**This is part 4 in Series beginning with "The Choice". **
Zedd was repeating the words he had spoken to Richard when he'd first returned to town: "You have the weight of the world on you now Richard, keep her safe. I know she's your wife, but remember she's also the last living Confessor. Without her, the world will never know another. The Midland's and beyond would forever be deprived of the only source of justice they've known for a thousand years." He gave him a pointed look. "Her legacy of duty was in place long before she married you." Zedd didn't know his words only added to Richard's apprehension.
Richard focused on his task more closely, bringing his ax down with a hard thunk. "So you've told me" he said, more than a little annoyed. He didn't need his grandfather to remind him of that. He knew he had to keep her safe. So much so, he felt he couldn't be with her in the same way they had been together before he'd gone in search of Reetha. In her condition, after all she'd been through, he was afraid of bringing harm to her or the baby. Kahlan had, unsuccessfully, tried to alleviate those fears. Richard wanted very much to be with his wife and struggled with what he thought was right with what his heart wanted. Zedd wasn't helping.
He and Kahlan were now living in a cottage that belonged to Martha's widowed friend, Elizabeth, who, after her husband's death a year ago, had gone to live in town. She said she didn't like the isolation of the woods once he was gone and that they could use it as long as they wished.
The cottage sat quite some distance from town in the thick of the forest, perched high above the edge of a lake. Martha and Rachel came by often to check on them to see if they needed anything. They knew Richard didn't like to leave Kahlan alone and the trip into town was becoming too long for her to make. Zedd, who was staying at Martha's inn, often joined them, as he had this morning, and was outside with Richard now. Kahlan could see them through the window. Richard was chopping more of the wood they would need to see them to spring as he and his grandfather talked. She could see his breath surrounding the air around him as he worked. His cloak hindered his movement and he'd set it aside. She watched as he swung his ax, hitting his mark with precision. His stance showed the firmness of his muscles, and she watched as they flexed with his movements. She smiled in appreciation.
Martha held up the blanket she had made for the baby. "Rachel was a big help to me in making this."
Her words pulled Kahlan's attention back inside. She smiled, "It's lovely, thank you both." She took the gift and folded it over her arm, smoothing it over her growing belly.
"Won't be too long now. She'll be here before you know it."
Kahlan smiled a nervous smile, "Early spring; ready or not."
Richard and Kahlan had returned more than a month ago to find Zedd had already arrived and Chase had gone back to his Emma. When they had been on the trail, they had known Zedd was successful in finding the key to the Rada' Han he wore when they once again felt the presence of the connection spell between them.
It had been a slow journey back. Richard was mindful of Kahlan's condition and rarely brought the horses over an easy trot. He had cared well for her, picking winter berries, catching rabbit and pheasant for stews and laying out pine boughs for their bedding. At night he always made sure there was a warm fire for them to sleep by. Kahlan had enjoyed their time together on the trail. They'd had so little chance to just be together in peace, she enjoyed that above all else. Other than sleeping in his arms.
Once Kahlan's strength started to return she hoped they'd be together as they hadn't been since they left Holly Meade. She recalled one night in particular, near the end of their journey, she had held Richard close by the fire, enjoying his soft kisses, but then he pulled back. She hadn't pressed him and hoped once they were 'home' they'd have a chance to be close.
But soon after they'd settled into the cottage he'd withdrawn from her again. "Tell me what's wrong, Richard. We've been apart for so long…" she nuzzled her nose to his ear, "I miss you."
Her words pained his heart. He wanted her no less than he'd ever wanted her, but his fears overruled his desire.
In the days that followed, they had found a comfortable peace awaiting the arrival of their daughter and enjoying the comforts of home and the quiet solitude together. Richard felt at ease among the trees and spent much of his time out of doors, exploring the surrounding area and taking Kahlan on chilly winter walks. One afternoon he brought her to a waterfall he'd found in his explorations, the cascading water held in frozen suspension along the rocks. "There's caves over there" he said pointing further west of the falls.
Kahlan could just make them out from where they stood. "Did you explore them too?"
Richard took her hand and helped her down the slope, back toward the path that had lead them to the falls. He nodded, "They reminded me of a Shadrin cave and I thought it best to know what's in our woods."
Kahlan halted her steps, tensing at his words, remembering the time she'd had to fight for her life with a Shadrin. "Did you find anything?"
"No." He reassured her, "It doesn't look like anything has ever called that cave home."
Kahlan relaxed and once more started down the path. Once they reached level ground she stood resting to catch her breath. "I'll be glad when I can go for a walk without stopping to rest every few minutes."
He wrapped his arms around her and gave a gentle kiss to her lips. "I will too. Not only will that mean our daughter has arrived, but then we can be together too."
Kahlan didn't agree with Richard's idea to wait until the baby was born before they were together again. "Richard. I've told you, we can be together. We won't hurt the baby." She gave him a warm, persuasive kiss, hoping she would soon be able to change his mind. He briefly gave in to her kiss before caution pulled him back.
"Kahlan, I know it's probably fine, but it's just a few more months. You've barely had a chance to recover from all you've been through." She gave him a skeptical look. She thought there might be something more to his hesitation. At seeing her face he continued. "Zedd keeps reminding me that you're the last living Confessor; with no hope of another without you. There's no reason to take any chances with you or the baby. He's my grandfather and a Wizard of the First Order, I take his counsel seriously."
She smiled, shaking her head. "Talking of your grandfather doesn't inspire passion Richard."
He smiled back. "Then I guess you'll be hearing a lot about him over the next few months."