RATING: PG, pre-slash - but lots of it. Approximately 12,600 words.
SUMMARY: Happy Endings - Some work out, some don't. Kahlan/Cara, talk of Richard/Kahlan. Immediately Post-Tears.
DISCLAIMER: As always, everything here belongs to other (much more wealthy) people. I'm just having fun.
A/N: I employ some time jumps in the narrative - some small and some large. I also try and make some sense of the muddled show!canon here. If I've made it even worse, please forgive me. I also use an image of Cara in the last scene that I first read in someone else's fic - but I can't remember whose! Sorry I can't properly credit, but thanks for that idea that never left me!
Cara watched, lips pursed, as Richard and Kahlan huddled against the wall at the end of a long Palace hallway. They were standing facing each other, their hands clasped together, waist high. So close as they quietly talked, that their foreheads were nearly touching. They seemed completely oblivious of the occasional staff or guard that passed them, lost in their own world. It was a scene Cara had watched hundreds of times since she’d known them.
It seemed they had overcome the tensions of the past few months. As Cara always suspected they would.
Cara's arm flinched at a sudden itch between her shoulder blades and she let loose an impatient breath. She was supposed to be conferring with Richard over tactical information coming in from D’Hara. But this could go on for half the day. She was just about to turn away and find some other way to occupy herself, preferably outside of the stifling heat of the Palace, when she realized something was off.
The couple weren’t stupidly gazing into each other’s eyes, as expected. They both seemed unable to look at each other fully at all. Richard stood with a defeated slump, which only increased as Kahlan gave short, sad nods as he spoke.
He then grasped the back of her neck and pulled her close, but kissed her forehead instead of her lips. He stayed like that, his mouth pressed close to her hairline for some time, and whispering something against her head, he abruptly wheeled and stalked away without looking back, his hand white against the handle of the Sword of Truth swinging at his hip.
Kahlan was turned away from Cara and she watched as that proud back bowed a little, curving into herself. Then she took a deep breath, deliberately straightened and Cara could just see the side of her dark head turn and look out the open window beside her, and stare unseeing at the streets below.
Cara shifted. Something just happened, something she wasn’t invited to see. Something that made her confused and a little fearful. But she knew if she moved now, Kahlan would certainly notice her. So she just stayed there, stuck, and found herself staring at Kahlan staring at nothing.
Then as if Cara had spoken, Kahlan turned and lifted her head, and looked straight at Cara. The Mord Sith stiffened until she saw Kahlan’s mouth quirk a small smile and she started walking slowly towards her.
When she drew next to Cara, her smile wavered only a little, old tear tracks lining her cheeks. “Richard is leaving. For D’Hara, in the morning.”
Cara’s head drew back, her eyes widening slightly.
Kahlan nodded as if Cara had replied. “When he saw Dennee was pregnant, he thought that might change things for me. He thought once I settled in here…” Her resigned smile jerked. “He wanted to wait me out. I think he’s finally realized I won’t be changing my mind.”
Cara found her voice. “If he’s to reach D’Hara with troops, he’d have to leave now to get there before winter sets in. It’s surprisingly…practical.”
Kahlan huffed a half laugh, then her blue eyes lifted to bore into Cara’s. “What do you want to do?” she asked.
Cara made herself hold the Confessor’s gaze, though it somehow hurt. “I serve Richard. I go where he goes. Unless he orders otherwise.”
Kahlan’s eyes darted over her face, the frustration of not being able to read her very apparent. “But if you had a choice?” she persisted.
“Mord Sith don’t have choices about such things. We have our duty.” It came out easily, as rote. Words so practiced, she didn’t have to think about them beforehand. She watched as Kahlan’s face grew slack with added sorrow.
The treacherous thoughts that crept in weren’t new ones, but Cara had a sudden, raw need to say them out loud, now, before she left. She knew protecting the reckless back of her Lord Rahl would most likely mean a shortened life and no other chances.
She didn’t really expect to see Kahlan again once she left.
The Mord Sith swallowed, feeling like she was foolishly toeing a sharp drop over an endless chasm. “But…” she haltingly began, “My position is somewhat complicated by discovering I…feel more…devotion…to the Mother Confessor…than to the Lord Rahl.” Cara peered through her lashes at Kahlan, wondering if the Confessor appreciated what a betrayal those words really were. Then she decided to jump into the chasm, completely. “I’ll…miss you.”
Kahlan’s face was blank with surprise at first. Then her eyes sparkled with fresh tears. Her growing smile was oddly shy.
The dull, pounding ache had finally caught fire.
It was consuming Cara’s flesh, spreading inflamed tendrils deeply through her chest and flowing steadily towards her limbs. She knew the weakness and cold sweat would be next. It was already clouding her vision, making her lightheaded.
She felt the insistent tug of pressure on her left shoulder when she would allow herself to slump at all. The warm pooling of blood down her leathers had settled at her boots, making the floor slick beneath her. Cara tried to keep her footing, though she wasn’t sure why she bothered. Habit, she supposed. Pride.
The metallic taste in her mouth kept rising, filling up and replacing whatever she spit out. She assumed the long dagger had nicked her lung. There was a wet rattling sound whenever she choked out a breath.
The fool had missed the chance for a quick kill.
Or was that the point? To leave her pierced against the wall like a parchment clumsily posted, to let her expire after a slow, tedious waiting.
She dispassionately looked around the room. A tastefully decorated, modest room. The room Kahlan had chosen for her. A small, sturdy bed, a washbasin. A jeweled colored tapestry on the wall with the crest of Aydindril woven into it. The hearth with the coals of the previous night’s fire, still glowing orange stars in the ash. The jewelry that was her mother’s - that she had impulsively taken from Grace’s house and stuffed at the bottom of her knapsack under her neck guard and corset - now laying out on the mantle.
And damp, bloody footprints marking a path on the floor, walking away from her and out the still open door.
As it all ran together like ink in the rain, Cara laughed through a painful cough, scattering small, red droplets on the floor in front of her. Not much of a last sight to behold. Not like having the bodies of your opponents littering the ground around you. Not the end of a proper Mord Sith, at all. But maybe that was fitting.
And it was her choice, after all.
Kahlan pressed her full weight against Cara’s body, her arms tight around the Mord Sith’s waist, lifting her up and against the wall behind her. Cara had gone limp and the blade through her shoulder was tearing at her, the gash growing larger and uglier.
Cara’s eyes were dimmed and half closed, red bubbling from her open lips, but Kahlan saw blood still pumping from the wound, and knew her heart was still beating, somehow. Her years as a Mord Sith had obviously conditioned her body to survive unimaginable punishment.
The servant who’d accompanied her there just stared, loose jawed and unmoving and Kahlan felt a storm of panic rearing up. She couldn’t do this by herself. She needed this girl’s help.
She forced herself to seem calm.
“Madeline.” The girl’s saucer eyes drifted from all the blood soaking the floor to Kahlan. “Put down the tray,” she ordered. The girl looked down, surprised to see her ashen knuckles still gripping the tray she had brought for their lunch. She gasped a little and swiveled to her right to set it down on the rough table next to her.
This seem to take forever. Kahlan licked her lips and turned her head briefly against Cara’s ears, just saying “please, please”, pleading with her, pleading with the Creator, anyone who’d listen. Then she looked back at the stricken young girl, still rooted where she was.
“Madeline. I need to you to take the dagger out.”
Her eyes grew wider and she mutely shook her head from side to side. “Madeline. I can’t do it. I have to hold her up, or her weight will cause more damage.” The slight girl made a mewling, distressed sound at the back of her throat. “Please!” Kahlan retched out.
The Mother Confessor begging anything from her seemed to shock her into movement and the girl numbly shuffled her way forward until the knife handle was gripped in both her small hands. She tugged and it didn’t move. She frowned and pulled again.
“Please. Hurry,” Kahlan said in a harsh whisper. The dagger had been pounded in with such force that much of its length was jammed deep into the wood panel behind Cara. Kahlan’s head dropped against Cara’s again. “Please, Madeline, hurry. Please.”
One more yank and with a terrible sucking sound, flesh and wood gave way, and Madeline stood there with the dripping blade in her hands. Cara immediately started to slide down the wall, and Kahlan let her, trying to guide her down as gently as possible. When she was sitting on the floor and propped up, Kahlan gripped the bottom of her gown and tore at it, rending it into long panels of loose fabric.
She heard the young girl gasp again, and looked up, amazed to see some emotion coming back to the stunned servant’s face. She was now staring at the white cloth in her hands. Upset at a Confessor’s gown being torn.
Kahlan kept the scream from leaving her throat, and instead hoarsely commanded her to go get a Wizard, as quickly as possible. Madeline nodded, let the dagger clatter to the floor and bolted from the room, relieved to be able to flee. A sudden, drowning fear that the girl would just run away and fail her terrified Kahlan and she began to sob even as her hands clumsily tried to bind her friend’s gaping wound.
She pressed steadily against the fabric, trying to hold Cara’s life in her body, aware that she was kneeling in so much of it, stepping in it, like it was nothing.
Kahlan’s body start to shudder and she felt her power surge angrily through her, a painful coursing over her skin and her nerves. “No!” Without thinking, Kahlan balled her right fist and pounded the wall next to Cara’s head, several times, until she heard bones shatter and a different pain shoot up her arm.
She couldn’t go into ConDar now. If she did, she couldn’t help Cara.
Her eyes started blurring with tears and the shock, but she kept her left hand against Cara’s shoulder, cradling the right one in her lap. As the minutes dragged on, she listened, hungered for Cara’s faint, strained breathing and tensed her broken hand whenever the prickling of her magic threatened to climb her spine.
Finally, the Wizard Jacobi appeared at her side. She was only vaguely aware of several heavily armed palace guards also standing in the doorway.
“Mother Confessor!” he said, alarmed.
“Heal her. Quickly.” Kahlan’s voice was raw.
The old man’s forehead wrinkled and he gestured towards the hand in her lap. “Mother Confessor, your hand is injured-“
“Heal her!” she snarled.
Jacobi’s white head jerked back, startled and frightened, but he nodded vigorously and immediately reached across to hover his hands over Cara, chanting ancient words, words Kahlan didn’t know. Words of hope.
Dennee jumped at the sound of the strained voice, and turned around to see a spectre of her sister by the entry door.
Kahlan stood alone, ram-rod straight, her face a mask of stone. Her Confessor’s gown was in tatters and most of it was stained a wet, dark scarlet. Her right hand was tucked against her hip, horribly swollen and purple.
Dennee took an alarmed step forward, and almost immediately halted, stopped by the flat, cold expression in Kahlan’s eyes. She finally understood what others felt when looking upon a Confessor in judgment.
“Kahlan, let me help you,” Dennee said softly. When her sister didn’t stir or react, she added, “You’re hurt. Your hand-”
“It’s still necessary,” she replied evenly. Kahlan’s blue eyes cut through her. “How could you, Dennee?” she hissed.
She flinched and swallowed. “I didn’t.”
“I know, Dennee. I know it was you.”
Dennee shook her head from side to side and carefully took another step closer. “I was told what happened, though… Is she…?”
Kahlan’s head tilted back, her nostrils flaring, daring her to finish the question. Dennee stopped moving. “She’s alive,” Kahlan said. “Jacobi closed the wound, but couldn’t restore the blood she lost.” Kahlan’s mask weakened and her voice shook. “She won’t wake up.”
“I didn’t do this…”
Kahlan’s eyes narrowed and her lips curled. “She didn’t draw her agiels. Dennee. They were still holstered. She didn’t even try to defend herself. There’s only one other person in this Palace that she would refuse to raise her weapons to. And that’s you.”
“I didn’t do this,” Dennee repeated, helplessly.
“Don’t play word games with me, sister!” Kahlan’s breathing was labored, ragged. “If it wasn’t by your own hand, you had it done!”
Dennee’s head pulled back and her eyes grew wide. “Spirits,“ she whispered. “No, I…”
“You shouldn’t be angry with my Mistress.”
Both women’s heads whipped towards Bryce’s voice. The fair-haired man had stepped through the side door leading to their private quarters. He was holding their newborn daughter. His strong arms cradled her against his chest, and he was making shushing noises at the child’s fussing, while his eyes held Kahlan’s, calmly defiant.
“Since our daughter’s birth, that Mord Sith has been tormenting my Mistress’ dreams. She imagines Nia’s death, instead. She hasn’t slept in weeks.”
Kahlan looked closer at her sister, seeing the haggard expression and dull eyes clearly for the first time. “You said nothing.”
Her face contorted in bitterness and misery. “What good would it do? Your mind was set. Set on keeping her here.”
“So, you sent your mate to kill her, instead?” Kahlan asked, hollowly.
“No,” Bryce answered for her. “She gave no order. She didn’t have to. She made it clear that she desired the bitch gone.”
Kahlan surged, stalking towards the man, her good hand clenching and flexing. Dennee desperately shouted after her and yelled Nia’s name. That made Kahlan stop, glancing at the child wiggling in his arms.
“If you weren’t already confessed…” She muttered dangerously low, her glare piercing him. He looked steadily back at her, with the bravery of an already bent will.
Kahlan wheeled and left the room, not looking back.
Kahlan heard the shuffling and bustling activity before she had reached Cara’s room.
She stepped past the two men guarding the open door without a word. Several women were furiously scrubbing the stone floor, trying to remove the stain. Several more were tending to Cara, still unmoving on the bed. They were sponge bathing her as best they could without removing her leathers. Jacobi hovered nearby, pensively pulling on his short beard.
When the Wizard saw Kahlan, he cocked his head in evaluation, muttered some servile deferral and without asking, reached over and waved his hand over Kahlan’s damaged one. It shrank and smoothed instantly, the angry color fading once again to match the rest of her pale skin.
Kahlan swayed on her feet, her body starting to shake with exhaustion.
“If I may,” the old man carefully said, “Perhaps you’d let these ladies tend to you, too, Mother Confessor?” He subtly indicated her shredded, soiled gown.
Kahlan ignored the question. “She still hasn’t wakened?”
“No,” he reluctantly admitted. “But she hasn’t worsened. We can only wait-“
Jacobi craned his head lower, to better catch her words. “I’m sorry, Mother Confessor, I didn’t quite-“
“Get out,” she said, more firmly. “Just stop. All of you. And leave us.”
The servants and Wizard exchanged looks for only a moment, then they picked up anything they had brought with them and quickly left the rooms, gingerly shutting the door behind them.
The sudden silence made Kahlan’s head pound.
She stood and watched Cara, who was curled carelessly towards her and terribly still. Then, without taking off what was left of her gown or removing her boots, she went around the bed and crawled on top of the quilts, scooting as close to Cara’s warmth as she could.
She wrapped both her arms around her and pulled her tightly against her, her face pressed hard against Cara’s neck. She snaked her healed hand between the Mord Sith’s breasts, and let it rest there, watching and feeling it move with every reassuring breath Cara took.
Then Kahlan Amnell cried until she fell unconscious.
The Mord Sith’s head rested above the pile of blankets, swaddled safely inside like a spoiled infant. Dennee was sure it was Kahlan’s caring hands that had tucked the cloth around her before leaving the room.
Dennee fingered the cool metal footboard as she watched the woman take soft, even breaths. She looked younger this way. Without the hard eyes and the arrogance and contempt coloring her lips. Maybe this was what Kahlan somehow saw all the time, even when the Mord Sith was awake.
She'd seen the difference in the Mord Sith’s manner and behavior when around her sister. She wasn’t blind. But she still couldn’t let herself believe it was anything other than a deception, some ploy to make Kahlan trust her, only to betray that trust when the time was right. Trying to imagine any other explanation was like trying to look into the sun.
Then, Dennee realized green eyes were open and looking right at her. The Mord Sith slowly raised her chin, the only sign of wariness or surprise.
“Don’t worry. I’m not here to finish you off,” Dennee said as the woman’s eyes narrowed. “Kahlan is right outside. Probably pacing.” The Confessor moved around the bed and stopped to stand even with Cara’s covered legs. “It took some convincing for her to leave you at all.”
Dennee’s eyes were unwillingly pulled to all the signs of her sister in the room – Kahlan’s hairbrush, her clothes, the official papers strewn on the table. She’d practically moved in while personally tending to the Mord Sith. Watching such unexpected devotion over these last few weeks, she found herself wondering about the real reason Richard finally gave up and left.
Dennee waited, but the Mord Sith didn’t say anything, either - she was just patient, watchful.
“I came to say…” Dennee took a deep breath, trying to mine some elusive resolve. “I wanted to say that I…regret what happened to you.” She’d purposefully echoed the Mord Sith’s own words to her seasons before. She saw the light of recognition flit through those eyes and a slight smile tug her lips.
“I accept your apology.”
The Confessor inclined her head. “A different answer than I gave you,” she acknowledged quietly.
The blankets jumped around the woman’s shoulder from the small shrug she gave.
“So even if my regret stems mostly from how it’s strained my relationship with Kahlan?” Dennee prodded. “That’s still acceptable to you?” The Confessor was almost hopeful she would start an argument and give her an excuse to leave without saying more.
“It’s a start,” was all she replied. Dennee tried to see some mockery there, or one of her usual smirks lacing her lips. But couldn’t. Dennee felt her chest burn, heavy and sore with an old ache. She forced herself to take a deeper breath.
“You were a witness,” Dennee suddenly blurted.
The prone woman’s face wrinkled in confusion. “You saw. What I did.” Dennee’s hand clutched her belly and twisted the fabric there, as she looked away. “That’s why I hated you. Not because you did what you were trained to do. Because you saw what I did. To my own child. How I failed him.”
Dennee felt suspended, waiting for the calamity she was sure would fall once the words were actually spoken out loud. She chanced a glance at the woman. Those terrible green eyes were soft and sad.
“I had a son,” The Mord Sith finally said. “I lost him. Because I let my Sisters take him from me. Because it was my duty. Because I felt I had to.” The shrug bounced the covers again. But Dennee finally saw how unconvincing the gesture was. “I hated a great many things afterwards. Including Confessors.”
Dennee waited, confused, thinking she was mishearing, misunderstanding. But the woman just stared evenly back at her. “Kahlan didn’t say anything about this,” she said over her suddenly dry throat.
The Mord Sith flicked a nervous look at the door and almost looked ashamed as she looked back down at the pattern on the quilt around her. “I haven’t told her.”
The Confessor had so long relied on her magical abilities to read someone’s honesty, that she’d never really developed a common instinct about it. So it startled her that she was suddenly so sure about someone her powers couldn’t pierce at all.
She believed her.
Dennee blinked at the stranger in front of her. “Thank you for telling me,” she said, swiping at her wet cheeks. And after a long moment, faintly added, “Cara.”
“Stop squirming, Kahlan.”
Dennee stepped back, Madeline hovering at her heels behind her. The blonde Confessor grinned at her handiwork. “Why, you almost look regal, sister.”
The face Kahlan pulled was at complete odds with her appearance.
Her dark hair was carefully curled into small ringlets, pulled back and held up with ancient, ornate metal combs, revealing her long neck framed by a stiff, standing collar. The white gown had a longer train and sleeves than the usual Confessor’s dress, with swirls of intricate ivory embroidery vining up the bodice and back down the arms.
Kahlan’s brows rose in question, and the young servant beamed in answer and Dennee’s head bobbed in satisfaction.
“I’ve been Mother Confessor for a long while now,” Kahlan said, sighing. “I really don’t see why we need all this fuss.”
“Because it’s Bodencyffes. Which should’ve happened when you were first chosen.” Dennee reached down to swipe a crease out of the gown. “Because it only happens once in a generation. And because our people need to see you and know you’re here to stay.” She said this with less humor and a pointed look and Kahlan nodded her understanding. “You’ve put the ceremony off long enough.”
They could hear the large crowd milling and shouting through the balcony window, despite the chill already in the air. They had begun gathering at dawn and music and celebrations had already started, all in anticipation of the Mother Confessors official ascension to office and formal public appearance before her people.
“Our mother would be very proud of you,” Dennee said so softly she almost didn’t hear. Kahlan smiled, then shook her head and laughed, trying to keep any tears at bay.
At another joyful shout from the crowd outside, Kahlan pressed her palms against her ribs, not knowing whether the stiffer corset would be strong enough to hold her nerves in. Dennee gave her a knowing grin, which only widened as a loud knock sounded on the entry door at the far end of the room.
“I think your Mord Sith needs to see you,” Dennee said lightly, without looking up from smoothing the dress. And without any hint of the previous bite in her words.
The door parted and Cara strode in as if the crowd outside waited for her.
She moved into the room with fluid strength and authority. Her blonde hair was pulled back to a short braid resting on her neck. Her leathers had a higher neck, and reinforced panels over the shoulder, flowing down and meeting around her ribs. Her gloves now extended down over her forearm, with thick, buckled braces. Her boots were heavier, with buckles at her shins. The leathers were oiled to a glossy sheen and were a dark inky blue, with cobalt highlights that gleamed as she passed through the shafts of sunlight in the room.
Cara halted in front of Kahlan, somehow standing at a loosely formal attention. Kahlan gawked in a decidedly undignified manner.
Kahlan had never seen her dressed like this before.
“You…your…your leathers…when did you…?” She looked around and saw the unsurprised expressions on her sister and Madeline’s faces. She looked back helplessly at Cara and stared. “Blue is Aydindril’s colors,” she finally managed to whisper.
Cara just twisted her lips in amusement and bowed ever so slightly. Kahlan’s eyes wandered over Cara, shaking her head in confusion and wonder, until they rested on her holster.
Cara glanced casually down at her hip, where a twin pair of silver daggers rested. The kind traditionally used by Confessors. “The agiels didn’t go with the outfit.”
Kahlan’s eyes immediately began to fill. She turned to her sister. “Dennee, can you give us a moment?”
“Don’t be long,” her sister reminded gently. “The Council will be calling for you shortly.” Kahlan watched as Dennee and Cara exchanged a small, respectful incline of their heads and then Dennee tugged Madeline’s sleeve behind her, uprooting the small servant girl, whose smile was growing impossibly wider.
When the heavy doors finally closed behind them, Kahlan turned back towards Cara. The padded leathers made sense now. She would need to compensate for not using magic in battle, with only the use of short blades in close combat. Kahlan clasped her hands in front of her.
“Cara. What are you doing?”
“I’m making my choice. As you suggested.”
“I never meant…I never thought you’d-“
“You don’t want my service?” The question was blunt and provoking and yet Kahlan could clearly hear Cara’s uncertainty and fear in it.
“It’s not that. I … I just wanted your company, your friendship. I, I wanted…” Kahlan heaved a deep breath, annoyed that she could make life and death pronouncements in court and yet stammer like an idiot in front of this woman. “I didn’t expect you to give up being Mord Sith. I never would have asked that of you.”
“Mord Sith serve Lord Rahl. I no longer do. So I must become something else.”
“But. But it’s meant so much to you. It’s meant…everything to you.”
“You mean more.”
A blow to the jaw wouldn’t have shut Kahlan up faster.
A wordless conversation followed, their eyes locked. Kahlan looking doubtful, almost guilty, and Cara insistent and sure. Kahlan’s face finally settled on looking touched and astonished.
“I’ve thought about this for awhile,” the blonde said wryly. “I’ve thought of little else.”
Kahlan ducked her head in recognition, then opened her palms out in front of her. “So, what does this…what will it mean?”
“It means my life is yours.”
What air was left within Kahlan’s tightly corseted ribs flew out of her.
“You need to just…accept it,” Cara added quietly. When the blonde continued to stare at her, Kahlan realized that Cara actually needed an answer, as if there were some doubt. Kahlan could only nod dumbly, tears finally spilling out over her cheeks.
Cara shuffled a little, finally seeming a little nervous and unsure. “Choosing where my loyalty lies is…an alien thing to me. It would help if I could consciously declare it. Out loud. As I’m accustomed to. Only…for you.”
Kahlan found her emotions were choking off her sense, because she didn’t understand what Cara was saying. But she wouldn’t deny her anything that would make this gesture easier for her. “Alright,” she said, bewildered. “What do I do?”
A confident smirk reemerged. “Stand there.”
Without another word, Cara dropped to one knee and knelt in front of Kahlan.
“Mother Confessor guide me, Mother Confessor teach me, Mother Confessor protect me...” Kahlan swallowed thickly. She had seen Devotions to the Lord Rahl before. The words were familiar. But instead of the usual loud and forceful voice and submissive, bowed head, Cara looked her fully in the face, her voice soft and earnest, stressing the meaning of each word. The Devotion was addressed to her role, but Cara’s dedication was only to her, personally. “…In your light I thrive, in your mercy I am sheltered, in your wisdom I am humbled, I live only to serve. My life is yours.”
There was a pause, where Cara let her green eyes show the depth of her vow beyond the words, then she smoothly lifted to her feet and casually swiped Kahlan’s wet cheeks with her gloved hand. “The Lord Rahl doesn’t usually cry during Devotions,” Cara mildly admonished.
Kahlan held back the urge to grab Cara’s hand as it lowered. “I’ll get better at it. I promise.” She swiped at her face, too, and chuckled ruefully. “Dennee said I wouldn’t make it through today without crying. But then it seems she knew about this.”
Cara gave a shrug and opened her mouth but there was a tentative knock on the door behind them. A guardsman poked his upper body around the door.
“Forgive me, Mother Confessor, for interrupting. They’re ready to receive you.”
Kahlan dipped her chin and smiled. “And I’m ready for you to escort me.” The man smiled back, then opened the door fully and assumed a rigid stance, waiting for them. In the hallway beyond him, they could see several dozen of the home guard, in resplendent blue dress uniforms lining the path to the Council’s chambers.
With a small challenge quirking her lip, Kahlan turned towards Cara and lifted her hand between them, palm down. Cara stared at it.
“You wish me to take you there?”
“Yes. If you would.”
Cara licked her lips. “I’m still learning your customs…but isn’t that usually the role of a mate or your betrothed?”
Kahlan just hummed an affirmative and lifted her hand a little higher. Tilting her head at her, Cara wordlessly raised her own hand and let Kahlan’s rest on top, grasping her fingertips with her own.
They pivoted as one, and with their clasped hands between them, started a slow procession of two towards the hall.
“But you’re wearing a braid again?” Kahlan blithely asked, without turning her head.
“Just for today,” Cara said, her eyes also staying ahead of them. “It seemed more formal.”
“Good. I like your hair loose.”
“Then you can loosen it later. If you like.” Kahlan’s feet tangled in her train for just a second, then she quickly recovered, and they continued their pace as if nothing had happened at all.
Except for Kahlan’s answering squeeze of Cara’s fingers.