Note: First of all, I am so sorry for not updating for like centuries. I had all those tiny things that turned out to be huge things to do, and I am also working at a magazine and it's really taking all my time, so, if there are still some patient followers who haven't got so fed up with me, please accept my apology.

Chapter 3: The Black Cloak

Darken was in his bedchamber. He was standing at his wardrobe. He opened it and picked some clean clothes; he needed a warm shower after spending a whole night in the stable. When he reached that point, he couldn't stop himself from smiling. The whole situation was funny.

Darken walked to his bathroom when he heard knocks on the door of his chamber. He placed the clothes on the edge of the bed and went to open the door.

"To what do I owe the pleasure of that royal visit, my queen?", Darken said, smiling.

Kahlan smiled and said, "May I come in?"

Darken stepped aside to let her in. Kahlan walked in and waited till Darken closed the door. When he turned to her, he caught her looking at him with a strange smile on her face. "What's the cause of that smile, my queen?" he smiled.

Kahlan walked to a near-by chair and sat down, while he walked to lean on the edge of the window. Kahlan looked at him and said, "I heard about what happened in the stable".

Darken smiled and said, "Oh...Richard couldn't keep it to himself, could he? Well, that was a..."

Kahlan interrupted, "That's not you, Darken". She was smiling to him, but she was talking a little firmly.

"My queen, it was just..."

Kahlan interrupted again, "Stop it, Darken. You don't have to call me that. I am your brother's wife and we are alone now. So, tell me... What's wrong with you?"

Darken sighed and said, "Kahlan, please. I just overslept in the stable. It is not that important".

"That's right, it's not that important, but that's in case you act normally, but the truth is that, you are acting very strangely, Darken. Something is changing; something about you. I can feel it, Richard can feel it, even the..."

Darken interrupted her, saying, "Kahlan...if Richard sent you to make sure I am still capable of fulfilling my tasks, then you can -safely- tell him that I am still capable of that, and in case I felt that I no longer do that, I will -honestly- go to him and admit it".

Kahlan smiled and said nothing; she just kept looking at him. Darken sighed and said, "Now what, Kahlan?"

"Nothing. I am just trying to understand where this is coming from...No, wait, let me finish. I am not questioning your abilities or your loyalty or anything else. I just feel that you are not fine. Maybe it's the load of work, and again, I am not questioning your ability to accomplish your tasks, but you have the right to get tired or dull. It's normal. Or maybe this is all about something else".

Darken smirked and said, "What other thing, Kahlan?"

Kahlan clasped her hands, and said, smiling, "I was hoping you would tell me".

"Nothing is wrong, Kahlan. Perhaps I am a little overloaded, but I am used to that".

Kahlan looked at him, narrowing her eyes and smiling archly, "Don't you think it's time to find a bride?"

"A br...a bride?! Are you joking? I mean you want me to..." Darken couldn't say one sentence. He was laughing so hard.

"What's so funny about what I said? Do you want to stay single for the rest of your life?"

"Well, I never thought of... a bride? You mean getting married and..." he was still laughing.

Kahlan ignored his laughs and said, "We will find you a noble lady or a princess, or maybe a queen; A beautiful lady who fits D'hara's first advisor".

Darken opened his mouth to say something but then he stopped. He rubbed his forehead and shocked his head. Kahlan looked at him suspiciously for a few moments. He noticed her looks and said, smiling, "Now what, Kahlan?"

"Is there anyone? I mean someone you see... a woman who might have..." she was smiling archly, again.

Darken interrupted, mocking her smile, "No, Kahlan, there is no one. I have just never thought about marriage and having a family".

Kahlan looked at him like she was trying to read his mind. Darken looked at Kahlan for a few moments, then smiled and said, "Are you trying to know whether I am lying or not? The last time I checked, I was still immuned to confession".

Kahlan was about to say something but he interrupted her saying, "How is my little niece?"

Kahlan placed her hand on her lightly swollen belly and said, smiling, "She is fine, however, she is very energetic and she seems to be very stubborn like..."

" her mother", he grinned.

Kahlan smirked, "I was going to say like her father and her uncle. She is a Rahl after all". They looked at each other for a while before they burst into laughing. Since Richard became Lord Rahl and married Kahlan, the relationship between both Darken and Kahlan became friendly. Their relationship seemed better than that of him and his brother. She didn't seem to have such a trouble forgiving what he did before, and that something he never expected; the tolerance of the Mother Confessor.

Kahlan cleared her throat, then looked at Darken and said, "I will leave now. I need to go and read some papers about the orphans' houses". Darken nodded to her. She got up, and so did he. She walked her to the door, opened it for her, and then he kissed her fingertips and said, "Your visit was such a pleasure to me, my queen".

Kahlan laughed, "Think about what I told you. Just say you agree, and I will find you the perfect one", and she left without waiting for his reply.

~A week later, Richard decided to take his wife to the house by the sea to spend a few days together. In the last couple of months, both of them were stressed; Richard was so busy with his duties, and Kahlan was exhausted because of her pregnancy. They decided to take a holiday before it gets harder for Kahlan to travel.

Darken, too, was so exhausted. He was happy that lord Rahl took a vacation, it meant Darken could have a vacation, especially that most of the kingdom's problems were solved, for now.

Richard and Kahlan left in the morning, accompanied by some guards, Kahlan's maid and a midwife, in case anything happened to Kahlan or the child. Darken accompanied them to the city's borders, then he returned back. He spent all day in the palace, in his chamber, or walking in the garden. He felt bored. He had nothing to do. Suddenly, he felt that the vacation he was looking forward to wasn't as good as he expected. Why would he take a vacation when he had no one to share it with? Richard was longing for this holiday because he had Kahlan, his beloved, his wife and the mother of his child. Although Richard was a very good ruler, sometimes he hated his responsibilities when it took him away from Kahlan's arms. On the other hand, Darken adored working because his spare time is his worst nightmare, when he would do nothing but read a book that he had already read many times before, or lie in his bed staring at the ceiling. He had no one to share his spare time with. Sometimes, he envied Richard and Kahlan for what they had in common, and he hated that feeling, because he knew they deserved that happiness they shared.

When Kahlan brought the marriage subject up, he felt something; in a few moments, he imagined himself in a lovely woman's arms, stroking her soft skin and smelling her. Although he laughed at Kahlan and told her that he never thought of such a commitment, he really wanted to know how it felt like to promise someone that you would share your life with him.

Darken was so amazed that he never had those feelings before; when he was the cruel lord Rahl. Women were only a tool of pleasure to him, and when it came to mord-siths, they were a tool of safety...and pleasure, as well. Now, Darken didn't want pleasure only, he wanted feelings, he wanted sharing. He wanted a life with someone special.

Next morning, Darken woke up, determined to do something different instead of wasting his time doing nothing. He washed his face, then he walked to his wardrobe and searched for something till he found it; the black cloak. Darken touched its rough fabric; it reminded him of that day he spent with Richard after he was brought back from the dead. Although the cloak was made of rough material, but it seemed to Darken better than the soft fabrics he was used to.

He took the cloak and left his chamber. He walked till he reached the stable, then he took his favorite horse and flied till he reached the outer sides of the palace's walls. A while later, he reached the forest, that's when he slowed down; he enjoyed walking in the forest. He got off his horse and tied it to a tree, rubbed its head, then he put the cloak on and walked away.

Darken kept walking till he reached the edges of the forest and started walking to the city. He wanted to reach the market. He loved walking between people when they wouldn't notice him in his old black cloak. He did that once before but not for long; he was so busy, but now, he had all the spare time in the world and he was determined to do something different.

~It was mid-day when Darken reached the market. The market was crowded and people of all kinds and levels were there; some were buying food, others were just watching. Darken swept the market with his eyes, watching men, women and children walking with their parents calmly, or crying because they want to buy something and their mother won't let them. He kept watching until he saw him; a little boy, about seven years old, leaning on the wall of an old building, looking at his bare feet. Darken kept looking at him for a few minutes, not knowing why a little boy was standing alone. Finally, he decided to walk to him.

"Good Afternoon", Darken said, smiling, but his smile was half covered by the cloak.

The boy was taken aback by the stranger who came willingly to talk to him. He tried to see Darken's face but he couldn't. He finally said in a low voice, "Good Afternoon, master".

Darken leaned on his knees to look in the boy's eyes and said, "Why are standing alone?"

The boy said nothing; he kept looking at his feet.

"Are you not afraid of being outside your house all by yourself?".

Again, the boy said nothing.

"Have you lost your mother in the market?".

The boy raised his head slowly to meet Darken's eyes. He looked at him for a while then he said quietly, "I have no mother".

It was Darken' time to be taken aback. He felt the boy's words like a dagger that stabbed him in his heart. "I have no mother", it was harder than many other offensive words Darken heard before.

"Then, where's your father?"

"I have no father".

Darken sighed and opened his mouth to say something when the little boy said, "...and I have no home, too".

Darken tilted his head a little and said, "Where do you live now?"

"Here", and before Darken could ask, the boy's face suddenly lightened up and he smiled, "I own all the streets. I can sleep everywhere. I can sleep in a different place every night".

Darken smiled. The boy was happy despite having no family and no house, but at least the boy felt that he had a home.

Suddenly, the boy's little smile disappeared and he gazed at a spot behind Darken's shoulders. Darken noticed that and turned around to see what was wrong. He saw a young woman walking with a basket full of red apples. He looked again to the boy and saw that look of sadness on his face. Sadness and longing for something to eat.

Darken looked at the boy with sorrow, and then he smiled to him and said, "Would you mind sharing a few apples with me? I want to buy some but I really don't like eating apples alone".

The boy looked at Darken with a confused look and said, "Why?"

Darken bit his lower lip, he thought for a few moments and smiled, "Because they are red".

Before the boy could ask again, Darken stood and said, "I will be back. Don't go anywhere", and he left.

Darken looked for someone who sold apples. It was a little hard task to find a certain thing in such a big market if you aren't used to going to the market. He kept looking till he found one. He walked to it, making sure no one can see his face from under the cloak. He stood there and started picking some red apples in a basket. He chose the best ones. He paid for the apples, thanked him and turned around and...

"Oh...I am so sorry. I didn't see you", he said in an apologizing voice. He leaned to pick up some of his apples that fell on the ground.

"Never mind. Nothing is broken of spilt, thank the Creator", it was the voice of a young woman. A voice he heard before.

Darken raised his head to look at the young woman and uncovered his face a little.

"Miss Cara, I guess", he said in a low voice.

Cara looked at the man who was still picking his apples. She gasped and said, "Master..."

"..shhhhhhh", he said, putting his finger on his lips. He didn't want anyone to know who he was. He picked all the apples and stood, and then he gestured to her to walk with him.

"Master Rahl? What are you doing here?" she whispered.

"My servants are striking. I had to buy my own food", he smiled.

Cara looked at him for a moment then she smiled widely. They both tried to suppress their laughs.

"I don't mean to intervene with your work, I was just surprised to find you here", she explained.

"I just wanted to see my people closely", he said.

"Do you...always do that?", she said shyly.

"No, but I enjoy it". She nodded and smiled. Darken felt that he skipped a heartbeat. Her smile was so sweet, but he had to compose himself. "So, how are your kids? Did you leave them alone in the house?" he asked her while walking with her in the market.

"No, my sister and her husband and kids came to visit me. I would never leave my children alone at the house", she paused for a moments then said, "especially after what Ashley was about to do with the axe".

Darken stopped and looked at her for long that she felt confused and turned her eyes to nowhere, "Thanks again for saving her".

Darken smiled and said, "Saving her? It wasn't that bad, she didn't even touch it. I am glad she is fine". Cara smiled to him.

Suddenly Darken stopped walking me and said, "Pardon me, I am totally...Would you please hand me your basket. It is not appropriate for you to carry such a heavy basket". Cara said, "No, it is fine. It is not..." Darken didn't wait for her response, he stretched his arm. Cara bit her lower lip, then she sighed and handed him the basket. She felt so embarrassed and that THE Master Rahl was holding her basket and walking with her.

~They kept walking in the market for a while till she told him, smiling, "I need to go home, my sister would have lost her mind by now".

Darken almost laughed, "Raising children is not easy, but the joy as great". She nodded.

Darken handed her the basket. "Thank you", she said.

"It was nice to meet you again, miss Cara. Please, send my regards to the children".

She smiled, "Well, I can't do that. Your royal visit to the market is a secret".

Darken smiled and said, "Right".

"A secret that is kept safe", she said in a low voice. She waved for him goodbye and turned to leave. He watched her till she disappeared in the crowd. He stood in his place for a while remembering every second since her accidentally met her in the market, but suddenly...

"Oh, my creator. The little boy!" he almost shouted.

Darken ran to the building where the boy was standing. The boy was gone. Darken became so upset because he couldn't find the boy. He promised him and he couldn't keep his promise. He frowned and decided to leave the market, letting the basket fall to the ground.

~Darken was back in the palace. He sent his horse to the stable and headed to his chamber for a warm bath. The warm water was really relaxing him and helping him sleep better.

Lying in the bath tub, Darken's thoughts kept swinging between happiness and sadness. Joy and anger. Meeting Miss Cara and having a short conversation with her and forgetting about the little boy. Darken thought about the boy; he didn't even know his name, but he was sure that he was-somewhere- asleep on the bare ground, or maybe cursing the man who lied to him.

Darken left his tub, wore his night clothes and walked to his bed. Feeling relaxed because of the warm bath, he fell asleep fast. He dreamt of the little boy, he dreamed about Miss Cara, and he also dreamed about red apples.



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