm glow, lifting her spirit on their heated wings, breathing it into the light winds, setting her free…

Now she felt empty and abandoned. She didn´t bother to strip from her white dress, longing for the warmth of Cara´s body, for the solace she would find in her scent. She crawled to the blonde´s side, studying her face again with gentle intensity. Soft, blue shining eyes didn´t miss a single spot as they traced her features tenderly; Kahlan sighed and leaned closer, tried to get through to her by her will only. Her lips brushed short, featherlike kisses to the tanned skin that felt warm and soft, and yet so very distant. The tips of her fingers draw sweet and tender lines on her cheeks. She let her thumb wipe carefully over brows she so loved to see rising mockingly. If only Cara would roll her eyes once more...

Finally she pressed her lips onto Cara´s, letting them lingering there for a few heartbeats, still hoping for a reaction that didn´t came, and then bedded her head on the blonde´s chest; listening to the low steady beating of her heart, tracing the delicate line of her collarbone.

"Can you please wake up, Cara? "

Not expecting an answer she shut her eyes close, smiling sadly as she dreamed of the ghost of Cara´s hand, nuzzling faintly through her hair, softly caressing her scalp as she had always loved to do.

"I so miss you, love."

The tiny sound that sighed into her ear was almost missed. But she felt it rolling through her chest.

"Why…I am here." A raw whisper, stroking her ears with a faint breath that made her feel dizzy for just a heartbeat; before, her eyes wide with disbelief, she lifted her head and found Cara´s gaze had settled on her.

Kahlan stared, not sure if she was dreaming or if the blonde had really opened her eyes and looked at her, dizziness in her eyes; slowly the jade green of her gaze started sparkling with appreciation; her lips were slightly twitching until a bright smile broke out and Cara laughed lowly, almost shyly.

"I´m here, … I´m right here..."

These were the first words she spoke, and for a long time it were the last. Because Kahlan claimed her lips, her mouth, her every breath; stunned to feel her heart beating vividly and strong; to feel the warmth of her pulse and the low rattling of her purr as she kissed her; overwhelmed with joy and so very relieved. Tears streamed the brunette´s face; she had no words as she was sobbing like a child, cradling Cara´s cheeks, breathing kisses to her eyes, her nose, her cheeks; laughing and whispering her love between her sobs, and, finally, finding her own mouth claimed by Cara´s tongue, which was strong and demanding and didn´t seem to get enough from the sweet taste of passion...

Some candle marks later, when Nicci and Jona knocked at the door for their daily visit, the sorceress found them sound asleep, wrapped into the arms of the other, tender smiles lying on their lips, fingers dancing unconsciously, stroking the other´s back;

Nicci watched with her head tilted, and as if Cara sensed the Sorceress standing beside her, her eyes snapped open. Her glare met Nicci´s amused glance in a short challenge, before it shifted to the girl at Nicci´s side and her lips twitched slightly.

The Mord Sith looked back at the sorceress, frowning threateningly, and narrowed her eyes.

"She´s a good girl. If you´ll ever hurt her? I´ll come for you!"

Nicci raised her brow, shifting her gaze to look at Kahlan, and then back to Cara, smirking.

"Funny. Just wanted to say the same to you..."

And, still smirking, she bowed shortly and turned to leave. Jona blinked at Cara, and then rushed to follow.

The blonde Mord Sith barely suppressed a grin as she leaned back, and pulling Kahlan closer she started nuzzling her hair in tender little motions.

Half asleep Kahlan cuddled up to her, rubbing her head against her fingers and moaned...

"Mhh, ... this... Cara. I ... so good."

Cara smirked. And then choked her breath as Kahlan´s eyes snapped open and bright blue diamonds took her own glance hostage... She dared not breathing, reveling in the beauty she saw; Kahlan stared at her for an endless long moment, and then she smiled and finally whispered:



Her eyes were like liquid silk, as she bit her lip and watched her intensely.

"Please ... Marry me!"


The End


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