Fair Play

"Go home and live in peace," Richard said, a little desperately. His eyes gleamed with red fire.

"My Lord," the two disputing D'Haran minor lords said together, kneeling at Richard's feet. Richard gestured, awkward in his new D'Haran red robes, and several Mord'Sith (if Richard thought hard, he could dredge up names for them: Francilla, Cindi, and Calliope) escorted the supplicants away.

"Richard, my boy, you can't just order them to be happy," Zedd remonstrated. "These disputes are usually for a reason, you know."

"What do you suggest? Zedd, there're so many—" Richard said, massaging his temples. Creator, he missed Kahlan so much. He knew she had her duty in Aydindril, restoring order to the Midlands—but he had no idea how to rule D'Hara.

"I suggest we have another training session," Zedd replied, concerned. "Headache?" He moved to put his fingertips against Richard's head, but Richard batted his hands away.

"Leave me alone!" He'd meant to make it a mild request, but everything was too much for him lately—Orden lit his eyes.

Without a word, Zedd left the throne room. Richard slumped down in Darken Rahl's throne (he couldn't think of it as his own), and buried his face in his hands. It was so hard to avoid using Orden on people. And the more he used it, the easier it became—and the more it stole away the person's free will, until they began forgetting who they were, trying so hard to be who Richard wanted them to be.

If this was what it felt like to be a Confessor, he didn't envy Kahlan.

There were times when Richard feared Kahlan Confessing him had not been enough to keep the dark power of Orden at bay. If only she were here—

"I can't do this," he moaned.

"Of course you can," Darken told him reassuringly, from his place beside the throne. Alone among the D'Harans and Mord'Sith, Richard always found Darken—Darken Rahl, the greatest tyrant who had ever lived, and his brother—to be a supportive presence. "You are a Rahl."

"Why are you helping me?" he murmured, as Darken touched his forehead, harmlessly absorbing his excess Han. With Zedd's help, Richard was learning to control his powers, but it was difficult. Couldn't possibly be because I'm controlling you with powerful magic, of course. Why is the only person I can stand to talk to my archenemy?

Darken smiled. "We are brothers, after all."

Richard smiled back, trying to let go of his misery. It was nice, having a real family again. Zedd, and Jennsen, planning the wedding because Kahlan didn't have the time (what a sweet sister-in-law she was going to make), and Darken, who was helping him, who was the only reason Richard was still surviving this being Lord Rahl business—it was amazing, how close they had become.

"Now," Darken said, pulling an ornamental table toward Richard, piled with parchment. Richard sighed inwardly. "I think the problem can be solved quite easily, if you charge the first family a hefty fine, and restrict the second's hunting area…"

"I don't understand why you trust him," Kahlan was saying, frustration coloring her voice.

Richard had just told her he wanted Darken to officiate their wedding.

Most of the actual ceremony was so steeped in tradition from both D'Hara and the Midlands that there was little for Kahlan to do, even had she planned the ceremony herself. She was very grateful to Jennsen, for handling everything while she was in Aydindril.

But now she was here, and she was going to be the Queen, and she was going to be Richard's wife, and didn't that give her a say in who married them?

"Kahlan, he's my brother," Richard pleaded, catching her hands in his. "And besides, he's the best advisor I could possibly have. And he's on our side now. You'll like him."

"Like him? Richard, I understand that you think he can help you rule D'Hara, I understand that you wouldn't kill him because you control him with the power of Orden, but this is different! He may be an ally, but he can never be our friend! He only seems that way because of Orden!"

"Trust me," Richard said, and Kahlan, looking into those dear brown eyes, saw them light with a red fire for a fraction of an instant.

Of course—what had she been worrying about? This was Richard—he knew best. He always knew best. How many times had she advised caution on their quest, and Richard had gone ahead and rushed into action, and now here he was, Lord Rahl, ruler of D'Hara and the Master of Orden!

"I will try to like him if you wish it," she promised, smiling into his eyes.

Now that she allowed herself to let go of the hate she'd felt for Darken Rahl the tyrant, Kahlan suddenly found herself able to appreciate Darken Rahl the man. She remembered his decisiveness, his misguided but sincere efforts to save the people by enslaving them, his strength—the sort a Confessor could not help but admire.

Had she never met Richard, had it been possible, Kahlan might even have considered taking Darken Rahl for her mate. But he was immune to her power.

"Thank you," Richard said, lifting her hand to his lips and pressing a kiss on the inside of her palm. Her skin burned at his touch. "I knew I could depend on you, Kahlan."

Darken felt the moment the power of Orden left Richard. It was as though fog had obscured his eyes, and suddenly he could see. It was such a relief, to be his own master again. Months of being little more than a slave, at his little brother's command—his Palace stolen, his most loyal Mord'Sith and soldiers turned against him by means of powerful magic—the surprising thing was that Richard had kept him alive. Their ancestors would have disdained such dangerous mercy, but then, Darken reflected while he and his Mord'Sith killed all the Sisters of the Dark—his sister's murderers!—their ancestors could be said to lack imagination.

When the Boxes of Orden were in his hands, Darken didn't hesitate.

The power washing through him, Orden calling out to him, nearly took his breath away—and seeing Richard, kneeling at his feet, was like the icing on the cake (not that Darken ate cake—never liked the stuff).

He smirked, and his eyes gleamed, Orden already giving him what he'd always wanted.

The Boxes whispered to him, told him to crush any who dared offer him resistance—but Darken had heard the voice of a god in his dreams for years. Orden could not bend him to its will—he was master of the power.

Remembering the past year, he wondered if that had been Richard's mistake.

It hardly signified—he was the rightful ruler, and now Richard would serve him. They all would.

"Richard," he asked, when they had returned to the People's Palace. The Boxes of Orden were back where they belonged, upon their pedestal and under heavy guard.

"Master?" Richard asked, like an eager puppy at Darken's feet.

Something about that made Darken wince. "You may use my given name—brother," he said, not quite knowing why.

"As you wish, Darken," Richard replied obediently.

"What," Darken asked, running a proprietary finger down Richard's cheek, "would you say the difference is, between a hero and a tyrant?"

He honestly didn't know what sort of answer he expected—if asked, he would himself have cited historians, or possibly years of navigating D'Haran politics—he did not forget how much help Richard had required, this past year. Even with Orden at his fingertips! And yet, he also couldn't forget how grateful Richard had been…and how pleased that had made him.

"A woman like Kahlan, Darken," Richard said earnestly.

And Darken frowned thoughtfully. "Go on," he said, thinking of that strange request of the Wizard's, about finding Cara Mason—she would be trouble, that was certain—had the Wizard mentioned an alternate reality? If he knew Kahlan, which, after a year of that stifling, unequal friendship with Richard, he felt he did, she would have followed the Wizard to the source of whatever threat there was to Darken's power.

"She fought by my side for a year, when we were looking for you," Richard explained. "She is equally beautiful after sleeping on the ground for a week, her hair tangled and her dress muddy, as she was at our wedding. She would give her life for the Midlands. She is the bravest woman I know."

"She is hardly likely to join me willingly," Darken mused, impressed in spite of himself at Richard's description.

Richard would give anything for Kahlan—the worrying thought was that it might be contagious.

"I can convince her, brother," Richard said eagerly. "I can find her—please, let me help you."

Darken had already sent Dahlia to kill Cara Mason and collect Kahlan and the Wizard, but there was no denying that going himself, while a calculated risk, would make things easier—he didn't want them to escape, to drum up more futile Resistance to his rule.

"How?" he asked.

Richard gripped Darken's hand, shut his eyes, and stepped into the unknown—

Kahlan couldn't stand this. The woman, Cara Mason, was already dead (because of them!) and now Zedd was performing the complicated and dangerous Spell of Undoing on a Mord'Sith he seemed to know—

Just as arcane fire began to race toward the Mord'Sith tied to the tree, Richard and Darken Rahl appeared directly in the path of the magic—

"NO!" Kahlan gasped—

Zedd looked horrified—

"STOP!" Darken Rahl shouted, and instantly Zedd stopped murmuring magic words, his hands dropped to his sides, the arcane symbols on the grass disappeared, and the world returned to normal.

Kahlan's heart was breaking, because Richard was under Darken Rahl's control, and now their last chance for a different, better world (albeit one overrun by banelings) was gone. She turned and ran.

She had to survive, to start the next Resistance—hopeless as it might be, Kahlan's daughter would not be born a slave—not to Darken Rahl, and not to anyone.

Not even Richard.

Orden had changed him—she had felt it. Only now could she bring herself to acknowledge what he'd done—Richard had been controlling her, too.

"Kahlan!" Richard cried. He caught her around the waist from behind, easily lifting her a little off her feet.

"Richard, the baby!" she shrieked.

"Baby?" It was Darken Rahl.

Kahlan shut her eyes, hating the way his voice warmed her. How could it all have gone so wrong, so quickly?

And yet—she couldn't forget what Richard had told her about Darken. Once she'd let go of her hate, it was proving surprisingly hard to get it back.

"I'm pregnant," she said, eyes still closed. She had stopped struggling—not ready to admit there was nothing she could do, but tired of fighting Richard, the other half of herself. The father of her child. "Please…don't hurt my baby."

Darken's fingers gripped her chin. "Would I do that?" he asked, and Kahlan, who once would have thought the answer obviously affirmative, was struck by sudden doubt. Could all Richard's friendship with this man have been because of Orden?

And now Darken Rahl had the power of Orden. Richard was already his slave, and Kahlan was—

"Kahlan," he whispered, "open your eyes."

Richard, watching Darken's eyes, was not surprised when they stayed cool blue. His brother's control was magnificent—as was everything else about him. Already, he was handling Orden so much better than Richard had.

Richard could not help himself—he was lost in admiration of his brother, his master. And when he remembered how miserable he'd been when their positions were reversed, he was sure this was how fate had intended it.

"Richard," Darken said calmly, never taking his eyes from Kahlan's. "Take us back to the Palace—Dahlia and the Wizard will follow shortly, and, I trust, will explain everything. I believe there was talk of an alternate reality?"

"Yes, Master," Zedd spoke, from behind Richard. "But I fear it will be impossible for me to return there, and the Keeper will destroy the Land of the Living! As long as the Boxes of Orden remain intact—"

"As long as the Boxes of Orden remain intact," Darken drawled, "there is nothing the Keeper can do—I will rule all, because Orden gives me power over even the dead."

Richard was speechless for a moment, stunned at how easily Darken could say that sort of thing—then he remembered, and concentrated.

It was getting easier to control his Han, particularly without Orden getting in the way—both were similar, in that the hardest part of controlling the power was learning how not to use it.

"Richard," Darken said, sounding pleased. "You read my mind."

They were in the royal bedchamber.

"Why don't you use the power of Orden on me?" Kahlan demanded—it was almost a challenge, and Richard wondered if she were trying to provoke Darken into doing so. She was so contradictory—it was one of the things Richard loved most about her.

He was still holding her, her hair tickling his nose, and he could feel her shiver with fear, reaction…anticipation.

"For what you have done to Richard, I will fight you to my last breath," Kahlan announced.

Darken's eyes flashed, though they were still not lit with Orden—"What I have done to Richard?" he repeated incredulously. "But then, turnabout is fair play, wouldn't you say?"

Kahlan stiffened, and Richard could read her outrage on his behalf. But Darken was right—and Richard was just as glad not to have to fight anymore.

"In any case," Darken added firmly, "I control Orden, it does not control me."

"Kahlan, Darken loves us—he can rule D'Hara properly. And we can serve him together—we're all a family," Richard pleaded.

Kahlan twisted in his arms, so only Richard saw the brief spasm of pain across Darken's face—they had both lost Jennsen, only yesterday.

Richard's heart went out to his brother.

"I will not be a slave," Kahlan hissed. "Richard, I know there's a part of you that can fight this—"

"Wrong," Darken said, stepping closer. Richard could feel his breath, making wisps of Kahlan's hair dance. "You are both mine—nothing can change that."

Darken was right—and Richard was glad.

Darken was right—Richard and Kahlan had been fighting Darken Rahl, evil tyrant, for so long, it had created a kind of intimacy. Not friendship—Kahlan didn't know what it was.

But it was there.

She felt as though they were each playing a part—and admitted to herself a desire to see it to the finish.

(Why was it so much easier when it was Darken who had the power of Orden, and she didn't have to pretend everything was well?)

"Yours?" she asked, tossing her head so that her hair fell over the other shoulder, Richard's breath on her bare neck and Darken's face so close to hers he could probably count her freckles. "Then prove it—Lord Rahl."

"Oh," he breathed, fingers gripping her cheek, and Richard's shoulder, "I will."

It took Kahlan awhile to maneuver her way out of the bonds Darken had tied around her wrists, when it became clear that he would have to sleep some time. His stubborn refusal to use Orden on her was making him reckless, and that was all to Kahlan's advantage…

She lay between the brothers—she'd never overtly acknowledged their relationship before, and now it made her uncomfortable.

Richard was kind, and Darken was strong—there had to be a way to combine these advantages, in order to protect what was most important.

She wriggled off the bed with some care, threw on a red robe, and tiptoed down the corridor to the room where the Boxes of Orden were kept. The guards never even saw her daggers.

Why had Darken refrained from using Orden against her? If it had been to keep the spice of enemyship alive, he'd get his wish.

Kahlan shoved the pedestal over—the Boxes of Orden crashed to the floor—

"You can't trust a woman," Darken said sardonically from the doorway. "Step away from the Boxes, Kahlan, or I'll kill Richard."

Kahlan whirled—Darken had a dagger to Richard's throat, and his anguished eyes met hers—

"Kahlan, save yourself!" Richard cried.

"He's your brother," Kahlan pointed out, inching backwards. "You wouldn't."

"You married a Rahl," Darken answered calmly. "Surely you've realized we are our own worst enemies."

The wry light in his eyes was as close as he would get to admitting leaving Kahlan with her free will intact had been a mistake.

Kahlan dropped to her knees, almost subservient—then she snatched the Boxes from where they'd fallen and pushed them together again.

Instantly, the power washed through her—it was like Confession, but even better. Her head was full of possibilities, whispers of what she could do—

She looked up, and her eyes flashed red. Instantly, Darken's dagger clattered to the floor, and his and Richard's eyes gleamed in reflection of hers.

"Mistress," they chorused.

Some part of Kahlan marveled at how much that didn't bother her. She hated the empty faces of the Confessed, knowing she'd stolen their future—but this was different.

Richard and Darken were still themselves, she could make them prove it—

Nothing had changed, they still loved her—

But now she was the one in control.

"Kahlan, what are you doing?" the Wizard demanded.

Kahlan crossed her ankles, leaning back in her throne. On either side of her, Richard and Darken stood attentive. Darken was watching that perfect profile, so grateful that his Mistress had honored him by letting him serve her.

Kahlan rested her hands over her stomach, her pregnancy just starting to show now—it had been some weeks since she had claimed the power of Orden. Traditionally, the ruler of D'Hara wore no crown (nor was the ruler of D'Hara typically either a woman or not a member of the Rahl family, but Orden opened many doors), but Kahlan's hair was arranged in elaborate curls that vaguely resembled a tiara.

"At this moment, I'm hearing the complaints of the citizenry of the Midlands and D'Hara, with the help of my…closest advisors," Kahlan said smoothly. "Why?"

"You know what I mean," the Wizard said impatiently. "Kahlan, the Boxes of Orden are dangerous—Richard was only able to wield them without succumbing to the temptation to use them for evil because you Confessed him. This is—"

"Zedd," Kahlan said, her voice going steely. Darken waited for her eyes to flash, but she obviously didn't consider the Wizard much of a threat. "There is nothing I would not do for my child."

The Wizard bowed his head, as though he understood, but Darken had his doubts.

He followed the Wizard down the corridors, after Kahlan was finished seeing the daily supplicants, suspecting…something.

The Wizard paused before the door of the room containing the Boxes of Orden, and Darken flexed his fingers—Kahlan wouldn't want him to kill the Wizard, but she probably wouldn't mind if he—

"No!" Richard cannoned into Darken, sending the bolt of raw magical power into the wall, where it made an ominous noise as it sunk into the stone.

Darken managed to escape Richard's grasping clutches, but by then the Wizard's robe was already brushing against the door of the room—

Kahlan, with the uncanny instinct for this sort of thing frequently developed by those wielding the power of Orden, arrived on the scene in time to shout, "Zedd, STOP!" but it was too late—

The Boxes flew through the air, as Richard and Darken (and presumably the rest of D'Hara) were released from Kahlan's control—

The only thought in Darken's mind was that he would not be made a fool of again. He reached up, caught one of the Boxes—

At the exact same instant, Kahlan and Richard each caught one as well, their faces alight with the same look of avarice—

Darken felt strangely disappointed in them—weren't they supposed to be the heroes, standing for free will, man's ancient right to kill his fellow man, bring about destruction through his own folly, and starve to death because he hadn't the sense to plan ahead?

But he was not so foolish—he would obtain the power of Orden once again, and this time he would make sure no one could take it from him (he had a whole plan, involving better guards and a different room to hide the Boxes, where for one thing they would not be placed on a precarious pedestal)—and all would be right with the world.

Darken refused to admit to himself how he had admired the way Kahlan had taken ruthless, efficient control. It was just what he should have done.

Darken pushed Richard to the ground, trying to pry his Box out of his hands—

There was a frantic scramble, and then a moment of absolute clarity, the Boxes inches from one another on the ground—

Richard and Kahlan should be grateful to Darken, for taking the burden of absolute power away from them. They weren't ready.

The Boxes clicked together—and then there was a loud, echoing sound as the magic disappeared, like a thousand voices screaming—

The wood of the Boxes disintegrated under Darken, Richard, and Kahlan's fingers. The howling stopped, and suddenly everything was silent.

"How—" Richard tried, then took a breath. "What—?"

He felt as if he'd just woken from some kind of deep sleep. The Boxes had been whispering to him again, telling him he could do a better job this time, telling him it was pointless to worry about holding back, not using the power on those he knew and loved—

Wasn't it obvious that he had to use Orden on his loved ones—he had to be sure they stayed by his side, forever!

When he'd had the power before, there had been things he wanted, that he had not dared take for himself. He could only admire the way Kahlan and Darken had simply done what they wanted—

But that was wrong. What about the people Richard had sworn to protect? First as the Seeker, then as Lord Rahl—he could not abandon them.

And Orden, he saw now, was a terrible power.

He looked up, into Kahlan and Darken's awed faces, and realized they were feeling some of the same relief. Somehow, the three of them were free of the curse of Orden. There were some things no man should have to face—true ultimate power was one of them.

But how—?

"When you all three pushed the Boxes together at once," Zedd said, sounding tired and shaken. "It seems you broke the power of Orden for good."

"Why?" Kahlan asked.

"I doubt the Creator and the Keeper ever imagined anyone would collaborate," Darken said drily. But Richard could hear that he was still shaken. Orden might be gone, but the knowledge gained under its control would be with him forever. "Three people, putting together the Boxes simultaneously? Only one can command the power, yet all three have obtained the right. The contradiction appears to have been too much."

"Good," Kahlan said, getting to her feet and putting a hand to her head. She looked as though their desperate scramble for the Boxes had brought on her morning sickness—something that, as Mistress of Orden, she had not experienced. "The Boxes of Orden should never have existed in the first place."

Richard got up, too, putting gentle arms around Kahlan. So much had happened—he felt as confused as she looked.

"Perhaps," Darken said crisply, also rising, "but I suppose I need not remind you that, as a result of your experiments with this forbidden power, you are now in my Palace, where no doubt dozens of Mord'Sith are hurrying toward our present position, eager to punish your insolence in corrupting their loyalty and turning them against their rightful Lord Rahl. The malice they bear you is no longer merely a matter of duty. I suggest, therefore, that you all surrender at once—I may yet be merciful."

"We will never surrender to a tyrant!" Kahlan said dramatically, with an effort at her usual passionate poise.

"Merciful?" Zedd said skeptically. "Why?"

Richard frowned. "But at present, there are three of us and one of you," he pointed out. "And I am also a Rahl."

He wasn't sure whether to be ashamed for disgracing that noble blood, or to consider his own bad behavior under the influence of Orden proof positive that he was not so different from his brother. (Except Darken had not seemed to struggle with controlling the power…where had he learned such excellent self-control? Even now, he made Richard feel like a puppy, longing for approval from his master.)

"True," Darken sighed. "So, I propose a truce—for tonight, anyway." Richard met his brother's eyes, wondering if he read them right.

What was Darken trying to prove?

"I will allow you safe passage from my Palace," Darken said. "In the morning. If you feel you must still oppose me, that is your choice."

Richard glanced at Kahlan and Zedd. The latter was frowning disapprovingly, but Kahlan was looking tired and wistful.

Richard made his decision. "Very well—brother," he said, and held out his hand. Darken engulfed it in both of his.

"You can't trust him," Zedd was protesting. "Kahlan—"

"I don't trust him," Kahlan replied quietly. "I trust Richard. Goodnight, Zedd."

She waited until Zedd had disappeared into his rooms, still complaining about his other reality, the one where the world stood on the brink of destruction—Kahlan made a mental note to see to it that the Mord'Sith he had called Dahlia did not come near them again.

The Keeper was not victorious—Orden kept even the gods at bay. And now that it was gone—Kahlan knew the Keeper would seek their destruction. But that had always been true.

She did not believe another world must be better than this one—not now that Richard was hers again.

A sweet, heady relief filled her still, that Orden was destroyed. But her shame would not let her believe that all the impulses she'd indulged when she had the power had been because of Orden.

"I'm sorry," she said, when she had shut the door of the royal bedchamber behind her. As she had expected, Richard and Darken were both there, waiting for her. "What I did when I had the power of Orden—"

"No, I'm sorry," Richard replied quickly, stepping forward and catching Kahlan's hands in his.

"Are you both always this apologetic?" Darken asked sardonically. "I'm amazed you ruled as competently as you did. The House of Rahl does not apologize."

Kahlan smiled a little tremulously. "You're right," she said, and she kissed him.

The passion between the three of them was instant, as always, but more important was the kinship—a shared weight of memory.

"Let's not fight tonight," Richard said, gently pulling Kahlan's dress down her shoulders.

Kahlan let her fingers twine themselves in Darken's long, silky hair, for once not thinking about the future.

And when Darken's fingers traced the gentle curve of her stomach, she felt his awe of the life growing inside her—another Rahl. And she didn't fear him.

She knew him well enough now to know that he would probably let them go in the morning—but that he would think about keeping them here until the last second…

Richard and Kahlan had a duty to the Midlands, and the fact that Orden had made them forget it only emphasized how important it was.

And Kahlan only believed in compromises that involved others seeing that she was absolutely correct and doing whatever she wished—

Whatever she wished—"Richard," she gasped, breaking away from them both. Her dress fell to the floor, and her curls tumbled over her bare shoulders, still perfectly styled from this morning. "What if I Confess you?"

She couldn't believe she had forgotten that—!

"Orden protected me," Richard finished her thought, looking concerned. Not worried, as he should have been—but he had never feared her.

"What," Darken asked skeptically, "even when I had it? Richard, your love for your Confessor is the worst kept secret in our combined territories. Or are you not already her slave?"

Kahlan forgave the bitterness, the sharp hurt of his words, because they brought with them powerful hope.

"And what do you want from us?" Richard asked, stepping into Darken's personal space—the sort of move that inevitably heralded either a fight to the death or the kiss of a lover. "Of the Seeker and the Confessor?"

"Of Lord and Lady Rahl that were?" Kahlan murmured, but they weren't listening to her. Just as well, perhaps.

"I," Darken breathed, grasping Richard's chin in a punishing grip, "want everything."

The Seeker and the Confessor left the next morning, taking their Wizard with them—Darken gave them a head start. It seemed only fair.

He was astonished at himself, in some backward corner of his mind—but the truth was, everything had changed.

Richard and Kahlan were his, in a way they could not yet acknowledge—but someday, they would be back. And he would have their loyalty, without any help from Orden.

They were not his friends—but they were more than enemies. Their lives were irrevocably twined about with his, and they knew it.

"While we live," he murmured, watching them hurry away under the sphinx-like gaze of his Mord'Sith from his window seat, "We cannot disengage."

Perhaps the word he was searching for…was family.

He certainly had plans to teach his niece or nephew a thing or two—when he saw the poster family for the Resistance again.

The best part, though, was that, when he and Richard and Kahlan had finally slept, Darken's dreams had been untroubled by nightmares—it seemed the destruction of Orden had cured him of the Keeper.

And that was worth being patient. He had time, now—he felt uncursed, almost reborn. So perhaps the prophecy had already come true—Richard had killed who Darken used to be, when he first wielded Orden.

Now Darken had a brother, and, leader of the Resistance or not, D'Hara had a Queen. It was a beginning.

"If only he wouldn't kill innocent people," Kahlan was saying, a little desperately. She and Richard rode side by side, a little way behind Zedd.

Richard didn't need to ask whom she was talking about. Zedd was already making plans for their next assault on some bastion of evil—it rather took the pride out of it for Richard, reflecting that he had once held command over those same places. As the Master of Orden, he had not considered them a priority.

But without Orden, the Midlands and D'Hara returned to a very confused state of warfare. What Richard wanted more than anything was a peace treaty—something that would let him and Kahlan return to the People's Palace in honest friendship.

He despaired of making Zedd understand—ever since that business with Cara Mason, his grandfather had been acting differently, hard as it had been to recognize while under the influence of Orden. Sometimes, Richard got the impression that Zedd was reserving judgment on them—an unsettling feeling.

"Yes," Richard agreed, belatedly. "That would…help."

His destiny no longer seemed applicable—how could he kill his own brother? They were closer even than siblings should be, he thought; there was something about Hero versus Villain that tugged at him, too. Particularly on the days when he woke without at once being sure which was which.

"This is all your fault, you know," Kahlan said matter-of-factly. "You made me stop hating him…and now I love him as much as you do."

"I don't love him," Richard denied automatically.

But he didn't need to see the skepticism in his wife's beautiful, almost Rahl blue eyes, to know that she knew he lied.