11 years later
"Kayden, play nicely with your brother." Cara admonished her first born as she saw him snatch a toy from the nine-year old's grasp. Sam, his bare feet pattering on the marble floor, ran straight for his mother, tears in his eyes. The blonde couldn't help but smile as she watched him run, bending over and picking him up as soon as he was within reach.
"Momma, why doesn't Kay like me?" the boy asked innocently. Cara frowned at the suggestion, stroking the boy's long, blonde hair out of his eyes as she held him tight.
"Kayden loves you." She told the child. "Sometimes, brothers don't really know how to show their love and it seems like their being mean. Don't worry, eventually you'll both grow out of it."
"Does he love me as much as you love me?" Sam tilted his head, wide, blue eyes staring at the Mord'Sith curiously. Cara chuckled.
"I love you in a different way than your brother does, sweetie." She said. "No one can love you the way I do." The boy seemed satisfied with the answer and, after kissing his mother's cheek, squirmed out of her arms and ran straight to his brother.
"That was sweet." Kahlan, her voice soft to avoid disturbing the sleeping child in her arms. Cara raised an eyebrow at the woman.
"I didn't know you were there." She said, in her typical Cara way. Despite the years that had passed, Cara had barely changed. Her affections were reserved for her two children and, when it suited her, Ben. Other than that, Kahlan could always be sure to get her daily dose of nostalgia from her friend's sarcastic responses and menacing looks.
"Yes, I figured that." The brunette grinned. As a crash could be heard down the hall, the infant in her arms and newest addition to their family, Ana, shifted in her mother's arms. The two women exchanged glances, knowing exactly where the sound had come from. As if on cue, three figures skidded to a stop at the sight of them.
"What did you three do?" Cara placed her hands on her hips, staring down the twin as well as her namesake.
"It wasn't our fault!" the three voiced together.
"Uncle Richard told us about this new game where you have to throw the round thing towards a can and there's three ways to get it in-"
"No, there's two ways!" Katherine interrupted her sister with a humph.
"We were playing and then the round thing hit Uncle Ben in the face and he fell but he fell by the counter and then all the stuff fell down." Cara, the most soft spoken of the trio told them.
"Is Uncle Ben ok?" Kahlan asked, ignoring the blonde beside her as she bit her lip to keep from laughing at the thought. The three girls nodded.
"Well, we were supposed to have four people but there were only three of us, so it didn't work." Emma crossed her arms in disappointment.
"Uh," Kayden awkwardly announced himself. "I can play if that's ok." The three girl's faces lit up at the thought.
"Only if you're on my team." Cara took a step closer to the boy. Kayden's cheeks reddened immediately. Katherine and Emma frowned, each reaching out and taking one of the boy's hands.
"Why do you get Kayden?" Katherine demanded.
"Yea." Emma tugged on the boy. "I want him on my team." Kayden's eyes widened as he was tugged this way and that, gaze falling on his aunt and mother for help. The two women could barely keep the grins off their faces as they watched the scene unfold. However, before they could pull the boy's arms out of their sockets, Cara intervened.
"Now girls," she said calmly, kneeling to reach their level. "How about this? I have a number between one and five behind my back. The first one to tell what that number is, gets Kayden on their team." The girls agreed and before long, Emma proudly took Kayden's hand and led him towards their game. Katherine and Cara shot the Mord'Sith a glare as they followed.
"Wait for me!" Sam called after the group. Cara stopped in her tracks, turned around, and offered her hand to the boy who took it eagerly.
"You can keep score." She told him before the group disappeared around a corner. Kahlan and Cara were left, shaking their heads in amusement.
"Spirits help that boy." Kahlan mumbled causing Cara to chuckle as she nodded.
"I don't think even they can at this point." The blonde said. "What can I say, I make attractive children." Kahlan rolled her eyes as the two made their way towards the throne room. Ten years ago, when Cara had given birth to Kayden, the Mother Confessor distinctly remembered telling her that he'd have to 'ward off the girls with a stick'. At the time she had no idea that Kayden's charm would attract all manner of twelve and eleven year olds, including her own daughter. She smiled at the memory of his birth, still surprised that Cara had chosen to name him after her.
Well, you named your first born after me but he decided to come out a boy, so…
Kahlan could still recall the redness in the woman's cheeks as she tried to justify her decision.
"What are you smiling at?" Cara brought her out of the memory. She shrugged, adjusting baby Ana on her hip.
"The thought that your sons are going to end up falling for Confessors." Kahlan joked. "It's ironic, don't you think?"
"'Ironic' is one word for it." Cara said sarcastically. Kahlan noticed the woman's anxiety and felt the need to lighten her burden.
"Don't worry, Cara. I'm sure everything will work out." She insisted. Her knowledge on the topic easing her worry for the boys. Cara merely grinned mischievously.
"Oh, I know it will." The blonde quipped. When Kahlan's eyes danced from her to the hallway awkwardly, her grin widened. "Kahlan, I've known you and Richard for over twenty years…but it took less than twenty minutes to figure out the secret you think you've kept from me."
"I have no idea what you're talking about." The Mother Confessor frowned. Was Cara serious? Did she honestly know how she and Richard and Aria and Hayden were able to be together? If so, the repercussions could be-
"Relax, Mother Confessor." Cara waved a hand in the air. "I haven't told anyone- not even Ben. Your secret is safe with me." She offered the brunette a wink and Kahlan simply smiled awkwardly.
After the meeting had concluded, Cara and Kahlan parted ways. The blonde had plans to meet with Sam's godfather. Dale, the doctor who had nursed Cara back to health during their war with Torren, had been invited to Aidyndril when the war had ended. He was offered a home, free of charge, and a practice of his own, just like Ilya. Despite his age, Dale had done increasingly well for himself and even managed to find a new wife. The two now waited for Cara at the gates of the Confessor's Palace. Kahlan and Richard, who had led most of the meeting by the time his wife had gotten there, took a leisurely stroll through the inner gardens with their daughter. They relished this time together, knowing that their busy schedules didn't allow for much of it. As Ana fell back asleep, the couple sat on a bench and Kahlan laid her head on her husband's shoulder.
"What is it?" the man asked, sensing that his wife had something she wanted to say. Kahlan sighed, stroking Ana's hair as she slept in her father's arms.
"The twins are nearing thirteen years old." She stated plainly. For a moment, Richard forgot that at thirteen, Confessors took their first confessions and truly began their journey to being the leaders they were born to be. He knew that raising not only her own daughters, but Aria's as well, was a burden on his wife. She was the only adult Confessor left, meaning that she was solely responsible for their education and training. As much as the others tried to help, there were aspects of their lives that only Kahlan could ever be privy to and the stress was sometimes too much for her. Richard reached out and ran his hand through his wife's silky hair. She hummed her appreciation, closing her eyes as she inhaled his scent.
"Kahlan, you've taught them so well this far." He said softly. "Nothing's going to change that now. It'll be difficult but every Confessor does it. They've got to learn eventually and you've already prepared them for it."
"I know you're right, it's just difficult to imagine putting them in that position." Kahlan said. "Before, there were so many of us that you barely even knew the Confessor who brought you to the dungeons. Now, knowing them and loving them as much as I do, the simple thought of watching them do that hurts me."
"They're strong girls- just like their mother was." Richard insisted. "I'm sure they'll be just fine. Especially since they have someone that cares for them so much watching over them."
"I can't tell if you mean me or Aria." Kahlan said, somewhat jokingly. Richard placed a chaste kiss on the top of her head.
"Both." He told her. Kahlan knew that her husband would make her feel better. She smiled at him and laid a sweet kiss on his lips.
"Thank you." She whispered, kissing him once more. Richard smiled as he dropped his hand to the small of her back and pulled her close. Just as the two were about to kiss again, the door to the garden opened, the echo announcing someone else's presence.
"Mommy!" Cara cried, knowing that her parents were hidden somewhere in the garden. The two rulers sprang to their feet and raced to the entrance where a red faced Cara stood waiting for them. Kahlan knelt in front of her daughter, taking the girl's face into her hands immediately.
"What happened?" she asked, eyes scanning the girl for any signs of injury. She found none.
"I want to go on a ride with Aunt Cara but I can't find her!" Kahlan and Richard shared a look, both equally annoyed and glad that it wasn't something serious despite the heart attack their daughter had almost given them.
"Your Aunt Cara is out of the Palace right now, sweetie." Kahlan explained. "When she gets back, I'm sure she'd love to ride with you."
"But I wanna go now." Cara pouted, her foot stomping on the ground like it did when she was a toddler. Kahlan tilted her head and picked up her daughter, surprised at the effort it took. She was no longer a baby, that was certain.
"Honey, what did we say about having patience?" Kahlan asked. Cara heaved a heavy groan before responding.
"Patience is only optional for those who can afford it." The girl quoted, earning herself a smile from her mother.
"That's right." Kahlan nodded, placing a kiss to the girl's cheek in spite of her exasperation.
"Listen to your mother, Cara." Richard chimed in. "You're lucky to have her as a teacher."
"You only say that because you're not her student." The girl mumbled under her breath. Her parents chose to ignore it. Just as Kahlan went to put her daughter down, Ana awakened in Richard's grasp. The one thing they could say for their first born was that she absolutely adored her sister. As Cara realized that the baby was waking up, she refused to let go of her mother, wanting a to get a better look.
"She's probably hungry." Kahlan said, mainly to herself. The two rulers smiled widely as their eldest reached out and stroked Ana's cheek tenderly.
"I can't wait until she's grown up and we get to play together." Cara stated for the hundredth time that week. As the family exited the garden, Cara caught sight of her namesake and ran straight into her. The Mord'Sith was powerless to refuse the girl and before long, they could be seen saddling horses. As the two disappeared, Kahlan and Richard heard high pitched screams coming from behind them. They turned to see Kayden, Katherine, Emma, and Sam running down the hall with Ben and Zedd chasing after them. The two grown men were pretending to be some kind of monster as they chased the children, shrieks of joy echoing in the hall. The four children made a break for Richard and Kahlan, hiding behind the couple's legs as Ben and Zedd halted their attack.
"Save us, Aunt Kahlan!"
"The shadrins' are gonna get us!"
"Uncle Richard, use the Sword to kill them!"
"Beat them up, Aunt Kahlan!"
The couple tried hard to withhold their amusement as they 'protected' the children.
"Quick, get to the stables!" Richard exclaimed! "If you hurry, you can catch up with the Caras and team up against them!" The children squealed as they continued to run, Ben and Zedd shooting them glares seeing as they now had to accompany them in their search. Richard, although entertained by the scene, had ulterior motives to getting rid of them. When the laughter could no longer be heard, he led Kahlan to their bedroom and washed up as she fed their youngest daughter.
"Did you ever think this would happen?" the Mother Confessor asked, stroking her daughter's cheek in an attempt to lure her to her sleep.
"This." Kahlan waved around the room. "Did you ever imagine we'd be this happy?" Richard grinned, resting his arms on either side of her chair and leaning forward.
"I never doubted it. Not for a single moment." He told her. Kahlan smiled, feeling her daughter release her breast and begin to fall asleep. Richard took her from her mother, kissed her forehead, and gently placed her in the cradle.
"I'm not sure if I believe you." Kahlan retorted, chuckling as her husband took her hands and pulled her to her feet.
"What can I do to convince you?" the Lord Rahl asked as he peppered his wife's neck with kisses. Kahlan struggled not to laugh as his slight stubble tickled her.
"I guess you'll just have to figure that out." She shrugged, spots of black already dancing in her eyes as Richard slid down the straps of her white dress. He continued to kiss her slowly, removing any article of clothing that dared get in his way.
"I guess I will." He mumbled against her skin, his breath making her shiver. As the couple undressed one another and prayed that Ana would stay asleep, Kahlan felt her heart swell.
It had been eleven years since Aria's death and the war with Torren. After the people had voted and Kahlan had carried out their wishes by ordering him to die, their family had slowly but surely begun to mend itself. It was hard at first- balancing the happiness of their firstborn's birth and Cara's pregnancy with the sadness of having lost one of their own- but eventually, that sadness dulled and dissipated. While she still missed her sister, Kahlan knew that she had never really left her. She and Cara took great comfort in what they had experienced the day of Aria's funeral but they had never told anyone. It was too intimate to share. The knowledge that Aria and Dahlia were happy where they were was enough to help them through the grieving process much sooner than they had expected. It also didn't hurt knowing that Aria was ok with them raising her daughters. Katherine and Emma knew about their parents, of course, but the two women had opted to keep the details of their deaths to themselves for the time being. When the twins were old enough, they would learn how and why their parents died. Until then, they would visit the statue in the center of the city that had been modified after Aria's death to include a womanly figure in a Confessor's dress. Aria's reputation as the Red Confessor grew exponentially after her death. Years later, stories of her and Hayden's love as well as their noble deaths spread across the Midlands. Wherever the twins went, even outside of Aidyndril, crowds parted and graced them with presents in honor of their parents' sacrifice.
Kahlan knew that the coming years would not be easy. In addition to raising teenagers, the family was on a constant alert for threats. They refused to be caught as unaware as they were with Torren and his fanatics. Their vigilance was rewarded time and time again, seeing as there was no shortage of rebels and psychopaths. Although they had faced their fair share of foes since Torren, the Palace had never been a more joyful place to live.
Generations later, history books would refer to the years of Kahlan Amnell and Richard Rahl's rule as the "Gilded Age". When all who contributed to this Age were gone, stories would be written and songs would be sung about them for centuries to come. Even the Mord'Sith, who had come to Aidyndril as hated enemies, would eventually be welcomed with open arms throughout the Midlands. Because of the trials they had overcome, this large, dysfunctional family had learned one thing above all else:
Their world was not black and white. There was rarely 'good versus evil'. Instead, there were those who chose to fight for themselves and those who chose to fight for others and regardless of which side one chooses, life would never be as simple or as effortless as a child riding a horse made of sticks.
Finishing this story is probably the more bittersweet thing that's happened to me in a while. I don't think I'll ever be able to put into words how much this story means to me and how grateful I am for those of you have even glanced at it. While I don't anticipate turning this into a trilogy, I am always open to ideas and suggestions. Send me a message anytime, even if it's just to chat! I'm leaving for Africa tomorrow morning and won't have access to a computer for the next 2 weeks so if you send me a message within that time frame, I won't be able to respond as quickly as I normally do. Thank you all so much for going on this almost 5 year long (holy shit) adventure with me and I hope to see your names on my next LOTS fic!