Fandom: Legend of the Seeker
Pairings | Characters: Cara/Kahlan, Seeker ensemble
Rating: PG-13 for suggestiveness only
Word Count: 14,000
Spoilers: Episodes 2x20 (Eternity), 2x21 (Unbroken), plus other odd bits of season two.
Disclaimer: It’s a work of fanfic blah blah blah does anyone actually read these? This fic is based solely on the TV show so sorry if I’ve made any hideous book-related errors – you’ll have to tie me up and poke me with agiels for my transgressions.
Warnings: Some chipmunks may have been harmed in the production of this fic, but it was for the greater good, honest, not some cheap joke.
Thanks: To Lyric for beta-reading
This fic is intended as a replacement for the original season two episode “Unbroken” (episode 21) - you know, the one with the AU where Richard and Kahlan swan dreamily around the People’s Palace, Rahl looks goofy at weddings, Cara is a school teacher with bratty kids and Zedd…well, Zedd is a nobhead of immense proportions with too much powerful magic at his disposal.
It actually also replaces the last minute or so of episode 20 (i.e. in this fic Cara has stolen the Stone of Tears off Zedd, but not yet delivered it to Rahl) and the first four minutes or so of episode 22 (i.e. the bit where they do the spell on Dahlia in the AU to reset everything). This is to allow for a logical story. Otherwise it’s intended as a direct replacement – watch episode 20, read this, then watch episode 22, simples.
However, this way there’s no overblown *powerful magic*, no pointless AU’s, no Leo and no whacking of the great big RESET button in the sky. Instead I’ve tried to come up with a plausible alternative where everyone keeps their memories and lives intact, but we still get to carry on with the rest of “Tears” as was. I’ve attempted to stick close (ish) to TV show canon though obviously there’s slightly stronger overtones of C/K in it than the normal TV show (though I would suggest only slightly!)….
Cara came dashing through the trees and skidded to a halt by a small stream. She cast a look over her shoulder, but there was no sign of pursuit. She hadn’t really expected there to be; she had a good head start. Her pack landed on the ground with a thump as she knelt down to spoon some water to her parched lips. Reaching over to her bag she withdrew the small blue crystal and held it up to the light. The rays of the sun reflected through the gem, casting a faint blue glow across her skin. The Stone of Tears. It didn’t exactly look like something that could defeat the Keeper himself. To Cara it looked more like something you could pick up at any two-bit crystal stall in any number of markets in the Midlands. Still, who was she to argue with Lord Rahl? He wanted the crystal so Cara had got it for him.
As she’d suspected getting the stone had been ridiculously easy. The wizard had fallen for Lord Rahl’s ploy quicker than you could say ‘old fool’. How the Seeker and his band had ever gotten anything accomplished before Cara had joined them was a mystery to her. The wizard was in equal parts blinded by his magic or the call of his belly, the Seeker a simple country bumpkin at heart and as for the Mother Confessor… Cara’s uncharitable thoughts stalled as an image of pale blue eyes flashed through her mind.
Cara caught herself. Why in the Midlands am I letting such spurious thoughts and feelings distract me? She was a Mord’Sith; she was above such things. Now that’s the problem with the Mother Confessor - too many feelings. Feelings got in the way. Feelings were unnecessary. Feelings stopped you doing what must be done. Cara had no need for such feelings anymore, not now she had Lord Rahl and her sisters.
Freshly galvanised by thoughts of them she rose to her feet. Soon she would deliver The Stone to her master and then there would be no more Seeker, Wizard or Mother Confessor. She resolutely ignored the strange flutter in her stomach at the last of those thoughts as she started off through the trees once more.
A fire crackled in the centre of the small clearing, but the heat from it did little to warm the chill over Richard’s heart. He hadn’t wanted to stop at all. The argument between him and Zedd had gotten quite heated before he’d finally deferred to Zedd’s reasoning that they would never catch Cara if they collapsed from exhaustion. Kahlan hadn’t expressed an opinion either way. Instead she’d appeared distant throughout the whole altercation as if her mind was elsewhere. Even now she sat alone to one side of the makeshift camp, eyes absently watching the flickering flames. Not quite knowing how to approach her, Richard lowered himself down next to Zedd instead out of earshot of the woman.
“I’m worried about Kahlan,” he whispered, “she’s barely said two words since Cara stole The Stone.”
“I think she’s shocked like the rest of us, my boy,” replied Zedd in an equally low voice.
“But you and I aren’t sitting in the corner moping, we’re trying to think of ways to do something about it.”
“We each have our own ways of dealing with things,” Zedd noted sagely, “just give her some time.”
Kahlan knew they were talking about her. The concerned glances Richard kept flicking in her direction told her as much. She hoped they weren’t a precursor to him trying to talk to her. She didn’t want to talk. She had talked to Cara and look where that had ended up. Unfortunately it appeared her prayers were going to go unanswered. After a few more exchanges with Zedd, Richard clambered to his feet and walked over. Kahlan fixed her eyes back on the fire as Richard sat down next to her.
“We’ve been discussing what we might do when we catch up to Cara,” said Richard.
“Really,” replied Kahlan, the disinterest in her voice being wasted on Richard who pressed on anyway.
“Zedd thinks he might be able to cast some sort of ‘spell of undoing’ on her, reverse whatever it was Rahl did.”
“Is this a serious suggestion, or just some random powerful magic that Zedd is going to give a whirl?” The words came out with uncharacteristic sarcasm, enough for Richard to finally notice her unreceptive mood.
She felt his hand on her shoulder, squeezing gently. Normally Kahlan would find it comforting, but at the moment she didn’t feel much of anything apart from numb.
“Kahlan, you can talk to me,” he attempted. “I understand - we’re all feeling hurt and betrayed.”
Kahlan just bowed her head. How could Richard understand when she didn’t understand herself? Shaking off his hand she lay down.
“I’m tired; I’m going to get some rest.”
Even as she turned away from him, she knew sleep would not be forthcoming. However, she could give a good approximation of it if it meant avoiding more talking about her feelings. Feelings just hurt.
“I’ve lost the trail.” Richard rose to his feet and brushed the dirt off his hands with an air of frustration. “Most likely Cara expected us to follow her and has covered her tracks on purpose.”
They had set off at first light that morning, following in the other woman’s footsteps. Those had brought them due west, at first through the forest where tracking was easy – even the best tracker would find it hard to replace every displaced twig and branch. However, now they had come to an arid and rocky plane where it was much harder to determine the right course to follow.
Richard waited, no doubt hoping that one his companions would fill the silence with a helpful suggestion. Kahlan had no such suggestions, though. Her mind was still filled with confused and conflicting thoughts, not to mention a pervading sense of hopelessness. Instead it was left to Zedd to chip in.
“We can assume that she’s going to deliver The Stone to Rahl,” he mused. “I doubt he would wait at the temple where Cara and I were held since I could lead you back there, in which case I know of at least three likely destinations in this vicinity. Unfortunately we don’t have time to all visit each one in turn if we want to catch her – we’ll need to split up and go to one each.”
Zedd continued speaking to outline the possibilities, but Kahlan wasn’t really listening. She stared off into the trees. Cara was somewhere out there. Where was she? What was she thinking? Would she be having regrets?
“Kahlan, what do you think?”
The sound of her name started her from her thoughts and she focussed back on the two men. Zedd was waiting expectantly for an answer to his question while Richard had that look on his face again, the one with the concerned puppy-dog eyes.
“Whatever you think is best,” she replied.
The answer only served to deepen the frown on Richard’s face. “We’re all shocked by what happened, but we have to remember our quest – we need to get The Stone of Tears back or the Keeper has won.”
Kahlan was tempted to laugh, despite, or even perhaps because of, the inappropriateness of it in the situation. It was a bit like laughing at a funeral, sometimes that’s all you could do. It was the irony that got her. If Cara had been there she would have been rolling her eyes at that moment and pointing out all the times Richard had allowed them to be side-tracked from their quest over the last few months. Of course Cara wasn’t there.
Kahlan’s expression hardened once more. “I know my duty.” The last word was spat out like a curse.
The harsh tone caused Richard to flinch. Kahlan knew she was worrying him; she was worrying herself. Her control was slipping. She needed to find her calm Mother Confessor face, paste that on to cover the cracks. Richard was right – they needed The Stone. If she concentrated on that then she didn’t have to think about anything else, didn’t have to feel anything else.
“What was the first location?” she asked Zedd.
“The temple at East Farlap,” he informed her. “The quickest route is through Gar territory in the Woods of Landerhill, but the safer way would be to take the long way round, on the Draleigh Road.”
“Cara wouldn’t take the safe option,” stated Kahlan. “I’ll go via the woods.”
She felt Richard’s hand on her arm. “On your own, against Gars…”
His normal well-meaning concern grating on her for some reason and her first instinct was to snap at him. With some effort she managed to keep her tone even as she spoke. “You said it yourself, we need The Stone.” Not feeling the need to add anything further she turned to go, but Richard’s hand remained fast on her sleeve.
Anything he was going to say died on his lips when she swung her eyes to his at the sound of her name. The blank stare of her face didn’t invite conversation.
Richard gave a defeated sigh. “Be careful.”
For a fleeting moment Kahlan’s expression softened. None of this was Richard’s fault. “You too.” She even managed a wan smile before she turned and departed.
Dahlia’s heels echoed off the stone steps as she came down into the training chamber. The chains above the pit in the centre now hung loosely, the room still and quiet. It was chilling how peaceful it seemed considering only a few hours previously Cara had been dangling from those very chains, screaming as Lord Rahl used the enchanted agiel on her. Dahlia shuddered and then berated herself for doing so. She had been present at plenty of training sessions before, why should this one have been any different? Though the room was silent, Dahlia was not alone. Lord Rahl stood in front of the chains, staring thoughtfully up at them. At the sound of her footsteps his eyes swung to her, his gaze as intense as ever.
“Hello, Dahlia,” he said in his seductive drawl, “come to revisit the scene of your crime?”
“My Lord?” she queried, not quite understanding the reference or perhaps not wanting to.
“If it wasn’t for you and your betrayal of her, we would never have captured Cara.”
Normally Dahlia would be proud to receive such praise from her lord and master, but this time it left her feeling strangely hollow. “Is there any word from Cara yet?”
Lord Rahl studied her intently before answering. Dahlia made sure to keep her eyes pinned on a spot just over his shoulder so she didn’t have to look him in the eye. Eventually a tiny smile crept onto his face.
“What’s the matter, Dahlia, you don’t doubt her loyalty do you?”
“Of course not, My Lord,” she answered quickly. “I’m just concerned she may have trouble with the Seeker and his wizard.”
Dahlia kept her expression even. It was as if Lord Rahl could read her thoughts, could sense her real concerns were in regards to the name she had not spoken - The Mother Confessor. Throughout Cara’s training it had been obvious that she had developed some sort of bond with the other woman. That more than anything else irked Dahlia. She could forgive Cara following the Seeker under the pretence of him being the Lord Rahl, but developing feelings for the Mother Confessor, for someone else? To use her to try and ward off the terrors of training? Not that it had worked even if Cara had clung onto to the bitter end until Lord Rahl finally broke her with his enchanted agiel. At least he appeared to have finally broken her. Dahlia knew first hand how strong Cara’s resolve could be.
“If it makes you feel better, you can ride out to meet her,” suggested Lord Rahl, “assist her against any pursuers and meet us at the other temple when you’re done.”
The emphasis placed on his words made Dahlia cringe. Lord Rahl had a knack for spotting a weakness and exploiting it. That was how he had captured Cara in the first place, by playing on her past relationship with Dahlia. Dahlia herself had just thought it another mission in service of her master when Lord Rahl had first advised her of the plan. However, she had been unprepared for what seeing Cara again had done to her. Even now that night they had shared in the forest burned brightly in her mind, the night before Dahlia’s betrayal. An unfamiliar pang of regret flared painfully in her chest. Realising that Lord Rahl was still studying her she forced down the odd feelings and dipped her head.
“Thank you, My Lord.”
The smell of decay hung heavily in the air even before Richard pushed open the door to the temple. Somehow he didn’t think he was going to find Cara or Rahl inside – the place didn’t look like it was inhabited and he was sure he would have met more resistance by now if it was. Still, he needed to be sure.
The stench grew worse inside the gloomy interior and Richard quickly saw why. Scattered around the entrance hall were a number of red-leather-clad bodies – Mord’Sith, all of them dead. As he knelt down to examine one of them he had to cover his mouth and nose to ward off the smell and flies. The nearest Mord’Sith had a huge gash across her neck, her blood long since dry and crusty where it had spilt over the stone floor. Richard guessed she had died at least a week before given the state of decay. Next to her, one of her sisters had fared little better. Her arm had literally been ripped from her body, a festering maggot-ridden wound where the limb should be. Richard gagged and stood up. He hoped either Zedd or Kahlan had met with more success than him.
In a way he wished that it was Zedd who tracked Cara down. Kahlan didn’t seem to be her normal self and he was less confident in her ability to handle the other woman than he might normally have been. He knew she and Cara had become close against all the odds which made Kahlan’s odd reaction all the more perplexing. Usually Kahlan would have been the one driving them on, seeking to find their missing friend and The Stone with fierce determination. Yet it was almost like she had switched off her emotions. It reminded him of the time when Kahlan had been split in two by one of Zedd’s not so powerful magic spells. Had that happened this time, but without the magic? Was there another Kahlan somewhere so consumed by emotions and feelings that she could barely function? Only this time rather than being a different person she was locked up somewhere inside her mind by the cold, duty bound Kahlan?
The sound of movement behind him cut any deliberations short. Richard quickly drew the Sword of Truth from his scabbard and whirled round. There was no one to be seen, but he knew what he had heard.
“Show yourself!” he ordered.
Another scrabbling sound came, this time to his left, behind a pillar. Richard darted towards it, sword at the ready. Rounding the pillar he grabbed the person hiding there and rammed them against the stone. His sword was up and pointing at their throat. A pair of scared blue eyes focussed on the tip of the blade in a cross-eyed stare before flicking up to him. The eyes belonged to a petrified looking young man. He couldn’t have been more than eighteen and Richard somehow doubted he was responsible for the carnage at the temple.
“Y-you’re not the Beltang,” stammered the young man.
Richard’s brow creased. “No, I’m not, and what’s a Beltang?”
The other man’s eyes widened in horror as he looked over Richard’s shoulder. “One of them!”
Richard just managed to duck before his head was parted from his shoulders. Releasing the young man, he swung round to his attacker. Before him stood what looked like another man. He towered a good foot over Richard and his skin was a deathly sallow colour, but he was still just a man nonetheless. Then he opened his mouth and the illusion was shattered. Inside was row of jagged, sharp teeth. Rather than words, an ear-piercing screech emitted from between them. The Beltang launched itself at Richard who was so busy staring at the deadly teeth that he almost didn’t move in time. At the last second he managed an uncoordinated stagger to the side.
Gathering his wits, Richard gripped the Sword of Truth and swung for the Beltang. The creature was surprisingly fast and easily dodged the swipe. In a flash it was at him again, teeth gnashing together as it attempted to sink them into his shoulder. Richard tried to beat it off at close quarters, unable to manoeuvre his sword into a striking position. The Beltang managed to get a hold of Richard’s vest and showed amazing strength by promptly hefting him right up off the floor and flinging him back across the room. Richard’s back hit the stone floor, driving the air from his lungs. The Beltang flew at him again, but it was Richard who was quick this time. His sword was up before the creature reached him. The Beltang’s forward momentum carried it straight onto the blade, which drove through its body and out the other side.
Richard clambered to his feet and had to push the creature off the sword with his foot. The other young man reappeared from his hiding place behind a pillar. Richard could see he was staring at the bloodied Sword of Truth.
“You’re the Seeker aren’t you?”
“Yes, I am, and you are?”
“Eldric,” he answered. “Thank the Creator for answering our prayers and sending you here to kill the Beltangs.”
The plural was noticed by Richard. “There’s more than one of those things?”
Eldric nodded before a shocked look came across his face. “But if the other one’s not here then… Quick! You have to come!” Eldric grabbed Richard’s arm, pulling him towards the door as he spoke.
“Wait! Slow down!” said Richard. “Where are we going?”
“The village - if the other one’s not here then it will be there feasting. You have to come and stop it; you’re the Seeker!”
Richard hesitated. He didn’t really have time for this, not when the Stone of Tears and Cara were still out there. “Where is your village?”
“About two miles east of here.” Eldric was bouncing up and down in agitation. “We have to hurry!”
Richard supposed it was in the right direction for him to double back and try and catch up with Zedd or Kahlan. “All right, let’s go.”
Even before Zedd entered the temple he knew it was a wild goose chase. Or in fact a wild chicken chase as it turned out since the egg-laying birds seemed to be the only inhabitants of the run down building. A flock of them scattered as he proceeded on down the steps just inside the door.
It seemed they didn’t like him. He didn’t know why, there had only been that one incident with the chicken and the nudity after all. One of the birds flapped past his face at that point, beating its wings against his head as if calling attention to the lie. Well, maybe more than once, he admitted to himself, but who needed clothes when you lived alone in the woods?
As he studied the interior he considered that maybe these were in fact despicable Mord’Sith chickens. Maybe some powerful magic had turned the original inhabitants of the temple into the winged creatures. Zedd grabbed the nearest one amid much squawking and stared into its eyes trying to discern if it was actually an evil chicken sent by Darken Rahl to get him. The bird gave a further indignant cluck and promptly deposited something runny and white on his hands. Zedd dropped the animal with a curse and looked around for something to wipe the unwelcome present off with.
The hall was murky in the dusk light. It was getting late and would soon be dark. Zedd wondered if it was lack of food making him delirious - it must have been a good two hours since he’d last had something to eat. Giving up on finding anything of use in the temple he left in search of something to sate his growing hunger.
The daylight was fading fast as Kahlan reached the edge of the Woods of Landerhill. The road that wound its way onwards looked less than inviting with the trees packed in close either side and casting it in deep shadow. A single figure emerged from the gloom, a woodsman with his axe slung over his shoulder. He seemed surprised to see her standing there, sizing up the path.
“You’re not thinking of taking the road?” he queried.
“I need to get to the other side.”
The man’s brow furrowed. “I assume you also need to keep all your limbs attached to your body. The woods are full of Gars at night; it’s madness to go that way.”
Kahlan continued to stare impassively at him, her blue eyes cold and hard. Madness? Quite possibly she was mad. That would explain why she couldn’t think straight. She had to remind herself of her single goal again – The Stone of Tears. If she concentrated on that task and that task alone she didn’t have to think about anything else. Focus on the stone, focus on duty. At least that was constant and simple, not like people and feelings. You did your duty, you didn’t ask questions.
“I have to go that way,” she stated.
The man shrugged, sensing her intransigence from her tone. “It’s your funeral.”
Cara looked up to the grey sky as she continued to walk purposefully towards her destination. Soon it would be dark. It was tempting to keep going long into the night, but even Mord’Sith needed to rest sometimes, even if they might not admit it. She wanted to be her most alert and awake when she placed The Stone of Tears in Lord Rahl’s hands and succeeded where so many before her had failed.
As she walked she picked up loose wood in order to make a small fire when she did stop. She gauged that would be safe enough as long as she found a suitably secluded location away from any paths. That location proved to be in the lee of some rocks, well hidden from any prying eyes. It didn’t take her long to get the fire going, the heat from it soon penetrating through her red leathers as she sat before it.
It was at that moment that she realised she was being watched. Her agiel was out in a flash and pointing at the interloper. A pair of small beady eyes stared back at her, belonging to a chipmunk that regarded her curiously from the other side of the fire.
“Fancied a bit of warmth too, did you?” she asked it, immediately wondering why she was engaging in discourse with a dumb animal.
The chipmunk squeaked a reply, reminding Cara of another time when she’d been trying to communicate with a small creature she couldn’t understand, a glowing night wisp on that occasion. That time it had turned out she could understand the strange language of the wisp, once she had opened herself up to the possibility. It had been oddly satisfying, especially when she had returned the wisp to Kahlan and gotten a fond smile for her efforts. Cara caught her meandering thoughts just as that smile flashed through them.
“What am I doing?” she asked of herself, confused by the way these thoughts and feelings from her old life kept seeping through.
Another squeak from the chipmunk came in answer. Cara stared furiously at it. Someone had once made a joke to her about chipmunks. She couldn’t quite recall it since it had been ridiculous and banal, but it had still made Cara laugh back then, another sign of her feeble-mindedness at the time. Given her continued silence the curious animal hopped closer. Cara raised her agiel and promptly stabbed it into the small furry body. It didn’t take long for the agiel to finish off the woodland creature. Cara picked it up by its tail, four stiff feet now pointing towards her. It wasn’t much, but it would make an adequate dinner.
Richard received a resounding pat on the back from a happy villager. He smiled at the grinning man, accepting the thanks in good grace even if his shoulder was starting to hurt with the repeated congratulation from the crowd that had gathered in the village square. Fortunately his and Eldric’s frantic dash had brought them to the village just in time for Richard to dispatch the second Beltang and the villagers were now making their gratitude known.
“Won’t you join us for a drink in the tavern?” asked the village Elder, a portly man who looked as if he spent a bit too much time in said establishment. “We’d like to properly thank you.”
Richard retrieved his hand which was still being shaken by another enthusiastic villager. “I really need to get going…”
“It’s dark now,” pointed out Eldric who hovered by his side, “you won’t get far. Even the Seeker has to rest.”
“Go on, just one!” chipped in one of the villagers.
This entreaty was quickly picked up and echoed by the rest of the smiling, eager faces. Richard supposed Eldric did have a point. It would do him little good if he did catch up with the others only to be too tired to be of any use. Worse, he could be a liability.
“All right, just one.”
Kahlan risked a glance over her shoulder as she ran through the forest. Somewhere up above she could hear the beat of leathery wings. She’d only made it a short way into the woods when the Gar had picked up her scent. Now it was a frantic race to escape the lethal predator. Kahlan ducked under some low hanging branches, desperately seeking out some cover as she heard the terrifying sound getting closer. It was almost upon her. She could practically feel its talons on her back. At the last moment she veered to the side. It was enough to send the Gar sailing past her on its arcing swoop. It was also enough for Kahlan to lose her footing and go tumbling down the steep bank she was negotiating. She rolled over and over, finally coming to a shaken halt at the foot of the slope. For a moment all she could do was lie there, straining to hear whether her pursuer was still coming over her own heaving breaths. Thankfully there were no telltale sounds of an approaching Gar and she considered she might be best just lying there quietly until it gave up searching for her.
As she lay in the silence with nothing to do but wait, a memory of another similar time floated to the fore of her mind. Then she had actually wanted the Gar to chase her so that Cara could escape with the pregnant night wisp. Unbidden, the memory moved on to later that same day after Cara had successfully delivered the wisp to its birthing ground. The other woman’s words echoed in her mind. I wish you could have been there. They had been so heartfelt, so full of uncharacteristically unfettered emotion that Kahlan’s heart had melted. In that moment she would have given anything to have shared that experience with Cara too.
A screech shattered her recollections. The Gar had found her. In an odd way she was thankful. At least it saved her the pain of her memories. The creature reared up over her and Kahlan only just rolled out the way before she was impaled by a sharp claw. She leapt to her feet and made a break for it through the trees once more. The branches tugged at her as she charged onwards more concerned with putting distance between herself and the deadly animal than protecting herself from a few scratches. She could hear the Gar’s wings beating again as it took flight, hoping to spot her from above. Kahlan cut a zig-zagging course in an attempt to prevent that. Spotting a particularly dense thicket of trees and bushes, Kahlan darted towards it. She flung her back up against a thick trunk, trying to meld herself to it and make herself invisible. Up above she could hear the Gar still circling having lost her for now, but not giving up its prey yet.
Kahlan contemplated just standing and fighting, though that would most likely be suicide. She really needed backup, someone at her side to distract it while she went in for the kill. Peculiarly her first thought was of Cara and not Richard. The other woman certainly knew how to fight, that was true. Kahlan recalled all the times they had stood side by side against the odds and conquered them. She couldn’t help a small smile at the thought before it faded just as quickly.
I’m not meant to be thinking about this! Focus! Even as she told herself that she knew it was hopeless. Blocking out her thoughts didn’t work when they were so raw and strong, battering at her mental defences. She let them batter on, too tired to resist.
Her memories tripped back further this time, alighting on the occasion she had been called upon to sit in judgment on Cara. Kahlan had been so full of hate and anger at the time that she’d felt a strange satisfaction when she’d been able to deliver the guilty verdict. Confessors were meant to be impartial, seekers of the truth, but in that moment she had just been a woman who’d lost her sister. It scared her to think of her hand upon Cara’s throat, about to confess her, about to deliver her a slow agonising death. As Kahlan thought of it now she realised that had been the turning point. When a single tear had slipped down Cara’s cheek something had snapped in Kahlan. All her anger had fallen away, replaced by an understanding for all the other woman had been through. There had been so much pain in her life, but somehow she had battled through it to stand with the Seeker on his quest.
Kahlan felt her anger rising again, but for a whole different reason. Cara had come such a long way and now it appeared that had all been taken from her again. Zedd hadn’t known the specifics, but his description of hearing Cara’s screams had almost been too painful to hear. Just the thought of it stirred a strong urge in Kahlan to track down both Rahl and Dahlia and plunge her twin daggers into their hearts. They had done this, not Cara. They had stolen her life from her again.
Like the sun breaking through the clouds on a gloomy day suddenly her purpose was clear once more, she had a single goal on which to focus. Yet it wasn’t to retrieve The Stone of Tears. She had a much more powerful desire driving her on. Kahlan would catch up with Cara and somehow she would save her. There was no question.
A loud hiss signalled the arrival of the Gar. Galvanised by her newfound purpose, Kahlan drew both her daggers and rose to meet it. There actually seemed to be surprise in the creature’s glowing green eyes, if such a thing was possible. It snarled and launched itself at the woman who dared to face it head on.
Kahlan let all her anger and frustration rise up in her and out through the muscles of her arms that drove the daggers into the Gar’s body. It howled in pain, but she didn’t let up, plunging them in again and again until there was no more sounds save her own ragged breathing. Finally the Gar’s body tumbled lifelessly to the ground, its blood coating her daggers and arms.
Another cheer rang round the packed inn as one more coin pinged off Richard’s taut abs and rattled into the target pot. That made ten in a row. The barmaid launching the coins punched the air in celebration and took great delight in taunting her fellow competitor in language that made Richard’s ears blush.
The barmaid’s opponent was one of the village women by the name of Brenda and they were taking part in a game of “bounce the coin off someone’s stomach muscles into a pot”. Richard thought it could really do with a snappier title. From what he could gather it was just one of the seemingly random tavern games the villagers engaged in once a few too many ales had been downed of an evening. When the game had been suggested, Richard had kept quiet. Yet somehow he had been cajoled into it. He blamed the couple of ales he’d had previously which in turn he blamed on the need to be gracious and accept the villagers’ thanks.
Brenda took her turn, but her coin bounced feebly short of the pot off her man’s stomach. A mixture of groans and cheers filled the room, the former from those who’d backed the wrong side to win in the numerous wagers that had been exchanged. Next to him, Richard could hear Brenda moaning about substandard equipment and when Richard glanced over at his fellow launch pad he could see her point. The other man’s abs were puny in comparison to Richard’s well-defined muscles. Richard turned his head back to the barmaid who was preparing her next coin. She was a young blond-haired woman by the name of Lucy who, as seemed fashionable for barmaids, was wearing a low cut dress that pushed up her cleavage prominently. Not that Richard was looking. Lucy smiled at him and Richard automatically returned it with a grin.
“One more for the win?”
Lucy took aim and expertly launched the coin. As it pinged into the pot a loud roar went up. Richard sat back up and started to fasten his shirt while those around him exchanged money and opinions on the result. Next to him the barkeep approached.
“Ready to accept your prize?” asked the genial host.
Richard smiled, but shook his head. “There’s really no need…”
The barkeep cut him off. “Is there something wrong with Lucy?”
Richard’s brow creased. Obviously those ales were stronger than he thought since the conversation was making no sense to him at all. “No, there’s nothing wrong with her.” He cast a sideways glance to where the young woman was standing. She gave him a wink and he felt himself blushing. Suddenly he was starting to understand what his ‘prize’ was. “She’s very …” he searched for something suitably positive, but non-committal, “… charming.”
The barkeep smiled. Obviously Richard’s search had failed. “Great!” cried the other man. “Then you go upstairs and she’ll be with you in a moment.”
“What? Wait …”
The other man wasn’t waiting, though, instead given Richard a resounding pat on the shoulder and shoving him in the direction of the stairs. Richard seemed to be powerless to resist as a number of the other patrons nudged his arm and winked at him. He found himself climbing the stairs, unable to think of an inoffensive way out of his predicament. Once at the top the only available option to him was a door up ahead. Richard pushed it open to be confronted by a huge bed. Fully clothed, he crawled under the covers and pulled the blanket tight up to his chin like a defensive shield. Winning the contest had been one thing, but collecting on his prize was something else. He loved Kahlan and even if they couldn’t be together intimately he would wait until they could. Unfortunately, that was easier said than done when you were a red-blooded young man. Richard wondered if he had time for a little personal relief before the barmaid joined him, just to avoid any temptation. Then when she did arrive they could just talk instead - about the weather, or wood carving or something else completely innocuous and certainly not about such subjects as the throbbing in his groin region which was increasing with every passing second.