Disclaimer: None of this is my property. If you want to use any of my ideas please let me know because I'd be curious to see what you did with them.

The smell was the worst part. Always the stench of death and corruption followed Darken in his dreams. It had been so long since he had remembered a pleasant dream that he barely noticed when the nature of the terrors that stalked his dreams changed.

Being alive, being awake, that was the time for pleasant things. The dreams of fire and ash, of people always burning but not ever dying, that had been his dreamscape for as long as he could remember. Even as a child dead, rotting things had filled his sleep.

At first Darken had chalked up the differences to the Keeper's anger at his escape. After making himself at home in Walter's body, the dreams had cooled. The green fires faded away to be replaced by bitter cold. One night he became aware that the Keeper was no longer himself. He had been replaced by a four-armed giantess wearing a belt of severed penises and baby skulls. She stamped and danced while Darken his in icy piles of bones so old and brittle that a touch turned them to powder.

One night he fled the stamping monster to a cavern of ice. Men still as death but still horribly alive watched him as he wandered past. He had enough presence of mind to wonder about that. There were places the Keeper had that looked much like this but these men didn't just feel alive they were alive. The souls of the dead never radiated such madness and menace as these unspeakably ancient creatures did.

Many nights later, he encountered the first sign of true life. A white crow tilted its head to look at him through one red eye and spoke.

Nicci watched warily as Darken Rahl stomped around the encampment, yelling at his Mord'Sith. The search for a quillian had gone badly so far. Nicci knew he planned to remove her powers and take them for himself. She knew he was frustrated that he had not yet been able to do that. Every day that he was thwarted, Darken grew a little stranger and a little crankier.

"Today we go east." Darken said simply whenever anyone asked.

The Temple at Kadilyn was silhouetted starkly against the darkening sky. It was the last Mord'Sith temple to the east. Darken had driven them hard to reach it. Even the Mord'Sith were showing signs of discomfort and fatigue. Nicci who wasn't used to traveling such distances without magic was practically dead on her feet.

"We will need food and water for many days. Maybe weeks. We can slaughter animals along the way. But we need to feed them until then. We can't short them on water or they will break free and get us killed looking for it." Darken muttered to Mareka.

"My Lord, no one has entered the plain in generations. Not since D'Hara's founding has anyone attempted it. The barrier repels us." Mareka said quietly. The light of the setting sun picked out red highlights in her blonde braid.

"I have a solution for that," Darken smiled, a manic light in his eyes. "It isn't a barrier, Mistress Mareka. It's a gate. Gates have keys." He gestured at the pass defended by Kadilyn. Its steep sides held no fertile soil so there were few people in the area. "We go through there and in a week we will reach the gate."

"My sisters and I will need to rest awhile in order to be up to protecting you." Mareka said carefully.

"If we get into a situation where I need protecting it will be too late for us all," Darken said without a trace of worry. "Still, we can rest here for five days before continuing down the pass."

Darken climbed down into the lowest basements of the Mord'Sith temple. Unerringly, he searched through the remains of stone walls that had been old when D'Hara was young until he found a gleaming statue six inches high made from obsidian. The figure had four arms and was naked except for a delicately carved belt decorated with baby skulls. Her fangs glinted softly in the candlelight. It was far heavier than it had any right to be.

Darken held it close to his chest and sighed.

Darken's dream self wandered past men in cocoons of ice but he no longer felt the cold. He followed the albino crow deeper into the caverns, refusing to be intimidated by rank after rank of men who ought to have died ages ago. After a small eternity, he found himself beside a young woman of extraordinary beauty.

Her eyes were closed but he knew that when they opened they would be a bright blue. Her skin was Nightwalker pale and her hair was the color of a raven's wing. A proper raven unlike the crow flittering about overhead. No breath stirred her chest but he knew ways to fix that. Without words, he was struck by the realization that he had just discovered the crow's purpose.

Around her, Darken sensed a dark aura that drew him in. Even in death, this woman was deadly and lovely and... to be loved. He tried to hide the recoil in his thoughts from the crow.

It laughed.

From the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of another woman. This one was just as beautiful but less alluring. The stitches around her neck were garishly out of place. Just as he knew the one laid out on the floor was dead, he knew this one was alive.

Darken Rahl eagerly held the statuette up to the gate. Beyond it, a vast plain of glittering stone stretched as far as he could see. Nothing lived on the plain. Overhead a flock of crows wheeled and circled as he followed the road away from the world he knew and towards a world where he was offered power and escape from his enemies.