Author's Note:

Figured we all needed to see Belladonna's "hunting skills" in action =P


I opened my eyes reluctantly, waking up to the sound of Darken pacing back and forth anxiously. I furrowed my brow in confusion; it was far too early for him to be awake, let alone to be awake and fully dressed. In addition, pacing wasn't exactly something he did regularly. The gentle light of the rising sun filtered in through the bedchamber window, highlighting his impatient expression.

With great effort, I propped myself up on my pillow and eyed him curiously. "Darken?"

He jumped slightly, stopping dead in his tracks and turning to face me.

"Ember," he breathed in surprise. "I didn't realize you were awake."

I smirked, toying idly with a frayed edge of my chemise. "I wasn't."

"Sorry to have woken you, then," he muttered apologetically, sitting on the edge of the bed. He smiled at me half-heartedly, then regarded the door expectantly.

I reached for him and gently turned his head to face me. "Expecting someone?" I inquired, tucking a strand of near-black hair behind his ear.

Darken gave a slight nod. "Belladonna."

I cocked my head and eyed him suspiciously.

"Belladonna," I repeated contemplatively, my gaze leaving his beautiful eyes and settling on the dark crimson velvet of his robes. "This early? Why?"

I shook my head.

He is not cheating on me. Why am I even thinking this? I know him better than that.

Darken chuckled, lightly brushing his fingers against my cheek. "Relax, love; I know what you're thinking, and I'd never even dream of being with anyone but you now. I arranged to meet with Belladonna to send her on a very important hunt."

I exhaled in relief, then grinned and said, "She likes those the best. What is it?"

"To kill the Seeker."

I must admit, my heart stopped for a moment. Then I remembered Belladonna's hunting skills…or lack thereof.

Richard'll be fine.

I regained composure, but not quickly enough; Darken felt the need to give his reasoning:

"Ember, I know he was your friend and all, but it's either him or me. And, to be perfectly honest, I don't think either of us want you to end up a widow before we're even married."

I giggled. "That we don't."

He smiled at me lovingly. "Go back to sleep, Ember; you need it. Everything will be taken care of." His lips tenderly embraced mine as he discreetly eased me back into a laying position.

I grinned, gazing up at his triumphant expression. "I love you, Darken," I sighed, closing my eyes and rolling onto my side.

I felt the bed rise back to its original level as Darken stood.

"I love you too, Ember," he replied, ambling back over to the window.

Belladonna was crouched on a rather sturdy tree limb, concealed from the world by a thick blanket of jade-green leaves. She reached out and cautiously lowered an anorexic-looking branch, giving her a decent view of the clearing below her. Her multicolored eyes scanned the area carefully as she observed the Confessor, the wizard, and the Seeker. She released the branch and leaned her back against the trunk of the tree, her legs dangling down on either side of the limb she occupied. Closing her eyes, she recalled Darken Rahl's command:

"Kill the Seeker."

She gave a delicate, evil smile.

Sounds easy enough. If I keep my agiel on him long enough—especially if it's over his heart—it shouldn't take too long to knock him off.

Hoisting her legs back onto the limb, she prowled to the end of it. Once there, she carefully moved another small branch out of her way, giving her a new perspective of the trio.

Her eyes narrowed as her gaze fell upon the white-haired old fool, who was practically inhaling an entire melon. The man had the appetite of the entire D'Haran army!

"Zeddicus Zu'l Zorander," Belladonna whispered, realizing she needed to revise her plan of attack.

Zorander shouldn't prove to be too difficult. He will be protective; the Seeker is not only the Seeker, but also his grandson. However, he is a wizard.

She stifled a chuckle.

I'm a Mord-Sith. If he tried to cast a spell against me, I can make it affect him instead. Ha! I love irony!

She pivoted and made her way to the base of the tree limb once more. Wrapping her legs around the limb and hanging upside-down, she moved yet another branch and viewed the last member of the Seeker's party.

Belladonna's voice fell below a whisper. "Kahlan Amnell…the Mother Confessor."

At that particular point in time, she was feeding the horses. Her long, brown hair was highlighted flatteringly by the sun, and her white dress seemed brighter than it should have been. Grimacing, Belladonna heaved herself back up onto the tree limb and sat on it, her back against the trunk once more. She rested her chin in the palm of her hand and sank deep into thought.

The Confessor is a serious threat. With one touch, she could turn me into her love-slave. I would obey her every command; be loyal only to her. That is, until it kills me…the touch of a Confessor is fatal to a Mord-Sith, after all. Lord Rahl can't afford for me to make such a mistake. Before I can go after the Seeker, I have to be sure Kahlan Amnell is somehow incapacitated.

Belladonna hit her forehead with the palm of her hand in frustration.


She buried her face in her hands. Her only practical option was to hold an agiel to her temple until she fell unconscious. But that was unspeakably risky.

It's the only plan I've got.

Without wasting another moment, she leapt from the tree to the ground, crouching in the grass before rising to full height. In a flash, she drew both her agiels from their holsters, wielding them intimidatingly. Her sunflower eyes darted from the Confessor, to the wizard, to the Seeker.

Belladonna grinned, staring dead into the warm brown eyes of the Seeker. Suddenly remembering something Kellie had said, she altered her plans slightly. Laughing to herself, she spoke with authority:

"Richard Cypher…you're mine."

"There's no cloaking charm on them, Ember," Darken said, placing a heavy hand on my shoulder. "Give up on the tracking spell, love; it's only making you miserable."

He was right; that was probably my thousandth attempt at developing a tracking spell for Richard, Zedd, and Kahlan…it was also my thousandth failure, and probably my two-thousandth headache.

We were sitting opposite each other on the ground in my cave, a small bonfire blazing to my right. Strewn between us were all my notes, failed attempt, bits of research, even attempted potions for tracking…months of work.

"All useless," I mumbled, mournfully regarding the scattered mess of ink-riddled parchment.

"Well," Darken began, pulling a half-empty vial from his pocket, "maybe not all useless."

I raised a burgundy eyebrow quizzically, regarding the sample of lavender liquid he held before me. Fumbling around in the mountain of pages, I found the recipe for that particular potion.

"One of my flukes," I observed, scanning the ingredient list. "I thought for sure this…concoction would work."

"I'm aware of that," he replied, placing the vial in my free hand. "You were more certain of this attempt than of any other. You may have lost hope in it after its initial trial, but I didn't. Ergo, I had Belladonna drink some before she set off this morning."

I couldn't prevent a hopeful expression from sweeping across my face. "Did it work?" I inquired, sounding much like an excited five-year-old.

Darken grinned at my reaction, taking the vial from my hand and setting it in a nearby box. "We shall see, my dear," he answered, placing a hand on my cheek. He then carefully leaned across the chaotic pile of notes and kissed me lovingly.

"Ahem. Am I interrupting something, Lord Rahl? Oh, and hi, Ember."

With a start, we both turned to face the entrance of the cave. There stood Belladonna, with a large sack flung over her shoulder. Despite the plain evidence that she had succeeded in killing someone, Darken glared at her.

She put a hand on her hip and scoffed. "You're not married yet; she's not Lady Rahl yet. She's still Ember Sardonyx, so don't look at me like that!" she finished, cringing jokingly and hiding her face with her arm.

I giggled; she was so damn adorable, in her own little way.

"That's very true," I concurred. Staring pointedly at Darken, I questioned, "When are we getting married, anyway?"

I can't deny that I'm getting a little impatient. True, we haven't been engaged for that long, but it feels like forever.

"Tomorrow, if you wish," was his reply.

I cocked my head and gawked at him. "If I wish? You say that like you've been waiting on me. You're the one with the busy schedule, Lord Rahl."

"She has a point," Belladonna chimed in, shifting the sack slightly.

"Well, this is more important than world domination, my dear Ember," Darken said, seeming to have ignored Belladonna. "You're far more important than the Boxes of Orden."

I blushed and, involuntarily, gave a quiet gasp. I knew I should have been neither flattered nor surprised; I was supposed to be more important, right? Besides, he had shown that enough through actions before…but hearing him say it meant everything to me.

Belladonna dropped the sack in disbelief; the sickening sound of snapping bones echoed as it hit the ground.

"Who are you and what have you done with Darken Rahl?" she implored, regarding him as if her were from another planet.

Darken smirked, clearly amused. Neatly side-stepping the question, he gave a slight nod toward the sack. "Did you find the Seeker and his comrades?"

"Yes, Lord Rahl," she replied with a firm nod.

"Finally!" I exclaimed, my heart dancing with sheer delight. "Something went right!"

After both of them laughed at me, Darken furrowed his brow and probed, "Is that the body of the Seeker?"

I gulped.

Please say no.

Sure, I felt horrible that I was secretly hoping that my fiancé's worst enemy was alive…but I knew the world needed him alive.

Richard Cypher needs to live.

Obviously, I wasn't completely evil.

Sheepishly, Belladonna answered, "No, Lord Rahl."

Thank the Creator!

Darken huffed. "I assumed as much. Is it the corpse of the wizard?"

Please not Zedd!

"No, My Lord," she said, quieter than before.

Again, thank the Creator!

He scoffed quietly. "Then I highly doubt it's the Mother Confessor?"

I rolled my eyes, unseen by him.

Of course it's not Kahlan!

"No, Lord Rahl."

I had to know. Tilting my head, I implored, "Then…who is it?"

"An excellent question," Darken agreed, standing up. "Well, Belladonna?"

She bent down to grasp the corner of the sack. With a jerk, she yanked it away from the body and threw it over her shoulder. There rested the corpse of a woman with dark shoulder-length hair. She wore a trashy white blouse and a tattered black skirt. Belladonna grinned triumphantly, stepping back to admire her work.

Darken crouched down beside the corpse and opened one of her black eyes hesitantly, trying to recognize her. "Who is she?"

I couldn't help but smile broadly and laugh, then hug Belladonna and congratulate her. After which, I proclaimed:

"It's the village whore!"