Title: Mistress Rahl May Bleed
Wordcount: Appx. 4,300
Warnings: Fantasy Violence; Implied Sexuality; Mild Dub-Con; Torture; Genderswapping; F!Darken Creeping like a Creeper.
Pairing/Characters: f!Darken/Cara; f!Darken/Richard; Richard/Kahlan; Egremont; Giller.
Summary: Part of the Mistress of D'Hara AU. Daria Rahl meets her brother for the first time, and barely escapes with her life. But she will never forget the look in his eyes or the feel of his lips.
Note: Written for hrhrionastar, as a belated birthday gift! She wanted me to do the f!Darken version of Conversion. This fic picks up in the last few scenes of Conversion. You should assume that the rest of the episode occurs in the same way as canon.
Mistress Rahl May Bleed
Daria stood in the chamber of the People's Palace where she had practiced sorcery since she was a child. It was made of gold wood and marble, with a red pentagram painted on the floor in blood.
It was not her own, but that of Rahls who came before her. Their magic ran in the slashes of red, sinking down into the stones, anchoring the palace in the power of generations, so even those Rahls like Daria – barely worthy of being called mages at all – would be mighty there. Would be able to call upon the great forces. Would be able to summon the blue flames that could spirit her away upon moonbeams, funneling her essence through the stars, only to arrive at one of the many similar bloody sigils sprinkled throughout the Rahl holdings.
There was a sound behind her, and Daria turned, her long black braid brushing across the backs of her thighs.
It was Cara. She bore Daria's red velvet traveling cloak. Daria allowed it to be fastened around her shoulders, the sweep of the fabric hiding her gold-gilded leathers. Whenever Daria traveled alone, Cara insisted that Daria not be immediately recognizable as anything other than an ordinary Mord'Sith.
Once the cloak was fastened, Daria leaned forward, catching Cara's lips in a kiss.
"I should be going with you," Cara murmured, though she did not reach for Daria. Here, where anyone may see them, it was not for Cara to act as an equal. Daria could take, but the Mistress Rahl must never give.
"Only one may go," Daria answered. She did not say that she was only strong enough to carry herself with the spell. Would not have admitted to the limits of her magic even if they had been alone.
And yet, somehow, she felt that Cara knew.
"My lady," Egremont's voice came between them. "It is time. The stars are in the proper alignment."
Daria nodded, and ran leather-gloved fingers over Cara's cheek, meeting her green eyes.
Cara stepped back.
Taking one last look at her two closest companions – Cara, her lover and the most loyal of her Mord'Sith, and Egremont, her almost-father – Daria raised her hands and arranged them in the configuration that would channel magic from heaven to earth.
She remembered Zeddicus teaching her this spell.
Sanguine Rahls praeteritum, surgere. Everrit me in ignem. Ubi me oportet accipias, Zeddicus' voice whispered through her head.
She repeated the incantation aloud, and was engulfed in a fountain of blue flames.
The fire did not burn her. It never did. But the flames itched across her skin, making her feel like an overfull wineskin, a bird in a cage that was far too small. It was with iron control that she quashed down a rising feeling of panic, a desire to lash out that would interrupt the spell and send Daria flying apart in a thousand different directions – lost forever amongst the stars.
A hawk must fly free.
Before the feeling could overwhelm, she was coalescing in Giller's wizard tower, the flames dying down around her. Always when she traveled this way, she inevitably wondered whether the flames would affect her so if she were not a Mord'Sith, but somehow she never remembered to ask.
"Mistress Rahl," Giller hurried forward, eager to please, as was usual. He was more afraid of her than any other, for Rahls were always dangerous, and Daria was a Rahl whom Giller could not turn his magic upon. He might be fearsome to some, the First Wizard with a penchant for experimenting, but to the Mord'Sith he was a frightened boy in a dusty robe, worth keeping alive only for the services he could render.
Daria was not in the mood to bait Giller, so she simply listened as he blustered on about his progress in developing a potion that would make one immune to confession – the thing Daria wanted most.
"I've tested it on myself to great success, Mistress Rahl," he said. "When confession was attempted – "
"Confession was attempted?" Daria cut in, her voice like a knife whistling through the air. "There is a Confessor here?"
There was only one thing Daria Rahl feared more than the prophecy hanging over her head, and that was the touch of a Confessor. It made her shiver, made her shudder, to think of it.
One touch was all it would take, and Daria would die in agony. A pain more terrible than even that of an Agiel, or so the stories said.
But Daria could handle pain. She was Mord'Sith, she was a Sister of the Dark, she was the Keeper's Damned, she was the daughter of Panis Rahl – pain was nothing new, and of no concern.
What frightened her, what made her tongue stick to the roof of her mouth as terror leeched away all moisture, was that she would spend her dying moments loving her murderer.
She would not be controlled. She would not be made into something she was not. She would be nothing less than a queen, a Mistress who bowed to no one. This was what she had promised herself, when she took her first step on the path that ended with a dagger in her father's throat. This was her true destiny, the fate she was creating for herself, and she would let no one and nothing take it from her.
Not the Seeker. Not his sword. Not her father. Not the prophets.
Not the Confessors.
So she hunted them. She sent her armies against Aydindril, and those Confessors who were not killed she captured, and studied, and tortured. Looking for weaknesses. Looking for a cure. Searching for hope. A way to combat them. Control them. Make even their power useless against a Mord'Sith.
But never, in all this time, had Daria ever seen one in person.
An icy fist of dread clenched in her gut, even as she ordered Giller, "Show me."
She would take this potion. She would become immune to confession. And then she would see her first Confessor.
But before they could take more than a few steps down the hall, to the chamber where Giller assured her the Confessor was well-chained, all of the little hairs on the back of Daria's neck stood on end.
She paused, assessing the sensation.
Something was drawing her toward a supply room at the base of the tower. A sort of uncanny sense she had long ago learned to heed.
She ordered Giller on ahead to the chamber where the Confessor was being kept, and then proceeded forward, alone.
What she saw when she opened the supply room door was easy enough for her to decipher. There was one of her soldiers, likely confessed by the way he was talking, and he and his compatriot were arguing over whether to send the tower crashing down around all their ears. A haphazard pile of incendiary weapons was stacked in the center of the room, a fuse leading to the explosive tangle.
A plot to assassinate Daria, then. She smirked, amused that neither man had noticed her, and watched the drama unfold.
The second man, who was clearly no soldier of D'Hara – his blue peasant shirt and worn brown breeches marked him as a woodsman, perhaps a member of the rebellion – drew his sword and lunged forward, hacking at the fuse line of the explosives. He would not allow the tower to fall with the Confessor inside.
It wasn't until he raised his blade again and it caught the firelight that Daria realized it was the Sword of Truth.
Her heart stopped beating. Her breath caught in her chest. For one panicked moment, she thought she would drop dead just at the sight of the Seeker.
But then her training asserted itself, and before she could make a conscious decision she was gliding forward on silent feet, driving her Agiel into the back of the confessed soldier and sliding his sword from his hand.
If she was to fight the Seeker, she'd need a weapon with a longer reach.
Her red velvet cloak swirling around her, she kicked the dead soldier away and turned into a ready stance, lightning blue eyes locked with hazel brown.
So this was the Seeker. Richard Cypher.
The face of her nightmare.
He was well formed and muscular, and taller than Daria had thought he would be.
For one completely insane slice of time, all she wanted was to love him.
But then something in his face shifted, hardened, and Daria remembered that he was just like her father. He was Panis Rahl's much wanted son, and he thought he knew best, didn't understand, didn't try to understand, and he was here to kill Daria without ever having spoken to her first.
Without even asking why.
"Mord'Sith," he addressed her, and Daria recalled how this man had laid Denna low. The blonde Mord'Sith denied it, but Daria knew that something had happened. It was in Denna's eyes. In the timbre of her voice, when she said the Seeker's name.
In the way she begged Daria for mercy, and didn't even mean it anymore.
The Seeker had done something to put Denna off her guard, and then he had buried his sword to the hilt in her gut, and still Denna yearned for him.
That was his danger then. For whatever reason, the Seeker inspired love in those around him. Even in his enemies.
Perhaps especially in his enemies.
"Seeker," Daria replied.
"I don't want to fight," he said so earnestly that Daria almost believed him. "I just want Kahlan."
"And to kill Mistress Rahl?" Daria shifted her weight from foot to foot, bending her knees, Agiel in one hand and borrowed sword in the other. She put herself between the Seeker and the door.
The Seeker was silent. Finally, he replied, "I want to set the people free."
"I will not let you pass," she told her baby brother.
A look of sorrow came over him, a grim downward turn of his lips. He raised his own sword. "Why are you so loyal to Rahl? To D'Hara?"
Infuriated, Daria leapt forward, bringing her sword crashing down against the Sword of Truth in a blow that threw sparks. "I am D'Hara!" she snarled at this fool, this simpleton, this man who dared to think of himself as a hero, and cast her as the villain.
What followed was a brutal clash. Daria was deadly elegance, her weapons writing a poem in blood and sweat, a horrific beauty to her every strike. Richard was clumsy in comparison, but possessed of much greater strength than she, driving her back with wild swings.
She circled and gave ground, kicking the sand of the dirt floor into the Seeker's eyes, only to lose part of her cloak to a desperate downward slash. On and on the Seeker came, Daria dancing around him like a cat taunting a boar, until an impossible moment sent Daria's sword flying from her hands.
The Sword of Truth. It was enhancing the Seeker's natural abilities. It had to be.
Daria would accept no other explanation.
The Seeker laid the point of his blade against her throat, keeping her at bay, too far back to reach him with the Agiel she still clasped. Ignoring the hot bite of the glowing-red brand, Daria struggled to center herself, to bring up every trickle of magic flowing in her blood.
"Tell me where Mistress Rahl is!" the Seeker demanded.
Daria twitched her fingers, and disappeared.
Swiftly striding to where her sword lay in the sand, Daria picked it up and positioned herself behind her brother, before dropping the spell of invisibility.
"Behind you," Daria replied, answering the Seeker's question.
She saw dawning comprehension in his eyes just before she slammed the flat of her blade into the side of his skull, sending him crumpling to the ground.
Richard regained his hearing first. Something was pounding in a steady rhythm. It took a few seconds to realize he was hearing the blood rushing in his skull, and that each thump was accompanied by a dull white pain.
Then he remembered. Mistress Rahl. He'd been fighting her all along, and never knew.
He wished he could say knowing would have made a difference. Would have made him fight harder, more likely to go for a killing strike. But that would be a lie. Even thinking she was an ordinary Mord'Sith, Richard had given his all just to hold her off as long as he had.
Unable to stifle a groan, he opened his eyes. The light made his head ache worse.
The first thing he saw once he could focus was a pair of bright blue eyes, soft lips, and the sweep of black hair against lightly tanned skin.
He kissed the face before him, nearly sobbing in relief.
"Kahlan," he mumbled against lips that tasted of spiced tea and cherries.
The lips pulled back, a voice that was not Kahlan's voice purring, "Normally I would kill a man who said another woman's name."
Richard blinked bleary eyes, a nauseous churning in his stomach. He tried to move and heard the clank of chains.
He was held to a cross of wood with heavy shackles.
And the woman he had kissed – the woman who was not Kahlan – took a step back, and Richard let his eyes sweep downward. Red leathers engraved with swirling gold lines that formed the crest of D'Hara over and over. A black braid that reached mid-thigh. A deep red cloak, now tattered and full of jagged slashes from their fight at the bottom of the tower.
"Rahl," Richard said, his face heating in shame. He'd kissed another woman, a monstrous woman he was supposed to loathe.
Worse still, he'd enjoyed it. Even now, his tongue chased the flavor of spice and cherries from his mouth, and he was hyper aware of the mingled notes of jasmine and leather oil that comprised Mistress Rahl's scent.
Creator forgive him.
Kahlan forgive him.
"Yes," Mistress Rahl confirmed, her piercing gaze fixed on his face. She was like a hawk, ready to strike. As hypnotizing as a serpent. Richard almost expected her to start swaying back and forth. "But I suppose you can be forgiven, for thinking I am your Confessor."
Rahl gestured, and Richard looked beyond the woman to see Kahlan chained to the wall opposite him. At once, he was horrified and even more ashamed, guilt rising within him like a tidal wave.
Kahlan'd seen him kiss Rahl.
"After all," Rahl was going on. She glided over to Kahlan, graceful and predatory, her ruined cloak floating behind her, adding to the impression of a great bird of prey. "Kahlan and I share a certain resemblance."
Rahl turned her back to Richard, standing face to face with Kahlan. She raised one hand, ghosting the backs of her knuckles over Kahlan's cheek. "You look so like my mother," Rahl said, so softly that Richard almost didn't hear her. "We could be sisters, you and I."
Kahlan spat in Rahl's face, and Richard jerked against his chains, heart hammering.
"Kahlan!" he cried.
But instead of the vicious reprisal he expected, Rahl calmly wiped the spittle from her chin with the edge of her cloak. And she laughed.
Richard wondered if she was mad.
"I have never seen a Confessor before," Rahl said. She fingered Kahlan's hair. "I didn't expect to like you, but I do. You remind me of someone very dear to me."
Richard rebelled against the idea of Rahl having any dear ones. She wasn't supposed to be so… human. She wasn't supposed to look like Kahlan, or have a narrow waist, or flush red during a sword fight.
She wasn't supposed to give sweet kisses.
"Richard loves you, if the reports from my scouts are correct. If Denna can be believed. Was he really able to resist Denna's training in order to save your life?" Rahl's hands were getting bolder, trailing through Kahlan's hair and down the side of her neck. "What is it about you?" she murmured, and Richard had a feeling she wasn't talking to them anymore, and might not even know she'd spoken out loud at all.
"Leave her alone!" Richard called out, trying to redirect Rahl's attention.
Those unholy blue eyes fixed on his face. "You must think Kahlan is very beautiful…" Her hand traveled down Kahlan's arm to clasp her fingers. "Tell me, Richard, do you think that I am beautiful? And," she smiled a razor thin smile framed in crimson, "we'll know if you lie."
It was disturbing, how Rahl seemed to have appropriated Kahlan for herself. How she so casually suggested that the Confessor was complicit in her question.
Richard met Kahlan's eyes, a muscle in his jaw ticking. She gave an almost imperceptible nod.
Richard flushed, because he knew, he knew that he was about to tell the truth, and that Kahlan would know.
"You're very beautiful," he said grimly, refusing to look at Rahl. "But more than appearance matters."
More than appearance matters.
Seeing her chance, Daria seized on that.
Leaving the Confessor's side, she stalked back over to Richard and cupped his face in both her hands.
"Yes, there is more," she agreed in a low voice. "So much more."
She lowered her lips to his. "Don't you want to know who it is you're killing before you thrust," she slammed her hips forward, pressing their groins together, "the Sword of Truth through my heart?"
The Seeker made a strangled noise of protest, his wide eyes darting to Kahlan. Daria frowned. She was unused to having less than the full attention of any who stood before her.
She kissed the Seeker, running her tongue along his closed lips. He refused to reciprocate, but Daria could feel his body responding. She did not push him. She was sure that if the Confessor were not in the room, Richard would not hold himself back.
Like a legend rising from the mist, she saw the way to avert the prophecy without any bloodshed. She would not be forced to be a kin slayer for a third time.
She would take the Seeker as her consort. She would need an heir some time, and that was one of the few things her relationship with Cara could not grant her. But a babe fathered by the Seeker, a child twice royal, though only she would know it…
It would unite the three territories in a way they had never been before.
And she would even keep the Confessor, properly contained in a Rada Han of course, and make a sister of her.
She did look so much like Mother.
"I could make you love me," she told the Seeker, running her fingers over the sliver of his chest that his shirt left visible.
"What do you know of love?" the Confessor's voice interrupted them, making Daria growl in frustration. "Except that you will never feel it!"
Daria bared her teeth and drew her Agiel, turning to teach her new sister some manners. While she enjoyed Kahlan's strength and defiance to a certain point, she would not tolerate such impudence.
The Confessor stared back hotly, every line of her body screaming that she would not break, would not bow, would not be defeated.
They were so alike.
Rather than striking Kahlan, Daria turned her Agiel upon Richard, cracking the leather rod against his jaw, and then driving the point into his left bicep.
His face reddened, but he didn't scream, and despite herself Daria was impressed.
It was a rare man who could wield an Agiel, and Richard reacted to the torture magic with only slightly less composure than a full Mord'Sith.
He would be a good consort.
"Know this, Kahlan," Daria told her new sister. "Every time you defy me, it will be Richard who pays for it."
Displeased with Richard's lack of reaction, Daria moved her Agiel in a series of rapid jabs, striking nerve center after nerve center until Richard was panting with the effort it took to bite back his wails.
The first scream was delicious, precisely because Daria had to work for it.
"Why do you make me hurt you?" she addressed to Seeker and Confessor both. "We could accomplish so much. The three of us, together."
The air was filled with a haunting shriek. It barely sounded human. It was an animal's mindless roar, a howl of rage and pain.
It did not come from Richard.
Daria spun to see the Confessor convulsing and screaming, foamy spittle flying from her lips. She was having some sort of fit. Perhaps brought on by Giller's experiments?
Seeking out the wizard with her gaze, and finding him standing between two Mord'Sith near the door, Daria gestured, thumb and two fingers extended. "Wizard…?"
Giller started toward Kahlan, but in that moment her head snapped forward. Her eyes were a solid inky black, engorged blood vessels forming a red mask around the dark pits. The air filled with the smell of rain, and Daria could not hear but feel the thunder.
She realized before Giller did. She'd made it her business to know everything there was to know about Confessors. To study even the things that were said to be legend, said to be impossible.
Kahlan Amnell had entered the Blood Rage.
Her black eyes fixed on Daria, and Daria knew then that the only thing that saved her was Giller's potion.
The other Mord'Sith in the room were not so lucky.
As one, they fell to their knees, intoning, "Command me, Confessor."
Kahlan smiled a deadly smile that Daria had often seen in the mirror. "Kill her!"
Daria was already backing toward the door. One young Mistress attacked, and Daria caught her by the arm, and then twisted, using the girl's momentum against her and sending her sprawling to the floor, tripping the Mistress that had been coming at Daria from behind.
Daria spared a moment to look up, to take in the room. Giller was lying on the floor, bleeding heavily from a wound in his side. The Seeker was free, and heading for the table where Daria had placed the Sword of Truth. The Confessor was straining against her bonds, no mercy in her face.
And before Daria's eyes, the confessed Mord'Sith were starting to drop, their eyes rolling back until Daria could see the whites, and their limbs flopping at unnatural angles.
Daria swallowed back bile, and ran.
There would be other battles. Other chances, when she could be sure of victory.
She reached the room with the blood sigil painted on the floor and stood in the center of it. Taking a few ragged, deep breaths, she grounded herself, trying to gather the power she needed.
It was coming, up through the stones, the magic of her bloodline rising up through the sigil to flow into her body, but slowly… Too slowly.
She heard the sound of running feet, and a door being swung open.
Turning, she saw the Seeker sprinting toward her, the Sword of Truth glowing orange-white in his hands. Her death was drawn on his face.
Did she have enough power to get back to the People's Palace? She didn't know, but there was no more time.
Daria raised her hands in the spell gesture.
The Seeker lunged.
Sanguine Rahls praeteritum, surgere. Everrit me in ignem. Ubi me oportet accipias.
A line of pain cut across Daria's face. She choked on her own blood.
Blue flames rose around her.
She barely had the strength to hold onto the spell. To keep her essence together, to force herself into being at the People's Palace.
Weary, she stumbled forward, something hot and thick running down her face and neck.
"Dahlia!" a voice called.
Cara caught her, and Daria found herself looking into green eyes. Dahlia, Cara had said, which more than anything else told Daria that she must look as horrible as she felt. Cara called her Dahlia only in private. Daria Rahl was Cara's liege.
Dahlia was her lover.
A warm bulk pressed into Daria's other side, holding her up, and Daria turned her head to see Egremont.
"My lady," he gasped, his eyes tight with anger. "Your face."
Daria touched a trembling hand to the cut bisecting her cheek as Cara and Egremont crowded close, lending her their strength, granting her warmth. She could feel the sharp crackle of the Rahl bond between them, threads of loyalty that would never be severed.
She wanted nothing more than to accept their help. To let herself be cared for.
But she did not. She could not. She shrugged them away, stiffening her spine and concentrating on making her way to her private chambers on her own feet, despite the fact that she was drained in every way possible. She hadn't been able to gather enough magic from the sigil for her last transportation, and so it was her own life force she'd used to power the spell. It was force of will alone that got her past the door without fainting.
But she did it.
Mistress Rahl may take, but she may not give.
Mistress Rahl may want, but she may not need.
Mistress Rahl may hate, said an inner voice that sounded suspiciously like Kahlan Amnell. But she may not love.
Mistress Rahl may bleed, but she may not weep.