Author's Note: A slight change in the "Princess" storyline. Nicci tells Darken Rahl about her capture of the Mother Confessor before Kahlan arrives at the Margrave's palace.
That guard just had to show his face again at their dungeon door. That guard just had to mock them again. Kahlan wanted to Confess him with a passion, but she could not use her powers in the Margrave's palace.
The special visitors had arrived. It was time for the chopping block.
Kahlan's breath caught in her throat. There was no doubt in her mind that the special visitors were servants of the Keeper. Who else would want her dead so much? Prophecy said that as long as the Mother Confessor's pure heart beat, the Keeper would be doomed to fail. Of course the Keeper's servants would want to kill her.
Kahlan was afraid but not for herself. She was afraid of the Keeper achieving victory. She was afraid of something happening to Richard. Oh, Richard. She would be the Confessor who failed to protect her Seeker. She would be the Mother Confessor who failed to protect the Midlands. If she died, the Keeper would win. All life would be extinguished. The people in the Midlands would die. Richard would die. Oh, Richard. Her beloved Richard.
Arla reached for one of the biscuits that the guard had tossed onto the floor of their cell. The guard had not even had the decency to give them a plate. He actually expected to eat food off the dirty floor. They were women, and in the Margrave's palace, women were second-class. Women were like animals to the men in this place.
"Don't eat that, Arla," Kahlan snarled as she slapped Arla's hand before the woman's hand could reach the biscuit laying on the dirty cell floor. "You're not an animal. You're better than that."
Arla said nothing. Her face was that of defeat, but at least she didn't try to go for the biscuit again.
There was nothing in the cell that Kahlan could use as a weapon. She had only her body. She knew that she was going to die today, but she would not go down without a fight. Kahlan had trained her body to fight for most of her life. Her body was a weapon, and she would use it. She was going to die today, but she wasn't going to die alone. Some of the Keeper's servants would be going with her to the underworld.
Kahlan clenched her hands tightly, and her face twisted like that of an angry feral animal. Perhaps she was a bit of an animal after all, but the Keeper's servants deserved no better. Kahlan would not give them the pleasure of seeing her fear. No, they would see nothing but her anger.
"Tell me, Kahlan, are you planning on taking out all those Sisters of the Dark all by yourself and with no weapons to use beside your body?" a male's voice suddenly asked in both wonder and pride.
Kahlan had not heard that voice often, but she knew who it belonged to.
It was the voice of one of her greatest enemies.
Kahlan spun around. Arla gasped in fright.
Darken Rahl, surrounded by fire, stood in their cell. There was a look of both pride and amusement in his blue eyes as he looked at Kahlan with a smile on his handsome, youthful face.
"Don't get me wrong, Kahlan," Rahl continued. "Even without weapons, you are still a better fighter than any of those Sisters of the Dark, but there are quite a few of them. They're like rabbits actually."
"What do you want, Rahl?" Kahlan hissed.
"I'm glad to see that you are still fiery and spirited," Rahl smiled. "You made those guards have to fight just to bring you down here, and now you're ready to fight some rather annoying Sisters of the Dark with your bare hands. You are a remarkable woman, Kahlan Amnell."
"What do you want, Rahl?" Kahlan repeated with even more fire in her voice. Arla, who had pushed herself back into a corner, whimpered slightly in fear. Kahlan paid Arla no mind, though. Kahlan's cold, hard blue eyes were focused sorely on Darken Rahl, the man who had ruined the lives of so many innocent people.
"I know that you like a good fight, Kahlan," Rahl said, seemingly not affected by Kahlan's angry tone of voice, "but do you really want to die today?"
Kahlan stared directly into Rahl's eyes, not backing down an inch. "No," she hissed.
"Why, Kahlan?" Rahl asked. "Why don't you want to die?"
"Is it not obvious?" Kahlan growled. "Surely you have heard of the prophecy concerning me, or has the Keeper been keeping his precious little servant in the dark?"
A brief look of anger flashed Rahl's eyes, but he quickly composed himself. He had, after all, trained himself for most of his life to keep his emotions under control.
"It's funny that you should mention the Keeper," Rahl said casually, "because I'm starting to get tired of serving him. He's not a grateful master at all."
"I'm so sorry to hear that," Kahlan replied sarcastically.
Rahl smiled at her. "Such spirit," he breathed. He then turned serious. "Why don't you want to die? Do you fear death?"
"No," Kahlan answered firmly, without wavering. She didn't fear dying. She only feared what would happen to all the people that she cared about after her death.
"Then why don't you want to die?" Before Rahl could stop himself, anger entered his eyes and crossed his face. "Is it because of Richard? Is Richard's life so much more important that yours, Kahlan?"
Kahlan felt a stab of anger, but like Rahl, she had also trained herself for most of her life to keep her emotions under control. She quickly composed herself. Two could play at this game.
"You're jealous of Richard, aren't you?" Kahlan smiled mockingly.
"Richard is not as great as everyone makes him out to be," Rahl snapped in anger before he could stop himself. He quickly composed himself, however.
"I can't help but pity you, Kahlan," Rahl continued in a mocking voice. "You don't value your own life. I thought that you were special, but you live only for Richard. You don't care about yourself. You only care about Richard. You live in a dungeon, a dungeon which Richard holds the key to, and you're too pathetic to even try to fight your way out. You're incapable of escaping from the box that goes by the name Richard. Your life is meaningless without Richard to protect. You are an empty shell, Kahlan. You are an empty shell just like everyone else in this pathetic world."
Kahlan had to struggle to keep the tears from spilling out her eyes. Darken Rahl definitely knew how to wound a person, how to hurt a person.
"Why don't you want to live for yourself, Kahlan?" Rahl asked in a softer, gentler voice.
"Why do you care?" Kahlan cried.
A look of vulnerability passed through Rahl's eyes. "I should not have spoken so harshly to you, Kahlan," he said in a tender voice, "but I don't want you to end up like me."
"What are you talking about?" Kahlan asked without any heat in her voice. Rahl, with his genuine eyes and his genuine voice, had just sparked her curiosity. For a moment, Kahlan wondered if Rahl was playing some sort of game with her. But he seemed so genuine.
"I have not valued my own life until just recently," Rahl began.
Kahlan snorted in disbelief. "Don't try to lie to a Confessor, Rahl," she hissed. "Your life is all that matters to you. You ordered the deaths of all the innocent baby boys in Brennidon, so that the Seeker could not grow up to kill you."
"You may not believe this, Kahlan," Rahl spoke quickly and desperately, "but I took no pleasure in giving that order. I only did what I thought was necessary. I was only trying to protect myself. Is self-preservation not a basic human instinct? That's right, Kahlan, I'm human. Don't you find that surprising?"
"I don't get how any of this has to do with you not valuing your own life," Kahlan snapped. "You have just contradicted yourself, Lord Rahl." She spoke "Lord Rahl" with mockery in her voice.
"I was young when I learned of the prophecy concerning the Seeker," Rahl responded. "I was afraid, and I had no one to turn to. There was already great tension between my father and I, so I knew that I could not count on him. I was young and foolish. I thought that my only hope was the Keeper. I killed myself, Kahlan."
Kahlan gasped in shock and disbelief, but once again Darken Rahl sounded and looked genuine. Could it be true? Could it really be true that he had killed himself?
I killed myself," Rahl continued with great emotion in his voice, "so that I could talk with the Keeper. I wanted more power, so that I could protect myself against the Seeker. The Keeper, of course, demanded a price. He demanded that in exchange for power, I would kill for him every day."
"You were a baneling?" Kahlan gasped. "You, Darken Rahl?"
"Cara was only a baneling for a few days," Rahl responded. "I was a baneling for years. Tell me, did being a baneling make Cara miserable? Did it make her despair?"
"Yes," Kahlan answered softly.
"I allowed myself to become a monster," Rahl continued. "I allowed myself to become something less than human. I did it to preserve my life, but in reality, I gave up my life. I don't know how it feels to truly live. How does it feel to be able to sleep without having to worry about the Keeper entering your dreams? How does it feel not having to worry about killing someone just so that you can live another miserable day? I really don't enjoy killing, Kahlan, but I did in the name of life. That's a laugh. It was not life. It was never life. It was nothing but death. It was always nothing but death."
"I had no idea," Kahlan responded gently. She reached a hand out towards Rahl, forgetting that he was the spirit and therefore could not be touched.
Rahl, not use to such a sign of sympathy from anyone, backed away from Kahlan, also forgetting that she could not touch him because he was a spirit.
"I don't want your pity," he snarled.
Kahlan dropped her hand. "Why are you here, Rahl?" she asked softly. "Why did you just tell me all that? Why don't you want me to end up like you?"
"Because you are special, Kahlan," Rahl replied. "You are the most passionate person that I've ever met. You are both the light and the darkness. On one hand, you are a nurturer, a protector, a savior. On the other hand, you are a cold and hard destroyer, a deadly beast, a dangerous animal. You are capable of both great love and deep hate. What else could have brought on the Con Dar when I threatened to Confess Richard? Your love for him. Your hate for me. Love and hate combined creates a power that neither love alone nor hate alone can create. I have never before met a woman capable of expressing such opposites in such an extreme, intense manner. Your light and your darkness makes you human, Kahlan, truly human. Someone cannot be human if they're only capable of one emotion. To be human is to be emotional.
"I don't want you to die, Kahlan. I don't want the Keeper to take your spirit from you. Without your spirit, you are nothing, and I don't want you to be nothing, Kahlan, because you have shown me that there is actually something to admire in being alive. Your spirit makes preserving life worth fighting for. Your passion makes stopping death worth fighting for."
Kahlan had to struggle for breath. Never before had anyone spoken to her in such a manner. Richard loved the good in her, but neither of them had ever wanted to acknowledge her dark side. And she did have a dark side. She could be cold and hard when necessary. She could be a monster when necessary. But Darken Rahl admired that in her. Her dark side was not something that Richard admired. Richard fought for good, and he made Kahlan want to deny the darkness inside her. Darken Rahl, on the other hand, made her want to unleash her dark side without being ashamed of it. She was both the light and the darkness, but her darkness did not make her evil. Her darkness made her human, truly human. Her humanity, created by both her light and her darkness, made life worth fighting for. Kahlan could not help but be moved by the passion in Darken Rahl's voice and eyes. His passion was different from the passion that she was used to seeing from Richard. Darken Rahl's passion was more intense, more dangerous. Yet there was also something thrilling about Darken Rahl's passion.
"You said that some Sisters of the Dark are coming," Kahlan finally managed to say after several moments of intense, awakening silence. "Is Richard coming as well?"
"No," Rahl answered.
"How many Sisters are there?" Kahlan breathed.
"Too many," Rahl replied, "but that's why I'm here."
"What are you going to do?" Kahlan asked. "Forgive me, but you are only a spirit."
"The Keeper has granted me some powers," Rahl replied. "I have the power to temporarily be that of the flesh. I also have the power to transport. I can make myself flesh long enough to transport you out of here, Kahlan."
"What about Arla?" Kahlan said firmly, nodding her head at the poor woman huddled in the corner of the cell. "I'm not leaving without her."
Rahl could not deny the power of the firmness and the strength in Kahlan's voice. Like his voice, her voice was that of authority. Like his voice, her voice was one to be obeyed without question, without exception.
"You are truly the light, Kahlan," Rahl smiled, "and you are also as determined as a beautiful hellcat. Yes, I have the power to transport her as well, but you're both going to have to trust me. If you don't, I will lose my hold on you, and you will end up in the underworld. Do you trust me, Kahlan? Do you trust me, Arla?
"I never thought that I would ever say this," Kahlan replied, "but I trust you, Darken Rahl. I don't fully understand what I'm feeling right now, but I trust you with my life."
Rahl directed his attention to Arla. She didn't say anything for several tense moments. Then, she finally said with a conviction in her voice that Kahlan had not heard until now, "I trust you as well."
Rahl spread out his arms. "Then walk into the fire," he commanded. "It will be a little warm, but the fire will not burn you as long as you trust in me."
Kahlan and Arla stepped into the fire with Rahl. He wrapped his arms around them. As Rahl had warned, the fire was a little warm, but it wasn't unbearable.
"It will probably be best if you both close your eyes," Rahl said. "We will have to touch the underworld for a moment, but don't worry. It won't be long enough for the Keeper to sense either of you. I will cloak both of you with my presence."
Kahlan and Arla closed their eyes. Neither woman could quite explain in words what happened next. They felt the sensation of the fire. They felt the sensation of disappearing. They felt the sensation of traveling, traveling quickly, too quickly to comprehend with words alone.
Kahlan could not explain why, but she felt the need to open her eyes. She found herself staring directly into the blue eyes of Darken Rahl.
Rahl was caught by surprise. He had not expected Kahlan to open her eyes. Kahlan saw the sadness and the longing in his eyes before he could hide it behind the emotionless mask that he was so used to showing the world.
Kahlan made Darken Rahl want to be human. Kahlan made Darken Rahl want to express his true emotions. But being a servant to the Keeper for so many years had hardened Darken Rahl and had made him cold. Too be human was a frightening thought to him. Too be human made him vulnerable, and vulnerability could be taken advantage of. Could he safety be vulnerable around Kahlan?
Until this moment Kahlan would have never thought that she would see such a look in Darken Rahl's usually cold, emotionless eyes. The longing in his eyes were not that of lustful longing. No, the longing in his eyes were that of someone who wanted to be held and comforted, of someone who wanted to be loved.
Instinctively, Kahlan wrapped her arms tenderly around Rahl. There was nothing sexually suggestive about the hug that she gave him. It was nothing more than a hug of comfort and understanding, but that only served to make the hug even more powerful.
Kahlan's hug stirred something inside Darken Rahl beside lust, beside obsession, beside curiosity to discover how someone could be capable of both compassion and rage at such passionate, intense levels.
Darken Rahl, not used to such a display of affection, awkwardly but tenderly hugged Kahlan back. He closed his eyes. He didn't want to ever let Kahlan go, but he didn't want to possess her either. To possess Kahlan Amnell would require taking away her humanity, and Darken Rahl definitely did not want to do that. Kahlan's humanity was what made her so admirable, so worthy of Rahl's respect. Still, Darken Rahl wished that this moment would last forever. Who would have ever thought that Kahlan Amnell, the Mother Confessor herself, would ever hug him, Darken Rahl, the evil tyrant, the Keeper's most prized servant, with such tenderness and compassion?
The moment, of course, did not last forever. All too soon they were outside the boundaries of the Margrave's land. It was time for Darken Rahl to let Kahlan go. He opened his eyes, and he found himself staring directly into the blue eyes of Kahlan Amnell.
Arla stepped outside the fire surrounding Darken Rahl, but Kahlan remained.
Kahlan smiled warmly at Rahl as her hand gently touched his cheek in gratefulness and appreciation. Then, without thought, Kahlan kissed Darken Rahl softly on his cheek. Like with the hug, there was nothing sexually suggestive about the kiss, but that only served to make the kiss more powerful than it would have been if it had been sexually motivated.
"Thank you, Darken," Kahlan said softly.
Darken Rahl was speechless for a moment. He had never before been called by just his first name. He had been called by his whole name, he had been called "Lord Rahl," he had been called by just his last name; but he had never before been called by just his first name. His first name sounded so nice and so beautiful coming out of Kahlan's mouth, coming from her voice.
Kahlan kissed Darken one more time on his cheek before stepping outside the fire. Darken and Kahlan stared at each other for several moments. Both of their eyes were filled with longing, not sexual longing but an even more powerful longing.
Suddenly Darken and Kahlan heard the sounds of approaching horses.
"I must go now," Darken said. "Take care of yourself, Kahlan." With that, both he and the fire surrounding him disappeared faster than the eye could blink.
"Kahlan!" Richard's voice cried in relief.
Kahlan turned around. Three horses were riding towards her and Arla.
Richard slid off his horse with a bright smile on his face as he ran towards Kahlan. Zedd and Cara were close behind him. All three looked relieved to see Kahlan alive. Kahlan felt strangely empty.
Richard hugged Kahlan, but she didn't return the hug.
"What's wrong, Kahlan?" Richard asked in concern.
Kahlan pulled away from Richard. She remembered Richard telling her how she had been torn between her duty self and her desire self. She was once again torn, torn between Richard and Darken. Kahlan loved both brothers, but in different ways. She still couldn't quite understand her newfound feelings for Darken, but they were definitely there.
"Darken Rahl saved my life," Kahlan said.
"What?" Richard, Zedd, and Cara all responded with shocked voices, wide-eyes, and dropped jaws.
Kahlan didn't say anything further. She still needed time to figure things out for herself.
Kahlan nodded her head at Arla. "This is Arla. We need to safely get her home."
Richard, Zedd, and Cara just stared at Kahlan in shocked, confusing silence as she took Arla's hand and began to walk towards her homeland.