It really was far too easy getting out of the palace. She did have an advantage, mind you; the secret tunnel brought her to the outskirts of the city, away from the hustle and bustle of busy trade city. Still, she didn't think it would be that easy for her. Not like she was complaining, mind you. It wouldn't do to have half her city griping at how the Mother Confessor tried escaping but failed to do so.
The morning air was cool; a little too cool for her liking. Kahlan pulled the cloak tighter around her face, shielding it as she walked through the trails she had travelled down many times before. Soon Richard would wake up and find that she wouldn't be in her room. Soon he'd be out looking for her with a league of soldiers, searching the rough terrain trying in vain to convince her to come back and not take vengeance on the merciless witch woman she so loved to hate. But it would be pointless for them to do so; she'd only escape again. Her mind was set and there was no going back. Shota would die and it would be by Kahlan's hands.
Richard had made it very clear to her that he had no interest in fighting for their dead child. He'd given up on him...given up on them. Seems everyone in the damned palace had. She was his mother...the only thing he had and she had let him die. Shota would not get away with this, prophecy or not. It was only right. If it took her life it didn't matter; her life was nothing compared to her defenceless child.
Taking another step, she pushed her hood back to look out over Aydindril one last time before taking her quest. Her blue eyes scanned the crammed buildings, overlooked the broad landscape. She had to squint to see the palace in the distance, but she could make it out. She'd need to go off path soon enough. Richard was an amazing tracker. But he had taught her well. She had learned a lot of valuable tools while being so close with the Seeker for so long; one of those tools was how to cover your tracks. "Thank you, Richard," she whispered to herself, thanking him for helping her escape, though it was to his detriment.
Turning her back to her city, the place she had called home for so long, she headed out towards the dark forest before her, knowing full well that this could possibly be her last trek... and it would be worth it.
"She's purposely taking her time, walking in circles to throw me off," Richard stated to the crew behind him. Standing up to his full height, he let out an angry breath, running his hands through his thick hair in frustration. "I should not have taught her about tracking," he mentally chided himself. Cara rolled her eyes and leaned her hip against a large oak tree.
"Look, she's heading for Shota. We know she's heading for Shota. Let's just head for Agadan Reach and maybe we can beat her there...cut her off before she does anything stupid," she stated, her right hand placed surreptitiously on her hip. Zedd looked to Cara, then back at Richard.
"She's a woman on a war-path to end the life of a witch woman. Either way we have to be careful. If she goes into Con Dar, Cara or me could be lost in an instant," Zedd added, casually picking some berries from a nearby bush as he spoke. Richard nodded and looked out into the forest. He'd been tracking her for nearly a week now. She'd almost be there and so would he had he been alone.
Richard glanced out over the three soldiers that stood beside Cara and Zedd, ready and willing to do anything the Lord Rahl asked. He sighed heavily and turned back towards his comrades, "You're right," he said. Zedd nodded his agreement, "That's why I'll go alone from here. You two follow behind and meet us there. But from now on, I go alone."
Cara straightened, "You are stupider than you look," she muttered under her breath, "Do you honestly think we're going to let you take off on your own?"
Richard gave her a hard look, "It wasn't a question, Cara. It was an order. I'm going on my own from here on out. You can meet me there, but you guys are only slowing me down!"
Cara snorted back a laugh, "I refuse to obey that order," she crossed her arms under her breasts and gave him a defiant glare. Zedd sighed and dropped the handful of berries he had picked into his bag.
"My boy, I understand your frustration and fear over Kahlan being gone, but you cannot honestly think it best for you to go off on your own like she has? Be reasonable here. You are the leader of D'Hara – there are many people out there who would love to have your head atop their mantle. There are still armies of men out there that have sworn on their mother's graves to kill you. Going off on your own is erratic and completely foolish. I'm afraid I must agree with Cara," he said, regretting the words as they came out.
Richard looked towards the direction of Kahlan's tracks and looked back towards his grandfather and friend. He licked his lips nervously, contemplating the words that were just spoken to him. No. There was no other way, "Zedd, I love you. You're my grandfather and I respect your opinion. But this is my wife I'm talking about here. My wife that is about to throw herself at the mercy of a witch woman who is not too fond of Confessors. So, with all due respect, I can't listen to your advice," he gripped the hilt of his sword in his hand as he looked out again towards her tracks, "I'm going. You can follow behind me, but I won't wait for you to catch up. She's the most important thing in the world to me and I will not stand by and let her get killed. I'm wasting time standing here and arguing with you. I don't have time for this. Follow me if you wish, but like I said, I will not wait up for you," he stated as he turned and headed into the dark brush. Zedd looked to Cara who rolled her eyes and muttered obscenities under her breath as she took off after him. Zedd shook his head, plopped one last berry in his mouth before following suit, the guards in tow behind him. These decisions were going to put him in an early grave.
She slowed her pace as she realized she must have been getting close to the Reach. The forest around her seemed less lush and the red and orange leaves on the trees reminded her of her dark purpose. She also felt the air was a tad...thicker. Kahlan was finding it almost difficult to breathe in the thickness of the air as it encompassed her fully.
She was exhausted, dirty and hungrier than she thought she could ever be. She barely stopped to sleep let alone worry about the other necessities of life. She had a purpose to fulfill... a dark promise she had vowed to herself and her unborn child that was now at the mercy of the spirits. She forced her eyes to open wider, scanning the landscape in front of her. Shota was known for her theatrics and Kahlan wasn't about to let herself get caught in her twisted little games. She came for one reason and one reason alone. Not even Shota would stop her.
Stepping over the large, odd-shaped fallen tree-trunks, she began to have the eerie feeling of someone's presence, watching her. The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end and for the first time she realized there was absolutely no breeze. The air, the trees, everything was completely silent. Kahlan stopped momentarily to try and make out the sound of a flying bird, or a nearby stream, anything to give way to life somewhere nearby. There was nothing but utter complete silence.
She shook it off and continued her journey; it did not matter. Shota had killed her child. She would kill Shota. Everything else was insignificant. She felt the anger surge through her once again and embraced it, welcomed it anew. She breathed the magic within her, welcomed the rage that coursed through her veins. She could feel Shota was close...could sense the danger. Those with magic often did. She had to act fast. Shota was clever, but Kahlan was more powerful. Shota had the advantage of this being her home, but Kahlan had the passion, the thirst for blood. Kahlan also forfeited her life for this perilous journey. Her life was meaningless now. Her child was gone. She desired to be set free of the agony she faced on a daily basis, the guilt of not being more alert. Today she would embrace her revenge, revel in it.
Clenching her fists, Kahlan was about to take one more step when her body froze completely in place. Kahlan grunted against the force and tried squirming out of the magical grip that held her in place. Her blue eyes darted about, searching for the cause of her predicament. Shota appeared, seemingly out of thin air and gracefully walked towards the younger woman standing stone-still in front of her. Though there was no wind, her long, silken dress still blew and fluttered around her legs as she walked. Her face bore no sense of anger or fear, but more empathy. "My, my, Mother Confessor, seems your plan wasn't as thoroughly thought out as you originally intended," she stated, reaching a hand out to touch Kahlan's smooth face. Kahlan's eyes narrowed in absolute loathing. "Foolish child," she whispered, her breath smelled of roses, "so you've come to take your revenge on me then?" Kahlan tried pushing past of the magic but she couldn't. Her jaw was suddenly able to move.
"You know I have so let me free so we can have a fair fight," she spat, her anger raging through her like a broken dam. Shota shook her head and clicked her tongue.
"Fight? I don't wish to fight you, Mother Confessor. I wish to enlighten you on your ignorant ways," she walked past her and stared off into the barren forest land, "even your foolish husband was able to realize the reasons for my actions yet you," she turned her head back at Kahlan, "you refuse to believe the truth of the monster that once grew inside of you."
Kahlan felt the anger boil up again, "That monster was my child! An innocent child with no chance of a future because of you!"
"No!" Shota shot back angrily, "I saved the world from the mass destruction your bastard child would have wrought. Your ignorance is tiring me, Mother Confessor," she glared heatedly at her; "your selfish needs and inability to face reality would have caused this world to diminish, understand me? You're lucky I even let you live, knowing full well that you would have allowed it to happen!"
Kahlan looked away from Shota's almond eyes, towards her feet, "you proclaim your 'predictions' to be truth yet the future can be changed, Shota. Without any other solution you cowardly attack my child and I when we were completely defenceless. How do you sleep at night knowing that you destroyed an innocent little baby, a child all because of something you dreamed up of, something that could easily have been changed?" Kahlan raged on.
Shota gave her a stern as she snapped her fingers. Before her and before Kahlan appeared a large silver bowl, filled to the brim with water. "The only way of changing what could have happened was to kill him before he took his first breath," she said quietly to Kahlan, "Since you refuse to believe me, I must show you the truth of my words. Your husband was too scared to let you see the truth, but I am not, Mother Confessor. You need to know." Waving her hand over the pool of water, she chanted something under her breath. Kahlan, slightly confused, looked down into the bowl, her head the only part of her body she was able to use. Tears welled up in her blue eyes as she stared at the little boy that appeared in the water below her. His hair was brown and shaggy like Richards, his eyes as blue as the sky above. She had to suck back the sob that threatened to escape as she saw Richard chasing after him, tickling him, watching his chubby face as he giggled and squirmed away from his father's grasp.
"This is what you want me to see? A happy family? You wish to torture me more now?" Kahlan cried, her tears coursing down her cheeks. Shota shushed her and pointed to the pool below. Kahlan obliged, the anger still evident on her features. It had changed now. The little boy – their child- was older now. At least eight years old. She was there watching, smiling proudly in the background as Richard and him were play-fighting. She couldn't help but allow a small smile to creep across her face when she saw how great of a father Richard was, though she never really doubted him. The smile began to falter as she saw how aggressive their son began to be with his mock sword. Richard scolded him briefly and she gasped as her child – their child - dropped the play sword and grabbed Richard by the throat. She could see her face contort in the background as she watched and began running towards them. Before she could get to them, he had confessed Richard. Kahlan stood watching numbly as she watched Richard stand and run his sword directly through her. She turned her head away as their son then ordered his own father to stab himself with the Sword of Truth. Within mere seconds, she and Richard were laying on the floor in a pool of their own blood with their child standing over them. She turned her head away in disgust.
"I don't wish to see anymore," she whispered through clenched teeth. Shota gave her a look.
"Oh, but there's more...much more," she stated. Kahlan grunted as her head was forced back down to look into the murky water beneath her. He was older now. At least in his twenties and was as handsome as Richard was. He stood tall over the mass of people beneath what looked to be a completely destroyed Aydindril. She sucked back a sob as she recognized each and every individual that stood beneath him as being confessed. He had confessed the whole city. A wail escaped her throat as he ordered them all to fight to the death while he went back inside his palace, the maids she so dearly loved complete slaves to his ruling. She cried harder at the harem of women he had collected and the amount of children, his children, he had slaughtered as he wished to be the only Confessor alive. The palace was a disaster and he relished in killing. She could see his wicked grin across his face as he had villagers brought in to be slaughtered in front of him for sport. She nearly vomited at his complete lack of regard for anything but himself. He was a tyrant. A wicked, cruel tyrant.
Shutting her eyes, she allowed the tears to run free, "No more, Shota. Please, no more," she begged, wishing beyond anything that it wasn't true. Her heart broke at watching that and she knew without a shadow of a doubt that Richard had seen the exact same thing and was only trying to protect her from ever seeing that. She cried all the harder knowing that she believed Shota. She hated herself, despised herself even at considering the evil woman's proclamation to be true.
"You see now, child?" Shota stated as the bowl disappeared in front of her, "you think me so cruel now, knowing what I have seen?" she questioned. Kahlan didn't answer. She turned her head as she tried to get a hold of her emotions, her heart pounding loudly in her chest. What was she to do now? She came to murder a woman who murdered her unborn child who was only trying to protect the world from the destruction her child would bring. Richard had seen it, Zedd had seen it. Now she had seen it. It was still so hard to believe. There had to have been another way.
"There could have been another way," she pleaded. Shota cut her off.
"No. My way was the only way. Had you allowed the child to live, it would have had to have died and killing it when it had already taken a breath of life was more cruel than killing it while it still grew inside of you," she stated, stepping closer to the broken woman in front of her. Kahlan didn't respond, but could only look away as more tears poured down her face.
"You came here to seek your revenge, Kahlan," Shota stated. Lifting her hands, she released her from the magical bounds that held her stone still. Kahlan relaxed her muscles as the grip around her ceased and she was once again able to move, "Take it. Just know that I will protect myself and if you die along the process, it's on you. Be warned I will not go gentle on you out of pity. You came to my home threatening me. I will protect my own in any way I can," she lifted her head, "I would strongly suggest you turn and leave now before you allow harm to come to the child that's growing inside your womb now. I wouldn't want to have to kill the future leader of D'Hara and the Midlands, but if you attack me, you leave me no choice," she lifted an eyebrow.
Kahlan's wide eyes came to Shotas, "What did you say?" she questioned, her brow furrowed.
Shota smiled a small smile, "the child that grows inside you. If you're willing to put your life on the line, your daughter's life on the line to seek revenge for the child that would have destroyed the world, then I will have no choice but to defend myself and kill you. I will not relish in it as I honestly detest the idea of harming another child, but I will have no choice as I wish to live," she claimed again. Kahlan took a step back and placed a hand over her stomach.
"I'm...with child?" she gasped out, new tears forming in her eyes. Not tears of malice, not tears of anger, but tears of joy. Shota stood silently, watching as Kahlan formed it all together in her head. She'd been travelling for weeks and didn't even realize that she hadn't had her moon cycle in nearly two months. Her heart that was so completely broken before suddenly began to mend at the idea of another child. Her child. Richard's child. She couldn't hold back the small laugh that escaped her lips, but was cut short when she realized where she was. Before she could say anything to Shota, do anything to Shota, she was gone. Kahlan glanced around the forest, searching for any sighting of her but found none. Letting out a deep breath, calming her pounding heart, she silently thanked the good spirits and headed back in the direction she came from. She finally understood. It would still take some time to heal, but she understood why everything happened the way it did. She needed to find Richard.