The Bard's Tales: Promethean Heat, Chapter 1
Okay, so this is the first of what I expect will be an extended series of stories inspired by my "A Winter's Tale," the title of which sparked an unexpected series of plot ideas. This was the one that jumped out first. Jumped out, slapped me upside the head, shook me, and stomped on my feet till I started writing it. My head is a scary, scary place.
For those who've read my other work, this is quite a bit more angst-ridden than Cypher's Seven or Water Under The Bridge.
Set shortly after Cypher's Seven, which is post-Mirror, and before Cursed.
Disclaimer: These characters aren't mine (with the exception of Raythe, Kharvath and Anson), I can't make money off them, so I'm going to become a bowling shark to support my review-crack habit.
Summary: Zedd has a close encounter with a Mord Sith, and Kahlan and Richard get more than they bargained for when they go to his rescue.
It was a bright, sunny morning, and Kahlan was enjoying their trek for a change. They hadn't had any encounters with D'Harans since Hamilton, and she'd felt lighter in spirit since their success there.
Zedd, however, was complaining incessantly. He'd been stung by ants the day before when he'd unwittingly sat on an anthill, and judging from his mood, he was still suffering. Kahlan bit back a smile, remembering how he'd jumped. Who'd have thought such a tall man could move so fast?
"Richard! Kahlan! Wait, I have a rock in my shoe!" he called after them as they were climbing a small hill beside a craggy rock outcropping. There were several small cave openings, which Richard noted as they passed. Good hiding places, if we needed them, he thought.
Kahlan looked back. Zedd had sat down and was shaking out his boot. Which, given the size of the boot, could take a while, she thought, amused. There was a flash of light in her eyes, and Kahlan looked past Zedd, trying to figure out what she'd seen. Her eyes widened--there were D'Haran soldiers pouring out of a cave right behind Zedd. The bright morning sun was glinting off their drawn swords.
"Zedd!" Kahlan cried, starting back towards him at a run. He looked up sharply, and turned, but the wrong way. By the time he'd realized where the threat lay, one of the D'Haran soldiers had clubbed him savagely across the head with the butt of a crossbow. Zedd fell and lay still, and Kahlan skidded to a stop, as she saw dozens more D'Harans coming out of the trees.
"Zedd!" Richard yelled, and started past her, but Kahlan grabbed for him. Without Zedd to help them, they were hopelessly outnumbered.
And that was even before Kahlan saw the Mord Sith come out of the cave, approach the fallen wizard, and look up at her, smiling. She raised her agiel in a salute.
"Run!" Kahlan yelled, pulling Richard back.
"What?" he yelped. "What about Zedd? We can't just leave him!"
Kahlan wrapped her arm around him and half-pushed, half-pulled him away from the approaching soldiers. "We're no good to him if the D'Harans capture us, too! Richard, come on!" She had a sudden, horrible sense of déjà vu and realized the scene was frighteningly similar to the dream she'd had just before Richard was captured by Denna. She forced the thought away roughly.
"Richard, there's a Mord Sith!" Kahlan said, dragging at him, and finally he started to follow her, though he was still looking back at their fallen friend. Kahlan was more worried about the D'Harans who were now running up the hill after them. "We'll get help. We'll get him back, I swear!"
Richard made a strangled sound of frustration, and turned and ran with her. They fled headlong through the forest, hearing the crashing sounds of the D'Harans at their heels. How long can we keep ahead of them? Kahlan worried, glancing back as she ran. She gasped as she tripped over a tree root and nearly fell. Richard caught her arm and hauled her up, and they slid down an embankment into a broad meadow. An arrow flew by, narrowly missing her shoulder.
They sprinted across the meadow, gaining some ground, but Kahlan wasn't sure it would be enough. But to her surprise, as they were a few yards from entering the forest on the far side of the meadow, arrows began flying past them--but this time from in front of them. They skidded to a stop, diving down to avoid the missiles that flew over their heads…
...And began hitting the D'Harans following them. Kahlan looked up in amazement as a ragtag contingent of fighters streamed out of the trees and engaged the surprised D'Harans. She and Richard exchanged glances, then scrambled up and joined the fight.
At first she was worried there weren't enough of them to stop the D'Harans, but the archers in the trees tipped the balance. Soon, they outnumbered the soldiers.
Kahlan had just taken down a soldier when she heard a cry of fear behind her and turned to see Richard knocked backwards by a D'Haran soldier. He fell hard, his sword flying from his outstretched hand.
"Richard!" Kahlan yelled, running toward the downed Seeker. She hit the D'Haran with her shoulder, knocking him backwards and away from Richard, then followed to slash his throat as he tried to get up. He fell, mouth working soundlessly, and Kahlan turned back to help Richard to his feet.
Kahlan reared back in shock. It wasn't Richard.
It certainly looked like him. His hair was a little lighter, the eyes more hazel than her Richard's deep brown, but the shape of the face was eerily similar. As she looked at him, though, she realized there wasn't the magnetism about him that Richard had, that made her conscious of Richard's presence even when she couldn't see him.
Kahlan shook herself. Not now. There are still D'Harans to deal with, she told herself. She reached down and grabbed the man's arm, pulling him to his feet.
"Thanks," he gasped his eyes wide.
Kahlan nodded, and then focused her attention on finding the real Richard. He was off to her left, fighting two D'Harans, but he seemed to have the situation well in hand. The other Resistance fighters were finishing off a few individual D'Harans still fighting.
Kahlan smiled in relief as she recognized one of the Resistance fighters--it was Devlin, the man who'd helped them rescue Chase's family from Giller's keep. He was pulling his sword from the gut of a fallen D'Haran. He looked around, and breathed a sigh of relief as he saw the last D'Haran fall under the sword of the Seeker.
"Devlin!" Kahlan called, and the Resistance fighter turned, smiling.
"Kahlan! It's good to see you!" he said, walking over to her. "And thanks for the morning workout."
The man who Kahlan had mistaken for Richard joined them. "Sorry for the confusion," he said. "It's not the first time I've been mistaken for the Seeker. Though I have to say I enjoyed it more this time than usual." He grinned at her. "I'm Anson Rhys."
"I appreciate the assistance," Kahlan said to both him and Devlin. "It's lucky you came along when you did."
"It's the least we could do for the Seeker and the Mother Confessor," Anson said. He took her hand and bent over, kissing it.
Kahlan raised her eyebrows in amusement. "A very noble gesture, Anson," she said, extricating her hand. "But your charm won't work as well on me as it does on other women. After all, I've spent the last several months with the real thing." She nodded at Richard, who was approaching as he sheathed the Sword of Truth.
Anson laughed out loud. "Well, you can't blame a man for trying, can you?" He wiggled his eyebrows at her, and she smiled slightly, her eyes twinkling.
Richard joined them. "Thanks for the help, Devlin. But I'm afraid we're going to be asking you for quite a bit more than this," he said, clasping Devlin's arm, though he was looking sidelong at Anson, unsure what to make of him. "We have a problem."
Devlin frowned, glancing back at Kahlan. Her smile had been replaced by a worried expression that matched Richard's. "Well, it never does any good to hear bad news on an empty stomach," he said. "Come back to our camp. We'll talk about it there."
In the woods just outside the meadow where the Seeker was talking with the Resistance fighters, Jarvin R'el Kharvath looked on. He was surprised to notice one of the Resistance men was a mirror image of the Seeker. He watched as the man bent deeply over the Confessor's hand, kissing it.
Interesting, Kharvath thought. I wonder… He smiled slyly, and kept watching, looking for the best time to cast his spell. They looked like they were getting ready to leave, and when they turned to go, there was a moment when the Seeker was unobserved by the others.
Kharvath chanted quickly, his hands raised, and a green vapor emanated from his hands. It flowed quickly across the ground, easily missed in the bright sun, and twined around the Seeker. There was a brief flare of green around him, and he looked around, startled, but the flare had already faded.
Did it work? the sorceror thought uneasily. But it didn't matter, really. If it works, it's a small distraction. If it doesn't, well, Mistress Raythe doesn't need to know… He shuddered at the thought of the Mord Sith, and scuttled away.
Richard glanced around again, wondering what it was he'd seen, but couldn't see anything to explain it. The others were already leaving the meadow, and he shook his head, running to catch up.
Zedd came to briefly, lying on the ground inside a tent. His hands were bound, he was gagged, and his head was pounding. He heard a noise behind him, and tried to turn his head to see what it was, but the movement sent him back into darkness.
The dark-haired Mord Sith looked down at the unconscious wizard, tapping her agiel in her palm in agitation. "Bring me the soldier who struck the wizard," she ordered the soldier at the tent opening.
"Yes, Mistress Raythe," he said, and scrambled to follow the order.
Raythe sighed, frustrated. She turned to see Kharvath enter the tent. "Well?" she said impatiently.
"I followed them. They met up with a group of Resistance fighters, and they killed the soldiers chasing them. But I may have good news," he said, licking his lips nervously. "There was a man with the Resistance fighters who looked very much like the Seeker."
"How is that good news?" Raythe said witheringly.
Kharvath cringed. "I may have--" He broke off at the sound of scuffling outside as a soldier was brought into the tent.
Raythe shoved Kharvath aside roughly and stepped close to the soldier. "What do you see there?" she asked him, pointing down at Zedd.
The soldier looked confused. "I…I see the wizard, Zeddicus Z'ul Zorander, Mistress."
Raythe nodded. "Of course you do. Unfortunately, that's not what I see."
She raised her agiel, and his eyes widened, following its path. "I see a useless lump of flesh," she said slowly. "I can't train a useless lump of flesh, can I?"
The soldier swallowed hard.
"Your ineptitude has left me with nothing to do until he," she nodded down at the wizard, "regains consciousness. So what will I do to fill my time?"
Kharvath slipped out of the tent as the soldier's screams reverberated through the camp.