For a Legendland artwork inspired fic challenge.
Summary: Post-Tears; a chance remark by Kahlan that their victory will mean the end of the Mord'Sith makes Cara consider her past, her future, and her place in the world and with the group. This is an AU in which, for an unspecified reason, Cara retains the memories of being re-broken by Darken Rahl.
Cara stood at the cliff edge and gazed out over the ocean. She'd grown up inland and had only seen the sea for the first time when accompanying Darken Rahl on a diplomatic mission to secure a treaty with a coastal kingdom.
Two days ago the Veil had been sealed. They were finally taking a moment to relax and what better place then here? Summer was at its height. The sand and waves ought to have been a joyous sight. Yet Cara could only think of the future – and the past.
Richard and Kahlan had been arguing over what to do next; Aydindril or the People's Palace? When should they get married? Where would they live? By arguing, she meant they'd submit contrary ideas, giggle, say something inane like 'whatever you want, darling' and kiss. It was sickening.
It wasn't the saccharine displays of affection that had brought her up here, away from them though. It was Richard talking about the remaining Mord'Sith and how many were loyal to the resurrected Darken and how many loyal to Richard himself, and Kahlan's assertion that at least they were a dying breed. When Cara had raised an eyebrow, Kahlan had said, "Well we won't make any Mord'Sith. Kidnapping children and torturing them into serving Lord Rahl! We can't stand for children being abused like that."
"We" was said a lot these days but Cara was no longer certain if she was included now that the quest was over. Zedd was Richard's grandfather and a First Wizard, his place in the group assured, but she was just a rogue Mord'Sith.
Kahlan had gone on for a while longer about the horrors of the Mord'Sith. The word 'monster' came up, with the hasty qualifier 'not you, Cara', and Richard said something that turned the conversation to feeling pity for the Mord'Sith and 'broken' was mentioned several times.
Cara had waited a short amount of time, until Richard went off to search for driftwood for the fire and Kahlan began to ready the cooking pot - Zedd had wandered off an hour ago to try his hand at fishing again. Cara mumbled a vague excuse about gathering berries and walked away. She hadn't even intended to come up here and was a little surprised to find herself up on the cliff top.
Yet here she was, alone with her thoughts, the insults against the Mord'Sith still buzzing in her ears.
She wasn't broken. Yes, she remembered the terrible fear and grief when she was kidnapped. She remembered the torture that had made her a Mord'Sith. She could never forget the torture that Darken had inflicted on her in order to win back her loyalty. Did she regret killing her father? Of course. Did she sometimes wonder what her life would have been like if she'd never been taken by the Mord'Sith? Absolutely.
Yet she couldn't truly wish that her past never been. Becoming a Mord'Sith had made her strong. She could walk without fear where others would have been prey for vile predators, both beasts and humans alike. She had served Darken Rahl with honour for many years. She had allied herself with the Seeker and her skills had helped keep him and his friends safe. She had played a vital part in their quest to seal the Veil.
In another reality, Zedd had told her, she had been a school teacher with two children. Cara shuddered at the thought of being docile and domesticated. She could never be happy to stand by and watch others fight and shape the world and its destiny. Perhaps it had always been her true destiny to be a Mord'Sith so that she could fight alongside Richard and help save the world.
Kahlan chattered on about babies more than ever, all the daughters she'd have in order to continue the Confessor line. Soul-stealing witches many called her kind, who could take away a person's free will. Why should Kahlan perpetuate this feared lineage, while destroying the institution that had made Cara as formidable a warrior as Kahlan herself? It was also unfair; only Confessor daughters were Confessors, but many a young woman of unremarkable birth had risen to become a powerful and respected Mord'Sith.
She turned, tugging her hair from her face as the sea breeze caught at it. Zedd stood behind her, watching.
"Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, wizard," she said.
"All the talk of weddings and babies is begin to wear even on me," Zedd admitted with a chuckle. "I'll happily babysit my great-grandchildren when the time comes, but right now we have other, more pressing concerns to consider. The Veil may be sealed but there are plenty of dangers still out there, including Darken Rahl himself."
Cara nodded, relieved that Zedd, at least, was taking their situation seriously.
"But that's not all, is it?" Zedd took a careful step closer. "You look so pensive, Cara."
She shrugged. "I'm not broken," she said at last. "Not anymore. No more than any soldier who has been broken, trained, made better and stronger than before. I am not ashamed that I am Mord'Sith."
"Nor should you be," Zedd said gently. "Why would you even consider otherwise?"
"Kahlan," Cara said bitterly. Then the words spilled out, how she didn't want to be the last of her kind anymore than Kahlan did, how the planned eradication of the Mord'Sith made her feel unwanted. It must be the magic still lingering in this area, she thought, unable to stop. At one point Zedd put one arm around her and she didn't pull away. Finally, blinking hard –the sea breeze must be making her eyes damp - she said once more, "I'm not broken. I'm Cara and I'm a Mord'Sith and I am not ashamed."
"Why didn't you say something?" Richard asked. Cara hastily pulled herself away from Zedd and tucked her hair behind her ears. This was why emotions were dangerous. In her turmoil she hadn't even heard Richard approaching them.
"Lord Rahl," she began.
"No. Don't start with that. Cara, we can't allow children to be kidnapped, let alone tortured," Richard said. "But you're right that there are no more loyal or powerful bodyguards for the Lord Rahl and his family than the Mord'Sith."
"Perhaps we can find a way to train willing volunteers," Zedd suggested. "The methods may change a little but I think it might be worth considering. Since meeting you, Cara, I have had to reconsider my opinion of Mord'Sith. I've seen what you are capable of. Your worth should never be in doubt."
They made their back down to the beach, Richard in the lead, insisting that Kahlan had never intended to hurt Cara, and that they'd work something out. Cara let him prattle on, feeling at peace once more. Zedd wandered along beside her, face turned up to the sun.
Then, inevitably, Richard commented that "Of course the children will need bodyguards once they come along."
Cara smiled wryly at Zedd who met her gaze. He winked at her and interrupted the talk of future Rahl children with the declaration, "Creator, I'm so hungry I could eat a horse."
"I thought you were going fishing," Richard said, and they fell into a familiar, familial bickering. Cara rolled her eyes and Richard saw her, and burst out laughing. "Maybe you should go fishing, Cara," he said.
Cara fixed him with the sternest gaze she could muster up and told him proudly, "Mord'Sith don't fish."