I must admit, I instantly fell in love with the cave Darken Rahl had shown me. It had a motionless pond against one wall, which was disturbed by stepping-stones leading to a huge rock at its center. It was a shockingly cozy cave, and I soon found myself practically taking up residency in it. I spent most of my time there, doing anything from meditating to practicing spells to attempting to create spells. I even slept in there.
One day, after a D'Haran soldier had picked up a sizable batch of speed-increasing elixir for the horses, I realized something: I was helping the D'Harans. This wasn't a sudden revelation or anything; I knew it all along. It's just that some of the things I was doing greatly endangered Richard. And what was I getting out of it? A cave and food. Granted, the food was plentiful and damn good, and the cave was mostly my choice. And I didn't care.
Good Creator…I'm one of them. This can't be. Maybe Zedd was testing me when he sent me here. Maybe he wanted to see if I could stay on the right side of the fence. Maybe…maybe I'm worrying too much.
I gave out a startled cry, and nearly fell off the rock and into the frigid water. After regaining my balance, I looked up at the entrance of the cave. There, I could see the unmistakable form of Darken Rahl. He carefully made his way across the stepping-stones, joined me on the rock, and helped me to my feet.
"Thank you, My Lord," I managed. Tilting my face up to discover that his was a few inches from mine, I discretely shied away a few inches to compensate. "What is it you require of me?"
He rolled his eyes. "Do stop talking like that; it seems so rehearsed coming from you."
I chuckled. "Alright, you caught me. But seriously, what do you want?"
To my confusion, he answered, "I simply ask that you dine inside the palace tonight, rather than bring your food out here."
I furrowed my brow. "Come again, Lord Rahl?"
"You heard me. Many people doubt your existence because of how infrequently they see you. I even wonder if you're real sometimes, and I make it a point to see you daily."
I made a slight noise of concession. He was right. I tended to keep to the cave. Finally, I nodded. "I'll be there, My Lord."
He smiled happily. "Excellent, Ember. I shall see you later, then."
Before I could react, he kissed my hand and left the cave.
I sat on the rock in the pond, gazing at the water's surface. The face of Zedd was looking back at me, pondering the conversation that had just taken place between Lord Rahl and I.
I groaned impatiently. "Tell me what you think of it, or I'll toss a pebble into your forehead."
He chortled, then theorized, "I think you may be growing on him, Ember."
I giggled. "Like a fungus, no doubt."
Zedd shrugged. "More or less. Do you want my advice?"
I shot him a "no kidding" look and responded, "Don't I always?"
He twitched the corner of his mouth. "True. I say you should go. If he's showing this much of an interest in you, don't pass the chance up."
Gratefully, I thanked him, then ran my hand through the water to end the spell.
Thank the Creator for Zedd. I'd probably have been lost without him.
Maybe that's why I'm so worried about my loyalties. Is my own heart tricking me?