Summary: The Conqueror leaves Greece to visit Cleopatra and meets a slave/gladiator named Gabrielle but all is not what it seems.
Disclaimer: See Part 1
Authors Note: Hey guys, the first half of this chapter is in Gabrielle POV and then it moves on to Xena's when it gets to the dining hall. I'm glad you guys have all been enjoying these updates, even if they have been a few days in between. I've spent the last couple of days working everything out, etc. So, if you want to email me, my address jacklavigne13@hotmail .com
My ocean green eyes absorbed every detail as we walked down the corridor, following the quietly muttering guard that would lead us to our rooms. I let my gaze wander over the polished marble floors and the beautiful hangings on the walls and I had to admit that I was impressed. On the outside, the Conqueror's castle looked exactly like you expected it to; cold and terrifying, like the woman that lived in it. But inside, it was beautiful and had a certain feeling of safety around it. Which was weird, considering that it held the most dangerous and unpredictable woman to ever walk the earth.
The journey to my room was silent, especially after my guard and regent entered their own rooms to rest. I followed the tall man, admiring his armor until he stopped in front of a large wooden door which he opened stiffly for me.
"Thanks," I muttered to the obviously distrustful man, who nodded again before turning on his heel and striding off. I rolled my eyes and closed the door once I saw his muscular build disappear around the corner and then turned to survey my room.
"By the Gods," I whispered in awe, my eyes wide as I took in the enormous quarters. While the room was nowhere near as large as the court room, it was still the biggest guest room I had ever seen. Even in Cleopatra's palace, the guests of the Egyptian weren't subjected to such fine rooms, though in my opinion, even Cleopatra's room wasn't this nice. But then again, it might have just been my difference in tastes.
The room was huge and I had to tilt my head back to see the ceiling because it was so high. I spent several awe filled moments gazing at the painted ceiling, admiring the night sky and finding several of my favourite constellations before taking in the rest of the room. The wall opposite the door was made up of large glass windows that gave me a beautiful view of the ocean. There was also a door that led out onto a balcony, where there was a small wooden table with two finely crafted chairs. What I suspected was marble floors like the rest of the castle, was covered in beautiful and rare furs, from all over the world. In the far corner of the room, a bed so large it could fit half the Amazon Nation was covered in pillows and silk sheets. There was also a couch situated before a giant fireplace and in the other corner of the room was a desk, covered in rolls of parchment and small jars of ink.
It was like this room was made for me.
I wondered for a moment if all the other guest rooms looked like this or if the Conqueror had given me this room on purpose before I realized how ridiculous that sounded. If the Conqueror had it her way, I'd probably be sleeping on a cold floor in the dungeons.
Which made me wonder, why wasn't I in the dungeon? The Conqueror had several possible moments when she could have captured me, but she didn't and I didn't understand it. Not that I wasn't grateful, but it had been what I expected. After everything I had heard over the past few moons, I had expected anger and hatred, not this cool, calm woman that hardly seemed to notice my presence.
I kicked off my boots, luxuriating in the feel of the soft fur beneath my feet as I padded over towards the bed where I sat and then yelped when I started to sink into the feather stuffed mattress. I let my hands rest on the bed, feeling the softness beneath my fingers and the cool feeling of silk on my skin and smiled contentedly. This had to easily be the most comfortable bed that I had ever felt and I grinned as I laid back on the pillows and just the bed swallow me.
In my relaxed state, my thoughts once again turned to the Conqueror and I couldn't help but wonder what she was doing. Was she still in court, or was she talking to her second in command and planning my execution?
I couldn't help but frown when I thought of the Conqueror and the red headed woman together. Why on earth was someone as kind and noble as Alexandria getting married to the cold hearted Conqueror? I had thought that maybe the Conqueror had been kidding when she told me she was getting married, but I had been proved wrong. Not that it mattered to me I assured myself.
I was pulled from my musings by a knock on the door and I tensed for a split second, wondering who it could be. Had the Conqueror led me to believe that I was safe when I really wasn't? Were there guards outside the door or even worse, Xena herself?
I relaxed as the door opened to reveal blonde curly hair that belonged to my regent. I gave her a smile as she met my gaze before she glanced around the chamber and let out a low whistle of appreciation.
"I thought the Conqueror hated your guts?" The Amazon commented as she entered the room completely, closing the door behind her.
"I thought so too," I admitted with a small shrug from the bed. I watched my regent as she walked towards me, smiling at the startled expression on her face when she sat down on the feather stuffed mattress. "Nice, huh?"
Ephiny made a small sound of approval, bouncing a little on the bed before relaxing on the cool, silk sheets. She regarded me in silence for several moments before sighing softly. "So, do you want to hear the bad news first or the slightly better bad news?"
I sighed softly to myself before taking a deep, calming breath. "Always start with the worst."
"Well," said Ephiny. "Bad news is, I was out in the hall and I saw what I swore looked like the Queen of the Nile strut past. Slightly better news; we've been invited to dinner tonight."
I swallowed as I felt a ball of guilt curl up in my stomach, thinking of my former owner. I had practically left the woman for dead when I fled from her palace and having her here was going to make the plan a little more complicated.
"How is Cleopatra being here worse news than spending the evening with the Conqueror?" I tried to joke which brought a small smile to my regent's lips.
"Well, Cleopatra will be at the dinner," Ephiny replied. "Along with the Conqueror and her girlfriend, who was just itching to slaughter us all when we walked into that court room."
I hummed in acknowledgment, remembering the look of utter rage on Alexandria's face when I removed my mask. The woman had always treated me fairly, even after she captured me when escaping from Cleopatra's palace, but obviously her feelings towards me had changed.
It might have had something to do with the Conqueror becoming even more horrible since that whole fiasco.
"Well," I murmured to my regent. "Relax as much as you can for now and don't take any of this pretty stuff for granted because chances are, we probably won't be breathing by the end of the night."
I thanked the Gods that the port was especially strong tonight as I sat at the head of my dining table, leaning back against the padded chair casually. I had only been seated for several minutes, but already my body was tight with tension and pent up emotions though I disguised them well. I let my eyes slide to the seat next to me, to find Alexandria in the same situation, her back straight against her chair and her hands clenching the arm rests. Her eyes were flickering over the guests that were entering the dining room and I let my eyes rest on her, knowing that I would be able to tell when certain guests arrived just from the emotions in her midnight blue orbs.
A slight twitch of her lips and I knew that the poet Sappho had entered and I had to force the fierce scowl off my face as I continued to watch my second in command. A tensing of muscular shoulders meant that the Egyptian ruler had made an entrance and I smirked at the angry twisting of Alexandria's red lips. I continued to watch her until the red head's eyes darkened and the muscles of her jaw clenched. I leant over slightly in my seat, resting my hand on top of the fingers that had curled into a fist so tightly that Alexandria's knuckles were white. She relaxed almost immediately, turning her head to gaze at me, the coldness in her eyes slowly melting into warmth that was reserved for me only.
The beast was prowling in my chest and I counted to twenty before turning my head to look around the room. Everyone was seated now and looking at me expectantly, except for two of the guest. Cleopatra's was staring at the former slave from across the large table, her jaw slack while Gabrielle's eyes were firmly planted to the table top on my left side where she was fiddling with her fork.
Well, that was a problem that I hadn't thought of.
I stayed silent while making a gesture with my free hand, watching as the servants started to bring out large platters of food. I closed my eyes as I was surrounded with the smell of cooked meats and vegetables, breathing in deeply and scowling when I caught the scent of the Amazon Queen seated next to me. I let out a soft sigh as conversation finally started around the table before turning my attention back to my second in command.
"Well if this isn't the most awkward dinner I've ever attended, I don't know what is," I muttered softly, smiling when Alexandria's lips twitched in acknowledgement.
"There was that one dinner with those men from Thrace," Alexandria reminded me with a mischievous sparkle in her eyes. "I can still feel the tension, especially when you killed that noble after he called you a monster for bedding his wife. We spent the rest of the dinner with him slumped in his chair, your favorite dagger sticking out of his chest."
"And the woman still came back to my bed that night," I remembered with a chuckle, shaking my head as I took a bite of venison. I savored the flavor as I attempted to ignore the ocean green eyes that were staring at me, burning my skin like a white hot poker.
But patience was never really one of my strengths.
"Did you like your room?" I asked quietly without bothering to look at the former slave. I continued to focus my attention on the meal before me and the warmth of Alexandria's hand that clasped mine.
"It's not what I expected," The former slave replied, her voice equally soft.
"Good to know I can still be unpredictable."
"That's an understatement," Gabrielle muttered and I smirked, finally lifting my head to look at her. She was dressed full out in Amazon regalia and I had to admit that the tan leathers and armor suited her much more than the plain white tunics that she used to wear. I raised my head to meet her eyes and let a small but dangerous smile play on my lips, amused at the lack of reaction I got from her. I liked people that didn't cower away from me and while I didn't like this woman, I had to respect her for being here in the first place. Even if I didn't actually know why she was here.
"So, did you just come to enjoy the festival?" I asked, keeping my face an emotionless mask and I turned my attention back to my food. I felt Alexandria squeeze the hand that she was still holding and I winked subtly at the red headed woman.
"Why else would I be here?" The blonde said evasively. I raised an eyebrow at her and she smirked before shrugging her armor covered shoulders. "I want to go over the treaty that you wrote up with my regent."
I let my eyes glance over to the seat beside her, watching as the regent ate a piece of carrot before returning my gaze to the blonde. "Right."
I sat in silence for several moments, playing with my food and taking several sips of port before I spoke again. "Are you going to tell me why you're really here, or are we going to continue playing this game until we drive each other mad?"
I watched in amusement as Gabrielle almost spat out the mouthful of wine she had just sipped before turning to face me. "I already told you why I'm here."
"You're lying," I stated bluntly. "You get this little twitch in your eyebrow when you lie, so don't fuck with me, Gabrielle. I haven't killed you yet because you have something that I want, but don't test my patience."
"I have something you want?" Gabrielle let her voice drop as she raised an eyebrow seductively. "Is your new consort not satisfying you, Conqueror?"
"Bite your tongue, whore," Alexandria growled fiercely, surprising both of us. I watched in shocked silence as the red head pushed her chair away from the table and stood up menacingly. Waves of dangerous energy were rolling off the tall, muscular body and I grimaced, acknowledging that inviting Gabrielle to dinner hadn't been the best idea I'd ever had.
"Alex," I said softly, turning my complete attention to my second in command and ignoring the curious eyes watching us. "Come on, sh- "
"She is nothing," Alexandria hissed, leaning towards me, her midnight blue eyes flashing with rage. "She is nothing but a lying fucking dog that betrayed everyone at this table and has no right to be sitting in that Gods be damned chair. And I will burn in Tartarus before I share a meal with her, again."
I sat back in my seat, stunned at the words from my usually calm second in command. I watched as she turned and stalked from the room, ignoring the eyes that followed her as she pulled her deep purple cloak tightly around her body.
"I didn't think- " Gabrielle started quietly before I cut her off.
"No, you didn't think," I muttered, taking a long sip of my port in an attempt to regain some of my composure. "You never do, Gabrielle, because you don't fucking care.
Excuse me," I said in apology to the guests still staring at me in stunned silence before I stood up and stalked from the room, following my second in commands almost silent footsteps.
To Be Continued
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