Kahlan finally let out a frustrated sigh before opening her eyes. She hadn't been able to fall back asleep after the screeching owl woke her up. Richard's empty bed roll meant he most likely suffered the same fate. His sleep pattern was probably just as messed up as hers after barely sleeping at Tothrain.

She debated turning over. She pressed her lips together fighting back a smile knowing that Richard often watched her sleep. If he was, and she turned over, it would be difficult to disguise she knew his secret. Finally she decided to chance it and turned as if in her sleep. She risked barely opening one eye.

For the moment, she was safe because he sat with his back to her, facing the fire.

Kahlan heard someone approach. Given that Zedd was snoring away, it had to be Cara, so she turned again, leaving her back to Richard. She closed her eyes, willing herself to go back to sleep, but still it wouldn't come.

"I couldn't sleep," Richard answered to some unspoken question.

"I started to think Zedd and Kahlan asked you to stand watch over me," Cara replied with a hint of sarcastic bitterness.

"Give'em some time. They'll come around... I did." Kahlan could almost picture the sly grin on his face.

"You had little choice... Eventually you had to sleep." Kahlan wasn't certain what troubled her most. The fact that Richard learned to trust a Mord-Sith or the sarcastic, but seductive tone she just used.

"You also had my sword," he added with a chuckle.

"For a while I believed you might actually prefer freezing to death over sharing our body heat."

Kahlan clenched her jaw as tightly as possible with the image of them pressed together under a blanket, keeping each other warm. Her bitterness at knowing a Mord-Sith shared what she had been denied was almost too much to contain.

Even worse, the pair shared a brief chuckle then one of them poked the logs in the fire.

Listening to their banter forced Kahlan to give up what little hope she had that Richard's account of his time in the future was nothing more than a delusion somehow caused by the magic of Orden. A shudder went up her spine at the mere thought of bearing Darkan Rahl a child. It was a thought too horrible to even consider.

"What'd you tell them?" Cara asked.

Kahlan's curiosity piqued when Richard didn't answer her question right away.

"I told Kahlan everything," he eventually replied. She didn't like the obvious saddness in his voice.

"And she believed it?"

"I think she believes I believe it happened," he replied softly with a pained voice. "I doubt she actually believes it happened... It's a pretty incredible story."

Thinking back on her reaction, she probably should have done a better job masking her disgust at the thought of... sharing a bed with Darkan Rahl. She felt ashamed that Richard mistook her disgust at that element of his story for disbelief that what he told her actually happened.

"I didn't bother telling anyone... I assumed my Sisters wouldn't believe it," Cara chimed in. "so I told them when I pressed my Agiel into your back I had a vision that once Darkan Rahl eliminated you, he'd turn on us and destroy our order."

"And they believed that?" Kahlan shared Richard's skepticism.

"It helped that our Agiels still worked after his death... They agreed we should wait for the new Lord Rahl to assume the throne before deciding what to do."

Both went silent after Cara's revelation the Mord-Sith were waiting for a new Lord Rahl to emerge. Assuming the claims were true, Richard was the last of the Rahl bloodline. Although Richard's and Cara's conversation so far had been brief, it left Kahlan with much to consider. The most disturbing idea was the comfort level with which they spoke to each other. She knew her reaction was more than simple jealousy. She was jealous of Anna, so she knew what that felt like.

This was much more than that. It was now clear beyond any possible doubt Richard and Cara spent weeks working together to return back to this time. For some unfathomable reason, Richard had formed a bond with a Mord-Sith. Kahlan felt a burning in the pit of her stomach.

"My remaining Sisters would serve you well, if you accept the title," Cara broke the silence with an unexpected hesitation.

Another shudder went down Kahlan's spine. Her preference was for the one Mord-Sith around him now to be gone. She couldn't imagine the horror of seeing Richard surrounded by them, serving as his personal bodyguards... or even worse.

"No... Too many would die."

"Once the armies of D'Hara saw the Sisters of the Agiel serving you as Lord Rahl, they'd fall in line."

"The people of the Midlands wouldn't stop fighting... They'd see me as nothing more than another false Seeker who defeated one tyrant in order to establish himself as Lord and Master."

Kahlan wholeheartedly agreed with that assertion. Everyone in the Midlands remembered the false Seekers who wielded what they claimed to be the Sword of Truth but typically proved nothing more than aspiring warlords attempting to set themselves up as petty tyrants. If Richard had accepted the title and throne, they'd just assume he was the latest in a long dormant line of false Seekers. Even Kahlan's role as the Mother Confessor might be called into question, given her unfailing support for Richard.

Once again the two returned to silence. Kahlan was now certain she'd been correct in her decision to remain at Richard's side. If their time at Tothrain hadn't already been proof enough, there could be no more doubt after the conversation she just overheard. Without her steadying influence, it was possible Cara might actually convince him to make a disastrous choice, in a moment of weakness.

Unfortunately Kahlan's desire for sleep had returned and she was having a difficult time staving it off. Although she wanted to keep listening to what they thought was a private conversation, ultimately she couldn't resist her body's need and faded off.

The next morning was no less unpleasant for Kahlan. At breakfast, Richard barely acknowledged her with little more than a brief smile. To add insult to injury, he'd helped Cara with her outer corset and collar. She wondered if he'd previously spied Cara struggling with her overly complicated clothing or if she'd requested his help sometime after Kahlan fell asleep. She counted at least four times Cara told him to pull the straps tighter. Once she was finally satisfied with Richard's assistance, he just walked away shaking his head with a slight grin on his face.

The only saving grace that morning was Richard pulling his horse along side Kahlan's as they resumed for Pamora. She said a silent prayer to the Creator wishing he did this out of preference rather than out of habit.

The End