DISCLAIMER : The characters of Xena and Gabrielle and some others belong in their entirety to Universal/MCA, Renaissance Pictures, and all the other powers that be. No copyright infringement is intended. I wrote this story at the urging of my muse; it should never be used for profit.
This story is a sequel to the stories “Lord Conqueror of the Realm” and "Queen of the Realm." I strongly recommend you read them first because in this story there are references to events that took place in them. Here is where you can find them:
LOVE/SEX WARNING/DISCLAIMER : This story involves both love and sex (at times some rough/raw play with very mild BDSM elements – all consensual - nothing severe) between two adult women. If you're under 18 or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it.
SPECIAL THANKS : My humble most ardent gratitude to the excellent, most brilliant Beta readers Nancyjean and Alexandriaruth whom I can't thank enough.
Comments, thoughts, questions & feedback : MOST WELCOMED – The more you write me, the quicker I post – I mean it!
Go To Part 1
A moon after the wedding.
Disguised as commoners, Noblemen Drusus, Sirus and Likos, who could still taste the grand humiliation he and his sons had suffered at the hands of the Conqueror and Princess Athena, convened on the road leading to an obscure little village not far from the province of Rome .
"This sort of an opportunity comes once in a lifetime. We must seize it!" Nobleman Likos asserted and added another log to the small bonfire they had built.
Nobleman Drusus didn't feel that confident. He looked around in the dark and pricked up his ears to make sure no one else was there, lurking in the bleak wilderness, hiding behind a tree or laying low in the high grass at the side of the desolate, shabby road.
"This is madness!" he hissed. "Have you forgotten already what happened to other Noblemen who conspired against the Conqueror?!" He stopped and looked at his fellow Noblemen's faces for a response. "I, for one, do not wish to die such a horrible death and I do not wish for my family to suffer the Conqueror's special brand of calamity."
Nobleman Sirus, the governor of the province of Epirus , stopped picking his teeth. "I agree with Drusus. Bringing down the Conqueror is definitely a wonderful and satisfying notion, but there's a reason why the Conqueror had managed to conquer the world and rule it for so long."
Nobleman Likos waved his arm in dismissal. "My sources at Court tell me that the Queen no longer spreads her legs for the Conqueror."
"Neither does my wife. What is your point?" asked Nobleman Sirus.
Nobleman Likos scoffed, "The entire Royal family is divided over Princess Athena's marriage to the Nordic princess. The Queen sides with her Grace, against the Conqueror. I was even told that Princess Terreis surrogates the Queen to the Lord Conqueror. It's pathetic!" he sneered, "We have all forgotten a fundamental fact!" he declared.
"Which is?" asked Nobleman Drusus.
"The Lord Conqueror may have all the freedoms, the mannerisms, the appetites and the instruments of a man, but you all seem to have forgotten what the Lord Conqueror really is."
"A God?" Nobleman Sirus suggested.
"A woman, you fool!" Nobleman Likos growled. "She squats to piss!”
The Noblemen guffawed at Nobleman Likos' last remark.
“She is no longer the blood thirsty lion,” Nobleman Likos continued. “With the Queen living apart from her, love and lust have long left her… The Conqueror rules us all yet she cannot even control her own wife! She has never been weaker. Now is the time to strike!"
Nobleman Drusus nodded assent. "I shall send word to our friend and ally then," he muttered.
Nobleman Sirus scratched his baldness and asked, "I still do not understand why Drusus and I must go to the Conqueror and ask her to dismantle her legions and lower taxes. Wouldn't that make the Conqueror suspicious of us and draw unnecessary attention to us?"
"Years of dealing with the Conqueror and observing the Conqueror deal with others have taught me that the Conqueror is more alert when everything seems to be running smoothly. We shall raise the alarm so that she may sniff around and when she's satisfied that there's nothing to it… only then will we be safe and free to carry out our scheme," explained Nobleman Likos.
As the Queen sauntered along the banks of the lily pond, which she loved so much, listening to the brush of the soft breeze against the water, she recalled how the Conqueror had pounded against her chamber doors the previous night and the dark shade of blue in her glaring eyes. She remembered herself almost wishing that her Lord had lost her imperious control and had copulated with her hard right where she had stood on the threshold. Feeling her Lord inside her would have sated her and her awesome need to be one flesh with her Lord, and she wouldn't have had to lose face, doing so.
"Your Majesty." It was Princess Sieglinde's voice accompanied by the voices of her ladies in waiting, who also curtsied before her, that pulled the Queen out of her lugubrious musing.
"Your Grace," the Queen greeted her daughter-in-law as did her ladies in waiting.
"I hope I'm not intruding on your Majesty's stroll," Princess Sieglinde said.
"Not at all, your Grace. It is such a beautiful morning we're having. Would you care to join me?" the Queen asked.
"Very much so. Thank you, your Majesty," Princess Sieglinde answered and began walking with the Queen.
"Truth of the matter is, your Majesty, that I came here looking for you," Princess Sieglinde began to say. Through gossip within the palace, she, like everyone else, was well aware of the discord between the Queen and the Conqueror, rooted in her marriage to Princess Athena. It grieved her to be the cause of the division between the Sovereigns, for whom she cared most profoundly. Rationally, she knew it hadn't been her fault. Nevertheless, had it not been for her none of it would have happened. She deeply desired to see joy and happiness exist once more between the Sovereigns, and she rued the fact that she had never known them in better times, for when she had first set foot in Corinth the wedge between them had already existed.
"What can I do for you, your Grace?" inquired the Queen.
"My ladies in waiting and I wish to entertain your Majesty and the Lord Conqueror at supper tomorrow evening," Princess Sieglinde said and smiled. "Will your Majesty kindly grant us the privilege?"
The Queen mirrored her daughter-in-law's smile. "I would be delighted, your Grace."
"Thank you, your Majesty." Princess Sieglinde appeared pleased beyond measure.
"Tell me, what have you in store for us?"
"A modest taste of my homeland," Princess Sieglinde answered cryptically so as not to spoil the surprise. "I hope that the Lord Conqueror, Min Herre and her Grace Princess Terreis would join us."
The Queen was quite impressed with how improved Princess Sieglinde's Greek had become. "I'm certain none would refuse you, your Grace," the Queen spoke with an assuring tone of voice.
"Thank you, your Majesty," Princess Sieglinde said.
Closer to noon, accompanied by her ladies in waiting, Princess Sieglinde met with the Conqueror on the practice field as the latter was instructing young Princess Terreis in the art of combat.
"You r Majesty," they all curtsied before the Conqueror.
The Conqueror lowered the practicing sword she was gripping and Princess Terreis emulated her Sire.
"Your Grace , " The Conqueror greeted back and wiped the beads of sweat from above her brow against the sleeve of her shirt.
"My ladies in waiting and I will be honored if your gracious Majesty might agree to honor us with your presence at the Dining Hall tomorrow evening?"
The Conqueror was immensely pleased with Princess Sieglinde's refreshing initiative, and curiosity tickled the pit of her stomach.
Princess Sieglinde quickly added, "Her Majesty the Queen has already accepted."
The Conqueror kept her countenance solemn but the spark of glee in her eyes was unmistakable. "It would be my pleasure, your Grace," she finally replied.
"Thank you very much, your Majesty. The special Nordic recipe for mead is already brewing."
The Conqueror's mouth began to water. "I shall look forward to it," she said and slightly tipped her head to show her daughter–in-law her appreciation.
Princess Sieglinde felt her dress being tugged. She downcast her gaze and found Princess Terreis standing next to her looking upwards. "May I attend as well, your Grace?"
Princess Sieglinde knelt on one knee to level with Princess Terreis. "Of course you may, your Grace. I was just about to invite you. It wouldn't be the same without my little sister."
Princess Terreis clapped her hands with excitement. She was too young to comprehend it, but she was clever enough to know things hadn't been right and well in the palace. Her parents had barely been speaking to one another and her older sister hadn't been kind to her. She didn't know the name of the bad sensation that had been lurking inside her, but she had been feeling it all the same and it was starting to take its toll on her.
Princess Terreis wrapped her small arms around Princess Sieglinde's neck, and Princess Sieglinde embraced her in return.
Just before dusk, as Princess Athena left her chambers on her way to dine and spend the night at Cynna's villa, Princess Sieglinde intercepted her in the corridor, knowing Princess Athena's destination all too well.
"Min Herre," she spoke softly, and inwardly she sensed an ugsome feeling flooding her. She realized she feared that Princess Athena would reject her invitation.
"I have invited our family for a Nordic supper and entertainment in the Dining Hall tomorrow evening. I beseech you, Min Herre, to grant your humble servant this tremendous honor and attend the gathering," Sieglinde said with a quivering small voice and without meeting Princess Athena's eyes in reverence.
Princess Athena considered it and shortly after nodded her consent, saying only, "I will attend." She found it impossible to refuse such tender supplication and quickly realized she had absolutely no desire to refuse it, either.
"Thank you, Min Herre, for your generosity," Princess Sieglinde said, kneeling before Princess Athena and briefly touching her lips to Athena's seal ring.
Princess Athena turned and left to meet with Cynna.
While soaking in a warm Roman bath in Cynna's villa after a long night of passion, Princess Athena, who was cradling Cynna in her arms, placed a finger under Cynna's chin and gently lifted it up, making Cynna look at her.
"I shan't be spending tomorrow's evening and night with you," she informed her.
"Why ever not?!" Cynna asked confrontationally.
"I have other engagements," replied Princess Athena, deliberately avoiding telling the specifics to Cynna.
"Will you be spending tomorrow night in another woman's bed?" Cynna demanded to know.
Princess Athena didn't reply, and ire began to seethe.
Cynna lurched upwards, creating splashes in the bathwater. "I knew you couldn't be trusted… I knew of your reputation before I gave myself to you,” she reproached indignantly and threw her towel at Athena.
“Careful,” Athena warned her, “That's enough!” The verbal line that Princess Athena drew was registered and it was clear that it shouldn't be crossed.
Cynna simmered down.
“I shall remain in the palace tomorrow. I was invited to take supper with the Conqueror and her Majesty.”
“You mean to attend with her, aren't you?”
In order to keep the peace between them, Athena thought it best not to mention that it was her wife who was hosting the evening.
Athena's silence confirmed Cynna's suspicions.
“Well, why can't I join you?”
Athena rolled up her eyes in frustration. “Do you not think it just a bit inappropriate?”
“I'm the one you love,” Cynna argued.
“Which is why I wouldn't want to see my Sire slit your throat over the dining table!”
Cynna frowned and allowed the fact that she was offended to be known.
“You must understand, Cynna…” Athena explained softly and patiently and took a deep breath to muster calmness. “It is imperative that my mother see the Norsewoman and me in some semblance of normality, and then perhaps she would be willing to forgo denying the Conqueror her intimacies… Her Majesty the Queen may wear a strong front but she needs the Conqueror like air to breathe and I know she has been dying a little inside each and every day since the wedding. I have seen her wither before and I don't ever wish to see it again.”
“Will you sleep in the Nordic mouse's bed again?!” was all Cynna had to say and it didn't go unnoticed by Athena.
Hearing Cynna refereeing to her wife as ‘the Nordic mouse' irritated and bothered Athena to a point where she wished she had never uttered those words to her mistress in previous conversations. It annoyed her especially since it was Sieglinde's funds that paid for Cynna's new chariot, horses, groom and stable, and although Cynna didn't know it, she owed a debt of gratitude to Sieglinde rather than ridicule.
“I will not,” Athena said but already seeds of doubt were sprouting roots in her that she might not keep her word.
The sun sank into the Aegean Sea and the moon hung low over the water. Inside the Corinthian palace the torches were lit in the corridors, as were the oil lanterns, the candles and the hearth in the vast Dining Hall. The Conqueror and the Queen, sitting at the head of the long chestnut table, were dressed in their regal attires. Princess Terreis sat to her mother's right side and Athena sat to the Conqueror's left on the other side of the table.
A meticulous hand had set the table before them, that much was clear. Plates, goblets, knives, urns and other dishes, which Princess Sieglinde had had brought to her from her homeland, with illustrations of Nordic myths such as Valkyries and Sol, the Sun and Mani, the moon being chased by the wolves Skoll and Hati, the Gods Odin and Thor, and the cosmological tree Yggdrasil ornamenting them, stood in perfect array atop the table's smooth surface.
The doors to the Dining Hall were opened and in came Princess Sieglinde accompanied by her ladies in waiting not three feet behind her. All of them, including Sieglinde's Greek ladies in waiting, were dressed in the Nordic traditional attire with exquisite gilded caps covering their hairs.
Princess Sieglinde looked especially radiant in the jewelry she had received as a wedding gift.
“Majesties,” Princess Sieglinde curtsied before the Conqueror and the Queen first, and her ladies in waiting behind her followed her lead.
“Min Herre,” Princess Sieglinde curtsied before Princess Athena. “Your Grace,” mumbled her servants.
Finally, Princess Sieglinde curtsied in honor of young Princess Terreis. “Your Grace,” she greeted, as did her ladies in waiting.
“Your Grace,” the Conqueror tipped her head, returning the honor to Princess Sieglinde.
“Majesties,” announced Princess Sieglinde, “This evening I should very much like to introduce to you some of the tastes, sounds, and culture of my homeland, if it pleases you.”
“Of course,” the Conqueror welcomed the intriguing offering with a kind smile. She had always been fascinated by the various cultures under her reign.
“Thank you, your Majesty,” said the Nordic Princess with a decent amount of pleasure and pride, and signaled her loyal ladies in waiting.
Her servants went to the palace's kitchen then one by one, and all six of them returned one by one carrying the best of the Nordic Land 's delicacies. As they placed the various rich foods on the table before the Royals, Princess Sieglinde explained all there was to know about each and every dish. She told the Royal that she had instructed the Imperial cook on how to make the Nordic delicious delights.
The Conqueror and the Queen marveled at the Rullepolser, which was made of lamb, and the Lapskaus, which was a stew, and the various fish dishes. They both praised Princess Sieglinde till a blush colored the latter's pale cheeks.
Next her ladies in waiting, along with two of the Conqueror's grooms, pushed a large barrel filled to the brim with warm mead into the Dining Hall.
Princess Sieglinde went to stand to the Conqueror's left. “As promised, your Majesty,” she announced, taking the Conqueror's goblet and dipping it into the thick warm honey wine. When full, she carefully took it out of the barrel and wiped the dripping goblet with a white serviette. She handed the Conqueror the goblet and anxiously waited for the Conqueror to taste the mead she had brewed herself and to pass her judgment.
The Conqueror swigged in a mouthful of the mead and rolled it over her tongue, tasting the smooth honey, the body of it and the perfectly balanced amount of spices, along with the soothing warm spirit in it. “Honestly,” the Conqueror said and watched Princess Sieglinde's nervous features, as she lingered just so to tease her. The Queen knew that her Lord bothered to tease only those she found agreeable. Eventually, the Conqueror went on to say, “This is the best mead I have ever tasted, your Grace.”
Princess Sieglinde sighed in relief and in pleasure. She then addressed the Queen. “With your permission and pardon, your Majesty, I wish to serve Min Herre next,” she requested.
“By all means, do,” the Queen granted her permission as she carefully observed her firstborn.
“Majesty,” Princess Terreis demanded her mother's attention, “What does ‘Min Herre' mean?”
“It means ‘Your Grace' in the Nordic language,” Princess Athena replied.
Princess Athena was wrong, but her wife did not correct her. She had decided when first she had addressed Athena by that moniker not to reveal its meaning until such time that Athena would inquire as to its meaning of her own volition. Besides, she would not contradict Princess Athena in public.
As the Royals consumed the superb, somewhat sweet mead and became ever so slightly inebriated by it, Princess Sieglinde's Nordic ladies in waiting took Nordic musical instruments, such as a drum and a lyre, and began to play and sing Nordic melodies. Princess Sieglinde joined them in song, as did her Greek ladies in waiting whom Sieglinde had taught the Nordic songs when first she had conceived of the gathering.
The air itself was joyous and saturated with mirth, laughter and ethereal Nordic music, which sounded so pure and heavenly. Princess Athena was quite taken with her wife's excellent, clear, divine voice, as she listened to her singing, engrossed and riveted.
As they sang, Princess Sieglinde and her Greek ladies in waiting who weren't playing the instruments approached the table, and urged the four sitting Royals to join them in dancing.
Princess Sieglinde demonstrated to them the steps of the Nordic traditional dance with unblemished grace, and before long they were all dancing together, embraced by the foreign yet fine music.
Princess Sieglinde took Princess Athena by the hand and danced with her.
The Queen watched them dancing together. She then averted her gaze to her Lord with a mute plea in her eyes.
The Conqueror took the Queen's hand in hers and danced with her. It was the first physical contact they had shared in a long time, and it was welcomed with the same passion a starved man would receive a loaf of freshly baked bread.
It seemed as if for at least one evening the palace broke free of a bleak curse that had been plaguing it, destroying it from the foundations to the rafters along with everyone inhabiting it, and for that evening they had all the seeming of a family, once more. Princess Sieglinde, in her wisdom and kindness, provided much needed relief from the strain laying heavily on the Royal Family.
Even Princess Terreis could feel it, the lightness. The carefreeness of her world was restored for that one evening. She couldn't stop smiling and clapping her hands when she watched her beloved parents dancing together. Inwardly, Princess Athena felt profound gratitude to her wife as she saw the Conqueror and the Queen engaging in an act of intimacy.
When the music subsided, Princess Sieglinde dismissed her ladies in waiting for the night, with her thanks and praises. She then joined the Royals at the table and sat next to Princess Athena.
Princess Terreis raised a good amount of protest when her governess came to take her to bed, for she did not want the evening to end. She wasn't alone in her wish. The Queen didn't wish for the night to end, either. This was the closest she had been to her Lord in moons.
As they were all sitting at the table, the Conqueror addressed Princess Sieglinde. "You have many talents, your Grace," she said.
"Thank you, your Majesty," Princess Sieglinde replied.
"It makes me wonder what other hidden talents you possess," the Conqueror wondered aloud.
"I fish, your Majesty," said Princess Sieglinde, "And I enjoy it."
The Queen's smile widened on her lips. "My Lord is an avid fisherman and can discuss the many methods and techniques from dawn till dusk."
Princess Sieglinde chuckled, and a smile graced Princess Athena, too.
The Queen told Princess Sieglinde about the first time that her Lord had taken her fishing and the story about the wolves and how her Lord had overpowered them. The Queen also told Sieglinde how she had cooked the fish they had caught that day and that it had been on that day that she and her Lord had decided to conceive a child. When she spoke she laid an adoring gaze upon her Lord.
Princess Athena knew it was one of her mother's favorite stories and that it had always seemed to give her pleasure telling it, and although she experienced some embarrassment that now her wife heard it as well, she maintained good humor about it.
Princess Sieglinde told them about how in her homeland they fish through a hole they make in the ice and the type of fish indigenous to the Nordic Lands.
When it was past midnight, the Conqueror and the Queen thanked Princess Sieglinde for the wonderful evening and complimented her on the brilliant execution.
The Conqueror and the Queen left the Dining Hall together. They moseyed through the corridor leading to their chambers because each of them felt that the further they got from the Dining Hall, the quicker the small miracle that had taken place there was fading away.
"Princess Sieglinde is an extraordinary lass," the Conqueror was the first to break the silence.
"Indeed, my Lord," the Queen replied as too soon they reached the entrance to the Queen's chambers.
The Conqueror opened the doors before the Queen, who wondered whether her Lord would follow her inside or not. She heard the doors closing behind her and two strong arms running around her waist and engulfing her body. The Conqueror's body, its chiseled muscles, pressed against her back. Absolute thrill jolted her body when she felt the Conqueror's hardness slide against her buttocks, so present, and so cocksure it was regnant.
Singeing breath that smelled like honey ensnared her. "I do not wish to part with you tonight." Long gentle fingers brushed the golden hair away from her neck, clearing the path for a soft pair of lips, mouthing against the Queen's delicate skin. “On this night neither one of us should be alone.”
The tempting voice was weakening and seemed too irresistible, too convincing, so that the Queen thought that if it commanded her to fling herself into the sea, she would have done so.
And it continued to relentlessly mollify and to mold her own wants and thoughts. Her hand lifted itself up to delve into a lampblack mane, and her head tilted itself backwards to rest against a comforting, buttress-like shoulder. Her neck stretched itself to enable better passage for the warm tongue that caressed it. The Queen's breasts swelled themselves to inveigle a Warrior Lord's hands to ply the flesh. The Queen's limbs moved unimpeded.
The raucous voice kept on inciting her to succumb. “Come to bed, Gabrielle,” it solicited, “I need you,” it whispered.
“Do you, though?” the Queen asked in a moment of sobriety, “Do you really need me, my Lord?”
“Of course I need you. What do you mean?” the Conqueror asked.
“You leave your chambers late every other night.” The Queen stepped away from the warm strong body she pined for and turned around to face her Lord.
“Keeping watch of my comings and goings, are you?” The Conqueror frowned and her eyebrows quickly furrowed.
“My ladies in waiting tell me that they've been seeing your grooms carrying buckets of water for your bath to be ready for when you return in the middle of the night.”
The Conqueror understood the Queen's insinuation, and she realized how her nightly activities might be construed, but she would not grant her wife relief. She folded her arms over her chest and square-shouldered she remained still.
“I want you to dismiss that runty, licentious doxy from your service!” the Queen firmly demanded and folded her arms over her breasts, as well.
It was the first time the Conqueror had ever heard about the Queen's reservations regarding her personal attendant. No one had dared, of course, to scrutinize her about any perceived improprieties regarding other women in general or Thetis in particular. The Conqueror's viciousness and cruelty surfaced in her like two fierce warriors obediently reporting to their commander's call.
“You forgot – redheaded!” she tormented the Queen.
“That would be the one.” The Queen refused to be browbeaten. “I want her dismissed!”
“Is that so?! Why?”
Not a shred of the intimacy they had shared earlier that evening remained.
“She performs my duties as wife to you,” the Queen asserted with grave rancor.
The Conqueror scoffed and snidely retorted, “I can assure you not all of them, Madame.”
That answer the Queen hadn't anticipated. Her Lord might have kept certain things from her during their years together, but she had never lied to her, not ever, not once. If the Conqueror hadn't been sating her needs with Thetis, it must be with some other young female servant in the household staff or some wench that had been brought from the nearest brothel, the Queen deduced. Yet, Thetis was considered still her greatest threat.
“What you are doing with her is far worse, Majesty. Sometimes I wish you did have her, then you could wear yourself on her flesh and finally grow tired of her and that would be the end of it. As such, I want her out of our house.”
“I decide whether she stays or not,” the Conqueror stated.
“Then I do not want her anywhere near my daughter!” Desperate defiance was written through and through on the Queen.
The Conqueror scowled at her wife, letting her know she had taken one step too far.
The Queen did not misjudge her Lord's unmistakably drawn out limit. Her face softened and the hurt that had been her lot, be it justified or not, was beginning to drown her. She needed to appease her Lord for both their sakes, and she knew she could not win a war against the Master of War.
“I cannot bare your silence, my Lord. You once made me a promise that you should always speak freely what is in your heart with me,” the Queen reminded.
The Conqueror recalled the conversation they had had after their reconciliation at the Amazons Lands. “Your memory is selective for I only promised you that I would try. However, you, Madame vowed before the High Priest to be my wife in bed and in board.”
The Conqueror was not going to either soften or relent, the Queen realized. “You consult with her. You confide in her,” she sighed deeply and relinquished any tatter of anger and indignation and spoke the truth in her heart. “You talk with her. You do not talk with me.”
The Conqueror listened to her wife's words. The battle had not yet been won. “I cannot talk with you for you no longer share my bed.”
And like that, anger returned to rule the Queen. “Evidently, that does not stop you from talking with her .”
The Conqueror glowered at her wife and enraged, she delivered her final argument, “She is not my wife!”
The Conqueror had enough. She stormed out of the Queen's antechamber, shutting the doors behind her, leaving the Queen to ponder on her circular logic.
Meanwhile Princess Athena escorted her wife to her chamber.
“I am very pleased, Sieglinde,” Athena said when they reached Princess Sieglinde's chambers.
Sieglinde couldn't curb a chuckle.
“Are you mocking me?!”
“Never, Min Herre,” Sieglinde answered. “I am simply happy, for this is the first time I have ever heard you speak my name, and it is beautiful.”
“Will you not enter my chambers, Min Herre?”
Athena nodded assent and they both entered Sieglinde's chambers with excitement wired in them.
“I envy you, Min Herre,” Sieglinde said as they sat together by the burning fire.
“In my homeland, daughters are brought up very differently than sons. They speak to you like you have goose feathers in your head. I was taught to read and write, to knit, to sing, play music, to dance… As if all I was capable was securing a proper husband.”
“So do all of the noble ladies throughout the Realm.”
“Not you, Min Herre and neither does her Grace Princess Terreis.”
Athena began to laugh. “Indeed, we are the exceptions.”
“If I was lost in the woods I wouldn't be able to find my way out. I wouldn't survive the night. If I was attacked by wolves as the Lord Conqueror was… What could I have done against them? Knit for them?”
Athena burst into laughter, which infected her wife so it seemed.
“ You would never be lost and even if you were, you would survive it. You are so very lucky to be equipped with the tools that the Lord Conqueror has provided you with.”
“Well, you were taught to fish,” Athena pointed out.
“I was not, Min Herre,” Sieglinde said and gazed pensively at the flames dancing in the hearth.
“My father used to take my brother fishing when we were children, before my brother was sent away to the Military Academy. I wanted to go with them but my father forbade me, claiming it was not appropriate for a Princess. So one night, I sneaked out of our palace and went to the lake. It was so dark and so cold. With nothing but half a moon to illuminate my path, I somehow managed to find my way. To this day I don't know where I found the courage to do so. When I reached the lake, I sat too close to the hole in the ice and as I rolled the fishing rod down the shaft, I heard a cracking sound and not before long the ice broke from beneath me and I fell into the icy water. I remember thinking that I ought to be frightened out of my wits but I wasn't. The darkness calmed me and engulfed me with its bleak arms.”
As Siegline told her story, Athena listened fascinated.
“I felt life leaving me. Suddenly, I was pulled out. I do not know who or what took pity on my life, but I was saved from certain death. When I returned wet from head to toe, nearly frozen and shaking, a servant took me to see my father.”
“He must have been happy to see you,” Athena commented.
Sieglinde scoffed and shook her head. “He took one look at me and realized what I had done and that I had disobeyed him. He took off his belt and hit the soles of my feet with it. I couldn't walk for five days. But as soon as I recovered I went back to the lake again.”
“You are quite the rabble,” Athena teased in good humor.
“I can be,” Sieglinde laughed and looked intently into Athena's eyes.
Athena thought Sieglinde's laughter was enchanting.
When her laughter subsided, Sieglinde went on to say, “Within the limits. One must always recognize one's limits.”
“I was brought up to believe I was not bound by any limits. I am the Lord Conqueror's Heir, but therein lies the paradox.”
Sieglinde downcast her gaze. She understood Athena's meaning.
“I will be a sister… or a wife to you, with accordance to your will, Min Herre. Either way, I will be loyal to you before all others.”
Athena couldn't remain indifferent to her wife's words. In fact, she was profoundly overwhelmed by them. She rose to stand on her feet.
Sieglinde harbored a wish that Athena wouldn't leave her that night, and as if the Fates granted her wish, Athena offered Sieglinde her hand and helped her to her feet. She led Sieglinde to bed.
They did not disrobe but rather lay in bed together next to one another fully clothed till they both fell asleep.
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