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
"A living Confessor would be best, my Lord," the sniveling wizard said. "For my research."
Lord Rahl frowned, and Dahlia watched him pace the room, long robe furling. She knew why he was so desperate to find some way of controlling and being immune to Confessors, of course: they were the true power in the Midlands, the last bit of control still held by those Lord Rahl wanted conquered.
And, unless Dahlia was much mistaken, they were hiding Cara.
She was disgusted whenever she thought of this; that Cara could willingly turn on her own heritage, her own training, her own Sisterhood that way…that she could just leave, without a word to Dahlia, all for one crying child…as the world were not full of such children. As though Cara herself had not started training the younger ones. As though she cared nothing for Dahlia at all.
"The time has come for us to destroy the Confessors and their hold on the people once and for all!" Lord Rahl said at last, in fine dramatic style.
Dahlia, well-versed in his subtleties of thinking, wondered what else lay behind his words. A Confessor for Giller to experiment upon would doubtless be useful, but so far the man had returned pitifully few results.
Dahlia found it likelier that Lord Rahl had guessed what she had—the impossible fact that Cara was somewhere in the Confessors' sanctuary. Not to mention Lord Rahl's daughter, who was fast becoming a nuisance. Dahlia supposed she ought, when the time came, to take the trouble of training the girl herself. (Denna wasn't the only one with influence.)
"Shall I gather my Sisters?" Dahlia asked, and Lord Rahl frowned.
"Mord'Sith have little defense against Confessors," he protested. "You and your Sisters might do well to concentrate on other projects."
He turned away, but Dahlia was determined. She was going to the Confessors' stronghold, and she was going to find Cara and drag her home, tie her up and torture her until she liked Dahlia again…even if Dahlia had to take apart the Palace at Aydindril stone by stone—and kill every last Confessor, to do it.
The attack, when it came, was very sudden. Kahlan was with Cara and Flur, in the Great Hall—she was helping Cara bundle Flur up in a cloak so that the three of them could go out to the village, and maybe down to walk by the stream.
There was no warning.
Flurries of movement eddied and flowed around Kahlan, Cara and Flur, as the Confessors' Guard fought red-uniformed D'Haran soldiers—Kahlan pulled Cara, who had Flur close in her arms, her hand going to her hip for a weapon that wasn't there, away toward the secret passage that would take them inside the Wizard's Keep.
Kahlan wanted to stay and defend her home, but she, like all the Confessors, had known someday Darken Rahl would send his soldiers to take their Palace. And when that day came, it was a Confessor's duty to protect the Book of Counted Shadows and give it to the Seeker, who was rumored to yet live, on the other side of the impassable Boundary.
Kahlan had no time to wonder why Darken Rahl had struck now, or to mourn her lack of experience. The Seeker had been born during the Brennidon Massacre, which meant he was only seventeen, surely too young to defeat the great and terrible tyrant, Darken Rahl.
Kahlan herself felt much too young and unprepared for the task before her. But there was no help for that.
She ignored the practical voice in the back of her mind, whispering that there was no way she could take a toddler with her on her perilous journey to the Boundary—where could Cara and Flur go? Kahlan had said they were safe—was she forsworn?
Cara was running up the stairs instead of down toward the passage, and Kahlan followed, against her better judgment. What did Cara think she was doing?
Kahlan met Dennee on the stair, and the sisters exchanged a brief flurry of words—"The Book!"—"I'll be there as soon as I can—find the Seeker!"
Then Dennee was gone, and Cara was in her bedchamber, her leather satchel open on the bed—
Kahlan caught a glimpse of red leather, and suddenly everything fell into place.
She inhaled, sharply, and snatched Flur from where she was crawling toward the edge of the bed. "Mama, Kay-Kay!" Flur protested, but Kahlan couldn't answer.
Cara was a Mord'Sith.
How, how could this be? She felt herself reliving all the moments of deep connection they'd shared—she'd told Cara more about her true feelings than anyone else, been closer to her than anyone, except perhaps Dennee—
But there was no time to dwell on the impossible paradox of all Kahlan knew of the Mord'Sith, and all she knew of Cara. There were soldiers in the room now, and Kahlan reached for the daggers no Confessor was ever without, knowing she had to protect Flur but not sure how—
Cara moved seamlessly, and Kahlan admired her skill as a warrior even as her heart rebelled against loving a Mord'Sith. She was a Confessor, and—love? Kahlan gasped, as the strength of her feelings threatened to overwhelm her—
She parried the soldiers' blows, wishing for a hand free so she could Confess one—
And then there was another Mord'Sith, this one with a too-innocent face and a light brown braid—
"Dahlia!" Cara gasped—
"Hello, Cara," said the Mord'Sith, and then she snapped her fingers, and more Mord'Sith appeared behind her, surrounding Cara, taking her weapons—
Kahlan's heart was in her mouth, but she knew what Cara would ask of her if she could—she would say Kahlan should leave her and save Flur. But Kahlan couldn't make herself leave Cara to these Mord'Sith's tender mercies.
She threw caution to the winds, reached for Mistress Dahlia's throat—
She didn't even feel the blow that rendered her unconscious.
"Why did you do it? Why did you leave me?" Dahlia asked as if she really wanted to know, but Cara wasn't fooled.
She hung in her chains, watching her once-lover, and thought furiously.
Her only chance was to convince Dahlia her re-training had worked. She'd been here for days now, and she was sure, with the pragmatic fatalism that characterized the Mord'Sith, that Flur was here, too. Lord Rahl had taken her daughter back, and now Cara would have lost her influence—he was doubly likely to leave Flur's training in Denna's hands.
She couldn't let that happen—Cara refused to even think of whether Kahlan, too, had been captured. Surely she would've had the sense to run—Lord Rahl wanted a Confessor captive. He sought to understand their power.
But Kahlan was too precious to lose—Cara couldn't bear the thought of Lord Rahl breaking Kahlan.
"I was wrong," Cara said, hanging her head. Her long hair tickled her bruised and bloody skin. "Mistress, please forgive me."
Dahlia caught Cara's chin in a punishing grip. "I don't believe you," she said, staring into Cara's eyes.
"Mistress, please…" Cara repeated. "I…regret, leaving you. I—"
Dahlia put a finger to Cara's lips. "I want to believe you…" she said, eyes narrowed. "But how do I know you understand the depth of your mistake? I think you'd better prove it to me, don't you?"
Cara had expected that; she nodded, not looking Dahlia in the eye. "It would be my honor, Mistress."
Dahlia let her out of the chains, eased her to the floor…
Cara thought about Kahlan, thought about all she'd wanted for them…she still didn't believe they could never be because of Kahlan's Confessor powers, but perhaps Kahlan would not forgive her deceit…had she not always known the Confessors would kill her if they learned her identity?
Perhaps this was where she really belonged—and Cara kissed Dahlia, closed her eyes, and tried to forget how Kahlan's lips had felt against her own…
Kahlan watched with numbed emotions as the wizard Giller swirled magical liquid in little jars. The mixture was made from her blood, along with a host of other ingredients Kahlan wished she didn't know.
It had only been a few days, but she felt like she'd been here an eternity. Giller's experiments were more random than torture would have been, and part of Kahlan almost wished the Mord'Sith would come.
As a Confessor, her power might yet reach them, for all she was bound against a pentagram while Giller worked his experiments. Kahlan had heard of Confessors who had gone into the Con Dar, the Blood Rage, though she had never experienced it.
The Con Dar might well be her last hope, anyway; Cara was a Mord'Sith, which meant—which must mean—everything Kahlan felt for Cara she felt for a lie, a trick designed to gain her sympathy.
She had no idea what had become of Flur, and her only consolation was the thought that Dennee had got away with the Book. If Dennee could find the Seeker, young or not, he might be able to defeat Darken Rahl, like the prophecy said.
Kahlan doubted she would be here to see it, but that didn't matter. It couldn't.
Without warning, Darken Rahl entered the room. Kahlan, almost blinded by her hatred for this man who had caused so much suffering, did not at first see the guard or the three Mord'Sith who entered behind him.
"Well?" Rahl asked brusquely, and Giller handed him a vial of magical liquid.
"This will make you immune to Confession, my Lord," he said obsequiously. "And, with the aid of these ingenuous artifacts," he held up a set of long silver needles that Kahlan found familiar from the illustrations in Magda Searus's Commentary on Being a Confessor—"I believe I can transfer the Confessor's powers to you."
Kahlan's eyes widened in terror. Not for herself—for the Midlands, bound under an all-powerful Confessor Lord Rahl. This couldn't be happening!
It got worse; one of the Mord'Sith was unfamiliar to Kahlan, but one was the one who'd known Cara, from the Confessors' Palace—Mistress Dahlia—and in her arms was Flur, whose eyes were wide—and the other was Cara.
Dressed in the red leather and braid traditional for the Mord'Sith, Kahlan had difficulty recognizing Cara. Was this the same girl she'd fallen in love with?
And how, how could Cara have willingly returned to these people—"Cara!" Kahlan cried desperately, as Lord Rahl drained the first vial of anti-Confession potion. "What have you done?"
Cara didn't answer at first, merely rolling her eyes—but then, under Mistress Dahlia's questioning scrutiny, she said contemptuously, "I have returned to my true family. I won't believe your lies anymore, Confessor."
Kahlan felt as though she'd been punched in the stomach; it hurt to try and reach this distant Cara, but she couldn't help herself. "What about Flur?" she asked harshly. "I suppose Darken Rahl is her father—no wonder you wouldn't talk about it."
"She will grow and learn to serve the House of Rahl as I do," Cara replied impassively.
"Indeed." Darken Rahl was impatient, gesturing Giller to begin the ritual that would steal Kahlan's power forever.
But Kahlan, horrified by the sense of Cara's words, was no longer paying attention to him. How could Cara even consider letting beautiful, innocent Flur be tortured and twisted into a Mord'Sith? Already, the child was quiet in the presence of so much tension.
Kahlan could not bear the thought that someday, Flur's eyes would be as hard and bitter as Cara's were right now—she felt betrayed. How dare Cara come to her for help and lead her into this nightmare?
Something snapped in Kahlan's blood, and she shook against her bonds. She felt hot fury dancing through her skin, bursting from her in the white fire of Confession—
Giller and Darken Rahl were immune, of course, and Flur was directly in between Kahlan and Mistress Dahlia. But the guard and the dark Mord'Sith were Kahlan's in moments, and then Kahlan felt her rage engulf Cara—
Too late, she tried to rein it in—Cara had betrayed her, but Kahlan couldn't stand the thought that she was killing her—
Too late, she remembered what she had answered to the Mother Confessor. The duties of a Confessor included dispensing justice—but also mercy.
What had she done?
Cara felt the strange, electric power of Confession tug at her, trying to find purchase in her soul—she waited for it to kill her.
This was only just, after all. She could not deny the truth of Kahlan's reproach. She had not protected Flur, and she had dragged Kahlan into her mess. And hadn't she always known the Confessors would kill her if they learned the truth?
But the wave of Confession passed, and Cara felt no different—save for a tingling in her limbs that she associated more with pleasure than with pain.
She glanced at the anti-Confession vials. Had she somehow drank one and forgot?
But no—the idea that Lord Rahl would give the precious potion away was laughable.
Cara stood still, trying to absorb her strange immunity. How could this be?
She was roused from her abstraction only when Lord Rahl pulled Dahlia, still holding Flur, roughly forward. "Stop fighting," he ordered Kahlan, "or I'll kill her." And he put a knife to Flur's throat.
Cara saw the horror in Kahlan's eyes, felt the guard and Mistress Alina back away, toward where she stood frozen—
"Might as well," Lord Rahl was saying now. "She's been nothing but a nuisance, this little brat of mine. Making my best Mord'Sith leave me, upsetting my captive Confessor…what do you think, Mistress Dahlia?"
Cara, picturing Flur's fear, seeing it reflected in Kahlan's eyes, did not hesitate. Nor did she wait for Dahlia's answer.
Smoothly, silently, she stepped behind Lord Rahl and pressed her agiel to his heart.
He crumpled to the ground at once, knife clattering on the stone tile—those Kahlan had Confessed now had a hold on Giller—Cara pulled Flur from Dahlia's arms, murmuring soothingly as her daughter started to cry. There was a tiny drop of blood on Flur's throat.
Cara put one booted foot on Lord Rahl's exposed neck and broke it, in one economical movement. Let Dahlia try and revive him now.
Instead, Dahlia, her face an unreadable mask, bent and picked up the knife.
She was by Kahlan's side before Cara could reach her—Cara met Kahlan's eyes, an agonizing realization that there was no way she could reach Kahlan in time—Dahlia would kill her, and all Cara could do was stand here—
"Kay-Kay!" Flur was worried, too—
But Dahlia did not sink the knife into Kahlan's skin. Instead, she cut away Kahlan's bonds, until the Confessor slumped unwillingly against her, and then, when Kahlan could stand without assistance, Dahlia knelt before Cara.
"Lord Rahl is dead," she said. "Your daughter is his heir." And she looked up at Flur's bright eyes and recited, "Mistress Rahl guide me. Mistress Rahl teach me. Mistress Rahl protect me. In your light I thrive. In your mercy I am sheltered. In your wisdom I am humbled. I live only to serve. My life is yours."
Flur clapped her hands. "Mis'twess Wahl!" she lisped, and Dahlia bent her head further, as though determined to bear a great weight.
Over Flur's head, Cara exchanged an eyebrows-raised look at Kahlan. How could their fortunes have changed so quickly?
And what were they going to do now?
Things happened quickly, after that—Kahlan could scarcely believe how quickly. Cara was declared Regent of D'Hara until Flur was old enough to take on her role as Mistress Rahl—Kahlan could not remember a time when D'Hara had been ruled by a woman, but the Mord'Sith at least seemed to feel any Rahl was better than no Rahl.
Kahlan was relieved just to get a warm bath and a bed, but she couldn't help fearing that Cara wouldn't want her to stay. What she'd done down in the dungeon haunted her, almost as much as did the question of how Cara had proven immune to her powers. She'd been watching; Cara had not drunk one of the anti-Confession potions.
More, Kahlan mistrusted Dahlia, and found herself worrying for Flur's safety, in spite of the respect bordering on reverence the toddler's new status inspired in all the inhabitants of the People's Palace.
She went into Flur's room to say good-night, and found Cara just straightening up from tucking Flur in.
"I'm sorry I lied to you," Cara said softly.
Kahlan saw her set aside one of the vials of ant-Confession potion, and at once was assailed by doubt. Had Cara drunk it? Did that mean she was or wasn't immune to Kahlan's power?
Then she saw the bottle on the table, and frowned. "You think I'd ever hurt Flur?" she gasped.
Cara glanced from the bottle to the empty vial. "You, never," she said. "But maybe someday Flur'll get a Confessor baby sister, and I didn't want to take chances."
"Baby sister?" Kahlan asked, heart melting at once. If Flur and any daughter of Kahlan's were to be sisters, then—"You mean you want me to stay? I tried to Confess you—"
Cara shrugged. "It didn't work," she said practically.
"Why not, though?" Kahlan asked, still puzzled.
Cara stepped forward, and a beam of moonlight fell on her gleaming leathers. Kahlan no longer felt a thrill of terror at the sight of them—while Cara stood before her, she could only be comforted. "I don't know," Cara whispered, reaching out to touch Kahlan's cheek. "Maybe because I love you?"
Kahlan's heart lifted, impossible joy making her knees weak. She pulled Cara into a searing, passionate kiss, not caring anymore for what the other Confessors might think of her for loving a Mord'Sith, not caring that she was a stranger in a land that might never quite accept her, not caring that Mistress Dahlia and Cara obviously had a Past, because Cara was in her arms, and she couldn't Confess her…
"So," Cara asked hesitantly, pulling away to tug gently at the laces of Kahlan's dress, "Do you…want to stay and help me rule D'Hara?"
Kahlan's breath caught, her mind instantly full of peace treaties and farming projects, all the things she had been trained to oversee, and she smiled. "Do I?" she teased. "You'd need a dragon to chase me away."
Regent of D'Hara…Kahlan thought about how Cara had gotten this particular job, and frowned. "I don't understand, though," she said. "You were so brave—but the way you killed Darken Rahl, just like that—the prophecy says only the Seeker can kill him."
The Seeker—whom even now Dennee urgently sought, not knowing they didn't need him anymore…
"That doesn't make Lord Rahl any less dead," Cara shrugged. "Besides, I don't believe in prophecies."
Then she glanced at Flur's cradle, and added significantly, "If you'd like to continue this in my new quarters, I can teach you a good deal about the inverse of pain."
Kahlan wrinkled her nose, trying to figure that out. "The inverse of pain…pleasure?" she asked, and then blushed hotly. "Oh. Yes—please," she moaned, and Cara tugged her closer, out the door and into an adjacent bedchamber—
"Oh," Kahlan gasped again, when Cara pushed her gently down on the bed—
Cara didn't know what was coming next. She was Regent of a war-torn country, in love with a Confessor, and mother to the next ruler of D'Hara. She didn't trust her Sisters around Flur, because what if the idea of training Flur had not died with Lord Rahl? She knew Dahlia felt betrayed, knew Denna would be furious, knew there would be challenges that, as yet, she couldn't imagine…
But with Kahlan by her side, Cara had no doubt they could meet those challenges. Together.
And Cara buried her hands in Kahlan's glorious hair and, for the first time, thanked the Creator she had given birth to a daughter. Flur had stolen her heart, and Flur had led her to Kahlan—and Cara couldn't imagine life without the Confessor who had taken her soul, Confessed or not.
She was happier than she had ever imagined possible. Maybe the Creator didn't hate Mord'Sith, after all.