This follows my story, The Guardian.

Prologue

From The Guardian:

Richard held the reigns to his horse loosely as he rode through the quiet valley leading away from Aydindril. He was tired. But it was a good tired. He and Kahlan had made love long into the night and into the early morning hours. Whenever they fell asleep, one would soon be nibbling the other awake.

It had been hard to say good-bye, but having shared themselves with each other, and knowing they could be together, changed everything. Tugging at Kahlan's hand he had pulled her behind a stone pillar, away from prying eyes of the stable hands and Greer who had come to see him off. He slipped his hands around her waist, bending to kiss her. She wrapped her arms around his neck. She didn't want to ever let him go. "I can't stand the thought of being away from you" she whispered.

"I'm always with you." He touched his fingers to her middle. "I'm inside you now Kahlan." He gave a soft kiss to her lips and his fingers moved to his heart "and you're inside me."

"Forever." She said and smiled, stretching up to meet his kiss.

He could face anything now. Knowing they could be together and that she was waiting for him made all the difference. Nothing would keep him from finding the Stone, stopping the Keeper and making his way back to her. Nothing.

---

In the dark fog of green, surrounded by wails of the countless dead, Darken Rahl kneeled low, trembling before his Master, his face pressed into the dirt. "Yes, Master. How may I serve you?"

He heard the deep tenor of the Keeper's voice. "I have a task for you, my son. As I knew he would, the Seeker has proved to be hard to stop. I am sending you on a mission for I have found another way to destroy his heart…"

Chapter 1

Richard pulled at the vines covering the stone walls. The compass was pointing directly at it. Each time he tried to veer around it, the signal tone would bring him back to this spot. He turned to Zedd. "What do you make of this, Zedd? Do we start digging?"

The old wizard pulled Richard away by his shoulder and scanned the vine covered wall once more. "I'm… not sure." He held out his hands and closed his eyes. Richard knew he was using magic, trying to feel for clues, for danger. After a few moments, Zedd opened his eyes. "I'm not sensing anything; there's no magical trap waiting to be sprung."

Richard addressed Cara as he pulled at the vines once more. "Go and scout the southern end, see if you can find a way through." With a nod, she set off. As Richard stood pulling at the vines, Zedd gave a wave of his hand, dissolving them under the Seeker's fingers. Richard turned with a startled look and smiled. "Thanks." He glided his hands over the wall, feeling for any lose stones. As he neared the bottom of the wall partially buried in dirt, he noticed a stone protruding more than the others. He pulled free his knife and scraped at the dirt and mud, pulling it loose.

Reaching inside, he found a small leather pouch. He brushed the dirt from it and pulled it open. "It's some sort of a pendant" he said, looking it over and handing it to Zedd.

---

Kahlan made her way through the streets of Aydindril. Having just finished another arduous meeting of the Council of Confessors, she wanted to get out and breathe some fresh air, try and enjoy what was left of the fading day. She returned the calls of greeting and the waves of those who gathered. Though she had been back more than a month, they acted as if she had just returned yesterday. Her mother had been very much loved by the people and they extended that love to her.

Without really intending it, she found she was nearing the Keep. She looked up at the large ominous structure. It was set away from the center of the city, high upon a hill, standing in a haze of fog. It seemed to groan a breath at her approach.

She looked up to its crenelling, remembering the wizards who once called it home and walked its heights. She headed for the outer gate that sectioned off the grounds from the city's streets.

"My lady, I don't think it's a good idea for you to go in there."

Kahlan turned to find Greer not far behind her. "Following me again, Greer?" she smiled warmly at her trusted aide.

He dipped his head and smiled back. "Just doing as the Seeker ordered."

"I spent a lot of time in there when I was a child Greer, I'm not afraid."

The magic of the Keep made most uneasy around it, afraid of falling victim to one of its mystical barriers. His eyes darted from side to side. He was nervous but tried not to show it. "It grows dark now, perhaps it would be better to come back tomorrow?"

Kahlan took a deep breath and acquiesced. She hadn't planned on coming here to begin with; she had just been walking and thinking of Richard, clearing her mind of the days' business. She wasn't afraid, but she could clearly see Greer was uncomfortable. He would feel compelled to follow her, keeping an eye on her, making sure she was protected, just as Richard had asked him to do. She could at least wait until a time when he would be more comfortable in doing so. "All right, Greer. I'll save it for another day."

---

Having retrieved the pendant, the compass now pointed east again, the route they had been following before being led to the wall. Richard knew if they kept traveling this route they would be near Aydindril in little more than a fortnight. If they made it within a 2 days ride he would go and see Kahlan. He hoped the compass would lead him in her direction.

The others were already asleep and he laid his head down, settling in for the night. Drifting off, barely awake, yet not yet asleep, the hiss from the growing green flame in the campfire pulled him fully awake.

"We meet again, brother." Stepping from the flames, Darken Rahl stood before him.

Richard rushed to his feet, unarmed, his sword just out of reach. "What do you want?" he seethed.

"The same thing you want, brother."

Richard was sarcastic with his reply, "You want to seal the rift and stop the Keeper?"

"No brother. That may be your mission, but what is it you want? What you want, I shall have." He turned toward the fire. Kahlan's face appeared in the flames.

Richard's jaw clenched. It was hard for him to breathe through the tightness in his chest. He slowly shook his head as rage simmered within.

"You're powerless to stop me brother. You can't kill me; I'm already dead. So unless you find the Stone tonight, I'm afraid you've lost." He took a step closer to him. "How many weeks will it take you to reach her? I can go to her as easily as I've come to you." He tilted his head toward Richard, goading him with a smile, "I can even be there tonight."

Richard's anger erupted. He lunged for him, throwing his arms around Rahl's chest, trying to wrestle him to the ground but could find nothing solid to grab onto. He went right through him and in flash of green and flame, the evil one had vanished.

---

"I have done as you instructed my Lord. I have planted the seed of fear in the Seeker's heart." Rahl pressed his face to the dirt. He was naked and kept his face low to the ground. One must always be naked in the presence of the Keeper.

The Keeper was a fetid black void in the darkness. Neither human nor animal, his shape was something of a screeling, his head like that of a wolf. Dark and foul with short fur that covered his body, long claws where his hands should have been and eyes that flickered a fiery orange. A green haze hung about him with every breath. Though Rahl wanted to please his Lord and do his bidding, he did not want to be near him. The Keeper dripped with evil, bringing excruciating pain to anyone in his presence.

"You have done well, my son. The end of the Seeker has only begun. His fear will soon turn to anguish and torment. Before long he'll be in agony beyond imagining. His quest will be over."

"And the Mother Confessor, my Lord?"

"She'll be at your side, as I've promised."

---

The walk to the Keep had left a chill in Kahlan's bones and she warmed herself by the burning fireplace in her room. Agatha thought a cup of hot tea would do her mistress well and had gone to get her one. Kahlan waited for her return, rubbing her hands together near the fire for warmth when the flames began to grow larger, spitting and jumping in a strange fog of green.

xxx