Written for a legendland challenge inspired by a work of fanart created by another member. My fanart was a picture of a green apple.

"You have failed Me, Darken Rahl." The Keeper's booming voice reverberated throughout the desolate wastes of the Underworld. "Once again, you've allowed the Seeker and the Mother Confessor to slip through your fingers. Richard Cypher already possesses the Scroll. If he succeeds in finding the Stone of Tears, you will suffer the full force of my wrath."

Darken Rahl, former Master of D'Hara, bowed his head with exaggerated servility under the withering blast of blame, seething once again at his brother's infuriating ability to escape every trap laid for him.

Of course, Mistress Cara's traitorous assistance had played a large part in the Seeker's success. She, too, had managed to escape Darken's grasp after taking his deal to become a Baneling. It was profoundly unfair that a few drops of Shadow Water had deprived him of the chance to punish the Mord'Sith for her betrayal.

Not for the first time, the ex-tyrant reflected that the bargain he had made with the Keeper so many years before had turned out to be a very one-sided had held up his part of the deal – delivering innumerable souls to his Master - yet was still forced to endure these endless lectures about his incompetence.

Maybe the real incompetence was the Keeper's tendency to constantly improvise to very little effect, not to mention the fact that his Master was always getting surprised by events - Denna's plot to use Richard's body being a prime example. The Keeper had shown Himself to be a woefully short-sighted adversary to the Seeker and his friends, while Darken was always being punished in this lop-sided relationship.

Darken Rahl had been born to command minions, not to be one, and he inwardly raged every time he had to force the word 'Master' past his lips.

During Darken's first days in the Underworld, bringing about the end of all life had seemed very appealing. After all, if he couldn't be alive, then why should anyone else?

Here in the depths, Darken Rahl doled out torment to every unfortunate soul that passed through the portals of death. But he was never allowed to forget that he acted only as a servant to the Keeper, and he had grown to hate that humiliating position.

In fact, he now questioned the decision to obliterate the world of the living for a purpose that seemed pointless, not to mention selfish. Darken had lost count of the number of hours he had been forced to listen to the Keeper whine about the love of his undead life – the Creator. In Darken's eyes, it seemed extremely petty of the Keeper to want to destroy all living creatures just to get even with an old girlfriend.

As the days – or what passed for days – had elapsed in this world of sulphurous twilight, Darken had grown ever more weary of groveling before a jilted lover. He missed the simple joys of life – the fragrant breeze of a summer evening, a stroll through a sun-dappled wood, the feel of spring rain against his face, the press of a woman's flesh against his own.

He realized that he didn't want to destroy the world after all.

Darken wanted to live in it again.

What he most craved – more than sun, wind or gentle rain; what he brooded upon every hour of his now miserable existence, was the very sustenance his spiritual form no longer required.


Between bouts of torturing new arrivals, Darken amused himself with conjuring up menus in his head – roast goose with all the trimmings, rich flavorful stews, mincemeat pies, tender grapes fresh from the vineyard, plums, persimmons, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries.

But above all things, Darken yearned for the taste of a fresh crisp apple.

Darken's passion for apples rivaled even his lust for women.

His favorites were the tart fruit produced by his orchards in the Garden of Life at the People's Palace.

Darken had always kept several apples at hand - in his pockets, sometimes even stuffing them up his voluminous sleeves, and he had demanded that bowls of the luscious fruit grace every table and counter of every room he occupied in the palace.

Now, even in the noxious atmosphere of the Underworld, Darken's mouth watered at the thought of sinking his teeth into the skin of an apple, of tasting the delicious juice as it ran down his chin.

He wasn't going to endure this shadow existence anymore. Not when he had other alternatives.

It would be far better to live as a peasant – only temporarily, of course – in the world of the living, than to contemplate the thought of never biting into another apple.

And for apples to grow and flourish, there had to be life.

Luckily, Darken had a contingency plan, an ace up his sleeve that even the Keeper had never suspected.

His body-double, Walter, combined with a resurrection spell uttered by a Sister of the Dark, would provide him with a second chance at life.

Darken would - almost - be his old self again.

Since the Keeper had shown no qualms about tricking his servant, then Darken wouldn't hesitate to turn the tables.

Tit for tat.

It was time to change sides.

Darken would throw in hislot with the Creator, would join his dear brother, the Seeker of Truth, in finding the Stone of Tears, and together they would save the world.

He had no delusions about his motives. Darken certainly didn't share Richard's earnest concern for the welfare of humankind. He wanted to escape the Keeper, and would do whatever it took to live in the world again. But if he lended his assistance to Her cause, surely the Creator would reward him.

But the first thing Darken intended to do when his spirit was back in a living body, would be to filch the first plump apple he could lay hands upon, and wolf it down to the core.

Still pretending to listen as the Keeper's thundering words rolled over and around him, Darken smiled to himself.

He didn't intend to waste any more time.