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An Epic of Awesome Power Kahlan has at last gained the one goal she had always thought was beyond her grasp ... love. Against all odds, the ancient bonds of secret oaths, and the dark talents of men long dead, Richard has won her heart. Amid sudden and disastrous events, Richard's life is called due to satisfy those treacherous oaths. To save his life, Kahlan must forsake Richard's love and cast him into the chains of slavery, knowing there could be no sin worse than such a betrayal. Richard is determined to unlock the secrets bound in the magic of ancient oaths and to again be free. Kahlan, alone with the terrible truth of what she has done, must set about altering the course of a world thrown into war. But even that may be easier than ever winning back the heart of the only man she will ever love.
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One of the most popular writers of fantasy today, Terry Goodkind divides his time between Maine and Nevada.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Rachel clutched her doll tighter to her chest and stared at the dark thing watching her from the bushes. At least she thought it was watching her. It was hard to tell because the eyes were as dark as the rest of it, except when the light caught them just right; then they gleamed a golden color.
She had seen animals in the woods before, rabbits and raccoons and squirrels and such, but this was bigger. It was as big as her, maybe bigger. Bears were dark. She wondered if it could be a bear.
But this wasn't exactly the woods, since it was indoors. She had never been in an indoor woods before. She wondered if indoor woods had animals like the outdoor woods did.
She might have been afraid if Chase wasn't there with her. She knew she was safe with him. Chase was the bravest man she ever saw. Still, she was a little afraid. Chase had told her she was the bravest little girl he knew. She didn't want him to think she was afraid of some big rabbit.
Maybe that's all it was, some big rabbit, sitting on a rock or something. But rabbits had long ears. Maybe it really was a bear. She put her doll's foot in her mouth.
She turned and looked down the path, across the pretty flowers and short walls covered with vines, and across the grass to where Chase was talking to Zedd, the wizard. They were standing by a stone table, looking at the boxes, and talking about what to do with them. Rachel was glad that that mean Darken Rahl didn't get them and that he wasn't ever going to be able to hurt anyone again.
Rachel turned back to make sure the dark thing wasn't coming any closer to her. It was gone. She looked around, but didn't see it anywhere.
"Sara, where do you think it could have gone?" she whispered.
Her doll didn't have an answer. Rachel bit down on Sara's foot and started walking toward Chase. Her feet wanted to run, but she didn't want Chase to think she wasn't brave. He had said she was brave, and that made her feel good. She looked over her shoulder as she walked, checking, but she didn't see the dark thing anywhere. Maybe it lived in a hole, and it had gone there. Her feet still wanted to run, but she didn't let them.
When Rachel got to Chase, she pushed up against him and hugged his leg. He and Zedd were talking, and she knew it was impolite to interrupt, so she sucked on Sara's foot while she waited.
"So what could happen if you just shut the lid?" Chase was asking the wizard.
"Anything!" Zedd stuck his skinny arms up in the air. His wavy white hair was smoothed down but it still stuck out in places. "How should I know? Just because I know what the boxes of Orden are doesn't mean I know what to do with them now that Darken Rahl has opened one. The Magic of Orden killed him for opening it. It could have destroyed the world. It could kill me for closing it. Or worse."
Chase sighed. "Well, we can't just leave them sitting around, can we? Don't we have to do something?"
The wizard frowned and looked at the boxes while he was thinking. After more than a minute of quiet, Rachel tugged on Chase's sleeve. He looked down at her.
"'Chase'? I told you the rules." He put his hands on his hips and twisted his face up, trying to make it look mean, until she giggled and hugged his leg tighter. "You've only been my daughter for a few weeks, and already you're breaking the rules. I told you before, you are to call me 'Father.' None of my children are allowed to call me Chase. Understand?"
Rachel grinned and nodded. "Yes, Ch...Father."
He rolled his eyes and shook his head. Then he mussed her hair. "What is it?"
"There's some big animal in the trees. I think it might be a bear, or worse. I think you might need to take out your sword and go have a look."
He laughed. "A bear! In here?" He laughed again. "This is an indoor garden, Rachel. There aren't any bears in an indoor garden. Maybe it was a shadow. The light does odd things in here."
She shook her head. "I don't think so, Ch...Father. It was watching me."
He smiled and mussed her hair again and put his big hand on the side of her face and hugged her head to his leg. "Then you just stay by me and it won't bother you."
She sucked Sara's foot and nodded as he held her head to his leg. She didn't feel so afraid now that his hand was on her, and so looked over to the trees again.
The dark thing, mostly hidden by one of the vine-covered walls, darted closer. Rachel bit down harder on Sara's foot and let out a little whimper as she looked up at Chase. He was pointing at the boxes.
"And just what is that thing, that stone, or jewel or whatever it is? Did it come out of the box?"
Zedd nodded. "It did. But I don't want to say what I think it is until I'm sure. At least not out loud."
"Father," Rachel whined, "it's coming closer."
He looked down. "Good. You just keep your eye on it for me." He looked back to the wizard. "What do you mean you don't want to say? Do you think it has something to do with what you said about the veil to the underworld possibly being torn?"
Zedd frowned while he rubbed his smooth chin with his skinny fingers and looked down at the black jewel sitting in front of the open box. "That's what I'm afraid of."
Rachel looked over to the wall to watch where the dark thing was. She gave a start when she saw the hands reach over the edge of the wall. It was a lot closer.
But they weren't hands. They were claws. Long curved claws.
She looked up at Chase, at all his weapons, just to be sure he had enough. He had knives, a lot of knives, around his waist, a sword strapped over the back of his shoulder, a big axe hooked to his belt, a few other things that looked like clubs, with sharp spikes sticking out of them, hanging from his belt, too, and a crossbow on his back. She hoped it was enough.
All the weapons scared other men, but they didn't seem to be scaring the dark thing that was coming closer. And the wizard didn't even have a knife. He just wore that plain, tan robe. And he was so skinny. Not big like Chase. But wizards had magic. Maybe his magic could scare the dark thing away.
Magic! Rachel remembered the magic fire stick Wizard Giller had given her. She reached into her pocket and put her fingers around it. Maybe Chase would need her help. She wouldn't let that thing hurt her new father. She would be brave.
"Is it dangerous?"
Zedd looked up at Chase from under his eyebrows. "If it's what I think it is, and it were to fall into the wrong hands, 'dangerous' wouldn't even begin to describe it."
"Then maybe we should drop it down a deep hole, or destroy it."
"Can't. We may need it."
"What if we hide it?"
"That's what I'm thinking. The problem is where. There are things to take into consideration. I need to take Adie to Aydindril and study the prophecies with her before I know for sure what to do with the stone, and what to do about the boxes."
"And until then? Until you know for sure?"
Rachel looked over to the dark thing. It was closer, as close as the wall came to them. With its claws over the top of the wall, it lifted its head up and looked right into her eyes.
The thing grinned at her, showing long, sharp teeth. Her breath caught in her throat. Its shoulders shook. It was laughing. Rachel's eyes were as big as they would go. She could hear her heartbeats making a whooshing sound in her ears.
"Father..." she whined in a small voice.
He didn't look down. He just shushed her. The thing put its leg over the wall and dropped down in front, still looking at her, still laughing. Its shiny eyes looked at Chase and Zedd. It hissed and then laughed as it hunched down.
Rachel tugged Chase's pant leg and strained to make her voice work. "Father...it's coming."
"All right Rachel. Zedd, I still don't know..."
With a howl the dark thing sprang into the open. It ran like a streak, just a blur of black. Rachel screamed. Chase spun just as it hit him. Claws flashed through the air. Chase fell to the ground as the thing leapt on Zedd.
The wizard's arms flailed about. Flashes of light shot from Zedd's fingers, bouncing off the dark thing and tearing up dirt or stone where they hit. The thing knocked Zedd to the ground.
Laughing in a loud howl, it jumped back on Chase as he was pulling his axe from his belt. Rachel screamed again as the claws tore at Chase. The thing was faster than any animal she had ever seen. Its claws were just a blur.
Rachel was terrified Chase was being hurt. It flung the axe out of Chase's hand, laughing that awful laugh. It was hurting Chase. Rachel had the fire stick in her hand.
She jumped forward and put the fire stick on its back. She screamed the magic words to make the fire stick work. "Light for me!"
The dark thing burst into flames. It made a horrible scream as it spun to her. Its mouth opened wide, teeth snapping as flames burned all over it. It laughed again, but not like people laughed when they thought things were funny. Its laugh made her skin prickle. It hunched over and started walking toward her, still on fire, as Rachel backed up.
Chase let out a grunt as he threw one of the clubs with the sharp spikes sticking out of it. The club hit the thing's back, and stuck in its shoulder. It looked around at Chase and laughed as it reached behind and pulled the club from its back. It started for Chase again.
Zedd was up. Fire flew from his fingers, covering the thing with even more flames. It laughed at Zedd. All the fire went out. Smoke rose from it. Its body looked the same now as before it got burned. In fact, it had looked like it was dark from being burned even before Rachel had set it on fire.
Chase was on his feet, and there was blood on him. Rachel got tears at seeing that. Chase snatched the crossbow off his back and in a blink he shot an arrow. It stuck in the thing's chest. With that terrible laugh it snapped the arrow off.
Chase threw aside the crossbow and yanked out the sword from over his shoulder, then ran for the thing, jumping over it as he stabbed with the sword. The thing moved so fast Chase missed. Zedd did something that sent the thing tumblin...
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