Grief

"A sorrow shared is a sorrow halved."

"It's beautiful up here," Kahlan says softly, as though afraid to break the late-night silence. Nicholas is long since asleep—in fact, in a few hours he'll be awake, talking and running around getting into trouble and asking question after question…Darken smiles affectionately at the thought.

Meanwhile, all is still on the rooftop of the Palace. The moon is full, so it's not quite as dark as it could be; even at night, the view is spectacular.

"Isn't it?" Darken agrees. "I come up here sometimes to be alone."

Kahlan looks faintly alarmed; she sits up (Darken is sorry to lose the warmth of her body beside his for more reasons than the chilly May night), and pulls the D'Haran red robe she wears over her nightdress closer around her shoulders, as though she's thinking of leaving the roof. The robe is one of Darken's, and much too big for her; she looks small and almost lost.

This night of all nights, Darken can't blame her—no matter how much it still chafes him to know she loved his brother, the Seeker, first.

Four years—four years exactly, tonight—since Cara and the Seeker were killed in an explosion of powerful magic. The same one that lost him the Boxes of Orden, but the loss of their promise of power is as nothing to Cara's death.

It's only been a few short weeks since Darken and Kahlan found the peace together Darken, at least, has craved perhaps all his life (and certainly since Kahlan came into it).

Kahlan is his wife, she is Nicholas's mother, once she was an enemy and the Seeker's dearest ally—yet she is so much more than that.

Darken can't stand the thought of hurting her feelings, even in something so small as this—despite knowing perfectly well that some dispute over raising their son or running theirEmpire will surely divide them tomorrow, or the next day.

He's lying back on their makeshift nest of pillows and blankets, the better to see the stars, but now he pulls himself up onto an elbow to catch Kahlan's eyes. They are wide in the dark.

"I can be alone with you here," he offers, only afterwards realizing that this could be interpreted as an insult.

Kahlan laughs, and there's only a hint of tears mixed with her mirth. "Why, thank you, my Lord," she teases. "I'm honored by your confidence."

There's something more than humor in her voice now, and Darken dares to ask what he never could, in full daylight or on any night but this one.

"Do you…miss him?"

No need for Kahlan to ask to whom he refers; she replies, with scarcely a pause, "Of course I do."

Of course she does. Jealousy is bitter in Darken's heart, even as sympathy rises in him. He's dangerously close to tears—tears of anger, that he cares so much what Kahlan thinks and feels—it's been a blessing, particularly since he woke, lucid after his long bout with the poison, to find her weeping with relief, and nearly stealing the breath from him in a watery and fervent kiss…but to care for Kahlan is to despise the things that hurt her, and for too long Darken has been one of them.

And will be again, no doubt—love without pain is as impossible as life without it.

Further, Darken is still angry with the Seeker—his brother, the son his father wanted, Kahlan's first love—and in some ways that is worse, because Richard Cypher is forever out of Darken's reach.

Yet how can Darken ever forgive or forget that the Seeker had the folly, the cruelty, the sheer criminal luck to take Cara to the Underworld with him?


Kahlan wonders if Darken is aware of the depth of self-revelation in his remark, "I can be alone with you here."

When she said she was honored by his confidence, she spoke nothing but the truth—she is well versed in the wearing of masks, the need to seem invincible, and that he trusts her enough to show her this vulnerability touches her deeply.

At first, she is distracted by Richard, who cannot be far from her thoughts on this night of all nights. And yet she cannot ignore her family—her husband, her son—for some abstract principle of a duty she once thought was so necessary, but now questions deeply.

Darken is victorious, and yet the people are safe and happy, far more so than they ever were while she and Richard and Zedd fought so hard for their freedom. If she was wrong about that, how much more of her life must Kahlan question?

It was fear for Darken's life that compelled her to an examination of her own feelings. After a near-sleepless week at his bedside, self-denial was a luxury she had no energy for.

Kahlan does Richard the justice to believe he would want her to be happy, and she knows he would honor her for no longer seeking destruction at the hands of her young son; if there is evil in him, she has not seen it—and with her guidance, he can learn to control his power.

It's Darken who needs her now, she can see; and Kahlan doesn't hesitate to reassure him.

She lies back down, balancing herself over his chest so that her hair falls forward like a curtain around them, further shielding them both from the world.

"I miss him," she admits, "but I'm not sorry I'm here with you. Darken…you don't know how much I…"

Kahlan bites her lip, not sure how to express herself.

Besides, she doubts all the sorrow in Darken's face is because of her and Richard.

"What is it?" she starts to ask, and then changes her query mid-word to, "Who was she?" based on a lengthy experience with people and their suffering.

She virtuously resolves not to reproach him…her pride will not permit that Darken should ever know how much it infuriates her that he still occasionally takes one of the Mord'Sith to his bed. She is his wife, in every way again (in everyway for the first time, perhaps)—isn't that enough?

Darken won't look at Kahlan; she retreats, lying back on the pillow beside him, so that they are close but not touching, and waits.

"Cara," he says at last, very quietly. Kahlan has been watching the stars, finding all the familiar constellations. She knows this isn't something she can hurry along.

"She died four years ago…she was my First Mistress, the only one I ever—before you," he says, not very coherently.

Kahlan risks a glance at him; Darken is looking straight up at the stars now, but she doubts they are what he's seeing. She permits herself a moment to admire his handsome profile.

It casts their early married life in a somewhat different light, to know that Darken was dealing with loss, too. Kahlan remembers assuming, inasmuch as she thought of his or anyone else's feelings at all in her first rush of grief and denial about Richard, that the only thing Darken regretted was the Boxes of Orden.

She wonders now how different things would be if he'd obtained them. What was his plan? She had always assumed he would use Orden to make his dominion over the Midlands absolute, but now she isn't so sure…even if it's only for her sake, he does treat them as a worthy part of his Empire.

"I miss her," Darken says flatly, and it's more painful than if he were to shout and scream.

Kahlan is struck to the heart, and, ignoring a tiny bubble of venomous jealousy, she scoots closer, leaning against Darken and draping one arm over his broad chest.

He pulls her against him, so that her ear is pressed close enough to hear his heartbeat, and she completes his capture by hooking one leg over his.

They are silent, while Kahlan tries to muster up the courage to tell Darken the truth. This Cara is no more dead than Richard—they are lost in time, but they will return—in all probability after Darken and Kahlan are dead themselves.

Yet the peace between them is too new and fragile for Kahlan to break, by admitting to such a deception…Darken must know someday, of course, but she hesitates to destroy the comfort of tonight.

Tonight of all nights…but neither Kahlan nor her husband must bear their grief in solitude.

And here, in the bubble of privacy and intimacy they have created, Kahlan dares give voice to a different confidence. "Darken? What I was trying to say before—I…I love you."

Only then does she look up and see that her husband is asleep.

Smiling helplessly, Kahlan settles back into her cozy position lying half on top of him, and shuts her eyes.

Nicholas has been running them both ragged since he learned to walk, and she's exhausted herself.

But, as long as it doesn't rain, she has a delicious plan for the morning…without going so far as to attempt to erase Cara from Darken's thoughts, Kahlan means to make sure she herself remains at the center of them.

It's for his own good—and if this Cara really loved him, she would be the first to agree.