Friends, oh how I have missed you all! Welcome to the sequel of Hidden Scars & Buried Secrets! I'm so excited to share the conclusion of our tale with you and I hope you are as well! As always, let me know your thoughts and message me with anything you'd like to talk about! Enjoy!
Aria watched as her family gathered around their usual table. As usual, Richard and Kahlan had arrived first and asked her how her night was, where the children were and if she needed anything to help care for them. The couple had grown extremely attached to her daughters and Aria could understand why. It must be incredibly difficult for them- especially Kahlan- to have to watch someone ten years their junior get exactly what they wanted. In the same sense, it was difficult for Aria to watch the two of them- together and happy- while she was forced to remain alone. She didn't blame them, of course, nor did she resent them for enjoying each other's presence- she was simply jealous. It had been almost five months since Hayden had died and still the sting of his passing was not easily ignored. The only thing that soothed the pain were Katherine and Emma. Aria smiled as she thought of them- barely two days old and already having the entire palace wrapped around their tiny fingers. Zedd strolled in, more than ready to start off the meal, and greeted them warmly as he sat. The four made small talk as the maids prepared their meal and waited for the rest of the group. Expecting Cara and Benjamin to be slightly off schedule due to the fact that it was only Cara's second morning home since being away for three months. The fair-haired couple had slept away most of yesterday so Aria had not gotten to see her sister as much as she had wanted to. Hopefully, the two had relieved themselves of whatever…desires they had and could actually leave their bedchamber this morning.
"Ah, how wonderful to see you both." Zedd's sarcasm-dipped voice echoed across the marble hall. Aria turned to see Cara and Ben enter the room, hand in hand, both sporting rather large smiles. "I take it you slept well, my dear?"
"You have no idea, wizard." Cara quirked an eyebrow suggestively causing the old man to crinkle his nose and frown. Aria frowned slightly as she detected a slight limp in her sister's walk. She tilted her head and narrowed her eyes as Cara made her way to her usual seat across from her.
"Are you alright, Cara?" she couldn't help but ask. The blonde raised an eyebrow in confusion.
"Of course I am." She retook Ben's hand and smiled. "How could I not be?" Aria shook it off, suddenly realizing that she probably did not want to know the reason as to why Cara was limping, and quickly dove into her breakfast. Katherine and Emma would be waking up soon and she didn't want the first face they saw to be the nurse maids'. She didn't take part in the idle chatter of the meal, preferring to finish as quickly as possible, and soon enough, asked to be excused. When she arrived in her room, Aria turned the knob ever so gently so as not to wake the twins. She saw Claire- the children's nanny- already waiting to feed them in case Aria could not be there.
"Have they awoken?" she whispered to the woman who couldn't be much older than herself. Claire shook her head.
"I think they were waiting for their mother." She smiled and gestured in the direction of Emma's crib. Aria made her way over and peered inside at her sleeping daughter. Although identical, the two girls seemed as different as night and day. Emma, the youngest, seemed to have a knack for sleeping less and enjoyed watching the others talk while her sister, Katherine, only wanted to be held and coddled as much as possible. Aria smiled as Emma opened her tiny mouth and yawned- her mouth no bigger than her fist. Both girls were small but Aria had been assured by her midwife, Helena, that twins were more than often small for their age. Emma made a sound from the back of her throat and Aria's arms were in her cradle immediately, wrapping the baby in her embrace and soothing what would soon turn into a wail.
"Good morning Emma." Aria placed a kiss on her forehead. "Up early again, aren't we?" Emma hummed back and opened her eyes, searching for the familiar face to match the voice. Once she caught sight of her mother, the baby nudged closer to her chest and sighed contently. Aria smiled and nodded to Claire, dismissing the woman, before taking a seat by the window and stroking a finger along the corner of Emma's mouth. She opened her mouth immediately and Aria adjusted herself to feed her youngest daughter. It was convenient that Emma woke up earlier than Katherine seeing as her feedings were quick and her sister's seemed to take ages. Aria watched as her daughter finished suckling at her breast and wasn't surprised when she heard Katherine's wines. She cleaned Emma and placed her back in her crib before attending to her eldest daughter. She repeated the process and only as she Katherine finished her meal did Aria hear a faint knock at the door. Kahlan strode in, a smile plastered on her face, and once again adjusted to the sight of Aria with her daughter in arm. The Mother Confessor sighed.
"I don't think you understand how strange this is for me." She chuckled slightly. "Seeing you with two children. I remember when you were that size."
"Was I cute?" Aria asked with a grin as she wiped Katherine's mouth clean and got ready to change Emma's clothes.
"I've seen cuter." Kahlan flicked a hand and strode over to where Katherine lay. "Like these two beautiful creations." She swept the eldest into her arms and cradled her against her chest lovingly. Aria watched as she changed Emma almost without looking.
"You should do it." She said nonchalantly. "I know you want to."
"Of course I want to, Aria." Kahlan's demeanor changed as she rocked Katherine. The girl opened her mouth and took the shoulder of Kahlan's dress into it, sending a line of drool down the side. The Confessor didn't seem to mind. "It's just that-"
"Kahlan, I don't know how many times we have to have this discussion." Aria rolled her eyes. "What part of 'don't worry about it' do not understand?"
"Well it sounds to me like someone's taking their motherly role to a whole new level." A new voice sounded at the door and the two women turned to see Cara leaning against the doorframe with an amused smile on her face. "I thought your title was Mother Confessor." She looked at Kahlan.
"Very funny Cara." Kahlan raised an eyebrow at the blonde who continued to linger by the door. "Well come in, they don't bite."
"Not yet at least." Cara mumbled as she somewhat reluctantly entered the room.
"Well it's nice to see you out amongst the common folk, Mistress Cara." Aria remarked as she adjusted Emma in her arms. "Finally deem us worthy of a visit?"
"I was…busy." The blonde shrugged as if that were explanation enough. Kahlan almost burst into laughter.
"Right. We could tell how busy you were through the walls of our bedchamber for the past two nights." Aria bit her lip to keep from laughing.
"Jealous, Mother Confessor?" Cara half-smiled and crossed her arms. Kahlan scoffed as she continued to rock Katherine.
"If only you knew." She shook her head and smiled widely. Cara approached her slowly.
"Actually, Mother Confessor." Aria could tell that whatever Cara was about to say would ensure her victory. "Do you remember when I told you about the bond between a Lord Rahl and his Mord'Sith?"
"You couldn't-wouldn't." Kahlan's face turned beet red as she caught Cara's meaning. The blonde simply narrowed her eyes in response.
"Oh, I can and most certainly did." Cara's eyes twinkled with mischief as Kahlan's widened in surprise.
"You're saying that you could…while we…"
"Mhm." Cara nodded and placed her hands on her hips. "Don't be embarrassed, Kahlan. It's nothing I haven't seen before."
"I have to, uh…go." Kahlan placed Katherine back into her crib and made her way back down the hallway faster than Aria had ever seen.
"I should say it's nothing we haven't seen before!" Cara called after her, containing her laughter the whole time. Once Kahlan was out of sight, Cara closed the door and immediately broke into a fit of laughter. Aria stared wide-eyed at the woman.
"You can really do that?" she asked, somewhat intrigued. "Use the bond to look in on them like that?"
"Why, interested?" Cara pushed off from the door and stared back, amused.
"Relax, Aria." Cara chuckled. "No, I can't but if you tell her that I'll have to hurt you."
"Did you see her face?" Aria released her lip and let out a small giggle.
"No doubt she's on her way to interrupt Lord Rahl's council meeting to let him know she wants a new room, far, far away from any Mord'Sith." With that, both Sisters of the Agiel howled with laughter to the point where Katherine and Emma wanted to join and began making any noise they could. They only stopped when Aria turned her attention to them and took Emma back into her arms.
"Why don't you-"
"I don't think that's such a good idea." Cara took a step back and raised her hands in front of her.
"What is?" the blonde frowned.
"You'll willingly face an army of madmen on a mission to eradicate your kind but holding a baby is simply too frightening." Aria joked. "Can't wait to tell everyone about-"
"Alright, I'll hold your infernal child." Cara scoffed and Aria smiled as she watched her sister reach into Katherine's crib and cradle the child just as she had been taught merely two days ago.
"You weren't half bad at it when they were born. Nothing's changed since then Cara." Aria reassured the woman. "Let's go for a walk."
"While holding this?" Cara seemed mortified by the idea.
"What, can't multitask?" Aria chuckled at her own joke. She knew that Cara's apprehension came from the fact that she simply did not want to be seen babysitting by anyone- especially one of the soldiers. Who knows how long they would tease her for?
"I can multitask just fine, thank you." She righted herself and let out a breath as Aria held the door open and swaddled Emma.
"So when are you going to tell us what you learned?"
"What?" Cara frowned and seemed far too concentrated on not dropping Katherine to hold out a conversation.
"You were gone for three months, Cara." Aria turned a corner and almost collided with a handful of Palace guards accompanied by three Mord'Sith.
"Forgive us, Confessor." One of the guards turned to the side and made room for her to pass.
"My fault, Captain." Aria offered the group a smile and watched as they stared at the children in their arms.
"So these are the new Palace princesses?" one of the Mord'Sith crossed her arms and cocked her head to the side.
"They most certainly are." Aria chuckled as the group cooed them. "Would you like to hold Katherine, Leah?" she watched as the Mord'Sith took a large step back.
"Oh no thank you, Confessor." Leah hid a smile. "I think we'll leave the babysitting to Cara here."
"She does seem to be doing a good job, doesn't she?" Aria chuckled as the patrol waved goodbye and Cara flashed her a stink eye.
"Thanks for that." She grumbled, readjusting Katherine at her chest. The baby girl cooed and took a buckle from the leather into her mouth. Cara raised an eyebrow.
"Oh come on, Cara." Aria nudged her slightly. "Look at her." Cara lowered her gaze and examined baby Katherine. The girl noticed someone looking and released the buckle immediately. She stared up at Cara with wide grey eyes and the Mord'Sith found herself unable to look away. A small smile tugged at the woman's lips and Aria noted it with pride.
"I guess I've seen uglier babies." The blonde shrugged slightly before cradling Katherine's head to her breast. Aria laughed.
"Right." Aria smiled down at Emma. "Aunt Cara's got a bit of an honesty problem."
"Don't fill their heads with lies so soon!" Cara ordered as the women strolled into the almost empty council chamber. Since Cara's departure, Aria had offered to take up the task of leading the weekly meetings, insisting that Kahlan had enough to worry about without the added pressure of politics. Their arrival caused the men and women to move aside, opening a path for them to make their way to the front where Aria sat in the seat besides Mother Confessor's. They waited several more minutes for the rest of the diplomats to stroll in, Aria receiving congratulations and compliments on her daughters the entire time. Cara noticed the girl's apprehension to having strangers so close to the children and slowly eased the crowd away. With a grateful smile from the Confessor, the meeting began and Aria and Cara handed over the infants to Claire.
The council meeting dragged on longer than Aria could handle. She just wanted to get back to her children and the only thing standing in her way was the discussion on the year's cattle runs. She raised her hand and demanded silence before the debate turned into a full scale fist fight between the two competitors.
"Gentlemen," she uncrossed her legs. "As I'm sure you understand, these decisions are- forgive my bluntness- not exactly top priority at the moment. The Mother Confessor and I will decide, in due time, which cattle company to endorse- if we choose one at all. Until then, I invite you both to stay under our protection. Guards can escort you to your quarters…on opposite ends of the Palace." The room chuckled collectively, all of them having grown tired of the bickering nearly an hour ago. Aria stood and everyone bowed their heads. "Now if you'll excuse me, sitting in that chair for so long is really not a habit I like to indulge in for much longer."
"Of course, Confessor." The larger man, Niles, bowed his head and stepped aside, making room for her pass. Aria quickly made her way out of the room, Cara hot on her heels.
"Gods, those get more boring by the minute." Aria complained as they entered the children's room.
"I'm fairly certain I fell asleep at some point." Cara rubbed her eyes for effect and watched as Aria scooped Katherine into her arms to begin her feeding. She watched the new mother with curiosity and idly leaned against Emma's crib. The infant let out a cry as soon as she saw her and Cara nearly jumped out of her skin. Aria didn't even try to withhold her chuckle.
"I told you she likes you." The girl commented without turning. Cara made a face in her direction but continued to stare at Emma nonetheless. Although identical, Katherine and Emma had a somewhat different persona. While the eldest daughter seemed more calm and serious, Emma was the opposite; her facial expressions changing by the seconds. Cara perched herself at the edge of the crib and placed her chin in her palms, watching the baby try to move on her own.
"What is she doing?" the blonde asked with a raised eyebrow. She heard Aria walk over to her and examine her daughter.
"She wants you to pick her up." Aria deduced and walked away again. Cara gazed at the infant who now had her arms outstretched, curling and uncurling her fingers every few seconds.
"Are you sure?" she mumbled.
"I wasn't talking to you." Cara's cheeks reddened. Great, she thought. Now I'm talking to babies. With a sigh, the blonde leaned down and slowly cupped Emma's head once more. She hadn't held the girl since the day she was born and forgot just how small she was. Even compared to her sister, Emma was a lot lighter and slightly skinnier.
"See?" Aria seemed to be finishing Katherine's feeding and Cara found herself slightly disappointed. Does that mean she would have to hand Emma over so soon? "She likes you."
"Who wouldn't?" the blonde scoffed before looking up. Aria had laid a now sleeping Katherine back into her crib and seemed to be taking her time coming for Emma.
"Talk to her if you'd like." Aria went around rearranging the room and its contents as Cara stared back down at the infant in her arms. "They can understand you."
"Really?" she cocked her head and smiled as Emma copied her. "You can understand me?" Emma seemed to frown.
Of course I can.
"You really do look a lot like your mother." Cara allowed herself to get lost in those giant, pale eyes.
"I'd imagine those eyes won't stay like that forever." She leaned closer as if telling a secret. "Better take advantage of it while you can."
"Don't worry though. I'm sure you'll still have the Palace in the palm of your hand even after you lose all that baby fat."
That's the plan.
Cara hadn't heard the door behind her open and took a seat facing the window, Emma still at her breast.
"You and your sister better not drive your mother crazy. That's my job." Emma squealed and played with Cara's finger before returning her gaze.
We can take turns.
"You know, you're not that intimidating after all. Just…really small." Cara bit her lip. "And fragile."
You're not so bad yourself.
"Having fun, Cara?" the blonde was on her feet in a millisecond and spun to meet Ben's amused gaze. She froze.
"Uh, well I-"
"Didn't your mother ever teach you it was rude to interrupt others' conversations Benjamin?" Aria chuckled from behind the man. Cara quickly deposited the infant into her mother's waiting arms before blushing a furious shade of pink.
"You're very right, Confessor. I apologize." Ben took Cara's hand in his and kissed it, only enhancing the woman's tint. She shook her grip away and playfully poked at his side.
"Apology not accepted." Surely Ben would want to discuss the matter of children now. The thought made Cara's stomach flip. She heard him chuckle and pushed the thought away for now.
"Then perhaps I'll make it up to you later." Ben reached out and poked her back, catching the woman off guard and in the exact spot she didn't want to be touched. Cara's breath hitched and she instinctively covered the area with her hand as she flinched back. "I'm sorry, are you alright?" As Aria heard the words, she stifled Emma's whines and narrowed her gaze at her sister.
"Cara?" she approached the blonde slowly, noticing the now pale tone of her once rosy face.
"I'm fine." She removed her hand and waved them both away just as they knew she would. "I have to find Dahlia. I'll meet you both later for dinner." She quickly pecked Ben's lips and fled the room, leaving the two with frowns on their faces.