Lady Rahl

There are moments—

Nicholas's hair gleams in the sunlight, and Kahlan remembers Dennee, who was blonde, too, and so gentle—she thinks she sees her sister in Nicholas, just a little—

And for a moment, she wonders if he'll really grow up to be so evil, or if she's just exaggerating her fears—surely, surely, any son of hers will see, will understand the terrible burden that is the power of Confession—

In Kahlan's dreams, Nicholas smiles at her, and Darken takes off the Rada-Han, fingers lingering on her skin and breath hot on her neck. The freedom, the release of feeling her power having an outlet at last, overwhelms her; white fire seems to engulf her, swallowing her in its intensity—she hears herself laughing, and then Richard screams.

She wakes with his name on her lips, and bites down, hard, on her pillow, and lets the tears fall.

Sometimes, when Darken drags her along on one of his educational walks with Nicholas—she always protests, but not too much; she wants to keep an eye on Nicholas, make certain his father doesn't make it even easier for the dark power of Confession to claim him—it scares her, how human Darken is.

Usually, she can keep his crimes in the forefront of her mind, and so be devastatingly disdainful, and aloof. He may have her body, her unwilling cooperation, even her mind, she thinks when Richard's features blur in her memory, but never her soul.

Yet there are times—

She tells herself she calls him Darken, and not Lord Rahl, because she won't bow down to him, or to anyone. Besides, he is more than a title to her, however much she hates it. Hates him.

He takes Nicholas for those walks in the garden, explaining all the flowers and bushes, their names and uses.

Watching him with their son, Kahlan doesn't understand. How can he be so patient, so—loving? Is this the same tyrant she would have—has!—given everything to defeat?

It is those moments that worry at her defenses. She longs for the simple black and white in which she used to see—the cold certainty that someday, Darken will kill her, Nicholas will grow up into something even worse than his father, and everything good in the world will be gone, until Richard somehow comes and saves them all. The certainty that she has done all she can: given Richard a Confessor, to send him back and change everything. The certainty that nothing else matters.

But she looks at her son, the boy with Dennee's hair and Darken's strong jaw and her curiosity, the curiosity about the world that only comes with true intelligence—and she can't believe that nothing good will come of Nicholas's existence.

And she watches Darken teach him about plants instead of Dark Magic, and she wonders if, now that he's won everything he ever wanted, Darken will finally change.

He's a more lenient lord, these days. Maybe Nicholas has taught him to care for the people. Maybe—

Kahlan closes her eyes, and sees Richard's reproachful face. She sighs, wondering why, after she's lost everything, she should cling to whatever's there.

"We are the best family in the world!" Nicholas shouts, holding Darken's hand and her skirt.

Darken's cold eyes meet hers. And she knows he is only waiting for her to give in, to agree that they are a family. To be his partner, not merely his captive and his wife.

She is furious.

But, unbidden, the words come to her mind: hate is not the opposite of love—indifference is.

Shaken, she retreats behind her mental walls, prepared to do battle, one more day. She steels her heart against treacherous hope.

Still—those moments are the hardest. She could lose herself in those moments of doubt.