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
On the evening after the gathering in the palace's Dining Hall, Princess Athena paid a visit to her mistress. When she neared the villa, she could hear loud and merry voices coupled with music emanating from it. It appeared that Cynna was hosting a gathering of her own. Princess Athena didn't take kindly to it. A servant announced her presence as Princess Athena strode into the main chamber where the banquet was taking place, looking around at the strangers that had been feasting at her expense.
All in attendance bowed and curtsied before her as she was striding towards the hostess. Cynna seemed in a good mood. Her cheeks were blushed by the wine she had been consuming, while being surrounded by her guests, who were also engaging in a vigorous libation.
When Princess Athena reached her mistress, she leaned in close to her and whispered in her ear "I will speak to you in private," so as not to cause a scandal.
Cynna rose from her settee and accompanied Princess Athena to a nearby private chamber, all the while feeling the Heir's hold on her tight against her elbow.
When alone in the chamber shut away from the clamors, Princess Athena shot a questioning look at her mistress. "What is the meaning of this?" she demanded to know.
Cynna feigned an innocent look with little success and simply answered, "I was lonely last night and I thought…"
"It is unacceptable, do you hear me?" Princess Athena admonished her, "You ought to ask for my permission before you bring guests, strangers into this house!"
Cynna would not be made to feel like a bereft child. "You danced with her and you spent the night in her chambers," she accused the Heir, not referring to Princess Sieglinde by name or even an honorific.
"How do you know?!"
"One of the Conqueror's grooms sleeps with my chambermaid. You were seen slinking into her chambers."
Princess Athena could barely believe Cynna's audacious behavior. "You have overreached yourself and have become too highhanded. I owe you no explanations, Lady Cynna. You ought to be grateful and content with what you have and leave well enough alone!" Princess Athena raised her voice in anger.
Cynna realized she had pushed the Heir too far, and so for the sake of peace between them she opted not to further aggravate Princess Athena.
"You will dismiss your chambermaid at once and you will refrain from ever inquiring after my affairs, is that understood?"
"Yes, your Grace," said Cynna in less than a docile manner, feeling the scathe of her pride.
Princess Athena left Cynna's villa that night and returned back to the palace.
On her way to her chambers, distraught, she chanced upon the Queen, who was making her way back from the Imperial library to her own chambers.
"Majesty," Athena bowed before her mother.
"Your Grace," the Queen replied as she observed her daughter's stiffness and impatient strides. "You seem vexed," the Queen pointed out as she walked side by side with Athena. "Join me in my chambers and tell me all about it."
Princess Athena was in no frame of mind for conversing about anything that night, least of all about Cynna, who had exhibited complete disrespect towards her, but Princess Athena honored her mother's request as she had always done.
In the Queen's antechamber they sat together, when the Queen rested a gentle palm on Athena's knee, encouraging her to speak what was on her mind.
"Cynna forgets her place and takes liberties," the reluctant Princess stated.
"Though she no longer looks it, she is an Amazon and they are strong-minded, unruly and willful," the Queen answered spryly and snickered.
Athena dropped her shoulders and breathed out slowly in resignation. "Yes. I know, mother," she said, and after a while she added, "I wager the Conqueror rues the day any of us ever set foot on Amazon Lands."
The Queen let out a bitter chuckle.
"How is she being willful?" the Queen inquired.
Athena contemplated her mother's question. She wasn't sure just how much she wanted her mother to know about her relationship with Cynna, for before her mind's eye stood her mother's great sacrifice.
"She is quite demanding and confrontational when she does not get her way. Have you any advice for me?"
"You should talk to her about it, but you must be firm and make it clear to her absolutely that she owes you respect and obedience as I owe my Lord, for you are my Lord's Heir."
"She is not my wife," argued Athena.
"It does not matter. Hers is still a position of great power. She is your mistress and one day she will be the mistress of the Ruler of the world," the Queen said. "Do you not see how powerful and influential she'll be?"
After a few moments passed between them in silence, the Queen asked, "Do you still bear love in your heart for Cynna?"
"Of course I do," Athena replied.
"And does she love you?"
"Yes, she does."
Athena wore a pensive look about her.
"What else is troubling you?" the Queen gently inquired.
"Nothing," Athena was quick to deny but after a few short moments she felt an urge to admit, "I no longer bear any ill-feelings or resentment towards Sieglinde."
The Queen did not expect her eldest' confession, but kept silent so to allow Athena to divulge more.
"She is no dunce as I first thought her to be," Athena went on to say and the more she thought about it the more she wanted to reveal. "And she is generous and kindhearted." Suddenly , memories of the night of their consummation sprang to her mind. Knowing that her parents hadn't been speaking to each other, Athena suspected that her mother had no idea as to what the Conqueror had demanded of her to do. So as not to upset her mother, she elected not to speak about it, thinking things had been awful enough between her parents as it was. "I did enjoy the gathering that she prepared for us."
"As did I," the Queen agreed.
"She is decent despite the fact that I haven't given her any reason to be."
It was as close as Athena was willing to admit to two things: the first being that despite her mother's request she had been cruel to Sieglinde, and the second being that the Conqueror hadn't been entirely wrong in her choice.
Of course the Queen knew that Princess Sieglinde was indeed generous, pleasant, wise and kindhearted, for she had occasion to pass time with her learning to knit and taking long strolls in the Imperial Gardens. The Nordic Princess greeted all around her with a warm smile and shining eyes. She never complained, never demanded a thing, and never had an unkind word to speak about anyone. What was a novelty to the Queen was the fact that her firstborn was finally aware of Sieglinde's qualities and virtues.
"And she adores your sister," the Queen smiled.
"Doesn't everyone?" Athena emitted.
The Queen could not ignore her eldest daughter's ill-tempered response. "She asks after you, you know… Terreis. You haven't been visiting with her for quite some time… Ever since that day on the practice field."
"Well, the Conqueror has made it pretty clear that I am not to come anywhere near Terreis."
"You know perfectly well what my Lord meant by that. I shall tell you what my Lord did not mean… My Lord never meant for you to pay no attention to your sister…"
"Your Lord…" sighed Athena impertinently and one could not miss the derision in which her words were uttered.
She had half a mind to tell her mother that her Lord was paying her little personal attendant far too much attention these days to notice anything else, but she reconsidered so to spare her mother pain and grief.
"Mind your tongue, Athena," the Queen rebuked her, "I will not hear you speaking in a disrespectful manner about our Sovereign Lord."
Athena became vexed. "After all the Conqueror has done to us… still you won't challenge or criticize the Conqueror's actions . "
"It is not your place to pass judgment on what transpires between my Lord and me," the Queen asserted. "Besides, my Lord committed no offense against me."
In her turbulent state, Athena scoffed in dismissal and disbelief before she had managed to stop it and there was no taking it back.
The Queen noticed it and understood that Athena's scoff wasn't without merit or a reason. Hence, she deduced that Athena must have entertained the notion that the Conqueror had been seeking satisfaction in others' bed, as well.
"How dare you?!" the Queen scolded her, hurt, for Athena's scoff confirmed to her what she had already known.
"For once I wish you could see that the Conqueror is not superior to me," Athena replied. But, what she really meant to claim was that the Conqueror wasn't better than her in a sense that she was bedding other women besides her wife, just like her.
The Queen took Athena's words to mean just that.
"You are wrong. It was I who broke my vows to my Lord," the Queen muttered.
Realizing that there was no point in trying to dissuade her mother, Athena conceded. "Very well… I will speak my mind about matters that do concern me. Do you know why I steer clear of "the Conqueror's little princess '?" she spewed the venom which had been welling and festering inside her for quite a while. "Because I hate it that the Conqueror loves her little princess and not me!"
"Athena!" the Queen exclaimed in anguish, completely shocked at Athena's raging words. "Your Sire loves you both equally!"
Athena was too angry at that point to mind her mother's fragile feelings. "How would you know? You haven't exactly been speaking to the Conqueror lately, have you?" The frustration about being forced into an arranged marriage, about her parents' estrangement as a result, and about the Conqueror's treatment of her juxtaposing to her treatment of Terreis, had been eating away at her. It rallied to the surface and there was no stopping it. "Do not throw empty platitudes at me."
"It is the truth," the Queen claimed with complete conviction.
"Is it?!" Athena was too angry to keep sitting. "Do you love the Conqueror so much that you are blinded to the fact that the Conqueror is treating Terreis and me differently?"
"Stop it!" the Queen begged.
"I will not stop. You wanted to know, so I will be painfully truthful with you."
"My Lord treats you differently because you are her Heir and because you and your sister are inherently different, but my Lord loves you both the same with all her heart."
"Is that so?! Then tell me this, mother… Why is it that the Conqueror has never said to me that she loved me? Not once!"
Princess Athena didn't wait for her mother's attempts to defend the Conqueror and vacated the Queen's chamber.
The next day not long after the aurorean star washed the world with bright warm light, Cynna left her villa and made her way to the largest market in the center of Corinth to choose new drapes. As the Fates would have it, at the same time Princess Sieglinde, accompanied by her ladies in waiting and three Imperial guards were leisurely roaming through the market, as well.
"Make way!" one of the guards, who was walking ahead of them, exclaimed . "Make way for her Grace, Princess Sieglinde!" he yelled, clearing a path through the vendors and the crowd, who were trying to gather around them with some pushing and shoving so to descry the Royal.
However, Princess Sieglinde did not try to avoid the masses surrounding her and bowing before her, but the contrary. She waved at them and received their displays of respect with a warm, albeit embarrassed smile, and their adoration towards her uplifted her heart and her spirit.
As Princess Sieglinde advanced through the many stalls, from the opposite direction came Cynna with one of her servants, who was holding a basket filled with fruit in her hand.
With all the people around them overcrowding the thoroughfare, the eyes of the two young women met only when they stood not four feet away from one another.
Abruptly and at once, all movement ceased in the crowd. Awkward silence, extremely uncharacteristic of a marketplace, descended over all those present in the market that morning. It was obvious to the royal entourage that all in Corinth knew who and what Cynna was. Every man, woman and child waited in anticipation to see what would happen next.
Cynna stood erect in front of the Nordic Princess with her shoulders pushed back and stared her right in the eye.
"Bow before her Grace," said one of Princess Sieglinde's Greek ladies in waiting, who simply couldn't tolerate such a show of bald-faced disrespect.
Princess Sieglinde, being brought up as a royal, did nothing to discourage her servant, knowing she must not pardon any display of shameless audacity towards her.
Cynna's eyes opened wider, wordlessly browbeating the servant as if saying ' don't you know who I am? ' But as soon as she saw the Imperial guard tighten his grip around his spear, she finally made a gesture, which appeared more like a sorry excuse for a curtsy.
Seeing that Cynna at least lowered her head and gaze, Princess Sieglinde thought it to be enough.
A young boy, seizing the opportunity when all eyes were engrossed by the meeting of the Nordic Royal and the mistress and were not paying attention to anything else, snatched an apple from Cynna's servant's basket and started to flee.
But he failed in outrunning Cynna, who sent a quick hand and grabbed the boy by his dirty, worn shirt, which seemed too small for his size. "Give it back, you filthy thief!" she shouted at him.
The impoverished boy, who did not expect to get caught stealing, looked absolutely horrified, as he desperately tried to release himself from Cynna's grip while the people around him were all staring at him and shaking their heads.
"Come here, child," Princess Sieglinde called to him and beckoned him to approach her.
Cynna let go of the boy, who took one look at Princess Sieglinde and how she was dressed, and the Imperial guards and the staunch servants around her, and suddenly realized who she was. He straightened his shabby shirt and bowed before her, feeling more ashamed to have been caught red-handed and in her esteemed presence, no less.
The Nordic Princess leaned down and took the apple from his hand. "Where are your parents?" she asked him with a soft, almost maternal tone of voice.
"Dead, your Grace," the boy answered.
"I'm sorry for you," she said and fondly stroked his hair. "Mine are dead, too. I wish to thank you for giving me this beautiful apple , " she said so that he wouldn't feel embarrassed about his misdeed. "However, next time you must first ask for permission before you take something."
"Yes, your Grace," he nodded his head, inwardly understanding the gentle grace she had bestowed upon him.
She placed the apple back in his palm, and when he closed his fingers around it he felt something cold, rounded and metallic against them. As Princess Sieglinde winked at him knowingly, a wink so brief he was the only one who noticed, he snuck a peek into his hand and caught a glimpse of a gold coin in it. He quickly realized what she had done. She gave him charity in secret so that he would not feel humiliated in public. He was too young to understand that she had done another thing in this one act of benevolence. By giving him charity in secret, she had concealed her own kindness and had given up the reward of earning the crowd's praises for it for herself.
"Now return the apple back to its owner and apologize," she told him. "There is no shame in admitting your mistake, child."
Stealthily, the boy pocketed the coin, turned around to face Cynna and handed her back the stolen apple. "I'm sorry," he said to Cynna.
"Run along now, child," Princess Sieglinde said and leaned back to her full stature.
"Thank you, your Grace," the boy bowed again, then disappeared into a nearby alley.
An expression of repulsion crossed Cynna's face as she rubbed the apple clean against her dress, as if it had been touched by a leper. "I don't understand why the Conqueror doesn't just get rid of these vile brats."
Knowing who she was, no one in the audience talked back to her, but the first seed of dislike was sown that day in the Corinthian market.
"I wish the honorable Lord Conqueror and her Majesty the Queen long lives," Princess Sieglinde began to say, "But one day when I'm Queen, I shall have an orphanage in each province in this great Realm and they will bother you no more."
The message Princess Sieglinde conveyed was clear and was clearly received by Cynna, who nearly fainted with gall as she heard Princess Sieglinde referring to the time when she would be made Queen of the Realm.
"At least my bed is warm," Cynna wouldn't, couldn't contain and muzzle the noxious retort or negate the need to shame Princess Sieglinde.
A few gasps could be heard from the crowd surrounding them. All eyes were averted back to Princess Sieglinde in anticipation for her response. Some thought she would deliver a sound slap to Cynna's insolent face, others thought she would order the Imperial guards to arrest her; the rest thought she would render a retort equally noxious.
None expected what happened next.
Princess Sieglinde looked right into Cynna's eyes, and did nothing but smile an artless, peaceful smile. She was a king's daughter. She would not take part in a vulgar, undignified brawl like a dealer market.
That smile, that calmness unnerved Cynna, to the point where she began to believe that Princess Sieglinde had something over her, something of which she was not yet aware. In her distress, Cynna lowered her eyes.
Princess Sieglinde signaled her ladies in waiting and they all passed Cynna by and went ahead with exploring the market.
"May the Gods bless you and keep you, your Grace," a few spontaneous cries erupted from the crowd as the Nordic Princess was walking amongst them.
By noon, the events of what had happened in the market reached Princess Athena and by dusk it reached the Conqueror and the Queen.
The Conqueror decided not to intervene, for she was in the opinion that berating Athena would only cause her to defend Cynna. She was confident that Cynna would expose her true colors soon enough, and besides, Princess Sieglinde more than held her own and conducted herself with dignity and stateliness.
As for the Queen, her suspicions that she might have misjudged Cynna only grew.
That evening, when Princess Athena came to the villa, Cynna greeted her at the door with smiles and kisses as if nothing had happened.
"Athena," Cynna whispered and looked into the Heir's eyes.
But the Heir was too angry to reciprocate the affection displayed.
"At least your bed is warm?!... Is that what you told my wife for all of Corinth to hear?" she demanded to know before she even took off her cloak.
"You've heard about that…" Cynna commented and already set her mind to work on an excuse. "Well, can you imagine how it made me feel having to bow before h--"
But the Heir wouldn't let her mistress complete her sentence. "I believe you are victim to an erroneous misconception which I shall presently rectify. You are not my equal, Lady Cynna, nor are you my wife's equal. You are our subject."
"Well, she provoked me first…" Cynna tried to argue.
"I abhor any disrespect towards my wife. A slight against my wife is perceived as a slight against me, do you not understand?!" Princess Athena paused to rein in her temper. Her jaw was tightly clenched when she delivered her next words to her mistress, "Do not expect me to believe that her Grace, Princess Sieglinde provoked you. I know her well enough to know that that is simply not true, and even if she had, you would show her nothing but respect as her station demands."
The Princess didn't spend that night with Cynna either. She rode back to the palace, galloping like a savage through the wall gates and enjoying the cool night sea breeze blowing in her long smooth gilded hair, which she had inherited from her mother. A lady in waiting announced her presence in Princess Sieglinde's antechamber.
"Min Herre," Princess Sieglinde curtsied in her nightgown. "What an unexpected pleasure," her face lit up with genuine joy.
"Am I welcome to stay or do you wish to retire?" Princess Athena asked almost tentatively.
Princess Sieglinde smiled. "Min Herre is always welcome here," she answered then addressed her ladies in waiting, "Good night, ladies."
Her servants curtsied and left the Royals alone.
Princess Athena looked around and saw a checkers board with all its pieces in perfect array set for a game atop a small rounded table not far from the hearth.
"Do you play?" Athena asked.
"A Greek lady in waiting of mine is an avid player and was kind enough to teach me," Sieglinde replied.
"Are you any good?" Athena inquired with a taunting smirk.
"Min Herre is welcome to find out," Sieglinde answered playfully and gestured an invitation to the table.
They played a few games together, laughing and chattering about nugacities. Princess Athena lost as many games as she won. She found a match in her wife.
"The air about you is very deceiving, Sieglinde," Athena remarked in good humor and leaned back against the back of her chair, beholding her wife intently.
"Then I beg your forgiveness, Min Herre, for it was not my intention to deceive you," Sieglinde replied with joyous eyes.
Princess Athena could not understand why, but suddenly sadness descended on her and she averted her eyes from her wife to the flames and gazed at them pensively. Thoughts about the conversation she had had with her mother, the events in the market and Cynna surfaced and she failed to stifle them. She had to be impressed with Princess Sieglinde for not raising even a drop of protest about the altercation she had had with Cynna, despite the fact that it would have been just had she done so.
Princess Sieglinde sensed the change in the Heir's mood. She got off her seat and went to kneel at Princess Athena's feet, placing a tender, hesitant hand against her knee. "Min Herre's wisdom is far greater than mine and I do not presume myself worthy of giving you advice, but perhaps Min Herre might find relief just by sharing the burden with me."
Athena covered Sieglinde's hand with hers. "I've had a row with my mother," she said and let out a deep sigh. "I feel closer to my mother than anyone else and it pains me and grieves me to argue with her."
Princess Sieglinde listened and nodded her head in solidarity. She was closest to her mother as well, so she could easily identify with Athena. "May I ask, Min Herre, what was the disagreement about?"
"My sister. My mother complained to me that I don't pay her any attention."
Princess Sieglinde recalled the incident that had taken place on the practice, and she carefully inquired, "And is there merit to her Majesty's complaint?"
Athena rubbed her forehead, almost embarrassed to admit the truth. "Yes, there is," she replied eventually.
"Is it because of the Lord Conqueror?"
Athena looked at her wife with surprise, for never before had she considered her wife to be astute and perceptive. "So you've noticed my Sire favoritism as well, have you?!" she said with a good amount of self-pity.
"With your permission, Min Herre…"
"Given," Athena welcomed her wife's opinion on the matter.
"Between you and Princess Terreis, and I say it with profound respect, the Lord Conqueror needn't matter."
"How do you mean?"
"My brother is two years older than I am. When we were young children, he was my closest friend. At the age of five he was sent to acquire education far away from home. He returned only once a year for a fortnight and as the years passed we grew more and more distant. By the time he became of age and returned home for good, my own brother had already become a stranger to me. I no longer recognized my closest friend and ally." When she spoke of her alienation from her brother, her features wore an expression of profound sorrow, but when she went on to speak about Princess Terreis her features turned happy again.
"I've seen the way her Grace, Princess Terreis, looks at you. She admires and adores you. She looks up to you, Min Herre, and it appears to me that she wishes very much to be like you, her older, stronger, wiser keen. She shouldn't be deprived of your presence in her life and of your guidance, and you shouldn't deprive yourself of the love and devotion she bears you because of any grievances you might have against the Lord Conqueror." Sieglinde stroked Athena's hand, which rested upon hers.
"There will come a time when the Lord Conqueror and her Majesty the Queen will no longer be with us, and when that day comes, Princess Terreis will be your greatest ally."
Athena thought long and hard about her wife's advice, and inwardly admired her for her wisdom and generosity.
"Thank you, Sieglinde, for illuminating matters so clearly and so beneficially."
"You are most welcome, Min Herre," Sieglinde became besotted by Athena's compliment.
Throughout the night they sat together and spoke between them about their childhoods until both fell asleep, lying together by the fire with Sieglinde wrapped in Athena's arms.
The next day Princess Athena went to visit with her sister and taught her to play checkers.
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