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Kahlan shivered as another cruel gust of icy wind blew through the trees. She pulled up her hood, and at the thin wrap around her neck and shoulders. If she didn't know better, she would think that it was going to snow. First the fog had rolled in blanketing the night, and now she was struggling through a forest that was becoming colder and colder as night drew near. She thought about stopping to make a fire, but she didn't have her pack or a flint. The air was damp; it would take too long to start one without it. If she stopped, she would just get colder. At least as long as she was walking she wouldn't freeze to death.
She counted herself lucky that she had been drinking from her water skin when the gars had attacked out of the fog, otherwise she would have been without water, too. In the confusion that followed, she had become separated from Richard, Zedd and Cara. She prayed to the Spirits that they were alright. She had headed towards the sounds of the shouts, but the fog became so thick she feared she could stumble right into the attacking gars. Nearly blinded by the mist, she drew her daggers and stood where she was, preparing to defend herself from the three large beasts. There was also the danger of collateral damage to and from her own friends. Kahlan was well aware of how dangerous fighting blindly could be.
It had grown ominously quiet in the fog, and Kahlan could hear nothing but the sound of her own breathing. It was as though the entire world had vanished, leaving her in a swirl of darkening gray. She shouted repeatedly for Richard and for Cara, but still she heard nothing. She had headed in the direction she had thought was the last location she had heard them in, but still got no reply. The fog and the silence were disorienting, and as time passed, cold fear gripped Kahlan's heart. Deciding to pause for a moment so as to not get too far away from the others, Kahlan had waited several minutes, as the fog dissipated while the cold rolled in. When it became clear enough to see more than a few paces in front of her, she had begun walking again, calling out for the others.
Thirty minutes ago she had come across a dead gar, its pink chest rent with a giant hole where the heart should be. A few minutes later, she had come to the charred remains of another one, but found no sign of the others except for the footprints in the brush that indicated the battle. There was no sign of their camp, and the footprints led in different directions. Richard and Zedd's prints were easily discernible by their size; they led in the opposite direction from the other set of prints. A splash of blood on a branch near a clear Mord'Sith boot print made the decision for her of which direction to go. Richard and Zedd were together, but Cara was bleeding and alone. As badly as their association had started, Kahlan had come to care for the Mord'Sith.
She continued following the distinctive heel print of Cara's boots, relieved that she had not found more than a few droplets of blood since the first branch she had come across. Hopefully it meant that Cara was not too badly injured. The fog had cleared further with the gusts of cold air, so she decided to start calling for her again. As she took a deep breath to call her name, a leather clad hand covered her mouth pulled her body back against a warm, soft chest. Panic seized her for a moment until she saw blond hair brushing her shoulder.
"Shh," Cara's voice drawled softly in her ear, "There is another gar hunting." Kahlan then noticed the blood flies swarming several paces away. She inwardly cursed her own stupidity; so intent had she been on finding Cara, worry for the blond consuming her, Kahlan had forgotten about the third gar. Nodding her head, Cara released her and Kahlan silently drew a dagger from her boot. The Mord'Sith slipped her bow from her shoulder, and notched an arrow. Cara signaled with a flash of her green eyes for Kahlan to throw her dagger, while Cara made the shot.
As though they had practiced it a hundred times before, Kahlan's dagger flew directly at the creature's heart, while the arrow loosed from the Mord'Sith's bow struck it directly in the eye just as it began a howl of rage. It went down in a heap with a cloud of blood flies and black fluid spewing from its mouth. It thrashed in the brush for a few moments, then moved no more. The smell was enough to bring tears to Kahlan's eyes.
Kahlan's relief at finding the Mord'Sith safe, and that the danger had passed was palpable. She turned and pulled the slightly shorter woman into her arms, burying her face in her shoulder, relishing the warmth of the Mord'Sith. Cara shivered, and the Confessor knew that Cara had to be freezing in her leathers. The fact that the Mord'Sith not only allowed but uncharacteristically returned the embrace, albeit only briefly, spoke volumes of the blond's own relief at no longer being alone. When she pulled away from the Confessor, Kahlan immediately missed the warmth.
"Where is Richard?" The Mord'Sith asked as she slung her bow back over her shoulder and headed to a tree where her pack had been propped. At least one of them had the foresight to keep her things handy, Kahlan thought. She could only hope that in the light of day she could find their previous camp where she had left her own pack.
"We were separated in the fog. Their tracks led in the opposite direction of yours." Kahlan remembered the blood she had seen and quickly scanned the Mord'Sith for injuries, seeing a shallow cut on her forehead. "I saw blood near your bootprints and realized you were alone, so I followed you." Cara shot her an unreadable look as the Confessor touched the cut on her head. It was not bad, and the Mord'Sith probably hadn't even been aware that she was bleeding. The scent of the blood must have been what drew the gar to her.
"Well, I'm fine, obviously, so let's find them." Cara said in her typical clipped manner and slung the pack over her shoulder. She eyed Kahlan, as if realizing the Confessor's lack of a pack, but for once, didn't mention it. Kahlan retrieved her dagger from the gar along with the arrow the Mord'Sith had shot and followed her back the way she had come.
Ten minutes into their walk, the wind bit deeply at them and snow started to fall. It was entirely too early in the season for this kind of bitter cold. While Kahlan had grown up in a land of snow and storms, Cara had never seen it until coming to the Midlands. Kahlan could still remember the look of wonder on the blond's face the first time she had seen snow falling in Aydindril. The stinging curses that the blond began muttering now informed the Confessor that Cara had suddenly become acquainted with the down side of snow when there was no shelter handy.
A chilled shudder involuntarily raced through Kahlan when another flaring of the wind sent snow stinging into them, flakes dripping wetly under her armor. She pulled the wrap closer to her body, and even the Mord'Sith stopped to draw her arms about herself. "Keeper's ass, this forest is miserable!" Cara's vivid invective hissed through the wood, but the anger in it was somewhat spoiled by the shiver that stuttered the last words. That seemed to anger the Mord'Sith even further.
"Cara, we need to find some shelter and make a fire. It won't do us any good to follow Richard and Zedd if we freeze to death in the process." Kahlan kept her voice even, implying that both of them would have trouble, though she thought that she was probably dressed adequately to continue. She at least had a hood to cover her head and retain her body heat. Cara did not. Kahlan also had more experience in snowy conditions than the Mord'Sith.
Naturally the Mord'Sith protested that she was just fine, despite the fact that she was clearly clamping her jaws together for all that she was worth to keep her teeth from chattering. Kahlan pulled the wrap from her shoulders, and wound it around Cara's head and neck, walking away quickly enough that the Mord'Sith realized that she had no intentions of taking it back. She missed its warmth, but the Mord'Sith needed it more, and she knew even Cara saw the sense of keeping her head covered to retain body heat.
Kahlan ignored the protests and began looking for anything with enough shelter to get them out of the wind and snow. As the cold sliced through her again she re-evaluated her earlier thought; she wasn't going to be able to continue much longer either if she didn't get warm. She felt herself shiver again, and finally the stubborn look left the Mord'Sith's face. Cara might not stop for herself, but she became sharply professional when it came to being a Protector. Despite the weather and woeful conditions, the Confessor drew comfort from the fact that, at least, she wasn't alone. With Cara in accord with the plan to find shelter, the two chilled figures set about finding a way out of the wind.
"This weather isn't normal, Richard, and neither was that fog." Zedd intoned. "Did you notice how silent it became as the fog rolled in?" After defeating the gars, they had wandered, trying to find the others, but the fog was too dense. Richard had been terror-stricken to come across Kahlan's pack, and had shouted for her, but it was as though the Confessor and the Mord'Sith had disappeared. It had taken all of Zedd's considerable grip to restrain Richard from running off blindly to find her.
"What would have the power to control the weather, Zedd, and why?" Richard asked absently, his mind still worrying for the Kahlan and Cara.
"What or who, indeed, my boy. As for why, it could be any number of reasons; to separate us, surely that was the purpose of the fog. As for the snow, to slow us down." He worried, and whenever Zedd was worried, Richard had learned that usually nothing good was in store for them. "The only three people capable of it would be myself, Shota and Darken Rahl."
Zedd cast a spell that would at least give them their bearings, but after several minutes of shouting for the women and waiting, they decided to travel east. As they began heading east, the fog started to dissipate and gave way to a biting cold. Richard's heart sank as he thought of Kahlan in the cold without her pack.
"Zedd, can't you do something about this cold so that we can keep looking?" Richard had seen his grandfather easily conjure fire enough to keep them warm.
"I've already tried, Richard. The amount of magic it would take to overcome this cold would attract every caster in the Midlands, including those that don't know where we are." Zedd's tone was laced with frustration. "The last thing we need is to attract the attention of even more enemies, if this is in fact the work of an enemy."
Not long after the snow had started had Richard realized that they needed to stop. He wanted to find Kahlan, but they couldn't continue in the heavy snowfall. His grandfather needed to be warm, and so did he. He could only hope that she and Cara were together; Cara most likely had her pack with her, and Kahlan would help the stubborn Mord'Sith survive in the cold.
Hopefully in the light of day, they could get some answers about the strange, silencing fog and the unseasonable cold weather. Their list of enemies that would wish to separate and slow them down didn't leave much room for comfort.
A stand of trees that had fallen together to create a deep, sheltered crevice was the best Kahlan and Cara could find on short notice. Cara dragged brush over the top and inside of it to provide better shelter from the falling snow, while Kahlan quickly gathered firewood. Night was deepening and it was getting colder. While making the fire, Kahlan berated herself inwardly that she had lost track of her pack in the confusion with the gar attack. Besides having a thick cloak in it, she had her own bedroll and blankets. Cara's bedroll was not very large and the thin excuse for a blanket that the Mord'Sith carried was not going to provide much warmth. Thankfully, the Mord'Sith had realized that insulation was needed to get them warmer, and by the time she had the fire blazing, a blessed warmth seeped into the passable hollow of shelter Cara had created.
Cara spread out her bedroll, and leaned it against the brush she had stacked near one of the trees. She then sank onto it, looking rather comfortable, and less like she was planning to murder someone for inflicting the cold upon them. Kahlan eyed Cara, spreading her hands out as she knelt before the fire. Cara sat waiting with the folded blanket in her hands, green eyes watching the kneeling Confessor. Kahlan wondered where the Mord'Sith intended for her to sit. Without comment, the Mord'Sith adjusted her position with her head against the pillow of the bedroll, spread her legs and unfurled the blanket in one hand. The other, she used gesture to the Mother Confessor.
Cara could have just given her the blanket, but the arrangement she was offering would provide much more warmth. When Kahlan hesitated, Cara cocked a blond eyebrow in challenge. The Mord'Sith looked entirely too pleased with herself for momentarily flustering Kahlan. "Mother Confessor, I'd rather not freeze to death if I can help it, and I don't bite." She smirked enough to show her teeth. "At least, not without invitation, I don't." Her voice dropped at least an octave to a register that could only be described as sultry.
Kahlan blushed, hoping the blond would mistake it for sitting so close to the fire, as several thoughts ran through her mind about what constituted such an invitation to the Mord'Sith. She felt herself shiver, and this time it wasn't entirely due to the cold. Before she could think too deeply about the situation and before her courage could fail her, Kahlan slid between the red-leather covered thighs. She didn't quite know where to put her hands, as everywhere they could possibly go would be someplace they probably shouldn't. Cara decisively escalated her nervousness by unfurling the blanket over them and pulling her quite forcefully against her, then resting her own hands at Kahlan's waist.
Kahlan took several deep breaths, certain that the blond at her back could feel her heart that was pounding so hard. When the Mord'Sith said nothing, Kahlan began to relax. Closing her eyes, she finally leaned her head back against Cara's shoulder, and tried to get a grip on herself. She wasn't used to such close contact with others, and this was decidedly intimate. Still, a sigh of contentment finally slipped out; this was as warm as she had been in what seemed like hours. She rested her own hands on Cara's, trying not to think of the breasts that pressed into her back. They really were quite full, and firm.
Her eyes popped open and she jerked a little bit when Cara's voice sounded directly in her ear, her breath softly tickling the shell of it. "Are you getting warmer, Mother Confessor?" Cara had kept her voice soft, because she was so close to her but it sounded almost like a seductive purr. Kahlan was suddenly feeling considerably warmer, but not necessarily in places she wanted to be warm at the moment. If her voice was a tad breathy when she indicated that, yes, indeed she was, Kahlan hoped it just sounded like relief. The only reply was a throaty hum of assent in her ear that nearly caused another shiver.
It was going to be a long night.
Cara was wide awake. She usually was when she had a woman in her arms, but this was a sleeping Kahlan in her arms. The Mother Confessor lay sleeping in the arms of a Mord'Sith. Worse, if Cara was honest, the two of them would not freeze to death if she let go, but she continued the contact because she enjoyed it. If she traced her fingers up the corset, she could feel the weight of her breasts. Her hands eased up the sleeping Confessor's torso as though they had taken over, and it took her considerable Mord'Sith will to stop them before her own fingers got her into trouble. Kahlan was sleeping, but it would be dishonorable to touch her in such a way when she was asleep. Besides, if she ever got the privilege to touch the Mother Confessor in such an intimate way, she wanted both of them to remember it.
What? Why was she thinking of touching the Lord Rahl's mate, and she forced herself to think of Kahlan as such just then, in such a familiar way? Just then, Kahlan shifted in her arms, the spill of long dark hair tickling her neck and breath ghosting into her cleavage and answered that question. The Confessor was asleep, but her hand quested up the side of Cara's leather to rest just below her nipple at the underside of her breast. It was breathtakingly erotic for the Mord'Sith, and she answered her own question. You desire her. Of all the things you have been tortured with, in this, you torture yourself.
A pang went through Cara's heart. She wasn't supposed to have one, but holding the Mother Confessor in her arms, so trusting that the Mord'Sith would keep her safe, it was impossible not to feel. In the dark of a cold night, perhaps it was safe to feel things that could never be felt in the light of day, she reasoned. The problem was that she knew she felt them whether there was darkness or sunlight.
She resolved to drink the feeling in, like she drank in pain. She wanted to remember every single moment of being this close to her, even if just to keep warm. Her fingers slid into dark tresses, and Cara closed her eyes, willing her body to be as warm as Kahlan needed it to be, because her heart never could be. Her last thought before drifting off to sleep was a pair of eyes so blue they put the sky to shame.
Kahlan awoke to the unfamiliar feeling of arms around her, and for a moment wondered where she was. She moved her hand to cover something soft and full. An intake of breath caused her eyes to flare open, and she realized that her hand was on Cara's breast. She felt the nipple stiffen and she tried to pull it away, but a leather covered hand stilled her own. She felt a flush rising in her cheek as the hand on her own ground the palm of it into the flesh. She involuntarily jumped when Cara moaned, and then suddenly green eyes flew open to look down at the hand on her breast. The blond blinked a moment as though startled out of a dream, then looked up to catch shocked blue eyes.
The blond smirked at her mortification but did not release Kahlan's hand. "Why Mother Confessor, this is the very type of invitation I was referring to, am I to assume that you would like for me to bite after all?" It was said playfully, but her voice was sleep roughened and husky. The heat in it also belied the attempt at nonchalance the Mord'Sith seemed to be striving for. At that, she released Kahlan's hand and looked up at her through her lashes.
Kahlan backed away, shifting from underneath the warm blanket and out of their make shift shelter, face burning, to stand. "I'm sorry, I was sleeping, I certainly didn't mean to violate you like that." She strove to put her Confessor's face on, but the twinkle in Cara's eyes told her she had not succeeded.
"Mmm, of course not." Cara agreed, but her tone implied that she didn't believe it. With a teasing smirk she continued. "It's hardly the first time I've awoken to a woman fondling my breast. I've been told they are quite nice, and it really doesn't surprise me considering how often I've noticed you looking at them." The teasing smirk bloomed into a full, wicked smile.
Kahlan wished the earth would open up beneath her and deposit her in the Underworld, or that a gar would suddenly appear and fly off with her. Did she really stare at Cara's chest that much? Naturally, since Cara was drawing attention to it, that's exactly where her traitorous eyes were. Kahlan turned around and hastily began adding wood to the fire just to have something to do with her hands. There really was no reply that she could make that would salvage her dignity, so she resolved to change the subject.
"Since I'm here by the fire, do you want me to make something to eat?" There, that was a perfectly neutral question. Kahlan was relieved that her voice sounded calm. Once the Mord'Sith detected embarrassment, she could be merciless in her taunting. She tried to shove away images of Cara waking up with women doing the Creator only knew what things to the blonde's body. It wasn't working very well; Kahlan's own imagination unhelpfully supplied ideas of herself doing them, too.
"I don't have any food in my pack," Cara answered in that same sultry voice, "and obviously you don't since you lack yours." Kahlan sighed at that, cursing the fog and the cold that had separated them, but relieved that apparently Cara was going to let the embarrassing incident go for now. Long moments passed as Kahlan finished stoking the fire, getting herself back under control. As she rose, Cara spoke in a silky tone.
"I'm sure I'll like whatever it is you are planning to offer me, though." She turned to glare darkly at the blond. With such a sour expression shadowing her face, she didn't expect Cara to smile. In fact, soft chortling erupted from the blond, escaping from around a supremely amused and cocky grin. Cara's soft laughter caught up with her, and Kahlan found herself unexpectedly laughing along with the irreverent Mord'Sith. Cara laughed so infrequently that it was impossible to remain angry with her when she did.
Kahlan shocked herself by plopping down again between the Mord'Sith's thighs, smacking one of them soundly for emphasis. "You are incorrigible." She arranged the blanket around them again, relishing the warmth and the easy companionship they were sharing. It wasn't often that Kahlan got to see this side of her blond-haired companion. It occurred to her that she only saw it when they were alone, as they were now. She wondered how many people got the opportunity to see this side of Cara.
"I am Mord'Sith we don't consider it a virtue to deny ourselves, Mother Confessor." The smoky tone right at her ear, and the breath ghosting into it nearly undid Kahlan. She had been certain before that Cara was toying with her, but it occurred to her that maybe there was something more to it the memory of the innocent touch certainly had aroused Kahlan when her embarrassment faded. Surely Cara didn't feel that way about her, a Confessor. Kahlan had never felt attraction to another woman before. Before Cara, her traitorous thoughts corrected. I'd have to be dead to not be attracted to her. It hadn't until that very moment dawned on her just how much she desired the blond.
Instinctively, to protect Cara from getting any ideas, she forced down on her physical and emotional responses. She needed to clamp down on the direction her thoughts were going in. When Kahlan spoke, her voice a little lower and a little more bitter than she expected. "Yes, well I don't consider it a virtue to go around confessing people because I give in to my desires, Cara." The old pain and mantle of duty surfaced in her, reminding her of who she was, what she was and what her responsibilities were. She hung her head a little as she shifted forward, all traces of mirth and desire vanishing from within her. She hardened her voice into that of the Mother Confessor. "Some of us don't have that luxury." She rose once more, this time leaving the shelter and the glow of the fire. She heard the blond call out her name, but she kept walking into the light of false dawn.
Cara cursed to herself, knowing instantly she had taken her teasing of Kahlan too far. There was a time when she wouldn't have cared that she had wounded anyone enough that they left the warmth of a fire for the cold of snow. That time was before Kahlan. The Mother Confessor was a gentle caress of wisdom, wrapped around a core of steel, combined with purpose and ferocity that she couldn't help admiring. A glance from her blue eyes could cut into Cara's soul, despite how she struggled to deflect such feelings with everything in her arsenal.
She realized now what the true error had been; obviously the Mother Confessor, unable to consummate her relationship with Richard for fear of Confessing him would be sensitive about such a topic. While she was certainly creative enough to come up with many solutions to such a problem, clearly the Seeker and the Mother Confessor had never considered such options. She felt so badly about hurting Kahlan that she very nearly considered making suggestions at the next opportunity.
The problem was that she didn't want them to get any ideas. It didn't conflict with her duty to the Lord Rahl to withhold information about such a personal matter, in her mind, so she kept silent. In fact, it was her duty to protect him from even thinking about it, since mistakes due to inexperience were highly likely with the both of them The other reason, if she was honest with herself, was that she hoped the Confessor would eventually turn to her.
Somewhere along the way, she had convinced herself that it wouldn't be so bad that Richard had Kahlan's heart if Cara at least got the pleasure of her body. They had become much closer in the last few months, and Cara knew the dark-haired woman cared for her. She wouldn't have come searching for her in the cold if she didn't. That made her feel even worse about hurting her, so she resolved to go after her. It was, after all, her responsibility to protect Kahlan.
Kahlan felt tears freezing on her face. She knew she should go back to the shelter to wait for the dawn to bring enough warmth so that they could get moving again, but she just couldn't stand the thought of Cara baiting her further. It was a painful enough topic for her without being teased about it. She had thought they were finally starting to get along with each other, and that Cara cared for her.
Then there was Richard. He was plainly in love with her, but her ardor for him had begun to cool to something brotherly instead of passionate love. She certainly couldn't sleep with him, though, even if she wanted to. It would Confess him. He's certainly a far better choice for me than a Mord'Sith could ever be, she thought to herself, then found herself stunned that she would even consider a physical relationship with Cara. It was one thing to notice how attractive she was, and to feel aroused by her in some circumstances, but to act on it?
Just about anyone would be a better choice for her than a Mord'Sith, even one that served the Seeker. Confessing Cara wouldn't just rob her of all that she was, it would kill her. She wouldn't do that to anyone murder them simply to slake her lust. That was not who she was. She also had a responsibility to the Midlands to produce an heir, which meant that she would eventually have to take someone under Confession to mate with; better it be someone she didn't care about for a host of reasons. Sadness crept over her; duty always came first, and always would.
She shivered violently in the cold. If it was at all possible, the weather seemed to have gotten even worse. For the second time in as many days, she felt an arm at her waist, encircling it, pulling her tightly against a warm body. "You are freezing, Kahlan." Cara murmured softly in her ear. "Come back to the camp and get warm." It was a gentle command that almost sounded like pleading to Kahlan's ears. Cara never pleaded. The warm embrace that held her was an apology. Her anger faded like the chill that had seized her, and she turned to clasp the golden-haired woman just as tightly. When they broke apart, Cara took her hand and drew her along beside her to await the coming of the sun.
"Cara, this cold weather, it is highly unusual for this time of year." Kahlan resolved to keep to neutral topics, not wanting to discuss the morning's argument further. For her part, Cara seemed just as eager to let the conversation go. They had waited for at least two more hours into the dawn so that it had warmed enough to be bearable. They had ended up sharing the blanket wrapped around both of their shoulders after Kahlan had convinced Cara that she would be useless if she got hypothermia. While the snow wasn't deep, it made for slow travel. Any sign of Richard and Zedd's passage had been eradicated with the snowfall, but using the sun as the guide, they headed in the direction Kahlan thought they had gone.
They had eaten just before the gars attacked the previous night, but they were going to eventually get hungry. As much as she wanted to catch up with the others, Kahlan was constantly on the lookout for a better shelter than the one they had spent the night in. If they could find a decent shelter, it could make waiting out the snows a viable alternative. The problem was that Kahlan had no idea how long this strange breath of winter would last.
"As in 'rare' highly unusual or as in 'powerful magic' highly unusual?" Cara's voice sounded unamused. The blond had become as cheerful as a funeral about fifteen minutes after leaving the shelter. She could practically hear the green eyes rolling at the thought of this being a magical occurrence.
"Didn't you notice how disorienting the fog was? We got separated so easily, and with the cold, it is hard to even think about anything but getting warm." Kahlan let those comments settle in the air for a few minutes before elaborating. "It isn't completely possible that it was unnatural, but it certainly seems that way."
Cara looked at her, and said sharply, "Someone wanted to split us up and slow us down." Kahlan nodded. "Someone is going to experience a great deal of pain and death when I find them." Her expression was so grim, Kahlan almost felt sorry for whomever was responsible.
They continued traveling for a few more hours, when Cara had sighted a buck at the same time that Kahlan had spotted a cave. It took only a shared look between them to decide. The snow was starting to fall in earnest, and a cave was even better shelter than Kahlan had hoped for. After taking down the buck, Cara and Kahlan inspected the cave for predators, but had found it empty except for a ring of stones that indicated it had been used for such a purpose many seasons before. A large rock face stood in front of the cave with the entrance on either side, providing nearly a perfect natural chimney. Just knowing they had a shelter out of the snowfall relieved Kahlan's mind. She knew better than most how dangerous getting trapped in a blizzard could become; no one could live in the mountains of Aydindril without a healthy respect for winter.
Kahlan wrapped the blanket around herself when she went to gather wood, leaving Cara to tend to the game. Snow continued to fall heavily, and Kahlan realized that following Richard and Zedd, much less finding them, was going to be impossible until the snow let up. While that left them in the position of having to remain where they were, there was a certain amount of safety in the fact that anyone attempting to find them to cause harm would be equally hindered. After stacking large amounts of firewood by the entrance of the cave, she gathered some of the evergreen boughs from nearby trees. At least if they were forced to stay put for a few days, they would be more comfortable.
Cara tried not to worry about the Confessor as she skinned the deer. It had become a natural condition when it was just the two of them traveling together that she worried incessantly when Kahlan was out of her sight; not that she preoccupied her thoughts any less, regardless. Sighing, she returned her focus to the task at had. The buck was far more meat than they needed, but there was no worry of it going bad in the cold. If the weather worsened, Cara thought the deerskin would come in handy. She was careful to keep it fully in tact. Gazing at the falling snow outside, she hoped they wouldn't be there long enough to need it.
A warm fire burning, and having their stomachs filled improved Kahlan's mood considerably. It was mid-afternoon, but the snow continued to fall. The cave was good shelter from the cold outside; the warmth of the fire had raised the temperature just past bearable to nearly comfortable. Cara had tacked the deer skin up on the cave wall to help dry it out. The Mord'Sith, ever industrious, set about preparing snares in hopes of catching some rabbits, not for the meat, as she explained to the brunette, but for their fur.
"You are good at this, Cara." Kahlan complimented her with a grin, delight in her voice at the Mord'Sith's idea.
"I'm good at everything, Mother Confessor, but if you must make note of it, at least tell me which this you mean." The confident smirk was accompanied by a sparkle in the Mord'Sith's green eyes. Laughter burst from the Confessor, and she playfully swatted a red leather covered arm, causing a grin to bloom on the blonde's full lips.
"You are good at survival skills, planning ahead, and thinking of ways to improve any situation. You have pragmatic solutions, no matter the circumstances." Kahlan thought of the ways the blond protected them, and protected her. "I appreciate your abilities." Suddenly she felt shy. She never knew how to tell the Mord'Sith how much she meant to her, and it felt awkward.
Green eyes twinkled in the firelight, as Cara gathered the snares she had so diligently separated in a gloved hand. The other was placed on a cocked hip, and a full, toothy grin crossed the Mord'Sith's features. In that moment, Kahlan could not deny to herself any longer that she desired Cara. "You haven't fully appreciated all of my abilities, Kahlan." Her green eyes traced over the Confessor's form, and Kahlan felt a blush rise in her cheeks. Cara finally turned to exit the cave, but before she was out of earshot, Kahlan heard words that sounded like a promise. "Not yet." Kahlan shivered though she was standing by the fire.
Pleased to have something to do after the words that ignited a fire inside of her, Kahlan worked to pile the boughs from the evergreens she had dragged in to make a soft mattress that they could lay the bedroll open upon for comfort and for insulation. She was pleased to see that Cara had kept the deerskin in tact; even if they couldn't tan it, when dried in a few days it would prove even more serviceable to cover the pine boughs if the snow had not yet relented. She blushed again, realizing she had made the bed entirely to be shared, though she could have probably devised a means of splitting it into two spaces.
As she had contrived it, with Cara's bedroll open and spread with the blanket over it, it looked like a nest. Considering the smoky look she had received before Cara had left, though, the blond was amenable to sharing such a nest with her. The Mord'Sith's nature was to court danger, with little regard for her own life, and Kahlan wondered if the blond considered the consequences of playing with fire as she did. Did she realize that a Confessor actively desired her? That saying such things, and doing such things could end her life?
It would end Kahlan's life, too, she acknowledged, to confess the Mord'Sith. Even if it was just a Confession that robbed the Mord'Sith of her will, it would be the end of her to live with destroying the dynamic and fierce soul that was Cara, and Cara alone. It could just be the Mord'Sith amusing herself, too, Kahlan had to think. Cara had an odd sense of humor, and while the Mother Confessor was astute enough in the ways of human nature to know that the Mord'Sith was physically, sexually she forced herself to acknowledge, attracted to her, Cara's will could rival stone. It could rival her own.
She sighed. The fact that once again, she had found another way in which they were so much alike frightened her. It was what drew her to the blonde from the very beginning; Cara had broken people in cruel ways, but on the order of another. Kahlan had broken people in a cruel way because it was the law. The Mord'Sith was quite possibly the first person she had met since she lost her sisters that truly understood the weight of duty. She wished that was the only reason that she was attracted to Cara. She, too, liked to court danger, and there was nothing more dangerous to a Confessor than a Mord'Sith.
She sat down beside the fire, waiting for the Mord'Sith to return. She knew Cara could take care of herself, but it still worried her when she was away. Confident footsteps drew her eyes to the entrance of the cave, just as a pleased, arrogant voice rang out. "Kahlan, I'm back, and look what I found." The Mord'Sith's voice positively sparkled with warmth. A large pack covered with furs sailed in to land beside the fire in her wake. Kahlan rose as the Mord'Sith strutted in waving a half-empty bottle of amber liquid and wearing a heavy fur cloak around her shoulders.
Kahlan smiled to see the Mord'Sith in such a good mood, and looking so warm, but then abruptly eyed the pack and then back to the bottle she held in her hand. Had she mugged some poor soul caught in the same circumstances? Doubts raced in her as she grasped the strings and pawed through the giant bag. "I found the pack underneath a tree, and a body that was several days dead. Apparently he died, tripping over a root to bash his head on a rock after consuming this." It was said disdainfully as the Mord'Sith slammed the bottle down on the ground beside her.
Guilt flooded the Mother Confessor for thinking the worst. Just to have something to do, Kahlan uncorked the bottle that had been so unceremoniously plunked down beside her. "Mmm, Keltish Brandy." Her tone was arch with intrigue; the harsh scent of it assaulted her nostrils, and she found that she wanted to be grounded in something familiar. Bringing the bottle to her lips, she took a swallow, shaking her head as the potent brew sent a sizzling trail down her throat. Running her tongue over her lips to savor the dark, heady taste, she raised her eyes to that of the Mord'Sith. Cara looked horror-stricken, as though she had loosened magic on her.
Kahlan trilled a laugh. "It's okay, it's not a potion, it's just strong drink." Her voice was huskier than normal as the warmth of the liquor she had not tasted in a long time spread its blaze through her middle. She grinned at the disconcerted Mord'Sith; rarely could she bring such a look to her face. "It's just Keltish Brandy it tastes good though it's strong enough to fell a horse. Experienced drinkers are wary of it; if the trapper consumed that much in one sitting, he likely didn't die of a blow to the head, but from overindulgence." With a challenging smile, she took another sip, more delicate this time, enjoying the discomfiture of the blond.
After corking it, she passed it back to the blond with an arched eyebrow. "One swallow of it has the same effect as two glasses of strong wine." The Mord'Sith looked at her skeptical and sneering, but began to eye the bottle curiously. "It's so potent that it is a crime in Nicobarese to be caught with a flask of it." Kahlan offered conversationally. Clear intent shown in the green eyes, and Kahlan nearly laughed at the challenging stare the blond shot her.
"Hmmm, clearly you've never had D'Haran wine, Mother Confessor." Cara's tone was full of scorn. The Mord'Sith uncorked the bottle, and took as large of a throatful as had Kahlan. If she choked, blood rushed to her cheeks, and tears stung her eyes, the Mother Confessor feigned not to notice. Kahlan repressed a smirked as she looked away, waiting for Cara to compose herself as she corked it and thrust it back toward her.
"Mmm, Mistress Cara, indeed I have had D'Haran wine," She said it confidently, with humor threading her tone, "but it appears you've never tasted good Keltish Brandy." She finally did smirk at the dark glare that crossed the Mord'Sith's features; rarely could she one-up her, but the look on the blond's face said that Kahlan had, and they both knew it.
Kahlan did the only thing that she could. She immediately rose and enveloped the blond in a bone-wrenching hug, and kissed her on the cheek. The rough fur cloak was soft and warm beneath her fingers, as Kahlan continued holding the strong, but voluptuous frame to her tightly. The blond head eventually dropped to her shoulder and slowly eased into returning the embrace. "It is a good find, Cara, despite his misfortune. You didn't let his death go in vain when it could aid us." She let approval radiate in her tone.
Full lips ghosted against Kahlan's neck, then Cara pulled away, her cheerful mood returning, the hesitant smile from before blooming into a self-assured one. "He was a furrier, and this is functional for the climate." She whipped the fur cloak from her shoulders, and immediately flung it around Kahlan's. The Confessor was struck by just how selfless the blond could be; even while going through a dead man's things, she never appropriated anything without sharing it directly. The blond stacked a thick blanket and bedroll as she began taking inventory, then another bottle of the amber drink, which she respectfully placed to the side. Parcels of food and medicine followed from the depths of it, with packets of spices, hide salt, waxed thread and needles. It was a veritable treasure trove.
Each new revelation from inside it increased their chances of survival while the strangling cold persisted. When Cara dug a large pot and some soap from the very bottom, Kahlan let her sincere gratitude show. Seizing the Mord'Sith around the waist, she hugged her again, not letting her go before she placed another tender, lingering kiss on a prominent cheekbone. The tiniest bit of her tongue slipped out, involuntarily, to taste the golden skin before she pulled away, the scent and taste of Cara on her lips.
If the Mord'Sith was flustered, she only showed it in the way she quickly busied herself. She gathered up the pot, heading out to collect snowfall, while Kahlan just smiled at the flames in her cheeks. Sighing, the Confessor thanked the Spirits for their bounty, placed the trapper's bedroll on top of the boughs, then covered it with Cara's. With their own blanket to cover the bedroll, and the new found heavy one atop it, their makeshift bed had suddenly become a haven of warmth.
Cara just smiled at her as she placed the large pot full of snow on the fire to heat wash water. She wanted to be clean. She caught the envious look of the Mother Confessor, knowing that Kahlan had no change of clothes without her own pack. Cara dug into her pack and drew out a flimsy white garment. She passed it to Kahlan to see blue eyes light.
"Is this your way of saying that I smell?" Kahlan asked, a teasing lilt to her voice.
"It's my way of saying we'll both benefit if it doesn't get to that point." Cara shot back, hands moving to the laces on her clothes. Though the Mord'Sith was perfectly capable of getting into and out of her leathers, and never asked for help, she also never turned it down when Kahlan offered.
With a gesture of Kahlan's hand, Cara immediately turned her back to her so that Kahlan could get the stubborn knots at her neck, and those that trailed down her back. When she had loosened them enough for the Mord'Sith to easily complete it herself, Cara's hand on her shoulder spun her around to help the Confessor with her own intricately laced armor. Neither of them wore garments designed for dressing without assistance; this was a ritual to which they had quickly adapted as they began traveling together.
While the Mord'Sith abruptly stripped to her skin without modesty, uncaring if Kahlan was looking right at her or not, she did turn away when the Mother Confessor began to bare strategic areas of her flesh. She still didn't completely understand the need for it, but she had quickly learned that if she didn't turn away it generated lectures about appropriate behavior from Kahlan that left her wishing for a blow to the head.
In the final confrontation, it had escalated into outright refusal to bathe with her accompanied by enough shouting that the Wizard and Lord Rahl had burst to the lake with hands raised and Sword drawn, ready for battle. Their open-mouthed shock at finding a stark naked Cara heatedly arguing with a fully dressed Confessor, combined with the resulting fury Kahlan directed at the men for staring had convinced the Mord'Sith that this was one custom to which she would relent. All three of them had delivered lectures, together and then individually, as though she hadn't gotten the message. Just the memory of it made her want to roll her eyes.
It didn't prevent surreptitious glances at Kahlan's pale flesh when she was certain the Mother Confessor wasn't watching, but it did cease her attempts to openly assess Kahlan when she was undressed. There was also a certain eroticism to knowing that the Mother Confessor also took in long glances if she offered the opportunity when the brunette thought she wasn't looking. Once she realized that the Mother Confessor also enjoyed looking, just not acknowledgment that she was doing so, Cara thrilled to offer "accidental" eyefuls.
Feeling bold, perhaps due to the brandy, she shifted so that her back was seemingly to the Confessor, even as she turned her upper body to let a breast show. She closed her eyes and dragged the cloth across it, allowing herself to make a pleasured sound as she dragged the cotton across the stiffened nipple. Turning her head, but glancing at the Confessor beneath the curtain of her hair, Kahlan appeared transfixed. After a long moment, she let the cloth drop away from her chest to slide between her legs, out of sight of the hungry gaze that was now riveted. Taking a deep breath, throwing her head back slightly, she let the cloth play there for a moment, hand working the area slowly.
She wanted to laugh when she moved the rag to signal that she was done washing. The disappointment and desire was written on the Mother Confessor's face as clearly as if it had been scribed in blood. Flinging the washrag into the basin, she turned, catching Mother Confessor fully in the eye, she offered in an innocent tone, "All yours, Kahlan." She then turned without looking, to slide under the covers of their surprisingly sweet-smelling bed, resting her head on the pillow Kahlan had created with the boughs and bedrolls. Lassitude took her, but not nearly enough to quell the burning Kahlan's looks had caused to flare.
For her part, Kahlan nearly swallowed her tongue. How was she supposed to sleep next to Cara after that, and especially with a nude Cara? She closed her eyes and finished her own washing, pulling the shift on over her head. The shift Cara had given to her, in deference to her modesty, while the Mord'Sith herself had nothing else to put on. She repressed a sigh, knowing that it was her own fault for losing her pack that caused this predicament. Putting on a brave face, she slid into the warmth of the bedrolls and blankets.
The Mord'Sith shifted. Kahlan could feel Cara's soft breasts just touching her arm as Kahlan lay ramrod straight under the blankets. She squeezed her eyes shut as passion flooded her. When Cara moved her body closer, Kahlan felt something in her heave with both shock and want. Her arousal was so fierce that her breath grew shallow. "Cara, is this wise?" She gasped, her voice sounding much less certain than her mind had intended it.
"We are safe here. There is little chance of anyone trudging through the snow to take us unaware, since there is no one within a thousand paces of us. There is no reason to keep watch." Cara's voice sounded soothing, confident, like the touch she stroked up Kahlan's arm. And back down again. She felt the Mord'Sith shift in the blankets, propped up on an arm, looming over her like a specter of arousal.
"But that wasn't what you were asking, was it?" Cara's tone was both accusatory and sensual. She continued stroking Kahlan's arm as though she were a frightened colt. It took every part of her Confessor's will for Kahlan not to tremble like one. "You are afraid because you desire me, and because I desire you. You know that I can sate you, but you are afraid that you will Confess me if I do." The touch got bolder, and Cara leaned closer, so that Kahlan could feel the hot breath on her face. Her body shifted entirely of its own accord from stock still to easing on her side to face her tormentor.
"Cara, I would die before I would harm you." Kahlan felt herself falling into green pools that glistened in the firelight. They reflected her own need back to her. She raised a hand to caress the prominent cheekbones of the Mord'Sith she was forced to admit she desired intensely. Full lips caught her own in a kiss that seared her soul. Among the scent of pine, soap and Cara, her own hands gripped blond hair, and a warm back. She had tried so hard to subvert and deny her longing, but with the knowing, long fingers stroking her sides, there was no denial.
Cara's tongue moved in her mouth, speaking promises without words. She told the Mother Confessor how she would take her, slake her thirst and pleasure her. A hand that smoothed the shift to caress her breast through the fabric had her panting on Cara's lips. Cara was devouring her attempted restraint with kisses. Kahlan's palms gloried in the back muscles that shifted beneath them as she clung to the refuge of Cara's lips and tongue. Her hand shifted to cup a full breast, feeling its weight in her hand, the nipple tightening underneath her fingertips. A thigh slid between Kahlan's legs, and the kiss was shattered. Kahlan groaned, and pulled Cara into her neck.
Even as she surged against the delicious feeling, the Mother Confessor came back to herself enough to feel a shiver of fear along with the tremble of desire. She said the most difficult words she had ever forced between her lips. "Cara," the name came out like a moan, "We can't do this, I'll confess you." Her own voice was heavy with need, punctuated by another groan as the thigh between her legs flexed in just the right way. The shift was in the way, and Kahlan desperately wanted to feel bare skin, but she persisted. "Cara, I'll confess you!" This time her voice was raised, but if anything it sounded more urgent with desire.
The Mord'Sith rolled her over gently, covering Kahlan's long body with her own, stroking her hair away from her forehead. Intense green eyes, hooded like a predator's, gazed into blue ones. With a voice husky with passion, Cara asked, "Do you trust me, Kahlan?" Without waiting for an answer, the blond punctuated the question with another kiss, lips gliding across Kahlan's, eyes closing. Cara broke the kiss, stroking Kahlan's forehead again, once again piercing the Confessor with a stare. "I will not allow you to Confess me, but I am going to pleasure you. Trust me, Kahlan."
The intent, soft words were followed by another kiss, and Cara's hands on her body, sliding down to catch the hem of the shift. Kahlan felt herself give in. The firm, smooth skin beneath her fingers, the weight of the muscled, soft body on top of her and the raging fire of need that gripped her could not be denied any longer. She kept firm control on her magic, but could feel it seething within her, like the ache for release at Cara's touch. When Cara drew the shift over her head, and she felt the lush resplendence of the golden body against her own, skin to skin, Kahlan moaned in delight. Breasts pressed against her own, tongues locked in combat as fiercely as they had ever fought, and wonderfully warm skin all combined to drown her reserve. The Mother Confessor felt heat in her cheeks, and drew away to speak in hushed reverence.
"Cara, you are so beautiful. I've never been this exposed with anyone before." Uncertainty gripped the Confessor's heart. The Mord'Sith was so much woman, and so incredibly sensual. Kahlan's lack of guile made her doubt herself; she was accustomed to being the one others turned to for wisdom. In this, she was out of the realm of her experience. "I've never gotten this close to anyone before." She admitted, nervousness made her voice shake.
Green eyes danced, and a satisfied smile graced Cara's lips. "I suspected as much. I'm pleased to be the one to introduce you to the pleasures of your sex." Leaning down, the Mord'Sith took a pink nipple in her mouth, lolling her tongue around the puckered flesh. Kahlan keened and pulled at the blond head. When Cara bit down lightly, it seemed that the entirety of the sensation converged at the point between her legs that absolutely ached. The brush of hair on her own thigh, and the wetness trailing it, combined with the lips on her breast had her clutching at the Mord'Sith's back. She arched to make contact with the hip that was settling where it was so desperately needed. A thrust of that hip, as Cara switched to the other breast that was crying out for attention, nearly unhinged Kahlan.
Lips and tongue trailed down Kahlan's taut stomach, while hands stroked the back of her knees even as they parted them. Cara's tongue on her inner thigh made Kahlan shudder; Cara's tongue on her center was quickly making her shatter. The blonde's caress was teasing enough to make her squirm in sheer delight, but Kahlan's back arched into the delicious pressure as Cara's tongue stroked at her, coaxing pleasure from her body softly at first, then in more forceful waves. When the Mord'Sith slid a finger inside of her, the gentle, unfamiliar pressure had Kahlan crying out in pleasure.
"Shhh, Kahlan, it's alright," Cara soothed, as she began moving the finger inside the tight passage. Her tongue began its ministrations again, and Kahlan's back arched off of the bed, her body thrusting on the long digit and the mouth that moved so gorgeously against her. Without warning, Kahlan felt her control of the magic slipping and shrieked "Cara, stop!" At the last possible moment, Cara withdrew from Kahlan's body, making sure not to touch her.
Thunder without sound echoed through the cave, and the concussive force buffeted Cara's body even from a few feet away. Kahlan slid her fingers down to stroke herself. Long moments after the pulses faded, she reached out to grip Cara under her shoulder and unceremoniously dragged her up to face a flustered, pleased and simultaneously infuriated Confessor. "Cara, I nearly confessed you, what were you thinking?" The Mord'Sith bit soundly on the pale flesh of Kahlan's neck to illustrate her point.
"I was thinking, Mother Confessor, that I wanted to bring you pleasure, and I did." She met incredulous blue eyes and smirked. "I didn't realize it would come so quickly it appears we'll have to work on your stamina if you intend to be the lover of a Mord'Sith." The smirk Cara delivered was swallowed by a kiss so intense that it took the Mord'Sith's breath away. Kahlan buried her hands in the blond hair, and proceeded to kiss her senseless.
"You did pleasure me, Cara, and now we'll see just how much stamina you have with a Confessor as your lover." Kahlan spoke seductively in the blond's ear, letting her hands trail the full curves she craved to touch. Soon she had Cara crying out in ecstasy, her own heart blooming with joy to bring such delight to the woman she adored.
Auburn hair cascaded around the bent head, intently gazing into the Pool of Revelation. While shock painted her features, it was a pleased smile that covered her face. "Why Kahlan Amnell, I would have suspected many things, but you and a Mord'Sith would not have been among them. I had intended for the Seeker and the Mord'Sith to separate the two of you." Rich laughter bubbled from her. "This works just as well." The witch laughed at how passionate the Mother Confessor was. She should have suspected that Kahlan would never be the odd woman out; she was far too bold for that. She smirked at the sight of the dark haired head between the blond's thighs; the Mord'Sith certainly seemed to be enjoying the Mother Confessor's talents.
Richard Rahl, the Seeker, would have to find a way to dry his tears once he discovered what Shota already knew. He and the Mother Confessor were not destined for each other. Their union would have been disastrous, bearing a male Confessor that the Seeker would have been unable to kill, as was the duty of the mate of a Confessor. Ultimately, that would have torn them apart anyway, so ethically speaking, Shota had merely saved the Confessor and Seeker undue pain, not to mention the fate of their world.
She had Seen that the Mord'Sith was to be the agent of their separation. She had assumed it was the Seeker who had caused the light of love to bloom in her. She smiled; Kahlan Amnell was an impressive woman, though, so perhaps it wasn't so surprising that the Mord'Sith had fallen in love with her rather than the Seeker. She would need to keep a closer eye on this Cara; that she had won the heart of the Mother Confessor meant that she was also formidable.
Mission accomplished, she waved a hand over the Pool. Smiling at the sight of the Mother Confessor ensconced with the blond, the snowfall began to stop and the temperature rose. The expression of utter joy on the Mother Confessor's face as she gazed at the Mord'Sith gave her pause; perhaps she had done a better deed than just saving the world from a male Confessor. Kahlan Amnell was, after all, the ruler of the Midlands, and it would prosper under a happy hand even Shota's own Agaden Reach in the Midlands would benefit.
With another wave of her hand, she saw the Seeker and Zeddicus near a warm fire. Shota had intended to have the Confessor and the Wizard to come upon Richard and the Mord'Sith in bed. Since the circumstances had changed, she thought better of it. She let it remain cold enough to discourage the two men from leaving until the morning. Tomorrow would be soon enough for the Mother Confessor and her Mord'Sith to join Zeddicus and the Seeker. Zeddicus was already suspicious, and that would cause him to be cautious. It would be fascinating to see how this drama played out, but Shota knew that her power would be expended for quite some time.
Shifting back to the two women in the cave, Shota let the sparks of creative energy flare from her fingers. The line of the Mother Confessor must continue, and this was an ancient magic that only a powerful witch such as herself could accomplish. The next time the Mord'Sith made love to the Confessor, she would give her a little something more than just a climax. Drained, she stepped away from the Pool of Revelation to rest. She smiled; the daughter of Kahlan Amnell and her mate, the Mord'Sith Cara, would grow up to be a formidable woman. She needed no foretelling to be certain of that.
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