Hello! I wrote this about a year ago, and realized just now that I was at a place I could finish it, so even though I'm really not writing Seekerverse anymore, you get the sequel to my last Denna/Kahlan piece!
Title: You Want Me to Hurt You... Again (Sequel to 'You Want Me to Hurt You')
"Stop!" Denna commanded, catching Violet's arm mid-swing, wresting the Agiel from her tightly clenched fingers. "I did not give you permission to hit her there."
"I'm the princess and I'll hit her wherever I like," Violet responded flippantly, reaching for the Agiel, as Kahlan sobbed in her bonds.
Denna held it out of reach. "You may be the princess, but she is my slave. And you're a little girl, playing at being a grown-up. Don't test me, you will lose."
Violet growled and sulked and wiped some of Kahlan's blood off her hands onto her dress. "Why don't you want me to hit her there, anyway?"
The sound of the princess's voice grated on Denna's nerves. "Because I said so."
"Well I'm telling my mother that you wouldn't let me play with your toys," Violet huffed, turning to stride haughtily from the room.
"Shut the door behind you."
Denna went over and shut it, throwing the latch to keep the little brat out, and went back to Kahlan. "Stop fussing, you'll be fine," she said, letting her out of her bonds and catching her before she could slump to the floor. "We have a bath to finish."
Kahlan tried to stop crying as Denna picked her up and carried her to the bath, setting her in the basin. She whimpered as the cold water hit fresh wounds.
Denna undressed efficiently and climbed into the bath with her pet, sitting with her back to the edge of the basin and pulling Kahlan between her legs, leaning against her chest. Her sweat mingled with Kahlan's blood, and she sighed contently. "That was quite a workout. And I was mostly just watching."
Kahlan gave a miserable nod, not sure how else to respond. "Yes, Mistress. I hope I pleased you."
Denna ran her fingers through Kahlan's damp, matted hair, then inspected her fingernails, flicking dirt out from underneath one. "You shouldn't cry when she beats you in certain places. It tells her where her advantage is."
"Yes, Mistress," Kahlan said softly, sniffing and wiping her nose with the back of her hand. She wished more than anything that Denna would really hold her, put arms around her, instead of just allowing her to lean against her chest. She barely registered what Denna was saying, with the pain of her beating dulling her senses. She struggled to listen more carefully, not wanting to displease her mistress.
But Denna was done talking. She washed Kahlan's wounds and then had Kahlan wash her, despite her pet's weak state. When they were both clean to her satisfaction, she stood and exited the basin, then lifted Kahlan out and set the shivering girl on the cool stone floor.
As she set about putting on her leathers, she realized that with Kahlan so weak and cold and shaking, her pet would never be able to sit at a table and eat dinner properly. She couldn't have that, of course. It gave her justification to fetch a thick, warm woolen blanket and wrap Kahlan in it, making sure she was warm and comfortable.
"Th-th-thank you, Mistress," Kahlan stammered, teeth chattering as she watched Denna finish pulling on her leathers and begin the slow process of lacing them up. "M-m-mistress, shouldn't I be h-helping you?" she asked, wondering why she was being given such a reprieve. She felt guilty, laying in a warm blanket while her mistress was having to dress herself.
Denna's eyes narrowed as she continued lacing her own clothing. "It is your job to do as you're told, not to decide whether you should be helping me dress or not," she said sharply. "Lie still and be quiet."
"Yes, Mistress, I'm sorry," Kahlan breathed, tears welling in her eyes.
Denna ignored her and finished dressing, then pulled her hair back into its customary braid, tying it off with a leather band at the end.
Kahlan's shivering slowly subsided, and though she was still in pain, it was bearable. A few minutes later, Denna moved her to the bed and told her to sleep until dinner.
The Mord-Sith prepared a tincture for Kahlan to ward off infection - Violet had caused some fairly ghastly wounds that would not heal easily - and when she woke her pet for dinner, she held the vial to her lips and told her to drink.
Kahlan woke groggily, taking a moment to figure out where she was... she wasn't used to waking up in a soft bed. She calmed when she remembered Denna putting her to bed, and through the lifting fog of sleep she heard the command to drink, felt something press against her lips. She opened her mouth and tried not to make a face as the bitter liquid assaulted her taste buds and slid down her throat. From Denna's faint chuckle she knew she hadn't succeeded. She wondered what it was, but felt no need to ask. Denna wouldn't give her something harmful, she trusted in that.
Impressed that her pet didn't question the drink, Denna set the vial on the closest nightstand and crawled over Kahlan, leaning down to kiss her. "It's to help prevent infection from those nasty wounds," she whispered. "If I didn't make them, I don't want them infected."
Kahlan moaned softly into the kiss, and when their lips parted, she sighed. "Thank you, Mistress."
"Now, I want you to put on the dress I've laid out for you and join me at the table for dinner, before the roast gets cold."
Kahlan's mouth watered. She would do nothing to make Denna change her mind. "Yes, Mistress," she said, and as soon as Denna moved off of her, she sat up and searched for the dress, eyes widening as they landed on the beautiful velvet gown. Dark green, a shade that she could already tell would complement her eyes. She reached for it as Denna watched, and slipped it over her head, grimacing as the fabric brushed her wounds.
Denna smiled. "Don't spill anything on it," she said sweetly.
Kahlan shivered. "I won't, Mistress."
Denna's false smile faded and she took Kahlan's hand, leading her to the small wooden table in one corner of the large dungeon. The two plates fit easily, along with two goblets of wine, but there wasn't room for much else. Four unsteady chairs of the same light wood sat around the perimeter, and Denna gestured to one, allowing her pet to sit before she took the chair beside it.
Kahlan could not imagine a more appetizing meal than that before her. Several slices of steaming roast with gravy, mashed potatoes, and mixed vegetables, with a roll on the side. She wanted to start eating so badly, but she folded her hands in her lap and looked to Denna for permission.
Denna picked up her linen napkin and laid it in her lap, nodding for Kahlan to do the same. "Well?" she asked after a moment. "What are you waiting for? Start eating. Unless you don't want--"
Kahlan had a mouthful of roast before Denna finished speaking, and mumbled her thanks as she chewed. She could only guess what expression she wore, what with the bliss of the tender meat in her mouth commanding her senses.
"Don't speak with your mouth full," Denna said incredulously, carefully cutting her meat into respectable-sized slices before taking a bite. She deliberately chewed and swallowed before adding, "this is a dungeon, not a barn."
Kahlan blushed bright red, but couldn't stop herself from continuing to shovel in the food. She had no idea if or when she'd be allowed to eat such a lavish meal again, and her self control was very low. She nodded her understanding of the admonishment.
Finally Denna could stand it no longer and she reached over to grasp Kahlan's wrist mid-bite. "Slow down, you'll make yourself sick."
Kahlan didn't fight the hold, though she desperately wanted to, but as soon as her mistress let go, she couldn't help eating with just as much vigor.
Denna sighed angrily and stood from the table, hauling Kahlan up by the hair and turning her pet to face her. "What did I just say?" she scolded, one eyebrow raised. "I said slow down. The food is not going anywhere, and I will not have you forgetting your manners. You are wearing a nice dress, sitting at the table with me to enjoy a nice meal, and I expect you to behave like a lady, is that clear?"
Kahlan's eyes went wide, staring at Denna in surprise, but she nodded. "Yes, Mistress, it's clear," she whispered.
As they sat back down, Kahlan started off making herself eat slowly by cutting the meat before each bite, but when the meat was gone, and she tasted the potatoes, her stomach growling with the long-denied presence of anything but porridge, she lost her manners again. She didn't even realize until Denna snatched her plate away, and she cried out, eyes immediately turning to her mistress, who did not look at all pleased. Her fork clattered to the table.
"Hands in your lap," Denna snapped. "If they come above the table, you'll earn two hours!"
Kahlan whimpered and clutched at her dress to keep her hands beneath the table. She didn't think she could take two more hours with the Agiel tonight.
Denna scooted her chair around closer to Kahlan's, picking up the girl's fork and spearing a carrot. She brought it to Kahlan's mouth, noting the expression of relief as lips parted to accept it.
Denna waited until she chewed and swallowed before offering another bite. They continued in that fashion until Kahlan's plate was cleared, and her pet sat quietly while she finished her own food.
Kahlan wasn't sure what to say, so she offered awkwardly, "would you like me to wash the dishes, Mistress?"
"What do you think, child?" Denna asked mildly in return.
Kahlan flushed again and nodded. She was always required to wash the dishes after either of them ate. "I'm not a child, Mistress," she protested as she stood and collected the dishes. "You said that I would be Kahlan when you were Mistress."
"I also just witnessed you behaving like a toddler at the supper table," Denna pointed out, folding her arms across her chest as she leaned back lazily in her chair.
"I was just so happy to have a decent meal, Mistress," Kahlan said quietly, embarrassed by her ravenous behavior.
"We'll discuss it when you've done your chores," Denna said with finality, satisfied when her pet nodded and moved to the wash basin with the stack of dishes.
Kahlan finished her chore quickly, as used to doing it as she was, and returned to Denna's side, a little surprised when her mistress patted her lap, but she eased onto it, biting her lip, not sure what exactly the discussion was going to entail.
"Good girl," Denna purred, kissing behind Kahlan's right ear. "Are they spotless?"
"As always, Mistress."
Denna smirked. "I taught you well." She brought a hand up to stroke through Kahlan's long, dark hair. "Now, you said you were just so happy to have a decent meal?" she questioned.
"Yes, Mistress," Kahlan said. "It was so deliciou--"
Denna cleared her throat, and her pet stopped talking. "Am I to infer that you find the porridge from the kitchen inadequate? The porridge the cooks make special just for you, three times a day, slaving over the fires even in the middle of summer, just to feed you?"
Kahlan's eyes once again went wide. She hadn't thought of that. Hadn't thought of what her statement could have been construed to imply. Though to be honest, the implication was true. The porridge was wholly inadequate, and never filled her stomach to the level the roast, potatoes and vegetables just had. She was continually hungry, if not starving, most of the time. "Mistress, I--"
"I order that porridge for you myself, child," Denna interrupted darkly. "If not for me, you would have nothing to eat, and would waste away. I should allow it, for your insolence, but I don't want my little girl to starve." She stroked Kahlan's cheek tenderly for a moment, then lightly tapped it.
"I'm not a little girl," Kahlan whispered.
Denna had not expected defiance, and her nostrils flared. "You've just earned two hours," she hissed.
"No!" Kahlan begged, her breath coming raggedly, body shaking at the mere thought of enduring Denna's Agiel after all Violet had done to her. She had mistakenly thought that Denna would take it easy on her, because... well, she thought they had formed at least some sort of bond, but... With a gasp, she realized that perhaps her insolence had hurt her mistress, and that is why Denna had given her two hours. "Please! I'm sorry!" she continued. "I'll be a little girl... Please, Mistress, I didn't mean to hurt you, I'm a little girl, I'm your little girl, please..."
Denna gave a violent scream and twisted the dress of Kahlan's collar in her fist, giving her pet such a mighty shove backward that Kahlan stumbled all the way to the wall, smacking into it and crumbling into a ball on the floor. "How DARE you suggest that anything you say could EVER hurt me!" she raged.
Kahlan forced herself onto her hands and knees as Denna approached, and lowered her face to her mistress's boots, choking on a sob. "I'm so sorry, Mistress. I know I deserve the two hours." How could she have been so insensitive? Of course Denna could let her starve. She should be grateful for the porridge; even if it left her hungry, it kept her alive. And now she had upset the one person in the world she wanted comfort from, the one person who had the power to comfort her.
Denna took the dress off with care and set it over the back of a chair, not wanting to rip it, but once Kahlan was naked, the venom crept back into her movements. She dragged her to the middle of the dungeon by her hair and quickly chained her up. "You could never hurt me," she said, her voice low and dangerous as she applied her Agiel to Kahlan's ribcage.
Tears streamed down Kahlan's cheeks before the Agiel even touched her skin. She wasn't stupid, she knew she had hurt Denna, even if Denna would never admit it. And now she'd had the Mord-Sith's rare tenderness taken away. She'd do anything to get it back. And that frustrated her, because the first time Denna showed her affection, she'd known this would happen. She'd tried not to want it, tried not to need it, because she knew that once she did, it would be taken away. And she'd been right.
Denna tried to enjoy Kahlan's helpless screams and sobs, but she knew they were caused by the Agiel, not by her. She told herself this was why they held no appeal. She took no pleasure from torturing Kahlan this way anymore, but she completed the two hours, as she'd already handed down the sentence, and would not repeal that which she had handed down. Kahlan's crying had the opposite effect on her that it usually would have - she wanted it to stop.
By the time the two hours had finished, and Denna put away the Agiel, Kahlan was hyperventilating with tears, begging Denna to forgive her, apologizing over and over, begging for more punishment if her mistress would only forgive her.
Hands poised to let Kahlan down from her bonds, Denna asked a question. "Who do you belong to?"
"I belong to you, Mistress," Kahlan sobbed, desperate for an embrace that held no anger.
Denna was angry, but at herself, not at Kahlan anymore. She released her and carried her to the bed, laying her in it. "I expect you'll want to sleep," she said without affect.
"No!" Kahlan cried, reaching out her arms. "Please, Mistress!"
Denna stopped her retreat, brows furrowed, and turned, the confusion evident on her face. Why wouldn't her pet jump at the chance to have time to herself, to sleep in the soft, warm bed without being bothered? "What," she asked, "please what? What do you want?"
"Another chance to be your little girl," Kahlan sobbed.
Denna froze, her heart threatening to wrap around her lungs and choke her. After all that, after two hours with the Agiel, instead of wanting some peace, Kahlan wanted another chance to... to what, exactly? To answer correctly? To behave like a child? To please her, most likely. A fierce, protective urge flared in Denna's chest and she questioned her insanity, because all she wanted to do was hold Kahlan. Regret gnawed at her insides, telling her she shouldn't have given her pet the two hours, that she should have given her another chance to begin with, that she should have understood her pet's need to be viewed as an adult, even in her bonds of slavery.
And now, Kahlan didn't cry to be left alone, she cried to be with Denna. The Mord-Sith was disgusted with herself for even bothering to figure out the needs of her pet, but she could do nothing to assuage the desire to comfort the Confessor.
Climbing atop Kahlan on all fours, Denna leaned down and rubbed her cheek across her pet's forehead, murmuring into her ear. "Shh, I'm here... Stop crying, child."
Kahlan tried to force herself to stop crying, drawing comfort from Denna's words, and her touch. That gentle, alluring touch of cheek to forehead, the hum of Denna's chest as she spoke softly. As she took a slow breath to calm herself, her own voice came out shaky and winded, but she answered much differently than she had before, not allowing the word 'child' to bother her despite her natural instinct to take offense. Closing her eyes, she answered in a way that she hoped would please her mistress, at least slightly. She nodded her head and tucked her face into Denna's neck, murmuring quietly, "yes, Mama."
Denna's arms buckled and her shoulders landed on Kahlan's as she gave a strangled gasp, tears filling her eyes. She gently lowered her hips so she laid on top of her pet, speechless for once in her life, drowning in a sea of raging, consuming emotion. Her own breath suddenly matched Kahlan's, harsh and ragged. She rolled onto her side, half atop the Confessor now, and reached down for a sheet to cover them. "Sleep, now," she commanded. "I'll have no argument."
Kahlan nuzzled into Denna and closed her eyes.
She woke to a mouth between her legs, jerking in surprise and lifting her head with wide eyes, then relaxing at the sight of her mistress. "Mistress," she whispered, a soft moan escaping. "May I touch your head?"
"Mhm," Denna murmured, grinning when Kahlan's hand settled lightly on the back of her head. She ran her tongue in slow strokes, unhurried, indulgent, just enjoying the taste, and the feel of her pet's slickness against her mouth. When she had brought the Confessor to completion, she roamed further upward with her kisses and lay down beside her. "Did you sleep well?"
"Very well, Mistress, thank you," Kahlan said breathlessly. "Did..." she hesitated, wondering if it was permissible to ask, "did you?"
"I did," Denna replied, a lazy smile on her face. "Do you know what we're going to do today?"
Kahlan shook her head, looking into Denna's bright, mischievous blue eyes.
"I am going to school you on the history of the Mord-Sith."
"Really?" Kahlan asked, eyes lighting with interest.
Denna hadn't expected her to be so eager, and an amused smirk curled one corner of her mouth. "Do you think I would say it if it weren't true?"
Kahlan blushed. "No, Mistress."
Denna gave her thigh a gentle slap. "Now, your porridge is waiting for you at the table. Be a good girl and eat, then return to me here and I will have a dress waiting for you."
"And Kahlan?" Denna said when her pet had taken a few steps from the bed.
"Yes, Mistress?" Kahlan asked, stopping to turn.
Denna's smirk grew, and she twirled a lock of her long blonde hair around one finger. "I expect you to submit to the appellation of 'child'."
Kahlan flushed. "Without insolence, Mistress?" She bit her lip.
Denna's eyes went wide and she lunged from the bed, chasing Kahlan to the table and pressing her down into the chair with a laugh. "Yes, Pet, without insolence, you insolent thing."
Kahlan smiled sheepishly and started to eat. She noticed there was more porridge in her bowl this morning, and that strange affection for Denna flared in her chest again. "What will happen if I am insolent, Mistress? Are we playing a game?"
Denna considered, carefully sitting in Kahlan's lap while she ate. She noticed Kahlan try not to flinch at the contact with a wound on the top of her right thigh. Finally, she leaned her forehead against Kahlan's temple to breathe into her ear. "No game," she whispered. "I want to school you as my mother never had a chance to school me."
Kahlan's levity faded with that answer, and she stopped eating for a moment to put her arms around Denna. "I will behave, and do my best to learn, Mistress."
Denna stroked her sides, gentle hands traveling up and down her bare skin. "Kahlan," she asked, her voice suddenly small and more vulnerable than Kahlan had ever heard it.
"If you could escape, would you?"
Kahlan hesitated before answering, her eyes filling with tears. "Yes, Mistress," she choked out softly.
Denna nodded. "I thought it would be so."
She sounded resigned, but not entirely displeased, Kahlan noted with relief and sorrow both. "Does it displease you, Mistress?"
"No," Denna replied, trailing her fingertips over Kahlan's ribs, tracing bruises and welts, both fresh and fading. "All right, eat, child, you'll be late for your lessons. And you still have to get dressed."
Kahlan recognized the change in roles by the change in tone, and hurried to finish eating. "Yes, Mother."
"Mm-mm, not Mother," Denna shook her head, leaning close to Kahlan's ear again. Her voice lowered to a throaty whisper. "Mama." She straightened as Kahlan took the last bite, and stood, patting her head. "Go get dressed, child."
Kahlan shivered at the idea of what she was to call Denna, and as she went to the bed, she realized her mistress hadn't had time to choose a dress for her. She stopped at the edge and turned back, hands clasped in front of her. "What may I wear?" she asked respectfully.
Denna rifled through a trunk at the foot of the bed, coming up with a light blue summer dress, while simultaneously wondering what a light blue summer dress was doing in a trunk in the dungeon.
Kahlan slipped it on, enjoying the airy feel of the material, even if any touch aggravated her wounds. This was much more pleasant than tight clothes or anything heavy.
Denna went back to the table and dragged a chair from it into the center of the cavernous room. "Come, sit." She then dragged the table over and went to the writing desk in one corner for some parchment, a pen, and ink. "You're expected to take notes," she told Kahlan once her pet was settled.
"Okay, Mama," Kahlan said demurely, picking up the pen and dipping it in the ink jar, then scrawling her name on the parchment.
Denna shivered. She gripped a fistful of Kahlan's long, dark hair, then pet it softly and relaxed, standing from her perch on the edge of the table and walking away. "Mord-Sith are captured at a very young age, darling, and taken from their families. Do you know why taking them so young is important?"
Kahlan put 'captured young' on her paper, and offered a guess. "So they aren't very strong?"
Denna smiled, shaking her head, walking a slow path back and forth in front of Kahlan. "The strongest girl is no match for a few Mord-Sith," she explained. "Even a woman is no match for just one."
Kahlan flushed. She knew that Denna was referring to her.
Denna's boots clicked on the stone floor as she walked, forcing herself to keep moving, because holding still proved too much a temptation to go to Kahlan. "They're taken so young because they're easier to manipulate. Their emotions are displayed flawlessly on their faces, they can hide nothing from those who would wish to exploit it."
Kahlan nodded, not sure what to write for that, so she ended up putting 'easier to manipulate'.
"A young girl still has hopes and dreams to crush... powerful tools in bending her to another's will."
"Were you frightened, Mama? When they came for you?" Kahlan asked, already fascinated with the lesson. She didn't think of the possible ramifications of that question before she asked it. She shrank back in her chair, prepared to be screamed at and struck.
Had Kahlan not flinched in fear, Denna might have yelled and struck her, but the simple act let the Mord-Sith know that her pet realized how unacceptable the question was. That in itself was quite a feat, considering Kahlan's stubbornness. She stopped in front of her and bent at the waist, dropping a kiss to Kahlan's nose. "No," she lied smoothly. "I fear nothing now, and I feared nothing then."
Wide eyes looked up at her mistress, and Kahlan did her best not to call Denna out on that lie. It would serve neither of them to bring confrontation. "You must have been so brave," she whispered, turning her face away.
Slightly nonplussed, Denna nodded, continuing with the ruse. "I was. I never cried for my Mama." Another lie.
"I would cry if they came to take me from you," Kahlan breathed. And it was true - if any other Mord-Sith came to take her from Denna, she would beg them to let her stay. She would rather be with Denna than any of them, after what they had shared together.
Denna moved to her, taking Kahlan's head to her waist. "I know," she said soothingly, petting the girl's hair. "They will not take you. You belong to me."
Kahlan found herself trembling at the mere prospect, now that she had voiced its possibility aloud. "Do you promise, Mama?" she asked quietly.
Denna shivered again, bent to look into Kahlan's eyes. "I promise, child. You are mine. No one would dare take you from me. None would even think of trying."
Kahlan slowly nodded, swallowing hard. "You really weren't scared at all, Mama?" she asked, her eyes filled with tears. If she could ever get Denna to share anything personal, she thought this was the forum in which to try.
Denna let a soft smile grace her lips, holding up two fingers a scant hairsbreadth apart. "Maybe a little," she admitted, then stroked a hand down Kahlan's face. "Now, back to your lessons, child." She walked away again, pacing. "The purpose of the Mord-Sith is to be protectors to the master of D'Hara, the Lord Rahl. They must be unquestionably loyal and unflinching in the carriage of their duty, and it is for this reason they must be broken three times."
Kahlan scribbled 'broken three times' on her parchment, then turned her eyes back to Denna.
"The first breaking strips her of her will, her desires, her sense of self. She is tortured day and night for months, even years, until the only thought in her head is of obeying her master or mistress. Of pleasing her master or mistress above all else. Hunger, thirst, companionship... these mean nothing when the first training is complete. There is no trace of herself left in the girl. None that shows in her actions or lingers in her waking thoughts. She is bent to her master's will, unequivocally and irrevocably."
The apathetic way Denna spoke these words broke Kahlan's heart. Tears were streaming down her cheeks by the time her mistress had finished, and she sniffed, wiping her nose on the hem of her dress.
One eyebrow lifted, Denna pulled her from her chair by the arm and smacked her bottom. "Do not dirty your dress," she scolded, sitting the girl back down. "Ask for a cloth."
Kahlan whimpered, her cheeks turning red as she stared at her parchment. "Sorry," she whispered. It was more embarrassing than painful, really, but it still hurt, given the extent of her injuries.
Denna peered at Kahlan's notes. Finding them satisfactory, she moved on. "Next, the second breaking. The girl is forced to watch another Mord-Sith torture her mother to breaking, and then death."
Kahlan gasped. She had not known this beforehand, like she'd known of the first breaking. It came as a shock and caused bile to rise in her throat.
"This is to break her compassion. If she does nothing to assuage the screams of a loved one, she will do nothing to assuage the screams of an enemy in battle, or a captive in the dungeon."
Kahlan couldn't bring herself to write any of that down, and she only realized she'd closed her eyes when she felt Denna's hand wrap around her wrist and they flew open wide. Her mistress guided her hand to the ink jar, urged her to dip the pen, then forced her to write 'her mother is tortured to breaking and death in front of her'.
"Do you understand?" Denna asked, her voice raised.
"Y-yes," Kahlan stammered, wiping at her eyes again, trying to keep tears from falling. Her mother had died of sickness, and that had been bad enough. She couldn't imagine having to watch her be-- she just couldn't imagine.
"The third breaking," Denna said coldly. "The girl is given her Agiel. She must torture her father to the point of breaking, and when he breaks, she must kill him." She watched as Kahlan wept. "This is to teach her to inflict pain and suffering. If she can kill her own father, she can kill anyone without hesitation."
Kahlan's hand shook, her vision watery as she scrawled 'she must torture and kill her father' on the parchment.
Once again, Denna leaned down, this time to slap her hand over Kahlan's parchment. Her pet flinched. "My father begged me not to kill him. He begged me not to let them win, not to become what they wished of me." Her eyes were wide, memories dancing across them, her jaw clenched tightly.
Kahlan realized Denna was caught in the grip of the painful memory, and waited with bated breath.
A slow smirk crept onto Denna's lips and she snarled as she straightened, putting one boot on the chair between Kahlan's knees. "I killed him anyway." She paused, tilting her head to the side. "Do you want to know something, Kahlan?"
Kahlan didn't trust herself to speak, so she just waited, staring into Denna's eyes... eyes filled with madness.
"Lord Rahl almost killed me because he thought I wouldn't break. My training took so long, he almost gave up on me. No training of a Mord-Sith has ever taken as long as mine did," she said smugly.
"You-- you held onto your humanity," Kahlan whispered, crying out when Denna backhanded her swiftly across the face.
"How dare you spew such filth!" Denna screamed. "I held onto my strength, and my will!"
"I'm sorry!" Kahlan cried, putting a hand to her bloody mouth.
"Humanity had nothing to do with it!" Denna raged. "How dare you! How DARE you! I held out because I was strong! Not because I--"
Kahlan watched in awestruck horror as Denna crumpled to the ground in sobs. As her mistress's shaking grew more violent, she rushed to her and pulled the blonde head into her lap. "Mistress," she said desperately. "Please, I don't know what to do for you..."
Denna clutched the hem of Kahlan's dress to her chest, sobs wracking her body as her mother and father's faces tormented her mind. "I was frightened when they took me," she confessed, then stuffed some of the fabric into her mouth to keep herself from talking.
Kahlan forcibly pulled the fabric from her mistress's mouth and stroked her braid. She didn't say anything, but she refused to let Denna stifle her words, if more were to come.
It was nearly a half hour before Denna crawled away and threw up, Kahlan rushing after her to hold her braid out of the way, and then cleaning up the mess. "Mistress," she said carefully when she'd finished, sitting on the stone beside Denna's head.
The cool stone felt good on the side of her face. Her body was drained of moisture, and purging her stomach had lessened the nausea. "My father took me fishing when I was four. I sat in the boat with my hands covering my eyes until he took me back to shore. I couldn't bear to see the fish caught on hooks."
Encouraged, Kahlan scooted closer and ran her fingertips up and down Denna's back through her leather. "My father was a warrior before he was a king. He taught me to fight."
Denna closed her eyes. "My mother tried to send me to school, but the other children taunted me and I never raised a hand to defend myself. I couldn't stand the thought of hurting another."
"That's why they chose you?" Kahlan asked softly. "Because of your extraordinary compassion for all life?"
"Yes," Denna said, her voice void of emotion in some ways, and full of it in others. "From the gentlest girls comes the greatest capacity for cruelty."
"Your parents would have been proud that you took so long to break, Mistress," Kahlan offered, fingers going to the laces of Denna's neck guard and starting to loosen them.
"My father's face dances in my mind, now," Denna said flatly. "His spirit is anything but proud."
"Perhaps he doesn't understand what you went through... how you had no choice."
"I do not know what he understands, or what he doesn't. Only that his spirit holds the greatest hatred and disappointment for me."
"Perhaps you misunderstand," Kahlan said, removing the guard and placing it on the floor beside them. "Perhaps his hatred and disappointment is for what you were forced to become, not for you as his daughter." Her fingers worked the buttons to the side of Denna's leathers.
"Perhaps," Denna allowed for the possibility. "Either way, I have failed him. In what I was forced to become, or chose to become, it doesn't matter. His opinion of me holds no consequence."
Kahlan thought there was all evidence to the contrary, but she chose not to say it. Denna lifted up so she could slide the leather top off, and Kahlan left it beneath her so that her chest would not contact the bare floor as she lay back down. She removed the Mord-Sith's boots and then tugged at the waistband of her pants.
Denna's hips rose to allow Kahlan to remove her pants, and she shivered as she settled back down to the stone. "What of your father?" she asked. "Where is he now?"
Kahlan sighed, folding the pants and setting them beside Denna's boots. "In the spirit world, as is yours." She helped Denna to stand and led her to the bed, guiding her face-down onto it and beginning to massage her shoulders. "He died when my mother's nurses announced there was nothing more to be done for her."
"Your mother was ill."
Kahlan pressed with her thumbs, working the tension away from Denna's shoulder blades. "Yes."
"She knew you loved her?"
"My mother died thinking I didn't love her. I sat there and watched, and did nothing while they tortured her to death."
"There was nothing you could do." She moved her hands down Denna's back, stroking and pressing in all the right places to make her mistress groan.
"Don't tell me you think that makes it all right," Denna said bitterly.
"No," Kahlan admitted. "But it is true, isn't it?"
"I could've tried to stop it, and died with her," Denna said after long moments of silence.
"Is that what you wish?"
Denna hesitated in answering, but finally did. "Sometimes, yes."
"Do you think that would have been better? Do you think she would rather have had you die trying to protect her? What would that have accomplished?"
Denna laughed, a hollow, mirthless sound. "Yes, Kahlan. The world is so much better off with the likes of me in it."
Kahlan slapped her bottom.
Denna looked sharply back over her shoulder. "Don't you dare, I am still your mistress," she said before settling again.
Kahlan couldn't resist. She smacked her again, harder, and then before Denna had a chance to get angry, or continue moping, she laid next to her and pressed their lips together in a kiss.
Denna moaned, first at the unexpected smack, and then into the kiss. Her pet certainly had nerve. "You are only getting away with this because of my exposed and vulnerable state," she mumbled against Kahlan's lips.
"You liked it," Kahlan whispered into her ear. "You want me to do it again."
Denna smiled, turning on her side facing Kahlan and letting a hand roam down her side to rest on her hip. "No, I don't want you to do it again," she said, deliberately not denying the fact that she'd liked it. But that didn't mean she'd like it again.
Kahlan was about to reply when a knock at the door sent her into a panic. Her breath caught, her eyes going wide. "Mistress, please," she begged. "Don't let them in, please, I--"
"Hush," Denna told her, sitting up to make her voice carry across the room. "Come back later!"
"You can't tell me to come back later!" came the petulant voice of the princess from the other side of the door. It rattled as she tried to open it. "I'll have your head! Open this door at once!"
Denna snatched her Agiel from her nightstand and strode naked to the door, unlatching the bolt and flinging it open. "Unless you want my Agiel rammed into that tiny little brain of yours, you'll shut your fucking mouth and do as I say!" she snapped at the princess.
Eyes wide in surprised terror, Violet stumbled back a few steps and then turned to run up the stairs, wailing for her mommy.
Smug, Denna slammed the door and flicked the bolt back into place, then strolled leisurely toward Kahlan and crawled over her on all fours, setting the Agiel on the nighstand again. She leaned down and kissed her, tongue tracing slightly parted lips. "We have roughly thirty seconds before the queen is at our door," she said, rolling her eyes.
Kahlan groaned, arching into the kiss, wishing she wasn't wearing anything so she could feel Denna's skin everywhere. She stiffened at her mistress's words. "The queen? She won't hurt you, will she?"
"No," Denna smiled, rubbing her nose against Kahlan's and then kissing her again. "I might have to hurt her, though. I want you lying face down with your eyes closed when I go to the door."
Kahlan swallowed, suddenly fearful for her mistress's safety, but nodded. "Yes, Mistress."
Denna was right. Less than a minute later came pounding on the door.
"Open this door, Mord-Sith!" the queen bellowed.
Denna made a mocking face and rose from the bed, making sure Kahlan turned over and closed her eyes before she went to the door and threw it open, Agiel in her fist. "You will call me Mistress Denna," she hissed. "You may be the queen of this castle, but I am the queen of the New World, under Lord Rahl, and I outrank you by a startling measure."
"How dare you," Queen Milena said darkly. "You are nothing but a filthy whore. Guards!"
Before the guards took a step, Denna's Agiel was buried between the queen's breasts, and the portly woman slumped to the ground, blood seeping from her mouth and ears. Denna glanced at the guards, raising one perfect eyebrow, and gestured at their fallen monarch. "You might want to clean that up. And find a ruler more respectful of the Lord Rahl's favored Mord-Sith."
The guards stood, stunned, and one knelt to take a pulse. Finding none, he went to one knee and gave a salute to Denna. "As you wish, Mistress Denna."
"Thank you," Denna said sweetly. "And see to it that I'm not disturbed until supper."
"Of course, Mistress Denna," the guard said as she slammed the door and threw the bolt.
Satisfied with the outcome of things thus far, Denna sauntered back to Kahlan and dropped her Agiel on the nightstand yet again, sliding onto the bed above her pet.
"Did you just kill the queen?" Kahlan asked, her body relaxing from its rigid state when Denna lay over her.
Denna grabbed a fistful of her hair and tugged, hard. "Are you questioning me?"
"No, Mistress, I just wanted to-- I'm afraid for you, that's all... what if the guards come back? What if Tamarang's army comes after you?"
"Would it be so bad?" Denna asked wistfully. "If they kill me, you would be free. There would be less suffering in the world."
"Don't say that, Mistress, please," Kahlan implored, her voice quiet, gentle. "I would welcome freedom, but not at the price of your life."
Denna's brows lifted. "If you could kill me to escape, you wouldn't?"
Tears filled Kahlan's eyes. When she was first captured, she had longed with all her heart to see her captor dead. Now, even the prospect of freedom couldn't make her wish it. She shook her head.
Denna regarded her studiously. "Interesting."
"It's not so interesting, Mistress. I care for you."
"I know you do, child."
"Stop calling me that... you're the one acting like a child, saying the world would be better off without you, moping around and doing foolish things like killing the queen whose dungeon we currently occupy!"
Denna dug her fingernails into the back of Kahlan's neck until she drew blood, enjoying the little cry of pain the Confessor let out. "Don't talk to me that way. Have you taken leave of your senses?"
Kahlan wriggled around until she could turn on her side, and kissed Denna. "I think I have," she agreed in a whisper. "Being faced with the thought of your death urges me to take risks in attempt to protect you."
"And how would you attempt to protect me?" Denna asked, eyebrows lifting once again.
"I was hoping I could just talk sense into you," Kahlan murmured, looking into her mistress's bright blue eyes.
"And in the absence of that success?"
Kahlan blushed. "I would do nothing more than you allow me, Mistress."
"And if I were to allow you creative license?"
Kahlan blushed deeper. "I would correct your behavior, Mistress. I would-- I would punish you." The words felt so incredibly strange to even think, let alone say aloud.
"You... would punish me?" Denna drawled, letting silence linger between them before she gripped Kahlan's jaw and squeezed. "Very well. Try."
"What?" Kahlan's breath left her in a rush.
Denna smirked. "I said very well. Try," she repeated. "Correct my behavior, if you have the nerve."
Never in a thousand centuries would Kahlan have expected that response. She wasn't prepared for it. She tried to call upon her feelings when she had first arrived. All the things she would have paid any price to do to Denna back then. Not only did the feelings fail to come, but they wouldn't have been useful if they had. Her motivation was different now. "And you... you will do as I say?" she asked, her voice trembling with uncertainty.
"Within reason," Denna snarked.
Kahlan set her jaw. "What is your definition of reason?"
"Don't argue semantics," Denna said flippantly. "Either take charge or don't."
"Don't... don't talk to me like that," Kahlan said nervously, testing her temporary boundaries. When Denna merely grinned, she continued with a bit more confidence, though her voice still wavered. "Say you're sorry."
Denna's grin turned to a smirk. "I'm sorry," she said, less sincere than if she were speaking to a rock.
Kahlan lifted a shaking hand and merely tapped her mistress's cheek.
Denna threw back her head and laughed, until a hand fisted in her braid and a stinging slap cut across her cheek. Her laughter died out instantly, replaced by a hard look.
Kahlan gasped, ducking her head and murmuring apologies one after another. "Dear spirits, I'm sorry, Mistress, I'm so sorry, I'm sor--"
Denna put a finger to her lips to shush her, and leaned forward, breathing into Kahlan's ear. "I deserved it." When she felt Kahlan start to breathe again, she continued. "I don't think you're ready to correct my behavior."
"Be quiet, Mistress," Kahlan insisted. "I'm ready. I don't want you thinking so ill of yourself." She pushed herself up to sit against the head of the bed and pressed her naked mistress across her lap with a hand between the shoulder blades, then smacked her bottom.
Denna jumped, surprised, and impressed. She did as commanded - she found the instruction within reason. When Kahlan spanked her again, though, she couldn't keep quiet. "You realize I am Mord-Sith," she said flatly. "A spanking is pleasurable, if even felt at all."
Kahlan bit her lip, wondering what she could possibly do to get Denna vulnerable enough to work on her self-esteem. Just the thought of it was completely absurd. Why should she want to increase the self-esteem of a Mord-Sith, for Creation's sake?!
She knew the answer to that, though. Because Denna wasn't just a Mord-Sith to her anymore. Denna was her mistress. Her disciplinarian, but also her protector.
"I know, Mistress," she finally said softly. "I'll wait until I have you crying and vulnerable, first. Then I'll spank you."
Denna couldn't help the snort of laughter that burrowed its way out. "You think you're going to make me cry?"
The laughter faded. "That's very ambitious of you, Pet."
"Stand up, Mistress," Kahlan instructed, stroking a hand along her braid.
Denna rolled off of her lap and stood, taking her time, pushing boundaries wherever they met her.
Kahlan was patient. She took her mistress's hand and led her to the center of the room, to the shackles hanging from a beam, the ones she herself was often chained in.
"Really, Pet?" Denna asked, raising an eyebrow, putting her fists on her hips.
Kahlan ignored the insolence, instead giving another command. "Raise your arms above your head, Mistress."
Denna complied, a smirk on her lips as Kahlan fastened her wrists into the shackles. She barely had to raise on the balls of her feet to alleviate the pressure on her shoulders.
"Can you get out of them?" Kahlan asked, stepping back.
"I am a Mord-Sith, not a sorceress. I have no magic."
"I meant, are they tight enough to hold you," Kahlan clarified gently.
Denna yanked on the cuffs, trying to pull her hands free, to no avail. "Yes, they are," she announced unnecessarily.
Kahlan nodded and stepped forward again, resting one hand on Denna's waist while the other sought the soft blonde curls between her legs.
Denna gasped, blue eyes springing wide open, and she jerked her hips away from Kahlan's hand. "What do you think you're doing?"
"Exploiting your weakness," Kahlan said, laying the truth out for her mistress without hesitation. "You once told me that you can only reach release with an Agiel in your backside. I cannot hold an Agiel."
Realization dawned quickly, and Denna tried to jerk away again. "Don't you dare! I will punish you so severely you'll beg me to kill you," she hissed venomously, struggling in her bonds.
"Relax, Mistress," Kahlan said with a sigh. "I see no other way to correct your bad behavior."
Denna's chest heaved, her stomach quivering as her pet pressed a kiss to it. "This isn't funny anymore, Kahlan. Let me down."
"I never thought it was funny," Kahlan finally snapped, her patience starting to wear thin. "Saying the world would be better off without you is not funny. Doing something as stupid as killing the queen is not funny. Thinking I would be better off with you dead is not funny. You captured me, you killed the man I love, you took my freedom and gave me pain in return for the longest time... and now that we've managed to move past that into something tenuously akin to affection, you think I'd be happy to let soldiers barge in here and kill you! You take away everything from me... everything! And replace it with you... and now you want to take that from me too! The only thing I have left, the only thing in the world that still means anything to me... you would take her from me."
Denna's breath was coming in ragged pants, both because of her struggles and at Kahlan's heartfelt words. "Kahlan," she said, and stopped, not knowing what else she could possibly say. It sparked a feeling of guilt, that her pet was so affected by her self-loathing. Guilt was not an emotion she was used to. It hurt. It burned in her chest.
"We will go away from here," Kahlan said firmly. "When I release you, you will take us away from here, away from the threat to you."
Denna simply swallowed.
"Mistress, please. Say you'll take us away."
"I will," Denna said, her voice choked. "Let me down."
"I'm not done yet," Kahlan reminded her. "I haven't made you cry."
"You've gotten close enough," the Mord-Sith said with a sigh. "Too close."
"When you captured me and made me your pet, that entitled you to take what you wanted from me. But it also bound you to the responsibility to provide for me, if you wanted me alive to torture. I think that now, the responsibility to provide for me means more to you than keeping me alive to torture. I know it, in fact. You said I'd be better off without you, which tells me that my well-being is at least of trifling importance to you. Is it?"
Denna stared over Kahlan's shoulder and gave a mute nod.
Kahlan hauled her arm back and slapped Denna's face so hard that her cheek was instantly colored. "Then how dare you suggest that I be without you! How dare you do that to me! After all you've done to me, you owe me! Do you hear me, Mistress? I understand you. I care for you. You are important to me, despite everything negative that we've shared. You are important, do you understand? Do you!"
A single tear trailed down Denna's reddened cheek.
Denna hung her head, staring at the floor. "I understand," she whispered. "I just don't understand why. I'm made for hate and you for love. You should want me out, to tip the balance in your favor."
"Well I don't. To the Keeper with duty, with choosing sides in the great battle of good versus evil. I'm not even the Mother Confessor anymore, without access to my power. I'm just Kahlan." She put her arms around her Mistress and dropped a kiss to her collarbone. Her voice lowered, wisping out against Denna's skin. "Just Kahlan. Just your pet." She took a slow breath and pressed her lips to Denna's neck, murmuring into it. "In some ways, I feel like I should thank you, for taking me from a life of duty and allowing me to be free."
"You're not free, Kahlan," Denna said bitterly.
"I'm free of putting the Midlands before my own needs. I'm free of hiding my desires because the public would never approve of their Mother Confessor wanting anything for herself. I'm free of taking the confessions of murderers and listening in detail to every crime they ever committed. Heinous, sinister things that an entire army of Mord-Sith could never even aspire to. I'm free of the responsibility to maintain a perfect image. At least what I have with you is raw, and real, and I don't have to share it with nobles and politicians. Even as your pet, I can be myself, at last."
"I never meant to free you from any of those things."
"But you did."
"But I did."
Kahlan nuzzled her nose against Denna's neck and then trailed kisses up the side of her face. "Maybe I can hold an Agiel, just for a second," she breathed.
Denna groaned, her heart pounding against her ribcage. "I don't want you to do that... it's not proper." The argument was weak, at best, and she knew it.
"Proper?" Kahlan asked, a quiet laugh rumbling forth as she shook her head. She was about to show Denna something entirely improper when she heard heavy footsteps above them, and was reminded of the situation they were in. "We have to go. Now. Please."
Denna nodded. "Free my hands. I'll put a dress on and bring my leathers." It would take her too long to get into them.
Kahlan worked the key into each lock and let Denna down, then hurried with her mistress to the bed to collect their things.
Denna grabbed the first dress she found in the trunk and slipped it on - dark green velvet, with flowing bell sleeves, but it would have to do. She slid her Agiel's chain around her right wrist, the metal rubbing against her chafed skin and making her shiver. She saw that Kahlan had gathered her leathers, and a cursory glance around revealed nothing else they would need. At the last moment she remembered Kahlan's things, which she had stored in a closet, and she quickly grabbed up the Confessor dress, underthings, and boots with daggers tucked into them. "This way," she said, nodding toward a door at the far end of the dungeon. It led to a lesser-used passageway, and from there they could slip into the tunnels beneath the castle and escape through one of the out-of-use aqueducts.
Both women were adept at maneuvering through difficult locations, and soon they were in the woods surrounding Tamarang, heading east.
"Where will we go?" Kahlan asked once they were a good distance away from the castle.
"Across the Kern River into D'Hara," Denna answered.
"To the People's Pala--"
"No," the Mord-Sith all but shouted. "I will never take you to the People's Palace, unless I am specifically ordered to do so."
Kahlan didn't have to ask why. Darken Rahl resided at the People's Palace, and she guessed Denna didn't want her anywhere near him. She knew he had a habit of taking things that weren't his. "Mistress?" she asked gently, moving closer and walking just behind and to the left of Denna.
"We don't have any blankets, or food..."
"Can you hunt?"
Kahlan remembered the way Richard had taught her to set traps and snares, but they didn't have any of that equipment now. She knew there were daggers in her boots, and nodded toward the pile of her things in Denna's arms. "I could probably catch something small with my daggers."
Denna turned them slightly left. "We'll head northeast, and pick up supplies in Kelton. It's a little less than a day and a half's walk. You can hunt us something for breakfast in the morning and we'll skip lunch, then eat in town tomorrow night."
Kahlan smiled and nodded her agreement. "And I suppose for blankets, we can use these extra clothes. I can start a fire, too. If we find a wayward pine, that should shelter us from the wind."
"You seem well-versed in matters of the woods."
Kahlan's eyes lowered to stare at the ground as they walked. "Richard taught me to survive in the wilderness."
Denna turned and gripped her hair, suddenly. "I am your mistress now," she hissed. "You will no longer mention his name."
Kahlan's eyes filled with tears at the admonition, but Denna did not relent. "Yes, Mistress," she finally whispered, hurt by the icy tone of her mistress's voice and by the command itself.
Denna's hand itched to stroke Kahlan's hair, to tell her it was all right, but she forced herself to simply let go and turn around to keep walking.