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Chapter Eleven

     It was inarguably, undeniably Tory’s silver Zippo. Kahlan rolled it around in her hands, testing the weight. One side was smooth and sleek while the other had a raised lion engraved on it. Kahlan ran her finger over the passant hunter, stroking the silver mane thoughtfully.

    Tory was smoking. She thought, trying to send her mind as far in to that day as she dared.Or at least, she was going to and then she stomped the cigarette out.Eyes still shut Kahlan reached down and touched her pocket. Had the lighter been flung from Tory’s grasp when the shots had erupted? Had Aria had the time to swipe it off the ground before rushing in to the ambulance and later left it in Kahlan’s room?

     Kahlan flicked the cap backwards and ran her thumb swiftly across the flint wheel. Immediately the wick sparked, but no flame emerged after several attempts. Kahlan sighed with relief.I could have set my entire bed on fire!She thought as she placed the lighter on her bedside table.Ironic…since I live in a remodeled firehouse.She chuckled at her own dark humor and swung her legs over the side of her bed, deciding that she may as well get up.

     Bleary eyed she made her way to the bathroom to take a shower. The hot water felt wonderful on her bare, pale skin as she stood beneath the torrents and worked a generous lather of shampoo through her wet hair. Kahlan ran her fingers gingerly across the stitches in her hip, the tiny bumps grainy against her touch. All she wanted to do was tear them out: they itched horribly.

     “Are you almost done in there?” A rapid series of knocks came at the heels of Arella’s small, tired voice. “I just need to put my contacts in.”

     “Come in Rellie, it’s me.” Kahlan called back. “I’m still rinsing out my hair, so I’m going to be awhile.”

     “Kay?” Arella opened the door, met by a rush of rising steam. “You’re up early. Have somewhere to be?”

     Kahlan poked her head around the curtain. “Nah, I couldn’t sleep any more once the sun got me.” She admitted.

     Looking at Arella for Kahlan was like staring at pictures of herself from five or six years ago. Arella had the same round pale face, bright blue-green eyes and small ears but she had Brian’s big goofy smile. “Mum has breakfast started downstairs by the way.” Arella mentioned as she popped the small flexible lenses in atop her irises.

     Kahlan’s stomach growled loudly in response. “Oh God I amstarving.” She mused.

     “Didn’t you and Brian grab anything for dinner at the game?” Arella asked. “Hate you by the way for that.”

     “We didn’t get anything substantial. Chili fries, popcorn stuff like that.”

     “Well, I can probably guarantee there are muffins downstairs.” Arella ran a few strokes of her brush through her long black hair. “Alright, I’m out of here. See you in a bit.”

     Wrapping a large wet towel around her body Kahlan shook the excess moisture from her hair and threw on a pair of light weight soccer shorts and a red BU t-shirt. She took a quick look at her knee and grimaced. It was far from the monstrosity she had been face to face with moments after waking up in the hospital two weeks ago: the swelling had gone down considerably and the bruising was starting to finally fade. It was still excruciating at times to put weight on, especially at night.

     Kahlan made her way down the stairs, taking each step one at a time so that the process was almost painfully slow. Two weeks ago Kahlan knew she would have been taking the steps two or three at a time, leaping the last four just to save the few extra seconds. Gripping the railing for support Kahlan finally made her way to the bottom steps, but before she could round the corner to the breakfast nook her steps were halted by the sound of hushed voices.

     “So what are you suggesting we do?” It was Laila’s voice.

     “We need solid proof…” Aria’s soft voice responded.

     “I know it was them. I know deep down in my gut exactly who is to blame.”

     Kahlan felt her stomach clench. That voice was unmistakably Aislin’s. Kahlan hadn’t seen nor heard from either of her cousins since Tory’s wake. Aislin’s voice was like steel: “You know that I’m right.”

     Aria cleared her throat and started to argue, “Aislin, we don’t know…”

     Aislin’s fist came crashing down on the table as her chair screeched backwards. “We know!” She roared. “We all ignored the threat and now Tory’s dead!” Kahlan could almost feel Aislin pointing an accusing finger at Aria. “Storm told us that Marissa Blackwater had blacklisted Tory and none of us believed the threat to be serious. I guarantee that your tune would be different if it had been Tory in the hospital bed and Kahlan in the morgue that night!”

     Kahlan heard Laila’s chair beginning to pull backwards, but it was stopped by the sound of Aria’s voice. “That’s not fair Aislin.” She said gently, trying her hardest to calm Aislin down and keep Laila from flying across the table. “I can’t imagine how much you hurt, but we loved Tory too and striking against the Blackwaters without solid proof they’re the ones responsible for her death would only dishonor Tory’s memory.”

     Aislin’s breathing was heavy; Kahlan could hear her cousin practically panting with rage. But like Tory often would, the anger fled Aislin’s voice as swiftly as it had come. “And if we get your proof?”

     “Then it’s simple.” Aria’s voice suddenly darkened. “We call our own bounty.”

     Kahlan froze. Aria is calling a bounty? She couldn’t believe it.What the Hell is this mess coming to now? If Marissa Blackwater was responsible there would be no doubt that Kahlan would give up everything she owned for the chance to be the one to enact the bounty, but to hear sweet, gentle Aria who was so close to being a mother herself, saying such things was almost as shocking as if it had been Terra.

     “I say we call for a living bounty.” Aria continued. “We have her brought to us alive and then we let Kahlan and Terra decide what’s to be done.”

     “My sister would never harm anyone.” Aislin reminded her cousin. “And too be honest I don’t think Kahlan could do it either.”

     “Put those two together and deliver the maggot responsible for Tory’s death in front of them on a silver platter, and I’ll bet you a million dollars neither would have a problem pulling the trigger.” Laila commented.

     “Enough you three.” Arabella’s voice suddenly sounded in a sharp hiss as she set a platter of muffins in between her niece and eldest daughters. “No more of this.”

      'Yes sisters, cousin...no more murder plots at the table. Not before breakfast at least.' Kahlan thought darkly.

     Kahlan counted to ten before appearing around the corner. She did her best to ignore the small beads of sweat snaking their way down the back of her neck.  I heard nothing. She thought as hard as she could. Nothing. “Hello cousin.” Kahlan greeted Aislin, mustering as much brightness as possible in to her voice.

     “Good to see you Kahlan.” Aislin smiled and playfully slugged Kahlan’s arm. “Back on the ice soon I hope? I heard Brian took your lucky ass to the Habs game last night!”

     “He did. As for my hockey season, that’s over game wise.” She reached down and swiped a muffin off the tray.

     “T.D. told me you can come back to practice next week.” Laila told her.

     Arabella bristled. “Excuse me? Teagan wants her playing? Didn’t anyone tell her Kahlan’s lucky she still has two legs?”

     Laila nodded. “She probably just feels bad that Kahlan’s out for the rest of the season.” She turned back to Kahlan. “I think T.D. just wants you to do a little shooting and stationary stick work.”

     “Sounds good to me!” Kahlan instantly warmed to the idea of getting back on the ice for any possible reason.

     “Anna says Celeste is having the team over tonight for a bonfire since their mom and dad are taking the boys to Maine for the weekend.” Laila continued. “They all really want you to go: don’t forget your other sisters.” She reached over and pinched Kahlan’s cheek. “Even though we love you best.”

     A sickening sensation flickered through Kahlan’s stomach. How could both Laila and Aislin act like they hadn’t been talking about cold blooded murder only five minutes before? Kahlan wasn’t fooled by their viper smiles but she refused to let them know it. “I’ll go.” Kahlan turned to Aislin. “Will Terra come too?”

     Aislin seemed taken aback a bit. “Maybe.” She answered after a few moments hesitation. “I’ll talk to her about it later.”

     “I’ll take care of her.” Kahlan promised.

     Truth be told, Kahlan had been dreading encountering Terra. That pretty face, so much like her twin’s, identical in every way save for her hair color. Was Kahlan ready to look in to those eyes, bright like the hottest part of a flame, and be able to hold herself together? But she knew she would have to: she couldn’t avoid Terra any longer, Terra didn’t deserve that.

     “I know you will Kay.” Aislin smiled. “Don’t worry, I’ll convince her.”

     Kahlan felt her mother’s eyes on her and looked over her shoulder. Arabella was only inches behind her. Kahlan flashed her wide gaze in her mother’s direction and asked, “It’s okay if I go, right Mum?”

     Arabella nodded. “Of course you can.” She answered and slid a warm mug of tea in to Kahlan’s hands. Arabella then looked to Laila. “Laila you’re going up there anyways to see Anna tonight aren’t you?”

     Laila nodded. Her voice turned sweet and smooth as honey. “Yeah. It’d be no problem to give the girls a ride since we’re all headed to the same place.”

     “Perfect.”

       Kahlan was glad Laila too would be away from the Barrows for the night. The sickening in her stomach still had not faded as the conversation between her sisters and cousin replayed over and over again in her ears. It wasn’t that she was afraid for them, or disgusted by their violent wishes, no…the sickness had derived from the fact that Kahlan herself couldn’t agree more with their choice. She wanted blood, Blackwater blood.

      Around seven, Terra arrived at the Céilí’s entrance with Aislin. She had a backpack strapped across her shoulder, hair tied back as she stood beside her older sister, making them look like dual flames. Kahlan didn’t hesitate to throw her arms around Terra’s shoulders and squeeze her as tight as she dared.

     “How are you Kahlan?” Terra whispered, her arms still tightly drawn around her cousin.

     “I’m okay.” Kahlan squeezed Terra even harder. “You?”

     “The same.” Terra finally let go and took a step back.

      Kahlan drank the sight of her in, but as she did the familiar feeling began to swell through her body, the steady creep that made her body shudder involuntarily. ‘No! Damn it, stop!’

      Tory’s form shimmered as she stepped around Terra. Her eyes were pained as she tore her gaze away from her twin’s face and back to Kahlan. ‘Promise me you’ll take care of her.  She isn’t as hard as the rest of you…keep her that way.’

       The weight of the Zippo in Kahlan's pocket was suddenly a thousand times heavier than it had been a moment before.  ‘Cousin…’

      “Kahlan?”

       Laila’s voice snapped Kahlan back. “Sorry, was lost in thought for a second.” Kahlan shook her head to try and clear it. She caught sight of Terra, who was staring in the exact spot Tory had been standing seconds before.  Her eyes were wet with unshed tears. ‘Can she…can Terra see…?’

     “Alright girls, let’s head out. We need to move fast if we want to beat the traffic.”

      It was only a little over an hour to get from South Boston to Plymouth. As Laila’s car rolled to a stop in the Helsingr’s driveway Kahlan caught sight of the orange flicker of a campfire set in the way back of the yard. “All set?” Laila asked as she put the car in park and grabbed her overnight duffle.

     Kahlan nodded and opened the door. As eager as she was to see her friends, she was now even more eager for another reason entirely.

     ‘Terra saw Tory too.’ Kahlan thought as the trio made their way to the backyard. ‘I’m not crazy after all.’ The thought alone was enough reassurance to make Kahlan smile.

    

The End

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