Warnings: Author chooses not to warn.


The Legend of the Seeker

Richard stood watching the horizon. His shoulder throbbed dully where he had taken a crossbow bolt while retrieving the Boxes of Orden Jennsen had hidden in a lake.

Jennsen.

She was still missing. Missing, not dead.

He had to believe that.

Opening his hand, Richard looked down at the calla stone Sean had given Jennsen , so she could poison herself if she was captured. If the worst happened.

Darken Rahl's men had captured her. But she dropped the stone.

The people of the village and the D'Haran garrison were infected with the plague Darken Rahl had unleashed upon the land. Zedd was sick, weak after trying to heal too many.

Kahlan was sick, dragged down by the mob.

The worst had happened.

Richard closed his hand around the calla stone, feeling it bite into his palm.

The Keeper was coming for all of them. With no antidote to the fever, it was only a matter of time before Richard himself succumbed. Death was certain.

The only questions left were when and where.

Richard went into the tent where Kahlan and Zedd lay dying, showing them the venomous demise he held in his hands.

One death for hundreds. Maybe thousands.

His life for Kahlan's.

Grandson for grandfather.

"I'll take the stone, put the boxes together, and then it'll be over," he heard himself say. If he poisoned himself, he wouldn't have the time to do more than kill Rahl before his heart stopped beating. He wouldn't have time to be consumed, transformed into a monster by the ravenous wolf that was the Power of Orden.

"I'll be dead. He'll be dead."

Kahlan whimpered denials. Said there had to be another way. But Zedd only wept, sorrow and pride in his eyes.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, the bottom of his heart, the shadowy whisperings that made up his dreams and his nightmares, Richard had always known he wouldn't survive this war. His destiny.

How could he? How could either of them, he or Darken Rahl, live through this final clash?

Only fairytales had happy endings.

In a fairytale they would find a cure, he would defeat Darken Rahl, and then he would discover he was able to be with Kahlan because of some kind of magic, or fate, or maybe the power of true love.

But this was not a fairytale, so Richard bent and kissed Kahlan goodbye. It no longer mattered that touching her would infect him with the sickness.

He wouldn't be alive long enough for it to manifest.

Squeezing Zedd's hand one last time, Richard left the tent, then the camp, wanting to put distance between himself and those he cared about before he put the Boxes of Orden together.

It took less time than seemed possible for the temple of the Mord'Sith where Rahl was rumored to be to appear on the horizon. In the blink of an eye, Richard had two of the boxes assembled.

The third in his hand, he took out the calla stone once more.

They felt heavy in his hands, both the box and the stone.

How tempting it was, to drop the stone, crush it under his heel. To live. To make this a tale in which the hero became the villain.

Who cared what you were called if you had your family, your friends around you? If your loved ones were safe?

Yet Richard remembered the look in Kahlan's eyes the first time he used Orden. When he had ordered her to beat Denna. The shadow on Zedd's face.

The defiance in Jennsen's voice.

He cared. He cared about being good. This whole journey, his father's death, Michael's resentment, his mother's loss, all the lives snuffed out in a maelstrom of blood and fire – none of it meant anything if he gave in to temptation now.

And Kahlan could never love the monster he would become.

Richard put the calla stone in his mouth, and cracked it between his teeth.

It tasted like fate, a bitterness that clung to his lips, his tongue, filled his sinuses, as if even his last breaths were poisoned. It was inescapable, inevitable, the gritty pulp that slipped down his throat.

Born to kill. Born to die.

He choked on the ending of his story.

The guards at the temple had spotted him. A quad of Mord'Sith approached.

Richard spared a moment to send Kahlan thoughts of love, and hoped somehow she would hear them. Then he slid the final box into place, watching as the magical artifacts were overtaken with a blazing luminosity, fusing into one.

It was familiar now, the rush of power in his veins, the golden light flowing from his eyes and mouth. The absolute sense of certainty, that he knew best, that his will was right, good. The sudden silencing of that still, small voice that doubted, and questioned, and weighed every decision.

There was only one path, and it was the one Richard walked. There was only one truth – the words of the Seeker.

"Kneel," he said softly as the Mord'Sith approached.

They did.

Two he told to go back to the temple for the antidote to the plague that ravaged the land. They were to take it to the villagers – to Kahlan and Zedd first.

Just as the war meant nothing without Richard's sacrifice, his sacrifice meant nothing if Kahlan and Zedd did not live.

The other Mord'Sith he took with him to face Darken Rahl.

They walked before him, keeping soldiers and Mord'Sith back in those few moments it took for Richard to invoke the Power of Orden to make them fall in line. Richard walked behind his ever growing force, the fused boxes held in his hands.

He was beginning to feel the effects of the calla stone. His stomach roiled. His vision was fading at the edges. His lips were numb.

At last he reached the room where Darken Rahl waited, holding a knife to Jennsen's throat.

As if that would save him.

"Let her go," he said simply, Orden echoing in his voice.

Perhaps Darken Rahl had thought that Jennsen's pristinely ungifted nature would serve as a shield to the Power of Orden. But Orden didn't work that way. It was not a targeted magic, but one of proximity.

Darken Rahl was doomed the instant Richard entered the temple.

Rahl let Jennsen go, a strangled "Yes, my lord," ground through his teeth.

Richard swayed and a blonde Mord'Sith, Cara, he thought her name was, steadied him.

Jennsen was screaming. Richard told her to be silent. When she was not, he ordered a Mord'Sith to silence her.

Darken Rahl waited, blue eyes riveted on Richard.

"Kill yourself," was all Richard said. He had time for nothing else. The numbness in his lips was spreading. His face felt like a mask. His tongue was thick, unwieldy in his mouth.

Darken Rahl drew a wickedly curved dagger and slashed his own throat, a spray of blood striking Richard in the face as the man fell. He looked so surprised, Richard thought. As if he didn't know what was coming. As if his hand betrayed him.

Then the dark haired tyrant was on the floor, blood a darker red than the robes he wore spreading in a great pool around him.

It seemed so simple. One final gurgle, a bloody exhalation, and he was gone. In the end, killing Darken Rahl was easier than it should have been.

His eyes shining gold with the Power of Orden, the Seeker took in the grisly scene and saw only justice.

And then he gasped, a crippling spasm making his muscles twitch and cramp. Foamy spittle gathered at the corners of his mouth as he cut his tongue on his own teeth, unable to feel or stop the motion.

"Jennsen," Richard called desperately, leaning heavily on Cara now. It took all the strength he had to shove the Boxes of Orden into Jennsen's hands – still connected. Took all the wits he had left to tell her she must run and hide the boxes – now, before his hold on the Mord'Sith broke.

Darken Rahl's death did not mean the end of danger.

He felt her small white hands on his, thought maybe she kissed his cheek. Then her hair was a blur of red out the door, and Richard was falling, the world was fading, and there was so much pain and no more pain, and darkness all around.

-l-

"Fairytales do not end with the hero face down in a pool of his brother's blood," the bard's voice rang out through the grand hall of Aydindril, where she performed for the Mother Confessor. "But this is no fairytale. It is legend. A legend of sacrifice. The legend of a man who gave up all he had, his very life, for the greater good. It is the Legend of the Seeker."

The Mother Confessor no longer wept when she heard the tale, but the First Wizard beside her was awash in tears.


ENDNOTES

1. "that still, small voice" is a reference to conscience, and an episode of Once Upon a Time.

2. My personal head canon is that the Power of Orden silences the wielder's conscience - their ability for empathy, thus essentially making them a sociopath, or at least giving them sociopathic tendencies. This is why we see a big difference in Richard's behavior, but not Darken Rahl's. Darken Rahl is already sociopathic, so Orden doesn't alter him.

3. Jennsen holding the fused Boxes of Orden: My interpretation of Orden, based on the episodes, is that the power vests in the wielder once the boxes are assembled. So while the power can't be used on Jennsen, and she could easily pull the boxes apart, I think the power stays with the wielder until the boxes are pulled apart - Jennsen simply holding the boxes wouldn't end the power. However, upon the wielder's death the power would return to the boxes, and as Jennsen can't use them, the hold on the Mord'Sith would then break, leaving Jennsen and the boxes vulnerable. This is based on the scene in Unbroken, where Richard retains the Power of Orden up until the boxes are pulled apart by the Sisters - he still has the power when they're simply touching the boxes.