How You Gonna See Me Now
I sat on the windowsill in Darken Rahl's bedchamber, flipping purposefully through my mother's old spellbook. It contained the recipes for all her original potions: love potions, deadly poisons, parlor tricks, sleeping aids, healing elixirs, Mord-Sith repellent (maybe I should douse myself in that around Denna; I'd be a lot safer), fertilizers, and the like. But I had no interest in anything like that. There was one potion in particular that I desperately needed to find. Spotting it at last, I scanned the ingredients carefully.
I had everything save the most vital ingredient: limpwurt root, which was the sturdy root system of the relatively rare limpwurt flower. It truly was a sickly-looking plant: shriveled and brown with an orange flower that seemed as though it could spit fire. Groaning, I tossed the book onto the bed.
I need that ingredient.
The closest place I could think of that might have had some was only a day's ride away (with the speed-increasing elixir), but I wasn't sure how Darken would react if I vanished for a couple days with no notice. Sighing, I climbed down off the ledge and headed for the door.
I'd better go find him.
As I had expected, I found Darken in the study, scanning the pages of a history book idly. At the sound of my entrance, he looked up and smiled.
"Hello, Ember," he greeted, standing up and walking over to me. He then embraced me and kissed me tenderly. "Tired of sitting up there alone?"
I chuckled slightly. "More or less. What would you say if I told you I had to run off for a couple of days to procure a potion ingredient?"
Grasping my shoulders, he took a step back from me and furrowed his brow. "Come again?"
I looked at him doubtfully. "You heard me, Darken."
He huffed quietly. "Yes, I suppose you're right. Well, first off, I would ask what you need and why you need it."
I can't very well tell him what potion it's for without him getting suspicious. Where's Zedd when I need him? He could think of a good cover in less than a second.
Luckily, my inner-Zedd shone through:
"Limpwurt root. I need it for one of those…'in-case-of-emergency' potions."
He cocked his head. "What kind of emergency?"
In another miraculous moment of brilliance, I responded, "You'll know when the time comes."
He smirked. "Which means you have no intention of telling me precisely what it is you're up to?"
I grinned. "Damn straight, love."
He stifled a laugh. "Fine, but you go with Hemlock while using the speed elixir…and you don't go alone."
I scoffed, rolling my eyes. "Darken, sweetheart, I can take care of myself."
"I know that. However," he persisted, "I'm not exactly the most beloved ruler in history."
No shit, you bloody tyrant. But who am I kidding? I wouldn't want you any other way.
I raised my eyebrows. "So…?"
"So, if anyone were to know how important you are to me, and they happened to be one of my enemies, they may try to kill you."
Inhaling sharply through my teeth, I looked at my feet. "Good point."
"Take a Mord-Sith with you."
"Belladonna?" I suggested.
He thought a moment. "Not on her own; she may miss the attackers and kill you."
I shrugged in concession. "Kellie or Amanda?"
"You and I both know they're a package deal. It's a pretty dependable package, though."
He nodded. "You two are very close, which is saying something for Cara."
After a minute or two of complete silence, Darken suggested, "Why not take all four? Leaving the palace for a couple of days should do them some good."
I crossed my arms and smiled. "Can you live without your confidante for that long?"
He laughed. "If I need to talk to Kellie, or you, I'll find some way. Now get going; the sooner you leave, the sooner you'll get back."
He then drew me to him and kissed me passionately.
"I love you. Be careful."
I was amazed that I actually blushed.
"I love you too. I will be."
"Hold still," Belladonna growled, lacing together part of the hard-leather collar armor that Amanda was holding around my neck and shoulders.
"I'm trying," I retorted. "If someone wasn't jerking my head every which-way, maybe I could."
Kellie, who was waging war with my hair in an attempt to style it into a traditional Mord-Sith braid, scoffed. "Well, if someone believed in cutting her hair, maybe I wouldn't be!" She yanked my hair jokingly to prove her point.
"Ow!" I shrieked, more as a reflex than out of pain.
"Candy-ass," Kellie muttered, giggling.
"Behave, you two," Amanda laughed. Turning to Belladonna, she asked, "Done lacing yet?"
She smiled. "Yep. Go ahead and let go of it."
She did so, and they both stepped back to admire their work. Grinning, they high-fived.
"You look stunning, darling," Amanda observed, holding a mirror before me.
Belladonna choked back a laugh. "You look like a giant blood clot!" she exclaimed, doubling-over laughing."
She was right: I was clad in dark red leather from head-to-toe; even my hands were coated in red leather gloves. My ridiculously long hair (which Kellie had finally finished braiding) hung heavy, practically blending in with my clothing. I was surprised that all you had to do was throw me into a Mord-Sith uniform to make me look intimidating.
I scrunched my forehead. "Why am I dressed like this again?"
Cara approached me, carrying two agiels. Slipping one into my belt on either hip, she responded, "To make you less conspicuous. If an enemy of Lord Rahl was to see you being escorted about by four Mord-Sith, they would most likely interpret it to mean that you are of great importance to Lord Rahl; therefore making you a target instantly. A group of five Mord-Sith is far too vicious to confront, so it's safer for you this way."
Amanda nodded. "And if anything were to happen to you—"
"—Darken'd kill us," Kellie finished.
"Well," Belladonna began hesitantly, looking at her, "maybe not you."
"I wouldn't be so sure," Cara argued. "I've seen Lord Rahl with Ember." With a smirk and a wink, she finished, "It's the stuff that outlandish romance novels are made of."
"Except at night," Amanda corrected as the five of us headed for the stables. "Then, it's full-on porn."
"I think I found some, Ember!" Belladonna alerted, halting her horse a good ten yards ahead of us.
"Excellent!" I exclaimed, stopping Hemlock alongside her horse. I dismounted and approached the ill-looking plant. I crouched down before it and reached into the side of my boot, producing a small dagger.
"Why do you need limpwurt root, anyway?" Amanda inquired as she, Kellie, and Cara climbed off their horses and joined Belladonna and I.
As I began to hack away at the root system of the plant, Kellie added, "Yeah…isn't it only used for strengthening potions?"
"No," I answered. "My mother once developed a potion using it that, when administered to a not yet cold corpse, can keep the body warm slightly longer than normal, giving a longer period of time to magically revive it."
"And…you're making this?"
She cocked her head. "Why?"
"Just in case the Seeker should succeed in fulfilling the prophecy."
Belladonna chuckled. "What exactly makes you think he might?"
My chopping slowed down. I found myself unable to respond.
What can I say? It's pure intuition. Richard's resilient as hell, and Zedd's not stupid; they're bound to find a way to kill Darken, and they're bound to succeed.
"I have a question as well," Cara added, sitting next to me. "Why were you talking to Zeddicus Zu'l Zorander the other day?"
"Hold up!" Kellie shrieked. "You're talking to Zorander! What the hell!" Pulling out her agiels and starting toward me, she growled, "Darken loves you, for the Creator's sake!"
Amanda and Belladonna restrained her before she could strike me with her agiel. Mildly terrified (and trying like mad to not show it), I answered, "I love him too."
"Then why are you talking to Zorander?"
Amanda half-nodded. "That is a good question," she conceded.
Cara reached for em. I cringed, afraid that she might strike me (even though she was one of my best friends, she was a Mord-Sith first.) Much to my surprise, she turned my chin gently in order to make me face her. Her teal eyes regarded me quizzically.
"Was Mistress Denna right?" she probed, her voice uncharacteristically calm.
I exhaled slowly. "Yes and no," I forced, halting all cutting of the limpwurt plant.
Belladonna furrowed her brow. "What do you mean? Didn't she accuse you of being a spy?"
"Yes," Kellie confirmed, still looking less than pleased with me.
Well, she is Darken's best friend, after all…I suppose it's only natural for her to be protective of him.
"And if Denna had confronted me my first…oh…three days here, she would have been right," I said.
"Mrr?" Amanda inquired, tilting her head much like a cat.
Trying not to smile (which was hard when it came to Amanda), I elaborated, "Originally, I was sent by Zedd to spy on Darken Rahl and win his trust. In doing so, I could potentially discover his plans and relay them to Zedd, who could use them to hasten the completion of the Seeker's quest and the fulfillment of the prophecy. I figured it sounded simple enough, and I didn't see any obstacles to my success. However, I…."
I trailed off.
"What?" Belladonna begged.
Cara smirked. "You never expected to fall in love with Lord Rahl…or him with you."
My eyes met hers. "Exactly. That love caused my loyalties to turn almost instantly; after all, why would I help the Seeker to kill the man I love? However, I had to keep Zedd thinking I was still on their side—the others being Richard Cypher and Kahlan Amnell—so I've been giving them the impression that I'm playing the double-agent; working against them to gain Darken's trust, then using the information given from him in trust to them."
"Richard is sexy," Kellie giggled, finally lowering her agiels.
I breathed a sigh of relief.
"So wait," Amanda began, "you are betraying Lord Rahl?"
"Not exactly," I responded. "I make sure I only tell Zedd things that he already knows."
"How do you know what he already knows?" Belladonna queried, crossing her arms less out of attitude than for comfort's sake.
"He keeps her posted," Cara replied for me. "He also likes to check in on her relationship status." Turning to me and smirking, she chuckled, "Tell me, Ember…what did Zedd have to say after you and Lord Rahl made love?"
"Yeah!" Kellie laughed. "What'd he say after you and Darken did the nasty?"
Yep…Kellie's back to herself. No harm done.
I inhaled sharply through my teeth. "He…doesn't know yet."
"You're kidding!" Amanda shouted.
I smiled. "Nope. But we'd better find a spot to crash for the night," I added, looking up at the dusky sky. Glancing from one Mord-Sith to another, I implored, "Am I forgiven?"
After debating amongst themselves, Kellie turned to me and confirmed, "We suppose. And don't worry; we won't tell Darken. We love you too much…both of you…to have him kill you." She smiled and winked.