Disclaimer: All places, characters, and named objects are the property of ABC. *crosses fingers for a third season*

Trimack stepped outside his tent and watched his men scurry busily about their business. The mud had dried into dust that hazed the air. Combined with the smoke floating along the wind, Trimack put visibility at roughly twenty paces. Coughs and running noses were common among the men, nearly all of them hiding the lower halves of their faces behind scarves and handkerchiefs. Still, Trimack was easily able to identify his target.

His hand closed on the back of the soldier's neck. The Trooper let out a surprised yelp as Trimack propelled them both back into the command tent. He was unprepared for the boot to his shin and he released the spy.

"Sorry sir," Trooper Orien mumbled hoarsely. "Caught me by surprise."

Trimack grabbed his shoulder and turned him to look him in the eye. He observed the red, irritated eyes behind dark swollen bags. "What happened?"

"Walked into a post, sir," Orien said. "Very clumsy of me."

"No, Trooper. On the border. I couldn't care less about your scrapping," Trimack glared down. The nagging sense that he'd seen the boy somewhere before tugged at Trimack's mind. "I know you know."

"Now, I know that you know that I know," Trooper Orien sighed and hacked a cough. "On the border. A Midlander patrol ran into a D'Haran patrol. Ours or theirs, I don't know. They skirmished. Both sides had survivors who told their leaders." Orien waved vaguely. "The usual mess of skipping links in the chain of command for immediate response on both sides. What ususally happens when heavily armed men in uniforms decide to try to occupy the same territory."

The movement of her hands as she described the conflict made the tumblers of Trimack's memory fall into place. "Lady Oria. What a surprise."

She blinked her bruised eyes at him. "If you didn't know then why did you single me out?"

He looked at her scarred hands and shrugged, several assumptions slowly shifting places in his head. He'd known Lord Darken had made her into a weapon but he'd thought the younger Rahl would have had better sense than to teach a woman conflict outside of the Mord'Sith way. "I'll work with what I'm given." The words "if I have to" he left unsaid. "Do you have any other useful news?"

"Do you want to know who's running the local black market?"

"Might as well," Trimack said, considering.

Kahlan supported Richard all the way into the People's Palace where she called for Zedd.

"The Boxes. I need the Boxes. We have to stop Nicci." Richard repeated the words over and over in different combinations.

"What's wrong with him?" Kahlan asked urgently as Zedd muttered over Richard.

"Exhaustion," Zedd pronounced finally. "He nearly ran himself to death trying to get here. Even he has limits on how much food and sleep he can do without." Zedd gestured at the irritated red skin on Richard's hands and face. "The sunburn and raw spots don't help either."

"How long before we can get any sense out of him?" Kahlan said after ordering a servant to bring broth.

"This time tomorrow he should be sensible," Zedd said confidently.

"Good," Kahlan nodded. "How can I help?"

Jealousy surged through Darken. This was time Kahlan had set aside to discuss policy with him and she was using it to nurse his idiot brother. The rational explanations were not as compelling as they should be. He knew she would always go running to Richard whenever he was hurt. The anger and hurt still would not leave even after a calming exercise the sorcerers had taught him.

It was in that frame of mind that Darken encountered Kail in the corridor. He glared at the boy with all the venom he didn't dare show Kahlan. "Where are you going?" he asked, ignoring his jailors and their impatience.

"Maths," Kail said softly, cringing from Darken's anger.

"Stand up straight," Darken ordered. "Do not cower. Never let anyone know you're afraid." Kail nodded quickly and what passed itself off as Darken's conscience twinged guiltily. "Especially not me," guilt and anger and anger at feeling guilt made him spit the words more forcefully.

"Yes, Lord Darken," Kail said rapidly. "Sorry, Lord Darken."

"Don't apologize. If you're in error, change your approach." Darken bit down hard to keep himself from sounding even more like his father. "Just go." He watched Kail race off to the protection of his tutor and couldn't feel anything but nausea.

D'Haran troops fell like leaves before the onslaught of orange robed sorceresses. The Mord'Sith shored up the lines where they could but their numbers were depleted from the recent reassignments to the Midlander border.

The tide turned when Richard was Confessed by Kahlan and they pushed the Boxes of Orden together. The light in Richard's eyes disturbed Cara. She gripped her Agiel tight and ignored the sense of impending doom that settled into the pit of her stomach.

Richard directed his glowing, eldritch gaze on the sorceresses. He spoke a few words that thundered too softly for Cara to understand and their leader vanished. The sorceresses broke and ran. The Mother Confessor pulled the Boxes apart.

In the confusion, some of the troops chased after the retreating sorceresses. Cara was so busy watching for one last spell to be flung toward Lord Rahl that she was as shocked as Richard was when she realized there was a crossbow bolt right above Lord Rahl's left kidney.

"My spies say Richard is dead," Alana told Jennsen.

Jennsen shook her head. "I don't believe it."

"He was attacked by his former teachers." Alana gloated.

Jennsen laced her fingers together and stared at her knuckles. She refused to believe her brother was dead. If Alana had more reliable information, she'd likely just stage a public execution for Ambassador Rahl. She had to keep thinking that.

Thanks to all of you who've stuck with me through the very long trek it took me to finish this. I do have more plot planned and writing it as a trilogy is making the most sense right now.