Title: Tarnished
Author: pristineungift
Warnings: Agonophilia; Fantasy Violence; Sexuality.
Rating: Soft R
Pairings/Characters: Darken/Kahlan; past/implied Richard/Kahlan; Darken/Garen.
Prompt/Summary: hrhrionastar: Kahlan has never read the inscription on the inside of her wedding ring before...


Tarnished

Queen Kahlan Rahl sat before the mirror in her dressing room, allowing her maid, Alice, to tightly braid her hair. She wore a dress and corset much like the ones she had traveled the Midlands in once. They were a gift from her husband, a deep blood red that matched the ruby in her Rada Han exactly, rather than Confessor white.

Kahlan Rahl couldn't wear the colors of Aydindril, no matter that she would always be Kahlan Amnell, the Seeker's Confessor, in her heart.

A Mord'Sith appeared in the arch of the door. "Lord Rahl awaits you," she said without preamble.

"Thank you, Garen," Kahlan said equally curtly. The Mord'Sith respected her, but did not accept her as part of the House of Rahl, just as Kahlan did not accept them as protectors. They tolerated each other, nothing more.

The Mord'Sith – who had more than a passing resemblance to Kahlan, and often shared Darken's bed – nodded and turned on her heel, her dark braid swinging.

Kahlan stood, retrieved her daggers from her polished weapons chest, and followed Mistress Garen to the palace practice courts.

There she found her husband, blue eyes glittering, sword in hand. He wore his customary robes, though he had shed the cumbersome velvet over robe, lest it get in the way of their practice bout. The exposed skin of his arms gleamed golden brown in the sunlight.

He was a beautiful man, her husband. A liar and a killer, but beautiful. Kahlan would not deny that. There was no point. It wasn't his body that disgusted her, it was his evil.

That he was evil and seeing him like this could still fill her with a tingle of desire disgusted her most of all.

"My love," Darken greeted her with an incline of his head, another pretty lie on his lips. He'd been continually more tender towards her since the birth of their son. Perhaps he thought Kahlan would believe that he had been moved by fatherhood.

She didn't. Darken Rahl couldn't love. Not truly. Not completely. Ultimately, he would always put himself before anything and anyone else. Not like Richard. The Seeker.

Selfless.

Without warning, Kahlan leapt at Darken, striking at his face with the hilt of one of her daggers. He swayed out of the way like the snake that he was, white teeth flashing against the dark slash of his beard when he laughed.

His sword came up in one fluid motion, and Kahlan spun out of the way, her red sleeves flying around her. She joined Darken in his laughter as they danced back and forth, fiercely blissful. These training bouts they engaged in were one of the few times that Kahlan did not feel the crushing weight of her mission, the ache of missing Richard, like a phantom limb. She found joy in the sweat and the thud of blows exchanged, the smack of flesh against flesh. She would take any excuse to paint her hatred, her rage on Darken's body in blood and bruises, and he liked it when she hurt him.

Every time Darken Rahl put a weapon in her hands and she did not use it to kill him, he became more certain that she was his.

The horrible truth of it was that he wasn't wrong. Fighting at Richard's side had made her better, a savior. Fighting with Darken Rahl made her a monster, a little more each time, because she liked it too.

She didn't love Darken Rahl, but she loved to make him bleed.

Darken grabbed her right wrist and twisted, making her drop her dagger, but Kahlan ignored the pain and stepped inside his guard, backhanding him with her left hand. Her wedding ring caught at his lip, leaving a thin red line as it split. Kahlan continued the motion, the force of her momentum pulling her arm from Darken's grasp, and bringing her body to body with him, her hand around his throat.

She imagined confessing him, watching his eyes go black, hearing him call her Mistress, and swallowed hard, her mouth dry, liquid heat pooling between her thighs. Her chest heaved with her panted breaths, and Darken's eyes canted down, roaming over the creamy expanse of her breasts.

"I win," Kahlan said softly. "Were it not for this Rada Han, you would be mine."

She stared at the blood on his lips, transfixed. She could feel the hard ridge of Darken's arousal pressed against her stomach, his pupils so wide that it was almost like he had been confessed.

"I am yours already," Darken whispered to her.

Kahlan gasped and shoved him away, turning her back to him. She gagged, eyes watering, because she wanted nothing more in that moment than to take him on the gold marble floor, and that was a betrayal of everything she was trying to accomplish.

A betrayal of Richard.

Kahlan clutched her hands together and looked down at them, her eyes drawn to her wedding ring.

The heavy gold band was coated in a splash of Darken's blood.

"My love," Darken said, because of course he would not allow her respite. She turned to see Garen helping him to his feet and offering him a cloth to blot the blood away from his split lip.

Darken stepped closer, and Kahlan ducked her head so that she wouldn't have to look into his eyes. "Forgive me," she said when his calloused fingers touched her shoulder, gentle. "I was overcome."

Let him think she began to love him.

"There is nothing to forgive," Darken breathed against her ear, making her shiver. He brushed his lips to her cheek, his facial hair tickling her. The cloth was pressed into her hand. "To clean your ring."

Wordlessly, Kahlan slipped the gold band off her finger, wiping her hands before turning her attention to the circle of metal.

There was something engraved on the inside of the band that she had never noticed before. It was worn soft and smooth, visible now only because of the blood sinking into the letters. Rahl blood, revealing a truth.

On the inside of Kahlan's wedding band, the symbol of her tie to Darken Rahl, there was one word.

Hope.

"What?" Kahlan said, all the air rushing out of her lungs.

"It was my mother's," Darken explained.

Kahlan looked up into the blue of his irises, and, for just an instant, she believed.

Darken Rahl had given her his hope on a ring of bright gold.

And she had let it tarnish.