Title: Mistress of D'Hara - Part of the Wizard's 63rd Rule Collection
Wordcount: Appx. 4,500
Pairings/Characters: f!Darken/Cara; Egremont/Darken's Mother; Panis Rahl; Zedd; Mistress Nathair.
Warnings: Gender discrimination; Gender flipping; Fantasy Violence; Torture; Sensuality.
Summary: What if Darken Rahl had been born a girl? How might have her life played out? Part of the Wizard's 63rd Rule Collection: A collection of character studies in which various LotS characters are genderflipped. The pieces are not related. In some, one character is genderflipped, in others all characters are, and in still others it's a mixed bag. The title of the collection is taken from the 63rd Rule of the Internet: "For every male character, there is a female version of that character. For every female character, there is a male version of that character."
Note: The portrayal of female!Darken Rahl, specifically her relationship with the Keeper, is influenced by conversations with madmguillotine.
Mistress of D'Hara
Daria Rahl missed her mother.
She'd chafed at all the time spent sitting in her mother's solar, learning to be a proper princess of the House of Rahl, but now she saw those days for what they were – blessed and golden, a quiet time of sanctuary before her mother's death.
Princess Daria had been her Queen Mother's cossetted darling, all soft black curls and softer red dresses. She looked just like her mother redone in miniature, and people often commented that they were like a painting of the Creator as Maiden and Mother when they sat next to each other. The only difference was the eyes.
Daria had Rahl eyes.
She'd never seen her father much, in those old days when Mother was still alive. Lord Panis Rahl didn't have any use for a daughter until she was old enough to be used as a matrimonial bargaining chip, and Mother wouldn't hear of Daria being betrothed until she was at least fourteen. Back then, Daria had starved for her father's attention. Surely there was something she could do to earn her father's respect, if not his love.
"I want to learn the sword," Daria had announced in her most regal voice one afternoon. Father would be so pleased, if his heir knew the sword. Wasn't he always grumbling on the nights he took dinner with them, that the only heir Mother had managed to give him wore skirts and couldn't handle a blade?
That problem could be easily fixed with some breeches and a fencing master, to Daria's way of thinking. She wasn't too old yet. General Egremont had told her that he hadn't started learning the sword until he was twelve, and Daria wasn't quite eleven.
"Princesses do not learn such roguish skills," had been Mother's prim reply.
"But the Mord'Sith – " Daria started to argue.
"You are not a Mord'Sith!" Mother had frowned in that way that meant Daria might be sent to her room without supper, so Daria relented.
It wasn't long after that Mother died in childbed, even though the Wizard Zeddicus had predicted that she would suffer if she tried to give Father another child. But Father wanted a son, and Mother wanted to do her duty, so Mother's belly swelled, and then one day when Daria was sitting by the queen's bedside, sewing clothes for her new sibling, Mother's face had gone pale and the bedsheets, already red, turned redder with Mother's blood.
Daria had called for healers and sent for Wizard Zeddicus and a Mord'Sith, and shoved cloth and pillows between her mother's legs to try to stop the bleeding. But something tore, and Mother cried out and begged Daria to cut her open to save the little prince.
Her hands shaking, Daria fetched the wicked dagger Mother kept in the bedside table drawer for protection, and tried to hold her gorge as she cut through Mother's nightgown, the blade biting into her flesh. Someone was wheezing and sobbing and Daria's eyes blurred, and she realized it was her. She was sobbing.
Mother was so still, her face so white against her black hair.
Daria continued to dig in Mother's stomach, trying to pry out her little brother.
But at that moment someone grabbed her from behind, slamming her into a wall. Daria barely had time to recognize her father, his blue eyes wide in rage, before he backhanded her with a shout of, "You little bitch! Couldn't bear to lose the throne to your brother, so you killed them both!"
He pulled the dagger from Daria's suddenly slack fingers, and then he was raising it, and Daria tried to get her mouth to move, to explain, but all she could do was squeak.
But before the blade could come down, the Wizard Zeddicus was there, tall and bright with his strong hands and deep voice, and he was talking to Father, explaining what Daria had done. He pulled Panis Rahl away, and then he turned to Daria, cradling her face in his large hands, a cool rush tingling through her skin as Zeddicus healed the bruise on her face.
Daria sighed. She'd always had a bit of a crush on her father's handsome advisor, and now she felt those feelings bloom into what could be love.
But the moment was ruined when Panis Rahl turned around, his Rahl eyes locking with Daria's own. She knew in that instant that he didn't forgive her, he didn't understand. He blamed her for the death of the Queen, and more importantly to him, the death of his true heir, and he would never, ever forget.
He would never, ever love her.
Daria's eyes filled with fresh tears. Zeddicus was saying something to her, but she didn't understand. She just knew that General Egremont came and led her away, taking her to her rooms and guarding the door.
She sat on her bed for a long time, just staring at her hands. At Mother's blood on her hands.
She didn't realize she'd started to sob again until suddenly Egremont was holding her to his armor clad chest, whispering into her hair and promising that he'd protect her always, just like he'd protected her mother for the past fifteen years.
And thus began Daria's new life. She was no one's darling now. Well, no one except for Egremont, and she sometimes wondered if he only loved her because she looked so much like Mother, and everyone knew Egremont was in love with Mother.
But he never treated her like anything but a precious daughter, or when they were in public, the princess he would give his life for.
"Egremont," she asked him one day, when they were strolling in the gardens, away from prying ears. "Are you my father?"
He was quiet for a very long time. Eventually he said. "It is possible. But I don't think so."
Daria felt her eyebrows disappear into her hairline. She had expected him to deny even the possibility. "Why don't you think so?" she heard herself ask. "Father says I don't have enough magic to be a Rahl, to hold D'Hara."
Panis Rahl had always blamed Daria's shortcomings on her gender, but now… Now Daria wondered if her lack of powerful Rahl magic was simply because she wasn't a Rahl at all.
"It's the way the Mord'Sith watch you," Egremont's voice pulled her from her thoughts. "I have never seen a woman of Rahl blood near them, not until you. They look at you like… like soldiers at a general who has never failed them. They look at you in awe, princess."
"Why?" Daria asked, even as she flushed, pleased that Egremont had referred to her as a woman even though she'd yet to bleed or grow a bosom.
Egremont's response gave her much to think on.
"They are the deadliest women in the world, my princess. But their power comes from the Rahl bloodline. The Mord'Sith have always been ruled by men. But one day, one day soon when you ascend to the throne, the Mord'Sith will have their first Lady Rahl."
Daria was left alone most of the time now. Zeddicus didn't come to give her magic lessons anymore, and Father had never bothered to engage a tutor for her, since Mother had been teaching her how to be a proper noblewoman.
But now Mother was dead.
Lonely one night, and thinking maybe she'd imagined the hatred in her father's eyes the last time he had seen her, Daria had a servant help her dress in her best red brocade gown, the one with the spiraling gold trim on the bodice and the red velvet train that followed her like a river of rose petals, and went to the royal dining hall to sit with her father. She could recite, and she was learning to play the harp. Maybe if she proved herself entertaining he would start calling for her to sit with him in the evenings.
But Father was drunk when Daria arrived, and he scowled when the herald announced the presence of Her Royal Highness, the Crown Princess Daria.
"You'll never have the crown, you kin killing slut!" Father scowled at her, his face purple. He threw his wine goblet and it struck Daria in the chest, the wine leaking down her skirts. Too shocked to move, Daria simply stared.
"I've had a prophecy about you," Panis continued, swaying in his seat. "About how your evil will be rewarded. I will have a son – a real heir – and he will be the Seeker of Truth, and he will come and cut you down. He'll repair my mistake. Zedd's mistake." Leaning forward, his face more sorrowful than Daria could ever remember seeing it, Panis finished, "It's not your fault you have no soul. You were never meant to be."
She didn't go to her room. For some reason, she felt she wouldn't be safe there tonight. Instead she found herself in an old abandoned tower. There was a window seat overlooking a courtyard, and sheets covering the furniture.
Daria folded herself down into the window seat, looking out across the palace and into the night sky. Idly she twirled a dark curl around her fingers, and then rubbed her nails against her lips, unable to keep still.
The wine was cold and sticky against her skin.
Frowning, Daria shucked off her dress and then wrapped herself in one of the furniture dust cloths, returning to her place in the window. If she ever was Lady Rahl, she sleepily thought, she would have this room reopened. She liked the window seat.
She fell asleep, and in her dreams she prayed and prayed, desperate to find a way to stay alive, a way for her father to love her, a way to stop the brother who was going to come to kill her before they ever even spoke. She prayed until her voice was hoarse and her knees were numb from kneeling, but the Creator never answered.
But someone else, a deep voice that tore through Daria's flesh like cold flames, a baritone that shook her bones, whispered promises and reassurance in her ear.
All she had to do was serve her god, and all would be well. She would gain power and grow strong, and she would live, and live well. She would take D'Hara, and the Midlands too, and she would kill the Seeker, and find love, and start a new golden age in which no man would dare to think a woman weak purely for the lack of a fleshy organ between her legs.
All she had to do was become a Sister of the Dark.
Daria promised. She would repay power with death, blood for blood. And in return, death would not touch her. Her father and her unborn brother would not have their way.
When she awoke, a Mord'Sith was standing over her. She reminded Daria of a snake, with her unblinking grey eyes and wide mouth. Daria froze under her gaze.
"I am Mistress Nathair," the Mord'Sith said, just when Daria thought the silence would stretch on forever.
"Princess Daria Rahl," Daria returned numbly, realizing with a start that she wore nothing but a breechcloth and the furniture dust cover.
Mistress Nathair cocked her head to the side, like a wolf considering prey. "I know who you are," she said.
"Oh," Daria mumbled, suddenly feeling cold. She fidgeted, and then stopped, reminded by an internal voice that sounded very much like Mother that a princess never fidgets.
"Do you?" Mistress Nathair's voice made Daria look up, meeting those snake eyes.
"Do I what?"
"Do you know who you are?"
Daria opened her mouth to say that of course she did, the whole kingdom knew who she was, but something about those eyes gave her pause. She closed her mouth and thought. Then, "My father thinks I'm a monster."
"Is he right?" Mistress Nathair tilted her head the other way, her long Mord'Sith braid swaying behind her. Her red leather armor looked black in the gloom.
"I don't know," was all Daria could think of to say.
Mistress Nathair smiled. "Like all men, he is weak, and has not even the strength to admit his weakness. He must convince women they are as weak as he is, so that they will not realize he isn't strong enough to rule them."
Daria blinked, her head swimming as she tried to grasp what the Mord'Sith meant. She clutched her sheet tighter around her nakedness. "But the Mord'Sith are the strongest women there are, and my father rules you."
Mistress Nathair's smile grew wider, and Daria thought of a snake about to unhinge its jaw to swallow a mouse whole. "Not forever," Mistress Nathair hissed, raising gooseflesh along Daria's arms. "He will not rule us forever."
With a clarity that was startling in its suddenness, Daria understood.
Egremont, Daria's always faithful almost-father, convinced Panis Rahl that the princess needed to be sent to finishing school, or no proper marriage would ever be obtained for her. Panis acquiesced to the scheme so readily that Daria thought he must be as eager to have her out of the palace as she was to leave.
Her dresses were packed, horses were saddled, and Daria was bundled into a carriage bound for Thryce, with Egremont and Nathair riding alongside as her guards.
That night, when they made camp, Nathair and Egremont killed all the other attendants and dragged their bodies into the woods so that there would be no witnesses. Daria was given a much shabbier dress to wear, and then she was pulled up to sit in front of Egremont on his horse, and they were off to Jondralyn.
Jondralyn was a temple of the Mord'Sith, a place where new recruits were taken for training.
Mistress Nathair was the training mistress.
They waited, and watched, and within a fortnight a new batch of trainees was brought to the temple. Mistress Nathair bided her time until nightfall, and then she strolled into the holding caves, selected a dark haired girl, and dragged her out.
Daria watched as Nathair broke the girl's neck, her vision blurring and a knot rolling through her stomach. Bending over, she vomited her trail rations before she could stop herself.
Nathair slapped Daria for the weakness, then turned and glared at Egremont when he drew his sword in outrage.
"She must do this on her own, as an ordinary trainee, if she is ever to command us," Nathair hissed. "She must earn her Agiel."
Scowling, Egremont sheathed his sword.
"Put on her clothes," Nathair commanded Daria, gesturing to the dead girl. "Now!" she barked when Daria hesitated.
Feeling like her body belonged to someone else, Daria obeyed.
"Do not tell anyone you're the princess," Nathair advised as Daria dressed. "They won't believe you. Or if they do, they'll only punish you more harshly, to see if you really are the one we've been waiting for."
Swallowing another attack of bile, Daria nodded.
Egremont knelt before her, placing a gentle kiss on her forehead. "Remember, my princess, I will be here, acting as Mistress Nathair's consort. I'll never leave you."
Daria nodded and threw her arms around her almost-father. Then Nathair dragged her away, back into the holding caves.
It was dark, and cold, and they weren't allowed to speak. Daria could hear nothing but the drip of water, the skittering of rats, and the labored breathing of the girl next to her. Occasionally would come the heavy booted tread of one of the Mord'Sith as they prowled by to see if any of the girls had died or gone mad.
Daria lost count of the days. She huddled with the girl next to her for warmth, and they clenched their hands together, finding comfort in each other's presence. Whatever torture they were waiting for, whatever else happened, at least they weren't alone in the dark.
She didn't know how long it was before they were dragged back into the light. Daria kept hold of her silent companion, terrified of being made to let go of her.
But she needn't have worried. Daria and her companion were shuffled into a cell with two other girls who clung together, and Daria abruptly remembered Nathair telling her that the girls were trained in quads, so that they'd feel bonded and work well together once they earned their Agiels.
A platter of gruel and bowl of water was left for them in the center of the cell, and for once there was enough light to see each other. Daria studied her companion, their fingers still tightly clenched, and saw that she had blond hair and golden hued skin. Jade green eyes looked up at her. Daria realized she was the oldest girl in their cell, almost too old to be a believable Mord'Sith trainee.
But that was alright. If she was the oldest, then she was the most likely to emerge as the leader of their quad. Probably.
"I'm Cara," the younger girl said in a voice that was rusty with disuse.
"Da-dahlia," Daria replied, remembering only at the last second not to give her real name. "I'm Dahlia."
Cara smiled a tiny smile.
Still holding Cara's hand, Daria dragged her over to the food, glaring at the other two girls until she and Cara were finished eating. Leaving the scraps, they retreated to a corner and cuddled together against the cold.
That first night, the rats came, nipping at Daria and Cara's fingers and toes, resulting in stinging wounds and little sleep.
The next day when they were fed, Daria told the other two girls that if they didn't protect her and Cara from the rats at night, she wouldn't let them have any food. Cara clutched at her hand, looking at Daria with a worshipful expression.
That night they slept safely.
Daria woke with a start, automatically reaching out for Cara and finding her place in their bed empty, though the sheets were still warm. Blinking, she squinted across their small room in the trainee barracks, finding Cara standing at the square window that was a mark of Nathair's favor, already wearing her brown leathers. Daria pushed herself to her feet, her muscular thighs flexing and her bare breasts softly jiggling, approaching Cara and pulling the smaller woman into her arms.
In the years they had been training, they had both grown. Daria's deep black hair reached mid-thigh, as did Cara's golden locks, and both were tall and strong, all fat burned away as their bodies were hardened through combat and a soldier's diet. Daria was tan and busty, slightly taller than Cara and decidedly more muscular, the skin of her legs and arms rippling as she moved. She was almost too muscular for a woman, at least by her Mother's standards of beauty, and often amused herself with the thought that if she ever wore dresses again, they would have to have long sleeves, lest she look like a blacksmith.
But then, she could swing a sword with enough force and skill to behead a man in one blow, so it was an even trade.
Cara was lithe and her skin had a more golden hue. She reminded Daria of paintings she had seen of lions, all tawny and sinewy, moving with a preternatural grace. Her face was hard, her eyes like two hard emeralds, and yet her mouth was still wonderfully expressive, often pulled into a grin that sent heat straight to Daria's groin.
Daria loved Cara, as much as one Mord'Sith could love another. And Cara loved her back. They owned one another.
Bending, Daria ran her lips along Cara's jawline. "Why are you up and dressed before first light?" she murmured in a voice like velvet on steel, letting her hands drift to the swell of Cara's breasts, the flare of her hips. "Mistress Nathair gave us leave to sleep in as a reward, remember?"
Between the two of them, Daria and Cara had led their quad to victory in the war games the training mistresses had arranged as part of the final tests before they were given Agiels and red leathers of their own.
"Braid my hair, Dahlia?" Cara asked, placing a kiss on Daria's neck.
"Of course," Daria answered, drawing Cara back to the bed before beginning her task, deciding to ignore that Cara hadn't answered her question. Sometimes Cara kept her own council, and Daria couldn't really fault her, not when Cara didn't even know Daria's real name.
She finished braiding Cara's hair, and then allowed Cara to help her into her own brown leathers, before sitting in front of Cara to have her dark tresses put up in the traditional style. She didn't ask Cara if she was nervous about their final trials. A Mord'Sith never admitted to apprehension.
But when they left their room, they held hands as they hadn't since they were little girls who lived in a cell.
That afternoon, Cara killed her father and was rewarded with red leathers and the Agiel she had been trained with. Filled with pride, Daria served the newest mistress in the bath house, undressing her and anointing her skin with oils before sinking her tongue between Cara's thighs.
"Dahlia," Cara panted, her fingers twined in Daria's ebony locks.
That evening, Cara was given her first mission. She was to take 'Dahlia' to the People's Palace, where 'Dahlia' would do what she must to earn her Agiel.
Cara raised a brow, but did not question. It was not her place.
They made good time, Egremont riding with them. It took them only thirteen days to reach the People's Palace.
"Why can I not go with you?" Cara demanded, her hand on her Agiel.
"I must earn my Agiel myself," Daria replied heatedly, though she was touched by Cara's loyalty and desire to help. "You cannot earn it for me, Cara." Daria ran her thumb over Cara's lips, smirking to herself as she thought about where those soft petals had been earlier.
Cara sucked on Daria's fingers. "I could simply order you. I outrank you."
"For now," Daria said silkily, warning clear in her lightning blue eyes.
Cara bared her teeth and relented. "You will send for me when you succeed."
At this, Daria laughed, a rich alto chuckle. "When I succeed, you will know it, I promise you."
Daria stood outside her father's study, Egremont just behind her.
"You have trained well," Egremont said softly, pressing something into Daria's hand.
Daria looked down at the familiar dagger. A wickedly curved blade, the same that she had used to cut open her mother.
Daria clapped Egremont on the shoulder in silent thanks. It was odd, standing so close to him in her boots. The heels made her slightly taller than her almost-father.
Taking a deep breath, Daria silently entered Panis Rahl's study, her braid swinging with the motion of her body.
"Behind you," she said to Panis Rahl, watching as he started, turning to face her. There was a wine goblet in his hand and alcohol on his breath, and for an instant it seemed like no time had passed at all.
Then Panis raised one brow and said, "What are you doing in here?" He took in her brown leathers. "Mord'Sith Trainees aren't allowed in the royal wing."
Daria stayed silent.
Panis scowled. "What's your name?"
Panis Rahl's eyes went wide. "What are you doing wearing trainee leathers, girl?" For once, he didn't sneer. Perhaps he was too surprised.
"Mord'Sith earn their Agiels by killing their fathers," she told him levelly.
Then, before he could cry out, she slit his throat.
He gurgled and fell sideways out of his chair, a spray of blood staining the rug. Daria turned him over so she could watch the life leave his eyes.
"One down, one to go," she whispered to herself as she dedicated Panis Rahl's life to the Keeper. She felt a rush of magic in her veins, the Keeper's thanks for his prize.
Now all she had to do was kill her brother before he became a threat. Well, that and declare herself ruler of D'Hara.
Daria stood on a balcony of the People's Palace, accepting the devotional. She wore the red leathers of a full Mord'Sith, though hers were embossed and inlaid with gold leaf in intricate swirling patterns that formed the Rahl Crest over and over. Her Agiel hummed where it hung at her side, next to the dagger she had used to kill both of her parents.
Mistress Cara stood at her right hand, and General Egremont stood at her left. Below, the people chanted.
Mistress Rahl, guide us
Mistress Rahl, teach us
In your light we shine
In your wisdom, we are humbled
We live to serve
Our lives are yours.