Title: Failure
Rating: PG-13
Legend of the Seeker
Cara-centric, gen
Genre: Tragedy/Drama
Alternate Hunger (2x12). In which Darken Rahl does not let Cara take the deal.
Author's Note: All dialogue comes from the episode itself.

* * *

As the blade slices across her neck, Cara's first thought is that she has failed Lord Rahl.

More than that – she's failed the Seeker.

As a Mord'Sith, she is no stranger to pain. She still remembers her training; the touch of the Agiel as it struck her virgin skin. The rats nibbling at her feet. The cold, dark dungeon. That training had taught her everything.

And it's her training that tells her that wound is a fatal one.

She keeps fighting anyway, because that's what she does. She fights through the pain.

She is Mord'Sith.

'Tell me what you did with the captives!'

It hurts to talk. Hurts to breathe. But she needs to find out where the villagers are – maybe she can do one last bit of good before she dies.

'We handed them over to another driver. He's taking them to a farmhouse on the old forest road in Gurdoone.' His voice is filled with pain from the Agiel, but Cara is hard-pressed to give him sympathy. The Mord'Sith do not give sympathy lightly. Not even her. 'But they'll be dead long before anyone finds them.' He screams as the Agiel hits him again, and she pulls away, hand clutching at her throat.

The blood drips from her mouth, a sign that she isn't going to last long enough to make it back to Richard, to tell him where the captives are.

And her last thought is that she has failed.

* * *

She awakens in the pile of naked, writhing bodies. The underworld.

She thinks of the banelings, of the deal that Darken Rahl had made. She would be serving the Keeper, yes, but if she could only return long enough to help Richard find the Stone of Tears, then not all would be lost.

Once the Keeper has been defeated, she can return to the Underworld. She won't have failed.

She stands, feeling lost, almost vulnerable without her clothes, without her Agiels. She doesn't like this feeling.

'Rahl.' The word echoes, and feels like poison on her tongue. She doesn't serve this Lord Rahl anymore. She helped kill this Lord Rahl. 'Darken Rahl.'

'Cara.' She turns, her eyes narrowing. 'How delightful. I knew it was only a matter of time before your misguided loyalty to the Seeker got you killed.' He's clothed, which immediately puts him head and shoulders above everyone else in this dark, unforgiving place. He looks the same as he once did, save for that ethereal green glow that everyone seems to have down here.

'I want the deal.'

'I beg your pardon?'

'You heard me. I'm willing to kill for you.' It's not strictly the truth – she's willing to kill for Richard. She's willing to kill for the Mother Confessor. She's willing to kill for Zedd. And those things are happening with such frequency that becoming a baneling would serve the ends of the Seeker more than it would the Keeper. They are stronger with her than without her. The greater good. 'Make me a baneling.'

He has a smug look on his face, and she wants nothing more than to thrust an Agiel into his stomach, and wipe it clean. 'So…you want to be a baneling.'

'Send me back, and I'll serve the Keeper.'

She feels fear, and for a moment she almost doesn't recognize it.

'And miss out on the pleasure of tormenting you for an eternity?'

He has a new look on his face. An almost…pleasured look. She has seen that look many times before – the look of a Mord'Sith as they "train" a captive. The look of one who enjoys inflicting pain. One way or another, she is responsible for his downfall. She is the one who helped the Seeker kill Darken Rahl.

'I'm only one soul. Think of all the others I could provide for you.'

He isn't buying it. The chance to avenge her betrayal is worth more than a thousand souls. Darken Rahl waves his hand, and she feels the pain surge through her body. It is far, far worse than anything she has ever experienced.

The torture of the Mord'Sith has boundaries – there is only so much physical harm that can be done to a person. Here, though, in the Underworld, the only limit is the imagination, and Darken Rahl has a very vivid imagination.

She feels that green fire burning every core of her body, and yet the skin remains unbroken, unburnt. This pain, this agonizing pain, will continue for an eternity. Punishment for her betrayal. Punishment for her failure.

The Seeker will have to go on without her.