Characters: Richard / Kahlan / Zedd / Cara
Rating: PG – 13 / K+ (Could become PG-16 / T later)
Timeline: After Torn
Story Type: Angst / Romance
Spoilers: Anything from S1 and S2 up through Torn
Disclaimer: I love them and love to write about them even though I don't own them or make a dime.
Summary: Richard and Kahlan's minds become magically linked.
Linked (Chapter 1)
His breathing coming out in short pants, he turned to see they were starting to gain on them. If he didn't come up with a plan soon, they would have no choice but to stand and fight. And that didn't appear to be a very good option as they were severely out numbered. They'd all be slaughtered in a matter of minutes.
Running the back of his hand across his forehead to wipe the sweat that threatened to run into his eyes, Richard cast a quick glance beside him. Kahlan was keeping up, but exhaustion was evident in her face. He didn't know how much longer she would last, having confessed three soldiers within several minutes earlier that day in the midst of fighting for their very lives. Cara on the other side of her was easily keeping pace, but also starting to show signs of fatigue. Looking to his left, however, Richard noticed that Zedd was beginning to fall behind.
He hated the idea that kept creeping back into his mind, but there was just no other option at this point. They were going to have to split up and regroup later. Richard shook his head against the thought; there just had to be another way.
Earlier that day in a surprise attack, D'Harans had poured out of the woods with swords drawn and ready for a fight. Richard had no idea where they had come from. Greatly outnumbered even at that point, they had fought fearlessly. Although sustaining some injuries, they had been able to escape after learning from a confessed soldier that the General was a baneling sent back by Rahl to amass an army to eliminate the Mother Confessor.
Richard consciously shoved aside the panic that was dangerously close to strangling his heart. They had finally come for her, for his Kahlan. He could not let that happen. The Seeker would not let his Confessor be eliminated; the lover would not allow his beloved to be taken from him.
Looking overhead, Richard noticed the darkening clouds that were rapidly accumulating. Threatening to release the precipitation they carried, it could aid them in evading their pursuers. Unfortunately, Richard knew it wouldn't come in time as the vast number of soldiers was creeping ever closer.
"Follow me!" Richard shouted to the others as he took the lead.
Charging into a thick grove of trees, Richard finally ducked behind a dense cover of brush. Leaning forward with his hands on his knees, Richard tried to catch his breath and slow his racing heart. The other three quickly followed him behind the thick cover of protection.
"We have no choice…we're going to have to split up," Richard finally stated between gasps for air, his heart pounding wildly in his chest.
"I don't…think that's wise…Lord Rahl," Cara adamantly replied with narrowed eyes, trying to catch her breath as well.
"Cara, we have no choice…there are too many to fight. Our only chance now is to split up…you and Zedd head that way…Kahlan and I will go this way. The compass is pointing us straight towards Greenwood. We'll meet up there in two or three days. Hopefully by then we'll have lost the D'Harans and we can continue the search for the Stone of Tears."
"But, I'm sworn to protect you," Cara stubbornly stated, loathing the proposed plan. She would have preferred to stand and fight rather than running away, but she also knew that they had to survive in order to seal the rift. They couldn't accomplish that if they were all in the Underworld.
"And I have to protect Kahlan!" Richard snapped back, growing more frustrated by the moment. They didn't have time to argue; the D'Harans would be upon them any minute if they didn't move now.
Seeing the panicked fury in his eyes, Cara knew that she was going to have to relent on this one. Richard needed to be the one to protect the Mother Confessor. He would never completely trust anyone else to protect her nor would he ever forgive himself if something happened to her. The only reason Richard had trusted her to protect Kahlan before was because he was leaving with the Sisters and would be unable to take care of her himself.
"Alright, I'll take the old Wizard with me…" Cara fumed before being interrupted.
"I'll try not to be offended by that comment," Zedd grumbled under his breath, leaning on a fallen log for support. "It's no picnic being stuck with you either, you know!"
Glaring at Zedd, Cara continued. "…but if you die, I will come to the Underworld to personally torment you!" she hissed at him with a glare that could melt steel.
"Take care of each other and we'll meet you in Greenwood," Richard instructed them as he grabbed Kahlan's hand, clutching it tightly in his. Worry wore heavily in his handsome features as he glanced from Cara to Zedd and back again.
"Be careful, you two. I expect to see you both alive and well in three days," Zedd lovingly ordered them.
"We will," Kahlan said with a small smile, her chest constricting with agonizing guilt and fear. She felt as though the weight of the world rested upon her shoulders. It was because of her that they were all put in further danger. It was because of her they were being hunted like animals.
Zedd and Cara took off in the opposite direction while Richard, still clutching Kahlan's hand in his, led her through the thick grove of trees. The stamping sound of boots approaching caused them to once again quicken their pace as their hiding place had just been discovered.
Casting one last brief glance over his shoulder, Richard could barely make out the soldiers who were swarming around the brush they had just vacated moments ago, yelling orders back and forth. As droplets of rain began to fall, he knew they were going to have to find shelter soon.
As they hastily made their escape through the brush, Zedd threw Cara a sidelong glance. He knew her glowering exterior was minor compared to the frustration on the inside.
"You know Richard would allow no one to protect Kahlan but himself," Zedd told her, trying to tame the beast that he was to spend the next three days with. A very long three days he was starting to believe if she stayed in this mood.
"I know, but I am more than capable of protecting her myself. I am Mord'Sith," she fumed under her breath. "It is what we are trained to do. We protect the Lord Rahl and those closest to him. It would have been better for us to stay together."
"He knows you can protect her, but you know how he is when it comes to Kahlan," Zedd soothingly reminded her. "And you know as well as I that we had no other option but to split up. There was no way we could have survived that many D'Harans. It would have been suicide. Now, we live to fight another day."
"Well, you know those two will only end up getting themselves into trouble of some kind," she murmured with a huff before changing the subject. "We better find shelter soon. Those clouds overhead aren't going to hold out much longer."
Zedd smiled to himself. He was slowly starting to enjoy Cara's company as he was becoming accustomed to her moods and her sarcastic biting remarks that amused him. He knew that Cara's foul mood was solely due to her concern for their safety though she would never verbally admit to it. Her growing humanity was something that he was proud to witness and play a small part in. He just hoped they all lived long enough to see it through to the end.
Thunder suddenly crackled and rumbled overhead, lightning streaking across the sky before striking the earth in explosive bursts. The rain was beginning to fall more steadily now as they came into a clearing that held an abandoned keep of some sort. It was dark and foreboding, but a welcome site in the midst of a severe thunderstorm.
Richard and Kahlan cautiously approached, unsure how safe this structure was going to be, but the need for shelter seemed to outweigh the fear of what could be looming inside.
"Well, it looks like this will be our home for tonight," Richard sighed as his eyes roamed over the large decaying structure before him. "Hopefully, I covered our tracks well enough that we lost the D'Harans at least for a few hours. The hard rains should also help hide our tracks."
"It's better than staying out here," she replied.
Reaching up, Kahlan took hold of the iron latch, sliding the heavy lever, and pushing the large wooden door open. The door groaned and creaked loudly on its hinges, unhappy to have been awakened from its peaceful slumber. The great hall entrance was darker than it was outside. Taking a moment for their vision to adjust, Richard and Kahlan slowly entered, taking the unlit torches that hung on the wall, anxiously waiting at the ready for welcomed visitors.
Seeing pots on the ground, they each dipped the tips of their torches into the liquid. With the added fluid, Richard was easily able to light the torches, illuminating the hall as light splashed on walls not seen in who knew how many years.
Thick blankets of cobwebs hung lazily from every crack, corner, and crevice imaginable while a thick layer of dust coated everything within its reach. A musty smell permeated the entire structure as drops of rain could be heard falling through cracks in the ceiling. Skittering feet could be heard scurrying across the cold stone floor as Richard and Kahlan began to make their way through the abandoned sanctuary.
"What is this place?"
"I'm not sure," Kahlan replied, her forehead wrinkled as she surveyed the walls and contents of their shelter. "It's either a keep or a temple of some kind."
"Well, let's see if we can find a dry place to start a fire and settle in for the night," Richard replied as he led the way through the great hall and down the main corridor.
He was exhausted from fighting and then running for their lives and drenched to the bone from the torrential downpour. He just wanted to get dry, find something to eat, and fall asleep with Kahlan safe in his arms.
"I need to clean up that wound on your arm," Kahlan told him. She didn't think he had even noticed the gash that he had received during the fight that morning.
Richard turned to look at his arm. So filled with adrenaline and consumed with protecting Kahlan, he hadn't even noticed the bleeding wound just above his elbow. He vaguely remembered one of the D'Harans getting a shot in with his sword, but he was too focused on getting to Kahlan at that point that he hadn't let it slow him down. Now that he was aware of it, he finally realized how much it was throbbing.
"It's not bad. Let's see where this corridor leads. Just stay close to me; there's no telling what might be in here," Richard muttered under his breath, his voice filled with apprehension.
Sweeping his torch, Richard scanned their menacing surroundings. The walls were bare except for the cobwebs and layers of dirt. There were cracks in some of the walls and ceilings, allowing slivers of flashing lightning outside to shine through along with some of the rain.
The wind was beginning to howl now as the rain pounded mercilessly against the keep. Richard just hoped the crumbling refuge would hold together through the night. He was beginning to think they should have chosen different shelter.
Using her free hand, Kahlan pulled her dripping wet hair back off her face as she followed Richard. She was ready to settle in for the night as well. Confessing one person barely caused her to miss a beat. Confessing two, caused her to feel lightheaded and a little weak. Confessing three, she almost passed out, dropping to her hands and knees, almost completely collapsing to the ground. It had taken several minutes for her to regain her strength enough to escape with the others.
Her vision had narrowed down to pinpoints, her hearing had become muffled and her body tingled all over with the expense of magic. That was when Richard had screamed her name and raced towards her, causing him to be injured in the process. They were so outnumbered that she had to confess as many soldiers as physically possible in order to help them in the fight.
She felt so guilty for all the trouble that was coming upon them because of her. She was beginning to regret not returning to Aydindril. If she had, then Richard and the others wouldn't be in more danger than they already were. And now, Richard had been injured and, although minor, it still pierced her heart.
Continuing to inspect the keep, the hair on the back of Richard's neck began to stand on end. He had a dreadful feeling about this place. He didn't know what it was, but there was something mystical about the keep. He could practically feel the magic permeating the air, sending a prickling sensation through his body, and putting his senses on high alert. His heart was beginning to pound in his ears as his breathing quickened.
Richard was just about to turn around to tell Kahlan they should leave when he heard her scream…