You could be anything now…

The Keeper's war on the Living is over. And Darken Rahl has no Bond, no magic…no power?

No responsibility…

All his life, he's been a Rahl, bound to D'Hara and its people as surely as they were bound to him. Before he could walk, he knew he would rule.

And now—a ghost of a smile touches his lips, where he stands, watching the sorceress Nicci hanging regally in her chains. All is in readiness—to begin the ritual, long and slow but surer than any dacra, which will transfer her power to him. It's not the Rahl Bond—but Darken will be powerless no longer.

Or—he could just walk out of here, find some quiet village and settle down, become a fencing instructor, perhaps? Knit cunning sweater sets? (He's known an old woman who could poke someone's eye out with one of her needles—he can just picture Kahlan brandishing one—or are knitting needles too pedestrian for the Mother Confessor?) He could bring Rosamund—she'd make a terrible housewife…

And meanwhile, let Richard rule. If he can.

(Who is going to stand in the way of the Seeker, Savior of the Land of the Living? More people, Darken sardonically expects, than Richard bargains for.)

Nonetheless, Richard has the Bond, Rahl blood beating through his veins—his band of blind fools—no, unjust: the Wizard escaped Garen without the use of his magic, Kahlan is legendary, and Cara, traitor or not, is the farthest from a fool it's possible to be.

We'll see how self-righteous he is after twenty years of navigating D'Haran politics, Darken thinks viciously. Assuming he lives that long.

But Richard, it is apparent, bears a charmed life.

(Darken is fast coming to the conclusion that his real mistake was in his evaluation of the war between the Creator and the Keeper—he prefers to keep theology and strategy separate where possible, but it seems obvious, in hindsight, that the Creator has all the cards, and She cheats.)

Richard—it always comes back to Richard.

And how will Richard handle the squabbling nobles, the starving peasantry (it must be hell right now in the Dynibian Desert, dear Creator—), the generals all jockeying for position, the assassination attempts—? And that's just at home.

There are quite a few D'Haran patriots who will gladly lay down their lives for Richard, who will consider it no less than their duty to assassinate Kahlan. Confessors are not popular in D'Hara (or, indeed, anywhere)—and they'll be well within their rights to assume she's Confessed him, too—if he can finesse that (convince the army it's a good move politically, integration with the conquered Midlands at last, and elicit the sympathy of the peasantry with a nice star-crossed romance—it's how Darken would do it), there's still the problem of the Wizard.

Neither a beautiful woman nor a member of the Rahl family, his war crimes will be harder to slip under the rug—particularly since, unless Darken is remembering wrong, he was once a close personal friend of Darken's father, making his subsequent aid to the despised Resistance treason—far more serious than Richard and Kahlan's status as hereditary enemies of the crown, made more complex by Richard's inheritance of said crown—

These difficulties will go quickly from insurmountable to merely complex if Richard has the wit to leave it all in Cara's capable hands.

Darken closes his eyes, in remembered pain and frustration at her incomprehensible betrayal—Richard takes everything from him, yes, but he would've thought Cara, of all people—

Well. Not quite everything. Darken opens his eyes and surveys Nicci. Her Han is Richard's Han, after all. (Richard had the world at his fingertips, and gave it away—!) And soon, it will be Darken's Han.

And, as help or hindrance to his frustrating, incomprehensible, generous little brother, Darken will be back in the game.

Magic—we give up everything for it, the lives we might otherwise live, the people we might otherwise be…

"What are you waiting for?" Nicci says, pale, skin traced with burns from her 'nice warm bath.' Her chin is raised, though—ah, defiance. It brings back pleasant memories—Darken realizes, with a start, that he wouldn't feel quite himself if no one wanted to kill him.

Unsettling personal insight.

Obviously, a 'normal life' is not for him. This will be his last magic-free day. Thank the Creator.

And Darken smirks happily at Nicci, cueing Rosamund, who has the witchwoman Shota at agiel-point, with one slightly shivered eyelid.

In time, he will wrest the Rahl Bond back from Richard, or manage without it—Richard saved the world, and Darken means to rule it.

He answers Nicci's question: "Absolutely nothing."