The sequel to For All That We Have and Are. Kahlan has confessed Darken Rahl and taken him as her mate in order to become ruler of D'Hara, but none but he and her Sister Confessors know that he is under her power. Pushed and pulled between two worlds, Kahlan must decide whether to forge a new path, or if the old commandments stand. AU. Darken/Kahlan, Darken/Cara, Darken/Salindra, Kahlan/Salindra, Zedd/Serena, Richard/Darken if you squint. Written for lotspornbattle.
Scenes have been cut from this version to comply with FF dot Net's rating and content policies. The full version is available on LJ and AO3.
Prompts: Cara/Darken: Sub!Darken, sometimes he needs the pain; First Mistress. Darken/Kahlan: pleasure and love are two different things; infidelity; the tenderest touch leaves the darkest mark; Darken likes it when her eyes swirl black. I also used "pleasure and love are two different things" for Kahlan/Salindra.
The Old Commandments Stand
For all we have and are,
For all our children's fate,
Stand up and take the war.
The Hun is at the gate!
Our world has passed away,
In wantonness o'erthrown.
There is nothing left to-day
But steel and fire and stone!
-For All We Have and Are, Rudyard Kipling
"You sent him to Mistress Cara again?" Salindra asked from her position in the window seat in Kahlan's sitting room. She worked at some sewing in her lap – swaddling clothes for the heir that would soon be born to D'Hara.
Kahlan, wedded to Darken Rahl this past year gone and heavy with his child, looked up from her desk, where she was reading correspondence. "I'm tired, and people would talk if he stopped dallying with his Mord'Sith."
Salindra pursed her lips, placing her needle in the edge of the cloth she worked, then carefully folding the cloth into the basket at her feet. "I don't know how you did it, but you made him fall in love with you. He'd stay true if you let him."
"I don't know how I did it either," Kahlan lied, her mouth dry. "He would look weak if he didn't have concubines and Mord'Sith. You yourself told me that, when we arrived here. And he has promised me to never spill his seed in any woman save me."
She had ordered him, of course. It wouldn't do to have any bastard sons competing with her daughter for the throne. Not when D'Hara was a land that favored males in the line of succession.
Salindra snorted, going to sit across from Kahlan. "I know what I told you. But I haven't been your lady in waiting for a year for nothing. I can see something is bothering you."
"It's nothing. Certainly not anything Lord Rahl has done."
"Do you love him?" Salindra asked in that frank way she had, as disarming as any Confessor.
Kahlan looked up, her mouth dry. "Can you love a dog at your heels?"
Salindra laughed, a bright sound that reminded Kahlan of shooting stars. "Yes, absolutely," was her answer. "A dog is easier to love than a man. A dog will never betray you."
Kahlan felt a chill, then pressed her hand to her stomach as her child turned within her, roused perhaps by her sudden upset. "Are we still talking about my husband?" she whispered.
Salindra sat back in her chair, a knowing smirk on her lips. "You tell me, my lady."
Kahlan sometimes wished Salindra was not so dangerously perceptive. She lived in horror of the day she would have to confess her one and only friend, to keep her secret safe. D'Hara would not suffer their lord to be confessed, their queen to be a Confessor. Everything depended upon keeping up the pretense of the fairy tale – a young concubine capturing the heart of a king in a whirlwind romance.
Happy ever after.
Kahlan had thought confessing Darken Rahl to be the end of her quest. It had taken only days to sink in that it was the beginning. But she had to stay strong. For the Midlands. For the Mother Confessor. For her Sisterhood.
For their children's fate.
Kahlan looked down at the letter in her hands. It was from her sister, Dennee. To any besides Kahlan it would make little sense – they had to be careful even now, speaking in the vaguest terms. But Kahlan knew what was meant. It brought a lump to her throat.
I have had my child. A boy. I had hoped to keep him since we are so few.
But Mother says the old commandments stand.
Kahlan's eyes blurred with tears she would not shed.
Cara moaned, tangling her fingers in Darken's hair, arching her hips as he knelt between her legs, skilled tongue sending shocks of pleasure through her.
Lord Rahl had been very submissive to her desires since taking a queen. Cara thought it because unimaginative Queen Kahlan was unable to match her lord in the bedchamber. Their couplings were most likely things of lackluster pleasure, ordinary embraces designed to conceive an heir.
Cara knew Darken Rahl. He was a man of dominance, yes. But at times, he needed to be ruled.
He needed pain.
Darken Rahl thought of his mistress.
-Cut for Content-
Serena looked up, startled out of deep thought. There were dark circles beneath her eyes brought on from too many nights of little sleep, too many days of worry, too many friends lost, too few things to hope for.
"What is it Dennee?" Serena asked, sounding every day of her age.
"Word from my sister. Kahlan says she will give birth soon, and her claim to the throne solidified, but she dares not push for more change until then. Already there are whispers that Darken Rahl's queen has an unnatural hold on him, tells him to turn his troops back. She fears discovery."
Dennee was thin, unnaturally so, her manner detached, face blank.
She had not forgiven Serena for forcing her to face the Ritual of the Waters. Serena frowned, but did not begrudge the younger Confessor her anger. A male Confessor could not be suffered to live. Serena knew that better than most.
She did not need Dennee's forgiveness.
"Does she know what is at stake? We cannot hold Aydindril much longer. Our supplies dwindle. If the line breaks before she is able to pull the D'Haran forces back –"
"She knows!" Dennee interrupted, her face tight.
Serena fell silent, her hand seeking out the pendant she wore at her throat. It was a locket containing a lock of hair from her own son – the male Confessor boy she had hidden, and later had to kill before he destroyed all she held dear.
"Your son – " she started.
"My son is dead," Dennee finished.
"You know why."
When Dennee spoke it was with a whisper so soft Serena almost didn't hear it. "Yes."
"If Kahlan cannot do more, then we will have to take matters into our own hands. We must find a way to the Seeker," Serena said after a long moment.
Dennee's brows arched in surprise, the first true expression she had made since entering the room. "The Night Wisps are gone. That is why Kahlan was sent to D'Hara. There is no way across the Boundary."
Serena stood, smiling without mirth. "We are desperate now, my child. Our last plan is not working quickly enough."
Unspoken went her fears that it was not a flaw in the plan, but a flaw in Kahlan that stalled their salvation. Kahlan was young, as Serena had once been young.
The young often do foolish things out of misplaced trust.
"In desperation, there is no harm in hoping for the impossible." Serena went to the locked cabinet in the far corner of her council chambers. There, in the third drawer with the silver keyhole, beneath a false bottom, rested The Book of Counted Shadows.
Serena retrieved it, holding it up to the light.
"You're sending someone to the Boundary?"
"No," Serena answered. "I am going to the Boundary."
It was time she took to war.
"My lady, you've done it!"
Kahlan laid in the center of her massive bed in a plain cotton nightgown. Maids with linens and buckets of water bustled about, taking away her dirty sheets, opening the windows to let fresh air into the room, and assisting the healers that had attended to Kahlan in child bed.
Weary, her dark curls sticking to skin pale from exhaustion, Kahlan looked into Salindra's smiling face. "She's here? My daughter?"
"The heir is perfect," Salindra assured her, patting a damp cloth over Kahlan's brow. "He's been taken to Lord Rahl, to be named."
"He?" Kahlan sat bolt upright, then swayed, dizzy with the movement. "A boy?"
"Yes, a boy. You've done better than we hoped. A princess would have ensured you a place in the palace for all your days. But a prince! With the first born prince as your son, Lord Rahl will never cast you off."
A woman with more romantic sensibilities might have found Salindra's words offensive. Kahlan was not a woman of romantic sensibilities.
After all, she was using Darken Rahl for far more than a secure future.
Smirking, Salindra winked, "Not that he would have anyway. You've got him wrapped around your little finger."
Kahlan felt sick.
"A boy. It's never happened twice in one generation," she murmured to herself.
Kahlan blinked, refocusing to see Salindra giving her a sharp look.
"Nothing. Please. Send all these people away, and tell my husband I wish him to come to me."
Salindra cocked one eyebrow, but nodded.
In moments that felt like years, and yet passed all too quickly, Darken Rahl strode into Kahlan's bedchamber, a bundle in his arms.
"May I present the young Master Rahl." Pride and love beamed from his blue eyes.
"No!" Kahlan turned her face away. She hadn't wanted to see the child. The boy. What she had to do, what she had to order Darken to do would be easier if she never laid eyes on the babe.
"No?" Darken paused, an unsure note creeping into his voice. Kahlan was glad they were alone, for it was not a tone a king should use. Especially a king like Darken Rahl.
"I thought you would want to see him, Kahlan. Our son. I've named him Nicholas," Darken told her eagerly, though he stayed where he was. He would not approach the bed again until she told him. "But if you don't like Nicholas, we will of course choose something else."
Kahlan's heart pounded in her ears. She felt hot, flushed, her head stuffed with cotton, her temples pierced with pain. Was the boy's name the only thing that concerned Darken?
She wasn't being fair, she knew. The man was confessed.
The babe fussed and began to cry, and Darken awkwardly shushed him, jiggling him in his arms. "I've never held a baby before," he admitted, and Kahlan knew he spoke the truth.
He looked so happy.
The child cried on.
"Please, Kahlan, he needs his mother!"
In a moment of weakness, Kahlan held out her arms.
Adie, called the Bone Lady by some, clutched her Night Stone tightly in her fist, holding her breath as she stepped into the green fire that made up the Boundary. The Shadow People, spirits of the underworld, called to her, but with the help of the Night Stone, she ignored them, pushing on.
It was like walking through water that did not move – passing through a waterfall to emerge on the other side. Though the wall separating Westland from the Midlands was made of verdant light, it was cold, chilling her bones, a feeling that lingered, clinging to the skin.
She let out a breath, as she always did, when she finally passed through to the other side, giving a shiver.
"Bone Lady," a voice called.
A woman's voice. Not the voice of the trader Adie came to meet, the trader who gave her things unseen in Westland in return for herbs unavailable in the Midlands.
"Adie is called the Bone Lady," she replied, hunching in on herself to make herself look older, slower, more harmless. "You aren't the trader. What you want with old Adie?"
"I want a path through the Boundary," the woman said.
Adie turned her milky eyes on the speaker. She was cloaked in black, but her dress was white. Torn, muddy, yes – but white.
Adie saw more than people thought she could.
"Confessor. No one goes through the Boundary."
"If you can see that I am a Confessor, then you know how foolish it is to lie to me," Serena replied, voice strong. "I know you have a way. You have just come through it – I watched from the hill top. Does a Night Wisp aid you?"
Pursing her lips and sucking at her teeth, Adie pulled her Night Stone from the folds of her dress. "Not a Night Wisp. They's all gone. Hidden. But Adie has the Night Stone, infused with their power."
Serena held out her hand. "Give it to me."
Adie considered for a long moment, long enough that the Confessor raised her hand in that pose that all knew meant confession was imminent.
"It won't last forever," Adie held out the stone. "The magic fades as Adie uses it."
"I only need it to work long enough to fetch the Seeker," Serena said as she took the stone from Adie's shaking fingers.
Then she walked into the wall of fire.
Every morning, Kahlan planned her son's murder.
She would order Darken to smother him. Claim he died in the crib, as infants sometimes did. It was vital that his death seem an accident, so that she could try again.
She had to try again.
She had to bear a daughter to take the throne. A daughter to save them all.
So she would get up, resolute, her son's death sentence on her tongue.
And then Darken would smile at her, love for her in his eyes, and she would find as she did every morning that she could not bear to make him do it.
He was a monster. He ordered the slaughter of Brennidon. His hands were stained so red that all the waters of the sea could not wash them clean.
He was confessed.
In the early days he had told her all – of monstrous deeds driven by an all-consuming fear of destiny, a hatred of his father, a determination to be better.
To be loved.
He wept. He repented. He whispered every unkind thought, every harsh word, every stroke of the knife into her ears until she had wanted to kill him herself, order him to die, until his evil filled her up, poisoning her even as he was freed.
He was confessed.
He held her in the night, smiled in the day, used every bit of skill and cunning he had once bent on global conquest to please her, to try to make her happy. It was an impossible task.
But he was confessed.
And he was hers. Mind, soul, and body.
And in some strange way, she had become his. He was the only person for leagues that knew her – who she truly was. He listened to her ravings, often surprising her with his insight. He loved her, looked to her for guidance, tried every day to be the man she expected him to be.
It had surprised her, for never before had she spent any great amount of time with those she took with her power. He was confessed, but he was not mindless.
And Kahlan could not make him kill her son.
She could not face the look in his eye, could not listen to the disappointment in his voice as he obeyed. Could not bring herself to give an order that Darken Rahl the Great Destroyer would hesitate to follow.
She couldn't take his salvation away.
No matter. She would do it herself.
But not today. Tomorrow. Tomorrow she would send Darken away, would distract the guards, and she would hold a pillow over Nicholas' face.
Not Nicholas. The boy.
"Tomorrow I'll kill him," she said aloud, to give the idea concrete form.
It is a strange thing when a Confessor cannot tell a truth from a lie.
Stranger still when they are the speaker.
Zedd was watching the clouds, the wind against his bare skin. Standing naked between earth and sky , he opened himself to the whisperings of the wind, the ineffable stirrings of forces unseen – trying to make sense of it all, as his old lover Shota the Witch Woman did with such ease. He held his pet chicken, Clara, in two hands, idly stroking her.
There was a dark omen on the horizon that he liked not at all. More than that, he could not say. He did not have Shota's talent for foresight.
"Zeddicus Zu'l Zorander. It's been too long."
Zedd stiffened, the hairs on the back of his neck rising along with the power in his veins to be addressed as such. Without turning he plastered an idiotic grin on his face and answered, "I'm sorry, you must have me confused with someone else."
"I am not mistaken. I came looking for the Great Zeddicus, and I have found him."
Zedd recognized that voice. At last he faced his visitor.
"Serena," he greeted her, thinking of the clouds looming beyond the mountains. "I should have known."
"You know why I've come," Serena smiled, her eyes raking down Zedd's body. He had aged well, she decided.
Zedd sighed, putting Clara down, then grabbing up the simple robes he'd left sitting on a nearby tree stump. "I know why you've come. How did you manage it?"
"No matter. Take me to the Seeker."
Finished dressing, Zedd rounded on her, taking in her appearance for the first time. She was still Serena. Still beautiful, proud, a woman of iron will.
But tired. She looked so very tired.
"And if I refuse? If I say I will not Name him?"
Serena did not flinch. "I will confess you, and you will do it anyway."
They stared at each other in silence.
It was Serena who broke the stillness. "My people – our world – is passing away, Zeddicus. I will stop it – I must stop it. Every moment we dally here, this war rages on. Neither side will give, neither side will win. Soon there will be nothing left of what was."
"And you would confess me to save the world. Will you also confess the Seeker if he doesn't want to go with us?"
Feeling echoes of an old pain, razor blades in her gut, Serena looked at Zedd with dead eyes. "Sometimes you must destroy something to save it."
She touched the locket at her throat. The locket that held one golden curl from a little boy who had grown up to slaughter all those around him.
Zedd remembered Serena's son. He remembered the sound of her sobs as she did what had to be done. He remembered holding her that night.
"I will take you to the Seeker."
It was another day, and Nicholas still lived.
"Kahlan," Salindra's voice startled her, making her jump in her seat. "You've been sitting there so long the ink has dried on your quill."
Kahlan looked down at the splotched parchment on the desk before her, and realized Salindra was right. Sighing, she put the quill down, then rubbed at her temples.
Nimble fingers took over, then pulled out the combs that held back Kahlan's dark hair, massaging her scalp. Kahlan moaned, leaning back into Salindra's hands.
Salindra smirked to herself, pleased to have evoked such a reaction.
Kahlan felt as if she were on a precipice with empty air and a long fall on either side. She had never questioned the practice of killing male Confessors. She always accepted it as necessary.
Until she made the mistake of being persuaded to hold her son. Allowed him to nurse. It had been only once, and yet once was enough to make her love him.
She was torn between duty and a mother's love, so much so that she sometimes felt as if she had been split into two people. One moment she was prepared to face what had to be done, the next she was caught up in some complicated plot to ensure that her son grew up well, with a mother and father who never tried to hurt him, never touched him with an Agiel, no matter that it was expected of the Rahl heir.
Never bound his hands.
"You haven't commented on my avoiding the nursery," Kahlan heard herself say as Salindra began to massage her shoulders. The blonde woman's hands were firm, skilled, finding and working at all the knots that Kahlan had not even known were there. She groaned, motioning for Salindra to press harder.
"Why would I comment on it? It's no fault to dislike children. I myself can't stand them."
Shocked, Kahlan turned to look up at Salindra, who winked at her. "Don't look at me like that. "
"It's not that I don't… I mean, I've never really been around children." That at least was true, if not the truth. With the land torn by war, few Confessors had taken mates.
"He has a wet nurse, and he won't know the difference. You can get to know him later, once he's stopped regularly soiling himself." Salindra scrunched her face up in such a comical expression of distaste that Kahlan could not help but laugh.
"It's been a long time since I've heard you do that," Salindra whispered, her breath against the back of Kahlan's neck.
"Sometimes it's hard to find a reason," was Kahlan's reply, her eyes sinking closed.
She froze when Salindra placed a soft kiss on her neck, but did not immediately stop her. Taking the lack of protest as encouragement, Salindra parted her lips, letting the barest tip of her tongue wet Kahlan's skin. Gently, she massaged at muscles hard with tension, following her fingers with soft, moist kisses and little exhalations of warm air.
Something stirred low in Kahlan's belly. A lazy arousal, present but not pressing. Salindra kissed her pulse point, and Kahlan felt her nipples harden, the sensitive flesh pressed against the confining fabric of her corset.
She had denied herself Darken's touch since Nicholas was conceived. She told herself it was because he was disgusting. Because she hated him.
The truth was she was frightened by the way Darken made her feel. By the craving she had for his touch, his body.
Salindra slipped one of her fingers below the neckline of Kahlan's dress, scraping her nail along the top of Kahlan's breasts. It was a small touch, but it ignited a fire at Kahlan's core. She gasped, wetness pooling between her thighs.
"Salindra, what are you doing?" Her voice was breathy. She had to stop this.
"Helping you relax. You're wound tight as a clockmaker's prize piece," Salindra answered matter of factly.
She slid her finger lower, grazing one of Kahlan's nipples. Kahlan moaned, red faced, unable to stop her hips from jerking.
"Salindra, no. We can't – "
Salindra pulled Kahlan's chair back from the desk with a loud scrape, then sat in her lap, straddling her, her skirts ballooning up around them. Her breasts were pressed to Kahlan's, and it felt so good it made Kahlan sputter, forgetting what she was going to say.
It had been so long since she felt truly wanted. Darken always wanted her, but Darken had no choice.
Salindra kissed her, softly, gently, and then more demanding, somehow imbuing the act with the wicked cheer Kahlan had long come to associate with her friend. Before Kahlan knew it, her hands were in Salindra's hair, and Salindra's were in hers, a low moan rising out of her throat.
Kahlan felt her inner muscles flutter, aching and wanting, a sweet passion brewing there that was becoming more urgent.
She pushed Salindra off her lap, eyes wide in panic.
"This can never be," she said in a voice that shook.
Sprawled on the floor, hair and dress disheveled and pride in tatters, Salindra glared. Calmly, she picked herself up.
"Salindra – "
"No, it's alright," the blonde said softly, then smiled.
But it was not the mischievous look Kahlan was used to. All the warmth was gone.
"Salindra, please! I don't want to hurt you," Kahlan pleaded, standing to reach for the other woman. She wished she could explain, tell Salindra everything.
That she wanted to love her. That she did love her, though she had realized it only in this moment.
That she didn't want to lose her to confession.
Pretty as a picture, as delicate as a flower, Salindra affected a flirtatious laugh, her golden hair swaying behind her as she tossed her head. "Hurt me? Don't be silly, Kahlan. Pleasure isn't love. You know that."
And then she sashayed from the room, her head held high, every step of her delicate slippers a dagger in Kahlan's heart.
Darken was holding court when his mistress found him. Her hair tumbled down around her shoulders , and there was a flush in her cheeks. Catching sight of her, Darken thought she looked beautiful this way. She was always beautiful, of course, but like this she reminded him of the first time he had seen her – a timid concubine with the bearing of a queen.
He held up two fingers, signaling his attendants to hold the next petitioner as Kahlan approached. He longed to go to her, to press kisses to her hands, her eyelids, her lips, but she had long ago ordered him that he must not. When they were in public, he had to behave as Lord Rahl.
That was what Kahlan wanted, so Darken obeyed.
She reached the throne dais and Darken rose to meet her, taking the hand she offered to him and kissing it.
"My love, what is it?" he asked, his mouth against her skin. He knew that she liked that, the feel of his lips and voice against her skin. She was quite adamant when they made love, and he did his best to remember everything she said, so that he might please her better in the future.
"Come with me to my chambers. Now," Kahlan ordered, something ugly in her heart even as her loins clenched with want.
She needed release, in more than one way, or she would go mad. Even now she struggled to maintain her control on her power of confession. It roiled beneath her skin like some great beast, a hound with mighty jaws trying to break the chains that held it.
"Of course," Darken said, tucking Kahlan's arm into his to escort her from the room.
They left the way Kahlan had come, without so much as a by your leave.
Cara watched them from her place standing to the right of the throne, her eyes narrowed. Once they passed out of sight, she stepped forward and announced that Lord Rahl would hear no more petitions that day.
Then she followed Lord Rahl and his queen.
As soon as the bedchamber door closed behind them, Kahlan pressed Darken to the wall, kissing him with a passion fueled by conflicting emotion.
-Cut for Content-
"Maybe this time we'll have a girl. I know you desire a daughter," Darken said with a smile.
Unnoticed by either of them, a dusky hawk perched outside their window, observing all within.
"That is the Seeker?" Serena scoffed, her eyes on Richard Cypher. "He's a boy."
She stood with Zeddicus, in Hartland's market, watching as Richard Cypher made a fool of himself over some girl. He brought her flowers and smiled sweetly, offering to carry the basket she used to hold her shopping.
"If he's not good enough, you are welcome to go and find yourself another," Zedd frowned, his brows bunching together to wrinkle his forehead.
"You were supposed to be training him!" Serena hissed. "What have you been doing all this time?"
"Letting him climb trees, steal apples, find out what makes his heart beat faster!" Zedd whispered back just as vehemently.
Serena took his arm, walking with him toward Richard, digging her nails in a bit harder than necessary. "And while he was stealing apples, my people were hunted to the point of extinction, the Night Wisps abandoned the world, and Darken Rahl's empire swallowed kingdom after kingdom like a ravenous dragon from the old tales!"
"Enough!" Zedd snapped, then softened, his shoulders sagging. "Enough. You've made your point."
They came to a stop in front of Richard, who looked up, an open honest expression on his face. Serena could see the greatness of his soul, the goodness of his heart in his face, shining from his eyes.
It was like looking into the sun.
"Hey, Old Zedd," Richard grasped Zedd's forearm in greeting, then looked at Serena.
"Richard Cypher," Zedd intoned, a weight settling upon him that told his wizard's senses that they were at a crossroads in destiny. "Meet Serena. The Mother Confessor."
Richard blinked. "What's a Confessor?"