She couldn't count the number of times she had the dream, but it was far too many. The night wisp, blue and glowing, almost angelic in her palm, dying away, the fragments of light of her decay floating slowly towards Cara's face. She could feel a few of the remnants sticking to her tear stained cheeks, but could not bring herself to wipe them away. That dream had awakened her into many sleepless nights. Not because of the death of the night wisp, but because of the look Kahlan gave in her in the dream. So much hurt, so much disgust. It made Cara's stomach knot at the thought.
She remembered that day, when she took the night wisp to its fertility ground. A beautiful break in the rows upon rows of trees revealed a small oasis that looked more like a paradise. And the night wisp had given birth, hundreds of tiny shimmering lights playing out like a spectacle before her. She longed to reach out and touch one, cradle it in her palm and whisper to it like she had their mother. But captivation kept her grounded, and she allowed her guard to fall, completely absorbed in the moment and completely unaware of the grin that had spread across her face.
And then there was Kahlan's reaction when she told her of her success. A smile just as grand and as loving as the Mord'Sith could ever hope to bring upon the Mother Confessor. Cara remembered telling the brunette that she wished she could have been there, and Kahlan's smile widened. Richard and Zedd had smiled too, and Cara let them believe that the invitation was extended to them as well. But in truth it was solely for the Mother Confessor. What had started out as utter devotion to Richard had strayed its path. Cara wished that it wasn't so; things would have been much easier that way, with far less pain. But this was one Mord'Sith that knew her heart could not be denied.
So instead, she suffered in silence, walking a few paces behind the Mother Confessor, watching her fluid movements and occasionally catching a flexed calf muscle from the ruffle of her dress. The sight made her mouth go dry, but years of abuse had beaten the expression out of her face and no one was the wiser. Especially the Mother Confessor, who would sometimes still give her the queerest looks at the things she sometimes said. Cara liked that. She liked evoking something from her, even if it wasn't the emotion she truly desired.
The night after Cara's trial, when she thought for certain she was to be confessed by an enraged Kahlan, the Mord'Sith kept to herself. Richard had been there for her that day, and her pack was ever so closer to him, instead of the Mother Confessor. She didn't want to be any more trouble to the brunette than what she'd already caused. Of course, Kahlan had reneged her pledge to kill her, but it was nothing more than a love for Richard that did it. No one cared about Mord'Sith childhood or how they were broken. All that mattered was that they were dangerous, and should be feared instead of helped. Cara's shoulder twitched at the thought and she shut her eyes deeply forcing thoughts of her father to the back of her mind, where they lay dormant.
A hand was placed on her shoulder than night. Ever alert, Cara heard the tentative footsteps approaching, and knew who it was. Kahlan had first watch and by the tingle that ran down her spine at that touch, it could have only been her. Cara lifted her head slowly and turned, eyeing the Confessor cautiously. There was nothing keeping her from confessing her right now, and dumping her body in the river before Zedd and Richard had even stirred. The thought made the Mord'Sith nauseous but she swallowed it back, allowing her heart to put the trust in the brunette in front of her. Kahlan's eyes were serious and she curled a long, pale finger at the blonde before she stood and turned, heading into the woods.
Cara followed much more silently behind counting her footsteps and plotting an escape should she need it. She'd knowingly left her agiels behind. She didn't know what use they'd bring to her anyway. Deep down, Cara knew that if the Mother Confessor was going to kill her tonight, she would allow it. She deserved it. Richard needed protection but that was what Kahlan was there for, and Zedd. She would hardly be missed. An afterthought of an extra pack that needed to be carried.
Kahlan stopped at a small break in the woods and Cara slowed her steps a few feet behind her. The moon was out and the Mother Confessor, still in her white dress, looked to be glowing in Cara's exhausted eyes. The brunette turned and faced her, and Cara watched her pale skin looking almost as white as her dress, deep blue eyes luminescent as the moon caught them just right. Cara dared herself a few steps closer, merely to get a better look, when Kahlan's arm shot out to grab her hand. Years of abuse had taught her not to flinch, but the action had still surprised the Mord'Sith. Mostly the gentility that was behind it. It was like a spirit's touch; so faint you hardly knew it happened. And yet Cara found herself unable to break the hold as if Kahlan had her in some sort of death grip.
"Cara, I…" the Mother Confessor spoke for the first time, her voice breaking and causing her to close those beautiful, smooth lips. It took her a few more moments to regain herself and Cara tried to tell herself that she hadn't noticed the lone tear cascading down the side of her cheek. Finally, Kahlan spoke again. "What happened to you, in your childhood…I had no idea. I was… selfish in my rage, and terrible to you. I don't know if I even deserve your forgiveness, but I'm asking for it now."
Cara watched as Kahlan continued to struggle with her composure, and took a step closer to her. She looked so beautiful in the light that her thoughts were fuzzy. She found that she didn't have the words to say how she felt in this moment, with the feel of Kahlan's hand on her own, the warmth of the night, and that damn tear that was still falling. So instead, Cara reached her free hand out, and slowly dragged her finger up the Mother Confessor's cheek, feeling the wetness of the tear collide with her chilled skin. Kahlan's eyes closed at the gesture and Cara watched both her hand and the Confessor's face until there was no more reason to be touching her. Even still, her hand lingered for just a few moments more, the Mord'Sith, in all her training and will, unable to pull away.
When she finally did, Kahlan's eyes fluttered open, similarly to how they did after she kissed Richard. Cara attempted a weak smile, and the Mother Confessor returned it, stroking the top of the Mord'Sith's hand with her thumb. Nothing more was said after that and they both walked back to camp. Cara woke the next morning to find Kahlan still at watch, apparently choosing not to wake her up for her own.
The prophecy was nearly fulfilled. On that dreadful day, Cara had never hated herself more. Kahlan was in the Con Dar, off to kill Richard in her rage, and Cara couldn't take the shot. She was more than skilled with a bow, and she had a perfect shot and more than enough time to pull it off, but she couldn't release the bow. Zedd had rambled on about friendship and loyalty and Cara let him believe she was listening and agreeing. But she knew the real reason behind it, the fear of the breath of life. She didn't fear losing Kahlan before she could do it, for that was preposterous. She didn't even really fear hurting the Mother Confessor, for she could be easily healed.
No, what Cara feared the most, was herself. Despite all of her logic, all of her training, the Mord'Sith found herself unsure. The breath of life involved her getting so close to the Mother Confessor, so close to those lips she'd often dreamt of touching, that Cara didn't know if she'd be able to restrain herself from kissing the betrothed woman. And she hated that. A stupid, selfish, immature reason for not stopping Kahlan when she should have. If they hadn't succeeded in the end, Cara was certain she never would have forgiven herself.
But for now, things were at peace. The rifts were closed, the Keeper was beaten, and they were standing at the Pillars of Creation, basking in the light of a new sun for a new day for a new life. Cara looked away; fiddling with her agiels as Richard pulled Kahlan closer, kissing her deeply. She ignored the smile on the Mother Confessor's face and the way she gripped onto him like it was their last moment together. She couldn't help herself. Looking at that would have brought pain similar to an agiel upon her chest. And the Mord'Sith knew better than to willingly accept that kind of pain. So she settled for smiling at Zedd and when the two lovebirds were finished, she was the last to follow, watching the wizard's feet as he walked.
It was on this night that she'd had the dream again, and she cursed herself internally as her eyes shot open, hand gripping onto the grass and leaves where she lay. The fire was kindling nicely and she watched it for a moment, hoping the heat would burn her eyes shut when she noticed someone watching her.
Kahlan, on the far side of the fire, was sitting on the ground, staring at the Mord'Sith with a most curious expression. Cara raised her head a bit, and Kahlan bit her bottom lip, a sign that she'd been caught. Cara furrowed her brow, green eyes shimmering in the heat of the fire, and Kahlan stood, making her way over. The Mord'Sith sat up and moved the pack she'd been using as a pillow over, nestling it just under Kahlan as she sat down. Kahlan gave her that strange look again but decided better than to argue with a restless Mord'Sith.
"Have a bad dream?" she whispered, watching the fire with her eyes occasionally glancing to Richard and Zedd.
Cara sighed, running her hands through her hair. "Something like that."
Kahlan smiled, still staring straight ahead. "I didn't know Mord'Sith could dream."
"Of course we can, it's just not usually of sunshine and daisies like I assume yours are. Do you also expect us to fly and breathe fire?" Cara spat a little more harshly than intended. She was going to take it back when she saw the Mother Confessor smile, so instead she licked her lips and brought her knees to her chest.
"Breathing fire might come in handy," the brunette thought aloud. "You could give Zedd a run for his money."
"I already give Zedd a run for his money."
"True," Kahlan laughed, watching Cara close her eyes at the sound for a brief moment. The Mother Confessor stood then, and extended her hand to Cara, who looked at it like it was a snake. "Will you come with me?" she asked, noticing Cara's eyes lighten a bit.
The Mord'Sith said nothing, nor did she take Kahlan's hand, but she did stand quickly, raising her eyebrows at the Confessor. Kahlan nodded and proceeded the way into the woods, just like she had when Cara touched her for the first time. The Mord'Sith followed obediently, half expecting to find the same break in the woods that they'd stopped in before. But instead of a break, the trees ended entirely, and Cara found herself looking into a large, black lake. The stars glimmered onto the tar-like surface, shimmering and swaying with the calm movements of the waves.
Kahlan watched as Cara took in the sight, looking in and around the both of them, ever the protector. Then she stepped forward and slowly reached out to grab Cara's hands again. The Mord'Sith looked down at their hands, then slowly raised her eyes to meet the Mother Confessor's. Kahlan smiled and gestured her chin to the lake. "It's a warm night. I need a bath. I thought you might like one as well."
Cara said nothing and to avoid getting further embarrassed by her assumptions, Kahlan released her hands and headed towards the lake. After a few footsteps, she heard the sound of Cara following behind and smiled to herself, reaching for the knots on her corset. She loosened it just enough to slip it over her head and laid it on a rock, her dress and boots quickly following. The sounds of Cara undoing her leathers were heard nearby and, forcing herself not to look, Kahlan turned and headed into the water.
As she expected, the water was warm. Not exactly a bath, but comfortable enough to get the job done, and she sighed as she lowered her head into the water, wetting her long hair. When she surfaced she slicked her hair back and looked to the shore, her brow furrowing when she did not see the Mord'Sith. She slowed her movements and listened, but could not hear any other sounds than her own. Fear was slowly swelling in her stomach and her voice was a little more hoarse than intended when she called out Cara's name.
"I'm here," a voice replied not too far away.
Kahlan turned quickly and could make out the sight of the blonde swimming effortlessly toward her. She couldn't help the smile on her face that arose when she neared. "I thought you'd drowned," she half-joked.
Cara raised a sculpted eyebrow. "You know I can swim."
"Just because you can swim doesn't mean you can't drown."
"Whatever you say, Mother Confessor," Cara replied before turning and swimming away.
"Where are you going?" Kahlan asked, following her a bit.
Cara turned again and eyed Kahlan scrupulously. Her head tilted to the side and her eyes narrowed and Kahlan felt herself blushing, thankful that it was too dark for the Mord'Sith to see.
"I'm going to bathe. That is what you instructed, is it not?"
"I didn't instruct you to do anything," Kahlan whispered, swimming closer. "You can do as you like."
Cara licked her lips at Kahlan's words, then looked down to notice how the space between them had drastically decreased. Kahlan smiled at her then and Cara suddenly felt sick. To quell the feeling she dunked her head under the water, suddenly wishing that it was much colder. When she surfaced, Kahlan was giving her that same queer look. Cara still did not understand it, and that made her angry.
"I'm finished," she said quickly, turning from the Mother Confessor and heading towards the shore.
"Wait!" Kahlan called, placing a hand on her shoulder. She felt goosebumps arise on Cara's skin as she did so but before she could dwell on it, the Mord'Sith jerked herself away.
"Do you need me to hold your hand?" Cara spat, looking down at the Confessor as she found her footing and stood up on it.
Kahlan scoffed almost angrily and sent a wave of water in Cara's direction. "Never mind. Go. I'll be done in a bit."
"I'll be waiting," Cara growled before turning on her heels and heading back to shore. Kahlan made no response and once her back was turned Cara's grimace increased. She didn't like whatever it was that Kahlan was doing. They always took baths together, the Mother Confessor needing a protector and Cara being the only other woman. But never in the dead of night, with such secrecy and…insinuations. It reminded Cara of the baths in the Mord'Sith temples, with women wading over to you slowly, a gleam in their eye that told you to be ready for them. She'd left the Mord'Sith for many reasons, and wasn't planning on going back to their ways any time soon.
She'd already put her leathers on by the time Kahlan reached the shore. The Mord'Sith looked her over once for leeches, she told herself, then turned her back to allow the Mother Confessor to dress in private. She kept her eyes on the tree line, listening for anything out of the ordinary. She could hear the sounds of Kahlan dressing, her breathing even, and it calmed her, allowing her to close her eyes for just a moment.
When she opened them, she found a pair of eyes staring back at her. Her hands reached instantly for her agiels, but fell to her sides when she saw that it was just Kahlan. She smirked and Cara glowered. "Are you finished yet?"
Kahlan looked to grow angry then and she placed a hand on her hips. "No, I'm not finished yet."
"What else is there to do?"
"I saw the way you looked at the Pillars of Creation."
Cara froze only for a moment, before she raised a disinterested eyebrow. "Come again?"
Kahlan was looking very serious now, and she closed the gap between them. "You heard me. I saw you. You looked sick and sad and annoyed. I thought this was what you wanted."
Cara refused to let her guard down just yet, and she crossed her arms over her chest. Kahlan noticed the amplified cleavage resulting from the action but forced herself not to look. "You thought what was what I wanted?"
"This!" Kahlan shouted, flinging her hand back and forth between the two of them. "I thought you wanted to be closer to me. To be friends."
Much to the Mother Confessor's surprise, Cara laughed. It was short and quiet, but it was a laugh, followed by a roll of those beautiful green eyes. "Oh, and here we all thought you were good at reading people." Kahlan glared as Cara stepped closer, their faces only inches apart now. "A word of advice, Mother Confessor," she breathed onto Kahlan's lips, "don't try to read Mord'Sith. You will always be wrong."
Kahlan felt Cara's warm breath leaving her lips and watched as the Mord'Sith's eyes roved her face and body once more before she turned and proceeded to walk away. Anger was now being replaced with guilt as Kahlan watched her go. Before Cara disappeared into the tree line, the Mother Confessor called out to her once more.
"You're not a Mord'Sith anymore."
Cara stopped then, looking down at her feet. Her hand reached out and touched the bark of a tree, slowly caressing down it with two fingers as she mulled the words over. Kahlan didn't give her a chance to figure it out as she neared her once more.
"That part of you is gone. The skills you learned from them are still there, but the Mord'Sith mentality left long ago. I can see it in your eyes, the concern for all of us. It aches, doesn't it, the feeling of protecting those you love? We all feel it, Cara. You're not alone in this." Kahlan reached out to put a hand on Cara's shoulder and while she hitched, she did not remove it.
"I don't love everyone," Cara said finally, breaking the silence between them. Kahlan's hand shifted on her shoulder but stayed put and the Mord'Sith sighed, remembering the night wisp again. She had been talking to it, against all of her better judgment, and actually enjoying the company. Up until the damned speck of dust made her admit her love for Richard.
Cara feared that moment in her memories. What if the night wisp hadn't gotten weak at that moment? What if she'd kept on pressing, forcing her to admit what she already knew? She loved Richard, of course. It was her job to love the Lord Rahl. But something in the night wisp's tone told her that wasn't the kind of answer she was searching for. She resisted the answer, knowing that the night wisp would give up long before she got the answer that she wanted. But would it have given up? Would it have forced her to admit to herself the one person she truly loved?
Kahlan's hand tightened its grip and Cara grasped at her agiel, reveling in the pain for a few moments. She knew pain. Understood pain. This was something entirely different.
"What do you mean?" Kahlan asked finally, and Cara could hear the fear in her voice.
"I don't love everyone," she repeated, turning to face the Mother Confessor. Kahlan's look was curious, but not judgmental, and that relieved Cara just a bit. "But I do love one…." That was all the Mord'Sith could bring herself to say before she lowered her head, watching her feet make designs in the dirt.
A gentle and warm hand was placed under her chin, and Cara felt her head being lifted. She met eyes with the Mother Confessor, and saw tears running down her face. Removing her gloves so as to not irritate the skin, Cara repeated the motion of dragging her finger up the side of the Mother Confessor's face, feeling her heart swell at the touch while her fingers and toes tingled.
Kahlan closed her eyes again and allowed Cara to finish her ministrations. When the hand was finally pulled away, the Mother Confessor opened her eyes and placed a hand on Cara's cheek. "You don't know how often I've thought of that night. How much regret I have for being a coward and not taking what I wanted that night."
"What did you want?" Cara whispered, just barely audible.
Kahlan smiled, and pressed her lips to Cara's.