Review @ Alex Ryzlin Gold
The Seeker of Truth had been an interesting opponent. For years now he had been the superhero in charge of looking after the Midlands. His arch nemesis Lord Rahl (the super villain name had been passed down though the blood line, just like the power of raising the dead) was constantly trying to invade. He had killed the superhero in D'Hara and took the title of supreme evil overlord of D'Hara over a decade ago. Now, Lord Rahl wanted more to rule. He chose the Midlands. Unfortunately, Lord Rahl was dead, not that it stopped him, but without a corporal form, it was proving a little harder than he had originally thought. That was where the Mord-Sith came in. They weren't born with powers, but were trained to use the ones given to them. The power to turn away other super's powers and the power to bring back life were given to them after long years of torturous training. Few Mord-Sith had other powers, they weren't meant to. Sometimes, when a child was taken from their family, a power hadn't manifested, and therefore wasn't detected. The ones that developed powers later in life were often killed. But some managed to hide it. Cara had, and now she was Lord Rahl's right hand.
She had been sent to the Midlands to complete Lord Rahl's dreams, to eliminate the Seeker of Truth. She had, quite easily in fact.
While the Seeker could fly and had super strength, when fighting a Mord-Sith he was grounded and no stronger than the next guy. That didn't mean he was defenseless, that sword he had could do some serious damage. The Seeker didn't fight alone either. He had the Mother Confessor and Wizard on his side. Cara had taken out Wizard first. She'd taken care to appear as a normal person, not as a Mord-Sith. It meant that Wizard had felt confident enough to attack her with his lighting bolts. Lighting bolts she had sent back at him, knocking the old man out. Cara knew that she wouldn't be able to turn the Mother Confessor's powers away, no Mord-Sith could turn away powers which were passed though a blood line. It had been a fail safe from when the first Lord Rahl created the first Mord-Sith. He didn't want his weapons turning on him. But Cara was resourceful, and knew there was more than one way to disarm the Mother Confessor. The Mother Confessor was a creature of love, and it was common knowledge that she was close to the Seeker of Truth. She would stop fighting if the Seeker stopped fighting. The Mother Confessor couldn't have thrown her daggers fast enough. All it had taken was one bullet to the head, and the Seeker of Truth was dead. It had been interesting. A gun wasn't fancy, it wasn't meant to be; it was meant to be efficient, and it was.
Cara walked slowly towards the weeping Mother Confessor. The gun she had shot the Seeker with in one hand and her agile, the trade mark of the Mord-Sith, in the other. She was in arm reach when the Mother Confessor looked up from the body of the Seeker. Her eyes were red and puffy from tears. Cara could see when the Mother Confessors muscles tensed, ready to launch herself at the Mord-Sith. Cara jabbed her agile across the Mother Confessor's neck. She gazed down at the woman frozen in pain. Her eyes and face blank of all emotion.
"No, no. I don't want you trying to use your powers on me. I think I may let you live."
"Leave me alive, and I'll come back and kill you." The Mother Confessor managed to grunt out though clenched teeth and the excruciating pain of the agile.
"You'd just make it more interesting. I believe that ruling a nation could be … tedious at best."
Cara removed the agile and kicked out, hitting the Mother Confessor squarely in the chest with her boot.
"Say down Mother Confessor, even if it is only to come after me later."
She turned around, ignoring the silent crowd that had gathered and focused on the small group of red figures standing in a protective circle off to the side. She headed towards them, still holding the two weapons in her hands.
"Denna. Triana. Berdine. Raina."
Cara nodded at each Mord-Sith in turn. They stood in a square, surrounding a man. Berdine and Raina at the back, and Denna and Triana in the front. She turned to the small man that they surround. Cara had never bothered to learn his name.
"Channel Lord Rahl."
"Um…" The man glanced around nervously, unsettled by the woman's unblinking gaze. "I need to set up an alter, and meditate…"
"No you don't. Channel him, now!"
The man closed his eyes. A minute later, when he opened them, it was clear who Cara was speaking to. No one else did that cocky smirk quite like Lord Rahl.
"Lord Rahl." Cara nodded her head slightly lower than she had to her sister Mord-Sith.
"Is the Seeker of Truth dead?"
Cara stepped aside, gesturing with a hand at the body of the Seeker and still weeping Mother Confessor. Wizard still lay on the ground nearby, unconscious.
"Good, but why are the other two still alive?"
"You told me to kill the Seeker, Lord Rahl. You never specified what to do with the others.'
"Yes, Lord Rahl. I do however wish to talk to you about security."
Lord Rahl sighed heavily. "What about security?"
"This … man … you use to talk to us, are there others like him? I do not like the idea of him being the only one we can use. Nor do I like the idea of someone channeling the Seeker in order to take back the Midlands."
"There is no one else like Giller here, but there are other ways. Denna, give her the key."
Denna glared at Cara as she drew a key on a chain from beneath her leathers. Cara extended her agile, allowing Denna to place the chain over it.
"Lord Rahl, I can claim the Midlands as my own realm. I did kill the Seeker of Truth."
"You won't Cara. Not as long as I have some sort of body." Lord Rahl snarled at her.
Cara smirked slightly. "I thought that might be the case. Berdine, Raina."
The two Mord-Sith moved at the same time, slamming their agiels into the base of the neck of the Mord-Sith in front of them. Denna and Triana fell to their knees, paralyzed with the pain to their central nervous system.
"It's a shame Lord Rahl; all I really wanted was the Midlands. I guess I'll be ruling D'Hara too." She lifted the gun in her hand and pressed it against Lord Rahl's forehead.
"They won't follow you; you're just a Mord-Sith. You don't even have natural powers."
"They will follow me, or they will join you in the Underworld."
Cara pulled the trigger, showering Berdine and Raina in a mist of blood and brain matter.
"Take them." She gestured to the two Mord-Sith on their knees. "We'll find some dungeon in the Confessors Palace for them."
Berdine and Raina forced Denna and Triana to their feet, holding them in place by strong pressure to their arms. Cara gazed over the crowd gathered. She looked at the Mother Confessor and the now conscious Wizard.
"I'm your new ruler. Deal with it."
She looked once more at Lord Rahl.
"And somebody clean that mess up."
Cara was bored. Three months into her reign of the Midlands and D'Hara and she was bored. It wasn't the reigning that was boring, it was the paper work. Paper work was fucking boring. All she did was read and sign, read and sign. She was fucking well sick of it.
Cara strode out of her office in the Confessors Palace and into the outer office that Berdine worked in.
"You're not finished with your paper work, Cara. I know you aren't."
Cara halted and glared at the brunette Mord-Sith who hadn't even bothered to look up from the desk she worked at. She moved quickly to stand behind Berdine. She leant in, molding her body the best she could against Berdine's back.
"Are you questioning me, Berdine?" Cara hissed quietly, barely above a whisper in the other Mord-Sith's ear.
"That depends; will it get you to do the paper work?"
Cara drew her agiel, moving it along the curves of Berdine's body, not quite touching, until it hovered over her stomach. The soft whine filled the room.
"Are you sure you want to 'encourage' me to do the paper work? Wouldn't you rather find someone else to do it for me?"
"If that's what it takes, I'll 'encourage' you all you want. You need to do the paper work."
"I think someone needs to be re-trained."
Berdine sighed deeply. "Do what you feel you must, Cara. If you have to re-train me, you have to re-train me."
"Oh, Berdine." Cara said with a dark chuckle. "Who said anything about you?"
She pulled away from Berdine and placed her agiel in the holster at her hip as Raina entered the room, reading a book as she walked.
"Berdine, I may have found something about that statue Rahl mentioned in his diary." She chuckled. "Creator, it gets me every time that he kept a diary."
Cara moved around the desk and plucked the book out of Raina's hands. She tossed it on Berdine's desk.
"Raina, come with me."
The dark haired, dark eyed Mord-Sith nodded and followed as Cara walked out of the office. Cara stopped and leaned against the wall by the door.
"What are we doing Cara?"
"For?" Raina prompted softly. Cara wasn't really that easy to get along with, she had expectations. The trouble was, she never told anyone else her expectations and punished people when they didn't live up to them. But for all that could be said of Cara, she was a brilliant strategist, and almost always got her way.
Cara smirked evilly. "We're waiting for your girlfriend to come rushing though that door to stop me torturing you."
"Oh. Was she bugging you about doing the paper work again?"
"Does a Lord Rahl like the sound of his voice?"
"You know I have a fair bit of spare time now that most of the people in the realms have fallen into line. I could go though all the work before it gets to you and sort it into stuff you can just sign and stuff you actually need to consider." Raina paused. "And stuff you wouldn't sign anyway."
"I'd appreciate that Raina."
"How much longer are we going to wait?"
Cara tilted her head to the side. "Not much longer. Right now she's trying to continue working to prove to me that I can't control her. She's wrong."
Raina knew Cara was right. No matter how much Berdine despised it, Cara did control her. Cara was a manipulative bitch. She controlled everyone around her. Once Raina had accepted that, life had become a lot easier. She did what Cara told her to do, and most of the time she came out unscathed. Those loyal to Cara often ended up better than those against. Raina didn't know why. Maybe Cara did it consciously to protect, or maybe she was just that good a strategist. Then again, maybe Cara didn't like losing, and really couldn't care less about everyone else. That was probably it.
Berdine didn't burst of the door in front of them, she as Mord-Sith after all, but Cara noticed a definite rush to the tall brunette's stride. She came to a sudden stop as she saw Cara and Raina.
"Where would you be heading in such a rush, Berdine?"
"Yes, you. I hope we have come to an understanding Berdine. Raina has kindly offered to help me with the paper work."
Cara took a step forward, her face an inch away from Berdine's.
"I hope we don't have to have a conversation like this again. You won't like the out come. I'll see you later Berdine."
Cara turned and stalked away.
Berdine didn't even bother mentioning the paper work. Once she was sure Cara couldn't hear, she swore.
"Where the fuck does she get off…"
"You have to accept that she controls you Berdine. She can do whatever she wants because she's the Evil Overlord of D'Hara and the Midlands. We chose to help her over throw the last Lord Rahl, she's the new Lord Rahl in everything but name. Of course she will demand obedience; she does want what we did to Darken to happen to her."
"Fine she's our new Lord, but when I agreed to help her I didn't expect her to be…"
"Yes you did! Berdine, this is Cara we're talking about. She may be an absolute hard ass controlling bitch, but you knew that before. You always knew she'd be like this. You're just not happy that you've gone from being near equals to you being her office-research bitch. You don't need to be happy about it; you just need to accept the fact that she holds all the cards and right now, she isn't sharing any of them. Maybe that will change, maybe it won't. But Berdine, she's a damn side better than Darken was."
Berdine pouted at her. "Why do you have to destroy my aggravation at Cara with logic? It's not fair."
Raina wrapped her arms around Berdine's waist and leaned into her, tucking her head under the taller woman's chin.
"Because I like you alive."
It had been Berdine's idea to split Cara's time into three month slots. Three months in D'Hara, three months in the Midlands. The first three months had to have been in D'Hara, there was more opposition to Cara's reign there. The Midlands were very traditional. Cara had killed the Seeker of Truth; she was their new ruler, simple. There had been slight resistance in both provinces of course, but that hadn't lasted. The Mord-Sith were always loyal to the ruler of D'Hara, and aside from a few objections from Denna and Triana (whose views were quickly … muted) they hadn't even thought of challenging Cara. Which left Cara with an incredibly loyal group of soldiers at her disposal. They were very effective at 'discouraging' rebellions. Raina had led all the missions, and Berdine had stayed behind (at Cara's direct order, and much to Berdine's chagrin) to translate the diary Darken Rahl had left locked in a safe in his chambers. It detailed all the possible ways he could be brought back from the Underworld. It was important that Cara destroy every single one of those ways, and everyone who would even think of using them. Out of the seven different ways to bring Darken back, three had been discovered and two destroyed. Berdine had found two and destroyed one in the month following the 'incident' (as Raina called it not wanting to aggravate either Berdine or Cara).
Cara was glad that Berdine had finally submitted. It made things easier. Especially when it came to Cara getting her way. And right now she really wanted to get her way, because as boring as paper work was, having nothing to do was worse and there wasn't much to do. Raina took away a lot of the paper work and Cara sure as hell wasn't going to take audiences from the public like was Midland tradition. She couldn't care less about the people's problems; if they couldn't sort it out themselves it wasn't worth sorting. When she was just a Mord-Sith (if anyone could be just a Mord-Sith) Cara had been busy tracking, capturing, torturing, fighting and fucking. Now, out off her favourite things to do, she could only do two. So when she got bored she had to rely on fighting and fucking to amuse herself. Which was never how she wanted it to be as her sisters were always doing something more important. She couldn't even argue with that, she'd set the tasks they were doing and Cara knew that for her to rule well they did actually need to complete the tasks. No one else could keep up with her in either activity, though a few had tried, and had been killed when they failed. It had taken ten palace guards to pose a challenge while sparring, and they couldn't afford for so many guards to be off duty due to injury. Berdine encouraged Cara to spend time torturing Denna and Triana who had been transferred from the different palace dungeons as Cara moved from palace to palace, but they had gotten boring. What she wanted was a new toy, but she wasn't allowed one of the prisoners. Cara showing anyone 'special attention' would make them more important than they were apparently. Cara disagreed, it made then either in pain, or dead.
But if she wasn't allowed a prisoner, she'd just get someone else; someone who could keep up with her. Cara didn't care who they were, as long as they could entertain her. Finding them would be the tricky part. Eh, she'd leave the details to Berdine.
Kahlan had been devastated as she watched that blonde haired bitch fire a bullet into Richard's brain. And then she had taunted Kahlan. Telling her the only reason she had been left alive was to make the Mord-Sith's life interesting. The arrogant, self-centred, evil bitch! It had taken Kahlan two months to slip out of the slightly cationic state she was living in. Eating only when forced to, speaking only when spoken to. If Zedd hadn't been there, she didn't know what would have happened to her, and she didn't really want to find out. The third month after Richard's death had been spent plotting. Kahlan had to find a way to remove the Evil Overlord Cara from the Midlands. She had come up with a simple but efficient plan to get rid of her when Shota arrived. Kahlan was informed that shooting the Evil Overlord with a sniper rifle was not as easy as it sounded, nor would it have the desired outcome. Shota couldn't tell if Kahlan would succeed, if Cara would die or live, but both paths led to dark futures. If she died, both the Midlands and D'Hara would fall into civil war. D'Hara's war would end quickly, once the strongest powers took over, but the Midlands would fight for a long time about who would rule. Eventually they would have a clear ruler; whoever ruled D'Hara. However, if Cara was shot at and lived, she would rage though the Midlands and D'Hara to find her shooter, and find the shooter she would. Eventually, after whole townships had been razed, and innocent people slaughtered. A happy Evil Overlord meant that both realms would prosper. Kahlan was never one to trust easily but knew that Shota was telling the truth. Though, she did start sniper practice again.
An opportunity came five months after Richard's death while Kahlan was shopping for food. She'd found a poster stuck to the supermarket door. The Evil Overlord was holding a competition. The best fighters from both nations were competing for a place in the court. The Evil Overlord needed a sparring partner, and Kahlan knew there was no one better than herself in the Midlands. She would leave her mask and white dress behind, leave the Mother Confessor behind and fight as Kahlan Amnell. The Evil Overlord wouldn't even know what hit her, and then she'd pay for killing Richard.
Cara was still bored, but apparently Berdine was working on it. In a month, the best fighters from both D'Haran and the midlands would gather in the Confessors Palace (she really needed to rename the place) to fight for the few honoured spots available as the Evil Overlord's sparring partners. Though, Cara had read the terms and conditions that every contestant had to sign before entering, and decided that 'sparring partner' was being polite. It basically said that the winners would be her slaves that she could do anything with for a two year period. Most of them wouldn't even know what they were getting into. Who read terms and conditions anymore?
Berdine could not believe that she was organising an event just to entertain Cara. Sure Cara had less active things to do, but there was plenty other things for her to occupy her time with. Why could Cara not like reading? Getting books was easier than getting willing slaves. By Rahl, the blonde drove her insane. Not that she'd complain about Cara to anyone but Raina where she was sure she wouldn't be overheard. Berdine did not want a repeat of three months ago. She wasn't willing to risk Raina's health, and knew Cara knew that. Bitch. At least Cara was quieter and easier to deal with since the incident and since she found out what Berdine was planning. Hopefully that would extend for the next month, allowing her to finish her plans for the competitions. Maybe she could convince Cara to hear the Midlands people speak. It would keep her occupied. Now, how to sell it to Cara...
"You can be as bitchy as you want to them and they'll just take it. They won't even look at you evilly because they all think you'd kill them."
Cara snarled and turned around, shoving Berdine against a wall.
"That's because I would just kill them. You're coming very close to death too."
Berdine had learnt a long time ago that Cara's threats of death against her were just that; threats. If she got so annoyed that she struck out she'd just bring her back to life. Now, if Cara threatened to torture you, that was serious. She meant it.
"Come on, you get to terrorise and threaten death, both of which you love to do. What's bad about it?"
"Hearing their whining, snivelling problems that I really don't give a fuck about?"
"And then you get to shoot them down and squash their self-esteem. I repeat, what's bad about it?"
Cara growled and threw her hands in the air.
"For fuck's sake. Fine, I'll give it a try. And leave me alone."
Now Berdine needed to figure out how to sell seats to the D'Haran's in the Confessors Palace. She suspected there would be a high concentration of Mord-Sith in the hall.
Cara glared at the amount of Mord-Sith in the hall. Either Raina (Cara had quietly promoted her to head of security) thought there would be trouble, or her sisters were bored and had heard (most likely from Berdine) that she would be 'entertaining' the people of the Midlands. She couldn't begrudge them being bored, but she could be annoyed about it. Berdine stood at her side, ready to protect Cara or spout the information she had absorbed around the Midlands ruling system.
Few people had problems worthy of her, or problems that concerned her at all. Fuck it; if he planted a tree on your land, it's yours. You don't want it? Cut the damn thing down. It means something special to the neighbour? Then move it. It wasn't high level sorcery! It was petty, and more than once Berdine had to place a hand on her shoulder to stop Cara from hitting the people in front of her.
Berdine hadn't been quick enough when one man had accused Cara of stealing from the people of the Midlands. He had come into the hall bowing after some woman complaining about another woman stealing her fiancé. Cara hadn't been sympathetic to the woman, and the man's manners had been a welcome change.
"Overlord, my name is Brendon I have come before you to speak on behalf of all the people of the Midlands."
He bowed again. Cara grinned at him.
"Does that mean that if you piss me off I get to kill everyone in the Midlands?"
That startled Brendon. "Uh... Supreme One.."
"Oh, I like that." Cara turned her head to Berdine. "Take a note of that Berdine."
She turned back to Brendon and waved a hand at him before settling her chin into the palm of her hand, cupping the side of her face.
"Don't bother trying to answer. What have the people of the Midlands got to say to me?"
"Mistress, we worry about the latest increase in taxes."
"What about them?"
"They are too high/ while you have an excess of money to spend on whatever pleases you, we are struggling to feed our families. Paying the taxes is taking the food from our children's mouths."
Cara was up from her chair and down the dais before Berdine could stop her. She circled Brendon while taking to him.
"It sounds awfully like you're accusing me of stealing from my people."
He didn't back down, which Cara vaguely admired, but not when it was being directed at her.
"Well, essentially, yes you..."
The rest of the sentence was stopped by Cara's hand around his throat.
"First off." She hissed at him, her face close to his. "If I wanted all the money in either of my realms, I would get it because they are MY REALMS!"
She pushed him back, causing Brendon to fall to the floor.
"Secondly, I may not have been a ruler of a realm for long, but I have led my sister Mord-Sith for years. I treat D'Hara and the Midlands like I did my sisters. As long as my orders are followed, I will do my best to make sure that my people are safe and that they prosper, and I am too fucking stubborn to accept a half-arsed improvement. Taxes have increased because there are no longer any import or export taxes to and from D'Hara as well as the deflation of prices. The Midland coin is worth more now than it has been in the past five years. I have done that, not the people of the Midlands, ME! Food should actually be cheaper. If it's not, it's not my fault that the food sellers are too greedy to decrease their prices."
"But the poor..."
"The poor pay fewer taxes than the rich bastards you obviously represent. The taxes depend on income. Now get the fuck out of my home before I show you Mord-Sith hospitality!"
Brendon all but ran out the doors. Cara stormed out of the room, calling behind her.
"I am done with this. Fucking people!"
Cara found herself in her office. She wanted to break something, someone. She wanted to take her anger of that man out of something. She could tear up her office, it could all easily be replaced, but what was the point of that. Chairs didn't bleed and books didn't scream. Her desk wouldn't beg for mercy. Berdine entered the room and placed a hand carefully on Cara's stiff shoulder.
"Denna and Triana are always there."
"I don't want them." Spat Cara, turning and glaring at her adviser. "I want new blood. Blood I haven't tasted. Before you say I can't, I know. Fuck, I know I have this responsibility to be perfectly poised, to be this unmovable figure head. But I am still Mord-Sith, I still want the hunt, the kill and the pain. I need it, it's a part of me and I can't…"
Cara took a deep breath, calming herself down.
"I can't suppress that part of myself. It'll kill me."
"I'm sorry I've been trying to force you to. I'm not like you, hell, none of the Mord-Sith are. You'll get fresh blood in a month, until then we can find other ways to feed your need for violence."
Berdine smirked. "Well, Dahlia has just arrived from D'Hara, but I have another idea. That man was a fool, but he did bring up a point. The sellers in the Midlands apparently haven't lowered their prices, and with the new tax increase it will be hard on the people. We could 'encourage' some of the sellers to decrease their prices personally."
Cara nodded. "That'll do, let's go."
"Cara, I let you see people in jeans and a tank top because we were still in the palace, but you are not going out on an official outing in anything but your formal wear."
"For Rahl's sake! Bloody harpy!"
Her formal wear wasn't bad; in fact it was quite nice. She complained because it was what was expected of her. And it amused her, which was always a bonus. The black leather trousers were familiar, even if they were the wrong colour. The tightness was comforting. She wore a long, low cut vest covered by a black jacket. The front finished a few inches below her navel and the back dipped to just below the knee. A golden Celtic design rested over the shoulders and at the bottom of the coat tail. A golden grace sat across Cara's back, level with her shoulder blades. It was well tailored to her, as any clothing the Evil Overlord would be expected to wear. She was able to fight in it, though taking the jacket off would make it easier on her. Not for fighting, but Cara didn't want to listen to Berdine complain about staining or ripping the expensive garment. Armored leather gloves reached almost to Cara's elbows but left her fingers bare. Her ageil was in its holster on her hip, nothing could possibly separate her from it. A gun was kept at her back, hidden by the jacket. It was too useful a weapon not to have on her. Cara had insisted she didn't need any of the multiple knives on her, but Berdine had insisted louder and longer that it was just a precaution and couldn't Cara just humour her. Maybe she'd need to cut some rope of something and where would she be if she had no knife on her. Cara had given in, she knew Berdine had her safety and best interests at hard, and Rahl could Berdine drone on!
Cara was excited as she strolled down the main road of Adindryil towards the market place. She hadn't been able to do something like this since she became the Evil Overlord, and that was far too much time to go without threatening bodily harm to the public. Berdine had walked ahead of the official contingent in her brown leathers (as not to scare people) taking the odd person aside and asking questions of them. Who sold the most expensive foods? How much did they charge for a certain item? Where could they be found? Berdine came back with a few possible leads, and encouraged Cara to choose to 'visit' a man who sold fruits. A large section of his produce seemed to be imported from D'Hara, and was very overpriced. While it was his right to price his goods as he did, if he used import taxes as an excuse for his prices, the man could be fined. Cara thought the Midlands had weird rules. In D'Hara, if the ruler thought someone was overpriced they said so, and the seller would lower their prices. It wasn't personal, and no one was offended. Not that many rulers took the time to investigate the local market, but Cara could always send someone like Berdine to do the job for her. Which she did when Berdine got annoying. Not surprisingly, that could be quite often.
Cara stopped in front of the shop; her eyes quickly took in the exterior and what she could see of the interior through the glass panes. She had someone else to do this now, but Cara wasn't going to leave her safety in someone else's hands when she could do it herself. Satisfied that the shop wasn't hiding anything particularly dangerous, she entered. Cara heard about seven pairs of feet follow her. She stopped in the shop thresh hold and glared at the escort she hadn't wanted to come with her in the first place.
"Berdine, you can come, the rest of you can wait outside. Guard the perimeter if it makes you feel better, but take one step in here and I'll skin you myself. Am I clear?"
The four Mord-Sith nodded and slammed a fist to their chests before moving away. The palace guards nodded and did the same a few seconds later but looked unsure of the situation.
"You could have kept a few of them with you."
Cara smirked. "Not up to the job of protecting your leader Berdine? What a disappointment."
Berdine rolled her eyes and followed Cara deeper into the shop. Cara stopped by a large crate holding red apples. She picked one up and inspected it. Rubbing it against her jacket to make it shine before inspecting it from a different angle. The shop owner saw Cara's inspection and rushed up to her. He probably thought her a rich noble, who was easily convinced out of her coins. A D'Haran quiet obviously (no Midland lady would wear that) wanting a taste of home.
"Can I help you with anything? I see you're eyeing a D'Haran apple. These are the best D'Hara has to offer."
Cara snorted. "You should hope they're not. The best goes to the Overlord. She's partial to apples."
Everyone knew who Cara was, but not many people knew what she looked like, they'd never seen her, or had only seen her from a distance. Cara was fine with that, it meant it would be harder for people to try and kill her.
"Ah, you caught me out, but I've been told they are very close to the quality that the Overlord eats at her palace."
"Really?" Cara tossed the fruit up into the air and caught it. "It is very good quality, I can see that, but it's the wrong colour." She took a bite and almost instantly spit it out into the palm of her hand, her face consorting into disgust. She dropped the bite onto the floor and wiped the juices from her hand on the shop owner's apron. Cara handed the apple to Berdine.
"Take a bite."
"After that display you want me to eat this thing?"
"Berdine." It was a warning.
Berdine sighed and took a small bite, chewing on the apple before swallowing.
"That is revolting. It's not even ripe yet."
Cara turned to the crate of apples and started to dig through them.
"They're all unripe." She turned to the shop owner. "Why do you sell them if they're not ripe?"
"That's the way I'm given them when I buy them."
Berdine rolled her eyes. "Of course they are. D'Haran apples are picked unripe and are left in the crates for a week to ripen. The crate walls are lined to keep them moist. Are you trying to tell me that the people of the Midlands eat all D'Haran apples like this?"
The man shrugged and nodded. "We assumed that leaving the apples in the crates was a D'Haran custom."
Cara placed a hand over her mouth, trying hard not to laugh. Berdine shook her head.
"No, a custom for the D'Hara apples is that the owner of each orchard owner must pick the first apple after ten or more apples have fallen off the trees ripe. Those fallen apples must also be left for the birds and insects to devour."
The man gaped at her.
"But that's a waste of hundreds of apples each year!"
"Closer to a thousand actually." Berdine corrected. "There are two different types of trees. Summer flowering and winter flowering, both have the same tradition.
Cara cut into the conversation, once again in control of her laughter.
"As interesting as this conversation is, I feel I must point out that your apples are four times the price of what I'd find in D'Hara."
"Ah, well." The man started with a mournful voice. "With import taxes I have to charge more."
"Even if that was true, four times more is far too much. As it is, there is no import tax as both nations are ruled by the same person."
"I'm afraid it doesn't work like that."
Cara grabbed the shop owner by the collar. "I'm afraid it does. It was one of the first things I did. Do you know what that means? It means that you can be fined up to three thousand dollars. But I'm going to give you an option. I'm a D'Haran, and in D'Hara if I say that price of something must drop, it drops, no questions asked. We're going to apply that rule here. But you know what else you're going to do for me?"
He shook his head as best he could.
"You're going to make sure everyone else drops their prices too. You have a month, make it happen."
She dropped him and stormed out of the shop, the unripe apple still in one hand.
If the small smirk on Cara's lips was any indication, the Evil Overlord had enjoyed herself. Berdine as had known she would. And now they were headed back to the Confessors Palace, people moving quickly to get out of their way. They may not have known who Cara was, but she had a quad of Mord-Sith, who would even think about getting in the way?
Cara paused outside the palace gates. A group of palace guards were in a semi-circle against the wall. Curses and yells were thrown around from them. They started to move forwards slowly, as if advancing.
"Berdine?" Cara said quietly. Berdine always knew what was going on.
Berdine didn't answer, but rather strode towards the guards with a dark look on her face. Cara heard the faint mutter of 'Idiots' before Berdine started pulling the guards away by the back of their necks. She threw them to the ground behind her, creating a gap in the wall of bodies. A large dark shape flew through the gap and landed in front of Cara. Cara blinked, staring at the shape before glancing up at Berdine's proud smirk.
Before her, sitting patiently was Dog. Cara held her hand out, a signal for Dog to come to her. The large dog trotted towards her and collapsed on the ground, showing his belly. Cara obligingly knelt and rubbed the exposed stomach. Dog was a tiger headed Tibetan mastiff. He stood almost to Cara's waist, with a black body and tan markings along his legs, belly, snout and eyes. His tail curled up and towards his back. Dog's coat had started to puff up in response to the colder climate of Aydindril. It would snow soon and Cara knew that snow was Dog's preferred weather. While in D'Hara, she had taken great pains to cut, trim and brush Dog's fur to make the warmer temperatures bearable him. Years ago, after a raid Cara and her sister preformed on a D'Haran noble's house, Cara had found Dog curled up in his bed. They had been allowed to take anything that took their fancy, and Dog took Cara's. Dog hadn't been well trained, something that Cara had rectified instantly. The Lord Rahl hadn't really liked the idea of such a large animal running freely around the People's Palace, but hadn't objected too loudly. Which was basically permission to Cara. So she had kept him, and trained him to obey her and only her; though he would sometimes listen to Berdine and Raina. Unfortunately, she had been forced to leave Dog at the people's Palace when she came to the Midlands. Cara grinned at Berdine, thanking her with a look. For what was quiet possibly the first time since she became the Evil Overlord of D'Hara and the Midlands, Cara was happy.
The water was luxurious. It warmed and soothed Cara's well worked muscles. She had taken Dog for a run through the forest. Chucking her formal jacket at Berdine she had turned and bolted, whistling for Dog to follow her. She had returned a few hours later with a ripped top and scratched pants. The next hour had been spent grooming Dog. Plucking twigs and leaves out of his fur before brushing. He could have used a bath, but Cara could do that tomorrow. She had wanted her own bath, and while heading down to the bathing room had gestured for two of the younger Mord-Sith to follow her. It had been one of the first things Cara had done once she started living at the Confessor's Palace. The bathing room was nearly identical to the bathing rooms in Mord-Sith temples, a little slice of home and luxury that she so enjoyed. Currently, Cara leaned against the side of the large bath while the two Mord-Sith rubbed sponges across her back, slowly going downwards. Cara felt a disturbance in the water before the sponges stopped moving and were replaced by a lathered cloth and a hand. These hands moved down a lot quicker.
"Hmmm, Dahlia. Nice to see you missed me."
Cara turned around and grabbed Dahlia's hips. She pulled the other Mord-Sith to her before turning back around, trapping Dahlia between herself and the edge of the bath.
"Of course I missed you. Did you miss me?"
"I missed that thing you do."
"You know, that thing." Cara grinned. "That thing where you annoy the hell out of me but get away with it because you pout so enticingly."
"Ah, that thing."
"Yeah…" Cara swept Dahlia's hair to the side and starting kissing and nipping up the column of her neck. "That thing. But I don't want you to do that now. I have another idea of what you could be doing with those lips."
Cara reached the top of Dahlia's throat and started to move her lips across Dahlia's jaw. Cara bit down lightly on the other woman's check before moving to her mouth, teasing her tongue across Dahlia's bottom lip.
"Open." Cara hissed, and Dahlia did. Then Cara's tongue was in her mouth, hot and wet and doing and demanding things from her. She whimpered.
Cara chuckled and moved to Dahlia's jaw again.
Cara froze, her body tensed. Then she shoved Dahlia into the edge of the bath, hard enough to bruise.
"Tell me Dahlia, who owns you? Who decides where you are stationed? Who sets the rules for you, and who punishes you when you break those rules?" Cara hissed into the dark blonde's ear before biting on it hard, breaking the surface and making it bleed.
Dahlia whimpered. "You do."
"That's right, I do. Would you like to tell me then, Dahlia, why you have a mark on you that I didn't put there?"
Cara rubbed a thumb over the mark in question. It was a dark bite mark.
"This is a few days old. You've only been here half a day and no one would dare to bite a Mord-Sith but another Mord-Sith. So tell me, Dahlia, how much of a transgression have you made?"
Cara held Dahlia still with her hands on her shoulders. When Dahlia didn't answer right away, she dug her fingers in.
"I'd find it hard to believe that a bite was all there was to it, but I'd believe you eventually. Was that all there was, Dahlia?"
Dahlia shook her head. She knew she couldn't lie to Cara, Cara knew her too well. Cara's hands clenched and she heard a painful pop as one of Dahlia's shoulders dislocated. She lent forward, licking the abused ear.
"Have you been whoring yourself out in my absence, Dahlia?"
Dahlia whimpered as Cara pressed down on the dislocated shoulder.
"Is that a yes?"
"No. Not whoring myself out. I…I love her."
Cara let go of the other Mord-Sith and took a step back. Her eyes were wide and a surprised smirk curled on her lips.
"Mord-Sith do not love."
"You can't believe that Cara. Just look at Berdine and Raina. Look at you and me. We…"
Cara wrapped her hand around Dahlia's throat, effectively cutting her off.
"I don't believe it, I know it. Mord-Sith do not love."
Dahlia didn't move, even though she was finding it extremely hard to breath. Surely Cara wouldn't kill her like this, and even if she did, she'd bring her back. Right? Cara wasn't letting go. Dahlia raised a hand to the one around her throat as air was becoming a serious problem. Her vision was starting to fade. Cara snarled at her in disgust. Dahlia barely managed to squeak back. Then she was flying through the air into the other end of the pool. She swallowed a mouthful of water as she fought to stand. Dahlia hadn't heard anything, but by the time she surfaced the rest of the Mord-Sith were filing out of the bathing room.
Cara moved towards the stairs of the bath, her hand shooting out as she passed Dahlia and snagging the other Mord-Sith's braid. She half dragged Dahlia out and around the large bath. She let her go, Dahlia wobbling slightly on unsure legs.
Dahlia moved onto the glob of slightly watery saliva.
Dahlia didn't think anything in the world could have made her move. Cara circled her once before stopping behind her.
"Stay standing, Dahlia."
Then Cara placed the tip of her agiel at the bottom of Dahlia's naked spine. Dark tendrils spread out, and Cara slowly dragged her agile up. Through the steadily increasing pain, Dahlia wondered where Cara had gotten her agiel from. She hadn't been holding it before Cara discovered the hickey. Maybe one of the other Mord-Sith had handed it to her. Dahlia struggled to stay standing as the bones in her spin were slowly being snapped and twisted. Cara had only reached a quarter of the way up when Dahlia collapsed. She didn't want to disobey her Mistress, she really didn't. Oh Creator, she'd already disobeyed Cara, hadn't she? She should never have … but she loved her couldn't Cara understand that?
Cara knelt next to Dahlia. She ran her hand through Dahlia's hair and made shushing noises as Dahlia started to sob. Dahlia had always been so close to breaking point. Always believing what she was told, not what she saw around her. Cara had felt … affection … towards Dahlia, but nothing near to love. No matter what Dahlia seemed to have convinced herself.
"Mistress. Mistress, I'm so sorry I disobeyed you. I didn't mean to fall down."
Dahlia's sobs slowed and became quieter.
"I know, Dahlia, I know. But I can't just accept an apology, what would our sisters think? I need you to either tell me who gave you that mark, or I need you to stand up."
"I can't tell you, you'll hurt her. I couldn't let you hurt her."
"Then I need you to stand up for me. Can you do that for me Dahlia?"
Had Dahlia been in her right mind, she would have realized that standing up would be far too lenient a task for Cara to forgive her indiscretion. But she didn't realize it. Cara stood back and watched as Dahlia struggled to even push herself into a sitting position, but ultimately, she couldn't stand up.
"I can't. I'm sorry Mistress, but I can't stand up."
"Then I'm afraid I can't accept your apology, Dahlia. One last chance, tell me who marked you."
Dahlia shook her head but didn't say anything. Cara strode forward and tapped her foot against Dahlia's. Dahlia stared at her foot, not understanding how she had seen Cara's foot touch hers, but not felt it. Cautiously, she reached a hand out and poked her thigh. Dahlia could feel her thigh beneath her fingertip, but not the fingertip on her thigh. Dahlia looked up into Cara's blank eyes, all her notions about Cara quickly shattering.
"I'm going to let you live, pet. You never know, you might even have lovers. They'll be able to take their pleasure from you, but you'll not take it from them. At least not that way, and especially not with her. I will find her, and then I will kill her in front of you. I don't want you to hold onto false hope, Dahlia. That would be cruel."
Cara moved to the door to the bathing room, she knew someone (most likely Berdine) would be there. Gossip moved fast through Mord-Sith, though none would admit it. Both Berdine and Raina were waiting for her.
"Who had contact with Dahlia in the last two days?"
Berdine automatically started listing names. Cara carefully watched Dahlia for a reaction to a name.
"Don't forget Rikka." Raina added quietly.
Berdine nodded. "Rikka, of course."
Cara never took her eyes off Dahlia. "Rikka?"
"She rides out two days before the quads get into the city to keep them updated."
"Does this happen often?"
"More often than not. She normally volunteers."
"When has she not?"
Berdine told her the days Rikka hadn't ridden out as her gaze slipped to Dahlia lying on the ground.
"All of which are the days Dahlia hasn't been a member of an incoming quad."
Cara nodded. "I figured as much."
She moved towards where her dirty formal wear was folded on a nearby table. She picked up the ripped top before dropping it again.
"Raina, fetch Rikka for me. Bring her here in an hour. Berdine, bring me my leathers."
"Yes, Mistress Cara." Both of them bowed as they left the room, not wanting to anger Cara. They could see how close she was to losing it over this Dahlia thing. Rumours had speculated over what Dahlia had done to annoy Cara, but no one knew for sure.
Raina headed towards the dining hall. It was dinner time, and Rikka was probably to be found here. Once in the dining hall, Raina made her way to the table of red in a sea of silver and blue. The palace guards and the Mord-Sith had integrated fairly well, but still ate in separate groups. Part of that was the Mord-Sith not eating any meat (a tradition left over from Darken Rahl's days, Mord-Sith only ate what the Lord Rahl ate, and Darken Rahl hadn't eaten meat. Most Mord-Sith had been trained this way, it was ingrained in them) and the palace guards eating almost only meat. A spot near the head of the table opened for Raina as she neared, as well as several non verbal offers to get her food. She declined them all and sat next to a happy Rikka. Rikka smiled at her and offered part of her meal. Raina shook her head and focused on the dining hall clock. Now all she had to do was wait. Rikka continued her meal and conversations she had been having before Raina arrived. When she tried to stand up to leave, she found Raina's hand on her shoulder shoving her back down.
"I have watch with the palace guards now."
"Hally, take over Rikka's watch."
The blonde Mord-Sith nodded and left her half eaten meal to do as she was ordered.
"Now sit, Rikka, and stay sitting until I tell you otherwise."
Rikka wisely sat, not saying anything.
It didn't take long for Berdine to find Cara's red leathers. The Overlord kept them in a large chest at the foot of her bed. Berdine made sure to knock before entering the bathing room. Cara stood in front of Dahlia, agiel in hand. Berdine couldn't see any more marks on Dahlia's body, it looked as if Dahlia hadn't even moved, but that didn't mean that Cara hadn't taken some frustration out on the other Mord-Sith. It had probably been verbal if the tear tracks down Dahlia's cheeks were any indication.
"Cara? I have your red leathers."
Cara's gaze barely flicked to Berdine before she was looking at Dahlia again. She was silent for a few minutes before she moved to the table her formal wear lay on and placed her agiel down carefully.
"Good. Assist me."
Berdine brought the leathers forward and assisted her Mistress. Pulling leather into the right place, and straps taunt before buckling everything together. Berdine started to braid Cara's hair. She had obviously intended to wash it in the bath. Cara still wore her hair like any Mord-Sith did, braided tightly down her back.
She stood before Berdine, so much like the Mord-Sith who had over thrown Darken Rahl. But she wasn't. Berdine knew she wasn't. Part of her had been repressed over the last few months, and now it was coming out. Dahlia, whatever she had done, could only hope to get out of it alive and mostly whole. Though by the look of Dahlia at the moment, Berdine figured most of that hope was gone. She had seen enough broken spines to know Dahlia probably wouldn't walk again. At least, not without a healer.
Cara moved to the table and picked up her agiel again, rolling it in her fingers.
"Wait outside for Raina. Bring her and Rikka in when they get here."
Then she was crouching in front of Dahlia, whispering. Berdine didn't want to know what was being said. Cara could be really fucking scary when she put her mind to it, and right now, that's the only place her mind was.
"I know I promised to kill her in front of you, and I will, but that could always be in a day, a week, a month, a year, why would I want to spoil the fun? Would you like to watch what else I do to her? It'd be the only time you see her. I think I'll start by torturing her. It won't take long to break her. Do you know why Dahlia?"
Dahlia shook her head.
"Because, if she" Cara snarled. "loves you like you say she does, then her weakness, the weakness I will use to break her is you. You'll be the reason why she calls me Mistress. You'll be the reason she'll be my pet, why she'll do anything and everything I say. She'll see you and she won't even recognize you. Would you like that, Dahlia?"
Dahlia shook her head again.
"Well, that's a shame, because I think that'd be great fun, and I'm the one in charge."
Dahlia had wondered if it were possible for her to cry anymore. Apparently, it was.
Berdine leaned against the cool stone wall. She liked Dahlia, even if Dahlia was a bit pathetic at times. Rikka was quiet a close friend, and Berdine would do a lot for her. But this was beyond shit hitting fan. Hell, after this, Cara might not even need the competition.
Berdine heard footsteps, one pair she instantly recognized as Raina. It must have been an hour. Raina walked slightly behind Rikka, a guiding hand on the other Mord-Sith's back.
"Berdine, maybe you can tell me what this is all about."
"Fuck, Rikka. I don't know what you did, but she is really annoyed."
"I didn't do anything to Raina!"
"Not Raina, you idiot. You and Dahlia did something, and now Cara is so pissed off I'm surprised the world hasn't exploded. She's barely talking to anyone besides Dahlia, and I don't think they're having a friendly catch up chat."
"If she's done anything to Dahlia, I swear I will…"
Berdine slapped her hand against the stone wall.
"You don't get it. We're going to make you go in there because we've been ordered to, but I don't think you'll be coming out alive. I know Dahlia won't be coming out under her own will." Berdine took a deep breath. "Cara broke her back. It's not good. What in the world did you do, Rikka?"
Rikka stared at the ground. "I love Dahlia. I have for a while now."
"Oh Rikka. I'm so sorry I have to do this."
Rikka nodded before opening the door to the bathing room and walking in, her head held high.
Berdine collapsed against the wall and slid down it. She fought the tears as long as she could, but in the end cried silently. She had just sent a good friend and a sister to her death for the crime of loving someone. Raina settled next to her and pulled Berdine to her, wrapping her arms around her love. A crime Berdine felt quiet guilty of as well.
The door opened, and Cara stared blankly down at them. She didn't comment about them being wrapped up in each other on the floor, she just started giving orders.
"Raina, take Dahlia to a cell, make sure it has a pallet and don't talk to her. Berdine, get rid of Rikka's body."
They stood up and moved to do as they were told. Cara's hand shot out and grabbed Berdine by the chin. Blood, which had been invisible on Cara's red leather smudged across Berdine's face.
"Never betray me Berdine."
She let go and strode down the hall, a braid of hair and an agiel clenched in one fist. Berdine didn't think she could betray Cara. She was wrong, the moment she laid her eyes on Rikka's body she knew she could in fact, betray this Cara. This Cara wasn't the Cara she willingly served. That Cara was the one who told Darken Rahl that both Raina and Berdine were busy with orders rather than letting him sleep with either of them. This Cara … this Cara just wasn't that Cara.
Raina moved forward and lifted a weeping Dahlia carefully. Despite orders, Raina made a hushing noise and murmured something. Dahlia tucked her head into Raina's shoulder, her shortened hair covering her face. Raina held her tight to her body and headed to the dungeons. Berdine lifted Rikka's body and left the room.
She really, really shouldn't be doing this. Cara didn't want this to happen, she would have said so if she had. As it were, Cara had said the opposite. Berdine laid Rikka on the floor of her and Raina's bed chambers. She tilted Rikka's head back and parted her lips with her thumb. Berdine leant forward, her mouth hovering over Rikka's. She took a deep breath before releasing her power into Rikka's body. She moved back and waited.
Raina opened the door to her shared chambers quietly. Seeing Berdine leaning over Rikka's body didn't surprise her. Not much her lover did surprised her. Rikka's eyes fluttered and she groaned.
"I feel like I've just been brought back from the dead."
Berdine smirked. "Imagine that."
Rikka looked around quickly. "Where's Dahlia?"
"She's … alive, not fine, but not dead."
Berdine turned at Raina's voice.
Raina waved her lover off and moved forward. She started pulling clothing out of a chest of drawers and shoving it into a bag. She tossed a pair of jeans, a t-shirt and a jumper at Rikka.
"She'll be fine for now. She's in a cell, but it's one of the nicer ones. Berdine and I will keep Cara distracted and away from her until she has time to calm down a bit. Get changed, you need to get out of here."
Rikka nodded and started to get changed.
"I want to see her."
Rikka froze and glared at Raina.
"No, Rikka. You need to get out of here before Cara comes looking for your body. We already need someone else's corpse to replace yours. You need to leave and make a new life far away from here. You could try Westland."
Rikka bit her lip and stared at the wall. "Okay. Can you tell her something for me? Can you tell Dahlia that I love her?"
Berdine nodded. The rest of Rikka's escape went in silence. She climbed out the window and down the stone work. Berdine watched as Rikka disappeared into the night.
"Do you think we gave her enough money?"
Raina sighed. It was just like Berdine to worry about the small things. "We did more than we should have. She's Mord-Sith, she'll be fine."
"Is she? Is she still a Mord-Sith?"
"Cara cut Dahlia's hair, not Rikka's. Even in death, Cara saw Rikka as a Mord-Sith. You tell me, is she still a Mord-Sith?"
"I guess you're right."
Raina snorted. "You guess?"
"Do you think she'll find the journey book?"
"Berdine, it's at the bottom of the backpack. If she doesn't find it we've sorely overestimated her."
They were silent. Raina wrapped her arms around Berdine's waist.
"You know we can't tell Dahlia."
"I know, but it'll give Rikka some peace of mind."
"True. Hey Berdine?"
"You ever try to hide anything like this from me again and I will …" Raina paused, thinking.
Berdine smirked. "You'll what?"
"I'll revoke all sexual acts for three months."
"Oh Creator, you would!"
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