Characters: (in order of appearance) Kahlan, Mother Confessor Serena, Darken, Cara, Denna, Jennsen, Shota, Richard, Zedd
Pairings: Cara/Kahlan, Darken/Kahlan (implied Darken/Denna, Darken/Cara and Richard/Kahlan, in a way)
Warnings: torture, character death, dub con (and cruelty to an innocent river ;D)
Summary: In an AU inspired by this amazing vid (/watch?v=oRbWKQrZeAM) only child!Kahlan is tired of waiting for the Seeker to rescue the Midlands. But when Darken Rahl takes her prisoner, she must decide whether he and his people are really as evil as she's always believed. Cara has never had cause to question her loyalty to the House of Rahl - until she meets the Confessor Kahlan Amnell. And Darken, victorious, has nothing to fear but the Seeker, and everyone knows he's dead.
Your Sex and Your Diamonds
"Cowards die a thousand deaths. The valiant taste of death but once."
"We couldn't afford to pay Rahl's taxes," the man said shakily. He was pale, and had the slightly saggy look of someone who had lost a lot of weight quickly. His wife's eyes were hollowed out as though she hadn't been sleeping, and Kahlan thought she'd never seen anything more heartbreaking than the hopelessness in their children's faces. "The soldiers took everything we had. They burned down the library where I w—used to work. We've been on the road for weeks. Please, Mother Confessor—help us."
Kahlan, overwhelmed with sympathy, would have promised anything—but it had been said that she was too softhearted.
"You may remain in Aydindril, at the Confessors' Palace, until you find some gainful employment," ruled Mother Confessor Serena. "I'm sure with time, you and your family can build a new home here in the city."
The petitioners bowed and retreated—but Kahlan didn't think they'd found the help they needed.
"Rahl ran those people out of their home," she raged that afternoon in council with her sister-Confessors. "And who knows how many others—they deserve something more than a place to stay. They deserve justice."
The other Confessors looked uncomfortable with Kahlan's vehemence—she knew they still saw her as an outsider. After her mother's death when she was little more than a baby, Kahlan's father had raised her to Confess anyone he asked her to, regardless of their guilt or innocence, and command them to obey him as they would her. Even among the Sisters of the Light who had at last come to her rescue, Kahlan had been an outcast.
Yet she still couldn't understand how her sister-Confessors could let their mistrust weigh with them when lives were at stake. She was sworn to protect the people of the Midlands, as were they all.
"Ours is not to seek justice against Darken Rahl, tyrant though he may be," Mother Confessor Serena said placidly. "We dispense judgment and wisdom among the people. And when the need is truly urgent, the Seeker of Truth willreturn and kill Darken Rahl, as is prophesied."
The other Confessors were nodding, looking relieved. Kahlan couldn't believe that they had all forgotten that the Seeker had been dead for almost twenty years, killed in the Brennidon Massacre, and that the First Wizard, who was the only person who could name another, had disappeared around the same time. But even if the Seeker did return, Kahlan knew it would be too late for so many of Rahl's victims.
Kahlan pushed back her chair and stood, her white gown falling gracefully around her ankles. In that moment, it felt as symbolic, if not as practical, as armor. "I'm not waiting around for some mythical hero to come to our rescue," she announced. "It's time we took the fight to Rahl."
"But the prophecy—" Alana, one of Kahlan's few friends among her sister-Confessors, protested. "How can you succeed? Rahl will kill you!"
"Maybe," Kahlan admitted, "but at least I won't have given up and lethim destroy our homeland."
Alana, at least, looked faintly ashamed at this.
Kahlan waited, but none of the others moved to join her self-appointed quest. Did they underestimate Rahl's villainy, or were they afraid?
So be it—she had always been alone.
Kahlan left the council room, and later Aydindril, without once glancing back.
In three years, Kahlan Amnell had turned a few pockets of disorganized resistance to Darken's rule into an army.
She was a formidable opponent, but inexperienced and too trusting; she would need to get up earlier in the morning than this to defeat Darken.
"The Confessor camps tonight at the Whispering Ford," the traitor said, licking his lips nervously. The other Confessors were dead or in hiding—somehow, Kahlan Amnell had become The Confessor. "The bulk of the army is still on the north side, but her tent has already been moved to the south side. My Lord. You can—"
Darken held up a hand. He really couldn't permit this peasant to give him advice on how to ambush the Confessor and her army.
"Thank you," he said, absently rubbing his lips with the second finger of his right hand. "You have been most helpful."
"My Lord!" the man babbled. "Anything, my Lord!"
Darken held out a hand, smiling, and the Confessor's traitor took it in what Darken recognized as half terror and half slavish gratitude.
Darken was still smiling, rather abstractedly, when he had finished slitting open the peasant's wrist with his jeweled dagger (dipped in poison for efficiency), and was holding the dying man's arm over an inkwell that a servant obligingly proffered.
It's tonight, he wrote in the journeybook to Denna, his most prized Mord'Sith. Be prepared for my signal.
All went according to Lord Rahl's plan. Cara wasn't surprised: most things did.
Soldiers had the Confessor's small camp on the south side of the Ford surrounded before anyone from the Resistance stirred.
The fight was short and brutal. Cara, assigned to Lord Rahl's person as floating staff (half bodyguard, one quarter assistant, and one quarter audience—Lord Rahl was rather theatrical), grew bored quickly.
Denna was across the river, leading Lord Rahl's forces against the rest of the Confessor's army; Cara guessed wistfully that Denna was having a lot more fun than she was.
At last, though, the Confessor was carried to where Lord Rahl and Cara waited. At first, Cara was surprised the woman wasn't still fighting even in the face of defeat, but as they approached, she saw the blood just above the plunging neckline of the Confessor's ghostly white dress. She was dead.
At Lord Rahl's signal, the men set the Confessor's body on the ground. Lord Rahl withdrew a Rada'Han from a pocket of his robes and fastened it around the Confessor's neck, and only then motioned to Cara.
At once, she dropped to her knees and bent over that limp form. The Confessor was eerily beautiful even in death, thick dark hair spread across the grass, pale limbs elegant as a sculpture.
Cara willed the Breath of Life to her lips, from where it dwelt in the calm center of her soul. For a moment, everything else—even Lord Rahl—fell away, and it was as though Cara and the Confessor, Kahlan Amnell, were the only two people in the world.
The Confessor was one of those rare people who didn't come instantly awake and alert when the Breath of Life was administered; her breasts rose with her first inhalation as her wound closed, leaving only a faint scar over her heart. The color returned to her cheeks, transforming her from cool, ghostly corpse to warm, living woman.
Cara never grew tired of the magic of bringing someone back to life. Still, with the Confessor it seemed different, as though it were happening for the first time.
The Confessor's eyes opened just as the first rays of dawning light broke through the treetops above.
Kahlan surveyed the field of flowers before her with a strange sense of peace. Everything was tinged faintly with green, but she didn't need the almost subliminal reminder of the Underworld to know she was dead. She remembered everything, from her mother's death when she was far too little to understand why she must lose the loving care of both parents (for her father, unConfessed, had never again showed his love for her in either word or deed), to her ultimately unsuccessful campaign against the tyrannical Darken Rahl.
But others would take up the fight; Kahlan knew her death would not be in vain. "I'm finished," she said aloud, breaking the peaceful silence.
Not yet, Kahlan Amnell. The voice was nowhere and everywhere at once. Kahlan thought she should be terrified, but fear was impossible in this place. You are far from finished.
Suddenly, there was an insistent tugging through Kahlan's blood—she panicked as her soul was dragged back.
When she opened her eyes, she was on the ground, surrounded by her enemies. Darken Rahl and a blonde Mord'Sith were looking down at her unreadably.
Kahlan's first thought was an anguished regret for the lost peace of the Underworld. He could have left me dead. I was done with all this, and he drags me back. Vindictive bastard.
"You'll never get away with this," the Confessor raged. She'd recovered quickly from her brief sojourn in the Underworld, and now, despite the Rada'Han, it took several soldiers to restrain her.
Darken had to choke back a laugh at her words; she knew as well as he did that his victory over her army would strike fear into the hearts of any who still dared oppose him.
All things considered, the rebellion to his just rule she had incited and led might in fact strengthen it—at least if everything went as Darken planned.
He waited for Denna's signal, ignoring the Confessor's vitriol behind him.
It had been easy enough to ensure none of the Confessor's forces across the Ford could come to her aid; the water bubbled angrily in response to Darken's loyal Mord'Sith's agiels. None of the Confessor's peasants, loyal or otherwise, had the strength or the courage to attempt to cross.
Traditionally, the Ford was supposed to whisper; Darken had made it scream.
At last, a great ball of fire rose from the opposite bank of the river, illuminating the scene of Darken's victory. The tattered remnants of the Confessor's army were disarmed and surrounded, under Denna's highly capable control.
Darken permitted himself a triumphant smirk.
Then he turned to the Confessor, who glared her defiance but remained silent. "As you can see," Darken said easily, for all the world as though they were conversing over tea back in the Palace, "your Resistance is futile. Your people are at my mercy. Surrender now, and I will spare their lives."
The Confessor raised her eyebrows, and Darken could almost see her thinking, asking herself why he would demand her surrender when she was restrained by a Rada'Han, weaponless and at his mercy herself.
He saw the moment she understood: if she humbled herself before him her army would never regain the courage it had taken to defy Darken in the first place. They would live, but how could they ever try again, when the Confessor who was both leader and symbol of their struggle had surrendered?
The Confessor let her eyes fall. "Very well," she whispered, and Darken exulted.
Suicide was a sin, Kahlan reminded herself.
After returning to the People's Palace, Darken Rahl had watched her with those impossibly expressionless eyes (she kept getting the feeling that, if only she could read him as she would anyone else, there would be a wealth of emotion and wickedness in those eyes), as his soldiers led her to the dungeon.
Now she was alone.
Kahlan ran one nail across her Rada'Han, eliciting a faint metallic clang. She was truly without hope now. But maybe Rahl would still kill her.
Hours later, Kahlan was awakened from an uneasy sleep by more silent soldiers, who took her to Rahl's study. It was a beautiful room, decorated with tapestries depicting famous battles and ancient heroes, a window seat where one could look down on the courtyard, and a heavy wooden desk that fairly screamed wealth and power.
Rahl dismissed all but two guards with a lazy wave of his hand, and Kahlan noted that he'd had time to bathe and rest since the battle with some jealousy.
"Sit down," he invited.
Kahlan didn't move.
One of the guards put a heavy hand on her shoulder. Perforce, Kahlan sat.
"I trust you have realized the hopelessness of opposing me," he said.
Kahlan thought about protesting that others would take her place, that no one was invincible, that when all else failed there was always the Seeker…but what would be the point? She was merely surprised he was talking at her instead of torturing her.
Encouraged, apparently, by her silence, he leaned forward. "Let me offer you another way of saving your beloved Midlands. Marry me, Kahlan Amnell."
For a moment, Kahlan just stared at him in blank shock. She had no power to resist the man at the moment—why would he offer her any control over the fate of the Midlands? Or was it another threat?
"Think of all we could achieve together," Rahl pressed. "The Midlands and D'Hara, united at last. The future is ours to share, Kahlan."
Kahlan's head was spinning. But he was right. She'd tried defeating Rahl by main force and failed; perhaps the Creator was trying to tell her to choose a different way. If she could convince Rahl to treat the Midlands as an allied nation rather than a territory to be conquered, might she not save far more lives than their war ever would?
As a Confessor, she had always known she could never marry for love, even had she found someone who inspired the emotion. Rahl was evil blacker than the Keeper's heart—and yet.
And yet what? Kahlan tried to chase the thought to its conclusion, but her own turbulent feelings prevented her.
"You will build orphanages for the children of the Resistance," Kahlan demanded. "And hospitals for the victims of the war."
Rahl regarded her gravely. "Very well," he said, and Kahlan was comforted, even though she knew she had no real way of determining whether he kept his word to her.
She took a deep breath, knowing her choice had been made since she woke in this new life. "Then…I will be your Queen."
The Confessor—Kahlan, Darken reminded himself—was a puzzling mix of deference and defiance, hope and despair.
He saw their marriage as the crowning triumph of his reign, a symbolic beginning to his D'Haran Empire, expanded to include the Midlands…
A Confessor Queen, and more, a Confessor heir, would bring new magic and new vitality to D'Hara.
On a more personal note, Darken longed to complete his possession of her—physically, and, almost more important, emotionally. He didn't know what it was about her that made him desire Kahlan's good opinion, but when he broke her, it would be subtle, so subtle she never even saw it happen…and it would be a triumph indeed.
She would love him.
Kahlan sank gratefully into the hot bath water. Ah, the virtues of cooperation.
When she was clean, wrapped in a thick red robe and wringing droplets of water from her hair, Kahlan felt herself again for the first time since she had woken from death staring into her enemy's eyes.
He was a puzzling man—every move he made was so exquisitely calculated that it approached spontaneous from the other direction. He was handsomer than she had expected—not that such concerns ought to weigh with a Confessor.
Rada'Han or not, she could never forget her duty to her people. She only prayed this was the right thing to do. And yet she knew it was the only thing she coulddo. Screaming at Rahl like a spoiled child would only make things worse. And he must know the exhaustive list of his crimes far more intimately than she did, anyway.
What worried Kahlan, she realized when Rahl came to escort her to dinner, dismissing the guards at the door of her new, locked, private rooms, was how easily she was slipping into thinking of herself as his future Queen, and how it made her heart beat faster to think of pitting her wits against his.
If nothing else, Darken Rahl was surely a worthy opponent.
They ate in silence at either end of a ridiculously long table, a Mord'Sith behind each of their chairs. Kahlan could feel their gaze on her, and shivered. A Confessor among Mord'Sith…she could not help but be on edge—they were her natural enemies.
The food was marvelous, of course, but Kahlan was still unnerved by Rahl's gaze, whenever she encountered it. She did not permit herself to let down her guard, but it cost her something to maintain.
At length, the excruciating meal was over, and Kahlan and Rahl repaired once more to his study. She did not quite dare ask him to escort her back to her rooms.
It was she who broke the long silence between them. "I thought you had me brought back from the dead only to torture me. What do you really want from me, Darken Rahl?"
She was seated across from him again, the desk between them, but this time they were quite alone. Nor could she get the memory of his bare arm under her fingers out of her mind. He was well muscled; no idle Lord who rested solely on the labors of slaves, Darken Rahl.
He was frowning. "Bringing you back only to torture you would be inefficient," he said firmly, and Kahlan wondered if she'd managed to offend him.
Well and good if she had; provoking him promised to be a fascinating, if risky, hobby.
Rahl looked up at her then, and he held Kahlan's eyes with an ease that sent shivers down her spine. "I want your understanding."
It was Kahlan's turn to frown. She had thought she understood Rahl perfectly well (he was a tyrant who took whatever he wanted without the least regard for other people), but now she wasn't so sure.
Didn't the mere fact that he wanted her understanding prove that he cared for more than his own gratification?
"This," he reached across the table to tap her Rada'Han, and Kahlan kept still with an effort, "does not become you. Let me just…"
He waved a hand in front of Kahlan's neck, and she shivered a little as she felt the Rada'Han change. Unconsciously, she leaned forward, her hands on the dark wood of the table.
"Do you think this makes a difference?" she asked, fingers exploring the new, more delicate and decorative metal of the Rada'Han. "Golden chains are chains still, Darken Rahl."
"I will make you my Queen," he said, and now Kahlan could no more tear her eyes from his than she could bring herself to commit suicide, if that was indeed her duty. "I will grant your people amnesty, I will give you peace…I can bring you more than gold."
He lifted one of Kahlan's hands and gently kissed her palm. She leaned forward, mesmerized.
He rose, not letting go of Kahlan's hands, and then he was on the same side of the desk as she was, terrifyingly close before she knew what was happening…
He kissed her other palm—just a light brush of his lips over her skin. It made Kahlan shiver—with fear, revulsion…desire.
She felt herself at the center of his attention, and it thrilled her against her will.
"I'm making it easy," Rahl purred, so softly that she might not have heard, if they hadn't been standing so close together. Kahlan couldn't even remember getting out of her chair.
"That's…" she said, voice breathy and low to match his, "what I'm afraid of."
Their lips met then, and Kahlan wondered if this was what the Creator had meant, when She said Kahlan was far from finished with life—death was surely the opposite of the desire sparking like lightning between Kahlan and her worst enemy.
Then she surrendered to the sensation of his lips against hers, his hands in her hair, the heat of him beneath the ridiculous robes he wore with such unassailable dignity…and thought no more of her duty.
The Confessor's words rang in Cara's ears, even as she went about her daily tasks. It was not, thank the Creator, her duty to send out peaceful envoys to the far corners of the Midlands, assuring all and sundry that the war was truly over…
Although there was talk of hunting down the other Confessors, and the witch of Agaden Reach, because Lord Rahl didn't believe in taking unnecessary chances.
Except when it came to Kahlan Amnell. Cara feared shewasn't seeing clearly there, either.
Murderer, monster…how many have died for your vanity? the Confess—Kahlan Amnell had shouted, after Cara dragged her soul back from the Underworld. How many children have you killed? How many orphans will never see their parents because of you?
And then Lord Rahl had taken Kahlan Amnell, last real leader of the Resistance, back to the People's Palace, and so far subdued her that she said nothing during the shared dinner Cara and Denna witnessed…
Cara should not care how Lord Rahl broke the Confessor, the enemy he'd chosen to spare. How many people had she, Cara, broken—how many children were orphans because of her?
Not that it mattered. Cara served the House of Rahl.
Nonetheless…she couldn't rid herself of this odd curiosity, this slight sorrow at the thought of someone so perfectly good and beautiful, as Kahlan Amnell being broken.
It was impossible not to seek her out.
Alone in her rooms again the following morning, Kahlan sat curled in the center of a bed she hadn't slept in, one hand over her mouth.
Last night had been…she had not expected to experience the loss of control irrevocably connected to the release of her power (and how strange it had felt, to meet the resistance of her Rada'Han…)
Rahl was a skilled and patient lover.
And yet nothing about that had been love.
Kahlan might never have experienced the emotion, but she was familiar enough with the concept, after years of hearing tales of woe from those she was sworn to help and protect.
Her feelings about Rahl were more turbulent than ever, and she missed the clean hatred she'd had for the man before she met him. Before he turned the full force of that magnetic personality on her.
But Kahlan was sure of one thing—her duty to help and protect her people hadn't changed, even if the method whereby she did it had.
If she could not reject utterly this new life, this new role as Rahl's future Queen…she would embrace it.
She stood quickly, ignoring the new soreness of her body, and strode to the door, determined to test the limits of her captivity.
The guards at Kahlan's door made no move to stop her from leaving, but fell into step behind her as she wandered the corridors. If the People's Palace was to be her new home, she must familiarize herself with it…
And if she were to be Rahl's Queen, she would need to know his people.
"Confessor." The low, sultry voice came from behind her, and against Kahlan's will she felt a stirring in her blood.
Kahlan didn't turn, but she heard the clatter of her guards' boots fading down the corridor, and knew the woman who spoke had dismissed them…the authority that implied, together with that liquid and seductive voice, told Kahlan the woman was a Mord'Sith.
Almost unconsciously, she straightened her spine and lifted her chin. "What do you mean by accosting me?" she asked coolly. "A Confessor is death to a Mord'Sith."
The woman was before her now, her fingers curled around the weapons sheathed at her waist, her green eyes hard and opaque to Kahlan's straining senses. Her hair was pulled back into a long blonde braid, swaying ever so slightly with every move she made.
"Likewise," the Mord'Sith said, "a Mord'Sith may be death to a Confessor—if she's so foolish as to wander the corridors without a proper escort."
Kahlan raised her eyebrows superciliously, in order to gain time to think. The Mord'Sith had dismissed her guards, who might be construed as a proper escort…and she had made no comment on the fact that Kahlan's powers were bound by a Rada'Han. At the moment, she was death to no one…and she wished fervently for her daggers.
"Is that any way to speak to your future Queen?" Kahlan asked haughtily. This Mord'Sith was trying to intimidate her…but she would find it a harder task than she anticipated. "I can make you pay for your insolence."
The Mord'Sith laughed, sudden and harsh. "How? You have no power, Kahlan Amnell. Are you really so blind that you can't see that Lord Rahl has taken everything from you? Your army, your freedom...and now your honor? You are a fool."
And so saying, she walked away before Kahlan could dismiss her.
Kahlan felt stung, and furious that the Mord'Sith had dared reproach her…and how had she known that Rahl and Kahlan had—last night—
Kahlan's fingers dropped to her hip, probing at the bruise left by a corner of Rahl's desk—the pain brought back memories that made her blush, even as her reason told her that hadn't been what the Mord'Sith had meant.
Her honor was an integral part of her, not something so easily lost. Her honor was contained in her duty to her people, her responsibilities as a Confessor, her worth as a child of the Creator…
The weight of her honor seemed to descend heavily on Kahlan's shoulders then, and she felt all the loneliness of her captivity, her helplessness, her weakness in giving Rahl what he wanted.
How could she have imagined, even for a moment, that he cared enough to protect her as more than a trophy of victory? How could she have forgotten that she was alone, in this, as in everything…
Cara was furious with herself. What was she doing? Why should she care what Kahlan Amnell did or didn't do? (Save that by rights she ought to be plotting to assassinate Lord Rahl…if Cara's idiotic remarks inspired the Confessor to do so, she would be deeply shamed.)
Resolutely, Cara tried to put Kahlan Amnell out of her mind.
Her efforts met with little success, and soon she was going out of her way to follow the Confessor, who seemed determined to explore every inch of the Palace.
Cara was behind a bookshelf in the library, peering between the second and third volumes of Advanced Dragon Magic, when the Confessor looked up from the open book in front of her and said cordially, "Good afternoon. If Rahl sent you to watch me, I don't mean to distract you, but otherwise you're welcome to join me."
A more complete shift in the Confessor's tone, and the content of her words, could hardly be imagined.
Stunned, Cara emerged from behind the bookcase and stood more or less to attention in front of the Confessor's desk.
"I don't think we've been properly introduced," said the Confessor, tossing her dark curls back over her shoulder and offering her hand to Cara. "I'm Kahlan."
"I am Mistress Cara, of the Mord'Sith," Cara said proudly, to conceal her bemusement.
"Sit," the Confess—Kahlan, ordered.
Cara sat, across from Kahlan at the desk, and peered at the open book in front of her. What could Kahlan find so engrossing? Libraries, as a rule, were not places Cara frequented.
"You've been following me all week," Kahlan said. "Are you under orders, or have you been waiting for a chance to call me a fool again?"
She seemed calm, collected—and yet Cara detected the faintest hint of bitterness in her tone, and her eyes were hard. She was struck by a sudden and eerie resemblance between Lord Rahl and Kahlan—Lord Rahl was also at his friendliest when concealing anger.
Cara had been feeling ashamed, less by her words themselves than by her folly in speaking them, but now Kahlan's assumption of authority irritated her.
"You are a fool if you think a Mord'Sith would follow you for the sake of her own amusement," Cara asserted, in firm opposition to the evidence.
Kahlan put a hand to her forehead, and Cara was surprised by how tired she looked. (Not that she should have been, she reflected a little bitterly; Lord Rahl thrived on pain and sex the way most people did on food and sleep, and he'd been obsessed with Kahlan ever since her army defeated an entire D'Haran garrison at the Battle of Three Hills. In fact, Denna was starting to complain that this whole marriage thing might be turning him monogamous—saying innocently that shehadn't noticed any such thing had been quite satisfying for Cara.)
"You were right," Kahlan said decisively, looking up and holding Cara's eyes with her own. "And you're the first person to have mentioned the word honor to me in weeks, certainly since I came to this place." Her disdain was evident in the faintly distasteful way she waved at their surroundings.
The engagement ring on her finger gleamed red to match the stone set in her Rada'Han; as further evidence of her capture by Lord Rahl, it seemed redundant.
She was beautiful, and more than beautiful; the despair that had formerly hung about her like a malevolent cloud was gone, to be replaced by a determination even more terrifying.
"Cara," Kahlan asked quietly, "will you help me?"
Staring into those deep blue eyes, it didn't even occur to Cara to ask with what. "It would be an honor," she said gravely, and was rewarded with a blinding smile—the first she'd ever seen on Kahlan's face.
Instantly, Cara knew she wanted more of Kahlan's smiles.