Author's note: Thanks so much for your review, it really means a lot. My sincere apologies for the delay in posting this chapter, I've been buried in schoolwork the last few weeks. I've been working in this chapter for a couple of days now and I'm happy that I can finally post it. I hope you'll like it and I'm curious to hear your opinion.
P.S Was anyone else a little disappointed with the LotS season finale? I had expected, or rather hoped, to see a lot more of Darken Rahl. Instead, he just sat there in his Mord Sith bath, while not two episodes ago he wanted to save the world himself… what the heck happened?
The cool stone wall against her back raised goose bumps on her arms. Eleanor shivered. She moved away from the wall and paced around the room to regain the strength in her legs and to think about what to do.
The cream colored limestone floor tiles had a rugged and rustic appearance, but felt soft under her bare feet. Her fists clenched and unclenched while she was deep in thought. She thought about the twelve years she had spent with the Resistance, trying to remember anything that could indicate that they had knowledge of her powers and that they had used them, or rather her, for their own benefits.
I made a promise, Duke's voice sounded in her head. But to whom? She had tried so many times to get him to tell her, but he wouldn't say. Who would benefit from keeping the truth from her?
Sooner or later I will find out, she remembered saying to him. I'm afraid that day will come sooner, than later, he had replied with a smile on his face, but Eleanor had heard sorrow in his voice. Was it because he knew she would one day find out that he and the others had been using her? Was he afraid that she would take revenge on the Resistance?
There was no way to find out what Duke knew. He was dead and so where the others. Their bodies now lay decomposing in the woods. Wild animals feasting on their rotting flesh. Eleanor shook her head to get the macabre images out of her mind.
The only one left who could tell her who she was and where she came from was the mysterious person Duke had made his promise to. But it would be an impossible task to find someone she knew nothing of. She didn't even know if that person was still alive.
Eleanor grabbed her hair with her hands and screamed. Who is she? Where did she belong? She didn't know what to believe anymore and it drove her mad. In her frustration she slammed her fist hard into the wall. The pain in her knuckles made her wince slightly. She lowered her trembling fist and leaned her head against the wall. Tears prickled her eyes and blurred her vision. Never in her live had she felt as alone as she did now.
The hollow sound of a knock on the door brought Eleanor back to her senses. The crowd was still cheering, so it couldn't be him, she reasoned. She quickly wiped her wet eyes with the back of her hand.
"What is it?," she answered, trying to sound stern.
The door opened and a young woman with shoulder length strawberry blonde hair walked into the chamber. She was dressed in a green dress with a white apron over it.
"Miss Eleanor," she said with a bow: "Lord Rahl has sent me to- Oh my, miss you are bleeding."
Eleanor followed the worried eyes of the maid to her hand and saw her bleeding knuckles.
"It is merely a scratch," Eleanor answered coolly.
The maid took a piece of cloth out of the pocket of her apron and scurried over to Eleanor to wrap it around her wounded hand.
"This will ruin the look of your dress," the maid complained.
"My dress?" Eleanor wondered.
"Well of course, miss," the maid said matter-of-factly. "You can't go walking about dressed like that."
Eleanor frowned. She hadn't thought at all about what she was wearing. She looked down at her body and saw she was wearing a white nightgown, decorated with white satin floral embroideries. The material fell in soft folds down her slender hourglass form which was accentuated by a satin ribbon around her waist, the long ends hanging down. A blush arose to her cheeks when she realized the material was rather sheer. She was grateful for the strategically placed embroideries that left something to the imagination.
"Damn pervert," she muttered under her breath. One thing Eleanor knew for sure, if Darken Rahl had forced himself upon her unconscious body she would make sure he wouldn't be able to do that to another woman ever again.
"Is something wrong, miss?" the maid asked a bit worried, seeing the angry look on Eleanor's face.
Eleanor looked at the maid and studied her face. She looked friendly and about the same age as her, about twenty two years. Eleanor wasn't quite sure of her own age. The healer in the village of the resistance estimated her to be ten years old when they found her. Because she couldn't remember her real birthday, they had adapted that day as her birthday. The 12th of February. Eleanor shook the memories away. It was of no importance anyway, it's just a number, she thought.
"What is your name?" she asked the maid.
"My name is Brenda, miss," the maid answered bowing her head: "Brenda Brickenden."
"Brenda," Eleanor said: "There is something I need to know. Eleanor pressed her lips together and exhaled sharply. She found it very humiliating to ask, but she had to know. "Did Lord Rahl…force himself-"
Before Eleanor could finish her question the maid had brought her hands to her mouth and gasped in horror. "Oh no miss, Lord Rahl would never do something like that," the maid said, her eyes wide with shock and shaking her head no.
"Then explain to me what I am doing in his bedchamber," Eleanor demanded angrily.
The maid jerked back, startled by the fury in Eleanor's eyes. "Y-you are mistaken," she stammered: "This is not Lord Rahl's bedchamber. It is your bedchamber, miss."
Eleanor straightened up in surprise. "Mine?"
The maid nodded her head frantically, not quite recovered from her fright.
Eleanor looked at the maid, who returned it with caution. She couldn't help but feel sorry for her. "Apologies for losing my temper," Eleanor said with a sigh. "I am in a confusing situation; however I had no right to take it out on you."
The maid seemed surprised by her apology, but then smiled carefully. "It's quite all right, miss. Perhaps taking a bath will help you clear your mind," she suggested.
Eleanor wanted to refuse and tell her to leave her alone so she could think, but the maid looked so innocent she couldn't refuse. Eleanor took a deep breath. "Perhaps you are right."
"Wonderful," the mail smiled. She walked to the closet at the far end of the room and took out a neatly folded blood red cloak. She walked back to Eleanor and handed it to her.
"Put this on, miss. We wouldn't want the soldier's lurking eyes on you."
Eleanor threw the cloak over her shoulders. It fitted her perfectly. It was almost as if it was made for her.
"Follow me, miss. The bathing room is not far from your bedchamber," the maid said, opening the door.
Eleanor followed the maid out of the bedchamber and along stone corridors. She tried to remember all the turns they had made. A trait she had picked up during her time at the resistance, essential for finding the way out of unknown territory. After a few minutes of walking the maid stopped in front of a door.
"Here we are," she said opening the door and led Eleanor into the room.
The bathroom was even more beautiful than Eleanor ever imagined a bathroom to be. The walls where decorated with oil paintings of beautiful lakes and river and white marble sculptures of bathing women adorned the corners of the room. A porcelain bathtub with golden claw feet stood in the middle of the room, opposite to a stained-glass window. From the ceiling above it hanged a wrought iron chandelier. The last sunlight of the day fell in golden rays on the white porcelain, making it look more majestic than it already was.
"Here is some soap and a towel, miss," the maid said, handing her a basket with a white towel and a bar of soap in it. "Shall I wash your hair for you?"
The question made Eleanor laugh. "No, there is no need. I can wash my own hair."
"As you wish," The maid answered. "You can call for me when you are done." She bowed and left the bathroom, closing the door behind her.
When the door went shut, Eleanor put the towel and the basket of soap on the floor and let the cloak fall from her shoulder. She slowly took off her night gown and leaned over the bathtub too see red and white rose petals drifting in the bathwater. The steam arising from the hot water swirled welcoming against her face and breasts. She closed her eyes and inhaled the sweet scent of the rose petals. When she exhaled and opened her eyes, she gently ran her hand trough the water. The warm water against her skin felt very inviting. Eleanor never had a warm bath before. She had always washed herself in the lake or in the river. In summer it bode a relief from the heat, but in winters she had to warm water above a fire to make it more bearable.
Slowly, Eleanor stepped into the bathtub and lowered herself into the water. The warm water felt soothing to her skin. Resting her hands on the edges of the tub she thought again of the conversation she had with Darken Rahl. Who was right and who was wrong? Did such a thing as right and wrong even exist? Eleanor was fed up with the situation. If she didn't know who to trust, she would only trust herself, she decided. Maybe she should take Darken Rahl's offer to learn to control her Sith Mear powers. After that she would decide for herself where she belonged.
Eleanor held her breath and dipped her head under water. When she came back up, she took the bar of soap from the basket and brought it to her nose to smell it. It smelled of honey and oatmeal. She loved it and inhaled the scent deeply. Then she moistened the bar with some water and used the soft lather to wash her hair and body. After rinsing, her skin and hair felt soft and smelled of honey and oats.
Now that she had made her decision, she felt like a weight had lifted from her shoulders. She laid back, closed her eyes and relaxed. The maid was right, she thought. Taking a bath did help her clear her mind.
After a while, Eleanor stepped out of the tub and dried herself off with the towel. Then she put on the nightgown and cloak and walked to the door. She opened it and stepped outside to find the maid talking to a guard. When she closed the door the sound made them shift their gaze to her.
"Have you enjoyed your bath, miss?" the maid asked politely.
"Yes, thank you," Eleanor answered, giving the guard a slight nod to acknowledge him. She was now painfully aware of the fact that her cloak didn't cover as much of her as she would have liked.
The soldier nodded back and took her in from head to toe, one corner of his mouth lifting slightly in a crooked grin that made Eleanor quite uncomfortable. She felt the strong urge to hit that perverted look off his face, but she resisted. Instead, she gave him her most defiant look.
"Let us return to your bedchamber and get you properly dressed," the maid said, gently placing her hands on Eleanor's shoulders and turning her away from the soldier.
As Eleanor and the maid walked back to her bedchamber she could feel the guard's eyes burn into her back. She hated it when men would stare at her or women in general, in that manner. As if women merely existed for their sexual pleasure. Eleanor cursed under her breath.
When they were back in her bedchamber, the maid scurried to the closet and opened the big doors to reveal several dresses hanging from a bar. On the bottom of the closed a few pairs of shoes were neatly displayed. Most of them had heels, which Eleanor wasn't used to. She wished she would be able to walk in them without making a fool of herself.
"Now, which one should you wear," the maid thought out loud, rummaging restlessly through the closet. "Ah, yes!" she exclaimed and took out a blood red velvet dress with long, drop sleeves and a golden trim around the square neckline and upper arms. A cloth drop belt decorated with the same golden trim hanged around the waist.
"I'm sure this one will please Lord Rahl," she said.
Eleanor snorted. Please Lord Rahl? She repeated in her head a little irritated. Was that why he had brought her here? So she could please him?
"What is it, miss?" the maid asked, a little disappointed by Eleanor's lack of enthusiasm. "Don't you like it?"
"It's beautiful," Eleanor sighed truthfully.
"Well go on then. Put it on," the maid insisted.
Eleanor did what she asked and the maid laced up her bodice. The dress fitted her perfectly, just like the nightgown and the cloak had.
"Brenda," she said with a frown on her face. "How is it possible that all the clothes I have been wearing since I came here fit me as if they were made for me?"
"That is because they were made for you, miss," she answered matter-of-factly. "When I was cleaning you up after Lord Rahl brought you here, he told me to also take your measures so the tailor could make you some new clothes. He didn't want you to run around in those rags you were wearing. That was very kind of him, don't you think?"
Even though she was a little embarrassed by the fact that this girl had not only washed her unconscious naked body, but also had taken her measures, she had to admit that it was indeed kind of Darken Rahl to have new clothes made for her.
"May I ask you a personal question, miss?" the maid asked a little hesitant, still lacing the bodice of Eleanor's dress.
"Of course," Eleanor answered curious to know what the maid wanted to ask her.
"Why had you disguised yourself as a man?"
Surprised by the question, Eleanor didn't answer it immediately.
"Because they wouldn't let me fight for what I believe in," she answered after short silence. "Apparently women exist only for the pleasure of men and to serve as breeding stock." She said coolly.
Eleanor was surprised to hear the maid chuckle shortly in response. "You find me amusing?" she asked irritated.
"Oh no, miss, I admire your spirit," the maid answered. "It is just that I think that you might be a bit too hard on men. They're not all bad."
"You speak from experience?" Eleanor said in a slightly mocking tone, looking over her shoulder.
A sincere smile formed on the maid's face. "Yes, miss. My husband and I have been together since our childhood," she said. "Even though I have to admit that from time to time he can be quite a fool, he and our son make me very happy."
For a moment Eleanor felt a little silly for her harsh thinking of men.
"What are your husband and son called?" she asked.
"My husband's name is Edward and my son's name is Jeremy," the maid answered. She gave a last pull at the cords of the bodice and tied the ends. "There you go, miss. Why don't you take a look at yourself in the mirror," she gestured at the mirror hanging beside the closet.
When Eleanor saw her reflection in the mirror she was surprised at what she saw. The dress accentuated her curves in a most flattering way and the bodice lifted her breasts, displaying her cleavage in the square neckline. She never knew she could look like this, so feminine and almost royal.
"You look very beautiful," the maid assured her with a smile and handed Eleanor a pair of shoes. Not much to her surprise, they also fit her feet like gloves.
"We should go now, miss. Dinner is being served as we speak," the maid said.
With that said, Eleanor followed the maid past corridors and stairs, until they stopped in front of two huge doors. The maid slightly opened one of the doors, revealing a big dining hall.
"Come now, miss. You shouldn't keep Lord Rahl waiting," she pressed.
Eleanor took a deep breath and walked into the dining hall, holding her head high.
There he was, sitting at the head of the table at the far end. When they locked eyes, she felt the pit of her stomach tighten again. She was so close to the man who, a few days ago, she was determined to kill.
Seeing the woman dressed in the colors of his house made Darken Rahl smile a sly smile. It was his way of marking her as his property. But he had to admit, she looked quite beautiful in that dress.
He stood up from his chair and bowed. "You look lovely," he said in his charming voice, taking her right hand and placing a kiss on it.
"Thank you," Eleanor answered, pulling her hand back as subtle as she could so it wouldn't be rude.
Darken Rahl could easily tell she was feeling uncomfortable. Amused, he smiled and pulled out the chair the right to his and gestured her to sit down.
Eleanor wasn't quite used to such chivalry and she wasn't sure if she liked it. However, she knew being stubborn wouldn't help her getting any closer to controlling her Sith Mear powers, so she sat down and let Darken Rahl hold her chair for her while she did.
The steaming dishes on the table were filled with foods of nearly all sorts. Eleanor wondered why so much food was prepared for only two people. What would happen to the uneaten food? Seeing all the food made Eleanor realize how hungry she was.
"Please help yourself," Darken Rahl said. "You must be hungry."
That was something he needn't say twice. Eleanor began loading some spiced roast chicken, boiled potatoes and a mound of raw vegetables sliced into strips on her plate. It took all of her self-control to not gulp down the food.
Darken Rahl watched her as she ate. "How is the food?" he asked her.
"Very good," she answered truthfully between slicing a piece of the chicken and putting it in her mouth.
After she swallowed the last sliced carrot Eleanor let out a content sigh. She took a glass of water and thought about the decision she had made. They would have to talk about it sooner or later, so why not now? She thought.
She took a deep breath and shifted her gaze to Darken Rahl. "I have thought about what you have told me…," she said.
Darken Rahl could barely believe what he heard. Was she already willing to pledge her allegiance to him? No, it was too soon to trust him completely. Even for a woman, he thought. He had to earn more of her trust before he started training her. He wouldn't want her to use her powers against him after she had learned to control them.
Before she could continue he raised his hand to stop her and gave her his kindest smile.
"Eleanor, I don't want you to feel pressured to give me an answer straightaway. I know how it feels to be betrayed by someone close to you. You feel angry and confused and those emotions cloud the ability to make good decisions. Please take your time to think it through."
Eleanor was taken aback by his kindness, but she didn't need more time. Before she could protest Darken Rahl got up from his chair.
"Now, if you will excuse me, I have some business to attend to." He bowed graciously and then walked away, leaving Eleanor once again in utter confusion just as he had meant to.
As Darken Rahl made his way to the library he was very pleased with the progress he was making with the Sit Mear. Oh, how he enjoyed manipulating people. He was rather good at it too, he thought smug.
He was quite young when he had discovered his impeccable insight into a person's character. He always knew exactly how to motivate people into doing something for him. For most people either the promise of power and wealth or threatening to kill their loved ones worked perfectly. But this woman was different, he thought. She didn't care for riches and he had made her believe her loved ones had betrayed her. Maybe she was not yet fully convinced of the latter, but she would be. Soon.
"Yes," he laughed a sly smile and ran the tip of his fingers across his bottom lip. She had nothing left but her strong sense of duty and her need to be useful. Both of those traits made great soldier material.
When he reached the library he walked to a cupboard and took out a bottle of brandy and a glass. He then took a seat in the armchair behind his desk and poured himself a glass of the golden brown liquid. Bringing the glass up to his nose, he inhaled the scent. It smelled of oak, vanilla, caramel and dark fruits. Then he swirled the brandy in his glass and took a sip. The liquid warmed his throat as it went down. He let out a content sigh.
This was very good quality brandy, he thought. Perhaps he would pay the distillery a visit some time. He wasn't much of a drinker, but he did enjoy an occasional glass of brandy or spiced whine. Especially when he was in a good mood, very much like he was now.
His thoughts wondered back to the Sit Mear. It might take a little time before she would be fully under his control, but he had plenty of it. At least until he would grow tired of her. If that were to happen he would just send her to the Mord Sith to have them break her the hard way. But that of course, wouldn't be nearly as much fun, he reminded himself. He always found the people broken by the Mord Sith too submissive for his liking. Frankly, they usually annoyed him so much he always ended up sending them on suicide missions or killing them himself. But where's the fun in killing someone who is honored to die by your hands?
"No," Darken Rahl decided. That would be a waste. No, he would be patient and keep in mind that her powers could be of use. His people would never go hungry again and having plenty of food he would then also be able to supply the other two territories with food in times of need. In exchange for their loyalty, of course. He let out a smug laugh and took another sip of his drink.
He could tell she was starting to believe that perhaps he wasn't such a villain after all. It wouldn't be long before she would trust him completely and pledge her allegiance to him. And he would of course receive her with open arms. Darken Rahl shook his head in amusement. Women are such feeble things, he thought.