AU; that addresses what might have happened if Kahlan had succeeded in killing Nicholas Rahl
Warnings: Spoilers for Reckoning. Character Death (Minor character)
Notes: Inspired by a discussion at the peoplespalace; thanks to everyone who participated and who gave me so many ideas, and answered my questions about the LotS canon/SoT canon.
Rahl burst into the room. Kahlan took a step back, the bloody dagger held out in one shaking hand.
"What have you done?" he demanded. "What have you done?"
He advanced on her; she backed away into a corner. Rahl knelt at Nicholas's side. His son was dead.
Rahl let out a scream of rage and grief. He got to his feet, eyes burning with tears and ran over to Kahlan, pinning her shoulders against the wall, heedless of the danger, for she was still armed. No matter; the dagger fell from her grasp – it seemed she had no stomach to kill him, too.
"Why?" he demanded. It was taking every ounce of his self control not to snap her neck in his anger.
"He was evil," she said and he saw she was weeping too. "I should have killed him the moment he was born. No male confessor has compassion within him. His powers consume him and he seeks to control everyone and everything. Nicholas made his closest friend cut off a finger just to please him! Do you think a damaged soul like his would care about anyone else in his hunger for power? No! Not even me, his mother. Not even you!"
Rahl remembered his own father, Panis Rahl, and how he had murdered him. The son would seek to replace the father, eventually, and a Confessor child might well act sooner rather than later…
"He was our child," Rahl said, his initial rage giving way to unbearable grief. "How could you kill your own child?"
Kahlan whimpered as his fingers dug into her shoulders but she tipped her chin up, even as tears dripped from it. "I was trained for this possibility. Every Confessor is. And how many children have you killed, Darken? How many babies died at Brennidon alone?"
He released her so suddenly she almost fell to the floor. Brennidon. He hadn't thought of that in years, beyond that it had been just one more failure in his attempts to destroy the Seeker.
"But Nicholas was our child," he said again. He looked again at the crumpled body and fell to his knees.
But you killed Cara's child, what passed for his conscience whispered traitorously. You let her pregnancy continue, thinking a daughter born of such a powerful Mord'Sith, coupled with your bloodline, would be the most splendid Mistress that D'Hara had ever seen. But a son; no, such a bastard offspring could not be allowed to live and challenge your authority. You have killed your children before, though never with your own hands as she has dared to.
"Will you kill me now?" Kahlan whispered.
"No." His own voice was barely more than a whisper. He crawled over to Nicholas, touched the boy's golden hair. "What purpose would it serve to kill the last living Confessor?"
And for Confessors suicide was a sin, unless there were extenuating circumstances. She wouldn't take her own life, not when she'd come this far, given herself to him this much. No, he wouldn't kill her; let her live and suffer this loss as he now would.
"I didn't want to do it," Kahlan said. "I wanted him to grow up uncorrupted by his gift. I wanted it so badly."
Rahl tensed as she approached him. She crouched down and put one hesitant hand on his shoulder.
"I'm sorry. It had to be done, but I didn't do it to hurt you. It hurts me too, Darken, more than you will ever know." She stroked his hair. "I had no idea you loved him this much."
"Of course I loved him," Rahl said bitterly. "He was my child and I was going to give him the life my father denied me."
He'd done his best to do so thus far; it was a cruel fate that his magical bloodline and his love for Nicholas hadn't been enough to save the boy from the terrible fate befalling all male Confessors. Nicholas had been more wilful of late, but Rahl had taken that for youthful enthusiasm and Rahl-ish authority. He hadn't seen – hadn't wanted to see – the truth of it, but Kahlan had. She'd done what he could never have done. He might have ordered a Mord'Sith to kill Nicholas, but to do it himself…Kahlan had strength and detachment beyond even his reserves.
"Let me give you another child," Kahlan said. "A daughter. I was not meant to bear a son. Surely it will never happen again. Let us make a daughter. She will have your eyes and my hair, and you can name her."
He raised his tear stained face at that. "A daughter?" A daughter would surely love her father, would be as devoted to him as he would be to her. He thought of Jennsen's easy displays of affection for him (before she regained her memory); she had given him a taste of female familial affection beyond anything the Mord'Sith could offer.
"Yes! You could name her after your mother."
He shook his head fiercely. "No," he snapped. "I would never bestow such an ill-starred name on my child." Yet his denial was of the name, not of the possibility of such a thing. It startled him that he could even consider it while his son lay at his feet, his body barely cold.
Kahlan nodded. "As you wish." She leaned over and kissed Nicholas's forehead. "Forgive me for not being the mother you deserved. I tried so hard to save you from yourself."
They sat a moment longer, locked in their grief.
"If the people know the truth they will demand justice," Rahl said, turning to practical matters for a moment. It was, after all, the mark of a leader to be able to put aside their feelings and take action as necessary. "They might turn against you." They might also blame Rahl and that was unacceptable.
"What are you suggesting?" Kahlan asked with a frown.
"Follow my lead." Rahl gathered up the body in his arms and gestured to the door. Kahlan nodded and opened it. The guard outside paled at the sight of the dead child.
"There's been a terrible accident," Rahl said. "My son is dead. Send word around the palace that we are in mourning."
Rahl took Nicholas to the crypt himself, and he and Kahlan wrapped the body in linen sheets so no-one would see the knife wound in the boy's chest. Rahl would have a stonemason construct a suitable sarcophagus for the prince, but for now a simple wooden box had to suffice.
Rahl left the palace after observing three days of mourning at his son's side. He couldn't bear to be near Kahlan; he needed time to think. He travelled his lands, inspecting the towns and villages, and accepting the people's condolences.
At night he would lie awake for hours, wondering if Nicholas had been truly beyond redemption – and if there hadn't been some other way he might have been controlled. A rad'a'han, perhaps. He knew Kahlan must have thought the risk too great to let Nicholas live even under such restriction.
At last he stopped tormenting himself with what if's; what was done, was done. The question was, could he forgive Kahlan her crime?
A month later he returned and found her sitting by the fire. Grief had left her wan, with dark shadows under her eyes, but she was still beautiful. He knelt by her side.
"A daughter," he said. "But if you ever harm her, I will kill you, last Confessor or no."
"A daughter," Kahlan repeated, with a sparkle in her eyes that he hadn't seen for a long time.
This time things would be different.