Richard, Kahlan and Zedd were still elated after defeating Rahl and had spent the last week with Zedd's brother, Thaddius. Thadd's home was small but comfortable enough and allowed them an opportunity to just relax. He had a bed for Zedd while Richard and Kahlan slept on their bedrolls in the main room. They would have preferred to sleep under the stars but the recent rains kept them indoors.
They were all enjoying the respite and the freedom of burden's lifted. Richard's relief at having Kahlan by his side again was indescribable. Just sitting down to a meal with her, sharing a laugh, seeing her smile, filled him with happiness.
They had grown closer with all that had happened over recent months. More so since that day on the beach when he'd told her all she had sacrificed for him and how he had fought so hard to make it back to their own time. Back to her. They both felt the strong pull to one another, though neither one said anything. Richard noticed she certainly seemed more at ease. It warmed him that she now often put her hand on his arm or gently touched his shoulder when he was near. He returned these simple gestures in kind and they were enough for now. Just last night he'd touched his hand to her back drawing a look from her that further melted any resistance between them. He knew it was just a matter of time before he would find a way for them to be together.
With their strengthening bond, he wanted to do something special for her. He had shared his idea with Zedd and his grandfather had gone with him into town to work out the details with an old friend of his. Richard looked forward to tomorrow when he would share his surprise with Kahlan.
Walking through the town with Kahlan's hand holding onto his arm, Richard knew he was grinning broadly. He didn't care. He was happy to have her here beside him. She looked happy too. "What is it Richard?" she asked, nearly giddy with excitement.
His smile grew even wider. He enjoyed seeing the woman inside her finally free to come out. He'd caught glimpses of her now and then over their time together, but Kahlan usually kept her securely locked away behind an inner door of protection. Now, with Rahl dead, she was able to open that door just a bit, and put some of the warrior behind her. "You'll find out soon enough."
He brought her to the entrance of Robert's workshop. Robert, an elderly and congenial man was an artist of magical paintings, much as James had been; only Robert was a very old friend of Zedd's and could be trusted with sending Richard and Kahlan into one of his paintings. Richard had asked him to make an enchanted painting of the land of the Nightwisps. Kahlan had often talked about her visits to the homeland of Shar, Mira and the others. She had told Richard how beautiful and peaceful it was there and that she wanted to someday take him there. Instead, he would take her.
Zedd had known Robert from when he was a young wizard and Robert was just beginning to study art. He fully trusted him with creating the enchanted painting and had spent the better part of a day describing the homeland of the Nightwisps and of the floating creatures that lived there. Zedd shared with his friend all that had happened with James how he had created paintings where no one's magic but his own would work. Robert explained that while he could make a similar enchanted painting, in order for the Nightwisps magic to work, all magic would need to exist within his painting. Richard asked if he would be able to finish it by the next day and Robert had promised he would have it ready.
Just before entering the shop, Richard took Kahlan's hands in his. "Close your eyes."
Kahlan gave him a mischievous smile and did as he said, letting Richard guide her in.
"Hello Robert" he greeted. He instructed Kahlan to keep her eyes closed. "This is the Mother Confessor, Kahlan Amnell. You can officially meet when we get back."
Kahlan's tone was questioning "Get back?"
Richard squeezed her hands in reassurance and nodded to Robert to go ahead.
Robert had been expecting them and was ready. He began painting the Seeker and Confessor into his painting. "What's going on Richard?" Kahlan asked.
"Just be patient." She was more than happy to stand there all day with her eyes closed as long as he continued holding her hands like he was.
With the final stroke of Robert's brush Richard and Kahlan's forms wavered before disappearing from his shop.
Richard looked expectantly into her face as he spoke softly, "open your eyes Kahlan."
She opened her eyes, blinking several times to adjust to the darkness. Her attention was immediately pulled to the floating blue lights surrounding them. Bewilderment and disbelief washed over her face as comprehension set in. She gripped tight to Richard's hands still holding hers as her eyes found his. She stared into them a long moment, his image a watery blur through her tears. "Richard." She had no voice for more words.
"I hope you like it" he said softly.
Her tears finally spilled over, gliding down her cheeks. Turning her head, she took in the sights around her before facing him again. "It reminds me of home. Thank you Richard."
He wiped the tears from her cheeks and took up one of her hands pulling her to the center of the grassy meadow. Not bound by any amulet such as the one Kahlan had carried Shar through the Midlands in, the misty blue lights were free to drift and float about, hovering all around them. In the darkness, Richard could easily count hundreds of them. Several pulled close as if guiding and following them along as they walked through the field, the strange sounds of their language hummed in the air.
"What are they saying?" Richard asked.
"They're happy to see us." Kahlan looked to several who were closest to her. "They want to thank you for defeating Rahl. For keeping them free."
Richard leaned toward the small gathering of blue wisps of light. He spoke softly but surely, "I couldn't have done it without the Mother Confessor. Without her we would all be lost." Kahlan smiled, knowing it couldn't have been done without him as well. She gently pulled on his hand as she lowered herself to the ground.
They sat in the soft grass taking in the beauty of the surrounding Nightwisps like countless stars in the sky, pulled within their grasp.
Kahlan tipped her head toward one, "This is Willow. She's the head Nightwisp now that Shar is gone. These are some of her friends, Val, Tess and Lira." Kahlan expressed her sorrow for Shar's death. Willow spoke to her in her whispering hum. Kahlan repeated her words for Richard. "They know Shar died defending the life of the Seeker and that it was a noble death. Now that you've succeeded in your quest to defeat Rahl, Shar will forever be a hero to them."
Richard gave a small smile. He hated to think that Shar died protecting him, but was glad her kind would remember her as the hero she was. "And Mira?" he asked.
Kahlan waited for Willow to answer. "They've had no word from Mira. When the light of a Nightwisp goes out, the others can feel it. That's how they knew Shar was dead. They've not felt Mira's light go out…they're hopeful for her." The news brought a bit of relief to both Richard and Kahlan. Willow hummed words to Kahlan before floating closely before her face, then Richard's, before drifting off.
Kahlan leaned against Richard, her head on his shoulder. He circled his arm around her. "She says it's time now. This is the best part."
"What is it?"
As they sat in the grass they watched as countless drifting lights of blue lifted from the grass and lowered from the trees, floating past them as they followed behind Willow.
"They sleep down that hillside, in a sheltered gully. They are well protected there and their lights can't be seen by those who would do them harm."
Richard looked confused. "No one will harm them here, they're in a painting."
"They don't realize that. To them, this is still home. They are doing what they know to do." She leaned closer into him. "I'm glad. It's one of the sights I wanted you to see." They sat for a long time just watching as the Nightwisps floated past, their luminescence filling the night, gliding toward their shelter for sleep. The glimmer of blue grew faint as they entered their place of rest, before finally twinkling out in darkness, leaving Richard and Kahlan alone in the grassy field. Kahlan felt the warmth of Richard against her and thought she had never enjoyed watching their movement as much as this night.
Her heart swelled, knowing he had done this for her. She put her hands to his face and looked into his eyes, causing his breath to quicken. She allowed her fingertips to slip into his hair. "This was beautiful, Richard. Thank you."
He returned her gaze with an intensity she'd not seen in him before. She thought he was about to speak, but no words came out. Slowly, he leaned toward her, his lips gently touching hers. Her heart leapt at the feel of his mouth on hers. Kahlan softly parted her lips, inviting him to taste her. Unlike the fierce desire of their first kiss, this was warm and tender. Richard held her close; a small sound of relief escaped him as he responded to her invitation. As their kiss gradually deepened he sunk his hands into her hair, holding tight to her as he slowly lay back in the grass, pulling her with him. Her thick hair falling all around him, he swore he'd never let her go. Her own fingers curled, clutching his hair tight around them. Finally, their kiss ended but they kept their faces close, their noses touching, his brow against hers. Neither wanted to break away. "I love you, Kahlan" Richard whispered.
A tear fell from her eye as she whispered back. "I love you Richard." It no longer frightened her as it once did. Richard had somehow worked magic this evening, stripping once and for all the fear from her heart. "Somehow, after tonight…I'm not afraid anymore. I know you'll find a way, Richard. I'll be waiting for when you do."
He pulled her close to him again as they lay in the grass, sharing the warmth of each other's embrace until morning.