Echoing by alyse [ - ]
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Category: Legend of the Seeker
Characters: Richard Cypher (Rahl)
Rating: PG
Genres: Angst, Character Study
Warnings: None

Summary: Richard sees them everywhere he looks.

Story Notes:
Written for Legendland's 'Ghosts' challenge. Go, team_seeker!

Richard sees them everywhere he looks: in the villages they pass through, the valleys they walk, the markets where they linger. Those he's killed may haunt his dreams - blank eyed and endless, row upon serried row - but it's the ones who have died for him that he sees when he's awake.

They're just glimpses of things that are half familiar, impressions caught in the tilt of a head, in the sway of a man's stride, in the laughter of a child. Just a brief echo of a life that's now the Keeper's, but it's enough to weigh Richard's heart down until his steps slow and his sword feels heavy in his hand.

He grows silent, avoiding Zedd's eyes, Kahlan's touch. And when there are too many, when he sees them wherever he looks, he hurries his steps until they're safely out of town and waits for his companions to catch him.

But even then there's no escape from it. He'll turn his head when he wakes to catch sight of Kahlan, and when he sees the way her mouth turns up at the corner as she ducks her head, her hair falling into her eyes, he'll remember that it was her sister's smile, too. He'll walk beside Zedd on some forest path and his grandfather will pause for a moment as a bird sings overhead; Zedd's eyes are shadowed but they never speak of the loss of Taralyn, not now, when she's one of so many.

Cara's eyebrows will tilt in exasperation by the evening fire, her lips pursing to hold in some choice insult when something doesn't go her way, and he'll feel the press of those lips against his fingers, remember how she died and was dead and may die again.

She will die again. They all will. The inevitability of it presses against his chest, catching the breath in his throat until he thinks he would scream with it if he could.

He doesn't. He finds a smile and he finds light words; he cooks when it's his turn, takes watch when he must. And in the dark of the night, when the memories are closest, he presses his lips tightly together and doesn't say a word. He watches over them and lets them sleep, dreaming of ghosts of their own.

Maybe this burden is something that he shares with all the Seekers that have come before him, but it is his burden and his alone, not theirs. He owes that much, and more, to honour those who have gone before.

Richard sees them everywhere he looks. Sees them and remembers.