set late first season with minor spoilers for all season one episodes and some early season two episodes. No warnings.
For a legendland challenge; Theme = Courage, Prompt =#46 Song Titles (The Female of the Species [is more deadlier than the male], Space)
Rahl is the unelected leader of D'Hara which boasts wizards, soldiers, and monks. Yet he knows that women are not to be taken lightly. His courage does not extend to facing a Confessor without a rad'a'han, for example. There really should be a field guide to help people understand how females are more deadly than males
It was a fact of life that while D'Hara had an unelected leader (tyrant, some would say, but there were always people who'd say things like that if you didn't stamp out sedition harshly enough) - a handsome, virile male leader at that; and that while every single wizard of all of the Orders were male; and even given that women were not permitted to join the D'haran army; nevertheless, it was the females of the world that should be feared
For every Wizard of the First Order there was a witch woman scrying over a pool of water and trying to mould the future, to bend the world to her bidding.
For every monk toiling in a library or tending an altar there was a Sister of the Light (or, indeed, Dark) singing her hymns proudly or tending the sick.
For every soldier armed with a sword, there was a Confessor who was in and of herself a weapon and so could not be disarmed.
Against the Keeper, ruler of the Underworld, and His banelings, stood the Creator and Her adherents.
The Rahls had come to terms with this fact long ago and while they could never be accused of operating an equal opportunities policy, Darken Rahl benefited from the creation of the Mord'Sith.
Possibly, someone should write a field guide to the women of the Midlands and D'Hara. Rahl had no idea if women were so troublesome across the Boundary but he somehow doubted it since it was mostly – but not completely – magic that made women this side of it so dangerous.
Girls chosen by the Mord'Sith were broken and became Sisters of the Agiel, or they were killed. Only the strongest survived and they became Rahl's most feared enforcers. Men who would bravely fight a Quad of soldiers would quail before his leather-clad beauties.
Mord'Sith carried weapons, the pain-inflicting agiels. They also trained with swords, daggers, and spears, though they preferred to fight with the agiels and in hand to hand combat. They learnt to swim, to ride, to wrestle. They were, crucially, impervious to magic. They could even turn it back against the spell caster which made them invaluable when dealing with wizards, who were really fond of using wizard's fire at the drop of a hat. Even a dacra could be turned away by a Mord'Sith.
Most importantly, the Mord'Sith were loyal to the Rahl bloodline. They had little choice, for their powers were linked magically to the family, but the training the girls chosen to become Mord'Sith received was generally enough to instil deep devotion to the ruling Lord Rahl. (Little did Rahl know that one day Cara would turn against him. Disloyalty to the Lord Rahl was unheard of previous to that. Of course, she reasoned she was still serving Lord Rahl – Richard Rahl. If killing the Seeker hadn't been important before, this knowledge would have spurred Rahl on in his quest to destroy his half-brother.)
In fact, there was only one flaw in the Mord'Sith design. They were vulnerable to Confessors. They couldn't be Confessed, and that was useful because when you had a weapon like a Mord'Sith on your side you didn't want it being turned against you. The price for this was steep: a Mord'Sith who was Confessed died within minutes.
Darken Rahl considered, however, that this was an acceptable cost.
There were stories – and there were always stories, but if you listened carefully and weeded out the exaggerations you could find the truth – about Shota. She was probably the most powerful witch for a hundred years. However she had an irrational hatred for Rahl and nothing he could do would win her over to his side.
In fact, Shota would never actually take sides. She was a law unto herself, completely unpredictable. She'd warned villages that had then risen up and killed many of his armed forces who had hoped to take them by surprise; another time she'd warned a soldier about a trap and saved the life of an entire Quad.
Of course, that was one of the problems with women, one of the things that made them dangerous. They were inconstant and unreliable. This was why nothing less than devotion was required from the Mord'Sith and why they were taught to be emotionless. To have them behave like Shota did would mean anarchy.
So Rahl left Shota alone for the most part, listening to the gossip about her and keeping a wary eye on her doings. At least he hadn't been as humiliated by her as Zeddicus Zu'l Zoarander, great Wizard of the First Order had been. There were some good stories about their relationship and Rahl treasured these, true or not, because it was good to know your enemy had suffered, especially at the hands of a woman.
Sisters of the Light
The Sisters were a thorn in Rahl's side. They worshipped the Creator and encouraged others to do the same, doing charitable works, healing the sick, even defending villages with their dacras and the like to prove their point.
The Sisters were possessed of magic themselves; their Han. If this had not been the case, Rahl would have had them wiped out years ago. Their dacras, embedded in the flesh of their victim, could not be removed without causing death to the victim unless the Sister who threw the weapon was killed, or it was removed by another Sister. This made sure people tended to keep at least one Sister alive if they encountered resistance from them.
The only thing that tempered Rahl's hatred of the Sisters was the fact that a few of the women had decided that things weren't all wine and roses in the world, despite what their Prelate preached. They didn't understand why they could use dacras to defend themselves, but they were not allowed to punish those who had hurt them. They saw signs that the Underworld was growing ever more powerful and that the Keeper might overthrow the Creator. They got bored of the tired platitudes and longed to indulge their ambitions for power.
So they became the Sisters of the Dark, living amongst the Sisters of the Light, but serving the Keeper. There was always a way to find a balance.
Rahl always kept a rad'a'han nearby in case he needed a person with magical abilities shackled. Wizards were dangerous enough, which was why he also liked to keep one or two Mord'Sith close, but he most feared a Confessor, for even his Mord'Sith could not withstand their magic.
Giller had been studying how the power of Confession worked, for if he could have his own army of Confessors, marching alongside his Mord'Sith, Rahl was sure he would be unchallenged. So far the experiments had come to naught.
Rahl had worked hard at exterminating the Confessors but it seemed the more he killed the stronger the others became. Giller thought it might be related to the way in which a Sister could give her Han to – or have it stolen by –another Sister. The why or how wasn't important. What was important was that there were still Confessors in the world.
Rumour said Kahlan Amnell was, in fact, the last of her kind. She was the Mother Confessor.
Rahl wanted one of two things for Kahlan Amnell: her death, or her body in his bed. For if Giller couldn't create a Confessor, perhaps Rahl could force Kahlan to bear him one. A girl could be trained to love him as his Mord'Sith did; a boy…the stories of male confessors were legendary. They were possessed of even greater power than their female siblings, if they could be controlled.
The Confessors said male Confessors, without exception, went mad with power and were too dangerous to live. Rahl wondered if this were true or just a way to keep their order a female only affair. He wondered what would happen if a male Confessor lived long enough to bed a female Confessor, multiplying their power in the resulting child.
All his musings were idle conjecture. The simple fact was that a Mother Confessor was not just deadly in her own right, she was a symbol of the old order, a beacon against his rule. One day Rahl would make Kahlan suffer for that.
Some women did hold authority, authority Rahl was determined to wrench from their grasp. Many sat alongside their husbands, but some also ruled in their own right. He'd taken care of the idiotic Queen Milena of Tamarang when she'd failed to deliver the Box of Orden into his hands, and prior to this, Rahl had sent his armies to capture other kingdoms, queendoms, provinces and principalities. Gender was not a consideration when he was extending his influence; king or queen, it mattered not. If he wanted to align with, usurp, or destroy a region, and it was in his power to do so, he would.
Some people – and Rahl was thinking of one incident in particular here – adored their female ruler even when she became a Calthrop! Of course that story also involved Zeddicus and Shota and the Seeker working together, so it just made him angrier the more he thought about it, but even so. Wouldn't it be better to pledge allegiance to a ruler of sound mind and body than risk being eaten by your own monarch?
There was no helping or reasoning with some people.
Women without magic
It wasn't just the women with magical abilities that one had to be cautious of however. Everyone knew the sayings about a mother bear guarding her cubs, everyone knew stories of the lengths women went to in order to protect their children. The massacre at Brennidon would not have been so bloody had the boy children been handed freely to Rahl's army.
It wasn't just in defence of children that their ire could be roused. Loyalties, a sense of betrayal, self-defence; any number of things could cause a woman to strike out. And not always directly. There were some soldiers who joked about a woman's inability to plot and scheme, ignorant fools. They never dared do so in front of the Mord'Sith, of course. Nevertheless this attitude was not uncommon despite the Sisters of the Agiel's impressive performance. Yet a woman, unless forced to take immediate action to protect herself or others, might dream up more deadly schemes than any General.
Rahl had almost been poisoned by a barmaid when visiting a village; the wench had been beheaded for her troubles. One of the servants he'd took to his bed tried to slide a slim blade between his ribs – the guards charged with searching her beforehand he repaid by killing them himself with the blade she'd wielded.
Once a woman had actually walked into the Palace wearing a Mord'Sith outfit and had tried to shoot him with a crossbow. A real Mord'Sith wouldn't have missed; as it was, Rahl felt the draught of the arrow as it passed near his face, burying itself into his throne. He had her given to the Mord'Sith to be tortured and see if she might survive training– she was, technically, far too old to join them, but he admired her brazenness and thought it a great show of clemency on his part to offer her this chance. Unfortunately she died, the touch of the agiel too much for her. There was a new policy put in place, that a Mord'Sith should discreetly touch her agiel (and not writhe in agony) when passing the guards at the gate to the People's Palace, which should keep out impostors. The guards responsible for letting the fake Mord'Sith in were agieled to death in front of the rest of the staff, to remind everyone what real Mord'Sith were capable of.
So everyone respected the Confessors, feared the Mord'Sith, knew of the Sisters, had mothers. It would be a fool who assumed a female was weak, or powerless, or stupid and yet people made these assumptions despite their queens, their priestesses, their wives. And this often let the women win, attacking unannounced, becoming a foe their victim didn't know they were facing.
Rahl was no such fool. It wasn't due to a lack of courage on his part that he kept a healthy dose of fear and respect for these women. It was simply that he wasn't reckless enough to think himself invulnerable. The female of the species really was more deadly than the male.
At least Confessors didn't tend to bite their mates heads off.