Kahlan winced and groaned a few times, slowly gaining consciousness, and then gasped for air.
She needed a moment, struggling against the biting pain, which was still raging under her skin; greedily tearing at her consciousness like a starving wolf tearing at a bloody piece of flesh…
Only tediously her mind started working.
It was cold.
Hard, cold stone dig into her bones where she lay sprawled on the ground; and in her neck there was still this nagging feeling of a dark threat, so near, that her hackles started raising even before she turned her head. As if there was still a shadow lurking behind her, ready to lunge at her…
She frowned, trying to remember what had happened.
Because something had happened. Something had gone terribly wrong! It had dragged her away from Richard…
– Richard!! –
She jerked into an upright position, wheezing with the pang that shot through her muscles, but warily scanning her surroundings with squinted eyes while her hands fumbled for her daggers.
The attack came in a sudden, but after all not unexpected rush – there was a low cracking, like of a withered twig breaking under a swift step – and in a split second Kahlan came to her feet, jerking her arms up with her daggers crossed to block the strike and immediately countering and in turn attacking her foe with all her strength.
The Mord Sith hit her quickly and decidedly; and with a catlike litheness that made it nearly impossible to anticipate her next moves.
Not yet recovered from the effort of taming the Power of Orden, Kahlan found herself hassled with such an amount of savage ferocity that she slowly but inevitably lost ground. The strikes of an agiel, combined with a hitting fist and kicking boots rained down on her mercilessly and it took all her strength to avoid the cruelest pain and block the arm of the blonde warrior. In a quick lunge she managed to slice a bloody trail into the red leather covering the arm of her foe, but the Mord Sith barely slowed down, sneering at her with bluish green, hateful eyes. Only to rush forward again; as if fueled by the pain she felt and the blood that trickled.
Soon Kahlan panted heavily. At least she caught the opportunity to whirl around, jerking her foot upwards, desperately trying to kick the agiel out of her foe´s hand. But the Mord Sith deftly countered, blocking her supporting leg. And in the following moment she would have brought Kahlan down – if it had not been for a club that hit the blonde´s shoulder in this exact moment. It knocked her down with her face distorted in a mixture of pain and angry surprise . The Confessor could hear her harsh groan as she turned to face the new attacker.
From behind the Mord Sith a few men appeared and hurled themselves into the fight; Kahlan breathed a sigh of relief; for a fleeting moment feeling something like appreciation for the Creator´s intervention. Though it didn´t last for long…
At the sight of an ax, preparing to come down on her, she quickly realized that she had come out of the frying pan into the fire… This was no daring rescue!
Wherever these men had come from, they were bloodthirsty and dangerous! Foes! Obviously not only aiming to kill the Mord Sith but the Confessor too…
Kahlan reacted out of instinct. In a quick move she threw a dagger against the man with the ax and, though she knew she hadn´t aimed well, she heard the satisfying sound of his painful shout, while, with a wet thud, her second dagger found its home in the brawny chest of another man. His dead body still slumping down, she ripped her weapon out of him.
From the corner of her eyes she saw the tall man, who had wielded the ax, turn away from the fighting and grab the boxes hastily; and in the next moment he vanished into the shadows of the trees…
Kahlan gasped. Spirits, no!! He has the Boxes of Orden!!
The Confessor shot a quick glance around, seeing the Mord Sith still detracted by two other men, and secured by that she reeled to search for the thief.
The Boxes of Orden!
Kahlan couldn´t allow him to escape! The Boxes were too precious; and too dangerous to be put into the wrong hands…
She didn´t hesitate any longer. She quickly dodged another adversarial strike, resolutely dragging her blade across the bastard´s throat in a flowing motion and then sprinted away into the shadows, close on the thief´s heels….
Kahlan followed the guy for quite a while. The stranger seemed to be in a hurry, given to the fact that he didn´t waste any time to duck or run for cover. He seemed oblivious to the possibility that he might be followed.
After what seemed to Kahlan a little more than a league, he finally slowed down and the Confessor detected a small camp in a little distance. The burning fire lightened a few makeshift bivouacs. Carefully she stalked closer, quietly cursing as she barely found some cover with her white garb shining between the trees. It took a lot of her skills to sneak up on the men. But at last she found herself pressing into the shadow of an old, half withered minie, just twenty steps beside the fire, to get a picture of her foes.
Her brows furrowed at the sight of the tattered bedrolls that lay ducked into the shadows of some rocks; nothing but a few bundles of dirty rags seemed to be their covers for the night.
At the fire sat two more men, both in an almost deplorable condition: their clothes were filthy, torn and haggled, and dangling from their haggard bodies. Only one of them owned shoes, though they seemed to be remnants of better times. Now they looked as if they had been walked for years and thousands of leagues through the Midlands, given to the gaping holes in their feet. The other one had wrapped his right ankle with a frazzle; its grey-brown color was sprinkled with dots that reminded Kahlan of old rust. She assumed it was blood, and it seemed to be from a wound that still pained the man. She saw him limping as he rose now. Apparently his face hadn´t seen any water nor soap for quite some time; a scraggy beard proliferated untamed on his face and the stench of body-odor and bottom shelf liquor hung heavily in the air.
The Confessor ducked deeper into the shadow behind the tree and listened closely.