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Authors: Terry Goodkind

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Chapter 67

Alone at last beneath the vast blue sky, the soaring walls of snowcapped mountains, and in among the trees, Richard felt good about being on their way. He would miss Jennsen, but it was only for a time. It would do her good to be on her own, yet among people also discovering how to live their own lives as they learned more about the wider world. He knew he would not trade away all he had learned since he’d left his sheltered life in Hartland. If not for that, he wouldn’t be with Kahlan.

It felt good to walk and stretch his legs. He hitched his bow up higher on his shoulder as they made their way through the dappled sunlight of the hushed forest floor. After being so close to death as well as to losing his ability to see, he found everything more vibrant. The mosses looked more lush, the leaves more shimmery, the towering pines more awe-inspiring.

Kahlan’s eyes seemed more green, her hair softer, her smile warmer.

As much as he at one time had hated the fact that he had been born gifted, he was now relieved to have his gift back. It was part of him, part of who he was, part of what made him the individual he was.

Kahlan had once asked him if he wished she had been born without her Confessor’s power. He had told her that he would never wish that, because he loved her for who she was. There was no way to separate out the parts of a person. That was to deny their individuality. He was no different. His gift was part of who he was. His abilities touched everything he did.

His problem with his gift was of his own making. The magic of the Sword of Truth had helped him understand that by failing him. In so doing, it had revealed his own failure to recognize the truth.

To have it back at his hip, and to know that it was once again in harmony with him and ready to defend him and those he loved, was a comforting feeling—not because he wished to fight, but because he wished to live.

The day was warm and they made good time climbing the rocky trail up into the pass. By the time they reached the crown of the notch through the formidable mountains, it was colder, but without a biting wind it was not unpleasant.

At the top of the pass they stopped to gaze up at the statue of Kaja-Rang, sitting where it had been for thousands of years, all alone, keeping vigil over an empire of those who once could not see evil.

In some ways, the statue’s presence was a monument to failure. Where Kaja-Rang and his people had failed to get these people to see the truth, Richard had succeeded—but not without Kaja-Rang’s help.

Richard put his hands on the cold granite, on the words—
Talga Vassternich
—that had helped save his life.

“Thank you,” he whispered up at the face of the man staring off toward the Pillars of Creation, where Richard had discovered his sister.

Cara placed her hands over the words, and Richard was surprised to see her look up at the statue and say, “Thank you for helping to save Lord Rahl.”

After they started descending the pass, first crossing the open ledges and then making it down into the dense woods, Richard heard the call of a pewee, the signal he had taught Cara that had served them so well.

“You know,” Cara said as she led them down the rocky ground beside a small stream, “Anson knows a lot about birds.”

Richard stepped carefully among the tangle of cedar roots. “Really.”

“Yes. While you were recovering we spent time talking.” She put a hand against the fibrous bark of the reddish trunk of a cedar to keep her balance. She pulled her long blond braid forward over her shoulder as she started out again, running her hand down the length of the braid.

“He complimented me on my bird whistle,” Cara said.

Richard glanced to Kahlan. She shrugged to let him know that she didn’t have any idea what Cara was getting at.

“I told you that you learned it well,” Richard said.

“I told him that you taught it to me, that it was the call of the short-tailed pine hawk. Anson said that there wasn’t any such bird as a short-tailed pine hawk. He said the call I used as a signal—the call you taught me—was a common wood pewee. Me, a Mord-Sith, using the call of a bird named a pewee. Imagine that.”

They walked in silence for a moment.

“Am I in trouble?” Richard finally asked.

“Oh, yes,” Cara answered.

Richard couldn’t help smiling but he made sure the Mord-Sith didn’t see it, nor did Cara see Kahlan look back over her shoulder with the special smile she gave no other but him.

Kahlan lifted an arm, pointing. “Look.”

Through the gaps in the crowns of the cedars, against the bright blue sky, they saw a black-tipped race circling high above them, riding the mountain air currents. The races were no longer hunting them. This one was simply looking for its dinner.

“What’s that old saying?” Cara asked. “Something about a bird of prey circling over you at the beginning of a journey being a warning sign.”

“Yes, that’s right,” Richard said. “But I’m not going to let that old tale bother me; we’ll let you come with us anyway.”

Kahlan laughed and received a scolding scowl. Kahlan laughed all the more when Richard started laughing, too. Cara couldn’t hold out, and as she turned back to the trail, Richard saw the smile spread across her face.

Tor Books by Terry Goodkind

Note: Within series, books are best read in listed order.

–––

THE SWORD OF TRUTH

Join Richard and Kahlan for one of the most remarkable and memorable journeys ever written, on their quest to defeat those who seek to unleash evil on the world of the living. The legend begins.

RICHARD AND KAHLAN

Richard and Kahlan’s legend continues when a mysterious machine is awakened and issues a cataclysmic omen—foreseeing events that may be beyond their ability to prevent.

OTHER NOVELS

Debt of Bones

–––

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This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this novel are either fictitious or are used fictitiously.

NAKED EMPIRE

Copyright © 2003 by Terry Goodkind

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.

Edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Map by Terry Goodkind

A Tor Book
Published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010

www.tor-forge.com

Tor
®
is a registered trademark of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.

ISBN: 978-0-7653-0522-0

BOOK: Naked Empire
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