Important Author's Note: This is a drabble series, so the chapters are short. This is also the sequel to Blood from a Stone. You should read that fic (available from my profile page) first or you will be confused.

Warnings: (Non-explicit) sexual content. Femslash in later chapters.

Many thanks to: My betas, 16beckyb and aceofhadeon who continue to do an exemplary job, Agiels ever at the ready. Also thanks to melt_in2_me and vorquellyn, whose discussion posts and fan works have influenced my view of Darken Rahl and D'Hara more than they know.

Standard disclaimer applies to this and all chapters following. For specific disclaimer, see my profile page.

All original plotlines, places, creatures, characters, and other content are the property of this author. Please request permission before reusing.


Harried

Darken stirred from his hard bed of leaves, something bringing him to wakefulness. He opened his eyes to find Cara's eyes glowing a dull green in the firelight, one hand on her Agiels, the other lightly on his arm. The fire cast red-orange light on the amulet of bones she wore at her throat, throwing it in sharp relief.

He did not speak. She did not warn him not to.

It was not necessary.

Cara cast her senses outward, listening, watching, almost tasting the forest around them.

Darken sat up, hand going to his own Agiel. His sword was too awkward to draw from a sitting position.

They sat, straining to locate the source of their unease for an interminable period.

And then suddenly the tension lessened.

The wiry awareness faded from Darken first. Cara could not relax so easily.

It was a Mord'Sith's duty to protect Lord Rahl.

And Cara's desire to protect Darken.

"You see how bad things have gotten since Richard ended my reign."

Exhaling heavily through her nose, Cara nodded.

"Sleep," Darken commanded, "I will take next watch."

There were dark circles under his Mistress Cara's eyes. Darken regretted allowing the other Mord'Sith to go with his brother. Cara would not be so on edge if there were another available to protect him.

He fingered the Agiel at his belt.

Not that he needed much protection.

-l-

Richard stood guard over his sleeping companions, a fortnight of harried travel leaving him ill kempt and exhausted.

He had thought that the upheaval throughout the territories was due to the tear in the veil. What land wouldn't be troubled when the dead walked among the living, killing for the Keeper? Who wouldn't do whatever they could to stay alive when faced with screelings and worse?

But things didn't get better with the triumph of the light over the dark.

They got worse.

Bandits that were too afraid to roam before now robbed freely. D'Haran soldiers went rogue. The remains of the resistance fighters were just as bad, men and women trained to battle when there was no longer a battle to fight. Civil war broke out in kingdoms where D'Hara had taken over and eliminated the ruling nobility.

The death of Darken Rahl had created a vacuum in the fragile web of politics.

The Midlands were tearing themselves apart.

The sun crested the horizon, making Richard squint bloodshot eyes. The sooner they got to Aydindril, the better.

As usual, the first to awaken was Haden, the Mord'Sith who had insisted on traveling with them. She claimed that she owed a life debt to Zedd.

And Mord'Sith always repaid their debts.

Her long chestnut braid thumped against her back as she immediately began breaking camp. She was quiet, not so outspoken as Cara, but she was always anticipating what needed to be done, and doing it efficiently and quickly.

Richard wished she would smile more.

He supposed it wasn't fair to keep comparing her to Cara.

Thinking of Cara made him wonder where she and his brother were, if they were safe. Much could happen to two lone travelers with the violence that swept the land.

Thinking of what would happen if Darken ran afoul of any former members of the resistance made Richard cold.

Thinking of what Darken and Cara would do to any that dared cross them made him colder.

Richard groaned and stood, praying silently to the Creator to guide his brother in his new life.