It's a Girl!

"Aaaaah!" Kahlan screamed. Darken watched her dispassionately, tilting his head and touching his fingers to his lips. He was remembering another birth he had witnessed. Cara hadn't screamed while she was in labor.

Not that he was comparing.

The Healer hummed softly at Kahlan. "Push, Lady Rahl," the Healer said placidly. Kahlan screamed again.

Darken waited, reflecting that labor was a tedious process.

At last, the baby was born. The Healer wrapped the child in a blanket and handed it to Darken, and then turned back to Kahlan, murmuring softly. Kahlan looked exhausted, but seemed to have regained her customary poise. She ignored the soft violet glow surrounding her from the Healer's hands.

She was watching Darken and the baby, he knew well. Gently, Darken examined the child. No hair yet; blue eyes. And—"It's a girl!" he exclaimed, not best pleased. He could never hand the throne of D'Hara over to a daughter—the armies wouldn't stand for it, Confessor or no.

She was cute, though.

Kahlan held out her arms, almost weeping, and Darken handed the child over. "She's beautiful," Kahlan crooned, and smiled up at him. Darken thought it must be the first honest smile she'd ever given him, and resolved at once to capitalize on it.

"You," he said, in the general direction of the Healer and the servant girls. "Out!" They left, his wife's personal maid lingering for a moment until she got a nod from her mistress, and Darken turned to Kahlan, still holding and crooning at the baby.

"She's adorable, isn't she?" Darken said. "Pity, though. She can't be my heir."

"What?" Kahlan demanded, looking up at him. "Why not?"

"I need a son to leave the throne of D'Hara to," Darken explained calmly. "So I'm afraid this child's useless." And he held out his arms for the baby. Kahlan, sensing the threat to her daughter's safety, clutched the baby tighter to her chest. "Or, if you gave me a son, I'm sure this little girl would make a fine big sister," Darken said, pleased that Kahlan was reacting exactly as he had expected.

"You're a fool!" Kahlan cried. "Male Confessors always go mad! Your daughter will grow up loving and respecting you—your son will destroy you!"

"He'll be your son, too," Darken pointed out. "I have no doubt that between us we will raise a fine son—and a beautiful daughter."

Kahlan looked down at the baby girl again, and all the fight seemed to go out of her. Darken watched with pleased interest. "All right," Kahlan whispered. Darken rejoiced inwardly.

There was a small pause, while Kahlan softly crooned to the baby, and Darken watched, feeling an unexpected surge of tenderness. Kahlan was bound to him in truth, now, as the mother of his child. And the girl did have a certain charm…

"What should we call her?" Kahlan asked, softly. Darken was surprised; surely she wanted to name the child herself? Kahlan looked up at him, expectantly.

Darken thought for a moment. Then he succumbed to the inevitable, and said quietly, reaching out to stroke the baby's head, "Nila. For my mother."

Kahlan felt a tug on her heartstrings when Darken named the baby. His mother—well, perhaps she had been a decent woman caught in a situation beyond her control, just as Kahlan was.

And now, Kahlan knew Darken cared for little Nila, or he would never have so named her. She had had to know—if Darken would kill her daughter, as well as she herself, once he had the son he so foolishly craved.

Kahlan did not believe it would truly come to that—her sister, Dennee, had given birth to a boy, and it never happened twice in a generation. But if Darken thought their next child would be a son, who was she to cavil at the opportunity to have another daughter—another ally in her quest to see Richard returned to her?

What did it matter how many daughters she gave Darken, save that each would be a weapon in her hands, another chance for Richard to get back to his own time?

Kahlan cradled Nila in her arms, feeling hopeful for the first time since she had agreed to this bargain. But she did not want Darken to be alienated from Nila—he had to trust the girl, it would make everything easier. So Kahlan stroked her daughter's cheek, and handed her up to Darken, saying, "Look. She wants her father."

"I've never held a baby before," Darken protested, a little alarmed. But Kahlan saw his arms curl possessively around Nila, and knew the baby was already more than a tool to him.

And she exulted.