Soul of the Fire

By Terry Goodkind

Tor Books

Copyright © 2000 Terry Goodkind
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0812551494

Chapter One

I wonder what's bothering the chickens," Richard said.

    Kahlan nuzzled tighter against his shoulder. "Maybe your grandfather is pestering them now, too." When he didn't reply, she tilted her head back to squint up at him in the dim firelight. He was watching the door. "Or maybe they're grouchy because we kept them awake most of the night."

    Richard grinned and kissed her forehead. The brief squawking on the other side of the door had ceased. No doubt the village children, still reveling in the wedding celebration, had been chasing the chickens from a favorite roost on the squat wall outside the spirit house. She told him as much.

    Faint sounds of distant laughter, conversation, and singing drifted into their quiet sanctuary. The scent of the balsam sticks that were always burned in the spirit-house hearth mingled with the tang of sweat earned in passion, and the spicy-sweet aroma of roasted peppers and onions. Kahlan watched the firelight reflecting in his gray eyes a moment before lying back in his arms to sway gently to the sounds of the drums and the boldas.

    Paddles scraped up and down ridges carved on the hollow, bell-shaped boldas produced an eerie, haunting melody that seeped through the solitude of the spirit house on its way out onto the grasslands, welcoming spirit ancestors to the celebration.

    Richard stretched to the side and retrieved a round, flat piece of tava bread from the platter Zedd, his grandfather, had brought them. "It's still warm. Want some?"

    "Bored with your new wife so soon, Lord Rahl?"

    Richard's contented laugh brought a smile to her lips. "We really are married, aren't we? It wasn't just a dream, was it?"

    Kahlan loved his laugh. So many times she had prayed to the good spirits that he would be able to laugh again—that they both would.

    "Just a dream come true," she murmured.

    She urged him from the tava bread for a long kiss. His breathing quickened as he clutched her in his powerful arms. She slid her hands across the sweat-slick muscles of his broad shoulders to run her fingers through the thick tangle of his hair as she moaned against his mouth.

    It had been here in the Mud People's spirit house, on a night that now seemed lifetimes ago, that she had first realized she was hopelessly in love with him, but had to keep her forbidden feelings secret. It was during that visit, after battle, struggle, and sacrifice, that they had been accepted into the community of these remote people. On another visit, it was here in the spirit house, after Richard accomplished the impossible and broke the spell of prohibition, that he had asked her to be his wife. And now they had at last spent their wedding night in the spirit house of the Mud People.

    Though it had been for love and love alone, their wedding was also a formal joining of the Midlands and D'Hara. Had they been wedded in any of the great cities of the Midlands, the event undoubtedly would have been a pageant of unparalleled splendor. Kahlan was experienced in pageantry. These guileless people understood their sincerity and simple reasons for wanting to be married. She preferred the joyous wedding they had celebrated among people bonded to them in their hearts, over one of cold pageant.

    Among the Mud People, who led hard lives on the plains of the wilds, such a celebration was a rare opportunity to gather in merriment, to feast, to dance, and to tell stories. Kahlan knew of no other instance of an outsider being accepted as Mud People, so such a wedding was unprecedented. She suspected it would become part of their lore, the story repeated in future gatherings by dancers dressed in elaborate grass-and-hide costumes, their faces painted with masks of black and white mud.

    "I do believe you're plying an innocent girl with your magic touch," she teased, breathlessly. She was beginning to forget how weak and weary her legs were.

    Richard rolled onto his back to catch his breath. "Do you suppose we ought to go out there and see what Zedd is up to?"

    Kahlan playfully smacked the back of her hand against his ribs. "Why Lord Rahl, I think you really are bored with your new wife. First the chickens, then tava bread, and now your grandfather."

    Richard was watching the door again. "I smell blood."

    Kahlan sat up. "Probably just some game brought back by a hunting party. If there really was trouble, Richard, we would know about it. We have people guarding us. In fact, we have the whole village watching over us. No one could get past the Mud People hunters unseen. There would at least be an alarm and everyone would know about it."

    She wasn't sure if he even heard her. He was stone still, his attention riveted on the door. When Kahlan's fingers glided up his arm and her hand rested lightly on his shoulder, his muscles finally slackened and he turned to her.

    "You're right." His smile was apologetic. "I guess I can't seem to let myself relax."

    Nearly her whole life, Kahlan had trod the halls of power and authority. From a young age she had been disciplined in responsibility and obligation, and schooled in the threats that always shadowed her. She was well steeled to it all by the time she had been called upon to lead the alliance of the Midlands.

    Richard had grown up very differently, and had gone on to fulfill his passion for his forested homeland by becoming a woods guide. Turmoil, trial, and destiny had thrust him into a new life as leader of the D'Haran Empire. Vigilance was his valuable ally and difficult to dismiss.

    She saw his hand idly skim over his clothes. He was looking for his sword. He'd had to travel to the Mud People's village without it.

    Countless times, she had seen him absently and without conscious thought reassure himself that it was at hand. It had been his companion for months, through a crucible of change—both his, and the world's. It was his protector, and he, in turn, was the protector of that singular sword and the post it represented.

    In a way, the Sword of Truth was but a talisman. It was the hand wielding the sword that was the power; as the Seeker of Truth, he was the true weapon. In some ways, it was only a symbol of his post, much as the distinctive white dress was a symbol of hers.

    Kahlan leaned forward and kissed him. His arms returned to her. She playfully pulled him back down on top of her.

    "So, how does it feel being married to the Mother Confessor herself?"

    He slipped onto an elbow beside her and gazed down into her eyes. "Wonderful," he murmured. "Wonderful and inspiring. And tiring." With a gentle finger he traced the line of her jaw. "And how does it feel being married to the Lord Rahl?"

    A throaty laugh burbled up. "Sticky."

    Richard chuckled and stuffed a piece of tava bread in her mouth. He sat up and set the brimming wooden platter down between them. Tava bread, made from tava roots, was a staple of the Mud People. Served with nearly every meal, it was eaten by itself, wrapped around other foods, and used as a scoop for porridge and stews. Dried into biscuits, it was carried on long hunts.

    Kahlan yawned as she stretched, feeling relieved that he was no longer preoccupied by what was beyond the door. She kissed his cheek at seeing him once again at ease.

    Under a layer of warm tava bread he found roasted peppers, onions, mushroom caps as broad as her hand, turnips, and boiled greens. There were even several rice cakes. Richard took a bite out of a turnip before rolling some of the greens, a mushroom, and a pepper in a piece of tava bread and handing it to her.

    In a reflective tone, he said, "I wish we could stay in here forever."

    Kahlan pulled the blanket over her lap. She knew what he meant. Outside, the world awaited them.

    "Well ..." she said, batting her eyelashes at him, "just because Zedd came and told us the elders want their spirit house back, that doesn't mean we have to surrender it until we're good and ready."

    Richard took in her frolicsome offer with a mannered smile. "Zedd was just using the elders as an excuse. He wants me."

    She bit into the roll he had given her as she watched him absently break a rice cake in half, his thoughts seeming to drift from what he was doing.

    "He hasn't seen you for months." With a finger, she wiped away juice as it rolled down her chin. "He's eager to hear all you've been through, and about the things you've learned." He nodded absently as she sucked the juice from her finger. "He loves you, Richard. There are things he needs to teach you."

    "That old man has been teaching me since I was born." He smiled distantly. "I love him, too."

    Richard enfolded mushrooms, greens, pepper and onion in tava bread and took a big bite. Kahlan pulled strands of limp greens from her roll and nibbled them as she listened to the slow crackle of the fire and the distant music.

    When he finished, Richard rooted under the stack of tava bread and came up with a dried plum. "All that time, and I never knew he was more than my beloved friend; I never suspected he was my grandfather, and more than a simple man."

    He bit off half the plum and offered her the other half.

    "He was protecting you, Richard. Being your friend was the most important thing for you to know." She took the proffered plum and popped it in her mouth. She studied his handsome features as she chewed.

    With her fingertips, she turned his face to look up at her. She understood his larger concerns. "Zedd is back with us, now, Richard. He'll help us. His counsel will be a comfort as well as an aid."

    "You're right. Who better to counsel us than the likes of Zedd?" Richard pulled his clothes close. "And he is no doubt impatient to hear everything."

    As Richard drew his black pants on, Kahlan put a rice cake between her teeth and held it there as she tugged things from her pack. She halted and took the rice cake from her mouth.

    "We've been separated from Zedd for months—you longer than I. Zedd and Ann will want to hear it all. We'll have to tell it a dozen times before they're satisfied.

    "I'd really like to have a bath first. There are some warm springs not too far away."

    Richard halted at buttoning his black shirt. "What was it that Zedd and Ann were in such a fret about, last night, before the wedding?"

    "Last night?" She pulled her folded shirt from her pack and shook it out. "Something about the chimes. I told them I spoke the three chimes. But Zedd said they would take care of it, whatever it was."

    Kahlan didn't like to think about that. It gave her gooseflesh to remember her fear and panic. It made her ache with a sick, weak feeling to contemplate what would have happened had she delayed even another moment in speaking those three words. Had she delayed, Richard would now be dead. She banished the memory.

    "That's what I thought I remembered." Richard smiled as he winked. "Looking at you in your blue wedding dress ... well, I do remember having more important things on my mind at the time.

    "The three chimes are supposed to be a simple matter. I guess he did say as much. Zedd, of all people, shouldn't have any trouble with that sort of thing."

    "So, how about the bath?"

    "What?" He was staring at the door again.

    "Bath. Can we go to the springs and have a warm bath before we have to sit down with Zedd and Ann and start telling them long stories?"

    He pulled his black tunic over his head. The broad gold band around its squared edges caught the firelight. He gave her a sidelong glance. "Will you wash my back?"

    She watched his smile as he buckled on his wide leather over-belt with its gold-worked pouches to each side. Among other things, they held possessions both extraordinary and dangerous.

    "Lord Rahl, I will wash anything you want."

    He laughed as he put on his leather-padded silver wristbands. The ancient symbols worked onto them reflected with points of reddish firelight. "Sounds like my new wife may turn an ordinary bath into an event."

    Kahlan tossed her cloak around her shoulders and then pulled the tangle of her long hair out from under the collar. "After we tell Zedd, we'll be on our way." She playfully poked his ribs with a finger. "Then you'll find out."

    Giggling, he caught her finger to stop her from tickling him. "If you want a bath, we'd better not tell Zedd. He'll start in on us with just one question, then just one more, and then another." His cloak glimmered golden in the firelight as he fastened it at his throat. "Before you know it, the day will be done and he'll still be asking questions. How far are these warm springs?"

    Kahlan gestured to the south. "An hour's walk. Maybe a bit more." She stuffed some tava bread, a brush, a cake of fragrant herb soap, and a few other small items into a leather satchel. "But if, as you say, Zedd wants to see us, don't you suppose he'll be nettled if we go off without telling him?"

    Richard grunted a cynical laugh. "If you want a bath, it's best to apologize later for not telling him first. It isn't that far. We'll be back before he really misses us, anyway."

    Kahlan caught his arm. She turned serious. "Richard, I know you're eager to see Zedd. We can go bathe later, if you're impatient to see him. I wouldn't really mind.... Mostly I just wanted to be alone with you a little longer."

    He hugged her shoulders. "We'll see him when we get back in a few hours. He can wait. I'd rather be alone with you, too."

    As he nudged open the door, Kahlan saw him once again absently reach to touch the sword that wasn't there. His cloak was a golden blaze as the sunlight fell across it. Stepping behind him into the cold morning light, Kahlan had to squint. Savory aromas of foods being prepared on village cook fires filled her lungs.

    Richard leaned to the side, looking behind the short wall.

    His raptorlike gaze briefly swept the sky. His scrutiny of the narrow passageways among the jumble of drab, square buildings all around was more meticulous.

    The buildings on this side of the village, such as the spirit house, were used for various communal purposes. Some were used only by the elders as sanctuaries of sorts. Some were used by hunters in rites before a long hunt. No man ever crossed the threshold of the women's buildings.

    Here, too, the dead were prepared for their funeral ceremony. The Mud People buried their dead.

    Using wood for funeral pyres was impractical; wood of any quantity was distant, and therefore precious. Wood for cook fires was supplemented with dried dung but more often with billets of tightly wound dried grass. Bonfires, such as the ones the night before at their wedding ceremony, were a rare and wondrous treat.

    With no one living in any of the surrounding buildings, this part of the village had an empty, otherworldly feel to it. The drums and boldas added their preternatural influence to the mood among the deep shadows. The drifting voices made the empty streets seem haunted. Bold slashes of sunlight slanting in rendered the deep shade beyond nearly impenetrable.

    Still studying those shadows, Richard gestured behind. Kahlan glanced over the wall.

    In the midst of scattered feathers fluttering in the cold breeze lay the bloody carcass of a chicken.

Chapter Two

Kahlan had been wrong. It hadn't been children bothering the chickens.

    "Hawk?" she asked.

    Richard checked the sky again. "Possibly. Maybe a weasel or a fox. Whatever it was, it was frightened off before it could devour its meal."

    "Well, that should put your mind at ease. It was just some animal after a chicken."

    Cara, in her skintight, red leather outfit, had immediately spotted them and was already striding their way. Her Agiel, appearing to be no more than a thin, bloodred leather rod at most a foot in length, dangled from her wrist on a fine chain. The gruesome weapon was never more than a flick of her wrist away from Cara's grasp.

    Kahlan could read the relief in Cara's blue eyes at seeing that her wards had not been stolen away by invisible forces beyond the spirit-house door.

    Kahlan knew Cara would rather have been closer to her charges, but she had been considerate enough to give them the privacy of distance. The consideration extended to keeping others away, too. Knowing how deadly serious was Cara's commitment to their protection, Kahlan appreciated the true depth of the gift of that distance.


    Kahlan glanced up at Richard. That was why his suspicion had been aroused. He had known it wasn't children bothering the chickens. Cara wouldn't have allowed children to get that close to the spirit house, that close to a door without a lock.

    Before Cara could speak, Richard asked her, "Did you see what killed the chicken?"

    Cara flicked her long, single blond braid back over her shoulder. "No. When I ran over to the wall by the door I must have frightened off the predator."

    All Mord-Siths wore a single braid; it was part of the uniform, lest anyone mistake who they were. Few, if any, ever made such a dangerous mistake.

    "Has Zedd tried to come back to see us again?" Richard asked.

    "No." Cara brushed back a stray wisp of blond hair. "After he brought you the food, he told me that he wishes to see you both when you are ready."

    Richard nodded, still eyeing the shadows. "We're not ready. We're going first to some nearby warm springs for a bath."

    A sly smile stole onto Cara's face. "How delightful. I will wash your back."

    Richard leaned down, putting his face closer to hers. "No, you will not wash my back. You will watch it."

    Cara's sly smile widened. "Mmm. That sounds fun, too."

    Richard's face turned as red as Cara's leather.

    Kahlan looked away, suppressing her own smile. She knew how much Cara enjoyed flustering Richard. Kahlan had never seen bodyguards as openly irreverent as Cara and her sister Mord-Sith. Nor better.

    The Mord-Sith, an ancient sect of protectors to the Lord Rahl of D'Hara, all shared the same ruthless confidence. From adolescence, their training was beyond savage. It was merciless. It twisted them into remorseless killers.

    Kahlan grew up knowing little of the mysterious land of D'Hara to the east. Richard had been born in Westland, far from D'Hara, and had known even less than she. When D'Hara had attacked the Midlands, Richard had been swept up into the fight, and in the end had killed Darken Rahl, the tyrannical leader of D'Hara.

    Richard never knew Darken Rahl had raped his mother and sired him; he had grown up thinking George Cypher, the gentle man who had raised him, was his father. Zedd had kept the secret in order to protect his daughter and then his grandson. Only after Richard killed Darken Rahl had he discovered the truth.

    Richard knew little of the dominion he had inherited. He had assumed the mantle of rule only because of the imminent threat of a larger war. If not stopped, the Imperial Order would enslave the world.

    As the new master of D'Hara, Richard had freed the Mord-Sith from the cruel discipline of their brutal profession, only to have them exercise that freedom by choosing to be his protectors. Richard wore two Agiel on a thong around his neck as a sign of respect for the two women who had given their lives while protecting him.

    Richard was an object of reverence to these women, and yet with their new Lord Rahl they did the previously unthinkable: they joked with him. They teased him. They rarely missed a chance to bait him.

    The former Lord Rahl, Richard's father, would have had them tortured to death for such a breach of discipline. Kahlan speculated that their irreverence was their way of reminding Richard that he had freed them and that they served only by choice. Perhaps their shattered childhoods simply left them with an odd sense of humor they were now free to express.

    The Mord-Sith were fearless in protecting Richard—and by his orders, Kahlan—to the point of seeming to court death. They claimed to fear nothing more than dying in bed, old and toothless. Richard had vowed more than once to visit that fate upon them.

    Partly because of his deep empathy with these women, for their torturous training at the hands of his ancestors, Richard could rarely bring himself to reprimand their antics, and usually remained above their jabs. His restraint only encouraged them.

    The redness of this Lord Rahl's red face when Cara said she was going to watch him take a bath betrayed his upbringing.

    Richard finally schooled his exasperation and rolled his eyes. "You're not watching, either. You can just wait here."

    Kahlan knew there was no chance of that. Cara barked a dismissive laugh as she followed them. She never gave a second thought to disregarding his direct orders if she thought they interfered with the protection of his life. Cara and her sister Mord-Sith only followed his orders if they judged them important and if they didn't seem to put him at greater risk.

    Before they had gone far, they were joined by a half-dozen hunters who materialized out of the shadows and passageways around the spirit house. Sinewy and well proportioned, the tallest of them was not as tall as Kahlan. Richard towered over them. Their bare chests and legs were cloaked with long streaks and patches of mud for better concealment. Each carried a bow hooked over his shoulder, a knife at his hip, and a handful of throwing spears.

    Kahlan knew their quivers to be filled with arrows dipped in ten-step poison. These were Chandalen's men; among the Mud People, only they routinely carried poison arrows. Chandalen's men were not simply hunters, but protectors of the Mud People.

    They all grinned when Kahlan gently slapped their faces—the customary greeting of the Mud People, a gesture of respect for their strength. She thanked them in their language for standing watch and then translated her words to Richard and Cara.

    "Did you know they were scattered about, guarding us?" Kahlan whispered to Richard as they started out once more.

    He stole a look back over his shoulder. "I only saw four of them. I have to admit I missed two."

    There was no way he could have seen the two he missed—they had come from the far side of the spirit house. Kahlan hadn't seen even one. She shuddered. The hunters seemed able to become invisible at will, though they were even better at it out on the grasslands. She was grateful for all those who silently watched over their safety.

    Cara told them Zedd and Ann were over on the southeast side of the village, so they stayed to the west as they walked south. With Cara and the hunters in tow, they skirted most of the open area where the villagers gathered, choosing instead the alleys between the mud-brick buildings plastered over with a tan clay.

    People smiled and waved in greeting, or patted their backs, or gave them the traditional gentle slaps of respect.

    Children ran among the legs of the adults, chasing small leather balls, each other, or invisible game. Occasionally, chickens were the not so invisible game. They scattered in fright before the laughing, leaping, grasping young hunters.

    Kahlan, with her cloak wrapped tight, couldn't understand how the children, wearing so little, could stand the cold morning air. Almost all were at least bare-chested, the younger ones naked.

    Children were watched over, but allowed to run about at will. They were rarely called to account for anything. Their later training would be intense, difficult, strict, and they would be accountable for everything.

    The young children, still free to be children, were a constant, ever-present, and eager audience for anything out of the ordinary. To the Mud People children, like most children, a great many things seemed out of the ordinary. Even chickens.

    As the small party cut across the southern edge of the open area in the center of the village, they were spotted by Chandalen, the leader of the fiercest hunters. He was dressed in his best buckskin. His hair, as was the custom among the Mud People, was fastidiously slicked down with sticky mud.

    The coyote hide across his shoulders was a new mark of authority. Recently he had been named one of the six elders of the village. In his case, "elder" was simply a term of respect and not reflective of age.

    After the slaps were exchanged, Chandalen finally grinned as he clapped Richard's back. "You are a great friend to Chandalen," he announced. "The Mother Confessor would surely have chosen Chandalen for her husband had you not married her. You will forever have my thanks."

    Before Kahlan had gone to Westland desperately seeking help and there met Richard, Darken Rahl had murdered all the other Confessors, leaving Kahlan the last of her kind. Until she and Richard had found a way, no Confessor ever married for love, because her touch would unintentionally destroy that love.

    Before now, a Confessor chose her mate for the strength he would bring to her daughters, and then she took him with her power. Chandalen reasoned that put him at great risk of being chosen. No offense had been intended.

    With a laugh, Richard said he was happy to take the job of being Kahlan's husband. He briefly looked back at Chandalen's men. His voice lowered as he turned more serious. "Did your men see what killed the chicken by the spirit house?"

    Only Kahlan spoke the Mud People's language, and among the Mud People, only Chandalen spoke hers. He listened carefully as his men reported a quiet night after they had taken up their posts. They were the third watch.

    One of their younger guards, Juni, then mimed nocking an arrow and drawing string to cheek, quickly pointing first one direction and then another, but said that he was unable to spot the animal that had attacked the chicken in their village. He demonstrated how he'd cursed the attacker with vile names and spat with contempt at its honor, to shame it into showing itself, but to no avail. Richard nodded at Chandalen's translation.

    Chandalen hadn't translated all of Juni's words. He left out the man's apology. For a hunter—one of Chandalen's men especially—to miss such a thing right in their midst while on watch was a matter of shame. Kahlan knew Chandalen would later have more to say to Juni.

    Just before they once again struck out, the Bird Man, over on one of the open pole structures, glanced their way. The leader of the six elders, and thus of the Mud People, the Bird Man had conducted the wedding ceremony.

    It would be inconsiderate not to give their greetings and thanks before they left for the springs. Richard must have had the same thought, for he changed direction toward the grass-roofed platform where sat the Bird Man.

    Children played nearby. Several women in red, blue, and brown dresses chatted among themselves as they strolled past. A couple of brown goats searched the ground for any food people might have dropped. They seemed to be having some limited success—when they were able to pull themselves away from the children. Some chickens pecked at the dirt, while others strutted and clucked.

    Off in the clearing, the bonfires, most little more than glowing embers, still burned. People yet huddled about them, entranced by the glow or the warmth. Bonfires were a rare extravagance symbolizing a joyous celebration, or a gathering to call their spirit ancestors and make them welcome with warmth and light. Some of the people would have stayed up the whole night just to watch the spectacle of the fires. For the children, the bonfires were a source of wonder and delight.

    Everyone had worn their best clothes for the celebration, and they were still dressed in their finery because the celebration officially continued until the sun set. Men wore fine hides and skins and proudly carried their prize weapons. Women wore brightly colored dresses and metal bracelets and broad smiles.

    Young people were usually painfully shy, but the wedding brought their daring to the surface. The night before, giggling young women had jabbered bold questions at Kahlan. Young men had followed Richard about, satisfied to grin at him and simply be near the important goings-on.

    The Bird Man was dressed in the buckskin pants and tunic he seemed always to wear, no matter the occasion. His long silver hair hung to his shoulders. A leather thong around his neck held his ever-present bone whistle, used to call birds. With his whistle he could, seemingly effortlessly, call any kind of bird desired. Most would alight on his outstretched arm and sit contentedly. Richard was always awed by such a display.

    Kahlan knew the Bird Man understood and relied on signs from birds. She speculated that perhaps he called birds with his whistle to see if they would give forth some sign only he could fathom. The Bird Man was an astute reader of signs given off by people, as well. She sometimes thought he could read her mind.

    Many people in the great cities of the Midlands thought of people in the wilds, like the Mud People, as savages who worshiped strange things and held ignorant beliefs. Kahlan understood the simple wisdom of these people and their ability to read subtle signs in the living things they knew so well in the world around them. Many times she had seen the Mud People foretell with a fair degree of accuracy the weather for the next few days by watching the way the grasses moved in the wind.

    Two of the village elders, Hajanlet and Arbrin, sat at the back of the platform, their eyelids drooping, as they watched their people out in the open area. Arbrin's hand rested protectively on the shoulder of a little boy sleeping curled up beside him. In his sleep, the child rhythmically sucked a thumb.

    Platters holding little more than scraps of food sat scattered about, along with mugs of various drinks shared at celebrations. While some of the drinks were intoxicating, Kahlan knew the Mud People weren't given to drunkenness.

    "Good morning, honored elder," Kahlan said in his language.

    His leathery face turned up to them, offering a wide smile. "Welcome to the new day, child."

    His attention returned to something out among the people of his village. Kahlan caught sight of Chandalen eyeing the empty mugs before directing an affected smile back at his men.

    "Honored elder," Kahlan said, "Richard and I would like to thank you for the wonderful wedding ceremony. If you have no need of us just now, we would like to go out to the warm springs."

    He smiled and waved his dismissal. "Do not stay too long, or the warmth you get from the springs will be washed away by the rain."

    Kahlan glanced at the clear sky. She looked back at Chandalen. He nodded his agreement.

    "He says if we dally at the springs it will rain on us before we're back."

    Mystified, Richard appraised the sky. "I guess we'd best take their advice and not dally."

    "We'd better be off, then," she told the Bird Man.

    He beckoned with a finger. Kahlan leaned closer. He was intently observing the chickens scratching at the ground not far away. Leaning toward him, Kahlan listened to his slow, even breathing as she waited. She thought he must have forgotten he was going to say something.

    At last he pointed out into the open area and whispered to her.

    Kahlan straightened. She looked out at the chickens.

    "Well?" Richard asked. "What did he say?"

    At first, she wasn't sure she had heard him right, but by the frowns on the faces of Chandalen and his hunters, she knew she had.

    Kahlan didn't know if she should translate such a thing. She didn't want to cause the Bird Man embarrassment later on, if he had been doing too much celebrating with ritual drink.

    Richard waited, the question still in his eyes.

    Kahlan looked again at the Bird Man, his brown eyes staring out at the open area before him, his chin bobbing in time to the beat of the boldas and drums.

    She finally leaned back until her shoulder touched Richard. "He says that that one there"—she pointed—"is not a chicken."


Excerpted from Soul of the Fire by Terry Goodkind Copyright © 2000 by Terry Goodkind. Excerpted by permission.
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