Review @ Hamster Tamer
Pairing: Cara/Kahlan, sortish. Cara/Dahlia, perhaps. But mostly just poor Cara.
The Low down: This is a reimagining of what happens in the period between Cara's breaking in the episode "Eternity" and when she rescues Zedd. Darken figures out Cara's real weakness (Kahlan, oops) and exploited it. Cara has recollections, in reverse chronological order. It's angsty!
The dreams are always vivid and coherent enough when Cara was asleep, but when she tried to recall them in her waking moments the memories come back in bits and pieces. She could never be sure if they were really what she dreamed, or something her traitorous mind tried to plug in to make sense of things.
One thing was certain. She remembers most clearly the pain at the centre of everything, a dull ache that flares up when she grows angry or when, through a window in the spacious walkway she walks in, she sees flashes of white cloth fluttering in the wind. But it turns out to be only laundry, hung out to dry by the temple slaves. They had to do things carefully. The slaves are trained every day, three times a day, and they cannot get their blood or bodily fluids on the perfect white linen, or they will be trained even more. It was an impossible task, because the slaves were beaten from the hands first, and every time they picked up the sheets they left their mark on the spotless cloth...
She felt calmer, watching the slaves weep as the Mord'Sith in charge beat them in punishment for something they could not help, no more than a Mord'Sith can help herself from fighting, or the Seeker and his Confessor from being in love.
Darken Rahl stalked the dungeon like a demon, speaking to Cara but the words never reached her. She was partitioning her mind, like Richard had described to her the way he did when Denna tried to break him. The pain and torture and abuse was nothing, even though she had grown soft over the time she spent with the Seeker. The unshakeable faith that they will come for her, eventually, in time, kept her grounded to the truth.
"But I know what you're thinking, my dear Cara," Darken was saying. "You think the Seeker and his friends will break in with a dramatic entrance, his righteous fury will smite us all, and he'll rescue you in the nick of time?" He laughed.
Cara stayed silent, her mouth was among some of the parts of her body they hit the most for her sarcasm and retorts. If she spoke, she could only speak in blood. But she refused to give her former leader the dignity of a response.
Darken was unfazed by her reticence, however. He was picking up an Agiel from a silver tray. It was the same as any Cara has seen in her lifetime, but it was different too. It felt wrong, and the whine it made when Darken held it in his hands was completely off. It brought forth unspeakable pain. Cara had never felt anything like it, nothing quite like it at all.
Darken paused. He was a magnificent torturer, for he could espy into the thoughts of those he sought to control, and he read Cara like a book.
"Does this special Agiel not bring the intense pain it is supposed to, or does it uncover a chink in my perfect Mord'Sith's armour," Darken leaned towards Cara's open mouth, which was desperately trying to suck oxygen into her burning lungs. He pretended to listen. "Your body is telling me things, Cara. It says many things. Pain, exhaustion, but what is this? It says Kahlan, Kahlan, Kahlan..."
Cara jerked in her chains, the tears spilling unbidden from her eyes. "No, shut up. Shut up."
Darken continued speaking, his face a perfect study in concentration. "Not the Mother Confessor herself? Oh Cara. Do you not see how you are, all along, the odd one out in their motley crew of three? The Seeker, the Mother Confessor and the Wizard. You were always expendable."
"Richard will come, and when he does, the first one he will kill, again, is you."
"No he won't," Darken twirled the special Agiel in his hands. "He won't, because the Mother Confessor will not allow him to. And that is because she knows that you are weak. Your tainted feelings for her are a hindrance to the Seeker's great destiny. You will be the stone in his path, and it will be thanks to my perfect training. For you were trained by my own hands, after all. Put aside your feelings, Cara. They're as useful to you as chaff."
"No." Cara shook her head. The movement sent bursts of pain through her body, taxed to its limits from days of beating. "No. Weigh it up... The joys and pain. Nothing at all... Nothing."
"They ARE nothing, Cara!" Darken pressed the Agiel into her body, making her scream. He shouted over her cries. "The Mother Confessor's love is only enough for the Seeker. She has no room for a Mord'Sith. Your feelings are nothing to her. You're a fool, a heartbroken fool! Feel this pain, this is what you have earned from being against me!"
"Nothing at all," Cara mumbled, tears mingling with blood and sweat.
"Only pain, Cara. I can only promise you that," Darken cradled her head, almost too gently for words. Then he pressed the Agiel to her neck.
There were three guards standing at the dungeons when Cara arrived. She barely gave them a glance as she strode into the torture chamber, even though they stared a little at the bruises on her face, and the stiff manner she held herself - her ribs were still broken from training.
From the ceiling, hung chains of steel. From the chains hung a woman, and for a moment, just a moment, Cara felt her heart tighten. But no, the woman's hair was really too light, and her figure too slight, too small. The Mord'Sith training the woman stepped aside when she saw Cara, and bowed.
"Who is this?" Cara asked, loosening the braces on her arms. For this job, she must be unrestricted, as comfortable as she could make herself.
"This woman was found in a village we raided two days ago. She was proclaiming that the Seeker and his people will storm the People's Palace and reclaim what we have... stolen. We took her away to teach her the error of her ways," the Mord'Sith said. Cara could not remember her name, or maybe the woman was a fresh recruit when Cara... left for a while with the Seeker.
"Very well. I see you must have been training her for awhile," Cara nodded at both womens' bloodied attire. "I will take over. You may learn a thing or two."
"I will be most honoured!" the Mord'Sith stepped aside.
Cara smiled grimly at the chained woman, who was beginning to shudder. There was a woman who knew a true nightmare when she saw one. It will be a long day, but Cara has plenty of patience. And plenty of time.
"But I am patient. I can wait. I don't mind waiting, as long as you..." Cara pleaded, wincing at the desperation in her voice.
"I said it before, Cara, it's impossible. You, and me?" Kahlan ran a hand through her hair, shook her head, and stood up from the chair. "No, Cara."
The Seeker and gang had found lodging in an inn to stay for the night. It was comfortable enough, and the innkeeper had even brought them wine. Good wine, in fact, and Cara had not had such good spirits for some time. Richard and Zedd were still guzzling the stuff downstairs, but she had followed Kahlan up to their room when the Confessor said she wanted to take a breather. The wine put Cara off-balance, and she could not help herself.
"Yes, yes! It is already too late. You've made me weak, Kahlan. I put down my armour, as you told me to didn't you?" Cara grasped the Mother Confessor's hands. "I'm not insane, am I? But I know you feel something for me too."
"Just friendship, nothing more. We can't be together that way, Cara. I already have Richard." Kahlan pulled away and went to the window. She brought a finger to her lips, fearful. "No amount of waiting will change that."
"You are the Mother Confessor, damn it! Your power is in love, in having so much it overwhelms people. I know you, Kahlan. I know what you are. Don't tell me you have only enough love for Richard. If not why did you kiss me back?" Cara sat down heavily on the bed, lost.
"It was the wine."
"You're lying," Cara said. If she were more emotional, if she were like Richard, she would have leapt to her feet, stalked over to Kahlan, and change her mind with another forceful kiss. Maybe tears too. But she was suddenly dry. The rejection was unexpected because she had been so hopeful, and even though some part of her knew it would never be possible, the rejection hurt all the same.
"I'm so sorry, Cara. But Richard and I... what we have is more than just love. We have destiny. Do you understand? It's an unstoppable force, it's written in the prophecies! No amount of powerful magic can change it, no spells to rewrite history, or spells to change the future." Kahlan was weeping. "What I feel for you can only be friendship."
"You lied." Cara shook her head, sickened. "You asked me to put my armour down. I did it for you. But you were the first to stab me in the heart..."
"I am so sorry, Cara."
"I need fresh air. And maybe something to kill." Cara mumbled and left the room. She spent most of the night weeping in the darkest corner of the woods. The next morning Kahlan did not speak a word to her.
If Darken Rahl ever had a doubt about Cara, it ended when he saw the state of the woman she broke so thoroughly. He called Cara and Dahlia to his chambers a few days after Cara's breaking, and reminded them of how the wizard Zeddicus was still in the dungeons thinking Cara was being tortured. Cara twitched, then she smirked. "Let me show him what has become of me," she volunteered.
"No, no, but that is not my plan at all," Darken smiled. "I want you to free the Wizard, Cara."
"Free him?" Dahlia asked, quite astonished. "But he'll return to the Seeker and Mother Confessor!"
Cara mulled over this for a moment, her eyes never leaving her Lord's dark glittering ones.
"I will do what you say, my lord. I will free the Wizard, and take him back to the Seeker. And they will think we have escaped, like how the Seeker did from Denna. And I will take the Stone of Tears from them and return it to its rightful owner. You."
Darken was laughing, but there was no mirth in his voice when he said, "I have missed you, my dear child. My dear Cara!"
Dahlia and Cara marched to Zedd's cell. Dahlia was tensed, but she exclaimed: "I don't want you to leave, Cara. Not so soon after you have only just returned."
They stopped walking, and Cara looked at the other woman.
"It's the Lord Rahl's wish, and I will carry out his bidding without hesitation," Cara replied. They were just one passageway away from the door to the wizard's cell. A pair of guards stood outside, watchful.
Dahlia looked into Cara's bruised eyes, her own reflecting the turmoil within. "I'm not questioning the Lord's orders, but what if they turn you back against us? Against me?"
Cara suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to grasp Dahlia's face and murmur all the assurances that she might have said once, a lifetime ago, an Agiel ago. But she was Mord'Sith now, and she never hesitated.
"Mord'Sith have no feelings, Dahlia. I will not fail the Lord Rahl, and I will not fail you," She raised a fist and punched Dahlia hard across the face instead, sending the woman flying across the corridor. Dahlia laid in a crumpled heap, unmoving. The guards moved towards her, drawing their swords. "Feelings make one weak."
"Mord'Sith have no feelings. Feelings make one weak..." Cara remembered saying it to someone, at one point of time in her life.
They were sitting side-by-side before a fire. It was very late at night. Too late for idle chatter, and if Cara were more disciplined she would have been sleeping now. The Lord Rahl, who was the Seeker, needed them to travel far away with his Sword, but Kahlan was hurting from the separation. She moped a lot, and Cara decided that the foolish Confessor needed to sort out her feelings quickly, so they could get back on their journey as soon as they can.
Kahlan shook her head, laughing. "You tell me that so many times in the past few days, Cara, but my answer to you remains the same. Feelings don't make you weak, they make you strong, in a different way. Not the way a Mord'Sith is taught to understand."
"Is that the fabled True Love you speak of?" Cara asked, her sarcasm, by now, so dry that she sometimes wondered if she was not being serious after all.
"It's not just love, but joy, and peace, and...," Kahlan paused, obviously thinking of Richard. Cara felt a twinge - just a twinge - of sympathy. The Lord Rahl was annoying, but his presence, and that of the wizard's, was missed. "Perhaps you claim not to feel these emotions to protect yourself from the pain of rejection."
"And what's wrong with that?" Cara asked, curious. There was no combativeness to her voice, and it encouraged Kahlan a little.
"Your emotional barrier is like a wall, Cara. While it keeps out the pain, it keeps you from experiencing what it means to be happy too. Many times, the joy from being with the ones you care for is worth so much more, and when you weigh it against the pain that comes sometimes, the pain is nothing. Nothing at all."
Cara felt like she had been lanced, with mere words no less. She leaned away from Kahlan to better study the woman in the fire light, and suddenly she wished she did not have the emotional wall the Confessor spoke of, if only so she may feel just a sampling of that joy, the love and adoration so apparent in Kahlan's eyes it was painful to watch. If only it were directed at her. Only at her.
For the first time in Cara's life - her proper life, the one that started when she met the Seeker - Cara wanted to believe.
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