A/N: I wrote this short fic for an lj community disussion about Darken Rahl's mother. Since we know nothing about her, I thought it would be interesting to imagine what she might have been like and about her relationship with her son.
In writing this I drew on some theories set out in Lathe by vorquellyn and in Blood from a Stone by pristineungift , but put a slightly different spin on them, as well as incorporating my own ideas.
While this story is set in the AU universe of Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth - my WIP chaptered story, knowledge or familiarity with that story is totally unecessary. The story can be read on its own terms, although it fits into the longer fic - sort of a missing scene, as it were.
All the reader needs to know is that this fic is set in the "Reckoning" AU, and that Darken and Kahlan have a daughter instead of a son.
Darken might seem a little out of character here, but in my opinion, he would be gentler with his own child than we ever see him on the show. After all - he seemed to care about Nicholas. Under certain circumstances, even Darken Rahl might let his guard down for a moment.
Darken Rahl strode down the corridor of the most securely guarded wing of the People's Palace, ignoring the watchful Mord'Sith and soldiers who stood constant guard over the royal treasure chamber. Although the guards could be relied upon to deal with anyone stupid enough to venture into this forbidden area, the entry itself remained protected by magical barriers that only he, as the ruling Rahl, could pass.
Entering the gigantic room, Darken wasted no time gazing at the staggering riches on all sides. The wealth accumulated by his family over the past three thousand years held no interest for him.
He had come here for treasure more precious than gold or jewels. A relic more valuable to him than even the priceless scrolls and volumes of arcane magic,
If only he could still find it.
Darken had not been in this chamber for years, but he thought he could still remember where he had once hidden the small chest.
There it was!
Smiling, he carefully lifted the intricately carved box from the bottom of a large trunk. Although meticulously crafted, deep scratches marred the lovely grain of the wood. The lid hung lopsided off a rusty cracked hinge.
Darken's smile faded as he recalled the night he found the chest in his mother's rooms so many years ago, broken and thrown aside in the greedy scramble after her death. Just as she had been broken and thrown aside. All of her most valuable gems, all of her dowry, looted by his father, either for his own use, or given as a trinket to one of his many women.
But the small boy she left behind didn't care about the baubles hungered after by his father's court vultures. He only wanted the chest considered worthless by all others.
After he rid the world of Panis Rahl and assumed power, Darken made inquiries into his mother's family. He discovered that the small chest had been hand carved by artisans in her native country. She brought it with her to D'Hara at the time of her marriage, travelling over such a long distance, from a land and a family she would never see again.
The chest was all Darken had left. His memories of his mother were fragile and elusive. Whenever he tried to reach for her in his mind she always escaped, leaving only tantalizing fragments behind.
The smell of her hair against his face when she kissed him goodnight.
But had she ever kissed him? He wished he could be sure.
The sound of her voice.
Had she ever sung to him? He couldn't remember. It seemed as if she had.
The rustle of her skirts.
The touch of her fingers brushing his hair out of his eyes.
Her eyes, not the crystal blue of his father's or his own, but brown, alive with warmth and….love.
But had she really looked at him like that, or was it just what he wanted to believe?
Pulling himself out of his reverie, Darken left the room and returned to his chambers. Placing the chest on a small table, he carefully peeled back the velvet padding under the lid. A finely woven chain with an amber pendant lay under the cloth. The golden-brown stone set in gold was lovely in its simplicity.
Darken knew nothing about the pendant's history, only that it was very old. He had dream-like memories of his mother wearing it around her neck. It must have been a family heirloom passed down from mother to daughter for generations.
But no daughters had been born to the House of Rahl in centuries. His mother had not been handed over to Panis Rahl to bear daughters. Her purpose was to give him a son.
And so she had, Darken reflected bitterly. A son born of twisted magic. A son unable to protect his own mother from the brutality and indifference of the man she married.
Darken was seven years old when he first learned about the Prophecy. That memory was crystal clear. His father's hateful, gloating words still echoed in his mind.
Panis Rahl intended to sire another son with a new woman.
A son worthy of his great father.
A son destined to murder his older brother.
Darken always wondered if his mother managed to discovered his father's plan. She died mysteriously shortly after Panis revealed the prophecy to his son. Despite his efforts, Darken could never uncover the circumstances of her death. Did she argue with her husband? Did she threaten to take Darken and leave? Did she make the attempt to do so?
He would never know, but he wanted to believe she tried to protect her son.
Darken remembered the day he was turned away from his mother's chambers.
Your mother is very ill. She can't see anyone.
You will only upset her.
When Darken was finally allowed entry, she was gone. There had been no chance to say goodbye. The rooms were bare and deserted, stripped of any item considered valuable. A broken chest and an unwanted son the only things left to remind the world that his mother had ever existed.
His father never showed the slightest sign of grief or regret as he continued to boast to Darken about the man who would end his life.
His little brother.
The bringer of death.
In the end, Darken proved his father wrong. He took vengeance on Panis Rahl and destroyed his younger brother. He ruthlessly suppressed that helpless child who occasionally emerged from the shadows to taunt him about what he had not been able to do.
Darken could not bring his mother back, but now, almost fifty years after her death, her son intended to make sure that her small legacy would be passed on to his own child.
Rachel would be twelve years old tomorrow.
Darken had not only taken the throne of D'Hara. He conquered more lands than his father ever dreamt of. His enemies were defeated. Immune to confession, he took the Mother Confessor herself to his bed. With her at his side the land was at peace.
Kahlan Amnell's hatred was the one obstacle Darken never overcame. But even loathing him, she gave him the one thing he desired above all others.
Something beyond price.
A second chance.
Darken killed his and Cara's infant son out of fear and jealousy. He would have killed any son born of his marriage to Kahlan. A male Confessor would never grow up to destroy D'Hara, or to ursurp his father's throne.
But – a daughter. He could allow himself to love a daughter. And, most astounding of all, she loved him.
Giving in to a rare impulse, Darken picked up the chest and walked to his daughter's chambers.
On the morrow, Rachel's birthday would be celebrated in lavish Rahl fashion. In addition to the usual jewels, gold and other outrageous and extravagant tributes that would be proffered, both Darken and Kahlan planned on giving their daughter more personal gifts.
Kahlan, knowing her child's love of music and stories, painstakingly, in her beautiful handwriting, recorded the words of every ancient ballad and legend from the Midlands she retained from memory, all on the creamiest parchment and bound in the finest leather.
Darken, knowing his daughter's love of history and books, was giving Rachel an ancient volume extolling the exploits of past D'Haran heroes. Written by an author dead for centuries, the book contained beautiful illuminated drawings. It was the only such volume in existence.
But tonight's gift was far more precious. A gift to be given quietly, in a moment shared only between father and daughter.
Standing outside the door to Rachel's rooms, flanked by the men who guarded her safety, Darken hesitated. Slightly embarrassed by his own eagerness, he began to doubt.
What if she didn't like it?
What if she didn't understand how much it meant to him?
No. He knew his daughter. She would love and appreciate this small relic as much as her father did.
After Darken's presence was announced, Margaret, Rachel's nurse and companion since infancy, came to the door. The formalities must be observed. It would never do to enter without giving the child time to prepare herself.
The poor old woman appeared flustered, confused – and frightened.
The normal reaction of everyone when Darken entered a room.
"My Lord, forgive me. We did not expect…. to what do we owe…this is such a rare…do you want me to get Rachel?" the woman finished helplessly, eyes widening in horror at the inexcusable breach of protocol. "I mean, do you want me to ask the princess to attend you?" she stammered.
"Yes, Margaret. Then please leave us. Nothing is wrong, but I wish to speak with my daughter alone." Darken almost laughed as the woman scurried into the adjoining room to obey. He could hear voices from the next room. Margaret's, anxious and urgent, then Rachel's, first sleepy, questioning, and then….happy.
He strolled over to the hearth, enjoying the warmth of the fire as Margaret helped Rachel get dressed. He never understood why it took so long for a woman to pull a simple dress over her head. But he was content to wait.
Finally hearing the door open, Darken turned to greet his daughter. One would never have known the girl had just been roused out of a sound sleep. She was practically dancing with excitement. She started to run to him, then remembered her manners and stopped. But no amount of formal etiquette could disguise the joy in her eyes at his unexpected visit.
Nothing could hide the love she felt for him.
Even after twelve years, Darken continued to be amazed that someone in the world wanted to share his company, who greeted him with spontaneous affection. It somehow made him feel small and unworthy, but also fiercely protective. He often puzzled over how this child could make him feel so weak and so strong at the same time.
Darken walked over to Rachel and brushed her forehead with his lips. Putting his arms around her, he led her over to the window seat. "I have an early birthday present for you, I wanted to give it to you myself before the celebration tomorrow."
"What is it? Can I see it?" Rachel asked quickly, then, remembering protocol again, lowered her voice with decorum. "That's wonderful, father," she said quietly. As lady-like as she tried to act, she fidgeted with anticipation as she waited for him to continue, the light from the fire illuminating her face.
Darken, amused at her struggle to contain herself, started to answer, but whatever he intended to say caught in his throat.
For an infinitesimal moment he could not speak, could not even move.
Just then, when his daughter turned her face toward him, he saw it. The slight quizzical tilt of her head, the curve of her jawline, the way her brow furrowed slightly in concentration.
Traits not inherited from either of her parents.
Although Rachel stood a few feet away, Darken did not mistake what he felt or what he heard - the touch of soft lips against his cheek, of fingers stroking his hair, the last faint notes of a song hanging in the air.
Looking at his daughter with new eyes, Darken finally believed in the truth of his fragmented memories.
He had been loved twice in his life, unselfishly and unconditionally.
He was still loved - by the child who embodied her grandmother's legacy in the flesh.
And – during this one night, for these few hours, in memory of what had once been given to him - Darken returned that love in full. With no conditions, no expectations, no fear, no calculation of cost or benefit. He knew the moment would pass. But for now he gave himself over to it.
And during this moment, however brief, Darken would give Rachel the small tangible relics of his mother's life. He would share with her all his memories of her grandmother. In her turn, Rachel would pass on the legacy to her daughter. The generational chain of mother to daughter would be re-woven, and Darken's mother, despite Panis Rahl's best efforts to erase her existence, would live on.