Chapter 1 - Omen
"Again!" Richard commanded, anger welling up inside him at what the man had just threatened.
Cara obliged and rammed her humming agiel into the man's side. A blood-curdling scream erupted from his lips as he toppled to the ground onto his knees. When Cara stepped back and removed her agiel, the man seethed through clenched teeth. His gaunt face looked even more haggard and disheveled.
"You'll never succeed, you know that, don't you?" Neville Ranson sneered at them.
The Mord'Sith flicked her wrist. "I think he needs a taste of death for a second or two," Cara purred. "Let me to do, Lord Rahl. Please?"
Richard took a deep breath. He hated this. But the evil wizard was leaving them no choice. He had threatened Kahlan, his beloved, and he'd kept spewing threats and sick promises. It had relieved Richard to no end that all the things the man had claimed he'd done to Kahlan when they had first captured him had all turned out to be lies. Kahlan had never been raped, but had come too close for Richard's comfort.
Neville shifted erratically on his knees, glaring at him. "So why haven't you bedded her yet, Lord Rahl?" he mocked, as if he had sensed his thoughts. "Not man enough."
Cara let loose with a growl and rammed her agiel into his neck. She was fiercely protective of Richard and had wanted to see to Neville's "training" personally. Over the past two months, they'd gleamed little from Neville. He was surprisingly strong. At one point, Cara despaired that she had grown soft hanging around Richard and Kahlan, and had lost her touch.
So, his faithful Mord'Sith had Raina try her hand at the wizard, only to get the same results. The only information they had managed to coax from him was that he was a representative of an large empire that called themselves the Imperial Order, and that, according to him, the Midlands Alliance was an insect in comparison.
Later, after discussing things with Zedd and Nicci, the later confirmed what Neville had said. Nicci told them how she had gown up in the Imperial Order. They were a brutal dictatorship that oppressed anyone who did not believe as they did. Nicci confessed that at one time she had actually believed in them. She said that it had been Richard, with his selfless and kindness, that had brought her to the light, as it were.
"Enough," Richard sighed, stepping back and racking his hands through his hair. He was growing tired of watching the man being tortured. There was nothing they could do to him that was going to make him talk.
Cara looked up, displeased. "You go and rest, Lord Rahl," she told him. "I can handle him. Just give me a couple more days… then he'll be singing a different tune."
For a moment, Neville actually looked terrified. Richard took a long deep breath and turned on the man. He glared at him with hatred that only came from the righteous rage of the Sword of Truth. His hand had slowly come to rest on the hilt, and he was feeling the rage gradually seep into him.
"I want to know more about this prophecy!" he roared at the man.
At the moment, Richard worried more about the prophecy the wizard had quoted to them, than this Imperial order. At first, Richard did not believe him, until Warren and Berdine had found the very same prophecy written down in the book that called him Fuer Grissa Ost Drauka, the Bringer of Death.
Neville laughed. "Of course you do, Lord Rahl," he spat. "I would too if I had such a scrumptious prize awaiting me in my bed."
Just for that, Richard punched the man in the face. He allowed himself a smile as he heard bone crack.
"Ah!" Neville screamed holding his hands to his face, blooding dripping through his fingers. "You broke my nose!"
Richard stood back and shoved off any remorse he felt for this man. Neville had threatened his Kahlan. He had threatened him. He had threatened the destruction of the Midlands. Whatever pity he might have felt for this man had long since vanished.
He turned to Cara. "You want time alone with him?" he asked her. She nodded. "Fine. Do what you will. Break him, if you have to! Just get me the information I need to save Kahlan."
Cara gave a nod, her eyes gleaming with delight at the prospect before her. "With pleasure, Lord Rahl."
Richard gave a nod and left the room, allowing Cara to her grisly work. He knew he should feel ashamed for employing the Mord'Sith in the same fashion that Darken Rahl had, but these women served him by their own choice, not because he forced them to. Cara, Berdine, and Raina… they all served of their own free will.
And Neville Ranson had forfeited his right to free will the moment he had threatened Kahlan. Kahlan was everything to him. And if he had to stomach the immorality of the Mord'Sith's twisted sick profession to protect her. Then so be it.
Kahlan woke with a start. Turning onto her side, she sighed with disappointed when she did not find Richard beside her. It had just been sweet dream.
Ever since their return to Aydindril and the aftermath of the attempted coup, Richard had spent most of his time in the Wizard's Keep with Warren and the Mord'Sith Berdine. She had hoped that now that they were here and that they had settled the whole matter of him being the Lord Rahl, that they could finally be together.
Yet he kept her waiting. It had been an agonizingly long two months. Kahlan had to fill her time with meetings and walks in the city with Cara and Verna. Spirits, she'd even taken the time to talk with Nicci.
The former Sister of the Dark had become a surprisingly fast friend. Sometimes, it seemed Nicci was the only one who made time to see her. Richard was always gone, his head buried in ancient books, or down in the dungeons supervising Cara, who was doing what a Mord'Sith was trained to do.
When she asked Zedd, the old wizard would babble and make an excuse that he had promised to meet a friend at Ambrosia's. He usually just made his way to the Wizard's Keep to help Warren and Berdine in the libraries. Verna was aloof, and hard to talk to. And Dennee… Spirits, Dennee had left Aydindril.
On the day she left, her sister had told Kahlan that now that the Mother Confessor was back, Aydindril had no need of an ordinary confessor. She went off to Kelton to see to the restoration of that kingdom. Though Kahlan suspected Dennee really wanted to get away from the vast group of Mord'Sith that had descended on the city to protect the new Lord Rahl.
Nicci was the only one who was ever free to listen.
Despite how she had felt about the sorceress, Kahlan found herself confessing her deepest darkest fears to Nicci. She'd tell her how she was afraid Richard no longer desired her. Worried that he had been indulging himself in the Mord'Sith, like Cara had always said Darken Rahl did. Nicci would sooth her and give her comfort. She would tell Kahlan that she had nothing to be afraid of. Richard was not Darken Rahl, and Nicci knew. Nicci had been a prisoner of the former Lord Rahl and knew what he did.
However, despite all the reassurances and comfort Kahlan received from her friends, Richard had yet to come to her bed. He'd even postponed their wedding. When he had done that, Kahlan nearly had a nervous break down and had almost gone into the Con Dar with grief. Cara and Zedd had to summon Richard least Kahlan go on a Blood Rage induced rampage and begin confessing members of her own serving staff.
As she shook, feeling the deep power begin to assert itself, Richard pulled her into a warm hug and kissed her brow. He whispered soft reassurances that he had not changed his mind, that he never would. But she could not hear him, the awesome force of the Con Dar began to take control of her. While her eyes started to turn red with the Blood Rage, Richard captured her lips in his and kissed her with such an intensity that it called her back. That kissed was the only thing that had kept her sane.
Yet, he still would not make love to her.
She ached to feel his touch, to feel what it was like to have his warm flesh pressed against hers. To feel his hands on her naked breasts, to feel his kisses run down her body… oh, how she yearned to feel that. To feel him inside as their bodies moved together, thriving, connecting, as they made passionate love. Slowly, feeling her desire rise, she let her fingers drift down to the soft flesh between her legs, seeking release.
Kahlan closed her eyes and imagined Richard as she began to touch herself, wishing it was him instead of herself.
Suddenly shouts pulled her from her thoughts. Moving out from beneath the blankets, Kahlan pulled on her robe and walked to the balcony. She pushed the doors open and stepped out into a strange light.
She blinked, confused. It was still night, wasn't it? Raising her hand to shield her eyes, she looked up at the moon and gasped.
A blood red circle stared back at her, full of menace and foreboding. Kahlan stepped back, and felt her whole body tremble with fear. She remembered Richard had mentioned something about a red moon. It had been something he'd read about from his long days and nights in the Wizard's Keep. At the moment, she could not remember what it was he had said about it, if he had said anything at all. He'd hardly spoken to her in the last two weeks.
The sound of her bedchamber door opening caused her to turn around. Rushing out onto the balcony, covered in red, the traditional color of the Lord Rahl, was her Richard. He looked up at the moon and his face was the personification of horror.
Turning, he noticed her. "Kahlan!" he pulled her to him, crushing her to his chest. Kahlan did not know what to think or how to feel. She felt his whole body tremble, and could hear his heart beating with such ferocity she was concerned that he might be having some sort of seizure. When he pulled her back and looked into her eyes, she saw vivid apprehension and an intense fear swimming in his brown eyes.
"Richard," she placed her hands on his chest, trying to sooth his fears away, whatever they might be. "What is it? Talk to me?"
He shook his head, his eyes turning blurry as tears began to stream down his face. It broke her heart to see the man she loved in such grief. She reached up and rubbed his tears away, kissing his face slightly, tasting the sweet salty tears.
Richard, the Seeker of Truth, the Lord Rahl, the man who dared to love a confessor and had proven he was immune to the magic, slumped in her arms, utterly defeated. He buried his face in her shoulder and wept. Confused and bewildered, unsure why Richard was acting like this, Kahlan tried to sooth him by running her fingers down the back of his head and through his thick brown hair.
As she held Richard, she was vaguely aware of a commotion back in her chambers. In sort order, both Zedd and Nicci appeared with Cara not far behind.
Zedd stepped over to the railing and gazed up at the red blemish upon the night sky. He glanced over to Nicci, who walked up beside him, and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.
"It is as we've feared, Nicci," he said softly.
"What's going on?" Kahlan asked over Richard shoulder, as the Seeker continued to sob.
Zedd and Nicci turned and looked at her. They both held sad looks in their eyes. "I… I don't think we should be the ones to tell you, dear one," Zedd said, looking down at Nicci to see if she agreed with him.
Nicci gave a nod of her head, her long blonde hair running in cascades down around her beautiful face. "Yes," she said. "Richard should tell you."
Leaning back from his sobbing, Richard looked up and saw the others. His chest heaved and he wiped the tears from his eyes. He looked down at Kahlan and he almost began to weep all over again.
"Richard, what is it?" Kahlan asked, desperation lacing her voice.
Richard looked at her as if he was afraid. "Kahlan… oh, Kahlan, I'm sorry," he said, his voice shaking, sounding nothing like the man who'd defeated Darken Rahl and sealed the rift to the Underworld. "I should have told you."
"What!" Cara gawked, incredulously. "You haven't told her yet!"
"Richard, my boy," Zedd was shaking his head. "You've had more than a month… why haven't you told her?"
"Tell me what? Richard? What is Zedd talking about?" Kahlan was becoming scared. Just a few minutes ago she had been lying in her big bed dreaming sweet dreams of passion and love. Now, all of a sudden, she felt very cold and alone.
Her Seeker, the man she loved, looked at her with sad eyes. He looked down and she thought an expression of shame creased his face. "It's about prophecy, Kahlan. When you were recovering, we found another prophecy."
"What?" Kahlan hiccupped.
"And it's about you."
The red moon. It was here. He'd seen it. At least, he thought he had. He'd seen precious little of either sunlight or moonlight in the past two months. The Emperor had kept his promise, and he now knew why the wizards of old had feared his kind.
A metal slab on the door opened and a chunk of black moldy bread was thrown in, followed by the cruel laughs of his jailers. Scurrying across the straw covered floor like a rat, he retrieved the bread and began gnawing on it, caring little if he also consumed the fuzzy growth on it as well.
After he had eaten, he felt sick. But that was nothing new nowadays. He wet his fingers with his tongue and smoothed out his eyebrows. How quickly he'd lost everything. He lowered his brow in anger. Now his dear brother was Lord Rahl and had his bride, the beautiful Mother Confessor.
He'd overheard the Order soldiers discussing their plans, and he'd heard mention of the red moon.
It was some kind of omen, one, which they believed, showed that the Creator was on their side. Darken Rahl laughed to himself in the cell, hearing his low voice echo off the stone walls. He almost envied Nicci for escaping. And that treacherous Berdine. She'd been most fortunate. The Emperor did not treat the Mord'Sith that had remained with the kind consideration he had.
The Emperor had entered their minds and broken them. It was not the same kind of breaking that the Mord'Sith did, but something far worse. Now they served the Order as whores for Emperor and his horde of soldiers. Rahl smiled to himself, when the Emperor had used his magic on him and entered his mind, the brute had seen an image of Kahlan Amnell, the exquisite creature whom the Seeker sought to keep for himself. How the image of her had wetted the Emperor's appetite.
Darken Rahl knew, from the depraved things he heard from his cell, that once the Emperor got his hands on the Mother Confessor, he would do far worse things to her than even Darken Rahl could have dreamt of. That alone, brought him some solace. He'd have his revenge on his dear brother Richard for usurping his throne. If not by his hand, then by the Emperor's.
"Soon, dear brother," Rahl whispered softly. "Soon, you will regret taking on the title of Lord Rahl."