Just something I thought of one day. Wouldn't leave me alone. I don't usually do romance, in face I never do romance, and it was kinda typical for my brain to make my first romance incredibly hard to write. I don't think I got it as right as I wanted too but I'm still proud of it. This fic is very AU and so the characters may by slightly OOC...that may also be because I have no experience with wrting them. So that makes another one of my brians typicalness; it's made me write something for people I don't even know I can write. Oh well. I tried my best. And it's only my second fic for this section O.O...I really need to write more.
Hope you guys enjoy it! And sorry it is so long :)
Beneath this Rock Lies Stone
There was something unattainable about the world.
And the place was dark, more of a dungeon really, a place where people were kept for a while before they were moved to another prison (that's all there ever was). But despite everything always being that, always a prison, that did not mean that the emptiness didn't hang in the air like vapour.
Something was missing.
They did not know what it was. They probably never would. But as the men sat in rows upon rows, on hard wood benches, wrists shackled to a small loop stuck in the floor in front of each of them, they knew that something was not right. But, despite pondering it for years, almost going mad by trying to find out what it was, they would never know.
Women milled about, walking between the rows, pouches of gold (or silver or copper) jingling at their sides.
"What about that one?" Ryan asked, his voice low, in a whisper.
Richard flicked his eyes to the woman that the other man was talking about. He took note of the hard, cold eyes, the degree of violence in the step (how she got violence into her every stride he'd never know) and the almost sadistic way she smiled at the men she passed. Wincing, he lowered his head as she sauntered by, praying she wouldn't stop, praying she wouldn't notice him or Ryan. Once she had moved further down the row, he raised his head thoughtfully and made his decision.
"Agreed." Ryan replied with a grimace, watching as she picked one of the men further down, a young one no older than fifteen, striking him once around the face before giving a handful of gold coins to the Sister in charge of that row. The man, Richard didn't want to think of him as a child, was unshackled from the ground before his chain was given to the woman and he was led away.
He felt a surge of sympathy. It was something that he had never been able to control. Even after all these years.
He shook his head and tried to distract himself by continuing their 'game'. "And her?"
The young woman was tall and walked around stiffly, never looking at one person too long, her eyes blank and hard.
Ryan looked at the suggested woman consideringly for a moment before making his decision. "Mord'Sith."
Richard shook his head. And then the woman picked a man. He was young, like she was, and had flaxen blond hair. The man glared up at her although only another man would know that that was the expression that was on his face. It was too dangerous to let a women see how you felt. It was too dangerous to let one of them be able to read you. And so they had learnt not to. They learnt to separate themselves from the 'fairer' sex…the opposite sex. Richard was pulled out of his thoughts when the woman, like the Mord'Sith, handed some gold coins to the Sister on that row, but she did not strike the man. She only took the chain handed to her and led him away almost gently, almost kindly, and Richard saw Ryan blink in surprise.
There was silence between them both for a second before Richard said "Confessor."
The man laughed softly. "Damn your good at this game. Has there ever been a time where you have been wrong?"
It was said as a joke, meant well, but Richard looked away, down at the floor, at the chain that held him, at his hands, at anything. The sounds of the room, the dungeon, was suddenly louder his ears and he welcomed the noise. He listened to the sounds of bartering, the whispers of other men, the slap of a Mord'Siths hand, the jingling of coins, and after a long time he replied quietly "Once."
"What was she?" Ryan asked and, as if he had sense the change in atmosphere, his tone was more serious.
"The worst kind of Mord'Sith." Richard replied, managing to keep his tone light, managing to keep the image of a blond haired woman with a fondness for torture out of his mind. "And I thought she was a Confessor."
"Ouch." the man replied, tone sympathetic, but not pitying. Ryan had also known cruel Mistresses; they all had. And he knew that pity was useless, only good for hurting in the worst ways, and that Richard wanted to keep this conversation light. That was the only way he knew to deal with it. To take the events out into the light, to examine them, to really think about them, was not an option…no man wanted to go there. No man wanted to go down into that place. "How'd you end up here then?"
Shrugging Richard replied "I was lucky enough to be repossessed. My Mistress" he said the title mockingly, but whispered it so no one could hear, his own private form of rebellion "was in a lot of dept when I left her. I was the settlement."
The other man nodded. "How long ago?"
"A few years." Richard replied casually. "What about you?"
Ryan laughed and then said nonchalantly. "Don't miss a thing do you? I grew up in a Mord'Siths' household with my father. Was sold to one of her friends when I was thirteen and it was the worst five years of my life. She had a soft spot for fire."
The both laughed…they had too. What else could they do? Sit there and cry? Sit there and cry because the Mord'Sith Ryan had grown up with had probably been his mother? Sit there and cry in a room full of women? In a house owned by a woman? It would never be safe for emotions like that. And feelings like that would not be wanted anyway.
The laughter passed quickly.
Ryan leaned back, a shadow in his eyes, and said. "It's about time we continued our game. It's my go now…think there are any more Confessors here?"
Richard shrugged and then grinned. "Lets find out."
He watched Ryan scan the room, looking for another woman for his turn of their game, another Confessor, and he smiled before doing the same himself. There was brown haired woman walking a few rows ahead and her stride, the expression, the way she yanked the man she brought away with her, identified her as a Mord'Sith. And there was another one over by one of the Sisters. And another passing him by (lower your head, don't look at her). And they were all around in the form of dozens of women crowding around. The women how laughed with each other, talked and gossiped. Enjoyed themselves as they dragged their purchases away and seemed almost human as they did so. But they weren't. He couldn't believe that they were; because women never treated a man as an equal…as anything above dirt.
And, for that, Richard had always thought them terribly cruel.
"What about her?" Ryan asked, pointing to a dark haired woman a little way off.
Richard considered her. She had long dark hair that spilled down her back in small waves and pale skin. He could not see her eye colour. Stride softer, but still the same as the other women, face different, Richard only took a second to decide what she was. "Looks like she's a Confessor."
"Another one?" Ryan asked, sounding slightly perplexed, but only mildly interested. There was the day to get through, after all, more important things to think about; memories to hide.
"Seems like." Richard replied, watching as the woman, the Confessor, moved over to his row and spoke to the Sister on hand. The women had a conversation for a few seconds before directing the woman down the row, walking with her, and Richard noticed that the Confessor was wearing a pure white dress and that her eyes were a pale blue. She was pretty, he noted, as she moved closer, but then he put the thought from his mind and turned back to Ryan.
But Ryan was engaged in a whispered conversation with a man on his other side.
And as the two women, the Confessor and the Sister, stopped in front of him, Richard realised why.
(The world was so far out of his reach)
He didn't know why she had bought him.
And he didn't really care. If it had not been her it would have been someone else and if it had not been someone else then he would have sat at that row tomorrow and the next day and the next. Not being sold one day was no cause to hope. Everyone knew that.
The house she took him to was small.
Only two stories, it was more of a cottage, next to a small forest, and had a large garden. Away from the town, Richard thought that the woman, if she were like him (human), would have lived there because she found it peaceful; but who knew how a woman's mind worked?
She made him uneasy.
Confessors were rare. And he had never met one. Not ever. Well, not really. He had seen them, spotted them, but he had never been owned by one. It had always been Mord'Sith. And Mord'Sith were safe. They were predictable. They would torture you sure; but you got used to things. Confessors were different. Confessors were kind. They treated you as if you meant more than they thought you did, as if you were more to them than a slave, as if you were like them. And it was weird. Because all Mord'Sith did was torture and treat you as they thought you were, dirt, and it didn't matter what you thought because they never tried to give you hope that you could ever be more to them. And, apparently, Confessors made you feel like you could.
Like you were equal.
Every man knew about the two types of women. From lessons taught by fathers, from life experience, from the whispered words of 'Confessor' or 'Mord'Sith' when they were all sat in those wooden rows…they were all taught.
Taught, not to fear, never really to fear, but how to survive.
Because even though they served, waited on their owners hand and foot, did everything and never fought back, it was never because they were broken. It was never because they felt that they were inferior. They were just…waiting. Yes. Waiting. Waiting for such a time when they could take their freedom back. Because they were equal; and they didn't have to be treated as one to know it.
The Confessor led him down a hallway and into a larger room.
There was a table in there, large enough for four people, made out of dark mahogany, the floors were similarly made of dark wood. Split into half a dining room and half a sitting room, there were a few chairs and a sofa for people to sit on. Turning his head, he saw two doorways, one he presumed going off to the kitchen and one to the stairs. There was a old man standing by the table, light eyes giving Richard a piercing look.
Making her way over to the man, the Confessor handed him the chain attached to Richard's ever present cuffs (his wrists had long since stopped hurting) and a key before leaving the room. Richard watched her go; catching a glimpse of the houses stairs.
There was silence for a moment.
"So you're my replacement?" the old man told him, and Richard noted the small degree of seriousness in his light hearted tone. Being with a Confessor so long and then having to leave must have made him realise that threat of a Mord'Sith. "It seems the task of educating you on the matters of Kahlan's house falls to me."
"She lets you call her Kahlan?" Richard asked, presuming that was the Confessors name.
"Not in front of guests but, yes, she does." the older man told him. "Now, lets get the tour underway, shall we?"
And so it began. The man showed Richard all around the house; telling him everything that would need to be done to keep it how Kahlan wanted it. Richard found it all very boring…but he needed to know this stuff, so he listened. It seemed there would always be something to do. The roof needed fixing every winter, the food needed cooking every day, things that broke (like an old table in the attic) would need to be taken care off, Kahlan would need to be escorted to the market, Kahlan would need to be kept company on walks, Kahlan would need someone to go hunting for her if she so wished, Kahlan would need someone to send her letters, Kahlan would need this that and whatever.
Just as he did every time he was bought by a woman, Richard wondered why they couldn't just do these things themselves.
But that wasn't something he had ever voiced. That would be beyond stupid.
The 'tour' wound down and they ended up in the kitchen. The old man reached in one of the cupboards and pulled out an old cookbook. He gave it to Richard and said "Those are all of Kahlan's favourite recipes. Just in case you don't know what she likes and she doesn't ask for anything specific."
Then, with a sudden sombre look, the man unlocked the chains around Richards wrists and added in a more serious tone.
"Be careful around her sister, when in the market with Kahlan watch out for the little girl with long blond hair and a Mord'Sith stride, when in the forest avoid the Women's Hunt- they are all very nasty Mord'Siths, if her mother comes to visit stay out of sight if you can, when in the market alone take the long way round and" his voice dropped "if you ever need to run…there are five hundred gold coins hidden under a floor board in m- your room. Take it and run deep into the forest, cross the river and continue south for a day. You'll come to another forest and if you navigate that to the mountain you'll be safe."
And then he smiled wearily before turning and leaving the room, those shackles still in his hands.
Richard waited a moment and then followed.
(And blood started flowing properly to his hands)
It was later that day.
He was in the middle of making her dinner when she walked into the kitchen, her stride graceful and smooth and nothing like a Mord'Siths. Long dark hair spilled down her back in those same silky waves and her blue eyes were curious but somehow blank. He looked back to the recipe book.
"I want you to call me Kahlan when we're in private." she said, speaking to him for the first time.
He read the sentence on the page he was looking at then looked up at her. "Alright…Kahlan."
She walked closer. "Why did you hesitate?"
Words demanded to be said. His mind screamed at him to say that he had hesitated because, really, it didn't matter. Calling her something other than 'my lady' or 'mistress' made no difference. He was still the slave and she was still the person who 'owned' him. And the way it was only in private; like it was something she was ashamed of, made the sentiment even more worthless to him. But he didn't say that…why should he? But the desire to was stronger than anything he had ever felt before. Replying, he said "No reason, Kahlan."
She raised one eyebrow and replied. "Really? Is the truth so hard to describe?"
He turned away from her. "If you think it is, my lady."
"I told you that you can call me Kahlan." she seemed to sigh. "I will not harm you. There is no need for you to fear me."
He only nodded. And when she was gone whispered. "There is every reason to fear you…Kahlan."
(But I won't)
They were walking to the market.
He followed her, staying close, knowing that to be caught on his own would not be wise. Brown eyes scanned the market lazily, spotting a blond girl beating a boy who could have been her twin (could have been because he never would be) with a long stick and giggling and then there was the Mord'Sith striding purposefully around the stalls, a short man with a black eye trailing after her.
He turned away.
It was a week after he had been bought by the Confessor, by Kahlan, and she had decided she had wanted to go into town. He didn't know why and knew better to ask so he simply followed her as she wandered from stall to stall. She smiled at the simplest things, he had noticed. A necklace with a flower as the pendant, a colourful bird with light eyes sitting in a cage, a tiny silver brooch and a pair of black leather shoes.
A little boy tripped and ran into him.
He looked up, terrified ( he hadn't been taught not to give in to fear yet), but on seeing that the one he had knocked into was a man, the boy gave a tentative smile. "Sorry I knocked into you sir, but I must send this letter."
Richard saw a white envelope in the boys hand. Saw the fear still in his eyes. And there was a bruise on his face; purple and black. It looked terrible next to the bright, young, naïve, eyes of the little boy. His skin was pale, like the clouds that hung in the sky. For a moment he felt terribly angry. He was just a child. What could he have done? Who could he have hurt enough to deserve to be hit?
But the boy was still smiling hesitantly and Richard replied gently. "No harm done. Now, how about you get going so that that letter can be delivered as quickly as possible?"
The boy nodded eagerly and scampered off.
Richard looked after him; suddenly sad. He was sad because the boy would not be so innocent, would not have such youthful eyes, much longer and that he would have to grow up in such a wrong world. Turning back to the stool, he saw Kahlan looking at him with piercing blue eyes, intelligence and interest finding purchase in her lovely face.
He turned away.
(And saw the boy trip and crash into a blond haired little girl)
He'd been with her for a month.
And it had been strange. Because there were no threats of beatings or smirks or glares. She mainly just spoke to him normally, as if she were the Queen and he was one of her subjects, but not with the almost ingrained cruelty the Mord'Sith used. He had found it odd; the commands that seemed to be questions. And the fact that it implied he had a choice was somehow worse than her taking the choice away; because it meant that when he obeyed her (because he had to obey her) he had made the choice to do so himself.
"I'll be taking dinner earlier tonight." Kahlan said suddenly, those incredibly blue eyes looking into his from her spot sitting in one of the chairs, curled up with a book in her hands.
"What would you like, Kahlan?" he replied, slipping over the name, still not used to saying it. It was alright for her; she would not be the one flogged for daring to say their Mistresses name if anyone heard.
"I don't know." she replied, looking back down to her book with a thoughtful smile. "Why don't you use that recipe book I know you have and pick?"
Richard was, for a moment, surprised that she knew but then he nodded. "Alright."
She obviously was not pleased with his answer for she frowned. The woman had been trying to drag him into conversation since he had arrived. It was weird. Mistresses did not talk with their property. Confessors probably did though he thought. Richard tried to think back to the lessons he had been taught as a child but could not remember anything about how to deal with a woman talking to you. Kahlan tilted her head to the side a little. "You don't talk that much; do you?"
"I'll talk if you wish me to, my lady." came the automatic response.
She smiled at him disarmingly. "Some day I'm going to trick you out of answering like that."
"If you say so, my lady." he replied slowly, turning to go, only just catching the slightly triumphant expression on the woman's face. Shaking his head he walked into the kitchen and, after pulling out the recipe book, looked through for something. He looked up through the windows of the house and, upon seeing his reflection looking back at him, saw why Kahlan had been so triumphant.
He realised that, as he left, he had been smiling.
It had only been a small smile, he noted, and he wondered why it had happened. Why would he smile back at Kahlan? Maybe he was going insane. Or maybe he already was insane. Either way, it had to stop now.
And when dinner was made, the steaming dishes placed on the table, Richard frowned as he realised he had made too much. He then shrugged; he didn't pay for the food He forced himself to feel some kind of animosity for the woman (Kahlan); something to keep away another smile, but he found he couldn't. And he didn't know why.
Maybe it was something to do with how well he knew her.
He knew almost everything about her. He knew that she hated roses because they were too thorny and she had hurt herself as a child, he knew she loved the spring because of the way everything started to come alive, he knew that she had had long conversations with her previous slave, he knew that she frowned when she was reading (her nose crinkling up), he knew that she would roll her eyes when her sister said something she didn't like, he knew that she loved lamb but wasn't fond of beef, that she hated new potatoes, that she loved the colour white and blue and green, that when she was angry she would raise an eyebrow and her eyes would turn blank.
He knew that she loved thunderstorms, loved the blue lightning that danced across the sky, and the rain that thundered down and replenished the earth.
He set her knife and fork on the table along with her plate and when she sat down he poured her a drink before turning to go. But the walk to the door seemed to take forever and before he could leave the room; the Confessors spoke softly for behind him.
"So you opened that cook book after all?" Kahlan asked.
"I did not know what else to cook you, my lady, you did not ask for anything." Richard replied as automatically as he could. He was right by the door, one hand on the handle, ready to open it, but he could not simply ignore Kahlan. She was a woman; and he was not allowed to ignore her.
"No, I did not." Kahlan agreed, and as he turned back to her, he saw her pick up her knife and fork and then look at him.
There was something in her eyes. And Richard was hit with the sudden realisation that he was at the edge of a cliff, that this moment would define whether he would jump off, or step back. He almost didn't want to listen, almost didn't want to stay, but he did.
"Richard?" she asked. And the Confessor in her fell away for a moment, and the woman underneath was revealed, but it was only for a second, and Richard did not get a very good look at what she looked like.
"Will you have dinner with me?"
And he thought on how the question was, for once, actually a question. And that he could refuse if he wanted. And he felt empowered and real and equal in a way that had never happened before. And then Richard thought back to the fact that, when he was cooking, he had made more food that Kahlan could eat.
And that the amount he had made was just enough for two.
(He was on a cliff; and he chose to jump)
He sat in his room and realised who she was, and who he was, and that things were rapidly spinning in a direction he didn't know.
He knew the stories, the so called 'truth' of the world, that men and women had once been the same and that it had all gone wrong. But knowing was different from believing and he had always accepted the fact that maybe the freedom he wanted to take back was one man had never had.
Somehow, that made more of a difference now than it ever had before.
Because it made him feel less than before, like knowing Kahlan had somehow changed his worth, like being nothing more than a slave in comparison to her was somehow worse than being a slave in comparison to anyone else.
He pulled up a lose floorboard.
There was money there, he knew, and for a moment he contemplated leaving. And he didn't know why he had never thought of it before. If there was a safe place, if somewhere like that existed…why not go there?
He reached in to take the coins, the gold glinting faintly in the dim light, and then pulled his hand back.
It was too uncertain, to dangerous, to far. He would run when he had to, but right now he was safe and there was no Mord'Sith about…life was good.
He didn't have to leave. He knew that.
(He also knew that he didn't know another way to live)
Kahlan was sick.
Richard thought that it must be the flu but he wasn't really sure. Usually, before, when a Mistress had got sick, it had never been only him who had been in her household. Doctors had been called or one of the other men had waited on the woman. So what was he supposed to do?
When a man got sick they still had to work. The only possible reason for needing medical attention was if you were mortally ill. After all, a Mistress did not want their property to die did they? But, still, they were mostly kicked out of bed and told to get on with it. Still…he couldn't do that to Kahlan.
Of course you can, one part of him said, you don't need to look after her. Let the woman take care of herself.
Richard looked down at the Confessor curled up in her bed, features still very pretty but slightly washed out. Her eyes were half closed, showing how tired she was, and, though she looked very ill, he noted that she still had that same blank, guarded, quality to her eyes. The room was dark, curtains closed, casting a shadow in the gloomy space. And there, under the covers, he thought that the Confessor, for once, seemed smaller than usual, but somehow larger. It was as if the titles of Confessor and Mistress, that plague of ownership, had been stripped away and the woman was left.
He had no idea that that was what a woman looked like.
She wasn't the coldness, the superiority, the propaganda that he was used to. There had always been a barrier; a wall made from ice that separated man from woman, but that had been melted for a moment. They had always been the owners, a crowd with only one face, and he had always been the slave. But now he saw softness and vulnerability along with a undeniable strength. And it was more, so much more, than the Confessor who had bought him. And the woman underneath, the genuine person, was real and solid and unbelievably human. The darkness that the shadow and the curtain threw, mixed with the light from the sun outside, cast her in equal measure.
And suddenly the wish to leave her there was only a small part of him.
Kahlan shivered and pulled the blanked up to her chin.
A very small part.
Because she was human too. And he had never really thought about that much. She was just like those men he saw dragged away, she was just like that little boy who had run into him, she was real just like every man was. Except she was a woman.
So he pulled the blankets up around her and told her, in a similar voice he had used to comfort some of the younger boys in his previous household, that he would be right back with some soup . Walking down the stairs, he found that he worked urgently, wanting to get back to Kahlan and was confused for a moment. But he simply shrugged and continued making her soup. Taking as short a time as he could, he walked swiftly back up the stairs and, helping her sit up, handed her the bowl.
She ate a spoonful and smiled, weakly, but somehow radiantly. "Who told you to make soup when people are sick?"
"My adoptive father." Richard replied, for once forgetting that she was a woman and he was a man. Or, perhaps his earlier realisation had made that seize to matter. "I don't remember the household I grew up in; only that I was moved when I was four and that the man who raised me from there was my father in everything but blood. Once, when I was sick, he smuggled me soup from the kitchen and told me that that was what a person did when another was sick."
"How long did you stay there?" Kahlan asked.
"Until I was about fifteen." Richard shrugged. "Then I was sold."
"How many households have you been in?" she asked, taking small spoonfuls of soup, eyes curious and interested.
"I've lost count." he frowned. "But it must be somewhere around ten."
"Were you that bad a servant?" Kahlan asked, and her tone was teasing but not mocking.
"Probably." Richard forced a laugh and found that it came out genuine. He wasn't angry over her joke and he knew that he would have been, a month ago, that it would have sounded insensitive. "When's your sister next coming round?"
"Next week." Kahlan laughed and then coughed; smiling gratefully at him when he patted her back gently. "She's bringing me a beef casserole."
Richard saw Kahlan's nose crinkle as she frowned and said teasingly "It's because she knows that you hate it."
"Yes, my sister can be very mean." Kahlan replied with a careful laugh. "Though I'm surprised you remembered that I don't like beef."
"I have a good memory." Richard told her a smile spreading across his face. He found he couldn't help it; suddenly it didn't matter that she was a Confessor…suddenly it didn't matter that she was a woman.
Kahlan nodded and a smiled back. "Because you don't really talk much."
"No," he muttered. And then he realised what he was doing, realised that he was chatting with his Confessor like she was his friend (and she couldn't and wasn't and could never be), realised that he was giving too much away, realised that he was enjoying her company. He should really stop now, Richard thought. Things can go back to the way they were, before she had dragged him into a conversation, before she had made herself appear human. "No, I don't."
And when he saw the smile on her face fall slightly, he realised he didn't care that she was his Confessor.
And he continued talking.
(And found that he didn't want to stop)
It happened out of the blue one day.
He was outside frowning at the obviously broken roof of Kahlan's house; wondering how he was going to fix it and whether it would hold for another few days. Some of the tiles had fallen off, while others were cracked or half broken, so he was betting on the fact that it would not last the week.
She had walked outside, her long white dress swirling about her, and swiftly moved right over to him.
There had been a strange look in her pale blue eyes as she had neared him; one of a odd mix of trepidation and excitement. He felt slightly confused at this and wondered what she was doing and whether she had come outside to ask him about the roof-
All thoughts disappeared when she pressed her lips to his.
He'd been kissed before; had the bruising, demanding, controlling kisses of Denna when he had been in her household. They had always been him letting her do it, what else could he do?, but there had been no feeling behind them. It had been about control. It had been about who was stronger than the other, who was more dominant, who could hurt the other the most. And he had always had to lose. Because what would happen if ever he won?
But with Kahlan…
The kiss was soft, but somehow solid and real, it was demanding but in a different way, a way that showed that Kahlan needed him, wanted him, and it did not seek to control. Her kiss was fragile; it took nothing, only asked and gave choice and then gave back. The kiss gave back. It was a declaration, a whisper, a slow thought realising I love you.
And he kissed her back.
And for a moment they were just a man and a woman standing outside a secluded house realising their love for the other. And for a moment they were the only people in the entire world; because how could there ever be more than this? And for a moment they got a glimpse into the other as they shared and reciprocated that fragile kiss.
Richards wrapped his arms around Kahlan's waist in a motion that was more tender than any he had ever known; the woman threading a hand through his hair in a move more warm than any she had given a man
They pulled apart.
And Richard realised that he loved her (when had he realised what love was?); that he wanted to spend the rest of his life in this cottage with her. And he realised that he wanted to grow old with her and laugh with her every day and always have her blue eyes to look into. And then he realised that she was looking up at him; slightly unsure and expectant.
He smiled at her properly for the first time and, then, it was he who kissed her.
(And both of them felt something missing, something they were never supposed to find, click into place)
They were having a picnic.
"Do you think this is what used to happen?" Kahlan asked him from beside him as they both lay on the grass, plates of food around them.
"Hmm?" he asked, content to stare up at the golden sun, content to just lay there next to her.
"When people used to marry each other; used to be able to marry." Kahlan replied, sitting up, looking down at him. "Do you think this is what they used to do when they had spare time."
Richard smiled, nodding. "Yes, I suppose they would go on picnics if they wanted to. Or maybe the man would take the woman into town and buy her a dress or a necklace. Maybe that's what married people did."
"So that is what we are like, then, husband and wife?" Kahlan asked again.
"Why all these questions? Don't you want to be my wife?" he teased playfully, turning his attention from the sun to a softer, lovelier, beauty.
Kahlan rolled her eyes at him and laughed. "What do you think we'd be like? In a world that wasn't like this?"
Richard shrugged. "No idea."
"Do you think…" she stopped. "Do you think we'd ever have children?"
Richard froze for a moment. This had never come up. It was an unspoken thing. Something they both knew. Something that could never be. Because if they had a boy then he would have to grow up a slave. There could be a time when he would have to live with someone else. There would be a time when they could no longer protect him. And if it was a girl…then what sort of life could they have? One where they had to teach her to hate for her own protection? One where they had to turn her into a lie to keep them all safe? No. It was safer that they didn't have children. It was safer that they never did anything that might make Kahlan conceive.
And they both didn't mind.
It didn't matter that they could never have a family, not really, because Richard had Kahlan. And that was enough. He didn't need anything more than the knowledge that she loved him; didn't need anything more than to hold her hand.
But this was another world, one that they were both dreaming up, so who cared what he said? He made his reply casual. "Yes. A boy and a girl. And we'd still live in the same cottage."
"My cottage." was the whispered reply. Richard felt rather than heard the not ours in that sentence.
He voiced it for her. Trying to show her what she should have said. "Our cottage."
Kahlan smiled softly but then the expression slid off her face and she became pensive. The woman frowned slightly. And then Richard's prompting look was all she needed. "I don't want to have to hide what we have. Whenever we walk down the street I have to act like I don't care about you, like I don't love you, and it's not fair. I want to hold your hand, I want to kiss you without worrying that we'll be seen, I want to show off that I am happy and loved and that it's all you who have made me feel that way. But marriages are illegal; our relationship is illegal in the eyes of the law."
Richard sat up and took one of her hands in his own. "Kahlan, why should we need to be married in the eyes of a law that is wrong?"
"We have to conceal our love, like it's something to be ashamed of, and I hate it." Kahlan replied, but her eyes were shining, she knew the truth of his words. She smiled and he knew that she realised that societies approval was meaningless. "The law disgusts me if it means I have to hide my love for you."
Richard sighed and squeezed her hand. "I love you Kahlan. And I know you love me. No law, no pressure from society, no tradition demanding that we do things another way is going to change that. Look, we are husband and wife…and I'm holding your hand."
And then Kahlan smiled and, by Creator, if it wasn't beautiful. And he realised, after thinking that, that Kahlan was beautiful. He had always thought the woman, Confessor, very pretty, but now as he looked at her, he realised she was beautiful. It wasn't the features, couldn't be just the features, beauty, love, was not measured in how lovely your eyes were or how silky your hair was. Those things weren't really Kahlan. But her smile was. The smile that seemed to glow out from her face; the purity edged with steel that it showed. She smiled because she was happy, because she loved and sometimes was sad, but still she smiled, and because she cared and protected and wished for a dream she may never get. And it wasn't so much how lovely her eyes were, but the hue, the soul that he could see, the way they crinkled at the corners when she frowned.
Maybe he loved her because she was beautiful or maybe she was beautiful because he loved her.
(But, either way, she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen)
The walls were stony and cold.
It wasn't Kahlan's house. That small cottage was far, far away. Still there, by that lovely forest, secluded and peaceful in a way that was so very far off. The walls arched high with banners and torches that glowed a warm amber. But the place was full of an ice cold draft. It was too big, too empty, and the spaces left unfilled turned bitter with frost.
And the Queen was there.
She was tall and pretty with light skin and long light brown hair. She walked with an authoritative stride and her shoulders almost seemed to push upwards, as if the weight of her rule left a physical mark on her. With light green eyes, Richard noted that she was pretty, but there was nothing more there. There was no spark of life or soul or anything Kahlan in there.
And so, he concluded, there could be no way she was beautiful.
His wrists were shackled, the chain held by one of the guards on either side of him. They were both Mord'Sith, his bruises could speak for that, and he knew that there was no way he was getting out of this. But he didn't show fear, he would never show fear, and he stood there without a struggle and listened to what was going on around him with a vague sense of shock. He wasn't allowed to speak. He was, after all, in the presence of the Queen. If he said anything they would probably kill him. But he wanted to. He didn't want to be silent; as if what they were being persecuted for was something to be ashamed of. He no longer cared what they thought, no longer cared if they knew, he loved Kahlan and nothing was going to change that.
But another person in the room did not have to stay quiet.
"-you can not do this! We have done nothing wrong."
It was Kahlan. Her voice was incredibly cold and it seemed to somehow burn the air as it passed through it. Eyes icy, the glare she was giving the Queen seemed to unsettle the guards around her.
It the Queen was in her makeshift throne. It had been prepared for her visit. Her voice cut through the air with the strength of someone used to leadership. "You treat this man like an equal, like he's one of us, you even say you love him and yet nothing is wrong?"
The guards, the two on Richard's side and the various other ones round the room all smirked mockingly.
Richard kept his head held high. There was nothing wrong with what she was saying. And he hated the way the women were silently laughing…as if what they had 'done' was something abnormal, something ridiculous. Because it couldn't be. Something that made him feel like this could not be stupid and it could not be brushed aside with a few mocking facial expressions. Did they think that laughing would make him stop loving Kahlan?
And the woman in question, Kahlan, did not back down. Her eyes were burning now, alight with fire, and her stance was aggressive. "You mock what you do not understand…what you will never understand. You think that you have all the answers, just because you created the questions, just because you silence those that do no agree with you. But you do not." she looked at everyone in the hall one by one. "You disgust me, with your pathetic laws. All your so called justice does it destroy people. All you do is wrong. Look at you, your majesty, sitting on your throne thinking on how important you are. What harm is it for us to be in love? What harm is it doing for us to be happy? I hate you and your idiotic prejudice. You do not own the world; and I will look forward to the day when someone knocks you off your thro-"
"ENOUGH!" the Queen yelled. Her eyes were flashing with anger. Her expression furious and dreadfully cold. "Enough."
Kahlan went to continue but the Queen didn't give her a chance to speak. "I have made my judgement. Neither of you" she looked at Kahlan and Richard "shall ever see each other again. If I ever catch you together, both of you will be executed. However, I do not think that will be an issue."
This time, even Kahlan remained silent.
"The man will be resold." the Queen said, and she smiled as she sealed their fate. Nodding to one of the Mord'Sith in the room, she watched as they left, obviously going to get someone. "And, coincidently, this will also settle one of my debts to an old friend."
The Mord'Sith returned; walking into the room…a blond woman following her.
No. It couldn't be, could it? Richard unconsciously moved backwards, mind processing the irony that he should settle another dept, away from the woman walking towards him, but he didn't get far. The chain took care of that. He felt cold inside. Memories flooded his mind. Thoughts of pain and torture and a place he did not want to return to. And he wished that the person he would be sold to would be anyone but her. Anyone but Denna. Turning to look at Kahlan, he saw her confusion, and realised that she could read his sudden anxiety (because it wasn't fear, it wasn't), and didn't understand. He wanted to tell her, wanted to explain everything, wanted to say goodbye…
And why not?
He had nothing to lose, not now, not now he had lost her. Whatever happened now was meaningless if it meant he couldn't be with her. So why not make these last moments of proper life (of life with her) mean something?
"The thing about Confessors is." he began, clearly, surprising himself.
They didn't try to stop him yet. So he continued. "They're the kind ones. The kind women. And, so, they are also, the most dangerous."
He still wasn't being stopped. Richard took it as a good sign. And for the first time in his life; started to speak his mind.
"We categorise you all, you know, and it's been done for as long as anyone can remember. I don't know where it came from. And I suppose that's not important."
Denna was almost to him, face murderous, and the Queen was glaring at him, yelling at him to shut up.
But he ignored them. He ignored the 'how dare you' and the 'shut him up' and instead looked straight at Kahlan. She looked confused but was staring at him as if every word mattered. And he supposed that it did. "They treat you like they care, like you matter, like you can be more than you are, and then they destroy that hope. Because you can never be more than their slave. And no matter how happy they make you, how happy making them happy makes you…it means nothing."
Denna had reached him and started her new ownership with a punch to the face that knocked Richard down. She smirked down at him; satisfied. Thinking that he would shut up.
He looked up at her, looked at the predatory pose and the icy eyes, and spat the blood out of his mouth at her feet.
He looked up at her and gave her the most challenging glare he had given anyone in his life.
And then he continued speaking. "Mord'Sith are different. They don't care about making you anything. So they torture and beat you down. But you get used to it. And you please them so you don't get hurt as much. You please them because you have to. But that's the same for all women. And it is nothing special. And-"
A kick to the ribs.
He looked up again; locked eyes with Kahlan. And words tumbled out. Emotions he had never voiced; never realised he could voice. "And I suppose, either way, you are broken. And you never realise. You never realise because you co concentrated on living that you never see that your really not. You are broken because you let yourself break; you let yourself break and you don't even realise it. You don't even care. From birth we are forbidden the sun so we never know that it exists. At birth we are made to think we are broken; so that one day we will believe it and not know any different."
Denna kicked him again, harder, and he hissed in pain, curling in on himself slightly.
They were trying to make him stop, and they dragged him to his feet and lashed out with fists and kicks, trying to make him break. Not again. He wouldn't be broken again.
"And the thing about Confessors." the thing he had never consciously spoken about. "Is that they always make the slave fall in love with them. Proper love. Real, deep love…in a way. You could call it that. It's realer than the 'love' you can feel for Mord'Sith. But it is always the love of a slave for a Mistress."
He hissed in pain as a particularly hard punch caught his eye.
Kahlan was being held back by the other guards in the room; two on each of her arms. She was trying to run towards him, trying to protect him, trying to make everyone stop. Her eyes were angry and her face was twisted in anguish.
But she was still beautiful.
"I can guess which type a woman is from looking at them." he continued feeling himself needing to lean on the arms holding him to stand up. "And, Kahlan, I said you were a Confessor."
Kahlan nodded, he eyes shining with tears as she thought that he was about to agree with the Queen about their love. Eyes sad as she thought about what he must think about her. But still she tried to run towards him. Even though she thought he could hate her she was trying to protect him.
"But, for the second time in my life, I was wrong." Richard began, softening his voice. "Your not simply a Confessor. You're my Confessor but your more than that, so much more, you are a woman. A real woman. And though our love may be 'wrong' in the eyes of some people. In the eyes of the so called law. I know it's not. You made me fall in love with you…and, different to most Confessors, you love me back."
"And these people, these Mord'Sith, can try and break me again, try to destroy me, but it will never succeed. They will never succeed. Because even if there comes a time when they beat the love, the hope, out of me…it won't be me anymore. Not really. They may have rearranged the pieces, taken bits out, but they will never destroy the part that loves you."
He spoke faster now, because Denna was swinging the hilt of a knife he had never known she carried towards his head.
"Because if ever that time comes; then that person, that person who can't love you, will not be me."
(And suddenly the floor was rushing up to meet him)
He woke up in a cell.
And he found that he felt incredibly satisfied. He winced as he sat up and then grinned; amused at how desperate the women had been to get him to stop. Later, maybe, when Denna had decided how she was going to repay him for what he had done, he may look back and wince. But he wouldn't regret. He would never regret.
The door to his cell swung open with a slight creak.
And his eyes squinted in the dim light as he tried to see who was standing there; who had entered his cell. But, somehow, he already knew, and was not surprised when he caught a glint of white material.
"Kahlan?" Richard asked softly, worried that if he spoke any louder he would alert someone to the woman's presence. He didn't know how she had gotten in. He couldn't help but let a severe sense of panic over take him. "You have to go. Before they catch you."
She stepped into the light and her face was determined as she looked down at him. And the Confessor was gone. It was a woman, the same woman he had seen when Kahlan had been ill, that stood before him. It was that same curious mixture of strength and vulnerability. It was that same invincible combination. "Not without you. I'm not letting you suffer because of what we have. I'm not leaving you here."
"Kahlan-" he began but she interrupted him with a simple movement…she offered him her hand.
He looked at it and it felt like he was being offered the world. Right there, right now, in that single gesture. It said things, whispered things, that words couldn't explain. He couldn't even think about what it meant; it resonated somewhere in his mind. It brought memories back. He though of the dinner they had shared, the laughter and that first kiss, the way society had never been able to completely own them and how they both loved each other enough to risk death for their love (for this). Because what else could there be in the world if not for that? Once he may have had an answer…but now there was nothing he could say.
It was like he was being offered the world.
And he took her hand.
He knew there was a possibility that they would be caught, knew that one day he may be dragged back to the dungeon he was sitting in, knew that they may not even make it, knew that they may die.
But he still took her hand.
Because she was still the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
(And he was being offered the world)
So...yeah...thank you for reading.