Trapped in time, somewhere between the past, present and future…
She opened her eyes abruptly. She was lying in a forest. It was dark. The only way to see was through the silver beams of the moon reflected in a lake nearby. It was cold, but she realized it only because of the sound of her teeth. It was like she didn't actually perceive the temperature. She tried to stand, but she realized she was just doing that mechanically, not because she wanted to. Suddenly she felt pain, not because of the cold, not because of the dark, but an icy pain in her head. There was no way of stopping it. She didn't know where she was, but most importantly there was a question wandering in her mind and causing her the blazing pain 'Who am I?'
Chapter 1-The echo of the unsaid words
The gentle rays of sunlight fell on her face. She turned on her side opening her eyes slowly as if the eyelashes where too heavy to lift. He smiled at her.
'Good morning!'-he greeted her, his eyes sparkling.
'Good morning Lord Rahl!'-she replied planting a kiss on his lips.
But he wasn't satisfied by only one kiss. He pulled her up and kissed her good morning in the Rahl way. At least that's what she called it. She smiled while his lips were still on hers. Then he pulled back, studying the whiteness of the skin of her shoulders. She giggled noticing his look moving down. Then he asked:
'You tired?' and he kissed her temple. Her hair got into his way so he kissed her dark hair instead, but she liked it anyway.
'Well I didn't get much of a sleep last night now, did I?' she smiled at him again and for some minutes he gazed into her emerald eyes amazed. She looked back at him. Their bond seemed ethereal.
None of them wanted to talk, even though Kahlan had something to say.
She had to tell him sooner or later but the fear of the prophecy that terrible woman had foretold halted her. As if reading her thoughts through the chain of their eyes, Richard asked:
'Is there something wrong?' his inquisitive gray eyes scanned her.
For a moment she thought that maybe that was the right time to tell him everything, but her voice didn't allow her to and instead she heard herself say in a reassuring tone:
'I am fine. Everything's fine.' And just in case he didn't believe her, which she was sure he wouldn't, she kissed him again before slipping out of the bed.
'Since when you distract me with kisses?' he asked playfully following her out of the bed and kissing her shoulder before starting to get dressed as well.
'It's nothing Richard…'but this time her voice trembled more than it should have. She immediately took control though. 'Remember you promised Zedd you would go with him somewhere?'
Richard could feel there was something bothering her and it wasn't just something. However, he also knew she perhaps needed time to process everything. He tried to suppress the feeling of his gut that Kahlan wasn't telling him something important. He turned his look at her as she straightened her white Confessor's dress.
'Yeah, now I remember.' he said after a while trying to let Kahlan know that he dropped the issue.
'I can come too.' she said playfully noticing his gaze from the mirror. 'If you assess I won't distract you from the pray.'
He finally relaxed. He reached for her putting his arm around her belly and his head on her shoulder like a little child. They were both looking at their reflection on the mirror. She liked it when he hugged her that way. It made her feel lulled by his touch and protected. He rolled his hand and turned her face towards his.
'I love you, Mother Confessor.'
'And I love you, Lord Rahl.'
They would have normally kissed, but the knock on the door didn't allow that. Since they were ready they both left. Accompanied by two Mord-sith and his two bodyguards Richard entered the hall. Kahlan was behind him accompanied by Cara.
'Lord Rahl has got you kinda tired these days.' Cara pointed out with a meaningful smile dancing in her eyes. Kahlan smiled too.
'I am fine, Cara. Thank you for your concern, though.'
The hall was a little dark and Kahlan felt a sharp smell in the air. She wasn't feeling that well. She dismissed the thought, since that would mean acknowledging that something was wrong. However the feeling she had was quite unusual. She felt confused and lost like she were somewhere she didn't know. Blaming the lack of sleep, she put the thoughts aside.
'Can you picture the Lord Rahl hunting when he could have everyone begging him to bring him something?' Cara's sharp comments usually put Kahlan in a good mood but that day she felt a little distracted.
'I don't need to picture him, Cara. He is right here.' she smiled while her gaze ran though his tall body caressing it fondly.
'Mother Confessor, are you all right?' Cara asked, but this time she didn't try to hide her concern.
'I am fine.' replied Kahlan with a smile. 'I was just thinking that the unimaginable thing is seeing Zedd invite Richard for a hunt.'
Cara smiled in a kind of relief while Zedd said from the horse in front of her:
'I hear you child. And just so you two know, I was very able once.'
'A Wizard of the First Order hunting pheasants and deers. How did I miss that?' Cara said causing a chain of laughter.
Suddenly they heard a noise coming from the bushes. Richard got down, but before he could get close the two Mord-Sith got before him handing their Agiels.
'Whoever you are show yourself.' Richard ordered.
Two men came out of the bushes. Even though Richard wasn't wearing his normal Rahl clothes, but only some comfortable ones, everyone knew he was the Lord Rahl. The startled look in their eyes was not because of the sight of the Agiels even though that would have been more than enough. Kahlan saw the fright, the actual terror at seeing Richard. She thought to herself that this was owing to his post. Nevertheless there were times when Richard's look was haunting.
'We are sorry to have disturbed you Lord Rahl.' said one of the men kneeling.
Richard didn't seem to be convinced that their words were genuine as they told him they were only having a walk. Instead he asked to everybody's surprise of his sharp ears:
'Then why were you talking about a girl at the inn?' it seemed that they weren't the only one to be taken aback by that because Kahlan got on the ground next to him wondering how Richard had managed to be precise. But trusting his instinct, she told the man:
'You know you must tell the truth to the Mother Confessor'.
The other man then started talking awe-stricken.
'You see, Lord Rahl, we were not doing anything wrong we swear. We just heard there was a girl in town that had some strange magic and we thought we might get to see something, you know, special.' While the man told them about the inn where he and his friend had been, Richard seemed to have been devoured in a wind of silence that prevented him from listening. The cause had been just that one word: magic. Before the man had even finished to tell the way the girl supposedly entertained the people, Zedd said abruptly.
'Richard, we should go check.'everyone turned looking at him, puzzled. Everyone except Richard.
'But Zedd' Kahlan complained 'it's just an entertainer, nothing serious I suppose.'
Zedd turned to the men kneeling in front of Richard
'What exactly could the girl do?' he asked with a strange look in his eyes.
'Well…you see there was this woman that told us this girl could feel anything, so she hit somebody else and the girl in the other side of the room felt it too cos her face got red.'
Kahlan saw Zedd's face turn red with anger as he shouted at the men.
'And you thought that fun, you thought that was 'entertaining'? I should turn you to ash with Wizard's fire.'
'What is it, Zedd?' Richard asked seeing the two men petrified. 'What kind of magic is that?'
'A very powerful one.' Kahlan intervened. 'It's called the Maternity Spell.'
'What's a Maternity Spell?'Cara asked without taking her sky-blue eyes from the men, threatening them with her fierce look that they would be sorry if they moved.
'I think it's far worse than that, child.' Zedd said talking to Kahlan.
'Worse?' Kahlan's eyes took a worried look. 'What do you mean?'
Richard turned to Zedd as well with the same question glowing in his eyes. Then Zedd asked them to follow him, leaving the men and the Mord-Sith behind.
'I fear Shota was right.' He started not hiding his concern.
'Shota? Why the heck would you mention her?' Richard asked unconsciously looking at the black necklace around Kahlan's neck, the one Shota had given them to prevent her from bearing a child. She had sworn to kill every child that could be parented by Richard and Kahlan. He noticed a sudden sadness in Kahlan's eyes. Having lost a child, after being heavily beaten, Kahlan had never fully recovered or maybe forgiven herself, he thought, for not having protected the life inside her. He could see her eyes fill with tears. She thought he wasn't looking.
Zedd continued. 'This was the reason, the real one, I asked you to come here today.'
His tone was apologetic. He knew Richard always demanded the truth no matter how hard it was to digest. 'I am sorry for lying to you, Richard.' The excuse sounded a little inadequate even though it came from Zedd, but Richard was too curious and angry so he dropped the issue.
'What did she say this time?' he asked sarcasm billowing out of his mouth along with the question.
'She said we would meet an empath'. Zedd replied immediately arrowed by Kahlan's look. She knew what he was talking about.
'I thought there were no more empaths in the world' Kahlan said. 'I thought they had all been killed.'
'That was the answer I gave Shota, but she said this was different. She said it would be a girl'
'Hey, will somebody explain to me what an empath is?' Richard asked in frustration.
'An empath, my boy, is the one gifted with empathy. Basically, this person can feel everything that happens to another person. Since there haven't been many in the past millenniums, we don't know exactly to what extent does their power go. But, taking what those men told us about the girl, I think she is an empath and I think she is held captive.'
'Why would somebody do that?' Kahlan asked in angst. 'Who would find it entertaining to hit a child?'
'I think you already know the answer.' Zedd replied pointing his chin to the two men recoiled in fear a few feet away.
'The last empath I know about lived several hundred years ago. Their creation is mysterious, too.' Zedd said still looking at the men.
'Creation?' Richard asked. 'What do you mean?'
Kahlan answered instead.
'According to the legend, empathy is not a gift given by birth as the Confessor's power or wizards' powers. It is a gift received by a kind of casual selection.'
'Casual selection? We are not talking about some pigs waiting to be slaughtered; we are talking about children that can feel everything that happens around them. How can they live like that?' Understanding his frustration and anger, Kahlan put her hand on his arm and squeezed it in a loving tone.
Zedd continued. 'The first empath was not born. He was created. It is said that they was once a wood carver, a very talented one who possessed a kind of magic that made his sculptures talk to the people they were taken to. However, at night, these pieces of wood would turn into their worst nightmares. The legend says the wood carver wasn't a bad man, he didn't do it out of malice, but he couldn't stop taking sculptures out of logs. So he went to a witch who granted him the power to transmit something more than evil to his masterpieces. She gave him empathy.'
Kahlan remembered her child-like wonder the first time she had heard the story. It had been one of her favorites when she was a little girl.
'So his sculptures would feel the pain the people who possessed them had, and instead of embodying nightmares, they kept them away, kind of a talisman.' Zedd finishes and he seemed just like a loving grandfather telling bedtime stories, more than a wizard worried because of Shota's words.
'You said empaths were created.' Richard pointed out. 'If he was the first empath, did his children have empathy as well?'
'No.' Kahlan answered. 'Only the children that had another power coming from their mother could have empathy. Empathy is supposed to numb an evil power.'
'However we don't know how empaths came to live. They are called Listeners of Feeling.' Zedd finished standing up from the cut log he had been sitting in order to tell his story.
'We have to rescue the girl.' Richard stated as if he wouldn't accept any contradiction. However Kahlan was convinced as he was, that whoever was doing that deserved to be punished. She had to help the law prevail.
After only a couple of minutes, they were headed towards the inn. Kahlan could not help feeling a shiver up and down her spine.