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
The Conqueror and Princess Athena stood in the middle of the Imperial armory, which was a corridor away from the Imperial Guard barracks within the east wing of the palace, while their grooms sidled around them, preparing them for battle. Torches embedded into each side of the narrow slit windows illuminated the stone block walls, the swords fanned out on display, and long racks with sharpened spears. Along the far wall there were dozens of bins filled to capacity with arrows, stacks of unstrung bows, bowstrings and quivers. In each corner of the spacious Hall of Weapons, poles with the Conqueror's banners and crests were leaning against the walls next to casks filled with oil. Rows upon rows of Corinthian helmets, shields and gauntlets were standing in perfect array on low benches, waiting to be used.
The air was thick with the tang of metal, smoke burning oil, leather, soot and sweat. Stampeding footsteps of soldiers rushing about, shouts and cries could be heard outside, along with the slamming of the flat of blades against bronze shields, wooden poles grounding against the floor in solid tock and orders being yelled out, calling to order and arms.
It was like waiting for an earthquake, knowing it would soon come, or for a tempest that was on its way. All were anxious to various degrees, all but the Conqueror, who was the epitome of calmness and serenity. The Conqueror appeared almost pleased as if presented with a gift that was most agreeable. Princess Athena could have sworn she saw a faint smile on the angles of the Conqueror's lips. It was that sight that unnerved the Heir.
"You must determine all the injuries that you will need to inflict on the Nordic Lands and then you must inflict them once and for all," said the Conqueror to her Heir as one of her grooms knelt before her to place her ornamented greaves to her legs. "Utter annihilation of their forces," the Sovereign stated with some delight. "Nothing less will do. They might revenge themselves for small injuries, but cannot do so for great ones; therefore the injuries that you do to them must be such that we needn't concern ourselves with vengeance."
Princess Athena's groom slid her steel sword into the scabbard against her thigh. "I understand, Majesty," she said.
"Let this insurrection be a lesson to you, your Grace," the Conqueror said, and then turned to one of her grooms. "Fetch me one of the chainmail armor that was sent here by my Celtic subjects and fetch one for her Grace, as well," she ordered, then averted her attention back to Princess Athena. "If ever you have to choose between ruling by benevolence and ruling by fear, trust that it is better to be feared than be owed a debt of gratitude, for a debt of gratitude quickly fades whereas fear preserves you by a dread of punishment, and lasts for far longer."
The grooms fastened the chainmail armor over the Royals' cotton-made undershirts and chitons. The leather-made light armor with the golden breastplate shaped as a lion's head were then placed over it.
"In hindsight, does your Majesty reckon that the Nordic Lands were best conquered by force?" Princess Athena asked with little hope of hearing the Conqueror admitting being wrong.
"Of course not. Do you not remember what I have taught you? Supreme excellence in the art of war consists in breaking the enemy without fighting!"
The Conqueror's grooms secured the gilded gauntlets against her forearms, as the Conqueror went on to say, "I meant the provinces of Rome , Thessaly and Epirus and their governors. It has been a long time since last I have irrigated the earth with the blood of my enemies. For too long they have been living in peace and prosperity which I've been providing, so that they've allowed themselves to forget who I am and the taste of my wrath."
A ten feet high spear with a steel curved leaf shape head and with a spike in its rear was placed in the Conqueror's hand. The Conqueror tossed it in the air several times to examine its weight and balance.
"And what about my wife's brother?" Princess Athena asked.
Before the Conqueror managed a reply, the heavy doors to the Imperial armory were opened and Princess Sieglinde appeared at the threshold. She approached the Sovereign and the Heir with confidant steps and it surprised Princess Athena, who thought that her wife should have been scared, given the daunting circumstances.
It was the first time that Sieglinde clapped her eyes on Athena in full battle regalia and it excited her almost to the point of distraction.
Unconsciously biting her lower lip, the Nordic Princess curtsied before them, murmuring "Majesty" and "Min Herre."
"Your Grace," the Conqueror greeted her with a rigid, astringent expression, whereas her Heir felt nothing but confusion and anxiousness.
A weighting mass formed in the pit of her stomach as Athena beheld her wife. Her palms became sweaty, so much so that she nearly lost her grip over the spear that had been handed to her by her groom. If her wife had known of her brother's treachery beforehand and clamped her mouth shut then she would be equally culpable and would surely suffer death for it at the hands of the Conqueror, Athena thought. In which event, it would leave her free of the marriage she had been forced into and free to love Cynna and then all would be restored. It would be like none of it had ever happened.
Was it even possible that Princess Sieglinde so completely and successfully fooled everyone? Athena could not fathom it. To even entertain such a notion seemed near outlandish.
But as her eyes hanged on her modest, good-natured, virtuous wife, Athena realized she had no desire to see any harm come to her. More than that, Athena knew that she would suffer a great loss which she was now convinced would be far greater than she had initially realized.
"I trust word of your brother's high treason has reached you by now, your Grace," the Conqueror muttered with strictness.
Princess Athena gulped. She wondered whether she was capable of blocking the Conqueror's blade should the Conqueror decided to behead Sieglinde where she stood. She wondered if she would dare to even draw out her sword. With her moist hands nearly shaking and her gaze still fixed on her wife, who had been nothing but kind and tolerant with her, she suddenly realized that Sieglinde showed no fear, not even a speck of it.
Princess Sieglinde looked straight into the Conqueror's eyes, her chin proud, as Athena had never seen before. She exhibited nothing short of composed bravery. Athena felt an unexpected bout of regret for never taking the trouble to get to know the woman she had married, for now it dawned on her that she had barely scratched the surface and that it would have been enriching and pleasuring to have known her better.
"Majesty, I swear to you on my life that I had no prior knowledge of my brother's treacherous intentions," Princess Sieglinde spoke with a clear, steady and confident voice.
The Conqueror took one step towards Princess Sieglinde and towered over her. The unruffled Princess Sieglinde did not even cringe.
"I know you did not, your Grace," the Conqueror said with genuine conviction, much to the utter amazement and relief of her Heir. "I merely wanted you to hear it from me as well and not from rumors alone."
"I am humbly grateful to your Majesty," Princess Sieglinde said, and bowed her head in gratitude.
"Her Grace, Princess Athena will be the one to lead the charge against your homeland and your brother. You do understand what it means…" the Conqueror questioned in spite of the fact that she already knew the answer.
"I do indeed, your Majesty, and I pray that your Majesty will be successful. In raising arms against your Majesty, my brother betrayed not just your Majesty and the Realm, but all Norsemen by bringing about them sure destruction, as well as my father's word to your Majesty thus placing shame on his memory," Princess Sieglinde stated then added with a more personal tone, "I am Min Herre's wife and your Majesty's daughter-in-law. You have welcomed me into your family." Now her voice was quivering, her gaze moving back and forth between the Conqueror and Athena. "You have shown me nothing but kindness and honor, and so in my eyes, my brother betrayed me as well."
The Conqueror's expression told Athena that her Sire expected nothing less from Princess Sieglinde and instantaneously suffered a stab of shame for even contemplating the smallest of doubts of her wife's innocence. She understood her wife's astonishing behavior. Sieglinde's heart was pure and she had incredible faith and trust in the Lord Conqueror to see the truth. It reminded her of her mother.
"Her Grace and I need to finish preparing for war, your Grace," the Conqueror said, leaning down and placing a gentle kiss on Princess Sieglinde's forehead.
Athena watched the Conqueror and Sieglinde with sheer astonishment.
"Will you be kind enough to give me your blessing, your Grace?" the Conqueror asked.
Athena's jaw dropped open and a whirlpool of emotions turned her insides, the darkest and most clandestine of which was jealousy, of which she wasn't entirely sure.
"It would be my honor, your Majesty," Princess Sieglinde beamed with a generous smile. She took the Conqueror's left hand with both hands and said, "May your Majesty swiftly defeat all the Realm's enemies and return to us victorious."
Before Princess Sieglinde turned to leave she turned to Princess Athena and asked, "Will you please come and visit me in my chambers before you set out for war, Min Herre?"
"I will, my Lady," Princess Athena replied.
And when Princess Sieglinde curtsied and left, the Conqueror gave her Heir a look of discontent, as if scolding and mocking her for placing Cynna above Sieglinde in her heart, but soon enough actual words followed. "She places us above her own flesh and blood. Your wife is honor and dignity. It is you who is not worthy of her!"
"I do not deny Sieglinde's virtues, but Cynna is honorable as well, Majesty," Athena replied, not realizing what a grave error it was to mention her name to the Conqueror's ear on the eve of battle.
The Conqueror signaled their grooms to leave them with a wave of her hand and said to her Heir once alone, "Better if you argued before me that she was better in bed rather than that she was honorable. She is far from honorable. When she first laid her eyes on you, her mind raced ahead to the day when you became ruler and she fixed her eye on you and schemed. She groaned for power, for majesty over all things, and for the cold ring of gold around her head."
"Your Majesty makes her out to be greedy - on what basis, may I ask?"
"Do you not think that I know everything that transpires under my roof or in my city? Do you not think that I know about the incident in the market? Or that your mistress lives well beyond your means?" The Conqueror had long suspected that her Heir had borrowed funds to support her mistress but had never found out whom from.
"Granted, Cynna is inexperienced and therefore displayed poor judgment…"
" You are making puerile excuses for her!"
"I know her heart and I know she loves me and I her," Athena claimed, sure of her conviction.
The Conqueror scoffed, “So you think you love her, do you?! Tell me - in all the time that you've courted her and she withheld her favors, did you take others to your bed?"
Athena scratched her right temple with some embarrassment. “My needs had to be addressed," she said in her defense. "It had nothing to do with…"
“Love?" her Sire finished her sentence. "It has everything to do with love. Since the moment I touched your mother, I had no lust in me for anyone else. Love is lust's greatest provocateur."
Athena wondered whether her Sire was speaking the truth or lying for the sake of winning an argument. She was leaning more towards the possibility that her Sire was lying, given her Sire's mysterious nocturnal activities and the redheaded attendant, whose comfort she was sure her Sire partook in. The only difference between them, she thought, was that her Sire practiced discretion, and nothing more. Either way, she could not accuse her Sire with lying.
"Just how sure are you that you love Cynna?" the Conqueror persisted.
"As sure as I see your Majesty standing in front of me," Athena replied but the Conqueror didn't seem to be impressed by the assertion, so she went on to say, "As sure as your Majesty is in the love you bear towards your Queen."
"Really?!" the Conqueror raised both sharply shaped eyebrows emoting surprise. "And what do you think you know about love?"
Athena's agitation grew stronger and she dug her nails into the wooden shaft of her spear as an outlet rather than open her mouth, fearing what might come out of it.
"When your mother was my slave, I sometimes used to watch her from the balcony sitting with my household staff's children and telling them stories in my gardens and if she had a smile on her lips I knew I would have a good day." The Conqueror spoke as if reminding herself of things she had forgotten. "And when I lay in the snow on the road back from Persia, dying, I did not think about the Empire I was about to leave behind or the darkness of the underworld I was about to face but about the most pure and virtuous woman that I would never see again. The thought of losing her, terrified me," the Conqueror admitted. "Terrifies me!" she shouted, deliberately in the present tense.
After a few moments passed in silence between them, the Conqueror let out a deep sigh and continued, "Being Queen is not about possessing pretty accoutrements! It is about caring for your subjects, about performing your duties, about giving sound advice and providing your Mate with comfort and peace of mind necessary to rule. Being Queen is being a true and able consort. It is about supporting your Mate when hard decisions need to be made!” The Conqueror's voice cracked just a bit when uttering her last sentence. “You see your mother and you think she is like all women. One is only as powerful as the measure of power one can handle. Your mother handles her power as my Queen well. Judging by the incident in the market, your mistress does not. Your mother is not like all women and Cynna is nothing like your mother. She exploits you."
"She does not!" Athena denied.
"Then test her! Tell her that you wish to renounce your succession to my Throne, your station and all your wealth and lead a simple, peaceful life away from Court. Tell her you wish to work the land and ask her to join you – see what she answers."
"I will not test her. It is degrading. Have you ever tested my mother in such way?!"
The Conqueror began to laugh, much to Athena's displeasure, who thought she had never seen the Conqueror laugh so hard about anything before. When the Conqueror's laughter subsided she replied, "Nothing would please your mother more than for us to live a simple, quiet life away from here."
Some more moments passed in silence between them, before the Conqueror commented, "It is not that I disapprove of your taking a mistress, but of the poor choice you've made in picking one so unworthy and of the fact that you use a word such as 'Love' so easily."
Princess Athena wished to retort that to most people – it didn't take years to speak of the love they bear in their hearts, but of course she kept her lips pursed.
Then the Conqueror went to the entrance of the Hall and called out to the grooms to return back to the armory and finish their task.
"I'm done wasting my breath on that harridan of yours," the Conqueror said to Athena. " Battle awaits us."
As the grooms returned back to the armory, the Conqueror ordered one of them to fetch her, her crown.
The Conqueror faced her eldest again. "Do not be delayed in your voyage. The winds are with you. Keep your men aboard the ships busy. Idleness rots the mind and numbs the spirit."
"By your will, Majesty," Athena replied as her groom handed her, her Royal Corinthian helmet.
The Conqueror's groom returned with the Conqueror's crown resting upon a silver tray covered by a cloth of blue velvet and presented it to the Conqueror.
The Conqueror lifted up her crown in the air. "Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are. The Norsemen do not know who we are, therefore order your soldiers to shout your name when they attack and when you have defeated the Norsemen wear my crown, for I want them to know who struck them down."
"By your will, Majesty," Athena bowed her head.
The Conqueror's final words to her Heir were, "Make them dread your name. Make yourself the scourge of the Nordic Lands. It is high time you became the Destroyer of Nations."
Princess Athena received the Conqueror's crown and bowed again. The Conqueror turned to leave the armory.
"Majesty," Princess Athena called after the Sovereign.
The Conqueror halted her stride and looked back.
"Will your Majesty not join me to farewell with the Queen's Majesty and receive her blessing?" Athena asked.
The Conqueror said nothing and left the armory making her way to kiss her youngest, who was asleep in her chamber, goodbye.
True to her word, Princess Athena visited at her wife's chambers. As she stood in her wife's antechamber, Princess Athena was flooded with odd and unfamiliar sensations that seemed to circle around her heart - an unexplained exhilaration that had nothing to do with the tumults before meeting an enemy on the battlefield.
"Min Herre," Princess Sieglinde smiled at her. "You came!" she rejoiced and did nothing to hide her excitement and happiness.
"I said I would," Princess Athena replied and regretted not showing more tenderness in her response.
Princess Sieglinde went to an old wooden chest standing against the western wall of her antechamber, opened it and took two items out of it. She went back to the Heir and handed her the first one.
"This was my father's sword, Min Herre," she said, and as Athena took the long sheathed sword from her wife's hand, Sieglinde went on to say, "I took it with me before I left my homeland to come here. My father was already too ill and I knew he would never again grasp its hilt."
Athena unsheathed the sword, which was three feet long, and examined its sharp blade. Its high quality was evident to her experienced eye.
"It is made of strong Nordic steel. In my homeland, it is believed that it is the best sword ever forged. It will not fail you, Min Herre," Sieglinde assured. "When first I was told I was to marry the Conqueror's Heir, I knew I wanted Min Herre to have it."
"Thank you, my Lady," Athena replied and her heart painfully contracted in her chest. She unbuckled her leather belt, removed her own sword and replaced it with the sword that her wife had gifted her with.
"I've knitted this bodice for you, Min Herre," Sieglinde said and gave Athena the other item she was holding in her other hand – a meticulously knitted garment. "The Nordic chill's bite is severe and merciless. Wear it beneath your attire when you near my homeland. It will keep you warm, Min Herre."
"I promise I will, my Lady," Athena bowed her head as she took the garment from her wife, inwardly feeling not just plain gratitude but unworthiness as well, and she remembered her Sire's wards to her about not deserving her wife. The Conqueror was right again, she thought.
"Please order your men to stock themselves with furs and warm cloaks for the journey; otherwise, they will freeze to death at the North Sea ."
"I will order them as you said, my Lady."
"Do not allow them to consume spirits. Spirits might give a quick and warm relief from the cold, but those who fill their veins with spirits are always the first to freeze, Min Herre."
"You needn't worry, my Lady. No spirits are allowed on the battlefield, by orders of the Lord Conqueror," Athena guaranteed.
"Norsemen's primary weapon is the axe. It is powerful yet heavier than a spear or a sword. If your arm is quicker…"
"I know, my Lady. The Conqueror's hoplites' shields are strong and the warriors are trained against all weapons." Athena had to smile in face of her wife's true concern for her wellbeing.
"Be safe and return to me alive and victorious, Min Herre. I will pray for you day and night from the moment you leave to the moment you return." Sieglinde's voice contained slight tremors and her eyes became misty with tears. A slight stir occurred inside Athena when she saw how worried Sieglinde was.
"Before you sail, Min Herre," Sieglinde continued, doing her best to remain regal and reticent, "please visit with Lady Cynna and afford her the opportunity to say goodbye to you."
That request stunned Athena to bewilderment.
"You don't mind her?" she asked before her mind managed to grasp and contemplate her wife's words.
"She pleases Min Herre, and so I am pleased, as well," Sieglinde answered.
An unprecedented event happened. Princess Athena, Heir to the Lord Conqueror, became overwhelmed by tender emotions towards her wife and future Queen. She wreathed her wife's body with her powerful arms, leaned down till her breath tickled Sieglinde's slightly parted, swollen lips. She saw her wife's eyelids become heavy with want and her cheeks blush red. Athena dallied for a few moments to delight in the precious sight of anticipation her wife made. Athena almost found it difficult to sully such purity and so although she captured her wife's lips with her own, she did not feel quite prepared to let her wife's hair loose from beneath the white cap just yet. Athena kissed her wife with all the gentleness that was in her, and her desires were ignited. She inhaled her wife's sweet breath as their mouths were locked in arrested passion, secretly relishing the sensation of her chaste spouse holding on to her.
Sieglinde leaned her body against Athena's, which stood steady as a fort, for support. Trails of fire plagued her skin and it made her wonder and marvel at the peculiar awakening. Their lips and tongues moved together in delicious, rudimentary exploration until the world outside forced itself upon them by clamors of imminent war.
"Goodbye, my Lady," Athena whispered and ran a single finger against her wife's still blushing cheek.
"Goodbye, Min Herre," Sieglinde whispered back aching and their arms struggled to let go.
Princess Athena left her wife's chambers and made a stop at the Queen's chambers to receive her blessing, as well. When her presence was announced and the Queen's ladies in waiting curtsied before her, she saw the Queen looking over her shoulder at the direction of the entrance as if searching for someone – Her Lord Conqueror, no doubt, Athena knew.
"Your Majesty," Princess Athena bowed before her mother who stood before her in regal attire despite the late hour of the night.
"Your Grace," the Queen greeted back.
"I came to bid you farewell, Majesty and to receive your blessing," Athena said.
"Did my Lord not come with you?" the Queen asked.
"The Lord Conqueror has already left, Majesty." It nearly broke Athena's heart to see the profound sorrow and disappointment in her mother's eyes. It reminded her of the time when she had returned from Corinth to the Amazon Lands empty handed, without a letter from her Sire to her mother.
The Queen composed herself quickly, for the last thing her daughter needed before going off to do battle was concern for her mother's welfare.
The Queen gave Athena her blessing and then they held each other in a tight embrace.
"Be safe, and return back to me alive and unharmed," the Queen said. "It is your Queen's order."
"By your will, then, your Majesty," Princess Athena said with smile and vacated her mother's chambers.
A few moments after the Heir had left, the Queen addressed one of her ladies in waiting. "Quick," she urged, "Have the Imperial Guard's Commander appear before me, at once!" Being second in command to her Lord in the Thessaly front, the Queen felt as if sending him off to war with her blessing was as close as it got to sending her Lord off to war.
The Queen's servant rushed to the entrance, and as soon as she opened the doors she saw the very man she was about to fetch, standing there surprised that the doors had been opened before he had a chance to knock.
"Majesty!" the Lady in waiting exclaimed, "the Imperial Guard's Commander is here to see you!"
The servant beckoned him to enter. "I was just sent to fetch you, Commander," she told him.
"And I was just about to request an audience with her Majesty," he smiled in kind and proceeded into the Queen's antechamber, where he saw her standing in wait for him.
"Your Majesty," he bowed deeply and reverently before his Sovereign Queen.
"Commander Periander," the Queen extended her hand to him.
"I am about to join the Lord Conqueror as second in command to Thessaly and I came in the hopes of receiving your Majesty's blessing," he said, then he became hesitant to continue by some reservation as he looked at the Queen's ladies in waiting.
"My ladies are my loyal servants and hold their sacred duties to me vehemently. You can speak your heart openly in their presence, Commander," the Queen assured.
The Commander lowered his head and spoke with an apologetic tone of voice. “The Lord Conqueror has left the palace without receiving your Majesty's blessing due to the recent division between your Majesties, is the word among the troops. Many of the men dread to set out to war without your Majesty's blessing, and in all honesty,” he said then paused, “I am among those men, Majesty.” He then lifted up his head to look upon his Sovereign Queen. “And with that weighing heavily upon my soul, I humbly come before your Majesty to receive it.”
He knelt at the Queen's feet. “I appeal to your Majesty's great benevolence and beg for your Majesty's blessing. I beseech your Majesty not to send me back to my soldiers empty-handed.”
The Queen rested her hand on his shoulder. “My good Commander,” she spoke softly, “You need never beg me for my blessing, for regardless of any disputes between my Lord and me, I am forever loyal to my Lord and to the Realm. That is why I've sent my lady in waiting to fetch you - in order to freely and wholeheartedly give it.”
The tension in the Commander's shoulder abated some beneath the Queen's touch. “Thank you, my Great Queen,” he said with immense relief.
“May our Sovereign Lord freeze the breaths in our enemies' throats and put a permanent end to them all and may all our Sovereign Lord's loyal warriors return safe and unharmed to their homes, their mothers, their wives and children. May you all know no death aside that which you inflict on the traitors.”
“Thank you, most gracious Majesty, thank you,” he said, feeling he was blessed by the Queen of the Gods.
“Rise to your feet, Commander,” she said and removed her hand from his shoulder.
“Thank you, Majesty,” he uttered excitedly once more and raised himself upwards to stand.
“How are your nerves, Commander?” the Queen asked him with an assuaging smile.
“Better, your Majesty,” he answered and straightened his sword around his waist. “Yet I still harbor some anxiousness as I always do before battle. As I always tell my men, it is simply my mind and body obeying the Lord Conqueror never to be complacent,” he smirked.
The Queen chuckled, but it was short lived, for her heart was heavy and on her feature an apprehensive expression appeared. "Whenever my Lord leaves for battle I live in constant fear for my Lord's life. It is not that I do not trust my Lord's legendary skills, but the great love I bear my Lord forces me to dread my Lord's loss and there is not a thing I can do to stop it."
The Commanders features turned serious again as he listened to his Queen's words. “Majesty, if I may,” he began to say.
“You may,” she permitted.
“Although my blessing lacks your Majesty's godly muster, I do pray that your Majesties reconcile and see better times,” he said most sincerely.
The Queen was so moved by his words that she almost couldn't find her voice to thank him.
“I am not alone in this wish, Majesty. The Imperial Guard bears your Majesty the same amount of adoration and loyalty as they bear the Lord Conqueror,” he went on to say, astir still. “Why, when I asked for volunteers so to assemble a small detachment to remain here in Corinth to protect your Majesty in the palace, many came forward forgoing the rewards of the valor of fighting alongside the Great Lord Conqueror, and I know they did so not out of fear of forfeiting their lives in battle, for there is no greater honor, but for the privilege of protecting their beloved Queen.”
The Queen was nearly moved to tears. She covered her heart with her hand and thanked the honorable Commander again.
“Your Majesty,” he bade her farewell and bowed before vacating her antechamber.
Meanwhile, in another part of Corinth, Princess Athena arrived at her Mistress' abode only to find her distraught and fidgeting with fear.
Cynna darted towards Athena, looking as pallid as fresh milk and in frenzy. "I've been waiting for you for so long! Why didn't you come here sooner? Can you not see the terrible state that I'm in? 'War' is what people are shouting in the streets! Am I safe here?" She exclaimed hysterically.
"Calm down." Athena took the smaller in her arms. "You are perfectly safe here. Corinth is the safest place in the Realm," she assured with a soothing tone of voice.
Cynna simmered down in Athena's arms and when she rested her head against Athena's chest, her cheek met with the cold, hard metal breastplate. Only then did she realize that Athena was dressed for war.
"Are you leaving me?!" she exclaimed once more.
Princess Athena was annoyed by Cynna's selfish response and inwardly the seeds of doubt she had been harboring of late began to sprout roots.
"I am the Conqueror's Heir and as such it is my duty to lead the Realm's warriors, but I have made up my mind that once this mutiny is pacified that I shall abdicate my right to the Conqueror's Throne and fortune and dedicate my life to work the land away from Court. Do you understand what it would mean for us?" Athena asked and looked carefully in order to study Cynna's reaction to her announcement.
Cynna understood perfectly well the immediate ramification to such a decision on her life. It would mean the loss of the wealth, station and grandeur she had very quickly grown accustomed to. She was clever not to outright disclose her initial reaction to Athena.
"Of course I do, and I shall remain by your side always," she slyly replied, but her reservation got the better of her and she felt compelled to add. "But, surely such fateful and momentous decision requires further review… After all the sacrifices you have made… You are the Conqueror's progeny. Perhaps we can talk about it when you return before hasty and reckless decisions are made," she sweetly suggested.
Princess Athena sighed deeply. She wondered whose interests Cynna was protecting, hers or her own.
"I have to leave now," Athena said and tightly embraced Cynna in her arms.
"Return to me, my love," Cynna said and kissed Athena's jaw. "I will be anxiously awaiting your return."
And with that, Princess Athena left Cynna, mounted her steed and rode to the Imperial port to board the commanding ship and set sail due north.
The Queen's heart sank in her chest and broke again when she realized that her Lord wasn't coming, not even to bid her farewell. She dismissed her ladies in waiting, for she sought nothing more than to be left alone in her unimaginable grief. Her legs were heavy with the sense of foreboding and deep sadness as she stepped out to stand on her balcony. Dejected, she watched the beacons burning and her gaze followed the Imperial guardsmen who were marching towards the gates of the outer stone-wall surrounding the palace and its vast grounds in perfect array, without a single one of them out of line, and that was when she spotted her Lord on horseback near the iron gates, and what a sight her Lord made.
A belligerent and pugnacious Conqueror, clad in full regal military apparel and a stygian expression, was embattled and evincing melting, intoxicating power.
Return to the Academy