BITTER CHOICES

CH 1:Confessor's Resolve The cold was bitter, slicing cold daggers against the exposed skin of my face. I licked my blistered lips again trying to moisten them but it was useless. My gloved hands were numb but still held tightly to the reins of my horse. I focused on the weight of Richard's cloak wrapped around me & tried to feel his spirit with me somehow. Grief overwhelming me again but I silently forced myself to endure the pain, the one thing I lived for these days. eI kept my proud gaze straight ahead as I followed the line of warriors who were leading me to my fate. I ignored the soft gasps & whispers of the bystanders watching us pass through the small town of Havenwood. Small children wrapped in thin blankets huddled against their mothers, eyes hollow staring at me. I could not even bring myself to look into their faces. I knew my sacrifice was for them, that they would live to be free while I would be a slave to a loveless marriage to a man I hated. I had come on my own fruition against everyone else's counsel. Even Zedd had pleaded with me to stay insisting that this was too high a sacrifice to pay. But the Midlands were mine to protect & a life of duty without love was always my understood destiny. Even now I could feel the strength of my resolve slowly seeping into my veins & mixing with the bitter grief that I had pulled tight around me. I would do anything to save Richard, even if it meant betraying him. I was fooling myself into thinking that I had agreed to marry Rahl in exchange for peace in the Midlands. What I really needed was to know Richard would be safe, that he would live a normal life & forget about me & all the hopelessness that came with being forced to carry on the responsibility of the seeker. He would be angry, yes, & maybe he would hate me, but he would be alive. What was I fooling myself? Why would it matter to Richard? I had lied to him, kept my secrets from him, allowing myself the fantasy of being a real woman, of feeling something for someone who I could never have. "I'm so sorry Richard" I whispered to myself. As if in answer, a sharp wind slapped my hair against my face & stung my eyes. I bent forward in an attempt to free my face from the onslaught of the harsh wind. It was growing darker around me as we rode through the last trecks of the outskirts of town, the last few miles of the Midlands before we entered D'Hara. I sat straight up, shoulders back, chin held high with defiance to the winter chill & the bitterness in my heart. I said a silent farewell to my Midlands as I inched closer to my bitter fate.