Chapter 1

I will miss this, Kahlan thinks, as she closes her eyes, for the briefest moment, and allows herself to inhale, the sting of the icy cold air reaching her lungs makes her feel alive. And then, she opens her eyes. She has faced battle many times. Many times been near to death. Its not the first time she has been certain that she had breathed her last breath on this earth. This isn't new to her.

But something is missing. That adrenaline of the fight, it's not there. That racing heart, the way her muscles tense in readiness to pounce, its gone. Instead she feels her heart slowing. She feels a kind of peace. A weariness. A longing for it to all be over. There is no fight left in the Mother Confessor.

Her two opponents stand opposite. Not quite close enough that she could reach out and touch them. She knows this, from a life time of confessing people, a lifetime of making that judgement. Just how much room she needed, how much time. But there is safe distance, for the moment. Although as she stares at Richard and Cara opposite her, it frightens her a little that her mind had wandered to confession. As if she had been planning to confess one of both of them. But, after all, she is a Confessor. That's what Confessors do.

She has the luxury of letting her mind wander, because Richard and Cara are still just standing there.

It's Kahlan's ability to predict an opponents next move in battle that had been her trump card. Sure, she fought admirably when required. But there was more to it than strength and agility. And it stirs an uncomfortable sensation in her, as she realises she hasn't the slightest inkling what either of them will do next. She looks to their eyes, but she cant read them. Well, she had never been able to read a Mord Sith. But Richard, she looks to him and makes no sense of what she sees. And again it strikes an unpleasant cord that she is thinking in terms of battle. Thinking of Richard and Cara as opponents. But that's how it feels. She feels attacked. And perhaps her mind has become so darkened that it's the only way she can relate to anyone. Kill or confess.

Kahlan's weapon is drawn, poised in her steady hand, she takes comfort from the familiar stance.

Richard hasn't drawn his sword. He wont, Kahlan knows he won't. She shakes her head a little at him, almost laughing. He has so much to learn.

What does catch Kahlan by surprise, is that Cara doesn't have her agiel at the ready, either. If you could say one thing about Cara, it's that she had always been quick to "shoot first, ask questions later". But her agiel hangs benignly at her side, her hand on her hip. Cara tilts her head slightly to one side, with a hint of bemused confusion on her face. Kahlan doesn't realise that she mirrors the gesture, slightly tilting her own head. It's become so natural, that exchanged glance between her and Cara.

"Kahlan?" Cara asks, feigning impatience, tapping her foot on the ground rhythmically. Kahlan listens to the sound of Cara's foot, and she feels her heart beating. It slows, Kahlan feels her heart slow, in time with Cara's tapping foot. As if under some sort of enchantment.

Richard takes a step towards Kahlan. Kahlan gasp in horror, involuntarily, as Richard almost reaches her, almost touches her, before Cara pulls him back.

And it doesn't take much, just Cara's gentle hand on his shoulder. It's not like she had to tackle him to the ground or anything. This only proves to Kahlan how afraid Richard is of her. She told him long ago, she never wanted him to be afraid of her. It was the one thing she most feared. Perhaps not the one thing, she admits. One of many.

Richard mustn't really want to come to her, Kahlan decides, or else he wouldn't be so willing to submit to Cara. It was rather odd, the way Richard let Cara take charge of the situation. Richard was more than comfortable giving the orders. But he stands in silent defeat for the moment.

"Do NOT touch me, Seeker." The icy venom in the Mother Confessors voice matches the icy wind. And it stings him. But he is compliant. He does not move. Even Cara takes a step back, protectively standing in front of Richard. Of course. Her number one concern, protecting the seeker.

Kahlan smiles a little then, she realises Richard will be just fine without her. Cara will make sure of that.

"Ok." Richard begins, calmly. In that annoying way he has of being so confident that he can solve any problem. "I don't think you've thought this through, Listen..."

"No!" Kahlan interrupts him forcefully. "This is not the time to listen."

"Ok." He acknowledges trying not to sound defeated. "What is it time for? Talk to me, I'm confused." He stops himself before telling her 'Kahlan you're acting crazy, you're not yourself.' He knows enough about her to know that it would only anger her more.

"I'm sorry you're confused, Seeker." Kahlan answers, although her dismissive bitter tone makes it sound as if she isn't sorry in the slightest. She did however make deliberate omission of his name. Calling him "Seeker" as opposed to "Richard" seemed to distance them, to remove the intimacy that had developed between them. If only it was that simple.

Thing is, Kahlan is sorry. Damn sorry. Sorry enough that she can't live with any of it anymore. But she can't get into that with him. She can't allow herself to fall apart, allow him to put the pieces back together, like he is so confident he is able to. He hasn't time for this. And even he, Richard Cypher, Lord Rahl, Seeker of truth, even he can not fix this.

Richard had been right, though, she concedes. Kahlan had not thought it through very clearly. She had thought far enough to realise that she could never just disappear. It wouldn't have worked. He would have come after her. She could give no reason to convince him, though she was trying.

A strange smile crosses Kahlan's pale weary face. She finds herself thankful to the creator that SHE is the confessor, not Richard, not Cara. Thankful that they can not see into her eyes, her mind, her heart. Merciful creator, what would they see in there? See through all the lies, the pretense. She shudders as she pushes it all aside, the secrets, the lies, the dark horrible lies. She wonders what Richard would make of her if he really knew her? If it would make him ill to realise the truth? She imagines how Cara would scoff, after all the times Kahlan sat in judgement of her.

Kahlan shakes her head. Cara cocks her head to the side, in that way she always does, as if she is looking harder, as if she can make sense of this by staring into Kahlan's eyes long enough. That Cara is still standing there at all surprises Kahlan somewhat. Cara is not known for her patience. She should have wandered off long ago, leaving a snide remark behind about Richard wasting his time, and that she had better things to do. But Kahlan realises, as Cara's eyes drift to the weapon in her hand, that Cara is genuinley afraid that Kahlan will hurt Rickard.

This is an educated guess, at best, because even the Mother Confessor can not read a Mord Sith. But it is a fairly safe assumption. All Kahlan wants is for the both of them to leave her alone. But she knows it has gone too far. Richard won't leave her, not until he has the answers he wants, and Cara won't leave Richard in danger.

Kahlan lets her gaze wander off in the distance, but out of the corner of her eye she is watching closely. And they know it. They make no hasty moves.

Kahlan thinks, out of the corner of her eyes, that she sees in Richard's gaze something akin to the look in his eyes when Dennee's baby was born. His horrorstruck expression when it was explained to him that the new born had to be killed, that she herself was willing to drown her own nephew before he even had a chance to live.

Something akin to the confused fearful expression that had been there when he first saw her confess someone. When he realised what confession is, how it robs a person of their life, as surely as if Kahlan had murdered them. The injustice of it all, a man losing his free will. Enslaved to her. For life.

Something akin to that look he always had on his face, when she was in the con dar. She never told him that she remembers everything. That even though she isn't in control, his eyes burn into her, his fear. The way he looks a her like she is a monster. She could never forget it.

Richard loved her, she cant deny that. She has looked into his eyes and seen it. He was even willing to be enslaved to her. But there was something holding him back at the injustice of others being confessed, enslaved. Maybe even a little flicker of jealousy. There was always something about her that he could never understand.

Kahlan had heard him and Zedd talking. They thought she was asleep. It wasn't the first time Kahlan had overheard Richard asking Zedd about her, about confessors, about the Midlands

"It just seems strange." Richard had mused that night, "I mean to take a mate, someone like a D'Haran soldier confessed in battle, and make a family with him. Why would a confessor do that?" Richard struggled to understand.

"It's not so simple." Zedd answered wearily. "Confessors have a duty to extend the line of confessors. Especially in this day and age, the line faces extinction. The number of confessors in the Midlands has dropped drastically in recent years. Children have to be born, to keep the line going."

"Girl children." Richard corrected with a slight annoyance.

"Richard, they are ancient ways, and powerful reasons for the way things are done. It seems very simple in your mind, but you don't understand everything. You are young, idealistic, you think you know best about everything, but there is much about the Midlands you don't understand."

"So," Richard struggled to make sense of it "Because I didn't grow up here, like you, like Kahlan, I can never understand anything about the Midlands? And I'm not entitled to my opinion about what is right and wrong?" Richard challenged.

"Dear boy, settle down. I said nothing of the sort. Only that things in the Midlands are not so simple. Things can't be as you want them to be simply because you want them to be." Zedd clarified.

"You mean, that Kahlan and I can never be together?" Richard finished for him.

"You understand that reasons." Zed re iterated.

"I can't say I do. I love her, I would already do anything she asked of me." Richard declared that night by the fire.

That made her heart race a little, and instantly fall, as she knew, just as Zedd did, that it really could never be that simple.

Therein lies the problem.

"You would lose your free will, becoming enslaved. Remember Kieren and Vivian." Zedd warned passionately.

"It's not like the ancient ways are so trouble free." Richard shot back. "Look at Kahlan herself, look what happened to her and her sister when their mother died. It doesn't take a us to realise that marrying a D'Haran soldier isn't the wisest move to make."

"What would you suggest then?" Zedd asked of him.

"Love." He answered simply, as if he believed it with all his heart.

"Being enslaved to the one you love?" Zedd went on.

"I don't even understand what that means. If you love someone aren't you already enslaved? Wouldn't you do anything for the one you love?"

The sad thing about it is that Richard believed in every word he spoke. That had always been the trouble with Richard. He believed in so many impossible things, and he never gave up on the things he believed in.

"Kahlan?" Richard calls to her in a shaky voice. Snapping her back to the present. It scares her, that tremble in his tone, betraying his deep fear. She had seen him face many battles. Always with confidence. Sometimes a false confidence, but always strong. From the day she met him. He did not tremble before any one. But today, he trembles.

Cara says nothing. It's her silence that makes Kahlan look into Cara's eyes, not his.

She knows she can't read a Mord Sith. But she looks. Because Cara is a friend. That thought alone, the absurdity of it, causes Kahlan to smile a little, in spite of herself. The Mother Confessor and a Mord Sith. Not just any Mord Sith. The Mord Sith who had murdered Dennee. And her own father. And yet Kahlan calls her 'friend'. Kahlan loves her, as she loves Richard, if not more so. She can barely remember what life was like before Cara.

The crooked smile on Kahlan's face does little to reassue Cara and Richard. In fact it only seems to alarm Richard more so. But Cara looks blankly back at the Mother Confessor.

All of a sudden, Kahlan is driven by a desperation to read Cara, to know what she is thinking, feeling.

The little things Kahlan can already see, not because she is a confessor, but because she has come to know Cara. But deeper she looks. She sees something briefly flash across Cara's face. Horror. A fleeting but definite look of horror.

And that sinking feeling makes Kahlan feel a little sick. Because horror is not something you see on a Mord Sith's face. Ever. The brutality of their training, the things Cara had been subjected to from the time she was nine years old, all the torment and torture and abuse is more that enough to drive the horror from any person. But there was Kahlan, the sweet virtuous Mother Confessor, and something about Kahlan leaves the Mord Sith horrorstruck.

Kahlan realises she may be imagining things. She allows herself that luxury with Cara, imagining her thoughts. She didn't have that opportunity with any one else. With Richard, Kahlan sees things. Sees every little thing. Even when he tries to hide it. Even when he tries to make her feel better. When he lies to others, to himself. , Kahlan saw through it all. Kahlan often wishes for normalcy, the sweet mystery of wonder. The peace of not knowing.

As Kahlan notes Cara has not moved her hand from Richard's shoulder, relief washes over her. Richard will be fine without her. Cara and Zedd will see to that. What did he need a Confessor for anyway? He had never understood her. Not really. Never understood her beliefs, traditions. He never approved, mating to continue the family line, taking someone confessed, robbing men of their lives. Kahlan reminds herself that confessors don't take honourable men as mates. Confessors don't confess honourable men. Full stop. But still, confession, slavery, it was tantamount to murder in Richard's eyes. Richard never saw the sense. It's not that Kahlan sees it either, it's just that it's always been her life.

Richard spoke of the Mother Confessor's tenderness and compassion. He told others of her mercy and purity. But he had seen the flip side also. The violence, the rage, the murder. The con dar. Her perfect willingness, eagerness, to execute Cara out of vengeance, to torture her to death. Her calm declaration that her new born nephew be drowned at birth, the rigidity of her belief in tradition and prophecy.

Richard never believed in prophecy. He declared it more than once. Even though his own life, his whole entire life, is a living prophecy fulfilled.

"Kahlan?" He calls to her. "I love you." He says simply. There are tears in his eyes. "Do you doubt how much I love you? Tell me what you need, tell me what you want me to do."

A wave of nausea washes over Kahlan. How many times had she heard those words in her life time…"Tell me what I can do for you, Confessor. I will do whatever pleases you. I love you, mistress."

And she falls into it, like a reflex, the words spill out of her mouth.

"You only feel that way because you've been confessed." Kahlan utters without thinking.

"What are you talking about ? Confessed? "Richard asks.

"Richard hasn't been confessed. Cara declares wearily, rolling her eyes.

"Prove it." Kahlan instructs. "Kill her." Kahlan orders Richard icily. "Pick up your wretched 'sword of truth' and run it through her, that will please me." Kahlan tells Richard.

Richard and Cara only stare at her in response.

"Kahlan? I don't know what is running through your head right now. But I'm not confessed to you, and I'm not going to kill Cara .

"But thank you very much " Cara speaks up, bitterly. "If he was confessed to you, then I'd be lying dead at your feet!"

Kahlan would have stopped him, of course, before he killed Cara. But she doesn't think either of them know it. They think her capable of anything. Neither one has any trouble believing that Kahlan would have Cara dead. Just like that. With one instruction.

Kahlan is forced to concede on one point though. "Maybe you're not confessed. But that is beside the point." She utters dismissively.

"What is the point?" It's Cara who asks, Richard can't bring himself to keep asking. He isn't sure he wants to know.

"You have a destiny." Kahlan directs at Richard.

"I fulfilled my destiny, I defeated Darken Rah, because of you, because you came to Westland, you found me, found Zedd. Every step of the way, Kahlan, you were by my side."

She is certain he is deliberately using her name now, seeing how it unnerves her. She feels so certain that he can see right through her.

Kahlan shrugs in response. "It wasn't me, it was the prophecy. If I hadn't come for you, someone else would have."

"If you want to go back to Aydindril…." Richard suggests finally, wearily.

That stings. "You want me to go back to Aydindril?" Kahlan repeats, in surprise and discontent.

"No, of course not! I just want you to be happy. I don't understand this. I don't understand what you're dong, but it's scaring me, Kahlan. Please." He extends his hand towards her "Come with me, lets talk."

"No." she answers defiantly.

"What about what you said, how the worst betrayal was leaving me." He asked her.

"That was before, the quest is over, Darken Rahl is defeated." She reminds him.

She looks to his outstretched hand.

"What about the prophecy..."As long as the mother confessors true heart beats, " He quotes.

Kahlan cut him off before he can finish "You don't believe in prophecy, Richard!" She raises her voice in absolute frustration. "You think you can pick and choose which prophecies you believe? You want to make a point in an argument with me, and suddenly you call upon prophecy as if it's sacred to you? You scoff at the very mention of prophecy."

"I don't believe." He admits. There is no point lying to a confessor anyway. "But you do, don't you Kahlan? You just said as much."

"What I believe is unimportant." She responds.

"If you believe in prophecy, as long as you stay alive, the keeper can not win. You said that once to me, that we could go away and hide some place, just you and me, and as long as you were alive the keeper would never win."

Kahlan wrinkles her brow in confusion. It takes Richard a minute to realise that she does not remember. It hits him that it wasn't her, it was half of her, when the amulet split in two. And he realises trying to explain it won't help his argument.

"Nevermind." He mutters.

"No, please continue, I Insist upon it."

"It was when the amulet split in two."

'Oh. I see." Kahlan acknowledges, uncomfortable with the fact that there are parts of her that he knows better than she knows herself. She feels violated.

"All I'm trying to say, is that if you're angry with me…." He begins.

"I'm not." She insists.

Kahlan wont look into this eyes. She doesn't want to know what she might see. It would kill her, she thinks, literally stop her heart, to see the look on Richard's face when he realises the darkness inside of her.

She smiles a little to herself at the absurdity of the thought. She is dead already. No matter what she says, what she does, there is no way out. So what would it hurt to look into the seekers eyes and see the reflection of herself? She despises herself a little more in that moment, for lacking the strength to face who she is, and what he makes of it. But these will be her last moments on earth, why torment herself? Besides, she can imagine, and had imagined, just what the seeker would make of her if he really knew her.

She runs her tongue over the Alkalis stone in her mouth, she tightens the grip on her weapon, and clenches her free hand, her 'confessor' hand. She has all she cards. But she is the one who feels helpless. Defenceless. Alone.

Kahlan places all her weight onto her right foot. Her left foot is dangling precariously over the edge of the steep embankment. Kahlan doesn't stop to think that the fear in Richard's eyes is because he is afraid FOR her. She sees only the fear, and is more than accustomed to people being afraid OF her. Her own father among them.

One bite on that stone is all it would take. Nothing he could do. All this would be over. Why torment herself going round and round in circles with the Seeker? They disagreed on almost everything. Looking back, from day one, they had never been on the same page. Then Kahlan's gaze drifts to her, in her red leather. Just standing there staring silently while Richard blathers away. She is silent. Her, and her breath of life. She was too close. 'Don't waste the stone' Kahlan scolds herself. That Mord Sith is way too close with her salvation, resurrection. There is one way out. And its straight down the bottom of that cliff top.

Kahlan inhales, this time peace washes over her, as she realises, finally, what she must do.