Author's Note:

I'm sincerely hoping that I find enough energy/creativity/time/Alice Cooper song titles to write Little by Little, pt IV. I doubt you all can help me with the first 3, but if you can think of any song titles I can use for chapters, let me know. Inbox me with any Alice Cooper song titles you'd like me to use for chapter names. Anyway, back to the space-filler….

Bad Romance

Kahlan raced after Zedd, nearly tripping over an exposed tree root in the process. It was bad enough that the night was abnormally dark; Zedd traveling faster than Hemlock on speed elixir only made matters worse. But they had to rescue Richard.

"Are you sure he's at the People's Palace?" Kahlan inquired, finally catching up with Zedd.

The wizard of the First Order continued to travel at his exceptionally fast pace.

"Yes," he responded, grimacing for no reason Kahlan could see.

She grabbed his arm, causing him to stop dead in his tracks.

Thank the spirits, she thought, the dull thudding in her legs beginning to subside. Her sapphire eyes met his predominantly blue hazel ones. "Something wrong, Zedd?"

He smirked, then contorted his face in disgust once more. "I just wish Ember would have taken her necklace off before retiring tonight, that's all."

Kahlan arched an eyebrow curiously. "Why? What strange topic are she and Darken Rahl discussing tonight?" She giggled. "Or are they just bickering back-and-forth about a stalemate in chess?"

Zedd resumed his purposeful walking. He knew everything about Ember and Darken Rahl—well, almost everything—because Ember was almost always wearing one of the articles of jewelry that Zedd had enchanted (usually a necklace: a small gold cage containing a few loose rubies on a gold chain.) What Ember was saying and hearing was constantly playing in his mind when she wore a piece of this jewelry; fortunately, it played as an undertone to everything else, so he could still keep his thoughts straight, as well as keep his sanity. He knew when Denna and Triana tortured her, when Darken Rahl first made love to her (thankfully, he didn't know until after the fact), when Lord Rahl proposed to her, and when they were married earlier that day. Needless to say, this was also how he knew Richard's whereabouts. At the moment, however, he was stuck listening to the sounds of Darken Rahl and Ember making love.

"I wish she'd take off that necklace," Zedd grumbled, trying to block it out.

"Zedd?" Kahlan implored.

He continued to ignore her.

"That bad?" Kahlan mused. "I can hear the gossip already: 'Ember Sardonyx got into an argument with Lord Darken Rahl about the rules of chess…Lord Rahl is now deceased.'" She chuckled. "Well, that would save Richard some work. Granted, people might start calling her 'Sadistic Sardonyx'—you know Ember won't make it merciful."

Zedd halted, then sighed. He had to tell Kahlan the truth; besides, she'd find out anyway, being the Mother Confessor and all.

"Ember's name isn't Sardonyx," he forced, looking at a mossy fallen log, barely visible in the dim moonlight.

Kahlan cocked her head. She knew he was telling the truth, but it was very unexpected. "Oh? Then what is her name, Zedd?"

He swallowed hard, then weakly raised his eyes to hers.

"Lady Ember Rahl."

After a moment of shocked silence, Kahlan's mouth gaped.

"Rahl!" she shrieked. "Rahl? She married that monster!"

Calmly, Zedd replied, "He's anything but a monster to Ember…he's actually rather kind to her…caring, affectionate…sincerely loving, as uncharacteristic as it is."

Kahlan scoffed. "It's probably just a charade to get her to betray Richard. No one in their right mind would trust Darken Rahl to be truthful about anything, especially the softer emotions."

"You'd be surprised, Kahlan," Zedd retorted, then held up a finger. "Do you hear—" he furrowed his brow, "—hoofbeats?"

Kahlan gave a slight nod. "It sounds like Hemlock."

"Indeed it does…but I know for a fact that it can't be Ember."

Just as Kahlan was about to inquire as to how Zedd knew this, a jet-black stallion emerged from the trees ahead. Astride him was Kellie, with Richard behind her. Gently, Kellie stroked Hemlock's mane.

"Good boy, Hemlock," she cooed. Looking up at Zedd and Kahlan, she grinned amiably. "Hello Zeddicus, Kahlan…you two lose something?"

Kahlan glared at her. "A Mord-Sith cannot be trusted," she growled.

"I think Kellie can," Zedd debated, then flinched.

Kellie, seeing this, made a sound of disgust. "Oh, don't tell me they're still going at it!"

Zedd nodded slowly.

Richard cocked his head. "Rahl and Ember?"

"Good Creator," Kahlan muttered, lifting her hand to her forehead. "You have to listen to that?"

"Unfortunately," Zedd groaned, exhaling loudly.

Richard tried to repress a laugh and dismounted Hemlock. Suddenly, a devious grin swept across Kellie's face.

"Hey, Triple-Z-Dawg," Kellie began, looking at Zedd.

Zedd gawked at her. "…Pardon?"

She ignored his obvious confusion and continued, "Let's play the 'Darken and Ember drinking game'!" She reached into one of Hemlock's saddlebags, producing a bottle of dark red wine. She inspected it closely for a few moments, muttered what sounded vaguely like "She won't miss it", and tossed it to Zedd (who, thankfully, caught it.)

Zedd stared at her blankly.

"The rules are simple," she elaborated. "Every time they fuck, you drink!"

"Good Creator!" Kahlan shouted, burying her face in her hands. Peering at Richard through a gap in her fingers, she noticed something was missing.

His necklace.

"Richard," she said, slowly, "what happened to your necklace?"

Kellie discreetly brought a hand up to her chest, letting it rest above her heart. She caressed the tooth gently, tracing its outline with her forefinger.

"One of the Mord-Sith tore it from around my neck," Richard lied, giving Kellie an "I've got this covered" side-glance. "Ember will probably find it and send it back."

Zedd scoffed doubtfully. "If she and Lord Rahl ever give it a rest."

Kellie giggled. "Zeddicus Zu'l Zorander, you poor soul."

Ignoring her, Kahlan turned to Zedd. "And if she even knows. Tomorrow, tell her about it. See if she can get it back, or if she knows someone who can."

Zedd nodded comprehensively. "She does seem to be rather close with a certain Mord-Sith named Cara. I'm sure she'll be able to reclaim the necklace…through whatever means needed."

Kellie gulped. She had seen Cara torture poor fools before, until they were broken and bloody, their frail forms like silver shadows on the dungeon floor. At that moment, she firmly decided to hand over the necklace the instant either Cara or Ember confronted her.

"Well," Kellie said suddenly, "I'd best get back before anyone notices that Hemlock's missing…or that I'm missing, for that matter. Night Zedd, Kahlan." She winked deviously at the final member of the trio. "Richard."

Kahlan crossed her arms, her light blue eyes regarding Kellie quizzically as she rode away on Hemlock. When the sound of hoofbeats had drowned away into the distance, the three turned and strode away, deeper into the forest.

A twinkle in his hazel eyes, Zedd smiled and patted Richard's shoulder knowingly.

"You just had to get involved with a Mord-Sith, didn't you?" he whispered jokingly.

Richard directed his gaze toward the cloud-shrouded moon. Almost childishly, he retorted, "She started it."

Zedd stifled a chortle. "It appears you and Ember have something in common: you both have a tendency to make less-than-intelligent choices for your love lives—although Ember's just might give us a small advantage."

Richard glared over his shoulder at him, smirked, and gestured toward the bottle of wine in Zedd's grasp.

"Shouldn't you be drinking?"