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22 December 2011 @ 07:01 pm
The 12 Days of Rahlmas - set of ficlets  
All written for the challenge at peoplespalace

Title
: When I was a child I spoke as a child
Rating: G
Length: ~150
Characters: Cara, Dahlia (pre-Cara/Dahlia)
Prompt: Elves
Summary: All in red, they sneak through the window at night to steal little girls...

"Don't be silly," Cara said, stalking through the snow with Dahlia on her heels. Grace had ordered the younger girls out of the house while the yuletide preparations were being completed, and the world was blanketed in crisp cold white. "Elves aren't real."

"They are," Dahlia insisted. "They wear red and they climb through the windows at night to kidnap naughty little girls."

Cara giggled.

"It's not funny," Dahlia insisted with a pout.

"Your mama's just trying to make you behave," Cara said, turning and grinning with pinkened cheeks. "But maybe..." She trailed off, stomping ahead through the snow towards their favorite tree.

Dahlia hurried up. "Maybe what, Cari?"

Cara turned swiftly and nipped Dahlia's ear, making the other girl squeak. "Maybe I'm an elf."

"Cari!"

But Cara was already running off through the snow, her laughter ringing back through the cold air, and Dahlia could only run after her with an unwilling smile of joy.




Title: Winter Sun
Rating: G
Length: ~400
Characters: Cara/Darken
Prompt: Yule
Summary: Lord Rahl has always presided over this festival, but it's more than just tradition.

The log burned in the hearth, filling the hall with the scent of smoke and pine. It had taken three weeks for the Yule party to journey to the far D'Haran forests to find the appropriate tree to bring back to the flat, rocky terrain surrounding the People's Palace. By the time it returned, snow had turned the Palace into a crystalline beauty. Only when entering through its doors did the warmth of fire and red and black livery remind one that this was D'Hara.

"The log is lit," Cara said in a low voice. She stood by Darken Rahl's side, hands locked behind her back. "The thunder god may hear our plea and speak for us in the return of the sun...or he may not." Her lips quirked in a sacrilegious smirk.

"It's a holiday, Cara." Darken shook his head, tsking in an attempt at geniality. "Not even all the people believe. But Father Rahl pays his respect to the gods which were ours in the long past."

Cara nodded slightly. "Father Rahl does what the people need him to do."

Darken ran a fingertip slowly over his lower lip, back and forth, as the room blazed with firelight. It smelled of mulled wine and cider and roasted goat, and the festival had yet to truly begin. "When you were a child, did you not think that the Lord Rahl could determine the return of the sun?"

Cara paused, the hint of her smile fading into the gravity of a Mord'Sith. "I still do, my lord."

A hint of surprise passed over his face, and his eyes met hers. "Is that so?"

She raised a single eyebrow, full lips warm with a fond expression. "We have food and shelter and protection from our enemies. It is only with such things that we may see the return of the sun after the dark of every winter."

He smiled then, there in the fire-lit shadows. "Such a flatterer, Cara" were the only dry words he uttered, but the warmth in his eyes was something else.

Perhaps, if there had been mistletoe, he might even have kissed her, if for nothing else than for the distraction from Yules past that had been spent alone. No more. No one had brought back the sun for him, but he had done so for himself.




Title: All the Luck
Rating: G
Length: ~450
Characters: Kahlan, Darken, Nicholas
Prompt: The First Foot
Summary: Darken changes tradition for his family. Set during Reckoning.

"It is tradition for Lord Rahl to take the first step." Triana's brusque words did nothing to ease the tension of the Rahl family assembled outside the Palace.

"Of course it is." Kahlan said, as icy as the breeze whipping her cloak about her knees. She barely understood this tradition—it was not even the same date that Midlanders celebrated the new year—but her unwanted husband was certainly the type to cling greedily to any form of luck. Even if it was merely crossing a threshold on a certain day.

"Do it, papa," Nicholas said from her arms. His blonde hair was dotted with stray snowflakes, his cheeks red with the cold, but he had an excited smile. Kahlan might not love her husband, but Nicholas loved enough for them both. It was what gave her hope that keeping him alive had not been the mistake of her lifetime.

Darken Rahl looked to them both, however, and paused. He met Kahlan's gaze with an intensity that made her want to slap him, and then smiled with the same warmth with which he imbued everything he did. He was fire, even in the depths of winter, dangerous and out of control. "I have all the luck I need, Mistress Triana, do you not see? Peace and a family...no, there is one other than I who needs luck."

There was mockery in the words, for Kahlan's benefit even if their child could not yet understand them. But she had no protest as Darken lifted Nicholas from her arms except, "He cannot walk yet, Darken."

Ignoring her, Darken set Nicholas down onto the snow on his tiny boots, holding his hands and smiling at the boy as if all was well in the world. "Ready, my son?"

"I get the first step?" Nicholas sounded awed and excited.

Darken laughed, and Kahlan clenched her fists. He had no right. Yet she did nothing about it.

So for the first time in decades, the first foot over the People's Palace was taken by Nicholas Rahl, gripping tightly to his father's hands to keep from crashing down. He looked up and grinned when he succeeded, and Darken swept him into his arms with pride and affection. "Now our son has all the new year's luck," he said to Kahlan.

She wanted to curse him, but couldn't. If there was anyone who needed luck, it was their male Confessor son. "I'm glad," she finally said, crossing the threshold to join her family. "I can only hope that he will not need it."

"So do we all," Darken murmured, and together they went into the warm Palace.




Title: Sing It In
Rating: PG
Length: ~350
Characters: Darken, Nathair (could we get a tag for her?)
Prompt: Hogmanay
Summary: It's only Darken's second year as Lord Rahl and things are not settled

It was a cold, cheerless day when the year finally came to a close. Only two since Darken had taken his father's seat. Last year at this time, unrest had darkened the city, and the fires that burned were not of celebration.

Had it not been for Mistress Nathair, he would have made an appearance among the people. They needed to see him. Know him. Respect and fear him.

Three D'Haran guards had been murdered that night in the riots. The year was sung in by the clash of steel alone.

An eerie quiet hung over D'Hara. The night before had been clouded and dark, and the day was marked by grey. By dusk, the clouds were fading away, orange and rust colored streaks on the horizon. "I should make an appearance," Darken murmured, standing at the window.

"You are not a leader of the people. You are not a peer." Nathair's voice was as smooth as her grey eyes were hard, standing two steps behind him.

Young still, with barely the scruff of a beard on his jaw, Darken did not go against the woman who had protected and supported him like no other. Night fell, and as tradition called for he took the first step over the threshold into the People's Palace. In the city, all was silent still.

"You are tense," Nathair said, resting gloved fingers on his forearm. "Let me have a slave draw you a bath, soothe your tensions."

Reluctantly, Darken gave in. While stars lit the sky outside, the moon a bare sliver among them, he sunk into warm water and worried for his people.

Then, on the very edges of his hearing, the singing began. The song as old as the very stones the Palace was built on, its sweet hymn to the passing of time and to loved ones old and new, rose above the city sung by a thousand voices.

"They're at peace," Darken whispered, a smile on his lips. He was alone, but all around him were his people, and the new year was sung in with hope.




Title: The Creator's Secret
Rating: G
Length: ~450
Characters: Cara, Dahlia, Denna
Prompt: Miracle of the Oil
Summary: Three Mord'Sith are stopped by a brave peasant child in the streets.

Cara and Dahlia walked behind Denna down the icy streets of the People's Palace. The winter streets were crowded with those buying supplies, but they melted away before the fearsome Mord'Sith. While the First Mistress kept her eyes on the road ahead, Dahlia let hers wander. Her gaze fell upon three youngsters worriedly fussing over a small open lamp and her elbow nudged Cara's.

"What is it?" Cara asked.

Memories of Stowecroft put the hint of a smile on Dahlia's lips. "They pray to the Creator to keep them safe through the winter. The flame must be kept eternal, and it is a children's task. Do you remember when it was our duty?"

Cara grimaced. "Dahlia..." She glanced away, voice trailing off, ignoring that the question had been asked.

Dahlia was not surprised.

While two older girls made protesting cries, a tiny boy ran out to the streets. "Please mistress can you speak to Lord Rahl?" he asked Dahlia. He had large green eyes and a shock of straw-colored hair.

All three Mord'Sith stopped in astonishment at the unafraid child.

Dahlia couldn't bring herself to ignore him, cocking her head to one side. "What do you mean, boy?"

The older peasant girl hurried forward, putting a protective arm around the younger child. "We're almost out of oil, that's all. Father won't be back for a week with more." The apple of her throat bobbed up and down in fear.

"Can Lord Rahl give us more?" the boy asked, desperately earnest.

Denna snorted a laugh, and flicked her agiel to move on down the street. Cara smirked, and Dahlia paused but said nothing at all. At last she walked away with her sisters; there was no other option. The girls gave relieved looks, yet the little boy watched after her.

A week later, they once again walked the streets. The same three children were there, this time beaming at the small crowd surrounding their little flame. "It's a miracle," one of the girls gushed. "We had only enough oil for one day, but it's still going. The Creator has blessed us!"

Cara huffed. "The Creator," she muttered in Dahlia's direction. "If that's a miracle then I'm the Creator." She rolled her eyes.

Dahlia merely smiled to herself. "Oh no, Cara. Not you."

Cara cocked her head in confusion, but Dahlia said nothing further. Only the Creator had seen the Mord'Sith who crept into the city night after night to refill a child's lamp oil, and only the Creator knew that it was in memory of a night spent in the arms of one Cara Mason while a tiny flame burned eternal. Dahlia would hold her secret, and so would the Creator.




Title: Mulled Wine
Rating: PG
Length: ~375
Characters: Kahlan (Kahlan/Darken)
Prompt: Wassail
Summary: A moment of vulnerability during a holiday feast

The feast dragged on. Kahlan had given up eating entirely but the warm mulled wine was addicting, and the servants refilled her goblet without her needing to ask. Holidays were the easiest time to play Darken's queen. D'Hara might have been the enemy to the Midlands long ago, but they celebrated like anyone else and Kahlan loved the holiday.

After the second goblet even her smile was no longer false, and as Egremont and Meiffert alternated telling amusing anecdotes, Kahlan floated on the swirl of festivities. Each sip of the mulled wine warmed her body and blurred her senses, and she was almost free. She barely felt the radahan around her neck.

The night drew on, the wine flowed freely, and Kahlan lost herself in the stories. After a surprise ending had the whole table in laughter, Kahlan failed to hold back one of her own. Her laugh burst out to join the others' as it had not done since before West Granthia, and Darken Rahl turned.

His gaze on her was relaxed and amused, but there was surprise there.

In the middle of a laugh, Kahlan couldn't look at him hatefully.

He leaned in then, and pressed a kiss on her lips. His mouth was warm, and she could taste the spices of the wine he'd drunk as well. Kahlan's mind was too wine-drunk to give her an immediate reaction. This was something they did not do in this sham of a marriage. Kisses were for lovers, and that much Kahlan and Darken Rahl would never be.

The festival carried on around them, oblivious to the unsure moment. Darken met Kahlan's eyes as he pulled away and there was a curious question there in that Rahl blue.

But Kahlan swallowed and bit her lower lip until the smile faded.

So did the light in Darken's eyes, and he returned to the celebration. For a moment that light had seemed like an unspoken request. For once, not a demand.

Kahlan downed another sip of the spiced wine. They had both taken leave of their senses. Celebration and joy made one vulnerable. Once again, Queen Kahlan Rahl steeled herself to not fall prey to any temptations in this life. Yet she sipped the wine.




Title: Relic
Rating: PG-13
Length: ~375
Characters: Panis, Darken, Nicholas
Prompt: Dreidel
Summary: It's a toy with a quaint abstract meaning, and each Rahl takes it differently.

The relic had been passed down through generations. A wooden top with runes whose meaning had been lost in time, gilding chipped and corners rounded with age. Each Rahl child had played with it, and once it had been part of a ritual. A rite of passage involving connection with the Rahl magic.

No one remembered such things. Not since the Dark Days. It was still passed down to children, however. No heirloom was ever forgotten in the House of Rahl, and its meaning was merely changed. It became a symbol of the unknown—the unknowable—to those who passed it to their children.

Panis Rahl had found the game dull, more luck than skill. He'd instead used it to drop on the heads of passing servants—and, when older, down the cleavage of kitchen wenches.

Someone, a household servant perhaps, had given it to Darken as a babe. Like everything given to him, he clutched it tightly and tried to bite anyone who tried to take it away. For hours he practiced the spin, looking for the perfect way to win. There was none. Not without cheating. So Darken cheated, and told his childhood friends that it was skill.

Nicholas had stared at it when the gift was presented at Yuletide. "What is it, Father?" he'd asked in a lispy, three-year-old's voice.

"A piece of my childhood," Darken had said, without the usual darkness such a subject allowed.

Nicholas frowned, and turned it over and over in his hand. "Does it have magic?"

"Only what you put into it. Sometimes those are the best magical devices of all." Darken glanced across to where his wife sat alone by the fire, and grimaced before turning back to his son. "Play with it. Tell me what you learn."

The boy frowned. "Is it a weapon?"

Darken ruffled the boy's blond hair, taking it for a jest.

Only nine years later, Nicholas laid the toy to rest in his father's tomb over the bloody wound where a sword had pierced that dark heart. "You put too much magic into me, Father. That's what I learned. You thought you knew everything."

He smiled, closing the tomb for the last time, murmuring into the darkness. "You didn't, did you."



Title: Price Paid
Rating: PG-13
Length: ~400
Characters: Darken/Kahlan
Prompt: Silver and Gold
Summary: Not all the gilding in the world can make this marriage anything but rotten.

Only a faint morning light had crept through the drapes when Kahlan arose from her bed. Crimson sheets slid with a rustle behind her, and like a ghost in her nightgown she went to her dressing table. Her hair was tousled, though not—thank the Creator—from any of her unwanted husband's attentions. The peace and solitude was a relief.

She reached for the hairbrush only to see a glint of gold around it. It was a bracelet, delicate and gold, set with a tiny ruby at its center. Its beauty took her breath.

"I see you found my gift," came a soft drawl from behind her.

The breath in Kahlan's throat suddenly turned into a knot, and she set the bracelet on the table. "What?"

"It is your Yuletide gift," Darken Rahl said, padding up behind her and resting a hand on her shoulder. "I will change your radahan to match it in colors. You look like a true queen in gold and ruby."

His touch possessed and she grimaced at it. "Why give me a gift?" She'd never hidden the disdain before, and she didn't do so now. The bracelet sat untouched.

He frowned, offended. "Why do husbands normally gift things to their wives? Why Kahlan, to make you happy. Believe it or not it gives me no pleasure to see you sick with hatred and misery."

The unmasked manipulation for pity in his voice roused Kahlan's anger. She turned, voice harsh. "Do you expect a kiss for it? Or is it expensive enough that I should spread my legs? I'm not your whore."

Anger and hurt made his face look almost ugly. "You are, Kahlan. But of your own volition, not mine. I wanted you willing. You were the one who demanded a price. An exchange."

Pulling away and rising to her feet, Kahlan wrapped a robe tightly around herself. She met Darken's fierce dark eyes with only bitter cold. "You should know by now that you can't win my heart with hospitals and orphanages. What makes you think silver and gold would be any more tempting?"

He didn't answer. Something that looked like frustration and despair flitted across his face like a ghost, and then he snatched the bracelet from the table and swept past her out of the room. Another vain attempt. Another useless rejection. Kahlan returned to bed, eyes stinging, and wished that the passions would fade into emptiness. This war was too wearying.



Title: The Hint of Freedom
Rating: PG-13
Length: ~350
Characters: Dahlia/Cara
Prompt: Saturnalia
Summary: A masquerade means freedom, but will it be taken advantage of?

Dahlia tugged the last of Denna's corset laces into place, and watched intently as the Mord'Sith dropped her swagger and became yet another masked dancer in the great hall. Revelry made the air hot enough that one could forget the blistering cold outside. The great midwinter feast was unlike any other, and all crimes were forgiven tonight while the masquerade lasted. Even crimes against Lord Rahl himself, and every person from slave to Mord'Sith was allowed utter freedom for just this one night.

Yet it was not as freeing as the theory suggested. It didn't take a genius to put together what was to come as Denna found Cara and swiftly led her off the dance floor, shoving at the other woman's skirts. Dahlia, who never found it hard to guess who was who despite their masks, only watched from the sidelines. A mistress was a mistress, no matter the costume. She had to swallow her jealousy as always.

Yet it was Cara who came out later, barely bedraggled and with a characteristic smirk on her face. Still awkward, but with a sway in her motion that made you forget the awkwardness, she moved around the room like a queen. "Dahlia..." she purred once at her side. "I was hoping to find a serving wench to ravish."

"Try again," Dahlia said, lips quirking in a smirk. "I'd be wearing a crown, not an apron, if I wanted to take part."

"Now what kind of roleplay is that?" Cara moved behind the Mord'Sith and nipped at her earlobe. "That's no challenge for you..."

Reluctantly, a full smile spread across Dahlia's face and she pressed her hips back against Cara's skirts. "Such a tongue you have, oh mysterious queen..."

"Let me show you all it can do." Cara nipped at her ear, tugging Dahlia towards the curtains.

Dahlia gave in willingly, no mask required. No, the midwinter festival was never as freeing as planned, but sometimes freedom wasn't what was desired. Just the hint of it. And so the night was enjoyed by all.




Title: Premature
Rating: PG
Length: ~250
Characters: Darken, Dahlia (Cara/Darken)
Prompt: The Holly and the Ivy
Summary: Cara gives birth to their son.

The carolers sang to the Creator outside the People's Palace, but Lord Rahl wasn't there to hear it. For once the Mord'Sith temple rang with the screams, not of pets, but of a newborn child. He paced the hall, unsure, stomach knotted.

Finally the screaming stopped, and the midwife brought a bundle to him. "Mistress Cara did well, and your son is healthy."

Darken looked at the bundle and saw a squat wrinkled face, all red and messy. He clenched his hands and would not allow himself to touch. Attachment was not allowed. He was not ready.

"My lord?" Dahlia stood behind him, her question soft.

"Take the boy," Darken finally said after a swift swallow. "Do what needs to be done."

"My...lord?"

He cut off her confusion, giving the Mord'Sith a sharp glance. "Don't plague me with questions. Do something. I care not."

While the babe was placed in Dahlia's arms, Darken did not glance back. He would see to Cara. The mother of his child, and yet he would not mention it to her. He should never have allowed the child's conception. Not yet. Forcing the infant's face from his mind, he went into the birthing room.

When Dahlia returned and said the boy had been put to death, he wasn't sure if he was surprised or not.




Title: Night of Miracles
Rating: PG
Length: ~400
Characters: Dahlia (Dahlia/Cara)
Prompt: Imbolc
Summary: (sequel to Premature) Dahlia takes Cara's son the moment he's born.

Most Mord'Sith shed their children, those of whom who allowed themselves to remain fertile. Cara had been stubborn, however. "It is the Lord Rahl's child and he has yet to name an heir."

Dahlia never told her sister—her mate—how much she resented the time Cara spent in Lord Rahl's favor. How much she missed when it had been her bed Cara had come to with her needs. Jealousy was as natural to Mord'Sith as pain, but Lord Rahl should have been above all. Dahlia kept such thoughts to herself.

Fear that Darken would name Cara's child as his heir, and fear that he would raise Cara to a higher position in his household, wracked Dahlia's unhappy heart until the babe was born.

Rahl rejected his tiny son, however, and Dahlia claimed him as her own from the moment she saw the tiny face. Though his eyes were blue, the Mord'Sith saw Cara in them. Knowing her lord's possessive nature, she told him that the child had been killed—it was not a strange practice for bastards in a royal house.

Cara did not return to her duties for nearly a week. Without other tasks, Dahlia journeyed in disguise to a nearby village. A foolish decision, she soon realized, and yet knew naught else that she could do. There should be a piece of Cara in the world that was not bound to the House of Rahl, she thought. Her Cara was greater than any ancestral name.

On a night during which the peasants believed that the Creator visited each house who invited her in, Dahlia took a leap of faith that disgusted even her. Wrapping the tiny unnamed boy in warm blankets, she set him on the doorstep of the empty house she'd taken for this mission. The night was dark, and every other house had marks upon their doorsteps, set there in hopes that the morning light would show evidence of the Creator's passing.

It felt like giving the boy up to death to see him alone there. Dahlia slunk away like a thief in the night, and hated herself for it.

Yet in the morning, the babe was gone. Dahlia smiled, and for a moment considered believing in the villagers' legends after all. It was the proper end. Cara and Lord Rahl might not think so...but then again, they need never know. As always, Dahlia bound the secret up in her heart.




Title: Unnatural Perfection
Rating: PG
Length: ~400
Characters: Kahlan/Richard
Prompt: Feast of the Winter Veil
Summary: They ignore the influence of Orden, and indulge in happiness.

Richard stood with his back to the festivities and his eyes on the snow-covered city below the Palace. The cold threatened to chill him even through his long robes, yet he smiled, and hoped for yet another snowfall to make the city truly sparkle.

Warm hands slipped around his waist, unexpectedly, and a voice murmured in his ear, "Lord Rahl isn't even enjoying his own celebration?"

Shock made him gasp, then laugh, turning swiftly around. "Kahlan? What are you doing here?"

Cheeks pink with the chill air, she smiled with a sparkle in her blue eyes. "I missed you...and this is the season for indulgences and gifts. You're my gift, from me to myself." The playful smile at the corner of her mouth spread just a little.

A giddy grin crossed Richard's face, and he pulled her into a warm embrace, lips against her forehead. "A double gift, Kahlan."

"I hoped so," she murmured. A moment of quiet intimacy passed as the two absorbed the familiar comfort, then Kahlan glanced up and spoke. "Do you know that your brother is playing Father Winter in the hall? He's demanding milk and cookies from all the children...I don't believe I've ever seen so many giggles."

Richard grinned. "Good. I want him to be happy. With Orden, he's a changed man. The House of Rahl is changed, and I want the people to know it."

Kahlan nodded a little. "Even your Mord'Sith... I saw Berdine and Raina dancing, and Dahlia and Triana as well. Some of the poor soldiers had to find partners among their own ranks."

Shrugging slightly, Richard chuckled. "I wouldn't say 'poor'... There are some who prefer it, I've noticed." He let out a sigh, smiling again at the beautiful woman in his arms. "So it's a successful feast?"

She nodded, eyes warm and hands tightening around his waist. "It's perfect, Richard. This world is finally perfect."

"That's all I want to hear, Mother Confessor," he said playfully.

"Oh is that so?" Kahlan raised an eyebrow. "Did you not notice my crown?"

In the dark, Richard hadn't paid it mind. Now he noticed the green leaves tangled amongst the braided gold. He laughed. "Mistletoe?"

Kahlan's only response was a kiss, and for that moment there were no two happier people in the world. Not forever, but at least for the moment. That was all that mattered.

 
 
 
synergyfox: Merlin: Morgause - Smilesynergyfox on December 23rd, 2011 03:35 am (UTC)
asdfjkl;

*clings to all of them*

Though I gotta say, Miracle of the Oil is probably my favorite just because picturing Dahlia sneaking in all ninja-like is super, super cute. Though it's probably over dramatic with her doing the tip-toe thing and doing her own theme music... BUT HEY! IT'S DAHLIA!

And Nicholas getting the first step = super adorable.

Gah! And Saturnalia... and just...

ALL THE DRABBLES!

*gives every single one the appropriate amounts of luuuurv*

And... and... lakksfdlkasdf just all of them... okay? I LOVE THEM ALL!
Merry Fivanolix on January 2nd, 2012 08:47 pm (UTC)
Dahlia is always super cute, in a totally Mord'Sith way XD

Thank you!
talath_dirnen on December 26th, 2011 10:28 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! It's really great job and I've got a lot of pleasure from reading. So different and wonderful and really "Christmas" stories. Thanks again!

One makes me near to cry - about Cara's child. I want to belive he was saved by some way...

Darken/Kahlan stories just amazing - my fav stories! Characters just perfect!!!

And I love the story about lamp and oil :)
Merry Fivanolix on January 2nd, 2012 08:47 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed them :)