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Dawn is Breaking

Chapter Text

 

 

Dawn is breaking, but where she is now--no ray of sunshine will ever fall upon her face.

The door opens with a creak and from the distance blood-curling screams of agony and sheer despair enter the sparely lit room like uninvited guests. Her chin rests against her breastbone, each breath she takes is shallow and rather painful.

Blue eyes are tired, eyelids are heavy and swollen. If she just keeps them closed she might stay in her perfect little bubble a little while longer, where she is not stripped down to her underthings and hanging on a hook like a pig in the slaughterhouse.

In a wondrous dream, where no bruises adorn her pale skin like a morbid, inscrutable painting.

In a world where she is not the very last of her kind. As long the Mother Confessor‘s pure heart beats... Her heart isn‘t pure anymore.

This isn‘t real.

The traitorous voice in her mind pulls her back ever so often, especially when she drifts further away to rather carefree days of her life. These memories from past ages seem millennia ago, speaking to her in the languages of ancient times. It is hard to tell how much time has truly passed, but Kahlan can feel herself slowly fading away.

Every future has a past, but Kahlan has come to a point where she believes she has no future.

Come back to me.

The door closes again and the dungeon falls eerily silent once more.

But there is one thing she has learned during her involuntary stay as a much honored guest, that appearances are deceptive and here even more than anywhere else.

The prickling of her skin tells her what she needs to know - but is not yet ready to see.

Someone is there.

The only thing Kahlan can hear is the raspy sound of her own breathing. Muscles are tense and her skin aches under the constant strain. When blue eyes flutter open eventually, her gaze catches a faint movement, she looks in direction of the door.

You have nowhere to hide.

Her vision is blurry, much like the day Aydindril stood in flames and was burned to the ground.

Still Kahlan can see women and children run through an ocean of embers that once was a place she had called home. With time passing, faces have blurred together, but the cries and wails of agony, the smell of burned flesh are still clear, echoing in her mind as if it happened only yesterday.

It was the day Richard died. Cara. And Zedd.

Nowhere to go.

Choking on a sob that rises in her sore throat, Kahlan blinks against the tears that are welling up and focuses her attention on something that spreads underneath the door into the room, then really, she can‘t think about that day now--or ever again.

The stream slowly spreads further, tainting gray stone-tiles crimson. For a moment Kahlan is completely mesmerized and watches the dark puddle as it gets larger by the second.

Like a torch being ignited Kahlan realizes what it is--and where it must come from.

Tick, tock. Tick..

Turning her head to the side, Kahlan finally sees who keeps her quiet company.

The lone big chair with armrests stands in the middle of the spacious room and its occupant sits motionless and just stares at her. It must have been a quarter of a candle-mark since the Mord‘Sith entered the private dungeon room where Kahlan has spent the last six days or so. Or a lot more, maybe less.

Kahlan could ask, if she could already speak again, but then she doesn‘t think Denna would answer. She‘s been awfully quiet since she forced her Agiel down Kahlan‘s throat.

Denna has crossed her legs and her arms are stretched out on the armrests, with a look of utter serenity on her face.

Considering that she is covered with blood-splatters from head to toe--all over her leathers, even dried sprinkles on her face and in her platinum blonde hair--Kahlan thinks that it's quite the display of indifference, even for Denna. It is the messiest Kahlan has ever seen her look.

Even with Kahlan on her knees--head buried between her legs, breathing toneless moans into the air when she comes undone faster than a Mord‘Sith needs to get out of her leathers--she still manages to look put together. Kahlan can do nothing but envy her for that. It easy to focus her sole attention on Denna, then by now, Denna is all she has left.

Think of me and only of me.

It is Denna‘s voice she hears in her mind day and night, even if the blonde Mord‘Sith has not spoken to her in days.

Kahlan wonders, if it is a sign of being broken already. Or maybe, it is enough that Denna can make her say crude things while she fucks her hard against the stone-wall of her chambers.

Kahlan can‘t tell for sure, but that‘s one of the amenities of being a Mord‘Sith‘ pet.

There is no need to wonder about anything any longer, then Kahlan has a Mistress now, to do it for her.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

“Kahlan.“

It is the first human word she has heard in nearly two weeks. Fourteen days. Three-hundred thirty-six long hours.

The name her mother choose for her on the day she was born, just before she died. At times she only wishes she wouldn't remember anymore, then with it spoken out loud, memories come to the surface she can no longer ignore.

Love isn‘t something to fear, Kahlan.

She remembers Richard‘s voice, sounding from far away, but still, it‘s there. Kahlan wonders what he would have done, if he had known how everything turned out in the end. Would he have left Westland with her in the first place or would he have stayed?

He might be still alive, if he had.

The day Aydindril fell, the gates to the Underworld stood wide open.

It seemed to Kahlan like the Keeper himself had come to the surface, summoning innocent souls to take on their final journey.

The white palace had been engulfed in red and orange flames, the air around it thick and heavy with poisonous smoke.

The fire whizzed and roared like a storm, the wind had whipped hard against Kahlan‘s face, achingly hot as if the air itself was aflame.  She remembers wanting to breathe but she would only inhale a scorching breeze, burning the flesh down deep into her lungs.

Cara had lain in her arms as the end came. Her for once bare hand leaving a crimson trail on Kahlan‘s face, mingling with the tears already shed. She had tried to tell her something in her last moments, but coughed up blood that had silenced her voice. A tear ran down Kahlan‘s cheek and Cara had watched it fall.

She‘d held her friend close, rocking slightly to calm them both, until green eyes closed for the final time.

Around them the world faded into chaos, the wind kicked up glowing ashes, potent enough to set the dry grass yards away alight, as if searching for the last spots that weren‘t burning already.  Men, woman and children were scorched with fierce heat as they tried to escape from inside, leaving them as living torches.

When Darken Rahl and his personal Mord‘Sith came at the end of battle, the skies already rained ashes and the earth was slick and soaked red with the blood of thousands.

Amidst the many who had been speared, ripped open by swords and blades, strangled or even burned by the flames, Lord  Rahl had stepped jovially into the middle of the grand place in front of the palace.

Still Kahlan can see Richard‘s dead body being impaled through his left shoulder and held high, showing off the Seeker to those who had barely survived or just for Rahl‘s sick entertainment. Kahlan had looked around, seeing sons and daughters of the age of only six or twelve summers being slaughtered or left to die.

On that day, the entire Midlands lay dying to Lord Rahl‘s feet.

In the end it hadn‘t taken long for them to find her, the wound to her stomach making it impossible for her to move or fight them off.

From then on, not a single day had passed on which Kahlan had not wished she had joined her loved ones who had fallen.

“Kahlan.“

Denna‘s voice brings her back into a world where she has nothing left to fight for.

Deep inside she hopes it‘s just a matter of time until Denna finally lets her go.

The single tear running down her cheek feels hot against her cooled skin and when her gaze finds Denna‘s, she is certain the Mord‘Sith knows exactly what she has been thinking about.

She had not seen her during battle, but she knows Denna must have been there, at least at the very end.

The chair stands where it always does and Denna is back just looking at her, as if waiting for her to admit to her darkest secrets. Sometimes she thinks Denna is already bored with her, when she leaves the dungeon and doesn‘t return for days. Other Mord‘Sith tend to her then and bring her food and water, let her sleep on the freezing wet ground for an hour or two.

The skin on her wrists is no longer existent; at first Kahlan refused to give them the satisfaction of screaming in pain. But that last defiant streak already lays beyond her means. When the shackles are closed each day anew around her raw wrists and they pull her off the ground, the tones leaving her throat sound foreign to her own ears. Reminding more of a wounded animal than a human being.

Denna‘s leathers are clean once more and she looks nothing like the woman with the haunted eyes she has seen last. The blood near the door has dried eventually, leaving a dark stain on gray stones as a reminder what Denna truly is capable of.

Kahlan watches her as she stands from the chair, deliberately closing the distance between them.

Her body starts shaking, the chains ring with a faint noise.

Denna‘s hand reaches out to touch her stomach, trailing a finger over the scar she wears since the battle. The skin is still uncomfortable sensitive to the touch and the contact releases a tingle downward to the tip of her toes. The quiet whimper at the pleasant sensation leaves her dry mouth unbidden.

“Oh, you have missed me.“

It‘s not a question, it never is.

Denna‘s finger then trails down further to the apex of her thighs. The thin cotton of her underthings is doing nothing to protect her from the intimate touch and the sensation ripping through her. The moan feels wrong, but once again Kahlan can‘t do anything but let it escape into the air and it makes Denna smile,

“I have missed you too, Kahlan.“

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Finally she has returned home.

Kahlan lays back on the soft blanket, probing her head up in one hand. Fingers graze through the lush green grass and the sun reflects in the windows of the Confessor‘s Palace in the distance, letting it almost glow in a golden hue.

A few yards away Richard is laughing as he playfully swings the Sword of Truth in Cara‘s direction, who dodges it easily with one of her Agiels. Richard laughs even louder and stumbles backwards, Cara close on his heels with furrowed brows. “You‘re not even trying!“ Cara accuses and Kahlan smiles at how truly offended she sounds at his refusal for a real sparring.

The sun stands high in the blue cloudless sky, warming her skin. The sight of the two people she loves most, fills her heart with joy and fuzzy contentment. Kahlan‘s eyes flutter closed for a moment and with Richard‘s laughter still ringing in her ears, she dozes off.

“Kahlan! Wake up!“

It is Cara‘s voice she perceives, but it is the urgent and desperate note, that brings her back to consciousness quickly. But when she opens her eyes, Kahlan knows she still dreaming - but this time it's a nightmare.

No longer can she see the curved walls of the White Palace or its lush green fields that stretch on as far as the eye can see.

The warmth of the sun is gone and she can‘t hear Richard‘s laughter anymore either.

The familiar dungeon is only sparely lit--as it always is--and her arms ache the same as they always do since Denna chained her up for the first time.

The only difference today are the questioning eyes staring back at her--green like emeralds--and not blue like the winter sky.

Her skin begins to prickle. Goose bumps rise on her arms and Kahlan realizes with horror--she finally must have gone mad.

“We need to get out of here." A stuttering breath. "Kahlan?“

It is a hallucination--she knows with dead certainty--it is. And shouldn't it be a good thing that she still knows?

Her mind just reacts, finally giving into her dreams and desires; anything she begged for in every waking moment--still wishes--to this very second.

But her world crumbled to ash. All of them perished.

Kahlan shakes her head violently and goes back in her mind to Cara‘s last moments. The cooling skin, the sticky blood on Kahlan‘s fingers, and then at last, the agonizing blink in time as the light left Cara‘s eyes forever.

A tear runs down her cheek at the very memory--and there are not enough tears to make the stabbing pain in her chest to ever fade away. Forcing her eyes open once more--Kahlan is resolute not to fall for the trick her mind so desperately tries to play on her. Not this time. It is just one more thing that has turned against her. Just one. One more thing. Kahlan knows the game, but then again, not the rules.

She blinks and blinks against the welling tears. But the vision of Cara, gaunt and dirty--ripped clothes and bloodied skin--still stands there. Right there.

“No,“ and it is more of a desperate groan and spoken to herself than anyone else, then Kahlan has accepted a long time ago that she truly is alone now. There is no one left and when she closes her eyes just long enough, Cara will be gone too. She will.

Just until Kahlan decides to face reality once again. It's just her mind, trying to cope. It calms her to believe it might be true.

“Kahlan!“ Bony fingers grasp her waist, shaking her slightly. “Don‘t do this to me, please, come on.“

Kahlan has longed to gaze into those eyes--or hear that voice only once--for longer than she can remember. Now that she does, it sears her insides with a red-hot branding iron.

She knows that the second she gives into this daydream she is lost. Forever trapped in a hallucination of sorrow and despair. It is her weakest moment and Kahlan fears the dangerous spark of hope will enlighten an all-consuming conflagration she won‘t be able to extinguish once it burns.

“You are not real. You are dead." The words fall from her lips in a whispered mantra and Kahlan keeps her eyes closed, then she can still hear the imagination of her dead friend take ragged breaths. She wants it so desperately to be over.

"You died..  in my arms.“ Her voice breaks, but she still screams so loud it bounces back from the walls.

The door creaks and opens, familiar footsteps are heard and Kahlan releases a sigh of relief. The hands on her hips are still there, but freeze into complete stillness against bare skin.

The eyes she sees are back to icy blue and it feels like everything shifts back to sanity.

Denna doesn‘t acknowledge Cara‘s presence. Kahlan does not what she expected, but Denna is finally here now.

“I can see her.“ Kahlan croaks, her gaze shifting back and forth between Denna and Cara.  
Her dead friend seems unable to move or breathe. Her Mistress studies her with a vigilant gaze.

“Did you--or one of Rahl’s wizards--do this?“ And there as the question enters her mind a flicker of hope of a different kind spreads through her. Maybe it is just another form of torment, another scheme from a different angle Denna wanted to try.

“Whom do you see, Kahlan?“ Denna asks, entertaining her madness in a cooing sweet voice.

“Cara,“ Kahlan breathes, agonizing the moment when Denna will either mock her or even worse--confirm her greatest fear. “She stands right next to you.“

Maybe--and only maybe--she didn’t go mad at all.

“Oh..” Denna ponders, “does she now?“ A sculptured brow rises in astonishment.  “Did she try to safe you Kahlan?” She asks in a tone so serious, Kahlan can’t tell if Denna is mocking her or not. She purses her painted lips and the movement lets the crimson color to appear even darker. "From me?"

“So she is not… “ Kahlan pauses to swallow a sob she doesn't want Denna to hear, “really here?”

“Do you think she is, Kahlan?” Denna asks instead of answering, all the while holding her gaze like a vice.

“Kahlan look at me, fight them--fight her.“ Cara‘s voice is desperate now and she is shaking. The fingers on Kahlan’s hip clutch painfully into her bruised skin. “You and I can get out of here.. you just need to..  believe in me. Deep inside your heart--you know the truth.“

Kahlan looks over at Denna for the slightest reaction, but the Mord‘Sith just stares back at her. And says nothing.

Panic rises inside of her like a maelstrom, constricting her chest. Every breath hurts so badly that she thinks she is going to suffocate.  She can‘t live like this. She just can’t.

Cara is long gone, teared off her hands, as well as everything else that ever mattered in her life. She is in a position where she can‘t afford the blazing embers of hope any longer. She‘s been scorched by fanatic illusions far to often - and each time paid for it dearly with a sliver of her sanity. Tears spill over in a constant flow as her eyes fix on Denna in a desperate plea for help. “Make her go away.“

One moment there is a flicker of silver and the next Cara gasps loudly and then chokes. Blood spills over her cracked lips almost instantly and her haunted eyes lock with Kahlan‘s.

Terrifying, blinding fear grips her heart.

The thin blade protruding from Cara’s chest is bloodied and Kahlan watches on, as Denna pulls it back out swiftly of her flesh. The grip on Kahlan‘s hip loosens and falls away as Cara sinks to trembling knees.

“It‘s alright,“ Cara forces out, the sound of fluid in her lungs makes it hard to understand, but she smiles faintly up at Kahlan while fingers now press against the heavily bleeding wound on her chest. Futile, as it trickles--like sand in an hourglass--through her fingers.

It takes just moment. And Kahlan watches as her friend dies in front of her. She tells herself that it is not real. But the feeling of loss and despair is just as cruel and devastating as the first time.

The fear. It squeezes hard.

The sound of creaking leather brings Kahlan‘s attention back to Denna who still stands with the dagger in her gloved hand. Now that she can see it clearly, as the blood still drips from the point of the blade, Kahlan recognizes it as one of her own. She looks up as the Mord‘Sith lets it fall unceremoniously to the floor. The maniacal glee she finds in Denna‘s eyes makes her suddenly nauseous as her mind begins to wonder how Denna was able to stab a figment of her imagination with her own dagger. It wasn’t real, she repeats over and over in her mind, but deep down in her broken heart she doesn’t truly believe it any longer.

“Now she won‘t bother you again.“ Denna says and turns on her heels. Leaving Kahlan alone in the dungeon with Cara‘s dead body lying to her feet.

Kahlan hears Denna’s scornful laughter for a long while after, as it echoes through the hallways.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

It has been a little over a two days since Denna toyed with the very end of a tether which holds Kahlan to her sanity. All the while the memories of a once perfect world still cut into her like edgy shards of a broken mirror.

Kahlan waits for the tether to snap--to escape into her own mind--but mercilessly it doesn't.

She refuses to think about Cara. Of what Denna did to her. She doesn't think about how she failed her best friend.

Hope is a principle she once treasured, but is not able to afford anymore. She couldn't possibly believe that Cara had been alive all this time and not a figment of her imagination.

Trust that she wasn't on her own, that there could come a time when this was all over. And then banned to the farthest corner of her mind, as some things can never be forgotten.

Kahlan clings to gratefulness instead. Whatever she endured during the time in the temple Kahlan must be grateful.

Beneath the painful clenching of her heart--whenever she thinks about family, friends, lovers she lost--she can't find it in her heart not to feel relived for what them has been spared. It could be worse, she imagines. It could be so much worse.

But then it could be just madness in its truest form. And she is late to catch on.

Denna must know she has her limits. Even when the Mord’Sith proves to enjoy pushing these boundaries in a terrifying, brutal manner. It is inevitable and will continue until she finally dies of a broken heart--or body. Kahlan has come to accept that.

And the end is near, for Kahlan can not--will not--entertain thoughts a future that consists of many years to come.

Darken Rahl or Denna will be bored with her screams eventually. There is nothing left to give, no more secrets to tell. And then, she can return home at last.

The end is near.

If she just repeats this over and over in her head, the time will come when it becomes reality. Her reality.

Somewhere--hidden from her view, in one of the dark corners of her dungeon--water drips from a crack in the ceiling. The sound every few seconds is the only tangible constant Kahlan has left in her entire existence. It is the one she concentrates on when a quad of Mord’Sith enter her dungeon.

It must have been more than six hours, since Denna had previously left her.

Kahlan knows why they are here now. Denna told her. They have come to retrieve the body.

They have come to take Cara away.

Kahlan trains her eyes on the wall and counts.

One-hundred thirty-eight drops later the room is hers and hers alone once more.

Unshed tears brim in her eyes and her gaze tries not to look at the circle of dried blood right before her.

Kahlan keeps on counting.

 


 

 

"You reek terribly of fear Kahlan."

She watches as Denna scrunches up her nose as she steps closer to where Kahlan is shackled to the ceiling in the middle of the room, twisting her face in disgust.

"I think I'll have Mistress Constance take care of that." Denna nods faintly as if to herself. She moves at a leisurely pace around her, before concluding a full circle and stop in the midst of the dried up blood puddle Cara left behind.

At the mention of Constance’s name, Kahlan's blood runs cold and she goes very still.

"She did so well with you last time, didn't she? And you.. will need to be prepared.."

"How would you like that, Kahlan?" Denna asks lightly, her tone calm and even, as if she wasn't the madwoman that she is. Her lips, painted in a deep red, curl into the beginning of a smirk, but not quite, as if something holds back the malicious glee Kahlan has so often witnessed lightening up the blonde's face.

"You remember Constance, don't you?" Denna whispers in a sickening cooing tune, but it seems like she knows perfectly well that Kahlan hasn't forgotten the dark haired sister of hers.

Oh Creator, yes she does. She remembers Constance.

The shiver running down her spine as the memories rise vividly back to the surface causes the chains above to rattle. The motion is completely involuntary but Kahlan can't command her body to still the movement. The times she had any control over anything lay way beyond her.

She remembers each bucket of ice-cold water as well as the hard brush with short sturdy bristles, scrubbing and clawing at her even long after the first layer of skin was gone, leaving her flesh raw and aching. Wounds and cuts barely healed ripped open over and over. She remembers screaming until her throat was sore and no sound would come. Constance never stopped, never wavered in her anger filled cruelty. Afterward, Kahlan had believed it to be the merciful end of her suffering, as a high fever that followed Constance attentions, took her into a delirious heaven of dreams without fear and colorful hallucinations for many days to come.

"No, please. Not Mistress Constance." She hears the words tumble from her mouth before she's even made a conscious choice of voicing them, "I do whatever you want me to - but please, not her." Kahlan shakes her head so violently, that her vision starts to blur and when her voice sounds like she's begging Denna to change her mind, she does not find the strength to care. There is only so much one can take and Constance’s particular care is definitely not one of those things anymore.

Kahlan realizes that she'd prefer Denna any other day to any of her sisters--and it gives her pause. In moments like this, Kahlan wonders if these are the telltale signs towards complete devotion that bode her downfall,the end of her existence, the cessation of her kind.

Denna regards her closely, a brow rising in sudden curiosity at her emotional outburst. Kahlan can see, the blonde is intrigued about her reaction, but it doesn't mean that Denna even considers granting her wish.

Maybe she'll just watch instead, Kahlan thinks, holding Denna's clear blue eyes with her own. It wouldn't be that far of a stretch.

In the distance Kahlan hears the clacking of heels against stone tiles. Getting louder, coming closer.

She knows she has not much time left. And from the challenge in her eyes, Denna seems to agree.

Fear is still a very real emotion and Kahlan--even when there was once a time when she never thought this a possibility, an occasion where she --the Mother Confessor--would beg a Mord'Sith--and most of all Denna--for lenience, knows she has come to a place where she doesn't care about appearances any longer.

And honestly, for whom should she keep on fighting? For her honor or her memory? No one who's opinion ever mattered is among the living anymore. So she regards it beyond reason to suffer more than necessary just for defiance’ sake--or a fight that had been lost long before it even began.

Lifting up her chin from where it rests against her breastbone, she meets Denna's gaze head on, studies the steel blue eyes, that are quite similar in shade to her own. But yet, so much colder and cruel and nothing like hers.

Maybe this is the point of surrender she had loathed to acknowledge, but then Kahlan sees no point in denying herself at least the possibility of a moment of rest and quiet. Or just a moment without suffering.

The words when they eventually come, don't come easy, but she never expected they would. Her voice is raw but sincere, laced with an intimacy that Kahlan never thought Denna would ever be privy to hear, "Please, Mistress Denna, don't let her take me away from you."

Denna studies her with an unreadable expression on her face for a long while, as she stands very still in front of Kahlan, hands clutched firmly behind her back. It is the first time Kahlan has ever said her name, and Denna must realize the significance of it, when the surprised widening of her eyes is any indication, although it's gone as quickly as it appeared.

Outside, the steps in the hallway echo off of the walls and Kahlan’s heart adapts to thrum anxiously in their unsteady rhythm.

The whisper of Denna’s breath dances across her face and were she to lean forwards just a fraction, her lips would touch to Kahlan’s.

The door creaks as it opens forcefully behind them. Mistress Constance takes two measured steps inside the dungeon and Kahlan’s skin begins to prickle.

"Mistress Denna." Her tone is harsh, unfriendly and tinted so blatantly with disapproval, that it makes Kahlan believe the other Mord'Sith didn't expect to find Denna still in here. But Kahlan doesn't dare to break Denna’s penetrating gaze, that hasn't wavered even with the arrival of her sister.

The silence in the room is deafening and when Denna’s tongue pokes out to wet her lips, it grazes Kahlan’s bottom lip so softly that she stops breathing.

"Constance." Denna acknowledges her at last and Kahlan can practically taste Denna's annoyance. The lack of appellation is a dig that's not lost on Kahlan and she prays to the Creator that Constance won't get the chance to take it out on her later. She doesn't have a clue about the hierarchy in the Mord’Sith temple, the only thing she does know is that Denna takes shit from no one.

"Your services are not longer required. Leave us."

Kahlan waits for the other Mord'Sith to protest or unsheathe her Agiel, but then out of the corner of her eyes she makes out how Constance steps back and retreats out through the door with nothing but a low growl. Her footsteps sound for a while longer and only when they fall silent, Kahlan exhales her relief in a shaky, hurried breath against Denna’s still wet lips.

"Lord Rahl will come and fetch you the day after tomorrow."

Just like that, sweet relief turns bitter in her mouth.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

The candle lights flicker as the door closes behind her, casting her captive’s quarters in a warm glow. The key turns in the lock and the sound of footsteps fades out in the distance.

 

A fire cracks in a corner and Kahlan turns her heavy eyes on its quiet calmness. The dry warmth settles itself around her bare shoulders like a blanket and fills the night with a scent of spice and something earthy.

 

Standing barefoot on the stone tiles, she simply waits for Denna to arrive. Kahlan knows better than to sit down, let alone sleep on the ground. Even if she is tired. Oh, so very tired.

 

But Denna will be here any minute. And Kahlan knows she doesn't react kindly to find her sleeping on the floor without an explicit permission, especially in her very own sanctuary. Kahlan learned that lesson, like so many others, the hard way. Now she knows. And she's not fond of that particular memory that she'd like to refresh it ever again.

 

So she waits, upright, perturbed and—as always recently—utmost terrified.

 

On a cupboard, sand in an hourglass is starting to run out.

 

She hasn’t been to Denna’s chambers often, just in the beginning shortly after her arrival. A time that Denna believed she might break, if she touched Kahlan the way only lovers should. Made her moan her appellation into the deep of the night. Kept her on the edge for agonizing long hours. Looking back on it now, she realizes, it'd been the only times she'd felt something else than pain--or fear of more pain. She could drown in Denna then, in her touch and her desires, her own pleasure and not think about anything else. In a time long passed Denna shouldn't have been the one to hear her moans, but is there for them now.

 

The detailed memory of their encounters still raises a blush to her cheeks unbidden. It's not like she had a chance to explore all those physical aspects before she was captured. A part of her feels guilty that she partly enjoyed it, but then again there is no left to judge--no one left to confess to. Only Denna, who could brag to her sisters that she has screwed the Mother Confessor more times than anyone else—dead or alive.

 

The other Mord’Sith never touched her in that way. And she believes it is Denna's influence and cruel, violent streak that it was strictly followed. Today Kahlan knows it, but back then it'd crossed her mind often enough. Above all when she was left alone with an unknown Mord'Sith to be trained by them and Denna gone--for Kahlan to consider her Mistress' absence. It could have been way different--she knows--she has seen things. Unspeakable things done to other prisoners just like her. Or it was merely a possessive trait of Denna's or something else. Kahlan doesn’t know--nor does she care--for the reason, but for that, she is deeply grateful.

 

Maybe that will change when Darken Rahl arrives.

 

Since Denna told her yesterday, he is coming to fetch her--it’s all she thought about. For what he wants her, Denna did not say.

 

But she has more than a few unpleasant ideas. Kahlan shudders involuntary and forces her thoughts from him.

 

Not yet. There will be a time for that.

 

Instead, she wonders why she is here now. The last time Denna took her to bed had been months prior. Her gaze falls onto the wooden chest at the foot of the bed and a sense of longing tugs pleasantly deep in her stomach.

 

Kahlan can’t decide whether she wants for Denna to arrive quickly or for her Mistress to take her time. Kahlan looks over to the hourglass. It only has a candle-mark left.

 

She still hasn't found an answer to that question when the door creaks open not even a quarter of a candle-mark later and the Mord'Sith smiles rather mischievously at Kahlan.

 

In that moment Kahlan would kill a dwarf for more time.

 

 


 

 

After her almost encounter with Mistress Constance, Kahlan was relieved that she'd dodged that arrow--or well, Denna did for her.

 

Guards brought her water and clothes per Denna’s instructions in the morning and she had wondered, if the Mord'Sith had received message via journey-book that Darken Rahl may is to arrive earlier.

 

She considers to ask her, but then, she doesn't want to irritate her after yesterday, not when she showed a sliver of kindness. At least Kahlan wants to believe it was. Maybe it had never been Denna’s intention to hand her over to Constance in the first place and solely wanted to see how she'd fare. Kahlan can never be completely certain, not with Denna.

 

“Oh, you waited up on me, Mother Confessor.” Denna says as she enters--one eyebrow lifting as she regards her. "Such a rare honor." She rasps, as if she wasn't the one ordering for Kahlan to be brought--and stay--here. As if Kahlan had been given a choice.

 

“Come.” She says conciliatory and gestures for the small door on the other side of the room. "I've got a surprise for you." Her clear eyes sparkle with amusement.

 

Kahlan hesitates for the blink of an eye and it is not lost on Denna.

 

"You'll like it," she pauses for a beat, "I promise."

 

Despite the assurance, Kahlan can feel her hackles rising. It is not like Denna to promise anything, but she obeys--for what alternative does she have.

 

The air in the room is thick with steam and moisture, and Kahlan realizes it must be Denna's private bath. A sunken tub is dropped into the floor right at the center and a vast amount of flickering candles is scattered about.

 

"Take off your clothes." Denna orders condescendingly, when Kahlan only stares at her, puzzled. "And get in."

 

Her brow furrows slightly and the signs of uneasiness play out on her features. "Your stench is nothing I can endure much longer." She adds as an afterthought--and Kahlan recognizes the rebuke for what it truly is. As if she would've Kahlan use her private bath to clean herself or hasn't water brought down to the dungeons--albeit in a wooden bucket and ice-cold--for cleaning every morning.

 

She disrobes quickly before Denna changes her mind, pushing the clothes into a heap on the floor and steps in. A quiet moan escapes as she sinks into the hot, lightly scented water. Denna watches her for an instant longer--as she just sits there--feeling wondrous--and inclines her head. "Enjoy yourself," she husks with that arrogant smirk, sounding downright indecent and heads out for the main chamber.

 

The door only closes halfway after Denna, but it leaves Kahlan with a certain amount of privacy that she relishes. She can still hear the Mord'Sith in the other room--the clinking of glass, the opening and closing of drawers--as she submerges in water--soaking in all the warmth she can, sighing in unashamed delight. She never had the pleasure to use a bathtub as big and comfortable as this one. The hot water laps around her body and opens the gates for a feeling of total serenity she has not felt in ages. The sound of water rippling against the walls of the tub mingles with the noise far away in the other parts of the temple.

 

When Denna returns about half a candle-mark later, she is about to wash out the soap flakes that are dispersed in her hair. From the look Kahlan can see that her mood has drastically changed. The Mord'Sith will always remain a mystery to her; much like a puzzle who's pieces don't fit together, but in the end bring forth a masterpiece no one can tell how it came to be. For a minute Denna only stands in the doorway then moves to sit onto the edge of the sloshing water.

 

Denna bites her lip, the in indents are still visible as she suddenly grasps Kahlan, pulling her forward. "Why?" She demands, consumed with barely hidden rage ."For what could he still want you?"

 

Even Kahlan knows the question isn't for her to answer and Denna must know it too as she withdraws, stroking back an unruly strand of light hair, that has come out of its braid. She slams a hand down on the tiles instead, hard enough that Kahlan flinches beside her and the water ripples. "You were supposed to be mine forever .." Denna is seething now and something cracks behind those usually stoic features and Kahlan observes her with great concern. "You have been promised--and given to me--to do as I please ."

 

"I hurt you because it gives me pleasure." Denna's jaw clenches tightly together. Eyes ablaze with pain and something akin to madness. "I did because--I can. Because you are mine." And mine alone --is what Kahlan hears and Denna doesn't dare to say.

 

A spark of hope ignites within her that Denna might be willing to safe her after all. But the spark flutters and burns out, as she recognizes, that even a woman as powerful as Denna has no means to defy Darken Rahl.

 

"If you have be afraid in the past Kahlan, realize, you haven't." Her voice is hoarse now, "Everything you accomplished, everything you've buried deep inside for no one to find--will be taken from you. If you thought I've been cruel to you--Lord Rahl will exceed the pain you suffered beyond all imagination or measure."

 

A feeling of dread creeps up on her and Kahlan tries to block out Denna's voice, but it has an uncanny way of slinking back in.

 

"He will stop at nothing and destroy everything you are. " Her index-finger nudges the spot where Kahlan's heart throbs against her ribcage.

 

Slowly, Denna moves, grasping the rim of the tub with a gloved hand. Her leathers creak with the movement and Kahlan's heart skips a beat. "Each mark I left on your body will be painted over--each progress we made-- together --will be reformed in Lord Rahl's image."

 

As she leans nearer and nearer Kahlan ignores the way her heart kind of speeds up, a spike of something she tells herself must be fear.

 

In a desolate, broken whisper Denna adds, "Each memory of us will be erased."

 

Dark lips touch to the corner of her mouth then, and linger. Much like the concern that turned into fear and no longer lurks in its shadows. Only today is the last day she spends with Denna and the realization shifts something within her. And Kahlan has no prospect of a life either way, so she dares to be reckless one last time--claiming Denna's mouth in a desperate, hungry kiss.

 

For a fraction of a second Denna freezes, but then returns the meeting of their skin with just as much vigor. Denna's mouth is warm and sweet and Kahlan follows the taste well past her lips. Deep down, Kahlan knows she won't get away with breaking the rules. Waits for the slap that will punish her for her insolence. Denna kisses her harder instead, licking into the slick heat of her mouth while she slides a hand to the back of her head, pulling her closer. Kahlan moves into the contact; water sloshes over the rim of the tub and she moans low and long--as an Agiel finally makes contact just beneath her chin--taking her by torturous surprise. She tries to jerk away from the pain on pure, feral instinct, but there's no way to go. Denna holds her tight, a hand buried in dark wet tresses and returns her kiss with abandon. A myriad of stars blossom behind her eyelids at excruciating agony it emits; Kahlan gasps and whimpers at the sheer intensity of the pain and Denna welcomes it--swallows it whole. Her tongue licks into Kahlan's mouth and by now even she trembles, lets out a soft noise of pain or pleasure.

 

Then it ends and from one moment to the next the pain recedes--as do Denna's lips from her own. A hand still rests against the bare skin of Kahlan's sternum. Her breath comes unsteady and Kahlan hears as she swallows hard.

 

"Something to remember me by." Denna rasps and the light of the candles reflects on her marble white skin. A taste of lipstick clings on Kahlan's tongue and she licks her lips--tastes blood instead.

 

Denna opens her eyes deliberately, her haunting gaze finds Kahlan’s. " I can't let him take you ." She whispers, it sounds distraught and furious in equal measure.

 

"I just.. can't." She stutters to a halt; seems honestly stricken for the first time Kahlan has ever witnessed. She wants to reach out and touch her, to comfort even. But she doesn't dare.

 

“So… I release you.”

 

Her eyes shine dark and wet and full of promise.

 

And just like that the spark of hope re-ignites.

 

For just a moment she looks at Kahlan, like she is memorizing her--then pushes Kahlan backwards.

 

Through the hourglass, the few remaining grains begin to fall.

 

Kahlan gasps and sucks in a hurried breath. But then there's only water and the hand on her chest pushes and pushes--until there's nowhere left to go.

 

Air becomes an issue quickly but Denna's hand is rigid—holding her down. Panic blossoms in her heart and spreads like wildfire--setting each nerve-ending aflame.

 

The water in the tub is clear and Kahlan’s eyes are wide open; staring up at Denna who is watching her struggle with pursed lips and stoic mask that crumbles.

 

It is not supposed to end this way, but--nonetheless--she wonders, if it's now time to go home.

 

Her heart pounds erratically in her ears and Kahlan thrashes and pushes.

 

Why is she resisting? This is all she ever wanted. It's Denna's final gift.

 

She grasps and clutches, but the arm keeps her steady--unrelenting like an iron pillar. Wet fingers slide over leather searching for purchase, anything to hold onto.

 

A tear slips over Denna's cheek as Kahlan’s lungs fill with water.

 

In a last ditch attempt she tries push Denna off, but in the end, it is as it always was with Denna--futile to resist her. The world around her blurs into shades of red and black.

 

She tries for a last clear thought, but her vision already darkens at the edges.

 

The last grain falls.

 

It was her last.

 

It's time to go.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Kahlan wakes with a gasp, then coughs and sputters.

 

The water from her lungs is gone as well as Denna's chambers.

 

Pain throbs behind her temples and she thinks she might be blind.

 

Strong arms reach for her and press her down onto a mattress. A scent floods her nostrils and the masculine note almost turns her stomach.

 

Kahlan screams and screams--until there is only darkness.

 


 

She is not blind. Has gone insane instead.

 

"You were unconscious for days." He tells her when she comes to again. His voice gentle and soothing and it seems so perfect--so right. When her eyes land on the other man in the room, she takes in the deep lines on his face--that weren't there the last time she saw him.

 

Kahlan can almost believe them.

 

"I know it may seem hard to understand, but you were under a dangerous spell. We have prove that Darken Rahl himself--with help of course--brought this monstrosity about!" Kahlan watches as Zedd's long white hair swings in stride with his animated body language.

 

Almost.

 

She cackles for a long while.

 

Richard joins her laughter; careful and with a glance to the wizard, then back to her. Zedd just stares at her--stunned into silence--evaluating her.

 

Then it morphs and she heaves, sobs, laughs again.

 

This can't have been just a vivid dream--a laugh. A feverish nightmare--a sob. A spell of Darken Rahl's most powerful wizards--another heave.

 

It can't be. She was there in the temple. For months. Every fiber of her being refuses to believe a single word they say.

 

"Liars!" she accuses, roaring "filthy liars!" Her chests constricts; she can't breathe. Her face is wet with tears.

 

"Kahlan no, it wasn't real!" Richard tells her, stepping closer.

 

“Leave me be!” She is still screaming on the top of her lungs, but she doesn't even realize in her frenzy. "This isn't real! It's not…. I can't be back... I saw… “

 

She wrestles a hand through her hair, and tries to make a sense of what is happing around her.

 

"I saw..

 

She drowns at the bottom of an ocean--and there's only blissful darkness.

 


 

"I'm not really here, so relax Confessor." Cara sits on a chair next, feet propped up on the end of her bed. "Just a figment of imagination."

 

"Cara!" It's Zedd's voice coming out of the adjoining room. Kahlan watches him with wide open eyes enter through the open door. "Don't tell her that! She is still not well." He takes a bite of persimmon that sits in his hand. "Be patient."

 

Cara rolls her eyes and stands. "Good, when you're awake old man--you can watch her."

 

At the door, she hesitates and halts. With Zedd currently out of earshot, she tells Kahlan "glad you're back" and sighs, "it's about time."

 

When Cara is gone, she closes her eyes tightly. Hands close over her ears--and she starts humming.

 

This isn‘t real.

 

Eventually the tune fades out--as does her consciousness.

 


 

It had been real. It had been. She knows it was.

 

Kahlan has been fooled before. There is no sense in hope for her anymore. And she can't risk it. Denna has made her learn that lesson. She knows it by heart now.

 

Oh, Denna.

 

Come back to me.

 

The world turns black once more.

 


 

"How was it like?" Richard asks one afternoon, leaning against a wall--keeping his distance. A window is open and from outside the ringing laughter of children carries into the room. "The spell I mean." He pauses to wrestle a hand through his short brown hair. "You can talk to me Kahlan. It's me--Richard.

 

A horse neighs in the distance and Kahlan turns on her bed. Away from Richard--away from the questions she has no idea how to answer.

 

How would she ever come back from this?

 

You have nowhere to hide.

 

Kahlan closes her eyes and listens out for a certain voice among thousands, sounding rough and velvet-like.

 


 

Richard tries to reach for her--careful and moving like she is a frightened animal he wants to catch--but Zedd holds him back.

 

He must see the devastation in her blackened soul.

 

All that happened--unspeakable things. Has it been real?

 

Think of me and only of me.

 

It's been a week and Kahlan starts to wonder.

 


 

Nowhere to go.

 

It's still Denna‘s voice she hears in her mind day and night, even if the blond Mord‘Sith has not spoken to her in days.

 

She wonders if Darken Rahl killed her. Destroyed everything she was.

 


 

The days pass and Kahlan barely sleeps--does not wake to Denna's blue eyes staring back at her.

 

It's what she always wanted. Everything and more.

 

Isn't it?

 

At last, she is home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(But is she? Really?)