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Authors: Terry Goodkind

Tags: #Fiction, #Epic, #Fantasy

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BOOK: Soul of the Fire
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Richard was the first person to accept her as she was, to love her as she was, power and all. That, in fact, had been the undiscovered secret to her magic and the reason he had been rendered safe from its deadly nature. It was the reason they were able to share the physical essence of their love without her magic destroying him.

Zedd’s brow bunched up. “Bags, Richard, aren’t you listening? Of course she would lose her power. It’s magic. All magic would end. Hers, mine, yours. But while you and Kahlan would simply lose your magic, the world might die around you.”

Richard dragged a finger through the dirt. “I don’t know how to use my gift, so it wouldn’t mean so much to me. But it matters a great deal for others. We can’t let it happen.”


Fortunately, it can’t happen.” Zedd tugged his sleeves straight in an emphatic gesture. “This is just a rainy-day game of ‘what if.’”

Richard drew up his knees and clasped his arms around them as he seemed to sank back into his distant silent world.


Zedd is right,” Ann said. “This is all just speculation. The chimes are not loose. What is important, now, is Jagang.”


If magic ended,” Kahlan asked, “wouldn’t Jagang lose his ability as a dream walker?”


Of course,” Ann said. “But there is no reason to believe—”


If the chimes were loosed on this world,” Richard interrupted, “how would you stop them? It’s supposed to be simple. How would you do it?”

Ann and Zedd shared a look.

Before either could answer, Richard’s head turned toward the window. He rose up and in three strides had crossed the room. He pulled aside the curtain to peer out. Gusts blew the pelting rain in against his face as he leaned out to look both ways. Lightning crackled through the murky afternoon air, and thunder stuttered after it.

Zedd leaned close to Kahlan. “Do you have any idea what’s going on in that boy’s head?”

Kahlan wet her lips. “I think I have an inkling, but you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

Richard cocked his head, listening. Kahlan, in the silence, strained to hear anything out of the ordinary.

In the distance, she heard the terrified wail of a child.

Richard bolted for the door. “Everyone wait here.”

As one, they all rushed after him.

CHAPTER 7

Splashing through the mud, Zedd, Ann, Cara, and Kahlan chased after Richard as he raced out into the passageways between the stuccoed walls of buildings. Kahlan had to squint to see through the downpour. The deluge was so cold it made her gasp.

Hunters, their ever-present protectors, appeared from the sweeping sheets of rain to run along beside them. The buildings flashing by were mostly single-room homes sharing at least one common wall, but sometimes as many as three. Together, they clustered into a complex maze seemingly without design.

Following right behind Richard, Ann surprised Kahlan with her swift gait. Ann didn’t look a woman designed to run, but she kept up with ease. Zedd’s bony arms pumped a swift and steady cadence. Cara, with her long legs, loped along beside Kahlan. The sprinting hunters ran with effortless grace. At the lead, Richard, his golden cape billowing out behind, was an intimidating sight; compared with the wiry hunters, he was a mountain of a man avalanching through the narrow streets.

Richard followed the meandering passageway a short distance before darting to the right at the first corner. A black and two brown goats thought the rushing procession a curiosity, as did several children in tiny courtyards planted with rape seed for the chickens. Women gaped from doorways flanked by pots of herbs.

Richard rounded the next corner to the left. At the sight of the charging troop of people, a young woman beneath a small roof swept a crying child into her arms. Holding the little boy’s head to her shoulder, she pressed her back against the door, to be out of the way of the trouble racing her way. The boy wailed as she tried to hush him.

Richard slid to a fluid but abrupt stop, with everyone behind doing their best not to crash into him. The woman’s frightened, wide-eyed gaze flitted among the people suddenly surrounding her as she stood in her doorway.


What is it?”
she asked.
“Why do you want us?”

Richard wanted to know what she was saying before she had finished saying it. Kahlan squeezed her way through to the fore of the group. Blood beaded along scratches and ran from cuts on the boy the woman clutched in her arms.


We heard your son cry out.”
With tender fingers, Kahlan stroked the bawling child’s hair.
“We thought there was trouble. We were concerned for your boy. We came to help.”

Relieved, the woman let the weight of the boy slip from her hip to the ground. She squatted and pressed a bloodstained wad of cloth to his cuts as she briefly cooed comfort to calm his panic.

She looked up at the crowd around her.
“Ungi is fine. Thank you for your concern, but he was just being a boy. Boys get themselves in trouble.”

Kahlan told the others what the woman had said.


How did he get all clawed up?” Richard wanted to know.


Ka chenota,”
the woman answered when Kahlan asked Richard’s question.


A chicken.” Richard said before Kahlan could tell him. Apparently, he had learned that
chenota
meant chicken in the Mud People’s language. “A chicken attacked your boy?
Ka chenota?”

She blinked when Kahlan translated Richard’s question. The woman’s cynical laughter rang out through the drumbeat of the rain.
“Attacked by a chicken?”
Flipping her hand, she scoffed, as if she had thought for a moment they were serious.
“Ungi thinks he is a great hunter. He chases chickens. This time he cornered one, frightening it, and it scratched him trying to get away.”

Richard squatted down before Ungi, giving the boy’s dark fall of wet hair a friendly tousle. “You’ve been chasing chickens?
Ka chenota?
Teasing them? That isn’t what really happened, is it?”

Instead of interpreting Richard’s questions, Kahlan crouched down on the balls of her feet. “Richard, what’s this about?”

Richard put a comforting hand on the child’s back as his mother wiped at blood running down his chest. “Look at the claw marks,” Richard whispered. “Most are around his neck.”

Kahlan heaved a chafed sigh. “He no doubt tried to pick it up and hold it to himself. The panicked chicken was simply trying to get away.”

Reluctantly, Richard admitted that it could be so.


This is no great misadventure,” Zedd announced from above. “Let me do a little healing on the boy and then we can get in out of this confounded rain and have something to eat. And I have a lot of questions yet to ask.”

Richard, still squatted down before the boy, held up a finger, stalling Zedd. He looked into Kahlan’s eyes. “Ask him. Please?”


Tell me why.” Kahlan insisted. “Is this about what the Bird Man said? Is that really what this is about? Richard, the man had been drinking.”


Look over my shoulder.”

Kahlan peered through the writhing ribbons of rain. Across the narrow passageway, under the dripping grass eaves at the corner of a building, a chicken ruffled its feathers. It was another of the striated Barred Rock breed, as were most of the Mud People’s chickens.

Kahlan was cold and miserable and soaking wet. She was beginning to lose her patience as she once again met Richard’s waiting gaze.


A chicken trying to stay out of the rain? Is that what you want me to see?”


I know you think—”


Richard!” she growled under her breath. “Listen to me.”

She paused, not wanting to be cross with Richard, of all people. She told herself he was simply concerned for their safety. But it was misbegotten concern. Kahlan made herself take a breath. She clasped his shoulder, rubbing with her thumb.


Richard, you’re just feeling bad because Juni died today. I feel bad, too. But that doesn’t make it sinister. Maybe he just died from the exertion of running; I’ve heard of it happening to young people. You have to recognize that sometimes people die, and we never know the reason.”

Richard glanced up at the others. Zedd and Ann were busying themselves with admiring Ungi’s young muscles in order to avoid what was beginning to sound suspiciously like a lover’s spat at their feet. Cara stood near by, scrutinizing the passageways. One of the hunters offered to let Ungi finger his spear shaft to distract the boy from his mother as she ministered to his wounds.

Looking reluctant to quarrel, Richard wiped back his wet hair. “I think it’s the same chicken I chased out,” he whispered at last. “The one in the window I hit with the stick.”

Kahlan sighed aloud in exasperation. “Richard, most of the Mud People’s chickens look like that one.” She again peered across to the underside of the roof. “Besides, it’s gone.”

Richard looked over his shoulder to see for himself. His gaze swept the empty passageway.


Ask the boy if he was teasing the chicken, chasing it?”

Under the small roof over the door, as Ungi’s mother soothed his wounds, she had also been warily watching the conversation she didn’t understand going on at her feet. Kahlan licked the rain from her lips. If it meant this much to Richard, Kahlan decided, she could do no less than ask for him. She touched the boy’s arm.


Ungi, is it true that you chased the chicken? Did you try to grab it?”

The boy, still sniffling back tears, shook his head. He pointed up at the roof.
“It came down on me.”
He clawed the air.
“It attacked me.”

The mother leaned down and swatted his bottom.
“Tell these people the truth. You and your friends chase the chickens all the time.”

His big black eyes blinked at Richard and Kahlan, both down at his level, down in his world.
“I am going to be a great hunter, just like my father. He is a brave hunter, with scars from the beasts he hunts.”

Richard smiled at the translation. He gently touched one of the claw cuts. “Here you will have the scar of a hunter, like your brave father. So, you were hunting the chicken, as your mother says? Is that really the truth?”


I was hungry. I was coming home. The chicken was hunting me,”
he insisted. His mother spoke his name in admonition.
“Well … they perch on the roof there.”
He again pointed up at the roof over the door.
“Maybe I scared it when I came running home, and it slipped on the wet roof and fell on me.”

The mother opened the door and shoved the boy inside.
“Forgive my son. His is young and makes up stories all the time. He chases chickens all the time. This is not the first time he has been scratched by one. Once, a cock’s spur gashed his shoulder. He imagines they are eagles.


Ungi is a good boy, but he is a boy, and full of stories. When he finds a salamander under a rock, he runs home to show me, to tell me that he found a nest of dragons. He wants his father to come slay them before they can eat us.”

Everyone but Richard chuckled. As she bowed her head and turned to go into her home, Richard gently took ahold of her elbow to halt her while he spoke to Kahlan.


Tell her I’m sorry her boy was hurt. It wasn’t Ungi’s fault. Tell her that. Tell her I’m sorry.”

Kahlan frowned at Richard’s words. She changed them a little when she translated, lest they be misconstrued.


We are sorry Ungi was hurt. We hope he is soon well. If not, or if any of the cuts are deep, come tell us and Zedd will use magic to heal your boy.”

The mother nodded and smiled her gratitude before bidding them a good day and ducking through her doorway. Kahlan didn’t think she looked very eager to have magic plied on her son.

After watching the door close, Kahlan gave Richard’s hand a squeeze. “All right? Are you satisfied it wasn’t what you thought? That it was nothing?

He stared off down the empty passageway a moment. “I just thought …” He finally conceded with contrite smile. “I just worry about your safety, that’s all.”


As long as we’re all wet,” Zedd grumbled, “we might as well go over and see Juni’s body. I’m certainly not going to stand here in the rain if you two are going to start kissing.”

BOOK: Soul of the Fire
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