*This will also serve as the first chapter of the sequel, whenever I write that.
Soul Fusion – Epilogue – Beginnings
A bloodcurdling scream rocked through the still night air and Richard had to control the urge to simply burst down the door. He had to content himself with pacing back and forth in the hall before their bedchambers. He had missed Sanya's birth, and nothing was going to make him miss the birth of their latest child.
Kahlan had been in labor for almost two days, and sometime during the thirty-sixth hour of her labor pains, Richard had gotten into an argument with Darla. In the middle of his heated exchange with the old midwife, Kahlan snapped at him and ordered him out of the room. He opened his mouth to object but she screamed at him, hurtling curses that likes of which he had never heard uttered from her beautiful lips.
After that, Richard had lift, not wanting to upset his beautiful wife anymore than he already had. So, he went out and stayed in the hall, waiting for her to grant him admittance. She had yet to do so, and he was growing worried he'd miss the birth of his daughter. At least she had allowed Cara and Shannon in. The latter had been a midwives' apprentice before Simon had been recruited into the Palace of the Prophets for wizard's training, so she was assisting Darla.
Letting out a frustrated sigh, Richard put his hands behind his back and continued his pacing, only vaguely aware of the confessed Marianna rocking back and forth on the floor, distressed and worried for her mistress. Simon and Zedd were sitting on a stone bench between two suits of armor, chatting softly over something Richard could care less about. He was, however, grateful for his friend and grandfather's presence, even if he didn't say it out loud. Jennsen and Verna would have been here as well, but they were looking after Ashley and Sanya for them.
Another scream roared through the solid oak door and Richard gritted his teeth and clenched his hands into fists, not knowing how much longer he could stand waiting out here. Marianna was in tears and was clutching her head in her hands, swaying back and forth in dismay. He knew how she felt. Since Kahlan had confessed her, the former Sister of the Dark adored and worshiped the ground the Mother Confessor walked on. It was the same with Richard, but more. Kahlan and him were of one soul, having become as such nearly nine months ago. Judging from how long it had taken Kahlan to come to term, Richard was fairly certain that their latest child had been conceived after they had performed the true Soul Fusion spell.
The door opened. Richard looked up and spied the crimson hair of Shannon, Simon's wife. "Richard…," she called. "It's almost time, so Darla says you can come back in."
"And Kahlan?" Richard asked nervously as the others stood up from the bench to stand behind him.
"Yes, of course, she wants you too," Shannon nodded with a smile, opening the door wider to permit him entrance into his own bedchambers.
Shannon and Simon exchanged a loving look, before she closed the door behind Richard. He quickly followed her to the bed, where Kahlan was groaning and moaning in labor pains, her legs parted and in the proper position for birthing. Darla was hovering over her, rubbing her legs reassuringly.
"Ah, there you are, Richard!" the old midwife looked up. "Go and comfort your wife. This baby has been stubborn, but finally it seems she has decided to come."
Richard nodded and Cara stood up off the bed, giving up her space to him. He exchanged a grateful look with the Mord'Sith, who then went to stand by Darla and Shannon, ready to assist if asked to. Richard slipped his hand into Kahlan's and immediately her grip was crushing his hand. He grunted slightly, but pushed past the sudden pinch of pain in his fingers and smiled over at his wife. He reached up and brushed away the damp matted hair from her face and kissed her sweaty brow.
"Richard… is that you?" she gasped out, her eyes opening and darting over to him.
"Yes, my Kahlan, it's me," he murmured, brushing his fingertips along her cheek.
"About damn time!" she hissed and squeezed his hand tighter as another contraction hit her. "OH SPIRITS! WHY WON'T SHE COME ALREADY?"
"Take it easy, dearie," Darla reassured her. "She will come… soon. You are now fully dilated. It is time."
Kahlan huffed and rolled her eyes. She arched her neck to look at him. "Something feels wrong, Richard," she panted out through her breath, her voice wary and ponderous.
"Wrong? What?" he asked, leaning closer to her, growing concerned.
"I… I don't know," she panted. "I… I just feel it."
Richard reached over and caressed her face, smiling as she closed her eyes and eased into his touch. "Whatever it is, I'm sure it's not serious," he tried to reassure her. "Darla can take care of anything."
Kahlan gave a gruff nod, but still looked unconvinced. Suddenly her face contorted in pain and she screamed, her whole body shaking.
"Hold her down!" shouted Darla, her voice rising in surprise, with the hint of fear attached to it, as well.
Richard shifted up on the mattress and gripped Kahlan's arms, holding her to the bed as she convulsed. Her quakes were so violent that Cara had to assist him, and the worry etched its way onto his brow, creating deep creases. "Darla… what's going on?"
"I… I don't know, Richard," came the voice of a baffled Darla.
He did not like this. If Darla, a midwife with many births under her belt was confused and out of her element, then he was scared. Holding Kahlan down, wanting nothing more than to take away her pain, Richard arched his neck. "Get Zedd!" he yelled.
Shannon ran across the room and opened the door, calling in his grandfather and her husband. Zedd and Simon rushed into the room, followed by the terrified and paled looking Marianna, who burst into tears when she saw her mistress, and then proceeded to collapse to the floor, wailing in despair. Richard ignored her and focused on his grandfather.
"Zedd, what's happening?" he demanded through clenched teeth, sweat beginning to form on his brow as he held Kahlan down.
Zedd stepped up to the side of the bed and raised his hands over Kahlan's swollen belly. He closed his eyes and Richard recognized the look of a wizard reaching out with his Han. "Bags!" grumbled Zedd, shaking his head. "I don't know. But the baby is in distress." He looked over at Simon. "What do you sense?"
Richard watched as the red-haired wizard put his hand over Kahlan and did the same as the First Wizard. Simon shook his head. "The same," he muttered. "I don't know what's wrong. I cannot explain it."
Fighting the urge to panic, Richard wished that he had paid more attention during the lessons that he had received at the Palace of the Prophets. He had been trying to learn more from Zedd, Simon, and Verna, but it was still hard for him. He could meditate and touch his Han, but when he really tried to use it, nothing really seemed to work. He was beginning to doubt whether he was truly the great wizard everyone seemed to think he was. Richard was about to try something himself, when a thought suddenly struck him.
"Marianna!" he called out.
The confessed Sister of the Dark bolted up. "Yes, Seeker?"
"Something is wrong with the baby, can you see what it is?" he implored her.
Marianna nodded. "Yes, Seeker!" she would do anything that would save her mistress. A cautious Zedd stepped back to allow Marianna access to Kahlan. The confessed Sister of the Dark waved her hands over Kahlan's enlarged belly. Leaning back, Marianna took in a deep breath and looked over at Richard. "The baby is stuck," she informed them.
"Stuck?" harrumphed Zedd. "If the baby had just gotten itself stuck, then I would have noticed!"
"No," Marianna shook her head. "Not like that, First Wizard. It is magic that is keeping the baby stuck. It has nothing to do with the physical realm."
Richard knitted his eyebrows together and looked back to Kahlan as her face contorted and she cried out again as pain rocked through her body. "Can you help her?" he asked in desperation. "Can you free the child of the magical hold so that Kahlan can give birth?"
"I… I don't know, Seeker," Marianna informed him, looking worried. "But I will try. The mistress must survive!"
Richard lowered his brow. "Do it," he commanded, ignoring the protests of Zedd and Cara.
Marianna bobbed her head and leaned over Kahlan, humming and mumbling the words of a spell. Richard did not know what the spell was, and from the baffled looks on Zedd and Simon, he guessed that neither did they. Kahlan's eyes opened and she screamed, her whole body shook and then stilled. Her breathing slowly came back to normal and Richard reached up to wipe her brow.
"Kahlan?" he questioned, pleadingly.
"I… I…," whatever she was going to say was cut off by a cry as she heaved up and pushed.
"The baby is coming!" Darla shouted, a note of relief evident in her voice.
Richard adjusted himself behind Kahlan and shifted her back against his chest for support as she gripped his hands when the contractions came. She groaned and grunted, panting heavily as she pushed. Soon there was a shrill cry and the room was filled with the wailings of a newborn. Kahlan let out a heavy sigh and collapsed against him, breathing in deeply.
"She's finally here," she muttered.
"She?" Darla shook her head. "No…"
"What?" Kahlan suddenly sat up, her eyes going wide. "What do you mean... no?"
Darla worked between Kahlan's legs, Shannon helping her clean off the wailing babe. Richard narrowed his eyes, just as confused and perplexed as Kahlan. Zedd and Simon stepped aside and looked between Kahlan's legs to where the baby was resting on the mattress. Richard watched in horror as Zedd's face went pale. Cara furrowed her brow and went to the foot of the bed to investigate as well. The Mord'Sith turned so white that her crimson leather looked to be worn by an icicle instead of a red-blooded woman.
"What… what is it?" Richard demanded, holding Kahlan's shoulders as she shook in fear and worry.
Darla smiled up at them, clearly ignorant to what was making everyone else go pale. She backed up with a bundle in her arms and came over to them, handing it to Kahlan, who took the infant in her arms and anxiously looked down on the little pink face, flushed with crying.
"Congratulations, Richard and Kahlan," Darla beamed, patting him on the arm. "You have a healthy son."