Don't Let Go

Part 1-Poison

They rode fast and hard, the sheets of rain pelting their bodies like shards of glass. Not far behind, a group of soldiers galloped after them, the thunder of their hooves clashing with the storm above.

"Ride, Kahlan!" the youth screamed to his partner, urging his own horse faster. Their attackers were a foot behind and gaining, and unlike these bloodthirsty soldiers, Richard Cypher wasn't looking for a fight. But this scene was all too familiar for Richard and Kahlan, a common theme since they first met. Just a month ago Richard was like any other man in Hartland, building bridges rather than burning them. Then he met Kahlan, a mysterious woman whom he had rescued from the same soldiers that were pursuing them now. He had been the valiant hero, only to realize his damsel was far from defenseless. She was a Confessor, part of an order of women who had the ability to force the truth out of someone, no matter how difficult. In addition to her assortment of powers, she was sworn to see to the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy, a man said to rise up and kill the evil that ruled over the land. So it fell to Richard to seek out this evil, and was bestowed the hallowed name Seeker.

It was just the two of them now, for the ancient wizard who had begun Richard's training in order to fulfill his destiny had fallen victim to a viscous ambush just days before. There was little time to grieve, for Zedd's assailant would not rest until all three of them were dead. So it was with that in mind that they pushed harder, determined to put some space between them and the unit of D'Haran soldiers. Arrows continued to fly, landing ever closer to their mark despite the haze of rain.

"We have to split up!" Richard cried over the fury of the storm and the constant pounding of hooves. "We'll loose them faster that way."

"Are you crazy?" Kahlan howled back. "Even if we do lose them, how will we find each other in this?"

"We will," he promised, his eyes showing nothing but blatant assurance. "Let's just get these buzzards off our tails."

A fork in the road lay ahead of them, and they took advantage of it. Kahlan wrenched her horse to the right, darting into a thick patch of forest, while Richard led the other half onto the left-side trail. Three of them took to following Kahlan, eager to have a witch's blood on their hands. They knew she could only ride for so long; the path they were on would lead along the base of a steep cliff, leaving her no choice but to turn and fight. The Confessor knew none of this, only the onslaught of rain and the chocking panic rising in her throat. This was all too familiar. She had lost her sister to the same army, all bent on enforcing Darken Rahl's tyrannous rule and eliminating any potential threats. She had sworn to protect the Seeker with her life, and if that duty ended tonight, she would openly welcome the spirits' promise of eternal peace. She would do anything, so long as Richard Cypher lived to see the prophecy through.

As promised, the trail wound into the crescent of the cliff face, forcing Kahlan to face her pursuers.

"It's over, Confessor," one of the cloaked soldiers growled. "Your sorcery ends here. Dismount and we'll give you the honor of a quick death."

There was nowhere left to run. With a prayer to the spirits to protect her charge, no matter what happened, she swung off the horse, drawing her dagger from its sheath at her waist. After a second's pause, they approached her, officially beginning the fight. Kahlan was quick to disarm the first, his bulky armor making him too slow to compete with her graceful movements. She ended his life swiftly and he hit the ground with a heavy thud. She spun around to meet her next attacker, landing a fatal blow to the throat.

The last, enraged by the deaths of his comrades, confronted her with an aggression far better than those before him. They circled each other, each watching for any move that would betray the other. He moved with a grace that surprised her; surely his skill was that of one of Darken Rahl's higher officers. Each step was careful and deliberate-a single slip-up meant death for either of them. He was the one to advance first, but was careful not to let her free arm touch him in any way. Kahlan noticed this with a confident smile. Even this man, skilled as he was, was afraid of the powers of a Confessor. But it was clear he was forcing that from his mind, concentrating on the fighter, not the witch. He eventually forced her backward and, concentrating on his movements, Kahlan did not watch her footing. The mud was slick underfoot, and she stumbled on the loose rocks hidden below. It was enough. During the moment of imbalance, he swung his blade toward her torso, thrilled when he made contact. A yell of fury burst from Kahlan's lungs as his assault broke the skin, furious that he found a breach in her defenses. With a rush of adrenaline, she thrust her dagger forward, catching her adversary between the ribs. With a wide and fearful gaze, he looked into the Confessor's eyes, fierce and alight with satisfaction.

"Give my regards to my sister," she hissed, and shoved his now lifeless body to the ground.

Heaving in great gulps of the freezing air, she glanced dazedly at the trio she had just killed. When it came down to it, no one was spared in her quest to protect the Seeker; thankfully she was able to keep her own life this time. For a long moment, all was silent, save the raging storm. She stepped carefully over the bodies to retrieve her horse, rattled by the sudden smell of blood. She was in the process of soothing the frightened animal when a sudden rustle of underbrush sounded from the trail's edge.

"Who's there?" Kahlan called, a sliver of fear tainting her otherwise perfect tone. "Show yourself!"

A man on horseback entered the clearing, his face hidden by the shimmering haze.


A sigh of relief whooshed out of her and she lowered her dagger, smiling as Richard's warm features became clear. He glanced around the clearing.

"Looks like you had no trouble," he observed.

She shrugged. "None at all. You?"

He gave a shrug of his own. "No more than what I'm used to."

Kahlan sheathed her dagger and moved to mount her horse when a sharp pain shot from her side, hot and burning despite the chilly night. Her gasp made Richard look up from his examination. Her face had gone deathly pale, her hand pressed against her side. She staggered forward, looking up at him with frightened eyes. Richard's heart stopped when she hit the ground.