"Zedd, can you get these chains off?" Richard asked, voice rough with things unsaid. Jennsen flinched away from him. He flexed his jaw, unsure what he felt.
Approaching, Zedd stretched out his hands, long fingers dancing over Jennsen's wrists. How his heart ached to see her so.
How his blood boiled when he looked upon Cara.
"I cannot free her with magic. The chains are so close to her… the blood of the pristinely ungifted neutralizes my han," Zedd answered, brows drawn together.
Jennsen paid no attention to him. Her eyes were fixed on Cara, who moved through the fallen soldiers, the men she had killed. Searching their bodies, looking for something.
Something that glittered.
Kahlan also watch the Mord'Sith, contemplating, searching for something of her own.
"I've found the key," Cara said at last, straightening from a hunch over the corpse of a man.
That man had hurt Jennsen. She was glad he was dead.
Eyes flat, and voice flatter, Cara returned to Jennsen's side, sliding the key home as she said, "You are free."
The chains fell from Jennsen's wrists, and she screamed as blood that had been slowed by the cuffs of metal flooded her hands. She fell into Cara's arms, weeping once more as Richard unlocked the chains on her ankles.
Finally, Cara removed the collar at her throat.
Jennsen grasped at it, clasped it to her chest. "No," she said, confused. "No."
Swallowing hard, a yawning pit opening in her gut that made her feel as if the world was tilting, Cara pried Jennsen's fingers from the cold iron circle. "Don't you understand, Jennsen?" she snapped. "You're free of me."
But as Jennsen wept and clung to her, as Richard turned red with frustrated rage, as Zedd's face crumpled with sorrow… Cara realized that Jennsen could not be freed so easily.
"Please, Mistress," Jennsen begged. "You promised. You made a vow. Don't leave me again," she hiccupped. "Don't leave me again."
Cara held her, soothed her Jennsen as she had a few short months ago that seemed more like a lifetime. And Jennsen clung back, embraced her chains as surely as she had fought them in the beginning.
The full realization of what she had done to Jennsen striking Cara's heart with a sound like a bell, she crushed the smaller woman to her leather clad chest, the faintest whisper of "I'm sorry," falling from her lips.
Only Kahlan, of all of them standing there at the crossroads, saw the truth. Cara felt no remorse, did not regret having Jennsen in her arms. She was lying.
Even to herself.
Kahlan remained silent.
Thank you to my betas, Ace and Melty, who hung in there through this unusually long writing process. Thank you as well to all the reviewers who stuck with it.
I have notes and story outlines for two sequels to this of similar length that moved forward with Jennsen added to the Merry Band, but I'm not sure when or if I'll get to them, as I'm more interested in writing other things first.
This ending is not as fully fleshed out as I planned, but as I've been struggling with writer's block with this story, I'm just happy to have finished it at all.