Disclaimer: I do not work for ABC and my name is neither Terry Goodkind nor Emily Bronte. Thomas belongs to KahlanFluteChambers.

Warnings: Violence and character death.

"Mary! Mary!" Zedd called after the blonde girl. "Stay with me, girl."

The thirteen year old giggled and ran back up the streets of Aydindril. "Oh, Grandpa look! The Wizard's Keep! It's beautiful!" She smiled exactly the way her father used to when presented with some new wonder of the world.

"Yes it is and I'll show you every secret of it as soon as we make our official introduction to the Mother Confessor." Zedd smiled at her as she tugged on his hand. They joined the line of petitioners as it snaked through the arched doorways. He did not betray his nervousness as he thought on what Kahlan might say and do. There were so many things Mary shouldn't know yet that Kahlan might see fit to tell her.

The Mother Confessor sat on her throne and coolly surveyed the audience chamber. She recognized Zedd's robes and beckoned him forward. She noticed the girl only when she moved into the old man's wake. Her brown dress was drab amidst the color and bustle of Aydindril. There was no mistaking the proud tilt to her chin. "The great Zeddicus and you must be Mary."

"Do you know me then?" Mary asked curiously.

"No. I knew your father," Kahlan responded, eyes on Zedd.

"Then you recognized my father in me," Mary said eagerly, hoping for information.

"There is nothing of your father in you," Kahlan said darkly.

Mary stepped back with a hurt look but she quickly firmed her jaw and stepped back into her great grandfather's shadow. Kahlan's small smile of satisfaction did not go unnoted by Zeddicus. He cleared his throat. "I was intending to take up my old residence in the Keep."

"You may," Kahlan said, her smile warming. "It would be good for it to get some use again. Thomas! Help Wizard Zeddicus and Mary Cypher find their rooms. It's been awhile."

"Yes, mistress," A brown haired youth said as he stood and bowed. He quietly guided them through the labyrinthine corridors of the ancient home of the wizards and Confessors. He kept his head down and eventually Zedd relaxed. The young man was too surly to be Confessed.

"Do you remember me?" Zedd asked Thomas. A sigh escaped him when the boy shook his head no. "Go back to your mistress."

After Thomas had left, Mary frowned at Zedd. "Who is he, grandfather?"

"The son of an old friend. You remember the stories I've told you abut the Seeker," Zedd sat in one of the comfortably overstuffed chairs and rolled his shoulders to pop them. He muttered a word of power to start the fire and grunted in satisfaction.

"My dad was the Seeker. He defeated Darken Rahl using the Boxes of Orden. His brother, my uncle. When he went into training to be a wizard you had to choose a new Seeker, Leo Smith." Mary dutifully recited her history lessons. "When he died fighting the Banelings, you made dad the Seeker again."

"That's the gist of it. Thomas was Leo's son. His mother... was never much interested in child rearing. The Mother Confessor grew fond of him and took him to Aydindril after the war with D'Hara was finished." Zedd said sadly. "There is more to that story than I have told you or can tell you now. You should be wary of the Mother Confessor, child."

"But, Grandfather-"

"Her focus is on the welfare of the Midlands. Nothing else signifies. It wasn't always that way. Be wary, child. That's all." Zedd's dark eyes watched his great-granddaughter carefully.

"Yes, Grandfather." Mary said obediently.

Jennsen held tightly to her nephew's hand, keeping her head down as she wound her way to the Wizard's Keep. She felt the glance of every citizen like a blow. No one could possibly know who she and Nicholas were but she still feared discovery. Eventually, she had to admit she wasn't going to find her grandfather on her own and she quaveringly asked for directions.

She found Zeddicus's quarters well after dark. Jennsen began crying as soon as Zedd opened the door. Somewhere in the midst of her incoherent explanation, he simply pulled her and the boy into the room.

"Slow down, deep breaths," Zedd looked from one hooded form to the other. He gently pulled back Jennsen's hood. "Jennsen! Come sit down. Mary, go get two bowls of stew." Zedd produced a handkerchief from one of his many pockets and gave it to Jennsen.

"I didn't know where else to go," Jennsen gasped, red eyed.

"Is this your son?" Zedd asked while Mary gave them dinner. "You're always welcome here, my girl. I thought you died."

"She my auntie," the boy said in a small voice. "I'm Nicholas."

"You brought him here?" Zedd's eyebrows drew down threateningly. "Never mind. We'll figure it out," he said when Jennsen started crying all over again.

"Darken, he fell. And his neck- His head- It was awful." Jennsen sniffled. "We buried him and I couldn't- I can't take care of Nicky by myself." She blew her nose. "And I heard you were here."

"You're sure he fell?" Zedd asked in a careful tone.

"Nicky and I were p-p-picking berries. Darken fell in the p-p-pasture. I found him." Jennsen hiccupped, her tears slowing.

"Alright. You can stay here. Does Nicholas know we he might not be able to?" Zedd asked and Jennsen shook her head.

"What? Why can he not?" Mary cried indignantly, in a tone very reminiscent of her father.

"Nicholas inherited a powerful magic from his mother," Zedd said slowly. "He's a male Confessor."

"He's a sweet little boy," Jennsen insisted. "You have to help him."

"How old is he?" Zedd asked after a long silence.

"Ten years old," Jensen raised her chin to look her grandfather in the eyes.

"I could find a Quillian and draw it out of him," Zedd mused. "We'll have to be careful in the meantime. His mother might not appreciate our efforts."

"Why?" Nicholas asked. "What sort of a mother have I got? Father and Auntie won't tell me."

"Kahlan Amnell is a very hard woman," Zedd murmured. "Mary, these are your Aunt Jennsen and your Cousin Nicholas. Jennsen, Nicholas, this is Mary Cypher."

"Pleased to meet you," Mary dropped into a curtsy.

"Of course I can't see the future, silly," Mary wrinkled her nose at her cousin. "Shota can because she's a witch. I'm a sorceress. I can look at the past."

"Like what?" Nicholas sat on the floor with one of her grandfather's books spread open in front of him.

"Like tell me abut something," Mary said, filling a bowl with water, "and we'll watch it together."

"For my fifth birthday Auntie made me a sapcake and Father made me a wooden cow," Nicholas said after staring up at his cousin with vivid blue eyes for a moment.

"Think about it real hard. Visualize it in your mind. Every smell and sound." Mary said before casting her spell over the water. They both watched as the bowl showed a small but very clean hut with a blond boy, a dark haired man and a red haired woman sitting by the hearth. They could hear very clearly the way Nicholas exclaimed over his wooden animal. Mary noticed that the woman was smiling and looked far younger than she did now. The man was going grey at the temples and had many frown lines grooved into his face.

As the image faded, Nicholas got very quiet. "Can you show me my mother?"

Mary frowned. "Hold that thought." She cast the spell again.

Kahlan Amnell wore her Confessor colors proudly. Her shoulders were back and her face was composed as she told Darken Rahl. "I have conceived a child. I shall not be visiting your chambers again until I am no longer pregnant. I expect you to behave with decorum or I will send you back to the Underworld myself and take a new mate. Am I clear?" She looked beautiful with her pale skin, dark hair and blue eyes.

Darken Rahl bowed his head to hide a frown of irritation. "As my mistress commands me," he said ironically. He folded his hands so that they were hidden in his dark sleeves.

"And if you try to escape, I shall inform your enemies that you are no longer under my protection," Kahlan said warningly.

"As ever, it warms my heart with joy to bring my mistress such pleasure. Why else would she persist in repeating the same threats weekly?" Darken said dryly. "I have to wonder if you would have eventually treated Richard this way."

"I have nothing else to say to you," Kahlan said and turned on her heel.

The room was comfortably appointed but no more than that. Darken stretched and popped his back with a look of pain and irritation.

"She's very impressive," Nicholas said a long beat after the image faded. There was a hint of admiration and more than a little fear behind his words. He'd always been a little afraid of his father even when he wasn't sure why. Whenever he thought about how wonderfully brave his mother must have been to talk to his father that way, he was reminded of the wizard's description of her as a hard woman. If she could cow Father, and Father was the scariest man Nicholas had met, then how much scarier must his mother be?

"My father's name was Richard," Mary blurted suddenly. "The day I saw her, she told me she knew my father!" Mary cried out the spell again.

Kahlan was kissing Richard in a dark wood. Abruptly, Kahlan broke off the kiss. She spewed denials and Richard told her he loved her.

Mary threw the water on the floor with a cry. "It can't be true!"

Her shout brought Jennsen hurrying into the room. "What is it? What's happened?" She stepped forward and began blotting up the water.

"My father told Nicholas's mother he loved her," Mary said, tears in her eyes.

"Oh, sweetheart. That was so long ago." Jennsen said helplessly. "Do you know how Confessor powers work?" She watched Nicholas nod and Mary shake her head. "When a confessor touches a man or woman with her power they fall madly in love with her and will do whatever she says. But that doesn't mean she loves them. No, Mary, that's not what happened to your father. Your father fell in love with Kahlan without being Confessed. She loved him back. So much that she couldn't bear to Confess him."

"What about my mother?" Mary asked intensely.

It had been many weeks since Zedd and Kahlan had watched Lara and Confessed village fall under the crossbow bolts of the Mord'Sith temple. Every attempt they made to allow themselves to be captured was turned away. The troops would have killed them before allowing them to enter.

"I don't understand," Kahlan scowled at the tower. "Rahl wants to capture Confessors."

"Maybe they're focusing on one goal at a time," Zedd suggested.

They were surprised when out stepped a blonde Mord'Sith in white leathers leading Richard on a leash. Kahlan marched towards them, intending to kill the Mord'Sith by Confession.

"No!" Richard shouted. "Wait!" He lowered his voice, "She's going to help us. She was willing to serve Rahl but she doesn't want to be his slave. She wants to come with us and help stop him."

"How do we know she hasn't tortured you into saying that?" Kahlan growled.

Denna handed her Agiel to Richard and unhooked his collar. She placed it around her own neck and gave the leash to Richard. "I put my life in your hands."

"She was lying, of course," Jennsen said with a shrug. "She planned to pretend to be on our side long enough to steal the Boxes for herself. After traveling with your father, she changed her mind. Your father was very persuasive like that."

"But how did-" Mary frowned unhappily.

"Where did Father enter into it?" Nicholas interrupted.

Jennsen frowned and gave her best tame version of the conflict between Richard and Darken up to the destruction of the Boxes of Orden. "Cara told me all about that later, after Richard went to go into training to be a wizard."

"Father died," Nicholas said in horror.

"He spent seven years in the Underworld. He didn't stay there." Jennsen looked a little desperate around the eyes. "He's with the Creator now."

"Could he come back again?" Nicholas asked with sharp hope.

"No, sweetheart. The magic needed is too much." Jennsen said helplessly, stroking his hair. "He switched bodies with another man. There's no body and there's no one to do the magic. There are no more Mord'Sith." She knew she wasn't quite speaking truly. Somewhere out there, Cara and Dahlia might be having adventures.

Framed by the edges of the bowl, Cara and Denna stood in red leathers with their Agiels out as hordes of undead poured up the hill. Leo stood next to Cara with the unmistakable Sword of Truth drawn. On the other side of him stood Kahlan with her dual fighting knives and behind them was Zedd throwing fire at Banelings, looking exactly the same as he had for decades.

They fought off wave after wave of Banelings until one of them finally went under. Kahlan was stabbed in the upper thigh. The circle of defenders closed around their fallen comrade and kept fighting but they had lost the rhythm. Leo was felled by a knife in his armpit. Cara lunged forward to fill the gap and the few remaining Banelings ran from her wrath.

"You look like your father," Mary told Thomas as she let him into her grandfather's apartment. "Would you like tea?"

"No, thank you. What do you know about my father?" Thomas asked as he looked around at Zedd's magical paraphernalia.

"My grandfather told me about him," Mary said quickly.

"Speaking of your grandfather, where is he?" Thomas asked as he continued to look around.

"He had to go on a trip. He heard of a magical object he thought shouldn't be left in the hands of the ignorant," Mary trailed warily after Thomas. "Did you need him for anything in particular?"

"No. My mistress was asking after him," Thomas said. "I've heard such stories... Is it true he turned a man into a bird to save him?"

"Yes," Mary brightened at the opportunity to speak well of her grandfather.

Mary crept to the door and crouched by the crack to listen to the murmur of her aunt and grandfather talking. There was an angry feel in the air that made Mary shiver.

"How could you?" Zedd said in a low voice filled with pain. "After everything he did. After what he did to you."

"He was my brother." Jennsen said almost too quietly for Mary to hear. "I couldn't just let him die." Her voice spiked with anxiety. "When he escaped with Nicky, he was injured. The wound went sour. He was raving. The things he said- The smell. And there was the baby. They were both defenseless and screaming. I had to help."

"What did you do?" Zedd asked in the tone he had used when Mary had scared herself into thinking she'd seen a Screeling. "Start from the beginning."

Jennsen had been out milking her goats when she heard a crashing in the underbrush. At first she retreated, thinking it was a wild boar. Then she heard a thin, piteous wail rising from the shadows. Crouching low, she crept over and found a sight she had never expected to see. The elder of her brothers had tripped in the undergrowth and was struggling to rise. In his arms he held a mewling infant in poor condition.

She hurried forward and took the baby from Darken's arms. The wind shifted and she smelled rotting meat. She gave a small cry and pulled the baby to herself when she noticed the blood caking his side. "I'll be back," Jennsen whispered before she ran back to her home and placed the baby on her bed.

In her mind, Jennsen began running over a list of things she'd need for a baby of nursing age. She'd learned a few tricks during her time with the Resistance. When the D'Harans occupied an area you never knew when you'd come across an orphaned children of any age. She kept her mind firmly on that as she returned for Darken.

The fever had already set in. He mumbled strings of nonsense and at one point tried to pull away. She was never quite sure how she managed to get him all the way to her place. Once she had made him a bed of blankets near the fireplace, he had a moment of lucidity.

"Don't let her kill him. Don't let her." Darken said, gripping Jennsen's arm hard enough to bruise. Eventually, Jennsen assured him enough that he slipped into a fever dream.

That pattern continued for two weeks. Sometimes he ranted and raved against Kahlan Amnell. Sometimes he exhorted Jennsen to be careful. A handful of times, he called her by another name and asked her to sing. Frequently, he rambled on about revenge fantasies that at first left Jennsen appalled and later left her pitying.

After the fever broke, it took Darken a long time before he was strong enough to do more than walk across the room. During that time, Jennsen bonded with Nicholas. He was strong enough to rebound from the earlier neglect. By the time, Darken could take an unaided walk outside, Nicholas could hold up his head.

Unfortunately, Nicholas was still too young to sleep through the night. The disruption to Jennsen's nights made her irritable. Darken's sleep loss slowed his recovery, making him irritable. At one point, Jennsen threatened to kick him out if he didn't stop whining.

By the time Nicholas was sleeping through the night, Darken had begun trying to get back his skill with a sword. It worked up to a point. Jennsen watched as Darken ran headlong into the obstacle of his own body. Walter's body had not been as well maintained as Darken's. Largely, that was due to magic or so Darken said. Slowly but surely, Darken learned that it did matter that Walter had had poorer nutrition as a child, drunk more alcohol during adolescence, was older, and especially that the things Darken had done to mold Walter to looking like Darken had long term effects. Before, Darken had always been able to use his training to overcome pain. He wasn't prepared for physical challenges he couldn't get through on sheer willpower. He could take more pain than Jennsen would dream of taking on but even that couldn't make Darken's joints take more pressure than they could bear.

After the attempts to perfect his swordsmanship came despair as he realized that he had no magic, his ability to wield a blade or an Agiel in his own defense was severely limited, the majority of his former allies were dead and the remainder had no reason to listen to him. Even seeing his son take his first steps did little to alleviate the depression. Darken told Jennsen of his desire to never return to the Underworld, to be in the Light. She told him repeatedly that being a good father and a good brother would do more to convince the Creator than any grand gesture.

Maybe he eventually came to believe her.

"In any case," Jennsen wound down her tale. "One day I woke and found him sitting in the front yard, watching the chickens. He was smiling or trying to smile. I don't know what happened but he started doing things around the house. I don't know that he was ever happy living with me but he was more relaxed than I'd ever seen him before."

"Sweetheart, you know that I would have helped you if you'd told me," Zedd said hesitantly.

"But would you have helped Darken Rahl? Would you have helped a male Confessor?" Jennsen asked with something like steel under her words. "I know you and Richard were trying to protect me. Please don't think I blame you."

"You just don't trust me," Zedd said sadly.

Jennsen paused long enough that Mary began to feel the pins and needles in her sleeping foot. "During the seven years Darken spent in the Underworld, he held many interviews with former members of his father's staff. There was a Mord'Sith who claimed that she brought him back from the dead when he was an infant. He interviewed anyone who would know anything about it. Eventually, the trail led to your father." Jennsen let out a sad sigh. "You knew."

"Yes," Zedd said in a low voice. "Even great men make mistakes."

"And even the worst men have good points," Jennsen countered. "You love your father, I love my brother."

"And Nicholas?" Zedd asked after an even longer pause.

"He's a good boy," Jennsen stated flatly.

"I hope so," Zedd said. "If he hurts Mary..."

"I understand."

Denna's eyes were alight with humor as she told Richard about a day spent tracking what they had thought were Banelings and turned out to be a troupe of carnival actors. There was a momentary lull as she finished her story. She and Richard stared into each other's eyes.

Their reverie was broken when Kahlan loudly dumped an armload of firewood next to the fire pit. "We should get some sleep," Kahlan said with a shuttered expression.

"You're right," Richard nodded and settled himself into a sleeping posture.

"Zedd, I've been having these dreams," Richard said, sitting next to Zedd in an inn.

"Chances are you're probably not having prophetic dreams but if you think it'll help to tell me," Zedd shrugged. "I'm here to listen."

"I dreamed I died. I went to the Creator. I was so angry that the Creator became upset with me and tossed me back here. And I was so happy because Kahlan was here."

"I don't think that needs much interpretation," Zedd noted. "You and Kahlan have always shared a strong bond. What about Denna?"

"I like Denna. She's strong and courageous," Richard's glance fell on Denna's form across the inn room. She was dressed in a peasant's dress and hair kerchief. Even so, she stood out among the other patrons. "I love Denna."

"And Kahlan," Zedd sighed. "Well, you've known for a long time that your feelings for Kahlan can never be consummated."

"I know but- My love for Denna will change with time. I will always love her but not the way I do now." Richard looked down morosely at the table. "My love for Kahlan will never change no matter what happens. I feel her anger and hurt like they're my own feelings. I feel her love for me everywhere I turn. I spent six months training to be a wizard and every day I was parted from her was torture. I can't imagine being without her. She's part of me."

Zedd grunted noncommittally.

"Denna asked me to marry her," Richard said.

"Did she say why?" Zedd asked without surprise.

"She realized she'd been waiting for me while I was in the Old World. She wants to try living a normal life now that we've banished the Keeper. She's seen so much more of the world since she left the Mord'Sith. She wants to share it with me." Richard said in a low tone.

"Did you say yes?" Zedd asked.

"I- Yes." Richard swallowed dryly.

"Why?" Zedd asked, watching Richard carefully.

"Maybe I want some normalcy too," Richard muttered.

"That's not a very good reason," Zedd said.

"Maybe once I'm married, Kahlan can do what she needs to do," Richard said. "She needs to make sure there are more Confessors."

Zedd eyed Richard silently, unsure how to protect his grandson from himself.

"Kahlan isn't coming back," Denna said softly. "Her business will keep her in Aydindril for years."

"I know you never liked her but could you sound less hopeful?" Richard grunted.

"I'm sorry, Richard," Denna said contritely. "She just rubs me the wrong way."

"I'm sure if you just gave each other a real chance you would like each other," Richard said.

"We fought alongside each other for seven years." Denna pointed out. "If we were going to like each other it would have happened already."

"Can't you just let go of it?" Richard asked.

"Sorry, I'm a bit emotional," Denna said, taking a deep breath. "I'm pregnant."

Richard paused as that sank in. He smiled broadly and pulled Denna into his arms. "That's wonderful."

Mary pulled away from the bowl of water. "I'm tired. We can look more later," she told her cousin.

Zedd entered behind the children. "What are you two doing?"

"Oh, please don't be angry, grandfather," Mary said, bouncing to her feet. "Promise you won't be angry and I'll tell you."

"I promise," Zedd said gruffly.

"I wanted to know what happened before you brought Mother and I to Agaden Reach," Mary said. "I'm nearly fourteen. I didn't want to worry you because you're so busy trying to help Nicholas."

"Mother and me," Zedd corrected automatically. "I forgive you, my girl. I worry though. You might not understand everything you see."

"My father and Nicholas's mother loved each other. Papa couldn't be with her because she was a Confessor. He loved my mother too." Mary recited. "And I saw Thomas's father die."

"Or you might understand too well," Zedd murmured.

"My father loved me dearly," Mary said firmly.

"Yes, he did," Zedd said. "As do I. I need to leave again."

"I know, grandfather," Mary said, hugging him. "I love you."

"I want to see more," Nicholas said, shaking Mary's shoulder.

"I need to finish this history reading," Mary said. "In a little while."

"Now," Nicholas said, his eyes filling with black.

"Yes, Master," Mary said, beginning preparations.

Nicholas pulled back, horrified. There was no way to undo what he had just done. He gulped air and began to cry.

"Have i displeased you, Master?" Mary asked.

"You mustn't call me Master," Nicholas said hurriedly. "If you call me Master, they will know and they will hurt me. You don't want them to hurt me, do you?"

"No, Nicholas," Mary said softly.

"Show me why my mother chose Father," Nicholas demanded.

Soon, the bowl was filled with images of D'Haran soldiers killing men, women, and children. One group stormed a village and went from house to house killing babies. Nicholas and Mary remained frozen over the images until Nicholas demanded she stop.

"I don't understand," Nicholas muttered. "Explain."

"Your father commanded the troops of D'Hara. Confessors choose men who have committed crimes," Mary said, a strange flatness in her tone that made Nicholas wince guiltily.

"Find a way to show me why Father," Nicholas demanded petulantly.

Kahlan wore her uniform proudly, shoulders back. She kept her face and voice expressionless. "As punishment for your crimes I am taking you as a mate."

"You do realize that my soul is immune to Confession," Darken said, allowing his shoulders to hunch.

"Yes," Kahlan made an expression that would have been a smile had it any hint of humor. "That's what makes it such a fitting punishment."

"You are vicious in victory, Mother Confessor," Darken said.

"That doesn't explain anything!" Nicholas exclaimed. "Try again!"

Denna and Richard sat at one end of the table, a baby in Denna's arms. A small boy sat next to Kahlan. The silence in the room was more than merely strained. Kahlan kept flicking glances toward the baby and Denna.

"I'm getting tired," Mary said, allowing the images to go out.

"I'm not done," Nicholas whined.

"I need to rest, Master," Mary was interrupted by a knock on the door.

"Answer it," Nicholas urged her.

Mary opened the door to see Thomas Dane standing in her doorway. "Oh, hello."

Thomas's attention wandered over the room as he said, "There's festival in the market in three days. I was thinking you might want to get out of the house for a bit. "Your grandfather said he left your aunt with you. Maybe she'd like to come to?"

Mary looked over at Nicholas who vigorously shook his head in the negative. "I'm sorry. I can't."

"Would your friend like to come too?" Thomas asked.

"I'm her cousin," Nicholas said, annoyed.

"Your grandfather didn't mention-"

"I don't want to go," Nicholas insisted, thinking of how hard it would be to hide who he was from the crowd.

"Yes, Master," Mary said in a subdued voice.

Thomas barely hesitated. "Alright. I'll come back later." He swiftly left the room.

"You need to stop him," Nicholas told her. "And don't call me Master."

"Yes, Nicholas," Mary said and concentrated for a moment. "I'm sorry. I'm too tired and I don't know any fighting spells."

Mary stood in the doorway, her toddler legs swaying a little under her as she watched her parents. She had her forefinger in her mouth and tears in her eyes.

Richard glared at Denna. "She's always helped me. She's very important to me. You can't just expect me to give up my friendship with her."

"She doesn't want to be your friend and she hates me." Denna said angrily.

"Kahlan doesn't hate you," Richard protested.

"Yes, she does," Denna said. "She blames me for her sisters dying and for stealing you from her."

"You didn't steal me. I chose to be with you," Richard said.

"Fine. You chose to be with me and not her," Denna folded her arms.

""She had responsibilities. She knows that. She doesn't hate you," Richard repeated.

"Richard," Denna stopped heavily. "I love you. You saved me. I fought beside Kahlan for seven years. Fire is hot and water is wet. We cannot change our nature."

"If you'd just try-"

"Richard, I have tried. I have tried very hard to love those who are dear to you. I have tried to tolerate Kahlan. She always preferred Cara but we were allies once. Our common enemy is gone and so is our alliance. Why can't you accept that?" Denna's voice cooled to a silvery anger.

"This isn't about her hating you, it's about you hating her," Richard said, frowning fiercely.

"I don't like her. I have tried, Richard, for your sake. I have. I can't." Denna frowned back.

"You won't."

"Yes, Richard. That's it. I refuse to get along with the Mother Confessor, most powerful woman in the Midlands. That's why I've spent the last two years in her capital." Denna snapped back.

"I can't deal with you when you're like this," Richard said. "The people in Kelton have requested magical assistance. I'm going to do it. I hope that you'll be thinking more clearly about this."

Mary woke with a start. Someone was pounding on the door. She struggled to find her skirt with the tendrils of the dream clinging to her. She knew it for a memory and if she hadn't been so worried about Nicholas, she would have cried.

She stumbled out of her room in time Mother Confessor Kahlan Amnell stride into their suite. In spite of the late hour, Kahlan looked as wide-awake and severe as she had sitting in judgment.

"My son tells me there's a male Confessor here," Kahlan said sharply. "And that he's Confessed the young sorceress." Kahlan looked Jennsen up and down.

Panicked, Mary tried to cast a binding web. With a look of horror, Jennsen stood between Mary and Kahlan. "Please, Mother Confessor. "Grandfather Zedd is looking for a Quillian. If he drains Nicky of magic it might free Mary."

"Nicky is an abomination who should have been killed at birth." Kahlan glared at Jennsen. "Even if that does work, it would still leave us with a male Confessor and a Confessed sorceress in the meantime."

"Mary, help me," Nicholas said, cringing behind Mary.

"He Confessed his own cousin," Kahlan said. "How much more evidence of depravity do you need? Even Richard would kill him to protect his daughter."

"I didn't know," Jennsen glared back at Kahlan. "You could confine them both."

Mary frowned and shot spell at Kahlan, fueling it with all her terror and anger. The Mother Confessor dared to threaten the Master. It wasn't to be tolerated.

While Jennsen leapt forward to grab Mary's hands, Kahlan slipped alongside and drew her knife. In the sudden rush of blood from Nicholas's throat, Mary was free. Her knees gave way and she sank to the floor in a daze. "He didn't mean to," she whispered again and again.

Kahlan grabbed Mary's shoulders and looked contemptuously into the girl's eyes. "But he did."

Mary glared ferociously at Thomas. "You told her."

"I had to," Thomas muttered. "He hurt you."

"It was an accident," Mary defended her cousin.

"Then there would have been more accidents." Thomas bowed his head and turned away. "I didn't know she would kill him."

"But she did." Mary scowled.

Mary watched her father stagger with illness as he cured another villager. Her father collapsed in a heap, filmy eyes staring wearily at the crowd of feverish citizens swarmed around his tent. The bowl of water revealed what she had already known in her heart. Her father had worked himself to death.

She stood and went to find her aunt. Both of them cried softly in each other's arms.

"I don't understand why I need to come live with her," Mary whined to Thomas. She hauled her traveling bag along with a sulky glare.

"You're coming to live with me too," Thomas said and received another sulky glower. "The Mother Confessor wants you where she can find you. You kept secrets before. Important secrets. There are consequences for that."

"She called you her son," Mary said, grunting with effort.

"I am." Thomas said with assurance. "Like your father was Mary's son."

On Mary's sixteenth birthday, her grandfather bought her a new book of poetry. Thomas brought her a flower, which she stomped on. Aunt Jennsen gave her a scarf. The Mother Confessor allowed Zedd to move back into the same suite as Mary.

"You look unwell," Zedd murmured to Kahlan.

"I'm tired," Kahlan muttered.

Mary woke in the middle of the night to a voice calling. She wrapped her scarf around her shoulders and tiptoed out of bed. She found the Mother Confessor walking down the hall. Her eyes were open but she didn't seem to see Mary.

"Richard," Kahlan called softly. "Richard, come to me."

Mary started when she realized Thomas was standing next to her. "Don't disturb her. It'll only make her angry."

"What's she doing?" Mary whispered.

"Isn't it obvious? Calling for your father."

Abruptly, Mary became aware that she was standing next to Thomas in her nightgown. She mumbled about going back to bed, blushing.

Thomas sighed heavily as he watched Mary practice an illusion of a bird. "I know you've never forgiven me for Nicholas but I just want you to know, I never meant to hurt you or him."

"I know," Mary said softly.

"Is it possible for us to start over?" he asked carefully.

"Mary Cypher," she held out her hand.

"Thomas Dane," he took it, smiling at her.

She smiled back, shyly but genuinely. The smile dropped away when she noticed Kahlan looking at them with a stricken expression. Before she could say anything, Kahan withdrew as quietly as a ghost.

"She hasn't eaten anything in three days," Jennsen told Zedd in agitation as the three of them sat down to dinner.

"Mary?" Zedd asked in confusion as Mary dug in to Jennsen's cooking.

"Kahlan," Jennsen said, passing the rolls.

"There's nothing wrong with her in body," Zedd said with a glance at Mary.

Jennsen grunted in a suspiciously skeptical way. "I suppose not."

Zedd wasn't sure why Kahlan died. Thomas simply found her one morning without a breath in her body. The funeral for the last Confessor was held on a sunny day in late summer. She hadn't eaten for days before her death but even so, she was strong enough that that alone shouldn't have killed her.

From the corner of his eye, Zedd noticed Mary and Thomas holding hands as Kahlan was burned.