Old Magic by alyse [ - ]
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Category: Legend of the Seeker
Characters: Cara Mason, Darken Rahl, Kahlan Amnell, Richard Cypher (Rahl)
Rating: R
Genres: Friendship, Humour, PWP - Plot, What Plot?, Romance
Warnings: None

Summary: "I can assure you, brother," Rahl says, fingers carefully brushing at the cuffs of his elaborate robe, "it is no trick. I'm certainly no fonder of the idea than you are."

It's an old magic, but it just might work.

Pairings: Richard/Darken Rahl, Kahlan/Richard, undercurrents of Cara/Richard, Cara/Kahlan and Cara/Kahlan/Richard

Story Notes:
Written for MMoM. Many, many thanks to Aithine and Temaris for the beta services. You hurt me so good ♥

Spoilers: Set sometime post Torn. Spoilers through to Walter

Warnings: Non-explicit incest

"It's got to be a trick."

Richard's voice comes out flat and even, in spite of the anger he can feel welling up inside. It's the kind of tone that normally makes men wary - the smarter ones anyway. The really smart ones tend to take a step back, unwilling or unable to face down the Seeker.

So of course Rahl would find it amusing.

"I can assure you, brother," he says, fingers carefully brushing at the cuffs of his elaborate robe, "it is no trick. I'm certainly no fonder of the idea than you are."

Richard doubts that. Richard really doubts that. Every word that drops from Rahl's lips at the best of times cannot be trusted, layers of lie upon lie until sometimes he wonders if even Rahl knows where the truth is buried. This is most certainly not the best of times. But then Rahl doesn't care about the truth and never has - he simply cares what story can best suit his purpose at any point in time.

He can't tell Rahl's purpose for this, unless the purpose is simply to humiliate the Seeker. It's always possible. More than possible, knowing Rahl.

"It's a trick," he repeats stubbornly, as though saying the words will make it so, and Rahl's eyebrow tilts, amusement in every line of Rahl's face. Richard sees too many traces of himself in there for comfort - he has his mother's dark eyes, not Rahl's blue ones, but the dark wings of Rahl's hair, the arch of his brow: those things are Richard's too. No, it's not comfortable to see those echoes in Rahl, still worse when Richard is the younger of them and that's an even less comfortable thought - that he's the echo, mirroring Rahl.

It's not comfortable but he concentrates on the thought anyway. He's never been one to avoid discomfort when it earns him something, and frankly it's better than thinking about the alternative.


Zedd makes a noise and it's not the noise that Richard was hoping for. This is not a dismissive snort; this snort is thoughtful, as though Zedd is actually considering Rahl's words, sifting through them for the grains of truth they may contain. They will contain some truth, Richard knows that much - the easiest lies to swallow are not the ones that taste the sweetest but the ones that contain just enough truth to mask the taste.

He'd close his eyes about now, let the disbelief wash over him, but he has no intention of taking his eyes off Rahl, not even with Kahlan and Cara standing close, hands on knives and agiels respectively. They've settled in perfect symmetry, the three of them, surrounding Rahl; Rahl can't keep all of them in his line of sight. It wasn't a conscious positioning but simply the way they do things now, so attuned to each other they didn't need to discuss it. It should have kept Rahl off balance, like a deer when the wolves are around, but Richard can't help but think that it's not Rahl who's prey.

He has a sinking feeling that that role may be reserved for him.

"Zedd?" he says again, and there's no mistaking the snap in his tone. He takes his eyes off Rahl now - risking that much - to look at Zedd and he doesn't like the look on his grandfather's face. "Please tell me he's making this up. That we don't have to..."

Zedd makes another one of those noises, one of the thoughtful harrumphs he swallows down the back of his throat when he's thinking deep wizarding thoughts, and Richard's heart sinks further.

"He's not making this up," Richard says flatly and it is not a question; now and only now does Zedd look at him, apology in his eyes.

"It's not without precedent," Zedd says, and his tone - edging into defensive, as though he believes that Richard could ever blame him for this - tells Richard that he's not going to like what's coming next. "And if Rahl has linked the shrine to him - body and soul... Well..." Zedd makes another one of those noises.

"Would you like me to go through it again, brother?" Rahl interrupts. The tone is familiar for some reason that Richard cannot place, but it's not from the few times he and Rahl have spoken before. "As I and the wizard have both already explained, you will not be able to access the scroll without my help, even as ingenious as you are. At least, not without destroying it first." He smiles and there's even warmth in it - the kind of warmth that burns. But then Rahl is good at that, so good that even Richard wavers sometimes, for all that he knows Rahl is a monster. A monster with a honeyed tongue.

"Let me spell it out for you, my dear brother. I'm the only one who can access the scroll - I made sure of that, and you must have realised by now how... thorough I am." Richard's jaw tenses further. "Unfortunately, I should have realised that 'thorough' isn't necessarily enough when the Seeker involves himself. The magic I used to secure the scroll is tied to me - body and soul.

"And although my soul is still mine, this body is not of the House of Rahl - even as..." Rahl trails off and smiles at him again, still warm, and Richard's fingers twitch as he feels the weight of the sword hanging at his hip. "... close as it is to the original, the one you saw fit to destroy. And that means -"

"It doesn't have the Rahl magic." Again, it's a statement, not a question but Richard doesn't doubt that he's right. And that means... "But my body does."

"And at least I'm not asking to borrow your body, brother."

No. Somehow that would be preferable, not least because if Rahl had suggested that, no one would be even considering it.

"Zedd." And maybe there's a note of desperation in Richard's voice now, but he thinks that under the circumstances it's understandable. "There's got to be another way. What... what about blood? That would work, wouldn't it? I mean, it's -" He can hardly bring himself to say it. "-Rahl blood, too, right?"

Zedd simply makes that sound again and Richard's heart sinks.

"I'm afraid not, Richard. Not for this type of magic. It's an old magic, to be sure, but it's the kind of thing that this one -" he gestures to Rahl "- would find appealing."

"Sex magic." Richard's voice is flat and Rahl smirks at him before his face smoothes back out into a pleasant mask.

"A little cruder than I would have put it, brother, but essentially correct. There is power in so many things. You should know all about the power of love, travelling as you do by the Confessor's side." Rahl leans in a little, and Richard has to fight the urge to step back. Rahl doesn't scare him, not any more, not even with this. "Why would you think that magic driven by lust would be any less powerful?"

"As I said, Richard," Zedd interrupts Rahl, breaking the tension between them, but his tone could not be more apologetic, "it's not without precedent. Rahl magic is hereditary, passed on from parent to child, and the magic that Rahl is suggesting would... well. Tie your... familial traits to the body that Rahl now inhabits. Under the circumstances, what do we have to lose?"

Richard's dignity, for one. It's easy for Zedd to be so calm about it. He's not the one who has to... He can't quite summon up the words, even in his mind. Richard has done harder things, true, but this...

But Richard has never avoided the difficult choices. "Fine," he grinds out. "But I could just... do it myself and then..."

He may not avoid the difficult choices, but that doesn't mean he finds it easy to say the words out loud. Not that it matters - Zedd is already shaking his head, his expression beyond even apology now.

"No, Richard, I'm afraid that won't work. It's the act of binding, the ritual itself, that ties the magic together. And that magic is the only thing that stands a chance of succeeding. Which means..."

"Which means, brother -" and if Rahl calls him that one more time, Richard will not be responsible for the path his fist takes, "- that the task, as it were, falls to me."

Richard's fingers clench, itching with the need to wipe the look - urbane and charming - off Rahl's face. Rahl even manages to mirror the slightly apologetic look that Zedd is sporting. There's no reason not to hit Rahl, not this time. There are no memories he needs to pull out from Rahl's twisted brain. But there's something else he needs and Rahl knows it. He hates being this vulnerable to Rahl's whims.

He stares at Rahl for a long moment, not bothering to hide the fury in his eyes. It doesn't faze Rahl - it never has and never will - but it makes Richard feel better anyway. A little.

Rahl brushes his fingers over his sleeve again, and Richard can't help but notice how they drift across the fabric, so slow, so precise. So dismissive. "Now that you've finally accepted the truth of my words, perhaps we could get this over with? Since neither of us is exactly looking forward to it."

"Who said I've accepted the truth of your words?" Richard shoots straight back, at least partly because he doesn't want to give Rahl any satisfaction. In any sense of the word.

Rahl sighs and simply looks at him. It's not just Rahl's touch that is dismissive now; every line of Rahl's body screams 'indulgent older brother' and Richard's jaw clamps closed so hard that his teeth ache.

Michael used to look at him in the same way, back when he followed Michael around wherever Michael went, when he still thought that Michael hung the moon and the stars. But that was back before Richard forged his own path, and his path diverged from Michael's a long time before Kahlan and Zedd put him on a new one. And Michael had the right. Blood or not, it is Michael who is his older brother, not Rahl. Never Rahl.

Maybe some of that shows on his face because Rahl smiles again but there's no fake warmth in it, not this time. This time there's no missing that it's the smile of a wolf, all lean hunger, fierce and unforgiving. Ready to take.

Richard swallows down his next words, but again it's not fear that dries out his throat. There's no fear in him, not of Rahl. Anger, yes, but it's not the first time that anger has threatened to consume him and his feelings about Rahl cannot come close to matching the anger of the sword. "Fine," he says again and it's calm, controlled; it's the calm that has Rahl's expression smoothing out, even if the amusement doesn't leave Rahl's eyes entirely. "I'll do it."

"Actually," and there's a smirk in Rahl's voice even if it's no longer showing on his face. "I think you'll find I'm the one who will do it." He pauses, taking in Richard's reaction, a small smile playing around the corners of his mouth. It doesn't make him look any less dangerous. "Relax, brother. I'm sure you'll find the experience more pleasant than you anticipate." And just like that, Richard's left clutching for the remnants of his calm, a familiar rage tightening its grip on him. He takes a deep breath, consciously forcing his muscles to relax, one by one.

"We get this over with," he says, talking to his companions - his friends - and ignoring Rahl completely, "and then, when I have the scroll, we can meet up by the river."

"We're not leaving you alone with Rahl." It's Cara, of course, who says it, as blunt as always. Even if she hadn't, the expression on her face would have left Richard with no doubt that she thinks the idea is stupid. It wouldn't be the first time - Cara is nothing if not vocal when she thinks he's in the wrong, even more so than Zedd or Kahlan. But the look on Zedd's face - and on Kahlan's, when he finally looks at her - tells him that they share Cara's view of this.

Can they not see the impossibility of staying for this? At least, not if Richard has any say in the matter.

Apparently Richard doesn't. Kahlan doesn't hold his eyes for long, a faint flush rising in her cheeks; she glances over at Cara instead, the pair of them exchanging the sort of long look that seems to be all they need these days to communicate.

"Cara is right," she says, looking back at Richard. "You..."

"You'll be distracted and vulnerable," Cara breaks in, her tone brisk, matter of fact but - as always with Cara - edged with a note of challenge, just defying him to argue with her. "You'll need us here to make sure that Rahl doesn't do... anything untoward." Richard gives her a look, one that hopefully says everything he needs to about her lack of tact. And her amusement at his expense. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn't. Cara simply smirks at him and adds, "Don't worry. We won't look."

Kahlan's blush deepens and Richard can feel an answering warmth rising to his own cheeks. It doesn't help that it only seems to amuse Rahl even more.

"Fine," Richard says again, acknowledging the truth of Cara's words in his head if not out loud, not if he doesn't want give her - and Rahl - the satisfaction. Thankfully the word comes out steady when he feels anything but. "Let's get this over with."

"So impatient," Rahl murmurs and Richard's fingers curl again, back to itching with the need to wipe that look off Rahl's face. But before he can move, Cara does, stalking around Rahl so that she can look into Rahl's face. Her fingers are resting on the hilt of her agiel, as they have been since Rahl first crossed their paths with his ridiculous offer; even sheathed she's alert and agitated enough for the agiel to react to her tension and Richard's close enough to her to feel it, a low-pitched hum that bites the air, setting his teeth on edge. It leaves a metallic taste in his mouth, hard and harsh like blood. It's familiar, and some dark, small part of him welcomes it even now, that certainty only found in pain.

Perhaps Denna managed to train him after all.

If the agiel has set the hairs on the back of his neck on end, the look on Cara's face does nothing to ease them. It's no longer amused, not even at his predicament. Instead, there's a hunger in it, an even more familiar anger; Rahl isn't the only predator in the clearing. To drive that point home, Cara bares her teeth in a rictus of a smile; they're sharp and white and deadly.

But she's no longer looking in Richard's direction, and she's smart enough to keep out of Rahl's immediate reach. It helps a little, knowing she's there, that's she's moved so that she can't see. It helps even more when Kahlan mirrors her movement, flanking him to stand on his left, still distant enough from both Richard and Rahl for Richard's peace of mind.

Zedd's moved too, so that Rahl blocks his view of Richard, and - even in the midst of his humiliation - Richard's heart lifts a little.

"I believe the Lord Rahl -" Cara's voice is smooth and silky, but no less dangerous for it, and Rahl's eyes tighten fractionally. It's petty to feel satisfaction at his reaction, but Richard indulges himself anyway. Under the circumstances, he's sure the Spirits will forgive him. "- said he was ready." Of course, it would help if she was actually on his side.

Rahl stares at her for a long moment, his expression unreadable. And then it smoothes out again, that ever present amusement sliding back onto his face. "We wouldn't want to keep the Seeker waiting," he murmurs. "I'm sure it's been quite a while." Richard doesn't rise to the bait, not this time. He simply looks Rahl straight in the eye, giving nothing away.

"You'll need to remove your sword. The one on your belt, that is. The other... can wait for now." Rahl is enjoying this far too much but still Richard doesn't take the bait. He reaches down to unbuckle his sword belt, never breaking Rahl's gaze. When it falls free, he holds it out to his left, still not looking away from Rahl's face. He has faith and that's all he needs; Kahlan's fingers wrap around the hilt, brushing against his as she takes it from him. He's grateful for that - and for her - more than she'll ever know.

She heads toward where Zedd is standing behind Rahl and only now does Richard tear his eyes away from Rahl, just long enough to watch her move past. When he looks back, Rahl is staring at him, his face still and impassive. Richard doesn't know what Rahl gleans from his expression and he can't find it in himself to care. His feelings for Kahlan are no secret, nor should they be.

The corner of Rahl's mouth twitches, drawing Richard's eye down to it, just for a moment. When he looks back, though, the amusement has finally drained from Rahl's expression, leaving something both intent and intense behind. Richard doesn't look away because Richard never takes the easy choices, not when they are the wrong ones.

"You'll need to undo the rest." Rahl's voice is still soft but the undercurrents in it do their best to drag Richard down. He might still manage that if Richard were stupid enough to listen or desperate enough to hear. He's neither, not yet, and he's certainly not stupid enough to look away from Rahl as his fingers move to the ties on his breeches.

He can do this in his sleep - he's spent the best part of his life outdoors, rolling out of more than one bedroll in the night to piss up a tree in the dark. It's easy to undo the laces and push the fabric aside. It becomes less easy when Rahl slides his hand into the gap he leaves

Rahl's head is lowered, tilted downwards, and the look on his face now is distant, as though Richard was a mildly interesting insect that Rahl's come across, one Rahl's not sure yet whether he'll step on. Richard switches his gaze from Rahl's profile, from the angle of Rahl's cheek, to a fixed point over Rahl's shoulder. When Rahl's fingers finally brush against his skin - so different from Kahlan's gentle touch - he stifles the automatic flinch that comes.

It doesn't help. He shivers anyway, suddenly cold to the bone.

"Are we having a little difficulty, Seeker?" Rahl asks mildly. "Surely a young and healthy man such as you should be... rising to the occasion."

Richard turns his head slowly until he's looking back at Rahl and he knows too well what's showing on his face; not rage, not this time. Something far colder than that, implacable and unforgiving. "Given that your touch is making my skin crawl, I think you might have to work a little harder this time than you usually do." He thinks that there may be more insults in there than he intended, at least judging by the way that Rahl's face tightens almost imperceptibly. This time Richard doesn't bother to bite down on the satisfaction of knowing that he's getting under Rahl's skin as much as Rahl is crawling around under his. But Rahl has never, ever played fair. Why would he start now?

"Perhaps you should think of the Confessor, brother. I'm sure that would kindle your enthusiasm."

Richard's fingers curl into a fist and he doesn't bother to hide that either. It wouldn't be the first time he's struck Rahl. He doubts it would be the last. But he doesn't need to hit Rahl this time, not when Cara pulls out her agiel and lets it hang by her side, the hum rising to a howl, pitched barely on the cusp of hearing and all the worse for it.

Her look is fierce but it doesn't faze Rahl any more than Richard's glare does. Instead Rahl smiles slowly, and it's not a pleasant one. There's a light in his eye that chills Richard even more than the feel of Rahl's fingers on his skin. But he doesn't comment on Cara's reaction, or on Richard's. Instead he simply turns to look at Richard again, still with that cold light in his eye, and tilts his head slightly.

"If my touch repulses you this much, brother -" Only Rahl could make the word sound like a caress, something even more twisted and wrong than it already is. "- and the Confessor is apparently off limits, perhaps you might find something more pleasant to think about. I'd rather not be here all day."

Richard swallows it all down, keeping his expression as impassive as possible, but he can't help the way that his gaze drifts towards Kahlan, drawn to her as always. Her face is pale and set but she musters up a smile for him, something small and easily crushed, and he finds his own lips curling slightly in response. Rahl's fingers close around his flesh and Richard closes his eyes, his fingernails digging into his palms.

When he opens them again, Kahlan has taken a step back, moving out of Zedd's line of sight. Her face isn't pale any longer - there's a flush rising to her cheeks but her eyes are steady, holding his. The smile she gives him this time is more certain, underlain with something real, something that's still fierce and lovely the way that only Kahlan is. As he watches, her fingers move to the laces of her bodice, slow and sure, and when he tears his eyes away, looking back into her face, she doesn't look away.

Spirits, he loves this woman.

He holds her gaze for a long moment before he finally breathes a soft, "Thank you." And then, Seeker or not, he's only a man in the end; his gaze drops once more to her busy fingers.

Rahl is muttering now, words of power that Richard can feel winding around the pair of them, binding them closer. But whatever grip Rahl is trying to exert, it's nothing to the hold that Kahlan has on him.

She pulls the first lace out of the top hole of her bodice, letting her fingers slide along the length of it before they move to the other lace. Her head lowers for a second, her hair sliding into her face, and when she looks up again she's not smiling. There's something far older, far hungrier in her expression and Richard swallows, feeling his own hunger rising to match hers. He starts to harden under Rahl's touch, and Rahl pushes the opening of his breeches apart, easing that hardness out into the cool spring air.

Cara shifts next to him and he tears his eyes away from Kahlan, instantly on the alert, but she's not watching Rahl, not this time. She's watching Kahlan, a pleased little smile playing around the corners of her full mouth. Richard frowns and she must feel it because she turns her head to look at him. He can't interrupt Rahl and so he lets his eyes say all that he needs to.

Her smile deepens, the amusement clear in her face, and she drops her gaze deliberately towards where Rahl's hand is still working its magic. He can feel the blood rushing to his face, but it doesn't do anything to help stop the blood rushing elsewhere, and Cara's smile deepens further. She looks back at him, her eyebrow tilted, and pays no attention to the look of outrage he knows is showing on his face.

When she turns her attention back to Kahlan, Richard's eyes follow hers, and Kahlan's face now is bright and merry, laughing at the pair of them. Something - some tension in him - eases at the sight. It's replaced by a tension of an entirely different sort when Kahlan's fingers move back to her laces.

He loses himself in her beauty: in the curve of her breast, revealed with each soft tug of her hand; in the paleness of her skin and the perfection of her freckles. The sun halos her hair, catching on her eyelashes and shadowing the dip along her collarbone, and he imagines tracing that line with his tongue. He knows what her skin feels like under his fingertips, the warmth of it, the silky smoothness of it, brief, stolen touches that are burned into his memory. It's easy to summon those memories up now, to let his fingers curl and imagine that they're stroking over Kahlan's skin in place of hers.

Her fingers slide lower, easing the laces free, and she slides the fabric of her bodice apart, revealing the soft swell of her breasts rising from the low cups of her corset. Richard swallows, watching as she trails her fingers over her skin. She watches him back, her lip caught in her teeth, and her eyes are dark with desire.

She reaches up to push the fabric of her dress off her shoulders, and it slithers down, gathering around her waist. Her breasts are still hidden but Richard knows what they look like, what they taste like, what they feel like in his hands. He remembers that much, even if Kahlan doesn't.

Rahl's fingers tighten and twist, and the surge of tight pleasure catches Richard off guard. He staggers slightly, swaying instinctively towards Kahlan, and Rahl's purred words, rising and falling in the cadences of a spell, ring in his ears.

Kahlan's eyes are wide when he looks back at her, thin slivers of blue around dark centres he could fall into, lose himself in. She's biting at her lip again, and his eyes drop to her mouth. When he swallows he thinks he can taste her, the memory of her clear on his tongue. Her fingers dip lower, tracing along the edges of her corset, and heat flashes through him.

He remembers that, too; how she gasped when he kissed her there, how her fingers dug into his skin, pulling him closer as she let out sounds he'd never have expected to come from Kahlan's throat. He wants to hear those sounds again - Spirits, does he - but Kahlan is silent as her fingers slide beneath the fabric.

Cara isn't - she lets out a low sound, close to a growl, next to him, barely louder than her agiel. Richard doesn't look, but this time when Rahl's hand moves and Richard sways towards Kahlan, he sways back towards Cara.

The words that Rahl's letting stream out wash over Richard, a litany of meaningless sounds. He leaves the meaning of them to Zedd, and Zedd will be listening closely. All of Richard's focus is on Kahlan: the pink flush that's rising up Kahlan's neck; the way that she breathes, fast hitches that make her chest swell. The way she's looking at him as she eases the fabric of her corset down over the slope of her breast, lower and lower until he can see the darker pink skin around its peak, puckered with her arousal.

She'd gasped when he'd pressed sucking kisses there, teasing the bud with his tongue; gasped and writhed beneath him. When she'd called his name, it had come out broken and he'd done it again and again just to hear her fall apart. She doesn't remember any of it, but when she circles her fingers, brushes her thumb over the tip so that it hardens, the movements echo his memories.

Kahlan closes her eyes and shivers as Cara's weight shifts towards him, the scent of leather and strength in the air. Underneath that he can smell Cara, spicy and sweet. Cara's breathing has quickened and when Kahlan's fingers move again, Cara's breath hitches in her throat. He keeps his eyes on Kahlan; he has no idea where Cara is looking but when her weight shifts again he thinks that maybe it's not just Kahlan she's watching.

Rahl's hand twists; there's strength in it and power, and the calluses on Rahl's hand are different from those on Richard's own. He closes his eyes and remembers the shape of Kahlan, the smell of her instead of Rahl's touch. The heat of her body when he first slid into her, swallowing her moan.

Kahlan lets out a soft gasp; he can hear it over the sound of his own breathing and over Cara's, even over the smooth, lyrical sounds of the spell Rahl's weaving. It sends another wave of heat through him, coiling low in his belly, leaving him weak at the knees. He keeps his eyes closed and pictures her face; Rahl's hand strokes down and then up, harder and harder as Rahl's chant reaches its crescendo.

Kahlan's hands on him, Kahlan's heat around him. Kahlan's breath mingling with his. The sounds Kahlan made and the look on Kahlan's face as the pleasure washed over her.

Rahl's hand twists and he comes, Kahlan's name on his lips.

He staggers back a step as Rahl lets go, and Richard's face is burning. Cara's hand on his back steadies him and then she steps between him and Rahl, seemingly on instinct; her face is still turned towards Kahlan, not Rahl or Richard.

"Now, was that really so bad?" Rahl asks, his voice smooth and loaded with a dangerous charm. Richard ignores him, his fingers already fumbling with the laces of his breeches, grateful for the fact that Cara stays between them, tapping her agiel idly against her thigh as though it doesn't cause her any pain.

His throat is dry and becomes drier still when he catches sight of Zedd's face, which is as red and hot as his feels. He stares at his grandfather for a long moment, feeling the flush on his face deepen further, and his hands pause in their fastening, laces forgotten. Old magic or not, this is not comfortable for either of them.

Zedd clears his throat and looks away. "You have what you needed, Rahl. The scroll, now, if you please."

For a second Richard thinks Rahl may comment - say something, anything, that will twist the knife deeper - but instead, after a pause where he just knows that Rahl is considering it, Rahl simply inclines his head towards him, a mocking little bow that does nothing to mask the amusement in his eyes. How in the Underworld he can look so calm when he has Richard's come drying on his fingers is beyond Richard. Maybe this is what passes for normal in Rahl's twisted little world.

"Of course, Wizard," Rahl says smoothly. "Brother," he adds with another mocking little nod of acknowledgement, and then he turns on his heel, walking towards the shrine far more calmly than Richard would manage were their positions reversed. Not that they ever would be.

Zedd follows with a backward look that does nothing to ease the awkwardness. And that leaves Richard alone with Kahlan. And Cara.

Kahlan is dressing quickly, no less practiced than he when it comes to living outdoors. When she looks up and catches him watching, the colour floods to her face, bright pink spots on her pale cheeks. But she smiles at him warmly and her eyes are still bright even if her breathing is a little unsteady. When she's pulled her dress back up over her shoulders, she walks towards him with it still unlaced.

He expects words of sympathy, something designed to make this easier, because that is what Kahlan does. He doesn't expect the hand on the back of his neck or the way she pulls him down into a kiss that is considerably less chaste than the ones they usually share. Her tongue glides over his lips, delving inside when he opens up to her. When it meets his tongue, a jolt of lust surges through him, driving him forward until his body is pressed up against every inch of hers.

She takes her time and when she finally pulls back her eyes are dark and deep. She licks at her lips, catching the lingering taste of him, and Richard tries to remember how to breathe.

Cara is watching them, her eyes narrowed. He half expects her to be unable to hold her tongue, but she says nothing, not at first. She simply looks at him, her expression unreadable, before her eyes are drawn back to Kahlan. Her head tilts, considering, and then she smirks. When she stalks past Richard, following in the direction that Rahl and Zedd are headed, her hip bumps against him and he'd swear that there was an even bigger swagger to her walk than there usually is.

"Old magic," murmurs Kahlan beside him and when he turns to look at her, her mouth quirks up.

Old magic indeed.

The End