There was a flash of green and a new soul appeared on the sand.
He looked so small there, old and naked. A pitiful fragment of the man who had once seemed all powerful, all consuming.
A shadow that hung over the land, the monster in the dark.
The witch lights of the Underworld tinted his skin.
Darken Rahl looked down on his father, expecting to feel a sense of triumph. He had finally won. His father was in his power now.
Panis Rahl turned, sand sticking to his dead skin. His eyes caught on his eldest child, watching him. Those familiar blood red robes made Darken stand out against the sea of naked bodies. The only clothed spirit in the Underworld. The Keeper's servant.
Those blue eyes.
"Do your worst to me, son. I'm ready."
"Rise," Darken said, unblinking.
He felt nothing.
Panis stood, tall stiff and proud. Just as Darken remembered him. The tension in his face betrayed his fear.
How odd that he should fear the man he molded. It was Panis' actions, more than anything, that had shaped the Lord Darken Rahl.
As he looked into his father's face Darken remembered every harsh word, every admonishment, every beating. The disappointment that face had reflected when Darken was tested for sorcery by the Sisters of the Light and found less powerful than Rahls of the past. The deeper disappointment when Darken had begun to experiment with arcane arts in an attempt to become more powerful.
The day that Darken had made a deal of the damned with the Keeper of the Underworld out of a desire for love. What a petty emotion.
Panis' lip twitched, snapping Darken from his reverie. All the power rested with Darken now.
He leaned forward, slow and smooth, to whisper in his father's ear, "I forgive you father."
Darken lifted his arms to do something he had never done in life.
He embraced his father.
It was uncomfortable. Awkward.
Neither of them was sure what to do.
The power was all Darken's now. He would wield it well. Superior to his father in every way.
Worth something at last.
"Do you forgive me?"
He waited. Waited for the words that he had fought all these years to hear. The admission of Darken's greatness. The confirmation of his triumph over destiny.
The balm to fill the hole in his withered heart.
He waited in vain.
"Son," muttered Panis, a hitch in his voice that made Darken's lip curl, "you can't help what you are. I never blamed you."
Darken stepped back, bringing his arms deliberately to his sides.
He turned away, red train a swirl of cloth on the sand.
"You still don't understand," he said, eyes bright.
"Son," Panis said, pleading now. "I should have never asked for Zeddicus' help to conceive you. It wasn't natural. Something went wrong with you."
He shuffled in the sand, still standing straight-backed and proud.
Darken knew what had gone wrong with him. Its name was Panis Rahl.
"How convenient," Darken said quietly as he held his hands before him, rubbing one palm with the other, "that magical help to bring me life is unnatural, while my brother's birth was foretold."
Face soft, as if he was once more seeing the small dark haired boy who followed him about the castle trying to emulate his every motion, Panis gently explained, "Richard's birth was the will of the Creator, to right what I had done wrong."
He took a sudden step forward, reaching out for the first time.
His sand covered hand upon Darken's robes made Darken feel sullied.
"I never blamed you for anything," Panis reiterated earnestly, "it was all my doing."
"Yes," Darken said, "it was."
They were not talking of the same thing.
Darken pulled his sleeve from Panis' grasp and Panis tensed.
Darken would not lash out. He would not give Panis what he wanted; the confirmation of Darken's devilry.
"What do you want, Darken?"
A storm of emotions and images became a fiery cyclone in Darken's spirit.
"I want…" he said as he thought of children, women, green eyes, armies, power, apples, and the sun.
"…to live again," he finished as he strode away, leaving Panis in the sand.
He would not seek him out again.
Vengeance, he found more and more, was a petty motivation.
Darken had all the power now.
He still felt cold.