Rahl doesn't escape at the end of 'Extinction' and travels with the team on their way to seal the Veil. He's lost his chance to win redemption by sealing the Veil himself, but there is more than one way to win…
For the angst_bingo prompt 'arguments/fighting'.
Thanks to dorothydeath, brontefanatic, pristineungift, and hrhrionastar for all their suggestions as to how epic love sometimes does not run smoothly :D
Zedd was in the lead, telling some rambling story about the Pillars of Creation that no one was listening to. Richard was just behind him, Darken alongside Richard, with Kahlan and Cara bringing up the rear.
Kahlan kept shooting filthy glances at Darken. Understandably, she hadn't forgiven him for nearly destroying an entire species. Zedd had healed her ankle when she and Cara had rejoined them but she insisted on keeping to the rear of the group, presumably to keep an eye on him.
"Where would he go?" Richard had asked. "We talked, while I was waiting for Zedd to return. Rahl wants redemption. He's afraid of the Keeper."
Darken had watched the Confessor's chin rise at that. "As well he should be," she'd retorted.
Darken just lowered his head in false shame and thought about the future.
The veil was repaired. The world was saved. It wasn't over, Darken thought. On the contrary, this was the chance for a new beginning. He would just have to work things to his own advantage.
Richard had suggested sleeping on the beach that night, but Cara had described what it was like to have sand under her skin tight leathers in a tone that suggested Richard would face torture of equal magnitude if he made her sleep on the beach. So they headed inland, Kahlan clinging to Richard, Zedd beaming with delight, and Cara watching them with a neutral mask that Darken knew hid a maelstrom of emotion. He had seen the glances of love and longing Cara bestowed on both Richard and Kahlan when they weren't looking.
When the sun started to set, they made camp in a clearing. Zedd stirred the pot over the fire while the other four waited rather impatiently, tired and hungry now the initial joy of their success was fading and muscles were aching and bellies rumbling.
"What are you going to do now you've sealed the Veil, brother?" Darken asked. It was, on the surface, an innocent enough question.
"Celebrate," Richard said with a smile.
"Of course. I meant in the long run."
Richard paused to think about it.
"Will you marry Kahlan before she returns to Aydindril?" Darken asked.
Richard frowned. "I – I hadn't thought about it." He looked to Kahlan.
"I have to return to Aydindril as soon as possible," she said. "You know that, Richard."
"Dennee is there," Richard protested.
"I am the Mother Confessor." Kahlan glared at Darken. "It is my duty to sit at Aydindril once the Seeker's quest is complete."
Richard shook his head. "Of course," he said sadly.
"You could go with her," Darken suggested. "Unless you are going to take your place as Lord Rahl."
Kahlan's eyes widened. Cara nodded.
"You should," Cara said. "A Lord Rahl who has saved the world will be a strong unifying force and can lead the world back from the chaos it has fallen into while the Veil was torn."
For Cara that was quite a speech.
"I've never wanted to be Lord Rahl," Richard said, rubbing at his chin. "But maybe you're right, Cara. Zedd?"
"Hmm? Yes, Lord Rahl has the automatic loyalty of the Mord'Sith and many of the D'Harans," Zedd said, still stirring the pot. "A benevolent Lord Rahl could be a valuable asset."
Darken bit his tongue and bided his time while Richard thought about this for a moment.
"Would I have to live at the Palace?" he wondered aloud.
"Of course not," Darken assured him. "You could inspect your realm, walk amongst the people, hear their concerns; Aydindril would serve as a base alongside the Palace itself between your wanderings." Richard did so love the common people, didn't he? Surely he couldn't resist such a proposition.
"Don't listen to him, Richard," Kahlan said. "Everything out of his mouth is a lie."
Darken fixed his eyes on hers. "Everything? That's quite a statement for the Mother Confessor to make."
"Enough, please," Richard said. He stood and paced around the small campsite while Kahlan stared daggers at Darken. "We will split our time between both places, and ensure everyone gets a fair hearing, wherever they live. Listen, while we're talking about the future, I have something to ask you, Kahlan. Do you want to get married in Aydindril or the Palace – I'm happy with whatever you want; I'll marry you in the next village we come to if you want to."
Kahlan's mouth fell open in a most undignified manner. She closed it quickly. "Richard, there's no hurry."
He turned to face her, puzzled. "But I want to hurry. I love you. Why wait?"
"Why indeed?" Darken purred.
Kahlan didn't even scold Darken, hands fluttering in her lap as she sought an answer that would placate Richard.
"I just thought – everything is changing so quickly."
"Changing for the better." Richard sat down alongside her. "I want us to be together. I want us to be a family."
She gave him a small smile at that. "I want that too."
"Richard and Kahlan Rahl," Darken said with false glee. "Or is it Cypher?"
Now Kahlan stood and paced around the campsite, white dress trailing behind her, arms folded over her chest.
"I hadn't thought about it," Richard said. "Cypher-Rahl, I suppose, if I'm taking on the mantle of Lord Rahl."
"Of course that would be quite a mouthful," Rahl said thoughtfully. "Kahlan Amnell Cypher-Rahl. You'll probably have to drop the 'Amnell' entirely. As Mord'Sith too leave their family names behind when they enter the servitude of Lord Rahl."
Cara stirred at that, and lifted one eyebrow. Rahl smiled at her disarmingly.
"I'm not a servant," Kahlan snapped.
"No, no," Richard said. "Of course not. We'll sort out the names later. Please, sit back down."
Kahlan sat down heavily, as far away from either Rahl brother as she could get.
"So long as you decide upon them before the children start arriving," Rahl agreed. "Then you'll be choosing names for them, too."
"Dennee," Kahlan said, at the same time as Richard said, "Mary."
There was an aggrieved silence.
"Give each daughter two names," Zedd suggested. "Compromise is the key to a successful relationship."
Darken nodded. "Yes, quite. You would know about that, of course. Tell us again what happened to the mother of your daughter."
Zedd glared at him. "I'm going to get some more wild garlic," he said and stomped off into the surrounding trees.
"Zedd's right," Kahlan said. "We should compromise."
Richard smiled. "He'll be good to have around," he said.
The smile froze on Kahlan's face. "He will?"
"Oh, yes. Zedd and Jennsen have to live with us. They're family," Richard said. "And Cara, of course. If you're willing, Cara."
"My place is at Lord Rahl's side," she said in as neutral a tone as she could manage.
"Which Lord Rahl would that be?" Darken asked archly. Cara simply gave him a look of disdain.
"Of course they will have to be near us," Kahlan said quickly. "I was just looking forward to some time together. Alone-together."
Richard thought about this. "I see. Yes. Alone-together."
Cara rolled her eyes. "The master bedroom of the Palace will give you all the privacy you desire," she said.
"As you can well attest," Darken agreed and let out a yelp of pain as Cara smoothly drew her agiel and rammed it into his side. He bit down on his lip, refusing to show further weakness – Walter's body needed further training to withstand the agiel as his own had been able to. Thankfully, Richard was already yelling at Cara to put down her weapon. Reluctantly, Cara complied.
"Enough," Richard said, louder this time. "We're all going to have to get along. We're family."
"Even Rahl?" Kahlan asked incredulously.
"Yes. Even Rahl." Richard sighed. "He knows more about being Lord of D'Hara than I do. And he has no choice but to help us if he truly wants redemption so that he can be free of the Keeper."
"And will he be living with us too?" Kahlan asked, tone brittle.
Richard nodded slowly. "We need to keep an eye on him," he said reasonably. Kahlan folded her arms across her chest. Darken thought he saw her eyes flicker black for a moment.
"And you will trust him to be around our children?" Kahlan asked. "After –" She looked at Cara and lowered her gaze.
"My nieces will be quite safe," Darken assured her. "Unlike those around them."
Richard frowned. "What do you mean?"
Darken waved one hand dismissively. "I'm sure you've thought about the repercussions of bringing up Confessor children alongside the loyal Mord'Sith. One touch from an angry child and any Mord'Sith would die in agony." He glanced at Cara, who subconsciously raised one hand to protect her throat.
Richard shook his head. "We will be very careful," he promised.
"I'm going to go and get more firewood," Cara said, and left the camp.
Darken hid a smile as Richard continued to explain how two Lord Rahls could be better than one.
"If he's taking care of the political side of the office it will leave me more time to be with our children," Richard said. "I want to be there for them. They'll need a parent who can be there for them."
Kahlan stared at him. "And I won't be?" she asked. "You think I will neglect my children?"
"You have an important job," Richard said soothingly. "You can't neglect that, either."
Kahlan considered this for a moment and might have calmed down if Darken hadn't interrupted again.
"Richard is only trying to help. It's not every man who would allow his wife to pursue such lofty ambitions outside the home," Darken said.
"Stay out of this," Kahlan snapped. "I am the Mother Confessor –"
"As you remind us every day," Darken agreed mildly.
"-and I will not be told how to perform my duties. Nor will I neglect my children."
"Or your husband," Darken added.
Kahlan stood and took two steps towards him before Richard moved to intercept her.
"I know you love me," Richard said. "We're used to putting our duties before our own desires. Our marriage will require similar sacrifices."
Kahlan nodded but her eyes filled with tears and she pushed past Richard, heading off into the trees.
Richard spread his arms out and looked to the heavens. "Why is everyone so upset with me? I'm only trying to make everyone happy."
"I love you, brother," Darken said, and not as mockingly as one might have expected.
Richard glared at him, unable to ascertain how much truth there was in that statement, and unwilling to chastise him on the off-chance there was any truth at all.
"It's difficult, being Lord Rahl," Darken mused as Richard took up a stick to poke at the campfire with. "Making the hard decisions. Trying to please everyone."
Richard nodded. "I hate to fight with my loved ones," he said.
Darken leaned over and clapped him on one shoulder sympathetically.
"I'm sorry," Darken said. "I think some of this is my fault. I was only looking at the bigger picture – something Lord Rahl must do."
"It's all right," Richard said. "Clearly we all have a lot to discuss."
Darken enjoyed conflict, so long as it worked to his advantage. That he was so easily able to sow discord within the group and edge further into Richard's confidence was an example of this. Oh, everyone had been affected by the repairing of the Veil, and the low after such an adrenaline high was partly to blame for their snappiness, that was true. Yes, Kahlan would come back soon enough and be falsely cheerful, Zedd would be happy once he'd eaten, and Cara would be her usual sarcastic self. Yet in-roads had been made.
Darken didn't intend to relinquish his throne so easily.