Pairing: Kahlan/Cara, Cara/Dahlia, implied Rahl/Cara
Spoilers: basic premise-not much, really
Warnings: Character death (not our lovely ladies), teen motherhood
Summary: Written for foibles_fables for the feelings fest on lots_femslash. AU: What if Rahl and Cara's child was a girl? pre-series, Cara tries to protect her daughter from a horrible fate, and gets unexpected assistance from a certain Confessor.
The Unreadable Girl
"It'll be a boy," Dahlia said exasperatedly, rolling her eyes. She was a reasonably patient person, but this was getting ridiculous.
"Right," Cara said, nodding. She rubbed her pregnant belly, under her plain white shift, distractedly. "But what if it's a girl?"
"Then we'll train her to be the greatest Mistress of the Mord'Sith D'Hara has ever known," Dahlia said calmly, putting her hands over Cara's temples. "Together."
"But—" Cara protested.
Dahlia effectively silenced her with a kiss.
There was no reason to think the baby wouldn't be a boy anyway, Dahlia thought crossly. Cara was just being irrational.
"It's a girl!" everyone was exclaiming. Cara put a hand to her head, wishing they'd all just shut up—
Dahlia was pushing her way through the scrum at the door—so many people. Here to witness Cara's humiliation.
Not the birth itself—Mord'Sith were no strangers to physical pain or embarrassment.
A girl—Cara had prayed to the Creator every night for a son—had gone far enough to name the boy Sam, in secret.
"Cara," Lord Rahl gloated. The baby—Cara's daughter—was in his arms now. Her eyes—blue as the ocean on a clear day—were open, but the poor girl looked too scared to cry, like a normal infant. Cara sympathized.
"You have made me very proud," Lord Rahl told her. "And you shall have the honor of training her yourself."
Cara couldn't breathe—she thought she must be dying.
"The child needs a name," Dahlia was saying. The Healer was smiling, cooing over the baby.
None of them were looking at Cara.
"I shall call her…Flurachula," Lord Rahl said proudly.
If Cara hadn't been so lost in her own private misery, she would have snorted a protest. 'Flurachula'? Was Lord Rahl trying to torture her, or did he honestly believe that was a decent name?
Even Dahlia looked nonplussed.
Lord Rahl handed Cara's daughter, Flurachula (the name left a bad taste in Cara's mouth), over to a hovering attendant.
Cara watched, desperation warring with fear and a buried anger in her heart. Her chest felt tight. She still couldn't breathe properly.
Was she dying?
But no—the Healer turned back to Cara now, her hands hovering over Cara's abdomen. Lord Rahl had disappeared, and Dahlia leaned over Cara, brushing her lips against Cara's forehead.
"Everything will be all right," she said, and then the huna leaves the Healer had made Cara bite during the birth finally took effect, and she slumped back on her pillows, lost in blissful unconsciousness.
"The news is bad," Dahlia announced, from the doorway.
It had been several months since Cara had given birth, and she was completely physically recovered. The Healer had even given her something to stop her breast milk.
Nonetheless, her arms ached to hold her daughter. If only she'd borne a son, she would have given him up to the Dragon Corps without misgiving. But a daughter—she would not let little 'Flurachula' be subjected to the same tortures she had endured.
Even if the Mord'Sith had made Cara strong.
"Well?" Cara asked, trying to sound casual. She was sharpening a dagger, for lack of anything better to do.
"Lord Rahl is talking about giving Denna the honor of training Flurachula—not for a few more years; who knows where his favor will alight next—" Dahlia made sure to add.
But Cara couldn't be so sanguine. "Denna?" she gasped. If there was anything worse than being forced to train her own daughter, it was surely standing helplessly by while Denna did.
It was in that moment that Cara's resolve hardened. She would not—could not—stay here and let this happen.
Once, she had trusted Lord Rahl, but the fact that he had promised first Cara and then Denna the 'honor' of breaking his own daughter only underscored his lack of anything approaching honor.
"It's all right," Dahlia said, coming over and rubbing Cara's back, in a gesture much gentler than was typical among the Mord'Sith. "We'll deal with Denna. When we're done, Flurachula will be able to send Denna to the Underworld with both hands tied behind her back."
Cara smiled wordlessly, concealing her thoughts. Dahlia was not going to help her. Dahlia still believed in this—this agony. Still thought it would make her and Cara, and 'Flurachula' strong.
Cara didn't believe that anymore. She could only pray that other kinds of strength existed.
"Confessor Kahlan!" it was the Mother Confessor, Serena. Her name was belied by her harsh personality, in Kahlan's opinion. "Focus! What is the first duty of a Confessor?"
"To protect her people," Kahlan said, "by finding the truth, dispensing justice, and showing mercy to those who need it."
"Very good," Mother Confessor Serena said grudgingly. "Alana! What were the circumstances of the first Confession ever taken…?"
But Kahlan wasn't listening. She knew all the answers by heart, anyway. Sometimes, she wondered why the Sisters of the Light had insisted she go to Aydindril at all.
She and her younger sister, Dennee, had been taken in by the Sisters of the Light because they were being abused by their father, Frederick Amnell. And life with the Sisters of the Light had been wonderful—Kahlan had many friends she would miss.
Now, she and Dennee had been sent to Aydindril, a boring old city with lots of rules and restrictions, and even more training in combat and history and law than ever before.
Kahlan rather liked combat training, and she didn't mind taking Confessions—she knew it was her duty. Dennee hated both, and Kahlan was starting to wonder if Dennee was handling their recent translocation well.
Kahlan herself was rather bored. In Aydindril, nothing exciting ever happened.
Cara planned her escape carefully. First, she tucked her agiels and her leathers into a magically protected leather satchel, tightly folded and concealed, among the rest of her things—a few miscellaneous articles of clothing, mostly stolen from the servants' stores, and lots of clean rags she could use as diapers for 'Flurachula.'
She also stole a sword and a few daggers from the armory.
Her hair she let loose, running her fingers through it to rid herself of all tell-tale signs of a braid.
She dressed in the same white shift she'd worn during her pregnancy—it was much too big for her now, but that scarcely mattered. She tied a kitchen maid's apron around her waist in lieu of a belt.
At last, she walked down the corridors, pretending to be mousy and afraid, like all the servants in the People's Palace. A Mord'Sith would have stridden confidently forward, challenging all comers, a seductive sway to her hips. Cara did not; therefore she was spared hardly a glance.
The baby's nurses were never far from her cradle, but Cara had timed her approach just right—there was a small fire in the kitchens, and everyone rushed to see what could be done.
Cara grinned to herself, and slipped in unnoticed to the empty nursery. "Hey there, sweetheart," she said softly, lifting the baby up into her arms. "Flurachula—" Cara scowled, and the baby mirrored her expression.
Oh no—what if she cried out? Everyone would come running. Cara sought desperately for a distraction. "You know," she said, in a confiding whisper, "I never liked the name myself. Why don't I call you—Flur." Yes—that was better. The baby seemed to think so, too: she no longer looked on the verge of tears. "You'll be my special flower girl, Flur, won't you?" Cara soothed.
She'd always told Dahlia that she was the only flower Cara wasn't allergic to.
Cara's mouth thinned as she swept a few baby's bottles into her pack (she hoped they were Healer-approved). It looked like Dahlia wasn't her flower anymore.
But that was okay—it had to be. She and Flur would be fine.
Just as soon as Cara found some place far enough to protect Flur from Lord Rahl.
The only possibility that occurred to her was the Underworld—unfortunately. (And she wasn't even sure that would be far enough.)
Cara and Flur had been traveling for weeks. Cara was dusty, dirty, and tired. Flur was cranky.
Cara patted her back, trying to stop her fussing. It was times like these, Cara thought bitterly, that she wondered how anyone could ever trust her with a baby.
Of course, technically, no one had.
And no one did trust her, it seemed—in spite of her disguise, all the people she'd met seemed to think there was only one kind of work available to a young, single mother.
But pleasure was the inverse of pain, as Denna was always saying; Lord Rahl and Dahlia would find her in a brothel easily enough. Besides, Cara wasn't anxious to exchange one sort of bondage for another.
Cara reached up with her free hand and rubbed her eyes. This was getting to be too much. Maybe she shouldn't have done it. Or at least waited until Flur was older. It wasn't as though Flur's training would've started for years yet, anyway.
But no—Flur belonged with her. Even if Cara didn't know what she was doing.
It was about then that Cara spotted the next town. Who knew? Maybe here in—she looked around for a signpost—Aydindril, she would find some work that offended neither her dignity nor her honor, and—
Wait. Aydindril? Wasn't that the name of the Confessors' stronghold?
If they realized she was a Mord'Sith, Cara had no doubt they would kill her.
On the other hand, surely even Lord Rahl would hesitate to take apart the Confessors' Palace stone by stone looking for her.
With characteristic decisiveness, Cara marched toward the city. She would throw herself on the mercy of the Confessors themselves, in the hope that all she'd heard of them hadn't been true.
When Cara and Flur reached the Confessors' Palace, two young women in white were just leaving it.
Cara unconsciously noted details of both women's appearance, but she was immediately drawn to the one with the long dark hair, the sparkling blue eyes, the bright smile—
"Are you an angel?" Cara was horrified to hear herself saying.
And the woman was laughing—not unkindly. "I am Kahlan Amnell." She took a closer look at Cara, and added solicitously, "You're safe here."
Cara breathed a sigh of relief. The angel said she was safe.
Kahlan stared at the beautiful blonde—she was stunning, even if she was covered in dirt and looked exhausted.
Actually, she looked more than exhausted—Kahlan frowned when she saw the woman—girl, really; she couldn't be older than nineteen, Kahlan's own age, and in fact looked rather younger—sway on her feet.
Kahlan took the baby from the woman's arms, settling the child firmly on her hip. She wasn't used to children, but she'd practically raised her younger sister Dennee.
"No—" the blonde woman said faintly. "Flur—"
Flur must be the baby's name. Kahlan frowned at the blonde girl. "Are you here to air a grievance before the Mother Confessor?" she asked, a little doubtfully.
"It's all right now," Dennee reassured, putting a hand on the girl's shoulder. "We can help. What's your name?"
"M—Cara," the blonde girl said shakily. "And my daughter, Flurachula."
"Flurachula?" Kahlan said in disbelief. She looked down at the baby. Poor child. "You must be mistaken—that sounds like a sneeze!"
"Kahlan!" Dennee said reprovingly, and then had to catch Cara's arm as she fainted.
Kahlan quickly grabbed Cara as well—they had to get her to a nice warm bed and lie her down. She was obviously ill, the poor thing—
And no wonder, she looked like she'd been on the road for days—
Kahlan and Dennee took Cara upstairs, and Dennee took charge of Flur, seeing about clean linen and some warm milk for the baby, while Kahlan tucked Cara into bed, removing her muddy, plain dress and bag, and wrapping her in a nice, warm robe of Kahlan's own.
Kahlan couldn't help noticing Cara's firm, muscular body—her soft curves, and the barest hint of excess flesh left from her pregnancy—the network of scars that seemed to leave no part of her entirely untouched.
Cara seemed delirious—she kept babbling about Lord Someone or other, someone was someone else's Mistress (Kahlan had a moment of fear then, that she had somehow Confessed Cara, in her admiration, but the Mistress seemed to be mixed with Lord Someone rather intimately, and Cara didn't start asking how she might serve Kahlan, so that was all right).
When Kahlan had Cara tucked neatly into bed, and was feeling her forehead for signs of fever, Cara seemed to focus on her. "Angel," she said, smiling up at Kahlan.
Kahlan was struck by the most extraordinary realization. Cara's eyes were a brilliant, bright green. Somehow she hadn't noticed that before.
When she smiled, Cara was even more breathtakingly beautiful.
"You saved me," Cara told Kahlan firmly. "Mistress. No—that's not right," and her forehead crinkled. "Different kind of strength. Will you keep my flower safe?"
Kahlan hadn't seen any plants in Cara's bag, but said obligingly, "Of course, I will. Now you just get some rest."
Cara nodded drowsily. "Yes, Mistr—Kahlan," she said, and closed her eyes.
When Cara finally woke without fever, she felt almost as though her life at the People's Palace, and the Mord'Sith temple where she had been trained, had been a dream.
This was the reality—this warm, impersonal palace with its clean floors and pristine women all dressed in white.
And she knew better than to try and reverse her perceptions—the less she dwelt on that other life, surely lost to her now (and was it such a loss? Dahlia would know what she had done by now—would she ever forgive Cara? Ever understand?), the better. Cara could not, by word or deed, reveal to Kahlan and the other Confessors her true identity.
Every so often, when Kahlan or Dennee was especially kind to her (the other Confessors and their servants treated her with distant civility that would turn to seething hatred if they knew her secret), Cara couldn't help imagining what they would do if they found out.
Her life would be forfeit, of course; but she hoped Kahlan, at least, would protect and care for Flur.
The child seemed to have suffered less ill effects than Cara would have dreamed possible from their long journey—Flur had lost her nurses and everything she knew, but she seemed to love both Kahlan and Dennee.
Cara thought this showed remarkable good taste.
Dennee was excellent with Flur—she'd cared for her while Cara was ill.
But Kahlan was simply excellent, at everything. Cara knew now she hadn't really beheld an angel—but she had to keep reminding herself that Kahlan was real. This was surely never what she had expected of the dreaded, soul-stealing Confessors.
And she wondered what else her Sisters had lied to her about.
"So, Flur's father…?" Kahlan asked delicately, one morning when she and Cara were alone in the kitchen.
They were supposed to be cleaning the dishes from breakfast—the Mother Confessor had a system whereby everyone took their turn doing chores and helping the servants—but instead, Kahlan was teaching Cara to make cake.
Or rather, she was trying to teach Cara to make cake. Cara, remembering the things she'd survived, had no idea why she seemed to be so hopeless at cooking. It wasn't a proper task for a Mord'Sith—but surely she had forfeited her right to that title, when she ran away, taking Lord Rahl's daughter with her?
"I—don't want to talk about it," Cara said sharply. There was no reason for Kahlan to know anything about Cara's life in the People's Palace.
There was an awkward silence, then, and it occurred to Cara belatedly that Kahlan's feelings might be hurt. That was unacceptable. (Cara didn't try to explain to herself why she found the thought of Kahlan being hurt so…unpleasant.)
"So," she said, hesitantly. "Does this…look okay?" She held out the cake batter.
Gravely, Kahlan inspected it; their heads were close together, bent over the bowl, and Cara smelled the scent of Kahlan, like soap and summer and safety…
"Let's taste it," Kahlan suggested, with a wicked grin. She swiped a bit of batter with a finger, and sucked on it in a way that had Cara staring at her, mesmerized.
They ate about a quarter of the batter before they bumped heads, over the bowl, and then Cara reached out and touched Kahlan's cheek, and then they were kissing—Kahlan tasted like cake batter and joy, and Cara was drowning in her—
"We c-can't," Kahlan stuttered, pulling away after a tiny eternity. Cara moaned an inarticulate protest, and then was shocked at herself. Mord'Sith didn't do this sort of thing. What was she thinking?
"My powers…" Kahlan admitted, shamefaced. "I can't…physically be with someone I…"
Cara stared at her. No wonder Confessors had such a bad reputation! Somehow, Cara had always assumed they would be able to control their power.
(Of course, it was hard for Cara to believe that it was impossible to be with someone and not Confess them…)
But Kahlan was blushing furiously, and running away, and Cara wanted to run after her—
But Cara had responsibilities. She had Flur. She couldn't just follow where her blood led her, not anymore.
She sat at the table in the kitchen, still and silent, for a long time.
Cara was fascinating.
Kahlan knew she shouldn't let herself get so carried away about a stranger, or indeed about anyone—she was a Confessor. She would never have love, or even friendship, without tainting it with her power.
But Cara—sometimes she was just like a little girl, stunning in her naiveté—others, it was Kahlan who fell short of Cara's startling maturity.
They spent their days together, Kahlan telling Cara all about the Palace, and the lore of Confessors, and her own life—Cara did not fear Kahlan's touch, and so Kahlan found herself babbling about any and everything.
But Cara remained elusive, for all her status as Kahlan's confidant. Kahlan still did not know why she and Flur had come to Aydindril, except to seek refuge—but seek refuge from what?—and, what was more, Kahlan could not read Cara's face.
Never had Kahlan come across someone as unreadable, as fundamentally unknowable, as Cara. At first, she thought it was something amiss with her own powers—but how could it be? She could still take Confessions—next, she tried to think of someone who would not be affected by a Confessor's power. But that was no one living.
After the Kiss in the Kitchen, as Kahlan thought of it in her own mind, she was afraid things would be awkward.
But Cara never spoke of what had happened, and she accepted Kahlan's affectionate touches as much as she ever had.
It was one afternoon when Kahlan, Cara, and Flur were in the library, warm and cozy and listening to the rain outside, that Flur spoke her first word.
Kahlan was reading—the Mother Confessor had given her a whole stack of books to get through before tomorrow. Her eyes were drifting shut over a particularly dull account of the war of Somewhere or Other, when Flur crawled over to her and tugged her skirt.
Surprised, Kahlan yawned and looked up. Cara was holding a picture book in her lap.
She was frowning. "Don't you like your story?" Cara asked plaintively.
But Flur was trying to drag Kahlan closer. "Kay-Kay! Kay—lin!" she insisted, and Cara's eyes met Kahlan's in a sudden, glorious understanding—
"Good taste, sweetheart," Cara murmured, as Kahlan obligingly moved to the floor and cuddled up next to Cara, with Flur on her lap. "Now, let's see…"
It was wonderful—hearing the rain lash against the walls of the Palace, Cara's voice rising and falling with the narrative…Flur's dark hair brushing Kahlan's chin, her little face entirely intent on her mother…eventually, Kahlan leaned her head against Cara's shoulder. Cara stiffened a little, but she didn't pull away.
When Flur fell asleep in Kahlan's arms, Kahlan lifted her gently, and she and Cara took her upstairs.
When Cara had seen Flur safe in bed, she insisted on taking Kahlan to her own bedroom door—and Kahlan let her hands wander to Cara's waist, pulling the other girl closer, hating that she couldn't resist this strange, unreadable girl…
They kissed, and it wasn't like the Kiss in the Kitchen. It was longer and deeper, and not as urgent, but somehow more precious…Kahlan never wanted to let Cara go.
(To think she'd once thought life was boring!)
At last, reluctantly, Cara pulled away. Kahlan searched her face anxiously, for signs that Cara didn't welcome Kahlan's attentions for more than fear of her Confessor powers. Why should Cara, a woman of the world already, even though she was so young, ever find Kahlan attractive?
Cara must have read some of this in Kahlan's expression, because she said softly, "It's not that I don't want to. If it weren't for Flur, I'd risk it. But I can't take the chance that she'll be left motherless and alone. It's bad enough like this—"
But she bit back the words, and fled silently back down the corridor.
Kahlan went into her room and curled up on the bed alone, and only later did she wonder why Cara had said motherless—even Confessed, Cara would still be Flur's mother. (But how could Kahlan stand to see the light go out of Cara's eyes…)
Did Cara think Kahlan's touch would kill her? Why?
Was there something about Cara Kahlan didn't know, that maybe she should?