Diclaimer: I own no part of Sword of Truth or Legend of the Seeker.
Jennsen tucked her bare feet up under her as she sat on a bench in one of the courtyards of the People's Palace. Even after four days she was still being struck with all the differences between her previous life and the way people lived in the heart of D'Hara. She hadn't really understood why her mother never went to a village with more than thirty people or why her mother never remarried or why she told stories about the Seeker so close to the People's Palace. Jennsen had grown up hearing about Richard so much she felt like she knew him.
Her mother hadn't just told her stories about how the Seeker the brave man who would bring about the defeat of Lord Rahl. Jennsen's mother had spent Richard's birthday imagining what her little boy would be like; whether he'd have straight teeth or crooked, if he'd have a girl he particularly liked, what his favorite color might be. Every year Jennsen had sent that day wondering what it would have been like to grow up with an older brother, a hero. At the end of the day Jennsen's mother would tell her about her birth date.
It started with the descriptions of birth pangs and Jennsen's mother was always sure to add that she had known the pain would be worth it to get to know the child she had been carrying for months. It always ended with Jennsen's mother telling her about the days she'd spent holding her infant daughter and fearing that soldiers would come to take Jennsen away. Jennsen hadn't had time to think about that while she'd been on the run from Darken Rahl's soldiers. Every day she had pushed aside all thoughts that didn't have to do with helping the Resistance and defeating Darken Rahl.
Once Jennsen had thought that the only way to defeat Lord Rahl would have been to kill him. That would have been fine with her for reasons her grandfather could articulate better than she would ever be able to. Even if Darken Rahl hadn't ordered Denna to kill Jennsen's mother he had still put Denna in the frame of mind where she felt killing Jennsen's mother was... good. Jennsen knew that and she felt it but it had been easier to live with before she had actually met Lord Rahl. Even knowing that all he had wanted from her was her help getting the Boxes of Orden and everything he had said and done was to that end alone Jennsen still wasn't sure how she felt about Darken Rahl. Jennsen had spent months trying to make herself disbelieve his claim that he was her older brother. After a time she had settled on the rationalization that whether or not he was her brother didn't matter. Even if he was a member of what was left of her family he was still evil and still needed to be stopped.
But deep down Jennsen still doubted. Everyone she talked to always had an excuse for where they wanted her to be and why. Jennsen's grandfather and her good brother loved her but wanted her far away from the fighting; for her own safety, to protect the Boxes and likely a few other reasons as well. Darken Rahl had sent her out to find the Boxes and had wanted her affection to insure he got them. Her mother had been in hiding and unwilling to let Jennsen go because of who Zedd and Richard were and because of Jennsen's gift. Jennsen was left with the feeling she imagined a mouse had during an avalanche.
The number of other children Jennsen had known as a child was few. Her whole life was hiding. There had been no boys courting her, no girls to talk to about clothes or boys, no people in her life other than her mother. It wasn't that Jennsen had especially wanted to giggle about boys but she hadn't even known what she was missing until she had gone underground with the Resistance. Some of the families Jennsen had stayed with had been three or four generations all contained in one farmhouse; grandparents helping to look after small children while their parents worked in the fields or at their trades. Not all of them accepted Jennsen the same way but all of them had known that they weren't Jennsen's final destination.
It was like wandering in a blizzard when she didn't know any better and then finding a house full of light and warmth and not being able to get inside. Zedd and Richard loved her; Jennsen had no doubt of that. Darken might love her in his own twisted way or maybe he just wanted to love her. Kahlan and Alana had become the sisters Jennsen had never had. But it wasn't enough. Jennsen immediately felt selfish for that thought. The truth of it burned her on the inside. They were all busy with affairs of state and she didn't know how to help them. The Palace staff took care of their physical needs and as much as she tried to help she always felt in the way.
With a weary sigh Jennsen stood and decided it was time to try again. She wanted to be useful but it was hard when she didn't read or write in the language most of the records were in and when she didn't have any way to judge how accurate the records were. There was the added problem that so far few of the people outside of Richard's group took her seriously. She was just Lord Rahl's younger sister; not a Wizard, not a Confessor, not a Mord Sith and not even a soldier. Jennsen might be special when going up against Wizards but she was no match for a group of armed men.
While Jennsen thought she trudged down the stairs to the rooms Richard had taken over. The rooms here were less ornately decorated, more like the ones Darken had installed her in during her second visit. Her steps echoed oddly as she turned the corner and walked through her grandfather's protective webs. The scene she saw when she opened the door didn't surprise her. Darken sat in a corner with a smirk that said he was far above everything going on even though his fingers were bound. Richard was gesturing angrily at a map and glaring at Alana who had her hands on her hips. Kahlan looked like she had a migraine and Zedd seemed to be ignoring them all in favor of some reports.
"No," Alana said hotly. "I won't go play mouthpiece for Lord Rahl. I can do more good here."
"Fine!" Kahlan snapped. "I'll go."
"What's going on?" Jennsen asked hesitantly. She still wasn't used to being the center of attention for very many people. She flinched at the angry glares turned her way.
Kahlan sighed and softened her expression. "The soldiers at Brennidon are giving the locals trouble and vice versa. We need to have someone go mediate."
"Brennidon, my mother's home?" Jennsen asked, her curiosity roused.
"Yes." Alana said tightly. "It's a very long way from here. So long that it might be over by the time I get there even if I use horses."
"I'll go." Jennsen offered.
Zedd looked up but it was Richard who said, "No."
"Why not?" Jennsen asked, indignation overcoming shyness. "I've never seen it."
Alana gave her a speculative look. "And what would you do once you were there?"
Jennsen gulped a breath, afraid she was about to start babbling. "I'll talk to everyone and listen to them, really listen. I'm the younger sister of Richard who is both Lord Rahl and the Seeker of Truth and I'm granddaughter of the only First Wizard of the Midlands who's still alive." She winced as she realized what she'd just said and sent her grandfather an apologetic look.
"She has a point," Darken Rahl said archly, conspicuously at ease.
"She isn't trained for that kind of thing." Zedd glared at Darken Rahl.
"I'm right here." Jennsen reminded them, knowing Darken Rahl was deliberately riling her grandfather.
"I think it's a good idea." Alana said, the edge on her tone sharp enough to cut glass.
There was a pregnant pause as everyone turned to look at Richard. "I'm not sending you there by yourself."
Kahlan had the serene look she usually saved for when she was fulfilling her duties as Confessor. "Chase should be in the area. Have him protect her while she goes there as your voice. Emma and their children would probably do well in Brennidon."
Richard paused. "That could be-"
Jennsen gave her brother a look, raising her chin. "This is something I want to do. You need Kahlan and Alana here right now. They're better at this than I am."
"Alright," Richard sighed. "I'll contact Chase and ask him to escort you." Richard helplessly held out his hands. "Are you sure you won't think about staying?"
"If things settle down I'll come back." Jennsen smiled reassuringly, not sure if she was telling the truth.
"I'll miss you, Jennsen." Richard said sadly.
"I know." Jennsen wasn't sure if that was a lie either but she was too relieved at how well Richard was taking it to care. Until right then she hadn't been sure whether her brother would take it as a betrayal. She tried to keep a stiff upper lip as she realized all over again how little she really knew about her brother. She probably wouldn't know him any better if she stayed a couple more weeks.
"Creator keep you safe, child." Zedd stood and hugged his granddaughter tightly.
Jennsen hugged him back. "You too, grandfather." She would miss him and he would miss her but she was sure he'd find enough to fill his days. After all, he had to look after the Seeker.
Kahlan moved slowly through her knife exercises, enjoying the simple tug and pull of muscles in the sun. She was free to move through rooms as she wished, to talk to whoever she pleased, eat what and when she wanted, and to use her power at her own discretion. Not just her ability to Confess people but her power of thought felt less confined. This was why Kahlan felt guilty that the thing she found most pleasurable was flaunting that freedom in front of Darken Rahl. "You were rather quiet earlier."
Darken snorted, and readjusted his bound hands so that her eyes were drawn to them. "What was there to say? The little girl wants to run away from all this. Who can blame her?" Contempt rang through his every word.
"Do you want to join her?" Kahlan kept her tone light and curious. She wasn't about to give him the satisfaction of getting inside her head.
Darken laughed harshly. "Of course I do. What's left for me here? Your Seeker is playing at being Lord Rahl but he has no understanding of what that entails. Not that it's his fault he was raised in a place where they've never had to deal with wizardry or gars or anything more threatening than famine."
Kahlan's lips twisted into a wry smile despite her intention of remaining blank. "His brother was one of their leaders. They must have learned about leadership from his father."
"I know about Michael Cypher from my garrison's reports. Would I be correct in assuming you Confessed the commander I sent so that he reported the Seeker dead?" Darken's tone almost matched Kahlan's except for a bitter edge of anger he struggled to hide.
Kahlan looked in his eyes and saw right through his arrogant posturing and angry words. "Why does Jennsen leaving bother you so much?"
Darken glared at Kahlan. "Didn't anyone ever tell you that answering a question with a question is rude?"
"No, I was taught that it was my job to ask the right questions." Kahlan answered easily. "It's much better to solve things through the careful application of reason and compromise than to impose a judgment no one has any intention of following. The people of the Midlands might obey us out of respect-" she noticed the incredulous look on Darken's face, "-yes and some fear. But it wouldn't work if we didn't give good judgments."
"You're lecturing." Darken said, exaggerated boredom evident in every line of his body. "Why am I here instead of some deep, dark cell?"
Kahlan shrugged, unconsciously putting her hands on her hips. "Would you rather that we put you in some deep, dark cell?"
"No." Darken answered with a sly smile. "Is this a case of trying to catch more flies with honey?"
"No." Kahlan said a little too firmly. "I believe in respecting you as a person. Even though you're a prisoner and a murderer and have committed many acts of torture and fraud I'm still going to treat you as I think a human should be treated. Obviously we can't trust you so you'll be kept on a short tether but there's no reason we should stoop to your level."
The short, bitter laugh that escaped Darken was quickly hidden by a taunting smile. "What did I do to you that was so horrible? I tried to show you the truth."
"This isn't about me." Kahlan matched his smile. "I'm a Confessor. I'm an expert at finding the truth. I don't have to be dragged to it like an inbred lap dog." Kahlan squared her shoulders and stepped away from Darken. "Everybody tells so many lies to each other and to themselves. It's more difficult to tell why someone is lying than to tell if they are." She held up a finger when it looked like he was about to interrupt. "You did lie but I believe that you lied to yourself more than you lied to me. D'Hara was created for a purpose and I believe that purpose would be better served by your cooperation than your execution."
"That does explain why you let your Seeker destroy me using the power of Orden but kept me away from the Keeper." Darken's penetrating blue eyes met hers. "Intellectually."
"I don't know what you mean." Kahlan looked down at her feet and bit her lip.
"No? When I first brought you here you fought me as hard as you could. You appear to have stopped fighting me and you're trying to convince me you're doing this all for your own purposes. I think you have feelings for me. I think that whatever rationalizations and justifications you've come up with to convince the First Wizard and the Seeker to let me live are merely to cloak the truth of what you feel. Which are you more afraid of; that your Seeker and his Wizard will turn on you or that I'm right?"
"You really are an arrogant bastard." Kahlan's voice quivered with outrage. "My aims are exactly the same as they were the day I took my oath as a Confessor."
"What would those be exactly?" Darken asked mockingly.
"Peace and prosperity for my people." Kahlan answered. "If it would be better for them to keep you alive then I will keep you alive."
"My life is dependent on my usefulness." Darken said in the same slightly acid tone. "That does sound very different from the way I treated my prisoners." He raised his eyebrows. "You're about to ask me to do something you don't think I'll like very much."
"I want you to wear a Rada'Han." Kahlan said without a hint of apology.
Darken Rahl blinked rapidly. "Why? In case it escaped your notice I'm not a match for the First Wizard."
"Zedd isn't always around to keep an eye on you."
"You don't think you're able to keep me in line?" Darken asked in a curious tone that belied the look in his eyes.
"I think you're smart enough to eventually find some hole to exploit no matter what we do to keep you occupied. If you're wearing a Rada'Han it will limit the damage you can do when that happens." Kahlan tilted her head. "Richard told me what you were able to do to the Mord Sith and guards I Confessed when you pushed me into the Con Dar. You used a simple illusion when you were fighting him but against them you just did sword work and then the transport spell. Fine, not just sword work. Very impressive sword work that didn't rely on any spells that Richard could see."
"So you talked about me when I wasn't around." Darken said smugly.
"Well, yes. We had to figure out the best way to get to you. Since you weren't formally schooled at Aydindril Zedd wasn't sure just how strong you were. Giller worked for us so we already knew what he could do. You were unknown." Kahlan shrugged. "From what we've seen you aren't very powerful. You prefer to outthink and intimidate your opponents. I know you've said it before but you always try to make it sound like a purely good thing instead of something with drawbacks."
Darken raised a skeptical eyebrow. "There's something wrong with making my enemies too scared to fight me? I thought it saved a lot of mess."
"You're terrified of battle and Giller worked all of your major spells. After his death your sorcerers figured out how to make the Whisperers, not you." Kahlan thoughtfully cocked her head. "Why did you stop using those?"
"Once you've used a few the threat either works or it doesn't." Darken shrugged too casually. "Besides, once the threat's sunk in there's too great a chance one or two or a crate will fall into the wrong hands either through incompetence or greed."
"Is that why your father thought you weren't worthy?" Kahlan asked neutrally.
"What?" Darken exclaimed, real surprise and fear flashed for a beat before being covered by anger and hate.
"All Lords of the House of Rahl have been wizards. According to the histories they were more than a match for any given First Wizard in their lifetime. That could be exaggerated since the Aydindril wizards could be trying to exaggerate their achievements by exaggerating their enemies' abilities while the Rahl histories exaggerate the powers of their side to intimidate their enemies." Kahlan's lips twisted as she tried to control her own anger. "But I think you're weaker than your father and that's why he kept having more sons. Why should he care if you died when it would let a more powerful son take your place?"
Darken clenched his hands into fists. "The Seeker is not better than me."
"Keep repeating that." Kahlan said scornfully.
Grimacing in something that he wanted Kahlan to believe was disgust Darken glared at Kahlan. "I know what I'm talking about."
Kahlan said nothing about how he had just equated more powerful with better despite all of his protests that his way of doing things was better than just using power. She didn't comment on his defensiveness. She didn't say anything at all as she stared Darken down.
He broke first. "Why did you take his side? I thought we really connected."
"I told you, I didn't pick sides." Kahlan had to pause as she realized the pity she felt for him was real. "You really don't understand, do you? I didn't side against you, Jennsen didn't side against you and Denna- well, Denna did side against you."
"Explain to me how that makes any kind of sense." Darken said in a brittle tone that used to make grown men think about wetting themselves.
"Jennsen and I both sided with our consciences." Kahlan looked Darken in the eyes, scrying his mind to see if she could convince him to follow her if not Richard. "Denna sided against you and with herself. Neither Jennsen nor I had any reason to feel loyalty to you. You destroyed our families and while I believe that you believe it was justified and may even feel regret about it you aren't sorry. You work to make your own enemies." Kahlan closed her eyes and sighed. "The frustrating thing is that you know this."
Darken Rahl rubbed a bound hand over the tip of his nose. There was nothing he could say to that without repeating himself. "She gave the Boxes to your Seeker. In doing so she sided with him."
"And you accuse me of oversimplifying." Kahlan scoffed. "You never gave Richard a choice in being your enemy so you don't have room to complain about your father never giving a choice in enemies. Jennsen is free to choose. Many of my enemies choose me either because of what my order stands for or because like you, they're afraid of my power. Even so, deciding that I think the people of the Midlands and D'Hara are better off without you in charge does not mean that I stand against you. Nor does my decision to preserve you for your expertise mean that I have any sort of romantic attachment to you." Kahlan reopened her eyes. "The world isn't divided into people who're on your side and people who aren't. Everyone has their own agenda that might coincide with parts of yours and might not."
"You Confessed Egremont." Darken said suddenly. "In doing that you sided against me."
Kahlan was taken aback. That had been an unexpected counter even though she'd known how much it would hurt him.
"You call me weak and ask me to accept a visible limitation on my power." Darken adjusted his bound hands to draw attention to them. "I'll wear it." He sighed heavily.
Darken Rahl stared at his prison walls and contemplated the nature of irony. This was more than he would have expected if anyone had told him that his dumb brother, the Seeker, would take over and leave him alive. That made it chafe all the more and not only did the Mother Confessor know it but so did the First Wizard. He fingered the collar around his throat, half insult and half honor. He suspected both parts were equally heartfelt from the Mother Confessor.
Jennsen had physically abandoned them all while remaining firmly in the Seeker's camp. Darken had considered marking time on his wall as a way of keeping track of how many days the Seeker had been Lord Rahl but had discarded the notion as childish. Now that Jennsen was gone he considered it again as a way of keeping track of how long it took Alana to follow suit. Both departures were easy to see coming from a long way off if the viewer could read people as well as Darken Rahl could.
The Seeker was an office. The Seeker was a man. Both were strong and weak just as he had been both strong and weak as a man fulfilling the office of Lord Rahl. The new Lord Rahl thought he could carry out his duties differently, better. Darken was torn between anticipation at watching the Seeker fail and worry about what would happen to him when the Seeker inevitably failed. He approached everything wrong, like it could all be solved with good intentions and a magic sword.
Admittedly, so far it was working. Darken had to give the Seeker credit for picking good followers. Most of the Resistance leadership was willing to put its faith in the legend and let the Seeker try to do what he could. The Confessors were sworn to him and the First Wizard was his doting grandfather. That combination gave the Seeker a position of strength and loyalty that so far had nothing to counter it. Human nature being what it was Darken was sure that somewhere there was a Resistance leader preparing to set himself up as a warlord.
The logical step would be to declare that the Seeker had turned his back on the ideals of the Resistance by accepting the title of Lord Rahl. Figuring out which ones would be likely to splinter would be easy if Darken could look at their correspondence. But to do that would support the Seeker as Lord Rahl and Darken wasn't sure he was willing to do that yet or ever.
He felt an echo of what Kahlan had said about everyone having their own agenda. Darken supposed it could be worse. The Seeker could be like Darken who would have insisted on executing his predecessor on principle. But their differences both philosophical and longstanding made the Seeker less likely to listen to his advice. So far Darken had seen little evidence that the Seeker was good at filtering reports but long on the stubbornness needed to read through them. Between the Seeker's insistence on doing every little detail himself that he could and the Wizard's suspicion that everything Darken did was to pave the way for a coup there wasn't much that Darken could do to help or hinder.
He still wasn't sure which he wanted to do.