Darken Rahl's Wish List
"I killed you. I tried to confess you." Kahlan spoke as if she were trying to impress upon Richard the terrible depth of her crime.
He smiled into her beautiful eyes, trying to reassure her. "It didn't work."
"How is that possible?" Kahlan demanded shakily.
Zedd beamed at them, and explained, "The same reason you were brought out of the Con Dar when Richard died. For the same reason that your tears formed a new Stone." He paused for a moment of smug self-satisfaction, then went on. "Because there is no magic in all the world more powerful than the love you and Richard have for each other."
Richard felt the euphoric joy of having sealed the rift, the bubble of happy anticipation at the thought of making Kahlan his wife…He leaned forward and kissed her. A kiss that promised all that was to come. As their lips met, he closed his eyes.
When Richard opened his eyes, he wasn't at the Pillars of Creation anymore. He blinked, confused. "Kahlan?" he asked into the dank gloom, sitting up and rubbing his head.
He didn't see Kahlan anywhere. He seemed to be in a dungeon—not far away were bars set close together, and he sat on a rotting wooden bench. The floor was strewn with dirty straw.
Richard felt instinctively for the Sword of Truth, panicking when he found it gone. "Cara? Zedd?" he asked, for good measure. He expected no answer, and his fear at finding himself suddenly alone when, just moments ago, he had been kissing Kahlan made his voice louder than was perhaps wise.
"Richard." It was his grandfather's voice, and Richard looked wildly around—he strode forward to the bars, and peered through.
Zedd was pressing his own nose against the bars of the cell opposite Richard's. His grandfather looked tired and worn, and there was a Rada'Han around his neck, but otherwise he seemed unhurt.
"Zedd, what happened?" Richard demanded. "Where are Kahlan and Cara?"
Zedd shook his head somberly. "I don't know. We were at the Pillars of Creation, when suddenly Rahl appeared out of nowhere and blew dust into our faces. That's the last thing I remember before waking up here."
"What could Rahl want with us?" Richard frowned, terrified on Kahlan's behalf more than his own.
"Isn't it obvious?" a woman's voice drawled from the cell next to Richard's.
Richard whirled, staring through the wall as though he could see through it by sheer force of will. "Nicci?"
Nicci hadn't been having the best day. She sat in the corner of her cell, hair and dress already bedraggled and dusty, and brooded.
The Rada'Han around her neck was cool against her skin. Remembering the Keeper's wrath when Richard's pet Mord'Sith killed her—had it only been this morning?—Nicci was almost glad Darken Rahl had revived her. Looking into his cold eyes had been a relief, compared with the Keeper's.
That relief was likely to be short-lived. She couldn't imagine why Rahl had kept her alive this long. At any moment, she waited for him to come and finish it.
Richard and the Wizard, unconscious, had been brought in not long ago. She knew Richard was in the cell next to hers—she could almost feel his heart beating through the wall.
Silly Nicci, she thought bitterly. Not with this lump of metal around your neck. The Keeper wouldn't be sending any spiders to get her out of this one.
She tried to ignore Richard—the one good thing that had happened all day was that he had saved the world; she had felt the moment the rift was sealed. It had echoed throughout the world, like chimes in a spring breeze, like ocean waves—like nothing else ever could.
She had no great fondness for the world—but while Richard lived, she would allow it existence.
"What could Rahl want with us?" Richard asked.
At this, Nicci couldn't keep silent. "Isn't it obvious?"
At his stunned, "Nicci?" she pulled her long, heavy hair over one shoulder and studied it morosely, thinking she should cut it all off.
"Yes?" she drawled in the direction of the wall. She caught a glimpse of the Wizard, across the dungeon hallway, staring at her. "And make it quick, we all have a great deal of appointments coming up."
"What do you mean?" the Wizard asked warily.
Nicci sighed. "I should think you could guess; my Han and your blood, Richard, are clearly on Darken Rahl's wish list."
"Richard's Han," the Wizard corrected her. Nicci scowled at him through the bars. Richard had given her his Han of his own free will, and those who insisted she had stolen it seemed not to realize how little Richard wanted his own rightful power.
"Where are we?" Richard asked. "The People's Palace?" He sounded doubtful—as he should. The People's Palace was leagues from the Pillars of Creation.
Nicci rolled her eyes, then thought, to be fair, where they were wasn't exactly close to the Pillars, either, and Richard had been unconscious the whole way…and why did she feel the need to be fair to him?
"The Palace of the Margrave of Rothenberg," she answered flatly.
"Your Rada'Han," protested the Wizard, his fingers touching his own. It was the same dull gray as the bars.
Nicci shrugged, knowing Richard couldn't see her. "The Margrave is dead."
"Of course," said the Wizard. "This place existed as a magic-less sanctuary only so long as the Margrave's line continued."
"But these are still the most well-built dungeons in the Midlands," Richard agreed.
Nicci hoped he wasn't giving up—if even Richard thought there was no hope left, they were all surely doomed.
"We have to find Kahlan and Cara," said Richard.
"I know this is hard…" the Wizard said slowly, "but Richard, we may have to accept that they are dead."
"No!" Richard snapped, sounding almost cross. "I won't accept that!" And he screamed her name, this time: "KAHLAN!"
Nicci sighed. It was going to be a long incarceration, until Darken Rahl remembered she was down here and killed her.