Didn't We Meet

Arriving at D'Hara proved to be easier than I had thought. Zedd was right; it took me nearly a month to get there. Hoping that meant that Zedd would also be right about the black and red robes, I put them on the day I would reach D'Hara. They were predominantly black, with ornamental red shoulderpads and intricate crimson detailing here and there. I prayed that I wouldn't engage in a fight on my way there; the robetop was cut to expose my stomach. It was a flattering outfit, but not the most practical.

Getting taken to the People's Palace proved to be even easier. I encountered a few D'Haran soldiers standing on the outskirts of D'Hara. They told me to state my business. Although I knew that it was basically the equivalent of asking for death, I told them I sought an audience with Lord Rahl. They laughed heartily, then inquired how I could possibly be of any use to him. He did have numerous wizards at his command, after all; why would he employ the aid of a wandering sorceress? So I stated my lineage, qualifications, and magical capacity. I also threw in a little tidbit about how Hemlock was the fastest horse in the land thanks to an elixir I concocted, and that I could mass-produce it for the D'Haran warhorses. That must have sold them, because before I knew it, I was being escorted up a winding staircase inside the People's Palace. I had returned my staff to its regular size, and a few soldiers were watching over Hemlock and my box. Suddenly, we came to an ornate wooden door. One of the soldiers knocked, waited a moment, then led me inside.

My gaze instantly fell on a tall, slender man, standing facing the fireplace. The roaring fire gave a soft lustre to his blood red robes, giving them a sinister quality. He had shoulder-length, dark brown hair, which would most likely appear jet black without the flickering of the hearth. Without turning to face us, he queried, "Why do you disturb me?"

"I beg your pardon, Lord Rahl," a soldier began calmly. "There is a sorceress here to speak with you. She claims she could be of great use to the D'Haran cause."

"We shall see," he replied. Indicating the door, he muttered to the soldier, "Leave us."

"Yes, Lord Rahl," was his response. He then gave a quick salute and exited the room, closing the door behind him.

My heart leapt into my throat.

Zedd, what did you get me into?

"State your name, my dear," Darken Rahl commanded quietly, still staring at the fire.

"Ember Sardonyx, My Lord," I forced, sounding far less nervous than I really was.

He instantly straightened his back. I wasn't exactly certain if it was a good sign or a bad sign. Right when I was contemplating running for dear life, he pivoted sharply and locked gaze with me. "Sardonyx?"

I was immediately captivated. His eyes were of a pale, icy blue; they seemed to reach into me and touch my soul. They had an unnatural intelligence in them, no matter how malevolent that intelligence may have been. His face was that of a charming demon, and he carried himself with an equally demonic grace. Upon noticing that he was examining me in a similar manner, I decided to speak.

"Yes, My Lord…Sardonyx."

He showed no sign of acknowledgment.

"My Lord?" I persisted, arching an eyebrow.

Well, I guess Zedd was right about the robes. And most likely about my lineage, too.

"Lord Rahl? Are you alright?"

He shook his head slightly and regained composure. "Yes; I'm fine, thank you."

I'll say…*mental slap* bad Ember!

"Now, Sardonyx, you say? You're the daughter of Edgar Sardonyx and Airmid Foxglove?"

"Yes, My Lord," I answered with a firm nod.

He seemed mildly astonished. "They were both unspeakably powerful…you must be frightfully strong as well."

I shrugged. "Zeddicus Zu'l Zorander once claimed I was one of the only people who had ever bested him."

I figured that should win him over. The Zorander bloodline is full of powerful wizards and sorceresses, as is the Rahl bloodline.

He smirked. "Do you think you could best me?"

I wish!

I gave a gentle smile. "I don't like to assume too much, Lord Rahl, with all due respect."

He returned the smile. "That's very wise. So, you know Zorander?"

"Indeed. I guess you could say he taught me most of what I know."

He arched an eyebrow. "And you would turn on him in this manner? Why, pray tell?"

Without missing a beat, I responded, "Because I do not believe in what he, the Seeker, and the Mother Confessor are fighting for."

"But, having known him so long, how could you not agree with his views?"

This is one hell of a test. It's a good thing he's not a Confessor, like Kahlan…then he'd be able to tell I'm lying. Well, Zedd did say my parents were guardians of the Keeper, the root of all evil, so…

"It runs in the family," I said at last.

He appeared satisfied with my reasoning. He strode over to a nearby table and pulled out a chair, gesturing for me to sit. I leaned my staff against the wall (I realized this may have been placing too much trust in him) and did so. He pushed my chair back in, and sat opposite me.

"Let's get down to business," he said. "You're more magically qualified than most of the wizards under my command. Tell me, are there any unique abilities you possess, Sardonyx?"

I hate it when people call me by my last name. It's too bloody formal!

I nodded. "I can produce numerous elixirs that can enhance the performance of both man and beast in battle. I'm also in the rough stages of developing a tracking spell."

His eyes glinted mischievously. "Go on; you've piqued my interest."

I smirked. "Well, if I know Zedd, he has the Seeker, the Confessor, and himself protected under some sort of cloaking charm. I might just be able to create a spell he cannot detect. However, that may take quite a while."

He grinned. "Take all the time you need, Sardonyx. What do you require in return?"

Hehe…you. Wow, I really need to stop thinking like this.

I shrugged. "All I truly need is food and shelter…and naturally for old Hemlock to be taken proper care of."

"Consider it done," he declared. "Also, I would like to add that you are not expendable in the slightest, so I would prefer to have you in D'Hara as much as possible."

I half-nodded. "I have no problems with that."

He gave a wry smile. "Excellent. If you require a quiet place to practice your magic, there is a tranquil cave on the palace grounds. You are granted the ability to roam the palace, the grounds, and D'Hara in general freely. I only wish to warn you of one thing: try to steer clear of the Mord-Sith, Sardonyx."

Mord-Sith: code for "psycho bitches who serve Lord Rahl and torture people with sticks that cause intense pain."

"Thank you, Lord Rahl," I said, in sincere gratitude, getting up from my seat. "Oh, and My Lord? One more thing."

He cocked his head as he stood. "Yes?"

I hesitated. "If it isn't too much of a breach of protocol, would you mind calling me Ember? I've never liked being called by my last name; it just feels too rigid and formal."

He touched my shoulder. "Not at all. It would be an honor, Ember." After a few moments of silence, he added, "Would you like me to show you around?"

I grinned. "Please do, Lord Rahl; I'm hopelessly lost."

I think I'm actually starting to like it when Zedd's right.