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Where Life Takes Us

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A few dreary weeks have passed, and Cara hasn't seen Mistress Denna since the day the other Mord'Sith took her to her chambers and into her bed. And somehow, the past is more alive in Cara's mind than the present. Among her sisters it is known that Denna and a few of the older Mord'Sith have been sent out into D'Hara on an assignment by their master, but through the steadily trickling gossip, Cara knows they have been expected to return to the temple days ago already. It is not like she cares about it one way or another, and she is most certainly not unsettled by their prolonged absence. No, not even in the slightest. She is a Mord'Sith - she feels nothing.

 

Especially not for Denna. Nothing at all.

 

And if she keeps repeating this mantra just often enough, it will ring true eventually, some day in a distant future. Cara relies heavily on that. She does not care anymore for Denna now, then the day she had set eyes on the blonde for the first time many years ago. Denna is just one--of many--older Mord'Sith she merely needs to acknowledge and respect.

 

And yet, her obsessive thoughts wander back to Denna after their heated encounter more often than she cares to admit, even when it is just to herself. Not even to Dahlia she has spoken a word about it. Especially not to Dahlia. She hasn't said anything to anyone. Dahlia wouldn't understand her sudden, violent obsession anyway, not unless she tells Dahlia of the sleepless night she recklessly spent in the First Mistress' chambers--and almost inconceivable--with perverse pleasure prevailing over agonizing pain.

 

Ignorance and the lack of Denna's presence has her feeling restless and yet relieved in a matter of mere days. Relieved because, she isn't forced to see Denna or gets involved with her in any way. Restless because, she doesn't. That it matters at all, is just fueling her outrage. Cara abhors the idea that her wandering thoughts have such a control over her. Or rather Denna, who manages to take control over her even in her absence.

 

She loathes her. She craves her. She wants her gone forever. She needs her very, very close.

 

It takes two more agonizing days, before Denna and the beaten and battered rest of her squad finally return from their perilous mission. Successful at last, but not without losses. Cara has heard the others mumble and whisper about the mission's success or failure, not that she would ever ask. No, there are rules that she--even in her desolate state of mind--will not break.

 

Whenever possible, Cara evades Denna's presence. There are many places to attend to the devotions and by now Cara knows them all. When one is just determined enough, it is easy to avoid a single person in a temple. The place is vast and yet, Cara finds, far too cramped.

 


 

The last warm light of the day floods through the windows into the bare corridor, announcing the inescapable end of yet another day, as Denna and Constance make their way through the temple.

 

"How long did it take you to find them?" Constance asks, looking briefly at her sister before her eyes fall back to the path in front of them.

 

"Nearly six days." Denna's face is a shattered mirror of her thoughts, that inevitably carry her and everyone who is happen to look at back to her daunting journey. Her haughty expression turns gloomy. "They had a Confessor in their midst, but in the end, not even she was able to save them from their fate." A small, reluctant sigh escapes her lips before she continues bitterly. "It's just a pity that this... abomination touched Lyka, before she met the Keeper and our Sister had to die such a pitiful death, unworthy of any Mord'Sith."

 

For a long moment Constance just looks at her thoughtfully before she finally speaks. "She was promising."

 

Denna inclines her head in tacit acquiescence. A few heartbeats later, she adds, "Indeed. Promising she was."

 

The sound of cracking wood brings both Mord'Sith back to the present, as ahead of them the heavy doors swing wide open.

 

Cara steps into the hallway, her boots making a scratching sound against the stone-tiles as she comes to a prompt halt. As soon as her eyes spot Denna and Constance walking towards her, all she wants to do is turn on her heel and walk back into the direction she has come from, even if that means taking a far longer route to reach the dining hall.

 

But it is already way too late for that.

 

Mistress Denna as well as Mistress Constance have seen her and both would instantly suspect them being the reason--with the glaring absence of another--why Cara willfully chooses to retreat. Not to mention the fact that it would be an unacceptable gesture of disrespect to turn her back on her older sisters, making the precarious situation even more awkward than it already is. At least it is in Cara's mind, which provides extreme vivid memories of the time she'd spend so intimately alone with Denna. A time when the First Mistress claimed Cara as hers - and she, to this day, l bears the marks of Denna's declaration on her bruised skin--and probably will forever. Alone the sight of Denna lets her thoughts run astray and leaves nothing but violent chaos in her mind. Suddenly she feels violently ill. She wants this feeling so desperately to pass. What must she do that everything returns to the way it was? But aren't the things one longs for the most the hardest to accomplish? Evidently yes, then however intently she tries, nothing is changing for the better.

 

On top of that, Mistress Denna and Constance are still striding toward her.

 

Bracing herself, Cara forces a veil of impassivity to fall over her face, one she isn't feeling at all, but has no choice as to force her feet to start moving again regardless. By now, she can only pray neither Constance nor Denna will pick up on her nervous trepidation and neither of them takes notice of the prolonged moment of hesitancy in her step. Drawing closer she gives both of the older sisters a curt nod in greeting as she passes them by. The ephemeral scent of Denna's fragrance catches her nostrils, swathing her mind in a blur of forgotten memories. But then it is irretrievably gone an instant later, and she finds herself still striding farther down the corridor, her booted feet moving forward faster with each step that is thankfully increasing the distance between them.

 

The next door is almost in touching distance, when she hears Denna's clear voice calling after her, resonating off of the walls of the hallway. "Sister Cara." The tone is sharp like a razor and Cara feels herself turn, before she even makes a conscious decision to act on Denna's call.

 

"Yes, Mistress?" Cara forces her voice to sound casual, with no quiver, but never as sharp as Denna's. And yes, she calls her Mistress without second thought. The appellation comes naturally to her tongue, then this is Denna. Not some frightened girl with no backbone like Dahlia or Garen, no this--is Mistress Denna--who might actually go as far as snap a neck, if one's tone does not suit her.

 

"Where are you going?"

 

Cara sees the surprised sideways glance Constance shoots Denna, but the platinum blonde doesn't even notice or chooses to blatantly ignore her. Her dispassionate eyes are trained on Cara - boring into her, while she stands as always rigid and tall.

 

"To the dining hall, Mistress." Cara hears herself say, not daring to break Denna's piercing gaze. "The bell has rung. Twice."

 

Denna regards her mutely a moment longer before she tersely says, "I heard."

 

And then--there is only silence.

 

Denna does not say anything else, just continues to merely watch Cara, her expression hard and void of emotion.

 

Cara casts a glance at Constance, who is standing next to the other Mord'Sith, and it seems that she is just as confused about her sister's conduct as she herself is. For a dreadful moment Cara wonders if they are talking about the dining hall after all--or something else and Cara just fails to get it. The insides of her gloves begin to feel clammy, and a cold trickle of sweat runs down her back as the silence between them grows suffocating.

 

It seems like Denna is waiting for something. But for what? For something Cara might say or do? She is at a loss, her teeth grind together as the raw moment stretches on.

 

Cara waits.

 

It must be at least another minute, then: "You should hurry now." Denna advises airily at last. "Before you are even later than you already are."

 

With that Denna turns sternly on her heel and strides down the corridor, dismissing her without another glance. Sister Constance follows right behind, sparing Cara no more glimpse either.

 

It is only when the door behind them shuts with a click, that Cara snaps out of her dull haze and stops wondering what this encounter was truly about.

 


 

The dining hall is one of the largest places in the temple. As soon as Cara steps through the door the volume change from suffocating silence in the hallways to a brisk buzzing of voices that is almost overwhelming.

 

More often than not, Cara enjoys the time she spends there. Other times, not that much. Even if she is not as conversational as others, it still provides a refreshing change to the quiet and devoted life of daily training and duty. And the food has been exquisite, at least, after the disposal of the last cook.

 

Cara spots Dahlia easily, already waiting at their usual table at the far end of the hall. Her own seat is the last not occupied - the one Dahlia always keeps free for her. Not that anyone would dare to take her seat. Well, one of her younger sisters once tried, but only just this once. Cara makes her way to their table and slides onto the chair Dahlia pushes back for her. The vegetable soup steaming in a bowl in front of her, looks fresh and delicious, but Cara can't seem to overcome her sudden lack of appetite.

 

Some time later, Cara inadvertently catches sight of Denna as soon as the older Mord'Sith enters the hall as well. Her fair hair is striking out like a glistening star in the dark night sky, Cara muses, following her progress through the rows as she heads for a table across the hall, where Constance and a few of the older sisters already sit and eat. Denna's face lights up briefly, a small smile curling at her lips as she greets her fellow sisters. Cara feels instantly mesmerized by it, having rarely seen Denna showing--what seems to be honest-- emotion, other than anger or rage. But then she supposes, she hasn't spent much time looking out for it either prior to their encounter. And to her growing unease it seems it is all she has been doing for the last couple of weeks. But she is trying--oh the Creator knows how hard she is trying to put an end to it--but her mind with its traitorous thoughts teamed up with the Keeper to punish her for crimes she has yet to commit. Even though, nothing she has done in the past warrants this kind of punishment. There was even a time when she loathed Denna – and she still kind of does, but it seems like Denna has pierced her claws too deep in Cara's flesh, and she finds herself unable to pull them back out.

 

Beside her, Dahlia is talking to another dark-haired Mord'Sith Cara has seen occasionally, mostly only during the meals. She is glad that Dahlia doesn't try for Cara to take part in the conversation today and thinks there might be still hope for her dark-haired sister after all.

 

After some time, however, when Cara hasn't touched her soup, only playing absently with the wooden spoon, Dahlia notices Cara's distraction. Following Cara's fixated gaze to the other table, Dahlia tries to make out what has drawn her sisters undivided attention. Dahlia knows there is no point in asking Cara anyway.

 

Cara keeps her thoughts more often than not to herself and only rarely shares her musings about others. Dahlia on the other hand is always more than excited to share hers and most curious about other opinions. And that is precisely the reason, that it is even more tempting for Dahlia to find out about the filthy things Cara does not tell her. Of course, she knows all the older sisters sitting on the table Cara is spying on, but so does Cara. It makes no sense to her who could attract Cara's undivided attention and even more so--why. Dahlia lets her gaze guardedly shift between the table at the far end and Cara's overcast face. Only as she is about to let the matter slide, a certain platinum blonde on the other table is laughing and Cara shifts ever so slightly on her seat. Peculiarly interesting. Dahlia takes note of her sisters reaction, but is by no means willing to make an educated guess without any further confirmation.

 

Dahlia watches Cara curiously out of the corners of her eyes, as she addresses Garen, sitting on the chair directly opposite of her, "Have you heard that Mistress Denna brought herself a pet from her little adventure last week?" Dahlia asks with feigned innocence.

 

"Yeah, I heard about that," Garen whispers conspiratorially, shooting a quick glance back over her shoulder while she speaks to where the Mord’Sith in question is scarcely eating but attentively listening to her sisters conversation.

 

With a satisfied smirk on her face, Dahlia notices Cara's fingers clutch the spoon convulsively in her left hand, knuckles turning white under the building pressure.

 

"She is allegedly spending almost her whole time in the dungeons these days, training him. Somebody told me, she will have him broken till the end of the week and that he is barely able to stand by himself anymore." Garen tells, pleased to share her rudimentary knowledge with someone who seems terribly interested.

 

Dahlia leans slightly over the table, making sure that they aren't overheard by their neighbors. Getting caught, gossiping about others leads only to one undesirable outcome--excessive punishment delivered over the blood pit. And as far as it goes for Dahlia, she is eager to prevent that from happening again for a while and therefore keeps her voice low and quiet. Even when Cara has told her many times in the past, that it would be far easier, if Dahlia kept her mouth shut from the beginning. Dahlia only chuckles on those occasions and remarks that Cara just doesn't know the first thing about fun.

 

"She had him stand on a pole all night long and told him, if he is to fall down; she will cut off a finger or toe." Dahlia's grin widens, "– or both."

 

Garen’s eyes bulge slightly. "Impressive," the dark-haired Mord'Sith breathes. "I didn't know she is that wicked."

 

Dahlia smirks and shoots a side-glance to Cara, who is still grasping the spoon with murderous intent.

 

Oh no, Cara thinks as she can't do anything but overhear every careless word of Dahlia's and Garen's impossible conversation. Both of them don't know the first thing about Denna. Cara cracks a faint smile. No, they do not know what delicious little sounds Denna made when Cara's lips closed around the blonde's clit, how tightly Cara's fingers were squeezed when she had thrust inside wet folds--or how her Mistress would moan when she had sucked a perked nipple into her mouth and teased it with her tongue. No, they don't know anything about Denna--not the confusing way Cara does.



Dahlia, oblivious to Cara's dreary thoughts, motions for Garen to lean closer over the table, falsely indicating the secrecy of her following statement. Dahlia keeps her voice low as she speaks, but makes sure each single word will reach Cara's ears. "I even heard Denna choose this one to become her mate as she prefers men." Dahlia drags out the last bit, letting it sound inappropriately obscene.



At the ominous sound of breaking wood Dahlia and Garen turn sharply to her. The spoon in Cara’s hand now cleanly snapped in half. She can only stare at the jagged, broken pieces in bewildered astonishment.

 

"Cara?" Dahlia asks. "What is going on?"

 

Impulsively, Cara feels the growl rise up her constricted throat, but swallows it forcefully back down, leaving a bitter taste in her mouth. "Nothing," comes her hissed reply, sounding way more biting than she intended. "Just not hungry today and this..." She glances at the snapped spoon, forcing the pretense of careless indifference into her voice. "... must have been brittle or something." She stands from her place and pushes her chair back with an expression as neutral as she can make it.



Dahlia is looking up to her, concern flashing in her eyes for a second, wondering if she has overstepped an invisible line without even knowing--or if Cara simply isn't hungry and just in a weird mood. Like so often in the past weeks.



Whatever it is that unwittingly makes Cara retreat; she leaves Dahlia with no opportunity to find out. Cara's reaction to their conversation over dinner makes her suspicious, though. Cara hasn't told her anything about an encounter with Denna or even hinted at something that might lead to such an abnormal reaction. She and Cara are close, they have been since childhood. In the past they almost shared everything with each other, especially Dahlia when something disturbed or angered her.



Cara has always been more closed off about her personal feelings, Dahlia knows that, but she has erroneously believed Cara would come to her when she experienced something that inadvertently caused such a peculiar reaction. Dahlia can't put a finger on it. Wondering uneasily if Denna had caught Cara doing something she shouldn't have? Has she not done something she should have and is now being punished by the older Mord'Sith for it? And if so, why wouldn't Cara tell her about it? But then, Dahlia really shouldn't be surprised.

 

 


 

 

 

"Like that."

 

She sighs. With her back pressed against the wall she can see the junction of the corridors just up ahead, the one on her left as well as the one to her right are eerily quiet. It is one of the ones used less frequently, but with Dahlia kneeling to her feet, tongue buried deep between her folds it is still a risk. But Cara loves the thrill - always has. It is unlikely that anyone will run into them, but the sheer possibility just adds to her pleasure. There would be punishment for both of them, if they were to be caught. But she really needs to get Denna out of her head and with the way Dahlia's tongue swirls and teases her swollen clit in a circling motion, she is sure to accomplish that. Cara is already close, breathing hard, trying to suppress her quiet moans of pleasure echoing far too loudly in the empty hallways.



With her hands on her hips, Dahlia shoves her back roughly against the wall, forestalling the fanatic thrusts of her hips against the brunette's mouth. Ever so often Dahlia tries to dominate her, especially in situations like this, but Cara has reached a point in her life where she won't be dominated by anyone - at least no one like Dahlia. Without doubt, Dahlia is special to her. They were broken and trained together, but she is stronger than Dahlia ever will be. She wants to get to the top of the hierarchy, regardless of the personal expenditure, and it is only a matter of time when she will finally reach it.



As the faint sound of clacking boots on the stone-floor reaches her ears, Cara's muscles tense for a brief moment. It could be just a sister who is passing by in one of the adjoining corridors and Dahlia hasn't noticed it yet either, then she is still working hard on Cara's clit, sucking it into her warm, skilled mouth.



And Cara is too far gone already to stop now, not when Dahlia's skilled tongue is driving her insane and her orgasm is already lurking at the corners of her consciousness, intensifying by the second. Cara's head falls back to rest against the wall, eyes closing at the overwhelming sensation the brunette is causing between her legs; in the distance the sound of footsteps is retreating and Cara stifles a moan.



Breathing hard, Cara opens her eyes after a moment and the shaky intake of breath gets stuck violently in her throat as she takes in the sparkling, steel-blue eyes staring right back at her.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Her eyes widen almost comically, and she takes in the object of her constant musings directly across from her. Of course--of all of her sisters in this temple --it just had to be her.

 

The blonde Mord'Sith leans with a shoulder against the stone-wall at the juncture of the corridors, arms folded neatly across her chest. Not quite seven feet from where Dahlia's head is still buried tongue deep between her legs.

 

The breath Cara has been holding since spotting Denna rushes out in a startled gasp and Dahlia--still merciful oblivious to their seemingly unfazed audience--takes it as a sign to plunge two fingers knuckle deep inside her. She is quite wet enough to accommodate them already, but Denna's unexpected arrival and her waywardness in general increases her arousal tenfold. A mixture between moan and sob rips free without her permission, but with the sensation of Dahlia's tongue teasing her clit and slender fingers thrusting inside her--under Denna's watchful scrutiny--Cara just can't help it.

 

To her increasing horror, one of Denna's sculptured brows raises at the wanton sound of pleasure, at what may be or not be, intrigue or just blatant mockery. Cara reaches down to grasp Dahlia's hair and pull her mouth away from her throbbing flesh. Then no, she is definitely no longer in a state where she can form coherent sentences and just tell her to, especially not with Denna watching her meticulously. Even as more wetness pools between her legs, Cara is nonetheless painstakingly aware that this encounter will have very unpleasant consequences for them both. Even if Denna's expression is still one of complete indifference and Cara doesn't have a clue about the woman's true feelings about the encounter. She continues to hold Denna's penetrating gaze for she not dares--feels bodily unable--to look away.

 

Her hand fists Dahlia's hair and her posture straightens just a bit, but then Denna raises a single finger to her lips, ordering her to keep the quiet--and continue. Denna can't possibly miss the look of incredulity flicker over Cara's features, but chooses to ignore it.

 

After a heartbeat or two, Cara decides to raise to the unvoiced challenge staring so blatantly back at her.

 

With a trembling hand, she urges Dahlia's mouth more urgently against herself--instead of away. As Dahlia's teeth graze over the hardened nub, Cara bites her lip until the heavy taste of iron trickles over her tongue. She still observes Denna's face closely, looking for a reaction to the scene unfolding before her, but so far, gets none.

 

Even if she is going to regret all of this probably later on, she still plays to win. And at the moment provoking any kind response from Denna seems as good as a prize as any. Widening her stance as far as the leather trousers bunched at her ankles will allow, she parts her legs a little further, offering the sight of pink, slick flesh to Denna's eyes. A faint upturn of the blonde's lips, albeit minuscule, but still there--brings Cara closer to the steadily increasing rush of ecstasy.

 

A particular hard thrust from Dahlia's hand slams her back against the hard stone behind her and the sensation unleashing within as her fingers curl and twist, has her eyelids almost fluttering shut at the overwhelming sensation. Almost. The wet slap of Dahlia's bare hand, smacking against her flesh, rings obscenely loud in the eerily quiet hallway and Denna swallows hard, unblinking. Another forceful thrust has her rising to the tip of her toes and Cara almost whimpers as Denna's gaze flickers downward to where Dahlia's tongue still flickers back and forth over her clit and now two shiny wet fingers fuck her at a punishing pace.

 

For the fraction of a second Denna sucks her lower lip into her mouth, staring down at shining fingers as they sink and appear. Cara's breathing quickens, harshened, then begins to come in steep, panting gasps at the sight of her Mistress' obvious pleasure, that even Denna's stoic features are not able to contain any longer.

 

'Please, Mistress'  Cara mouths tonelessly, shaking as the beginning of her orgasm already darkens the edges of her vision. A free hand curls against the smooth stone behind her, forcing herself to keep upright. Knowing full well that without Denna's explicit permission she won't reach the high she so desperately seeks. The acceptance of Denna's power over her keeps her teetering on the brink to pleasure filled insanity.

 

At her request, Denna's lips twist into a sly smile and bearing witness to it--Cara is certain Denna is going to deny her. To punish her for her insolence and the willful disregard for the rules of their temple.

 

A few long torturous moments come and go while Denna just regards her with an unreadable expression. The pent-up pleasure slowly shifts to pain, until her mistress finally gives her consent in form of a nod, dismissive but too jerky for Denna to appear thoroughly unaffected. A command Cara finds herself wanting to hear spoken out loud but at Denna's challenging gaze her orgasm washes over her with brutal intensity--shivering herself away on the fingers still plunging inside her. She convulses, batters herself against the body in front of her but only ever Denna's voice in her mind. Her body clenches and spasms around Dahlia's fingers until the world around her fades into shades of black.

 

When it comes slowly back into focus, Cara knows that Dahlia's hand sprawled out against her breastbone is the only force holding her upright. Dahlia rises with a satisfied smirk, wiping the lingering wetness off her mouth with the back of her hand. But before she can say anything, a slow, rhythmic clapping sounds out from behind them.

 

With the remnants of her orgasm dissipating fast, the reality of what has just happened comes rushing back to her. Dahlia's flushed face drains of color quickly, and she turns around with obvious hesitation, while Cara uses the opportunity to pull her pants up rather quickly.

 

Denna pushes herself off the wall and out of the semi darkness, still clapping and even though her presence doesn't come as a surprise at least for her, Cara feels her face burn with sudden, vigorous heat.

 

"Bra-vo." Denna finishes as painted lips curl into a sneer. "My, my... quite a show you put on for me. Should I pretend to be impressed?"

 

"Oh, Mistress Denna. I... We..." Dahlia shoots Cara a devastated sidelong glance, before looking back to the older Mord'Sith in front of them.

 

"Please, don't waste my precious time anymore than you already have." Denna's tone drops to a dangerous shade of icy. "Return to your chambers immediately. The chime for night's rest and time for reflection has already sounded--and long faded out. But rest assured, I'll deal with you both appropriately."

 

"Yes, Mistress." Dahlia and Cara respond almost in perfect unison.

 

"Dismissed." Denna barks, and Dahlia hurries down the corridor without a backwards glance at either of them. Cara lingers for a moment longer, for what exactly she isn't sure, only that she needs to.

 

"You too, Sister Cara." Denna warns and Cara can't fail to notice how her jaw clenches tightly, the muscles straining under the pressure. "Or what exactly are you waiting for?"

 

"Nothing at all, Mistress." Cara grounds out, suddenly annoyed with Denna's display of authority. Even though she is in no position to do anything about it quite yet.

 

"Goodnight, Mistress Denna." Cara drawls and inclines her head, making sure Denna won't fail to notice her displeasure. Getting no reaction whatsoever from the other Mord'Sith, she turns sharply on her heel and walks towards her quarters.

 

Unaware of Denna's eyes following her until she is swallowed by night's darkness.

 


 

 

When Dahlia does not show up for breakfast the following day, something cold settles in her stomach, that could easily be dread. Cara lingers at their regular meeting point a few feet from the entrance of the dining hall as long as she can, until it becomes clear Dahlia is not going to show.

 

Her empty chair beside Cara's is a painstaking reminder during the meal, and she just manages to swallow a few pieces of freshly cut fruit until the growing storm in her gut spoils her appetite completely.

 

Without listening to her neighbors converse in an undertone across the table, Cara's eyes flicker across the hall where she finds Denna among her sisters almost immediately.

 

The First Mistress is in conversation with another Mord'Sith to her right, listening attentively as the woman entertains her with what must be an enrapturing tale. For the rest of the meal, Cara keeps on watching her, while trying to be not too obvious about it. She has the sinking feeling that Denna might be responsible for Dahlia's unusual absence, but to her dismay, Denna pays no heed to her--nor the empty seat beside her.

 


 

 

Later, when Cara takes her usual place at the mid-morning devotion, she is startled to see Dahlia sidle up next to her.

 

"Where have you been!?" She bites out, harsher than she originally intended. But the brunette grins up at her and is in a better mood than Cara would have expected her to be.

 

"Master Rahl guide us. Master Rahl teach us. Master Rahl protect us."

 

"Overslept." Dahlia rushes out in between, before her voice joins back in to a chorus of several hundred voices sounding as one.

 

"In your light we thrive. In your mercy we are sheltered. In your wisdom we are humbled."

 

Cara rolls her eyes and makes sure Dahlia doesn't miss it. Even if the tight knot she felt since breakfast slowly begins to dissolve.

 

"We live only to serve. Our lives are yours."

 

Two hours later the mid-morning devotion comes to an end and Cara spots one of the older sisters, who oversees their duties and training most days, at the front of the large hall. Patiently waiting for a group of younger Mord'Sith still undergoing training, to which Cara as well as Dahlia also belong, to gather around her. Today, they would head outside into the practice grounds, honing their skills of wielding a bow and arrow on horseback. Something Cara thoroughly enjoys and actually looks forward to.

 

The huge hall is still teeming with hundreds of people, all kinds of servants, soldiers of Lord Rahl's guard and Mord'Sith trying to find their way through the crowd and their respective exits. A few of their fellow Mord'Sith have already gathered around the Mistress in charge of the day while Dahlia, and she, have only one third of their path left to cross. But then Dahlia grasps her arm and motions with her head to the far right corner. Cara notices Denna first, closely followed by Mistress Constance as they make their way through a throng of people. It means nothing, Cara tells herself. There could be practically a thousand different reasons why they are here now. By the time Denna reaches the Mord'Sith who is in charge of their training, Cara's heart rate spikes with sudden vigor.

 

And the apprehensive look Dahlia is sending her way, is not helping matters either.

 

It is not like Cara expected Denna to forget about the incident the evening before, but she hadn't expected it to happen so soon. But then there is still a chance that this has nothing to do with either of them, Cara admonishes herself and tries to loosen some stiffness that has crept up her spine at the first glimpse of platinum blonde hair. They are still a good distance away and Cara can see Denna only sideways as she leans forward, closely to the other Mord'Sith's ear, her lips moving, painted in a dark shade of crimson. Constance lingers a few feet behind Denna, facing the crowd head on with her hands clasped behind her back.

 

Cara's gaze flickers back to Denna just in time to see her head turn, slow and deliberate, right at them. As if the hall that fits up to four-hundred people, is all of a sudden glaringly empty but for her and Dahlia.

 

By now, Cara's heart pounds with the fierceness of a hammer hitting an anvil, and she resists the urge to press her hand against her chest to relief herself of the increasing pressure. Denna's lips twist into a smile, mischievous with an overture to vicious, as their eyes meet over the moving crowd between them. All the while the dark lips are still moving, but it is impossible to discern a single word from this distance.

 

"Oh shit." Dahlia breathes out beside her, startling Cara out of the hold arresting blue eyes have over her.

 

Oh shit, indeed.

 

Cara doesn't trust herself to speak, but then she notices Constance's attention now firmly fixed on them too, sporting a sadistic smirk if Cara has ever seen one.

 

"Just do as they say." She forces out between clenched teeth, painstakingly aware of Denna's gaze still burning holes into her. "Don't raise to the bait."

 

When the Mord'Sith responsible for their instruction nods sharply, Denna straightens from her leaned forward position, her back all the while poised and rigid as if chiseled from a block of marble.

 

By the time Dahlia and she make it to the front a minute or two later, their fellow group of sisters have already vanished into the slowly dispersing crowd, leaving only Mistress Denna and Constance in their stead.

 

"There-- you--are." Denna greets them with such bubbling excitement and a wide smile that Cara has to clench her hands behind her back tightly, so the pain might keep her expression from betraying her rising anxiety.

 

Blue eyes, sparkling bright with pure delight, flicker back and forth between them--over to Constance--and then back to Cara and Dahlia, is if Denna is waiting for them to share her obvious rapture. Out of the corners of her eyes, she notices as Constance's lips tug slightly upwards--obviously without her intending so, but Cara suspects it has more to do with Denna's strong penchant for twisted mind-games with a shade of cruelty, than the maddening smile revealing a row of perfect white teeth.

 

Dahlia gulps audible beside her and Cara forces herself to not turn to her.

 

"I am so very pleased..." Denna goes on and her voice drops to this dark, gravelly register as it sometimes does. And Cara feels an entirely inappropriate tug low in her stomach at the sound of it. "... we get to spend some quality time together."

 

"Mistress Constance." She purrs, looking over to the dark-haired Mord'Sith and the two of them share a secretive smile that sets Cara's teeth on edge and only the sound of her pounding pulse brings her back to the present. "Could you take care of Sister ..." Denna looks expectantly at Dahlia, who bristles with anger at the audacity of Denna's inquiry for her name. The gleam in Denna's eyes melts into something even darker than before, something cold and tinged with morbid fascination.

 

"It is Dahlia, Mistress Denna." Her friend bites out, barely holding on to a modicum of composure. Despite her better judgment Cara glances over, to see the bright red flush on Dahlia's cheeks and the twisting of her fingers.

 

"Ah..." For a moment, it seems like Denna mulls the name over as if to spark a memory, but drops the pretense with a scrunch of her nose. It is such a condescending and derisive gesture that Cara finds herself appalled at how sickly appealing she finds it. "Anyway..."

 

Dahlia trembles with rage until Denna eventually takes pity on her. "Constance, please show our dear Sister what a proper training session entails. I trust you will make it worth her while."

 

"With pleasure, Mistress Denna." Constance concurs right away with a slight bow of her head, belying any doubt she had no idea for what they came here for.

 

"Maybe this will give you an opportunity to make a more... lasting impression." Denna addresses Dahlia once more with an air of conspiracy, which just adds insult to the injury, before she turns back to Cara.

 

Dahlia growls and Cara can't fool herself that neither Constance nor Denna have heard it. Especially not when Denna turns her head very slowly, her voice low and dangerous enough the hairs on Cara's neck stand on end. "What was that?"

 

But then Mistress Constance is already stepping forward, a hand curling around Dahlia's upper arm. "Mistress Denna." She says in a way of farewell and even though Dahlia won't enjoy her time with Constance, Cara finds herself glad she is there, because she pulls Dahlia off before her dark-haired friend can do or say anything else she might not survive long enough to regret. Constance seems to have sensed the immediate danger too.

 

With both of them gone, Denna focuses her attention solely back on her.

 

"I believe you, Sister Cara, have also quite a few things left to learn." Her voice dips low at her name and Cara only realizes she has bitten her lip, as Denna suddenly steps in far too close and flicks her tongue over the stinging cut.

 

"But I will teach you." Her smile never falters.

 

 

Chapter Text



 
 
Denna doesn't bring her to the dungeons this time either. For the most part, it doesn't come as a revelation as Mistress Constance could have taken Dahlia and her there. But that does not keep her from chewing on the cut on her lip all the while she trudges after Denna through the temple. When they reach the Mistress' chambers, Cara feels already a little more at ease since she now has a reasonably good idea what to expect. She doesn't in particular look forward to the whip a second time, but it is something she can deal with.


 
As they enter Denna's rooms however, Cara can't fail to note the rather prominent addition to the space rather swiftly. Her heart rate picks up at once as she takes in the chains that presently dangle from the high ceiling, and a rug has been moved to reveal a dark pit underneath them. The wooden wheel on the far side, to assist to lift weight off the ground and into the air is a recent extension too. Cara is sure it would not have slipped her notice the first time she was there.


 
Denna turns to her then, hands clasped in the front, looking at her as if she handed Cara a precious gift and is currently waiting for a thank you.


 
When Cara falls flat to deliver any kind of announcement, Denna finally speaks. "You better slip into those before we can commence." And then points to a pile of leather on the chaise, Cara hasn't spotted until now. She indicates a bow and walks over and begins to open the laces and buckles of her leathers, then secures the leather strips provided by Denna around her waist and chest. She has worn those before during her training period and it evokes a sense of normality she welcomes. When she is done, she moves over to Denna who is already awaiting her at the pit.
 


The shackles are rapidly bolted around her wrists and Denna seems to delight in placing them on a little more than Cara feels thoroughly comfortable with. But once the second metal clasp clinks shut, Denna wastes no time and proceeds to suspend her into the air with the aid of the wheel. Customarily it is two of her sisters to rotate it, but with Denna alone — which is by her design no doubt — it takes moderately longer than usual. But the strain on her wrists and shoulders as her body weight is placed upon them or how the shackles dig into her skin remain the same.


 
Once she sways back and forth over the ground Denna comes back around to face her and looks altogether satisfied with her handiwork. Cara reckons Denna is going to make her suffer, paint her leathers red with Cara's blood until she howls and pleads for it to be over. What she doesn't predict is Denna turning on her heel and heading out.


 
An hour later, Cara begins to wonder for how long she is going to be waiting for the First Mistress to reappear, but then she doesn't imagine it to take much longer, since evening devotions are mandatory for everyone, so the blonde must return before then if she actually wants to train her.
 


She doesn't. The chime for the evening devotions chimes and fades, but Denna remains disturbingly absent. Her eyes stay trained on the hourglass on the desk, but the sand hardly seems to trickle through the longer she looks at it. The illumination in Denna's chambers dims with the passing of time and eventually it is completely dark but for the faint shimmer of stars, not quite bright enough for Cara to make out the hourglass any longer. Denna still doesn't come back.


 
Sometime later she awakes with a start, swinging in the air from her sudden movement - for an instant fully unaware of her surroundings and her predicament. Only as the memories of the day return to her, Cara becomes aware of where she is and what she is doing there. She must have been asleep for a few hours, she muses, but she can't tell for sure. But as her mind regains full alertness she registers the change to the previous setting. A few candles have been lightened, that are strategically arranged in a circle, illuminating barely enough space around her that she could walk three steps in either direction - if she could walk that is. The chamber is still as peaceful as it was before and Cara chides herself for failing to notice Denna's brief reappearance to light the candles.


 
But somehow, Cara supposes, there wouldn't have been much to be done to prevent the older Mord'Sith from leaving in her present situation. Her arms and shoulders are aching under the constant strain already and Cara releases an audible breath as she shifts, relieving one side for a brief moment, then the other. She can't recall the last time she spent such an extended period over a blood pit. It has been hours in the past, but not as long as this. It must be something between eight to twelve hours by now, Cara muses.


 
It is about ten minutes in infinite silence, before she catches it. And she knows the noise of creaking leather well, as it is as familiar to her as the pain of the Agiel.


 
She is not alone. The sheer possibility that Denna might be in the room with her the entire time--watching her out of the bottomless shadows around her--sends her pulse rushing so deafeningly in her ears that she can't seem to make out any other sound any longer. But then she doesn't detect a thing for a lengthy period of time after--regardless of the fact that her pulse settles back down to a leisurely pace. And Cara begins to wonder if she has merely imagined it.


 
But then there is a another sound, more creaking of leather, then heavy wood scraping against stone. In the semi-darkness right in front of her, she can now make out an armchair and a silhouette of a person who pushes the chair closer into the twilight, then sits down on it again. Cara can't  see a face, just a figure clad in dark red leather, arms outstretched across the armrests and one leg crossed on top of the other. The upper half still stays in the shadows, but Cara has seen Denna often enough that she is reasonably convinced it is her. It doesn't help the uneasiness she feels.


 
But she won't address Denna either, even if the other Mord'Sith is simply sitting there, utterly motionless and examines her. The apprehension still settles heavier in her belly the longer the silence unfolds, even if Cara knows it is the very reason why Denna is doing this in the first place. To agitate her.


 
But Cara chooses to wait her out. She might be in a position in which she has to obey Denna's demands, but until now she hasn't gotten any. And Cara is not that easy to rattle, not even by Denna. At least she is more competent at concealing it than Dahlia is.


 
It requires another half a candle-mark for Denna to finally speak and it feels like an eternity to her. "Tell me about Dahlia."


 
It is most likely the last inquiry Cara anticipated and she has been through a few in the previous couple of hours, but she responds anyway. "Dahlia and I grew up together and then became Mord'Sith at the same time. We have been here ever since."


 
Denna states nothing in response, but Cara can hear her hum in what might be acknowledgment.


 
"And you are close companions, isn't that right?" Denna wants to know, now with a hint of ridicule in her tone Cara doesn't care for.


 
"We are Mord'Sith. We are sisters." She responds emphatically.


 
"I see." Denna comments, but Cara senses she doesn't. Both of Denna's gloved hands curl around the armrests and Cara can hear it rather than see, but then Denna rises from the chair. As she saunters into the light, Cara can finally make out her face, which seems nearly white as a sheet in the dim light - her painted lips and her leathers appear so much darker. It gives her an air of perilousness that Cara tries to pay no attention to.


 
"So... Dahlia trains you then?" Denna asks at last, unhurriedly walking around her, circling her like a hunter its prey.


 
"No."


 
"No?" Denna inquires, halting out of sight, which makes it worse.


 
"But you train her with your Agiel?" She inquires, moving again.


 
"I have in the past." Cara answers truthfully. Those are all facts Denna could have obtained far easier than chaining her up and interrogating her. And they both know it.


 
"You like to be in control." Denna remarks, stepping back into her line of vision. "You want them to do your bidding." Denna nods, as if she comprehends but it seems insincere. "So you enjoy making them submit to you?"


 
"I do." Cara answers. It is nothing to be ashamed of. Mord'Sith do that all the time. Denna herself does it this very moment. At least Cara guesses she might.


 
For the first time this night, Denna invades her personal space and steps so close Cara can feel her exhalation wash over her face when Denna speaks next. The inquisition tone is substituted for something intimate, something sweet like poisoned honey. "Would you enjoy making me submit to you?" Her lips are only inches apart now that if Cara were to moisten her lips her tongue would graze Denna's lips. She looks up at Cara from beneath her eyelashes, all the while shifting, barely avoiding the brush of their lips. "Would you?"


 
Denna's sudden proximity drives her to the brink of madness, but she understands she is being evaluated. Either she reveals the truth or Denna will recognize she is telling a lie--so she doesn't . "I would take a lot of pleasure in it."


 
Denna's lips twist into a smile then, and it is the first genuine emotion Cara has seen all day. "Unfortunately for you, Sister Cara..." Denna's tone drops low and Cara straight away knows it only begins this instant. "... you're not in a position to make that call."


 
She hears the Agiel before she sees it, but then it is already touching to her skin.


 
And for the remainder of their time together, Denna makes sure it doesn't depart from there for very long.
 

 



 
 
When Cara encounters Dahlia the following morning in the dining hall, her dark-haired sister is equally unresponsive as she is. The meal goes by in silence, and Cara eats with ravenous appetite since she hasn't consumed anything since breakfast the day before.


 
"Didn't see you at dinner or the evening devotions yesterday." Dahlia murmurs at last, quiet enough so no one else will be able to overhear.


 
"I was still at my training session then." She mumbles, feeling slightly bitter that Dahlia got not more than a few hours with Constance. Dahlia's eyes widen comically. "Until when?"


 
"I don't know, maybe three or four?" She sighs. "Did not spend much time noticing anything at the end of that. What is it now, a quarter past six?" It is a rhetorical question, and Cara knows that Dahlia knows it is.


 
"Hm.. I can't say I envy you for that." Dahlia says, and Cara detects the compassion in her tone - knows she cares. It is perfectly enough.


 
She suppresses a yawn and glances over to the table where the group of maturer Mord'Sith usually take a seat and somehow she hasn't assumed to catch a glimpse of Denna there as well. But she does. While Cara's entire body stings everywhere, Denna still worked her Agiel on her for hours and got just as little rest as she did. Although she doesn't look like it, Cara recognizes with clenched teeth.


 
When Denna glimpses over some time later and winks at her, it makes her blood boil but she smiles through it up, till Denna looks elsewhere and doesn't look back for the remainder of the meal. Cara is aware she should just leave it be, but something about her causes Cara to make impulsive decisions.


 


 


 
Days turn into weeks while Cara tries hard to return to the routine she was used to in the past.


 
A lot of her time is spend down in the dungeons, where she trains the recruits with eagerness and a brutality that even her sisters give her a wide berth when she encounters them in the corridors.


 


 


 
"Are you joining me in the baths tonight?" Cara asks Dahlia on their way to the dining hall one evening, looking forwards to the hot water and the recreation it provides.


 
"I wish." Dahlia grumbles. At Cara's asking stare she adds, "Mistress Denna volunteered me to scrub the dungeon cells this evening. Again."


 
This is the first Cara hears about the matter, but then she hasn't seen Dahlia for a while, with her own preoccupation with the recruits training.


 
"Oh?"


 
"Yeah..." Dahlia says imploringly. "It is like the fifth or so time in the previous couple of weeks. I just don't fathom why she despises me so much."


 
They don't talk about it again, but Cara can't stop but wonder. Why indeed.

 



 

 
"Sister Cara?"


 
It is her master's voice sounding out behind her and Cara is bowing low before she has even completely turned around. "Yes, my Lord?"


 
"I was wondering..." He says as he steps closer, raising a hand to her face and brushes with the back of his forefinger over her cheek. "... if you would care to join me in my chambers after sunset?"


 
"Of course, my Lord." She rushes out, but he must catch the flicker of hesitation in her eyes. "You are not still untouched, are you?"


 
"No, my Lord. I... Mistress Denna... took care of that..."


 
"One of Denna’s girls..." Lord Rahl drawls languidly. "I see. No matter then... Hurry along."


 
With a wave of his hand, he dismisses her, and Cara continues on her way - not entirely sure what has happened to the conversation. And why he changed his mind after she mentioned the older Mord'Sith.

 

 


 

 
It is late as she vacates the dungeons in the hours of darkness and Cara feels rather satisfied with herself. Even if it was a tiring session, it was a successful one at last. After weeks of training her pet had finally broken under the sting of her Agiel, unable to withstand her ruthless training any longer. For a short time Cara considers retreating to her chambers, but then there is blood all over her leathers and in her hair so she decides to make for the temple baths instead.


 
As she enters though, she is instantly aware of the presence of her sisters in the pool and stops short, still in the shadows. She can't make out who it is, but there is undoubtedly pleasure involved.


 
It is not like that Cara is supposed to leave, she could nevertheless use the pool, despite her fellow sisters and they would probably leave or stop doing whatever they are doing once they detect her. But then Cara doesn't particular care for spoiling her sisters satisfaction tonight either.


 
She has already turned around and cracked open the door as the whimper flutters over to her, "Oh, Mistress Denna, please don't stop."


 
Her hand curls around the door handle so fiercely, she has to compel herself to let it go as the muscles shudder under the strain. Another heedless moan reaches her ears, then a grunt. Cara's heart begins to race as she listens to the sighs and mewls coming from the pool.


 
At the sound of Denna's voice, whispering to her companion in that low tone followed closely by an additional noise of pleasure. Cara turns around. The sight before her causes her to feel ill all of the sudden and she fights down the vehement urge to retch right there all over the damp stone. Her heart hammers in her chest, pounding against her rib cage painfully. She feels disgusted with herself for suffering such a radical reaction to stumbling upon Denna with another of their sisters and tries to clamp down on it, but it is to no use at all.


 
When she hears Denna purr, "Good girl," she flees the bathing chambers and heads straight for the sanctuary of her chambers. Her heart wraps around her lungs and strangles her.


 



 


The next day, dinner is practically over, and Cara gets away with glaring at Denna ever so often. She eyes the pieces of apple left on her plate with disdain before she looks up again. When she turns to Denna this time though, the blonde Mord'Sith is staring right at her. Cara doesn't turn away and for a long while they merely observe one another until after some time Denna arches a brow in question — or challenge — Cara isn't sure.
 


She knows, she shouldn't provoke Denna further than she at present is. But then there is this reckless fire burning inside her that wants to know how far she can take it. Probably as far as the next blood pit, but still.


 
Denna narrows her eyes at her, and Cara can witness how her mood shifts - and not for the better. A moment later Denna is suddenly standing, her chair scrapping loudly over the floor as it flies backwards and tumbles over. All eyes in the dining hall snap to the First Mistress and the hall goes eerily quiet.

 

Only she - still just stares at Cara - eyes blazing and about to come over and rip her throat out.


 
Finally Cara breaks their eye-contact and looks back down at her plate. Her heart races.


 
She doesn't look back at Denna for the remainder of the meal and feigns ignorance as Dahlia questions her later if she has observed something that might brought this on. At least she didn't notice, so probably no one has.


 
Cara doesn't need the entire temple gossiping about her - or the rather perplexing relationship Cara has with the First Mistress all of the sudden.


 



 
A few days later, Cara finds herself back in the temple baths, relaxing her aching muscles she can finally emerge in hot water again without dying of agony. By the time she wades out and up the stairs Cara is the last one left in the pool. She may or may not enjoyed a brief nap and managed to do so without drowning. She takes that as a good sign.


 
A few of the other sisters are still lingering about when she ventures into the changing room, deciding against donning her leathers and use her towel for the short walk down the corridor to her chambers. When she steps out into the pool area, the rest of her sisters have already left and she is about to do the same when a hand clutches her neck and slams her body forcefully into the next wall. She reacts swiftly enough to jerk her head to the side, so she doesn't leave with a fractured nose, but not quick enough to prevent it altogether. She is about to defend herself, push back from the wall when a familiar scent reaches her nostrils and she instantly identifies who her attacker is. One, she can't punch in the face, however much she might want to.


 
A body presses up behind her a moment later, forcing her snugly against the stone.


 
"What am I going to do about you, Cara?" Denna whispers in her ear and Cara shivers despite herself as Denna's lips graze over her wet skin. It is not a question Denna wants to be answered, so she waits.


 
"What is it that you want, hm?" The older Mord'Sith has her still pinioned firmly against the wall and if it were any other of her sisters they wouldn't be. Denna remains the only one she doesn't yet dare to defy. Even though she is not altogether satisfied about the reasons behind it.


 
The hand on her neck twists her head painfully, exposing more of her throat to Denna's exploration. She is not kissing her, but merely brushes her lips from her exposed shoulder up to the shell of her ear. A part of her wants to tell Denna to fuck off; another wants her even closer. And while she is trying to decide which direction to follow, her heart gradually picks up its pace. Denna, whispering in her ear, isn't helping either.


 
"Do you desire me to hurt you?" Denna purrs, tightening the grip she has on her neck and Cara escapes a strangled sound from her throat. One she hopes Denna won't take as confirmation either way. "You must." Denna growls and Cara can feel the words reverberate in her chest. "Defying me like that." Denna rams her more firmly against the wall, forcing the air from her lungs in a hiss, before she pulls slightly back again. "Is it that what you want, Cara?"


 
With no answer forthcoming, Denna goes on. "Or is it something else entirely?"



Cara wonders for a brief moment why all of her other sisters have vanished from the baths all of the sudden, but then realizes it is likely the same reason that has her up against a wall. Cara can practically see her fellows sisters scatter with nothing but a terse incline of the First Mistress' head.


 
"Do you want me to touch you?" Denna husks, scarcely audible and Cara needs to strain to discern it. Denna's lips graze over that sensitive spot on her neck and she shudders involuntarily. Her heart is beating up to her throat by now, and she finds herself unable to say even no. Smooth lips brush over that spot once more and Cara groans, her palms seek leverage against the flat stone.


 
"Is it that what you want from me?" Denna asks again and Cara feels the answer settle as a vibrant throb between her thighs. And it is too much - all of it, the other woman's closeness, the firm fingers around her neck and the First Mistress whispering in her ear and Cara pushes herself backward, but Denna slams her right back with vigor.


 
"Tell me, Cara." Denna purrs, as if nothing has happened. She becomes acutely aware of the hand on her left thigh, bare beneath gloved fingers. And it is just as feathery as the lips against her neck, barely touching, but enough to send the throb between her legs into a vigorous frenzy. "Do you want me to touch you like I did before?" Denna continues, her hand now trailing upward. As it slips beneath the hem of Cara's towel, she asks again. "Do you, Cara?"


 
The gloved fingers are almost where Cara wants them most, each breath she takes has her pressing more firmly against Denna's front. But she can't admit to any of the things Denna wants her to say, can she? But then Denna's tongue trails up her neck to her ear, sucking the lobe into her mouth and she quivers when the older Mord'Sith bites down.


 
"I need you to tell me--now." Denna rasps into her ear once she releases the soft flesh from between her teeth, her stilled hand burning hot against the skin at the juncture of Cara's legs.


 
She says "please" even before she can make a conscious choice about it and two fingers slip inside her with one quick thrust. Cara hears a moan and for the love of the creator can't tell for sure if it came from Denna or from herself. But then Denna thrusts inside her again and she groans as the fingers sink deeper and knows the one before must have been Denna's.


 
"Oh, Cara," Denna murmurs against her skin, and Cara feels her everywhere. The hand around her neck, the lips against her skin and the buckles of her leather scrapping over her back each time Denna forces her against the wall. "...you are so wet for me."


 
And it sounds so indecent and dirty, spoken like that and Cara whimpers as the older Mord'Sith drives inside her again. A gloved slick thumb finds her clit and Denna shifts, her holstered Agiel pressing against Cara's exposed skin and the combination of pleasure and pain sends her tumbling over the brink in no time at all.


 
By the time Denna pulls out, the skin on her upper thighs and chest not covered by the towel, leave a distinct red smear against the wall. Something Cara will come to regret by tomorrow. Denna still stands behind her, equally out of breath and Cara is grateful the other Mord'Sith hasn't stepped away yet, for she is unsure if her legs will hold her upright.


 
"That certainly answers a few questions." Denna says and Cara can hear the smirk in her tone. She makes to turn around and this time, Denna lets her. The blonde purrs as she takes in the abraded skin on her chest, trailing a finger over it, coating the tip with fresh blood. Cara watches her, leaning against the stone as Denna sucks it into her mouth, lips quirking upwards as she tastes it.


 
A moment later she leans in, slow and deliberate, blue eyes open as she presses her lips to Cara's. Only as her tongue slips past her lips her eyes flutter closed, forcing Cara against the stone once more.


 
When she pulls back at last, Denna lingers close, her cheek brushing softly against Cara's. "Don't ever challenge me like that again." Denna whispers and there is a dark, cold quality to her voice that has the hairs on the back of Cara's neck stand on end. "There will be no opportunity for you to feel sorry later."


 
Cara swallows hard against the lump forming in her throat. "I understand, Mistress."


 
"Very good." Denna murmurs as she pulls back. She leaves without another word.


 
Cara closes her eyes, breathing in and out, before she pushes herself off the wall to gather her leathers.

 

 


 

 

Cara is still breathing hard, bend over Denna's desk when she feels her Mistress' body pressing against the length of her own, bucking her hips teasingly forward. "What do we say?" She purrs against Cara's ear, and Cara can't fathom how a sound is able to send liquid fire to her loins, even after a mind-shattering orgasm that just teared through her.

 

"Thank you, Mistress." Cara says, reveling in the continued skin to skin contact, as she regains her breath. Cara has certainly explored the pleasures of the flesh, but what Denna does to her body is something else, something none of her fellow sisters have come close to achieving. And she finds herself wanting for Denna more often than any of the others recently. So much so that even Dahlia gives her weird, questioning looks when she turns down her offer to relieve some of her tension.

 

"Lord Rahl has inquired, if you were available to service him in his bedchambers." Denna mentions rather conversationally. She doesn't move from her position above, and Cara can feel her lips trail over the plain of her back, licking and nibbling at the skin in her path. Cara waits for her to continue, utterly confused once more about the subject - and as to why Denna of all people is broaching it to her. "You should think about it. If you were so inclined, it could improve your standing among your sisters, if Lord Rahl takes a liking to you."

 

She pauses, then adds like an afterthought barely worth mentioning. "Not above me, of course."

 

Denna sucks her skin into her mouth, then bites down harshly and Cara groans, straining against the pain Denna's mouth inflicts upon her. But then she lets go, soothing the mark she has undoubtedly left on Cara's back with her tongue.

 

"But if you decide, you would rather not join him; it will stay the way it is now. You wouldn't need fearing his acrimony over the matter either." Denna continues, slowly disentangling from Cara, her hand sliding over her behind as she stands.

 

Cara grasps all of what Denna is telling her and wonders anew why Denna is the one speaking to her about it now, instead of Darken Rahl when he initially approached her. It sounds to her as if Denna has a say in the matter and she doesn't know how to feel about that - or if it is even the logical conclusion she draws from all this.

 

"How would you know he wouldn't still command me to, if I should decline?" She asks, slowly rising from Denna's hard wooden desk and sits back on the edge, facing the other Mord'Sith.

 

"Because..." Denna says slowly as she steps forward once more, pressing herself between Cara's legs until they are fused together again. Cara elevates her legs to fold around her Mistress without thinking about it, it is a reflex which Denna endorses with a low humming.

 

"The Lord Rahl and I have an arrangement." Denna discloses, her voice already a shade lower than a moment ago as she rocks her hips, making Cara gasp when she hits her right there. Then she leans forwards, seizing Cara's lower lip between her teeth and bites down, not nearly enough to the break the skin but hard enough to make Cara pull Denna's hips once more against her as her arousal flares gradually back to life. "As First Mistress I have been granted certain privileges, and one of those is the liberty to choose a few of my fellow sisters or pets for my pleasure. Within reason of course."

 

Denna kisses her then, slow and languid, but Cara is keenly aware of the hand sliding down between their bodies. "And the ones I choose, belong to me and only me for however long I see fit." Denna whispers against her lips, as two of her fingers slide through her wetness. "And you, Cara..." She husks, sliding those fingers inside Cara with one slick thrust. "...are mine."

 

A strangled moan stays Cara's sole response.

 

"Or have you forgotten how I claimed you?" Denna asks, placing the force of her thigh behind her next thrust. "How I took you for the first time?" She pulls back out, and drives inside again, slow but deep and Cara feels her legs beginning to quiver.

 

"Have you, Cara?" Her tone low and dark, as she pushes long fingers even deeper.

 

"I haven't forgotten." Cara gasps out, her breath hitching when Denna's thumb finds her clit.

 

"Do you think about that night often?" Denna wonders, her tongue trailing up the side of her neck as she urges her hips forward again, making Cara whimper with the force behind it. "When you're alone in your chambers at night?"

 

"Yes." Cara bites out. Because she does, and she can't lie to Denna, at least not now while her mind is otherwise occupied.

 

She picks up a steady rhythm then, and Cara can barely comprehend anymore what the older woman is asking her, with the pleasure steadily rising inside her. She's almost there again. "Do you touch yourself when you think about my fingers knuckle deep inside you?" Denna whispers into her ear, thrusting faster up inside her, their skin now meeting each time with an obscene wet slap. "Do you, Cara?"

 

"I do." Cara moans out, barely holding on. Denna is panting now too, her other hand hard against the small of Cara's back, holding her steady as she continues to fuck her senseless.

 

"Please, Mistress." Cara whispers, before Denna claims her lips in a short brutal kiss, barely pulling back. "Come for me then."

 

And Cara's body heeds the command without her having a say, strains and trembles as the orgasm rolls over her in waves. She can feel herself clenching around Denna's fingers and then the pleasure ebbs away as she comes down from the high, but the thumb on her clit flickers hard across the slick flesh and forces her right back at - and then over the edge for a second time.

 

When she opens her eyes at last, Denna regards her - looking way too smug while doing so.

 

"How many are there?" Cara asks in lieu of nothing, her center still pulsing heavily with the aftershocks. She doesn't even comprehend why she asks it. It doesn't really matter to her... It does not matter at all. She would just like to know... She hasn't forgotten about the girl in the pool either. But she won't mention that incident.

 

"Hm?" Denna inquires, but Cara can't answer right away, as Denna's tongue flickers over the fingers that were not so long ago buried inside her. Cara swallows hard at the forcible tug that comes at the sight of it.

 

But then Denna arches a brow in reference to her question and she remembers the matter of the previous conversation. "How many have you claimed for yourself?"

 

Denna studies her curiously for a moment or two, before she touches her still sticky fingers to Cara's lips.

 

"A few." She husks, before sliding her fingers into Cara's mouth. It is not the answer she was looking for but it's not like twenty either. Cara can live with a few. It might even be a few over the course of several years. But then Denna possesses the right to claim a few. And the answer truly divulges nothing at all.

 

Denna's breath hitches when her tongue slides around the digits, licking and sucking the taste of her own arousal off of them. The fingers of Denna's other hand sink into the pliant flesh on her waist as she watches, and Cara is sure Denna is not even aware she is doing it. Her gaze is trained on Cara's lips, watching as her fingers appear and sink into her mouth, her eyes more black than blue. A low-pitched sound escapes her throat as Cara sucks hard, and Denna pushes them a bit farther inside. The fingers at her side are clutching her so hard by now that Cara is absolutely certain she will find five finger-shaped bruises adorn her skin there come tomorrow.

 

Her tongue swirls in between the fingers and Denna groans, wrenches them out of Cara's mouth and replaces them with her tongue an instant later.

 

Cara doesn't know where exactly it is coming from, but she experiences this undeniable need to mark Denna. And it is hardly about a mark here or a bruise there. But she wants Denna to want her. To crave her like she craves Denna. Wants Denna to think about her when she touches herself, longs for her Mistress to want no one else but her.

 

Her fingers are trailing up the inside of Denna's thighs before she scarcely makes a choice about it. This is nothing Denna typically allows her to do, not without giving permission first. But this desperate need inside her makes her reckless and she travels very slow, so Denna has ample opportunity to call it off, but to her rising excitement - she doesn't. And Cara trails her fingers over the length of her sex, not probing deeper merely strokes her. Denna's breathing is ragged now, her kisses wet and open mouthed, her lips distinctively swollen and without their usual coat of crimson due to all their previous activity. And while she continues to stroke her, Cara watches her in fascination. She has this lascivious look about her, only enhanced by her state of disarray and Cara finds herself unable to close her eyes.

 

As she finally slips one of her fingers deeper, Denna moans into her mouth, as she finds her Mistress wet and evidently wanting. Without further delay she spreads the wetness, circling the swollen numb she finds at the apex of her thighs. Another sound escapes Denna's mouth and with her still standing in front of the table and in between Cara's parted legs, she can feel how Denna's legs begin to tremble under her ministrations.

 

By now Denna is hardly kissing her back any longer, eyes closed and thoroughly engrossed in her pleasure. Cara works her harder and Denna's breathing picks up almost immediately. Her fingers curl around Cara's thighs and leave another set of marks to admire later. She bites Denna's lip in turn as the pain surges through her like a peal of thunder and settles as a dull throb between her legs. She releases Denna's lip from her mouth then, kisses her way up the pale neck to a point she knows Denna fancies and is a rewarded with a low whimper, that has her own core throbbing in no time.

 

She flickers a little faster over the slick flesh beneath her fingers, trailing kisses back across Denna's jaw when she notices Denna is looking at her, eyes only half open, but nonetheless regarding her closely. There has blood gathered on Denna's lower lip, and Cara realizes it must be from were she has bitten down earlier, a single drop already spilled over, leaving a glaring trail of red against fair skin. That Denna hasn't backhanded her for it yet, surprises her to say at least, but not enough to stop touching her now.

 

Denna trembles hard, and Cara can see how much restraint it costs her to stay upright. Her mouth finds the spot of blood on Denna's chin and she trails her tongue up its path until she finds the blonde's mouth, kissing her once before pulling back to be able to look at her again. Flickering her fingers just so while Denna holds her gaze, her eyelids flutter but never close, until at last release seizes her entirely. Cara reaches out to hold her upright as she shivers through her pleasure, a strangled sound escaping her lips as she leans heavily against Cara, her breath warm and fast against her neck.

 

It virtually takes a minute before she straightens back up, her face unreadable but for the flicker of something that could almost be... worry.

 

It is gone before Cara can analyze it further, but it makes her wonder about the reasons.

 

"So, are you willing to serve Lord Rahl in his bedchambers?" Denna asks subsequently, bending down to retrieve the cream-colored robe she has discarded there earlier. "You don't have to decide promptly, you can think about it. But not for too long." Denna adds, as she pulls the robe over her skin and secures the belt before she sits down on the desk's chair, legs crossed. Even like this, as a total contradiction to what all of the others see of the First Mistress, bare under a robe of silk, her braid in disarray and partly untangled — she still looks fearsome and ravishing at once, Cara muses — then startles at the thought. Her cheeks flare with sudden heat and she sends prayers to the creator it won't show on her skin.

 

She looks elsewhere while she considers Denna's question, who is once more observing her in that irritating fashion of hers. It makes her skin crawl. But then Cara would never admit it and provide her the pleasure of doing so. But she has to remind herself to be thoughtful, that even if Denna has taken some kind of interest in her nowadays, it likely won't last. Not even for very long. And those notions about thirsting to be someone significant to the First Mistress are treacherous as they are foolish. Could add up to her downfall. Sentiments she cannot harbour in the time to come. It is an infatuation with Denna's predominance, her prestige - nothing more. Cara needs to keep that in mind and under critical scrutiny. And even if she would rather not invest personal time with the Lord Rahl, she won't be weak. She doesn't want to be solely one among many. Even if she has to wait until Denna is no more, Cara wants to be the one waiting in her shadow and step up once the window of opportunity arises.

 

"I wouldn't mind it." She says, trying hard to give no infliction whatsoever. Denna scrutinizes her still, but offers no indication as to if the answer pleases her- or not, either. Cara clamps down on the disappointment rising at the non-reaction, clamps down on her growing need for Denna to be proud of her.

 

"Very well." Denna says after all, her tone even and she could be talking about how often she has her leathers cleaned instead of the fact the woman she is sleeping with, engages in another intimate relationship with their lord and master. But then - it is never that easy or simple. With Denna even less. Cara bites the insides of her cheeks, revels in the instant gratification the pain offers, distracting herself from the overwhelming urge to bolt from Denna's presence.

 

It is only making matters worse. Once upon a time she felt miserable because she didn't see Denna enough, now that she does it makes her feel even worse. But it's not Denna's fault, but her own, because she has all those confusing emotions bubbling up inside her. And she doesn't want them anymore - she wants for Denna to take them back. Loathes her for invoking them in the first place.

 

Maybe she should seek someone to train her - to compel them to go away. But Denna would find out, she always does. And Cara can't tell her either. She would mock her for it until the end of time and Cara would never ascend the ranks.

 

"But if you’re going to do this - you'll have to learn a few things first." Denna's eyes trail up her body and Cara can see that Denna likes what she sees. And she discovers herself inhaling deeper when she feels her Mistress' gaze on her chest almost like a physical touch.

 

"And I am going to show you. Jus primae noctis, and all that." Denna winks at her, her lips tugging upwards.

 

"I believe you already cashed that in, Mistress." Cara adds, not entirely immune to the smile she sees forming.

 

"But there are so many first times for many remarkable things." Denna says, her smile now real and fully there as she gives up on the pretense that it isn't.

 

"What kind of things." Cara inquires, then she can genuinely solely think of one. Which Denna is unable to provide, for missing certain physical attributes alone.

 

"Oh, allow me to show you instead..." Denna drawls, as she reaches for one of the drawers in her desk.

 

Denna proves her wrong. And really, Cara shouldn't even be surprised about it at this point.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

"You better have a very compelling reason to be at my door at this hour."

 

Denna's long blonde tresses are out of it's customary braid, draped loosely over one shoulder. She is wearing nothing but an ivory robe, that falls mid-thigh and it is quite apparent to Cara she has been asleep until mere moments ago before Cara choose to knock at her door. It is past midnight and Cara begins to question if it had been such a grand idea after all.

 

Her gaze shifts away from Denna's searching eyes as it travels over her body, takes in the fresh lesions and the flimsy shift she is wearing since Cara left Darken Rahl's chambers once he was... finished with her.

 

"You did mind after all... hm?" Denna wonders, for once without bite or judgment. But not as if it comes as a surprise to her either. She opens the door a little wider for Cara to step inside without another word. It is not entirely a question Cara wants to answer and finds herself grateful Denna does not press for one.

 

Denna bolts the door behind her, and then walks back to her bed, where Cara catches a glimpse of the crumbled sheets and a comforter thrown back. A wax candle on her nightstand is the only source of illumination, the flame flickering faintly as Denna passes it by, slipping out of her robe and beneath the covers with a grace Cara envies her for.

 

For a long moment Cara just stands there, hesitant of how to proceed. The only thought occupying her mind since she left their master's bedchamber had been coming here. What would transpire once she ultimately arrived had played little part, but now it is rather pressing. Unexpectedly she feels foolish for even coming here to begin with, disturbing Denna's night's rest. For what exactly?

 

But before she can swing round and leave, she hears Denna calling out for her, as if sensing her distress.

 

"Come on now." It sounds indulgent and warm, just like the silken sheets Denna is lounging beneath. And before she can contemplate it, Cara's feet are already moving forward. The mattress dips when she climbs into the bed and below the dark covers, close enough to feel the other woman's presence - her warmth - beside her, but not near enough to touch.

 

After some time Denna blows out the candle and the room plunges into darkness but for the silver shimmer of stars, shining brightly through the arched windows. For a long while they lay in silence and Cara finds herself listening to Denna's breathing, the only sound in the otherwise quiet room.

 

Eventually, she senses Denna shift beside her and then feels sure hands reaching out for her. The blonde pushes the slight shift up her body and off, then draws Cara close against her bare form. For a split second it startles Cara and she ponders if Denna desires more than only sleep from her tonight, but her long legs just entangle with her own. Her head comes to rest against the crook of Denna's neck, and arms around her shoulders hold her close.

 

"It will get... more bearable in time." Denna whispers against her hair, barely audible, but she doesn't move. Not even when salty drops trail down her chest and Cara feels something expand almost painfully inside her as she clings to the warm body beneath hers. Something far too great to fit inside her, something she knows shouldn't even be there.

 

She lies awake for a long while after, even as soft breathing above her has evened out, until eventually, the steady beat of Denna's heart lulls her to sleep.

 


 

News arrive that Mistress Denna has returned from her latest assignment to capture and train the Seeker. The way her shouts echo off the dungeon walls and far up into the corridors of the temple, tells anyone it did not go as faultlessly as she had planned. The First Mistress has been brought down into a very private dungeon cell and Lord Rahl himself has taken it upon himself to see to her punishment. A personal reprimand over the blood-pit. Up to this day, she had been his darling after all.

 

Hours pass agonizingly slow, with no further notice of what has happened to Denna and Cara tries to distract herself from thinking too much about it. She has no idea how this is going to affect the future in the temple – or if it is at all. She has to remind herself who Denna rightly is. She has not made her way to the top of the Sisterhood by chance or stroke of luck. It's not a place anyone can rise to if they are unwilling to fight tooth and nail to get there. Cara tries to remember that Denna must be aware of how to handle circumstances like this, even if she is not one known for her failures. Without a doubt, she knew exactly what to anticipate as she came back to the temple. If nothing else, Denna is far too pragmatic to cling to a ludicrous phantasm that Lord Rahl will condone the loss of the Seeker from his grasp.

 

And yet, in the evening, when she has finally finished her duties, nothing can hold Cara any longer from the stairwell leading down to the heart of the temple. The regular dungeons are cold and clammy, and with the sparse illumination from the torches at the walls, it takes Cara longer to find the room where Denna is being kept. She has no place in being there and when she is caught by any of her sisters she will earn herself a lengthy training session that hardly will soon be forgotten. It is ill-advised to even attempt to go and try to catch a glimpse of Denna now, especially in this state of peril, but instead of climbing the stairs back up, the urgent throb of her heartbeat leads her only deeper into the belly of the beast.

 

Unlike the other cells, the private dungeon is bright, warm and dry and surrounded by open archways. For long minutes Cara lingers in the shadows - not at all prepared for the sight greeting her, listening for sounds of anyone other than the woman she seeks. When the faint ring of swinging chains is the only sound she can hear she moves into the corridor from where she can see her Mistress already from afar. Strung up on her wrists, Denna sways almost imperceptible back and forth over the pit. Bare except for two dark leather strips draped over her chest and waist that cover her modesty by a scanty modicum.

 

Despite being still veiled in the shadows of the corridor, the blood rushes in her ears loud enough she can't hear the sound of her own footsteps against the granite floor. As she is about to leave the safety of the shadows, Lord Rahl steps into her line of vision and up to Denna, with his back turned to Cara. At the sight of him, she can barely swallow down the gasp of panic at the possibility of him finding her there. The coppery taste of iron fills her mouth, and she has to make an effort to loosen her teeth from the pliant flesh of the inside of her cheek before she chews it into a bloody pulp of raw flesh.

 

Without making any sound she presses herself into the wall beside her, too terrified to move. Denna's front is turned in her direction and if the Lord Rahl doesn't turn around to leave through this exact archway, he won't ever see her. Cara isn't exactly close, but close enough to make out the tight expression on Denna's face as her master delivers a stinging blow to her flat stomach, leaving an angry mark against pale skin. Her long, wavy tresses move in the breeze, for once released from the confines of its typical braid. Darken Rahl's smooth whispers admonish and recount Denna's failures as his Agiel presses against her thigh next and blue eyes gradually well up with tears, threatening to spill over.

 

The sweet, thick scent of blood fills Cara's nostrils, but for the first time in years, it doesn't excite her. Her eyes follow the trickle of blood that curls down Denna's thigh, weaving a crimson trail over ashen skin until it drips into the black hole beneath her.

 

When she looks back up, Darken Rahl still speaks to Denna in low, hushed tones, but she looks past him, bleary-eyed and irritable - straight at Cara. The moment their gazes collide her heart skips a long, painful beat and Cara clutches the Agiel at her side, to keep herself from making a sound.

 

If Denna can see her in the semi-darkness, she must be way closer than she assumed. It also means that if Lord Rahl were to turn around now, he would certainly be able to spot her too. To her own surprise, the terror she expects to take hold of her at the realization fails to come forth. Instead, it makes room for an unprecedented feeling of startling affection towards her mistress - not unlike a protective instinct she hasn't felt for anyone but Dahlia as long as she can remember.

 

Lord Rahl's Agiel still wanders steadily over Denna's skin and Cara notices the hard set of her lips - sees her mistress fighting against the torment he inflicts upon her over and over. A pained gasp slips free from cracked lips, and it only serves to increase the hatred and feelings of vengeance to bloom inside Cara's chest. Her gloved fingers find the handle of her Agiel and without her even noticing she pulls it free from its holster at her waist and she takes a step farther into the dungeon.

 

Piercing blue eyes meet hers again, tears now spilled over, leaving a clear glistening path over dirt smudged cheeks. But for the first time since she stepped foot into the dungeon - or ever really, she can see actual fear in Denna's eyes as the older Mord'Sith takes her in - on the brink of bloodshed and violence in the name of ill-fated loyalty. Denna's gaze is unwavering despite the agonizing dark tendrils of magic spreading over her skin - demanding, ordering and at the very last begging - Cara to let it go. She shakes her head imperceptible as Darken Rahl lowers his gaze and returns his attentions back to the still bleeding wound on her thigh. Cara wonders for a moment if it's because of Lord Rahl, who has yet to detect her - or because Denna is simply unable to incline her head more than that anymore. She holds Denna's gaze across the room until she can't stand it anymore and looks down at her freshly polished boots, gleaming faintly in the semi darkness.

 

But she turns ultimately - and steps back, allowing the deep shadows of the archway to swallow her whole. As she retreats, she is more focused on the self-loathing she can feel budding inside her for leaving Denna behind with Darken Rahl and his wrath than bestowing any attention to who might see her climbing the stone stairs, two at a time.

 

But then Denna is never truly far away - or gone, for her screams and the sweet scent of her blood accompany Cara all the way back to her chambers.

 


 

 

Later in the evening the great bell sounds, announcing it's time for dinner. Cara is not hungry, but she joins the others in the dining hall anyway, because she has to obey the rules, even when she wants nothing more than to disobey them - even Denna's - and head back into the dungeons.

 

After all, dinner is a rather quiet affair, and Cara is internally grateful that Dahlia seems to sense her bad mood and unwillingness to take part in any of the ongoing conversations and refocuses her attentions elsewhere. Denna's chair stays glaringly vacant tonight, and deep anguish stirs up within her at the sight of it. It only gets worse each time her gaze strays back to it and she finds it empty still.

 

Even if it happens relatively frequently that some of the higher ranking Mord’Sith don't attend to the meals, when they have other duties to attend to or leave for a lengthier period of time while out on assignments. Tonight however, it is different than usual. It is practically palatable that something of significance has happened. The air is charged and thick with an uneasy bristling energy.

 

Cara nibbles at a piece of bread, rather for keeping up appearances than to still her non-existent appetite. In the rows of tables low whispers can be heard, that it is the last night of Denna as First Mistress. Cara's stomach drops and she can practically feel the color drain from her face at the sheer audacity to overhear it spoken out loud in public.

 

Other whispers tell it is Denna's final night at all and Cara cannot stop but swallow hard against the steadily increasing dread and fear that they might be accurate with that assumption. She leaves the dining hall way too early, and rather abruptly as she can't stand her sisters' company nor the silent whispers that tell of Denna's downfall for any moment longer. Despite knowing sleep won't come to her tonight, she desperately longs for the sanctuary of her own quarters.

 


 

 

It is not allowed to leave the door open at night. There are rules for the life in the temple. Everything maintains its place. Everything has its rhythm. Cara leaves her door ajar anyways and in the dead of the night she can hear Denna in the distance. The excruciating screams have changed to sobs of agony. Cara knows it is a weakness when she presses her pillow tight against her chest and waits with baited breath for each scream to resound in the hallway, then each scream assures her that Denna must be still alive.

 

It is hours later when Cara sits straight up in bed, then suddenly, Denna screams even louder, but only once - it sounds like a death-wail to Cara's ears.

 

The perverse violence it carries must have woken many of the others nearby.

 

Afterward, it is eerily quiet and one could hear a pin drop to the floor. With each moment ticking by, the silence becomes thick and heavy, deafening intense listening ears.

 

It is almost dawn, and the sun is on the verge of giving birth to a new day. Rays of light break through the carved windows, lightening a forgotten place.

 

As the sun slowly peaks from behind the horizon, Cara's gaze flickers away from the frosted window. Her eyes fall to her nightstand, just in time to bear witness as a last grain drops in the hourglass.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

"You sent for me, Mistress?"

 

It takes her a few minutes until she has summoned the nerve to actually knock and when Denna pulls open the door of her chambers, Cara’s stomach twists into a knot, nonetheless.

 

But she has no time to consider it as Denna pulls her inside by a strap connecting her neckguard to her corset. The door shuts with Denna knocking her hard against it and Cara sees the unbridled fury on her face, clear like an early summer morning.

 

"What in the Keeper's name were you thinking?" Denna all but screams, her voice booming. Her face so close Cara sees the specks of light in her eyes, twinkling dangerously.

 

Cara had anticipated that Denna would interrogate her about her trip to the dungeons, but has yet to come up with an answer she can logically explain to the other Mord'Sith. How is she supposed to express in words that her loyalty to her outranks the one she has for their lord and master? She can't do that.

 

"What exactly are you referring to, Mistress?" She asks instead, realizing at once she should not have pushed Denna at this point. Her pale cheeks flare with a shade of red Cara has ever only witnessed once or twice. Denna rarely looses her well-trained composure, but when she does, people around her start dying like flies.

 

She expects an Agiel to her throat, a backhanded slap across her face at the very least, but Denna merely growls, low and menacing, "Cara." It is an abundantly clear warning; many do not have the pleasure of getting.

 

"I needed to see, if..." Cara begins and pauses, looking away from Denna's stare that leaves her feeling too exposed and vulnerable. She bites the inside of her cheek, tasting blood on her tongue.

 

"I needed to see, if you were... all right." She forces out with serious difficulty but Denna grips her chin harshly and forces her to look back at her. Cara expects to see the disappointment or shame over her weakness, but Denna's expression is carefully neutral, before she crushes their lips violently together. Her tongue slips into Cara's mouth tasting the iron. She hears Denna groan into her mouth and without thinking about it Cara pulls her closer, a hand against her cheek and kisses her back with vigor. She tries to convey everything in that kiss she can't compose words for; would die a death in agony for if she would ever voice them. Her tongue meets Denna's in its dance, trying to impart everything she is not supposed to feel, in a single brutal kiss that threatens to tear her apart with its intensity.

 

Eventually, Denna breaks their connection, breathing hard as she rests her forehead against Cara's. Her skin soft for everything she is not. For a moment they stand there frozen in time, while Cara inhales each one of Denna's ragged exhales.

 

When she steps back thereafter, Denna's face shows no more of her former fury, but looks wearier than only a moment ago. Cara can't see any of the bruises Darken Rahl left on her, for he has chosen to spare her face. But the way Denna is moving, more cautious and deliberate, is a dead giveaway.

 

"I don't even want to imagine what could have happened if he had seen you." Her voice is barely above a grave whisper and tinged unmistakably with apprehension as she walks back and forth in front of Cara. "What he had done to either of us..."

 

Her gaze seeks Cara once more. "You do know something like this can never happen again?" Denna implores, her eyes desperate and searching.

 

Cara only nods, unable to form the words at seeing her troubled to such an extent - fixing her gaze at the corner of Denna's mouth where her lipstick is slightly smudged.

 

"Never again." Denna repeats, imploringly. "Tell me that you understand!"

 

"I do." Cara confirms in the end, holding Denna's piercing gaze even as it feels like it cuts the flesh right off her bones the longer it lasts. Wondering if she sees too much, knows too much already.

 

"I ought to punish you for even thinking about it." Livid blue eyes flash at her. "Even more so, for actually setting a foot down there."

 

Cara leans against the door and swallows thickly. After agonizing long moments, Denna turns from her and slowly walks over to her desk. Cara exhales a breath she wasn't even aware she was holding.

 

"Leave... I have for another mission to prepare for." Denna calls over without looking at her - and Cara does just that.

 


 

 

She doesn't see much of Denna during the following days, apart from the short times in the dining hall. Cara knows Denna was right in admonishing her for the error of judgment and following her down into the dungeons. And most of all pull her Agiel - prepared to defend her mistress over her master.

 

But as the days pass Cara comes to the realization that Denna is not going to punish her for it either - nor does she send any of her sisters to do it for her.

 


 

Cara has just shrugged out of her leathers in Darken Rahl's chambers and waits for her Lord to join her on the bed, when Mistress Denna enters, in all likelihood the lone person in the entire People's Palace who can get away with walking in unannounced.

 

"Oh Denna, would you care to join us?" She hears her master drawl as he notices the blonde. Cara's eyes are on the First Mistress who is eying her in return, before her blue eyes shift to Darken Rahl once more.

 

"A tempting offer my Lord - one I would undoubtedly accept but pleasure must wait I’m afraid... General Nass has only just arrived. I believe you sent for him in an urgent matter?"

 

"I did indeed." Rahl confirms, but Denna doesn't look like she expected any different. "But surely we have some time to spare until he has made his way up..."

 

"He’s already in the Palace, my Lord..." Denna cuts in mildly, with a sense of servility Cara finds does not suit her.

 

"Well, that’s very unfortunate..."

 

"Indeed, my Lord." Denna replies and it actually seems to Cara like Denna is not thrilled about the fact either.

 

"Are you sure?"

 

"Yes, my Lord." Denna confirms solemnly, while her eyes briefly stray to Cara's naked form once more. "At least the servants informed me, so I came here straight away to notify you of his arrival."

 

"Very well.."

 

Cara watches on as her Lord strides out without further acknowledgment to either of them, undoubtedly to be dressed in a fresh set of robes by his personal servants.

 

"I would assume your services are no longer required, Sister Cara." Denna observes without inflection. She doesn't leave, but continues to watch with arms folded over her chest as Cara stands from the bed to get back into her leathers.

 

"It seems like it." Cara agrees, not entirely uncomfortable with the blue eyes roaming over her skin. Denna actually waits until she is fully clothed and it's a good while later when they depart from Darken Rahl's bedchambers. When they march down the corridor however his voice booms out behind them once more.

 

"Denna!" They both turn to see him rush towards them, robes swishing over stone.

 

"General Nass was only at the gate as you informed me! He is only just reaching the Palace as we speak! We could have doubtlessly indulged in..."

 

"I apologize, my Lord." Denna bows to him and Cara averts her eyes from the uncommon sight. "I can guarantee, I will personally see to the punishment of the one responsible by my very own Agiel. They won’t make such a grave mistake ever again."

 

"You well damn better." Darken Rahl growls before striding off, clearly not amused.

 

Cara looks over to her, but Denna seems rather unaffected by his outburst as they carry on walking. As she has probably witnessed quite many of those during her time as First Mistress, Cara muses.

 

"Your presence is required in my chambers in the early evening, Sister Cara. I've still some other work on my desk I need to complete first." Denna tells her once they are back in the temple and Cara can't help the curious gaze she sends Denna.

 

"Don't you need to find the person who mixed this up first, Mistress?"

 

"I had hoped you might be up for the task." Denna tells her with stoic features.

 

Cara raises a brow, unable to follow the blonde's train of thought. How would she know with whom Denna spoke to regarding General Nass arrival in the People's Palace?

 

Seeing the confused look on her face, Denna continues. "Just make sure you'll make it last, when you fuck me with my Agiel later." Denna husks against her cheek, leaving it tingling for hours to come.

 

This odd feeling in her chest expands once more, threatening to shatter the bones of her rib cage.

 


 

Dark painted lips find hers as Denna presses herself urgently against Cara's waiting body, steering her backwards until her back hits the wooden door with a dull thud. Restless fingers graze back and forth over the exposed skin on Cara's neck before they settle at last to cup her cheek. The consuming urgency bleeds out of their meeting of lips, trickling down to languid kisses that have Cara's chest constrict with a sudden vicious pull and release, leaving her gasping for air.

 

"When you have so much as a scratch when I get back, you’ll be sorry." Denna murmurs against her lips, low and possessive enough for Cara's skin begin to prickle. In the distance a bell chimes, and echos and Denna absconds from their nearness, even before Cara can commit her dark alluring scent to memory.

 

Once outside of Denna's chambers, the door falls with a heavy click into the lock behind them. Denna's unsettling, ever watchful gaze lingers on Cara's face for a moment longer, her eyes a turbulent shade of blue. Without another word, she steps back and while she saunters down the corridor toward the temple's entrance, Cara finds herself listening to the sharp clack of her heels against stone tiles.

 

"I shall not!" Cara calls after her and fears it might already be too late for Denna to catch, but at the last possible moment she turns to Cara one last time. Eyes sparkling, Denna winks at her with the ghost of a smile about her lips - and then, she is gone.

 


 

The bell tolls once.

 

Even if Cara had always known Denna was practically capable of doing anything she set her mind to, she had yet again underestimated Denna's ability to wield influence over Cara's life even without the older Mord'Sith being present.

 

Lord Rahl's assignment had no time limit per se, but no one expected the First Mistress to take much longer than a week, two at most. As the third week comes and goes, without a message via Journey Book, Cara feels early on already much uneasier than most of her fellow sisters. Dahlia picks up on her growing frustration almost immediately for she doesn't particular care to hide it, but the younger woman chooses not to comment on Cara's sudden compassion for their missing comrades.

 

But when none of her sisters in the temple or the generals of the People's Palace are able to make connection with Denna or any of the D'Haran guards accompanying her, the structured and ordered universe around Cara shows the first cracks and fissures.

 

With the discovery of Lord Rahl's own Boxes of Orden missing, it begins to crumble.

 

For a long while after, the disappearance of the two boxes from Rahl's uttermost sanctuary as well as of the D'Haran battalion and most significantly First Mistress Denna herself, remains a mystery.

 

With each passing day devoid of any sign - the hope of finding any of them still alive is fading fast.

 

At the beginning of the fourth week, she persuades her master to let her lead a search squad and follow the elusive trail from the Plaines of Morrow into a thick looming forest. And for a fugacious instant, Cara can nearly make out Denna's footprints in the loose soil, as she and five of her sisters stumble across dozens and dozens of D'Haran warriors.

 

Her heart speeds up at the sight of death and doom spread out before them. And Cara begins to wonder how she managed to block out the nauseating stench of rotting flesh up until now.

 

A tight knot settles in her stomach as she carefully weaves in between the bodies, eyes frantically looking out for a shimmer of red in between the blacks. Even if she is not sure how she will react to it, should she spot it.

 

She doesn't have to find out.

 

At the end of the day, they find them all - but one. And with the recovery and repatriation of the corpses to their place of burial in D'Hara, Cara's world plunges further into darkness.

 

For Denna is just gone - without a trace for her to follow.

 

The day they arrive back with the bodies, the temple's bell chimes at midnight. But not for the ones they escorted home, but for the one they have not.

 

It echos through the empty baths and the vast hallways, the assembly hall and quiet dungeons.

 

It rings every minute - for an hour.

 


 

For a long while after that, one month melts into the next without her even noticing. Stuck between a tumultuous past and a promising future, Cara tries to maintain at least some semblance of former order. All the while left to wonder about Denna's uncanny fate.

 

With the passing of time the air and temperature shifts with Denna's glaring absence and Cara steels herself against the ever growing chill prickling like needles over her skin. For she doesn't even know if she is still alive - or... is not.

 

The doors to Denna's former chambers remain tightly sealed like a tomb of memory for the First Mistress. And for the changing of many seasons even Darken Rahl seems reluctant to appoint another in Denna's stead.

 

The thought alone, that any of her sisters may be given permission to enter Denna's holy sanctuary or sleep in her very bed, is enough to make Cara's stomach turn violently. More often than not she spends her countless sleepless nights with a singular goal in mind. Over the course of time, she formulates a plan to achieve the sole possible outcome she might actually bear - and while doing so - finds herself settling back into a stately pace of life. She had never expected for this to happen this early on and finds herself craving Denna's guidance in a matter the older Mord'Sith would likely have killed her for.

 

In the end it takes her even less time to climb the ranks, especially with no one left she might care for not to get hurt. Dahlia has no such ambitions and seems content with the standing she has reached among her sisters, but now more than ever, Cara strives to achieve a higher place in the Sisterhood's narrow hierarchy.

 

And with Denna no longer there to cast a shadow, Cara rises like a phoenix from her still glowing ashes. Rewrites one chapter after another of her own history and reinvents herself as everything she ever wanted to be.

 

Season after season breezes by and not until Lord Rahl himself hands her a heavy shining key to her new chambers, Cara has come to terms of someone other than Denna taking her place.

 


 

The way to Denna's chambers is one she finds easy, even if she has made an effort to avoid passing it by since Denna vanished from the face of the earth.

 

A flicker of warmth seeps from the thick wooden door into her palm, as the tips of her fingers play back and forth over the intricate carvings in somber remembrance. Closing her eyes for one forbidden moment, she allows herself to revel in the recollection of their final meeting at this very spot. The brush of lips, her former Mistress' fragrance, Denna's unsettling watchful gaze directed at her - that far too soon vanish back into her memory.

 

At last she turns the key with trembling fingers and steps in. A sudden surge of longing guides her farther inside, where she braces herself against the back of the leather chaise, fighting down the torrent of emotion shredding her insides apart. Her breaths come quick and shallow and in the solitude of this room she can admit it's vaulted ceiling and those thick walls possess a far greater value and importance to her than any other place ever will.

 

The tightness in her chest recedes gradually, and she forces herself to breathe in the stale air, slow and measured. A few minutes pass until she can finally manage to take a look in all directions. Everything is precisely as it should be, right there where she can still see it vivid and alive in her minds eye.

 

Not even one of her sisters was permitted to set a foot inside these walls or unlocked the door since the First Mistress went on an assignment and never returned. It is the greatest gift, a pristine memento, untouched by the passage of time.

 

Unbidden, her gaze drops to silken bed sheets, still crumbled under the plush comforter. For one fleeting moment Cara finds herself wondering if she will find a trace of Denna's scent still lingering in the fabric, if she only inhales deeply enough. And what she will do when it eventually fades into nothingness.

 

With a shake of her head, she breaks loose of those thoughts and strides over to the arched windows, opening them wide. Crisp, fresh air pours into the room, clearing away the muggy and stagnant smell of the passing of one too many seasons.

 

On her way out, Cara halts at the four-poster bed briefly, teeth clenched as she pulls the comforter up to cover the entirety of the sheets beneath. A sign of her inner weakness she'll have to live with.

 

Deep within, Cara knows with absolute certainty; she won't be able to cast the memory of Denna out of her mind. If she is alive or dead, matters just as little as the faint possibility of seeing her again one day.

 

Denna is gone now.

 

And their only future - will always ever be their past.