Note: All lines of dialogue are from "Hills Like White Elephants."


The Only Thing Left

Richard sat at the window in his council chamber, looking out over the courtyard below. Ruling a kingdom was not what he thought it would be.

It was soothing to sit in the window, watching the world pass by.

The moment was shattered by the creaking thud of the large double doors of the room being thrown open. Two Mord'Sith dragged a man between them. He was filthy, his once opulent robes hanging from his frame in tattered red rags. His hands were bound in heavy chains, his feet shackled together so that he would be unable to run, and there was a Rada Han at his throat.

Darken Rahl.

Richard nodded to the Mord'Sith, staying quiet until they had left the room and closed the doors behind them.

Darken Rahl smiled.

He watched as Richard paced, unable to settle anywhere. First he sat in Darken's favorite window seat. Then he paced again before perching on the edge of the large desk that dominated the room. All was done in silence, as if Richard wanted Darken to be the one to speak first.

But Darken did not. He had more patience than his little brother, of that he was certain.

One of the few things he was certain of.

Finally, unable to contain himself any longer, Richard pulled a heavy scroll of parchment off the desk, flinging it to the floor before Darken. It was an accusation, a vehement denial, a wordless cry, all echoing in the sound of vellum and wood clattering against stone.

It was the Rahl Family Tree, spelled long ago by one of their ancestors to show every Rahl born of the ruling bloodline. There stood Darken's name, in bold letters. Jennsen's name was just beneath his.

Beside it was Richard's.

Darken looked up, his face giving nothing away, save for a brow raised artfully in question.

Richard scrubbed a hand over his face, then bent, picking up the parchment. "I've never seen one before," he said quietly.

"No," Darken replied. "You wouldn't have."

He shifted, his chains clanking against the stone floor, the sound like rocks dropping into a ravine. "They look like white elephants," Darken mused, turning his gaze to the window, to the towers that loomed hazily in the distance.

Richard stared at him in outraged confusion, his mouth working but no words coming out. "And we could have all this," he waved his arm, indicating the window, the towers, the room they stood in, the kingdom, the world, or perhaps just the two of them.

Darken tilted his head, his blue eyes filled with something unknown, the Rada Han at his throat rubbing his skin raw. "And we could have everything," he said slowly, lowly, so that Richard had to lean forward to hear. "And every day we make it more impossible."

Unspoken went the accusation that it was Richard who made it impossible. Richard who sat upon a stolen throne, Richard who waged this war, Richard who crossed The Boundary, Richard who was born to be a murderer.

Richard who held the place in the world, in the hearts of the people, that Darken had been meant to hold. Been unable to hold.

Even with their father. Especially with their father.

Even with himself.

"I don't care about me," Darken heard himself say, and wondered if it was true. Wondered when his voice had begun to sound like rusted metal shattering under pressure.

"Well I care about you!" Richard burst, pulling Darken to his feet to look him eye to eye.

He'd lost too many brothers, too many mothers, too many people to this war. This one he could save. This one he would save.

Darken's eyes widened, his breath coming in a gasp as his chains rubbed sores on his wrists and ankles. His body was weak. He fell against Richard. Richard held him up, pinned him with arms as strong as metal bands.

And Darken knew, with a slithering shudder, that Richard would not kill him. In the moment of Richard's declaration, Darken's heart began to sink. Not death, but Orden, then. That would be his fate.

He felt tears gather in his eyes, though he did not shed them.

He had thought this room held a king's death, only to find it filled with a slave's chains.

Chains of love were chains all the same.

"If I do it, you won't ever worry," Richard said softly, like he would to a startled deer. The Power of Orden glowed orange in his eyes.

"What do you mean?" Darken turned his face away, pushing at Richard's chest with his bound hands. Overbalancing, he fell backwards, tangled in his bonds, bitterness and rage pulling his lips into a snarl.

"We could have the world. It's ours," Richard said in that same infuriating tone, moving to kneel, to take the only thing there was left to take from Darken Rahl.

Hatred. Fear.

Freedom.

His unwanted tears burning his skin, Darken screamed, "No it isn't! And once they take it away, you never get it back!"

He had seen the missing spark in Mistress Dahlia's eyes, the listless way she wielded her Agiel.

Richard cupped his face, his orange eyes meeting Darken's blue – a sunset on the ocean.

"They haven't taken it away," Richard said, meaning their lives, their chance to be brothers, their chance at family.

"I'll scream," Darken whispered, and he meant forever, in his heart, in his mind, with whatever magic made up his spirit, he would spend the rest of his life screaming silently into a void.

His eyes washed orange, then faded to gold, then back to blue.

"Do you feel better?" Richard asked, unlocking Darken's chains.

Darken Rahl smiled and reached for Richard's cheek. "I feel fine."