This is for the winner of my prompt fic auction on helpthesouth . brontefanatic generously donated $25 and gave me the prompt "Denna is caught and brought back to Darken after the events of Bloodline." The cover art for this story is available on my profile page.
Title: Taste of Traitor on Her Tongue
Fandom: Legend of the Seeker
Warnings: Fantasy violence; torture; sensuality
Summary:The definition of traitor depends on who you believe is king. Denna is caught, and Denna escapes, but she is not free. Darken/Denna, Darken/Cara, Denna/Constance, hints of Richard/Denna.
Note: I wrote the poem 'Traitor' to go with this story. Please do not reuse it without crediting and notifying me. Please do not try to pass it off as your own.
Taste of Traitor on Her Tongue
Traitor beats your heart, Traitor pumps your veins,
Traitor sighs your breath, Traitor is your name.
Did you think your king would not find you?
Did you hope your blood be not spilled?
For the deeds you've done and
The insult you've dealt
You've a place on Hangman's Hill.
They came in the night.
They came on the wings of birds.
Denna had known they would come for her. Had known that she could not hide from Darken Rahl forever. She had hoped only to escape his notice long enough.
Long enough for Richard Cypher to drive the Sword of Truth through his black heart.
She had not known that she was important enough for shapeshifter magic. Had not thought her betrayal that great a blow to her master's pride.
Darken Rahl was her master still, though she ran far from his side. It was still his will, fear of his wrath that shaped every decision she made.
Denna rolled from her pallet as hawks flew through the open shutters of her tiny attic room, pulling the Agiel she always slept with from beneath her pillow. She was nude, her blond hair unbound, but she was also cornered. The desperate energy of fear made up for any disadvantage her lack of armor represented.
The first two Mord'Sith shifted back into their human forms in a puff of black magic, their Agiels already screaming towards her. Denna swept the legs of one, stretching up to parry a blow from the other in the same moment. And then the third and fourth of her attackers regained their human shape, and there were gloved hands in her hair, pulling her head back, too many bodies pressing close for there to be room to maneuver. Denna struggled as each of her former Sisters secured one of her limbs, her knuckles white on her Agiel.
She refused to drop it.
They shook her, then turned her, spread-eagled, to face the window as the largest of the hawks landed on the windowsill and exploded into a cloud of glittering black. Predatorily graceful, Mistress Cara stepped from the windowsill to the boards of the attic floor, her form blurring from hawk to woman.
"Denna," she said, a wealth of meaning in that one utterance.
"Cara," Denna returned, giving such a mighty heave against her captors that the Mord'Sith holding her right leg was forced into a stumbling step.
"You know why we have come."
Hair falling into her eyes, obscuring her view of Cara's face, Denna answered, "Lord Rahl sent you. I'm honored."
Her skull was ringing with the force of Cara's striking fist before she had completely finished speaking.
Blood trickled from her lips.
"Traitor," Cara spat, the word like poison on her tongue.
Denna had seen that look in Cara's eyes before. It was a mask of death, a promise of pain. It was conviction of purpose.
"Then kill me," she returned, black hope in her heart.
Cara smiled, and something inside Denna quailed as her worst fears were realized. "You know better than that, Denna," Cara mocked as she moved close. "For your crimes, death will mean the end of your suffering, not the beginning."
And then she pressed her Agiel to Denna's temple, watching as veins painted themselves along Denna's skin.
Denna did not drop her own Agiel until darkness took her vision.
She did not wake all at once. Rather, consciousness slowly returned to Denna a piece at a time. First she heard the drip of water and the scratching, scurrying of creatures in the dark, making their way into her mind. Then she smelled mildew and earth, and realized her toes were cold. Her vision was the last to return, fuzzy and dim at the edges, but improving the longer her eyes were open.
Whether she had been dead and resurrected, or merely knocked into an unnatural sleep, Denna did not know. She had no memory of dreams or afterlife to guide her.
She sat up, and the world spun.
Still naked, and in a cell, she observed after mastering the lingering pain in her body. She was still Mord'Sith.
A small brown shape scurried through the dark.
There were rats in her cell. Bile rose in her throat as she pulled her arms and legs to her chest, remembering well her days as a little girl spent in the very same position. The rats moved closer and Denna hissed at them, stomping her feet. It scared them, kept them at bay. But it would not deter them forever.
It hadn't then, and it wouldn't now.
Eventually, she would have to sleep. Whether she willed it or not, her eyes would fall closed. And then the rats would come, and they would gnaw her fingers, tear at her eyelids, burrow and nip at the soft, warm flesh between her legs.
And Denna would scream. She would scream, but not break, just as she had then. She would scream and know he listened, cry and know he watched.
"Are you there?" she called out now, hating the quiver in her voice.
"Denna," Darken Rahl stepped from thin air, a small two fingered gesture removing his spell of illusion. "How well you know me."
Denna heard someone laugh and realized it was herself. "Lord Rahl," she bowed her head.
He paced to her cell, his stride as smooth and gliding as Denna remembered. She shifted to her knees, crawling across the dirt and stones to press herself to the bars. Lord Rahl lowered one of his hands, and she turned her cheek into it, tears in her eyes. The bars were cold, and his hand was warm.
His touch repelled her even as she was drawn to it. He was a malevolent lodestone, a twisted irony of nature – the beautiful flower that poisoned with its thorns.
"Am I still your lord?" he asked as she pressed her lips to his fingers. Denna remembered the throaty purr of his voice, the velvet covered steel he used to bring both pain and pleasure.
"You are my lord," she answered, looking up to meet his eyes as tears left tracks of salt down her face.
Because I can never escape you.
Lord Rahl had wielded the Agiel that broke her. Late at night when she closed her eyes to sleep, all she saw was his face. Being close to him, in his presence, was like standing by open flames. Denna felt herself – what made her Denna – begin to burn away.
Until all that was left was Darken Rahl and a tiny whisper of her voice calling desperately in the darkness of her soul, a fading star in the night sky.
Darken Rahl frowned, his nails biting into Denna's cheek. He leaned down to look her in the eyes, so close that she could feel his breath and the hairs of his mustache tickling against her lips, "Then why is it, Denna, that the men who were able to return to me told me you planned to keep the Power of Orden for yourself?"
His voice was soft, sending a shiver down Denna's spine. A whispering Lord Rahl meant more pain than one who thundered his rage. It meant that he was calm enough to think of a greater, more agonizing punishment than a simple blade plunged into the neck.
"My lord, please," Denna squeaked, clutching at his hand. "Open my cell door. I will make this up to you. I will show you the greatest pleasure, my lord. Lord Rahl, please…"
"Why is it," he continued as if she hadn't spoken, "that my sister was able to invade my palace using passages only the Mord'Sith and I are meant to know? Why, Denna," Darken choked, his eyes overbright, "have you betrayed me?"
The words hung in the air.
Denna's blood rushed in her ears.
In that moment, she would have given him anything he wanted. Her heart leapt into her throat at the dull cast to his eyes, the pain in his words. Closing her eyes, she crossed the small distance between them, kissing him through the bars of her cell.
He moaned into her lips, pulling her up with him as he stood. His nails left little half-moons along her jaw. She reached through the bars, trailed her hands along his sides. The velvet and brocade of his robes scratched against the sensitive flesh of her breasts, pulled stirrings of arousal from her almost against her will. A small voice in the hollow of her heart screamed that she should steal a weapon, for surely he wore one on his belt. But the voice was overcome, swallowed by the hunger of the blue Rahl eyes inside her, the man child that she knew craved her affection.
And then fire exploded along her chest, and she gasped, couldn't breathe as lines of pain screamed down her body, followed by a shudder of perverse pleasure.
Lord Rahl stepped back, and she could see the Agiel in his hand.
"It's yours," he turned it in the light, admiring it. "Would you like it back?"
Denna licked lips red from his kiss, unsure how to answer.
They stood in silence, Darken's gaze upon Denna, and hers upon the ground.
"I never thought to see betrayal from you," Darken broke the quiet at last. "Failure, perhaps, but betrayal…"
"I would not betray you, my lord," a new voice sounded from the arch of the door.
"Cara," Darken breathed her name, not needing to turn to know that it was she who stood at his back, strode down the dungeon steps to place a comforting hand on his shoulder.
Pressing herself into his side, Cara ran one gloved hand along Darken's jaw, turning his face to hers for a lingering kiss. Darken allowed her to soothe him, his eyes sinking closed.
Cara kept her eyes open, looking directly into Denna's.
Denna looked away.
"You are so tense, my lord," Cara said against Darken's lips. He threaded his free hand into her hair as he turned his body to bring their hips flush together. "Let me relax you," she continued, murmuring into his neck.
"We will leave Denna to the rats," he murmured back, following Cara up the dungeon steps.
A wave of his hand doused the light of the torches.
Traitor rots your breast, Traitor your soul declaims,
Traitor crawls your flesh, Traitor is your name.
To what end did you flee that night?
Did you think to escape your own deeds?
For the dishonor you've brought
And the madness you've wrought
On your flesh will demons feed.
How long Denna huddled in the dark as the rats tore at her flesh, she did not know. It could have been days, weeks, months, or seconds. Time lost meaning without light, without hope, with only meals of moldy slop to mark that a world outside her hell still existed.
She had told them, the Seeker and his followers, told them that a fate worse than anything they could do to her waited in the arms of Darken Rahl.
She had asked them to kill her, and Richard Cypher told her to run.
Denna hated him.
If only she hadn't tried to break her chains, the hold Lord Rahl had upon her heart.
If only she had never been chained in the first place.
If only she had never tried to train the Seeker, who looked at her with love in his eyes and told her he didn't want her to feel pain. Who had made her want more.
Denna hated him.
She wasn't sure who she was referring to.
There was a scuffle in the void that had become her existence. Denna backed to the stone wall, fearing the rats had already returned.
And then there was a light, a soft light, but after all the time in darkness it scorched Denna's eyes with its brightness, its radiance, making them water as spots swam before her vision.
She thought at first that Lord Rahl had returned to torment her, to break her again. She hoped he was there to kill her.
And then her vision cleared, and Denna saw light reflected on Mord'Sith leathers and a long black braid.
"Constance?" she asked. Her voice was unrecognizable, even to her, hoarse from screams and thirst.
"Mistress," Constance replied. There was the sound of a key turning in a lock, and then the creak of metal as Constance pulled the door of Denna's cell open. "Can you stand?"
"What are you doing here?" Denna asked, not trusting that this was real. An illusion spun by Lord Rahl, or the conjuring of her own mind, or even a trick, with Constance as a willing player – all three were possibilities, and techniques Denna had used herself, in the past.
Constance knelt, dropping a pair of saddlebags next to Denna. She wedged her torch in the bars of the cell, then dug through the packs, first handing Denna a water skin, then recovering a stone jar of horse liniment.
Denna fell upon the water skin, drinking so fast she nearly made herself sick, water gushing past her cheeks to run down her neck. Constance rubbed horse liniment into the bites and sores left by the rats, her lips twitching down as she saw just how much muscle and skin they had torn away.
"You will need to find a healer quickly," Constance said into Denna's ear as she bandaged the worst of her mistress' wounds.
"Why?" Denna croaked again, more dazed than she was just a moment before as her stomach swelled with water when it had had nothing for days. As her pain dulled, so did her mind.
Constance frowned, then retrieved a sachet of herbs from the saddle bags, breaking one beneath Denna's nose.
Denna's nose wrinkled as her eyes cleared. She leaned away from Constance's hand.
"Wake Flower," she said, and Constance nodded.
With Constance's help, Denna dressed in Mord'Sith leathers, ignoring the pain of her sores. Constance braided her hair as Denna adjusted the buckles of the leathers for the best fit. She could tell that these were not her leathers, but were most likely a set of the first reds a newly made Mord'Sith was given.
At last, Denna stood, still dirty and weak, but armored for the first time in… how long?
It was a good feeling. All that was missing was an Agiel.
She bent to pick up the saddle bags, but Constance beat her to it, tying them closed and then standing to lay them gently across Denna's shoulders so that her hands would be free.
Then, before Denna could demand, or try to take it, Constance drew her Agiel.
And laid it flat on her palms, offering it to Denna.
Surprised, Denna flexed her hand, then took the proffered weapon, sliding it into the empty sheathe at her side.
"Remember to find a healer quickly," Constance said breathily, meeting Denna's eyes. "Before infection sets in."
Denna placed her hand on the Agiel strapped to her side, staring at Constance with a puzzled frown.
"It is the one you used to train me," Constance said, eyes on the Agiel. "Do you remember?" There was almost sorrow in her voice.
"How will you explain it missing?"
"I came to see you. You surprised me. You were crazed, and strong, and I was overcome."
"You will be punished."
"Yes," Constance agreed, and there was something in the way she said the word that said she would gladly take any punishment, any pain, if it meant that Denna would live, and be free.
Denna drew Constance's Agiel, the familiar whine of power soothing to her ears as pain pulsed up her arm.
"Mistress, even though it isn't returned, I have always – " Constance began.
Denna silenced her with a kiss.
Then knocked her to the ground, cracking her skull and breaking one of her legs with a vicious stomp at the joint of the knee.
"Thank you, Constance," Denna said into the quiet of the cell.
She left the torch. The light would give Constance some protection from the rats.
Traitor cracks your bones, Traitor your skin's aflame,
Traitor curls your tongue, Traitor is your name.
You think you be not a betrayer?
Your tongue twists with beautiful lies.
From empire torn
Blood Oath foresworn
You're damned in your own eyes.
Denna had never thought to see Mistress Cara again.
And yet, months after escaping the People's Palace, here they were, face to face.
And Cara was following the Seeker. Their master's killer.
Remembering Cara's boasts, her look of triumph the last time they had met, Denna smiled.
"I serve the true Lord Rahl," Cara asserted, something dead in her eyes.
"Traitor," Denna whispered, and it was bittersweet on her tongue, the cloying taste of a heavy red wine.
Thank you for reading! Feel free to review, con-crit (as in you tell me how to make something better, not just that you don't like it) welcome!