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


Princess of the Realm

Written by WarriorJudge

Part 16

The doors to the Imperial chambers were shoved open by a pressing hand, startling its occupants. Two Imperial guards and Lady Satrina strode in decisively.

"Majesty, the enemy is in sight," one of the guards stated.

The Queen's heart skipped a beat. She'd almost succeeded in convincing herself that the Imperial Guard Cavalry led by her Lord would have been on time to meet the enemy.

"How long before they reach the seaport?" she asked with cool exterior and even voice.

"Anytime between a candle-mark to two," he answered.

The Queen stepped out to the balcony and threw a long glance ahead but there was nothing in the horizon.

A guard that followed her outside pointed out to her that Likos' ships were further to the south and could not yet be seen from the balcony but could be perfectly seen from the southern wall.

"How many vessels?" the Queen asked.

"We counted twelve triremes, Majesty," he answered.

"How many men per trireme?" the Queen asked.

"We cannot be sure how full they are, but a fair estimation would be that they are full to capacity, meaning a hundred and seventy men per vessel, Majesty."

The Queen's heart shrunk but she kept a firm, unrevealing expression. That was nearly two thousands of Likos' warriors against the sum total of two hundred and fifty of the Realm's Imperial Guard. Corinth was outnumbered eight to one.

The Queen quickly regained her composure.

"Your Grace," she first turned to Princess Sieglinde, then rested her hand on Lady Cyrene's shoulder, "please take Princess Terreis and her governess to the dungeons. Lady Satrina will show you to the most secure cell in the palace. Lock yourselves in there."

"Yes, Majesty," Princess Sieglinde said.

“Are you sure I cannot be of any help to you here, Majesty?” the Conqueror's mother asked and brought the Queen's hand to her lips.

“It would be most helpful to me if I knew my family was safe, Lady Cyrene,” the Queen assured with a brief smile, then picked up her youngest in her arms, and held her tightly against her body.

"Where is my Sire?" Terreis asked as she buried her head in her mother's neck.

The Queen related all to well to her daughter's sentiment, for no other could instill a sense of confidence and safety as her Lord could. "My Lord, your Sire will come, soon, sweetheart," the Queen whispered back with poise. She kissed her daughter's pale cheek. "Be brave now, daughter of the Lord Conqueror, and mind Lady Cyrene and Princess Sieglinde."

"I promise, Majesty," Terreis said then whispered, "I love you, mother," so that no one would hear.

"I love you, too, dearest," the Queen whispered back and handed her daughter to her governess, and along with Princess Sieglinde, Lady Cyrene, the Princess' ladies in waiting and Lady Satrina, made their way down to the bleak, moldy dungeons with the flickering torchlight from the torches in the iron sconces and the dirty flagstone floor.

To be sure, the dungeons were by no means a place for a child, but the Queen thought better frightened than unsafe. It provided her with great quietude to know that at least her daughter would be cared for and comforted by Princess Sieglinde and her grandmother. But she did not delude herself into thinking that the dungeons would keep her family entirely safe from Likos, for she knew that if he were to reach as far as the dungeons, the iron bars would only delay him.

The Queen struggled to regain focus and composure. She had to remind herself that she ought not to be a wife or a mother at this time, but a Queen.

Once the ladies left the Imperial chambers, the Queen expected the Imperial Guards to leave, but they seemed to deliberately linger.

"That would be all, guardsmen. Let me know when the first warrior of the traitor Likos steps on dry land."

"With respect," one of them told her, "perhaps your Majesty ought to go to the dungeons as well, for safety."

"Guardsman," the Queen said to him with a berating tone of voice, "you keep performing your duties to keep the enemy from setting foot in my house, and I shall keep to performing mine."

"Yes, Majesty," they said and left.

After they had left, the Queen gathered her ladies in waiting around her, and wholeheartedly exhorted them, "Ladies, I pray you to join my family in the dungeons for your safety."

"Majesty," Lady Astraea took it upon herself to speak for her fellow ladies in waiting, "our duty is to serve your Majesty in good times as well as in difficult times. Desertion is out of the question."

Another of the Queen's ladies in waiting uttered over-excitedly, "We wish to stay with your Majesty."

The Queen smiled. "Thank you all for your loyalty. I wish to go to my subjects now, but I must ask you all to show no fear or concern from the moment we leave these chambers to the moment when we return. We lead by example."

"Yes, Majesty," said all.

The Queen, escorted by her ladies in waiting, made her way to levels below. As she paced through the crowded stuffy corridors, passing by countless chambers, she saw fright and dread all over her subjects' faces. The War Hall was loaded with men, women and children, and so were the Dining Hall and the vast armory, whose walls were stripped entirely of weapons, shields and armors. What little of the equipment left, a few of Corinth 's men residing in the palace took - farmers, merchants, sheepherders, craftsmen – all men who had never held a weapon in their lives. Should the palace be breached, the Queen knew, they would all be butchered with little resistance. These weren't warriors, and war wasn't their craft.

She went on to the Great Hall and walked through the narrow path leading to her throne. Worried eyes, quivering lips and shuddering shoulders accompanied her gaits as she walked, like ill-omened, gloomy shadows. They reeked of fear, so much so that it seemed to the Queen as though even the stale air around them grew colder. Quailing women held their children, who were too terrified to romp and frolic as is their nature, tightly to their bodies, hoping that their offspring wouldn't sense the horror radiating from them. Words of reassurance, coupled with unconvincing smiles and extinguished eyes, was all mothers had to offer their young. There was another resident in the Corinthian palace that day, fear, and its presence was most potent.

Those, whose voices weren't stolen by sheer terror, managed mumbling "Majesty," as their Sovereign Queen treaded among them.

The Queen stood on the dais so that everyone could see her.

"Subjects of the Realm!" the Queen called out to them, "perish fear from your hearts and chase away worries from your minds for we shall prevail. Our Sovereign Lord will not forsake us. And when our Sovereign Lord returns to this great city of Corinth, you will know that the Realm has a great Ruler, who keeps one hand on the wheel to lead us and in the other hand holds a sword to protect us. Hail to the Lord Conqueror!"

When the Queen finished her poignant appeal, a tiny murmur began and gradually grew into a whispered chant till it coalesced into one great rousing voice: "Hail the Lord Conqueror!"

The Queen smiled, pleased. If her subjects were busy shouting her Lord's honorific, they were less busy fearing.

The cries were heard in the corridor leading to the Great Hall, and it infected the halls and chambers near it and the levels below and above it until the entire palace's occupants joined in a solid, unified cry for their Sovereign Lord.

When the Queen left the Great Hall, two Imperial guardsmen waited for her at the entrance. One of them approached her and wiggled with his hand signaling that he wished to whisper in her ear.

The Queen leaned in, already knowing in her heart what he was about to tell her.

"Likos' men are on shore and will be beating at the gates soon."

"Say nothing of it to anyone else inside these walls," she ordered it and cultivated a confidant expression about her.

"Yes, Majesty," he said, yet oddly enough neither he nor the other guardsman turned to make their way back to their posts outside.

The Queen, with her ladies in waiting behind her, calmly returned back to the Imperial chambers, not realizing that all the while the two guardsmen were on her trail.

In the corridor leading to the Imperial chambers, one of the Queen's ladies in waiting, not in control of her shaky nerves, asked her Mistress with a quiet voice: "Majesty, shouldn't we move the women and children to the dungeons as well?"

"There is not enough room in the dungeons for everyone. It cannot contain more than a hundred heads at best. If word of the dungeons got out, we would have mass panic and people would trample over others to get there. People might kill others to secure their place. There will be chaos, which we cannot handle, and I will not have it. Best the guardsmen fight the enemy at my doors than keep order in here."

"Of course, Majesty," the lady felt foolish.

Inside the Imperial chambers, the Queen ran to the balcony. Now she could see swarms of Likos' warriors advancing toward the palace walls. The swarm leading directly to the gates carried a massive ram at the head. The guards on the wall shot arrows at them, some with burning arrowheads and poured burning oil on the men trying to climb up the wall, and set them on fire. She wondered if the horrifying screams could be heard inside the shutdown and bolted palace and over the cries of her subjects for her Lord.

The Queen was determined to keep command of her faculties as she was trained. She walked into the Imperial bedchamber and beckoned her ladies in waiting to follow her.

"Ladies, prepare me for battle," the Queen ordered them once inside.

Lady Astraea gasped. “Majesty, you might be killed,” she shrieked, appalled even to contemplate the notion. She was childless and had been widowed many years ago. Being a servant to her Queen was her entire life.

The Queen took Lady Astraea's hand in hers. “I will not be killed. The Shamaness has foretold that I would live to see Princess Terreis' children,” the Queen argued to calm the elderly servant.

“With all due respect, your Majesty herself has told me that the Shamaness might have been mistaken in regards to Lady Cynna. The Gods only know what else she might have been mistaken about,” Lady Astraea asserted, fervently.

A valid argument, the Queen thought, but entirely irrelevant.

“It is of no consequence. I am your Queen. Do as I command.” The Queen was done arguing and there was no changing her mind.

The Queen's ladies in waiting helped their Mistress strip off her regal dress, which wasn't suited for combat, and dressed her in her regal Amazon attire, which was.

The Queen held the Labrys in her hand, reacquainting herself with the feel of its leather-wrapped handle in her palm.

When she opened the doors, she was stopped by the guardsmen, who stood in her way.

"Move aside!" the Queen ordered them but they disobeyed her.

"Majesty, we cannot allow you to partake in combat," one of them said to her.

"Out of my way, guardsmen!" the Queen ordered louder than before.

"Please, Majesty, do not ask it of us," the other one nearly pleaded.

"I do not ask it. I demand it!" she scolded them, and could not grasp what could be the reason or the source for such audacious, unlawful disobedience.

"In all humility, we ask that your Majesty allow us to escort your Majesty to the dungeons."

"I might have temporarily suspended proper protocol and decorum but I am your Queen! Are you drunk, soldier?!" the Queen asked. She couldn't believe his behavior.

"No, your Majesty , spirits are not…"

But the Queen, whose sinews were strained to the limit, finished his sentence sarcastically for him, "Allowed in combat, I know."

"I have my orders, Majesty," he tried to reason with his Mistress.

"Orders? Whose orders? Do you see anyone here whose authority is greater than mine?!" She asked and looked around feigning a search after someone whose station was above hers.

"Not here, your Majesty, but the orders were issued long ago by the Lord Conqueror," he answered.

The Queen finally gave in. "I shall not join the soldiers outside, for now, but I will not go down to the dungeons, either. I shall remain here," she bargained with him.

"Then we shall remain here with you, your Majesty," he bargained back.

"Very well," the Queen said.

She then returned back to the balcony and peeped over the stony rail, to avoid being hit by straying arrows, as did her guards. The Queen also noticed arrows flying over her head from the palace and at the direction of the grounds below. She gave one of the guards a questioning look.

“There are some fifty-odd Imperial guards within the palace, positioned on the towers and on the balconies,” he explained.

“Second line of defense," the Queen nodded her head. "Why aren't you shooting arrows?” she asked.

“So as not to draw enemy's arrows to your Majesty,” he answered.

After two candle-marks of brutal fighting, most of the Imperial guardsmen on the wall had been slain and the gates of the wall had been breached.

The Queen watched as the guardsmen forsook defending the wall, for there was no longer a point to it, and formed a defense on the palace's grounds, trying as best they could to fend off the enemy.

But there were too many of Likos' warriors and not enough of the Realm's warriors. They fought bravely, desperately and employed all their skills and years of training to fight the enemy off but suffered too many losses to hold on for much longer.

The Queen was horrified by the gruesome sights of war, by the bloodied, dismembered bodies on the ground, by the unbearable cries of pain, by the unanswered pleas for help, and by the stench of grisly death and burning flesh. Such sights, odors and sounds could never be erased or exorcized from one's soul, she imagined. It was ridiculous, she thought, that only now could she grasp the heavy encumbrance her Lord must have been carrying for many years without ever complaining or bewailing and without ever sharing the weighing, burdensome load, not even with her, so to spare her. She was nearly drowning in admiration for her Lord at that moment.

"To the palace!" a loud cry was heard that brought the Queen out of her rumination.

The Queen looked and saw Likos, whom she recognized from the celebrations she and her Lord had held for the birth of their youngest, standing at the back of his warriors, shouting orders at them.

"Get inside! Find the whoring Queen and her bastard daughter and rape them both!"

His warriors ran towards the palace doors, carrying with them a massive iron ram.

"Pound against the doors then pound your cocks into the body slave and her litter!" one of Likos' sons spurred them on and they shouted like savages.

"We won't kill the whores before the very last one of you dismounts them!" another son cried, waving his sword in the air.

A tall, ebony-haired figure emerged, seemingly out of nowhere at the far south eastern side of the wall, and commenced a running akin to Zeus' lightning bolts in speed and fierceness, hurdling over the hips of mangled bodies on the ground and taking position amidst the dozen Imperial guards still standing.

“My Lord,” the Queen breathed with peerless adoration and relief.

Queen Gabrielle saw the Conqueror unsheathe her sword, wielding it in her hand, and flexing her muscles. She then saw the Conqueror grab hold of one of her soldiers, pulling him towards her, saying something to him.

The guard signaled his fellow guards and they began to run towards the palace, while he was the only one to run south.

“Where are they going?!” the Queen exclaimed. “Why aren't they fighting?”

The Queen tried to rush to the doors and exit the Imperial chambers, but the guards wouldn't let her even leave the balcony.

Frustrated, she returned her gaze back over the balcony's rail and to where her Lord fought. She surmised there must have been close to eight hundred men down there. Eight hundred against one, the Queen cringed, while the Conqueror's sword met clashing with several of theirs at a time.

The Conqueror's movements were something to marvel in awe at. The sheer strength of the Conqueror's blows sent sparks flying off the blades at impact, and broken metal to the ground. Defensive strikes were hard but not so the offensive strikes, for, due to their perfect precision, all it took was a gentle stroke, a caress of the Conqueror's blade to his neck and her opponent would fall bleeding fluxes to the ground. The speed in which the Conqueror's body moved and the virtuous manner in which the Conqueror moved the sword from her right hand to the left and back to the right again as if wielding two swords rather than one was something to behold and aspire to. The fluidity of motion, the astounding accuracy of the hits, the determination and confidence in which they were delivered - the Conqueror gave the impression as though all her movements had already been decided, as though from the opponent's first move against her, the Ruler had designed ahead the entire sequence of the method of her opponent's demise.

The Queen realized just how ignorant of her Lord's capabilities in combat, sparring and fencing she really was. If one wanted to learn of the Lord Conqueror's astounding, unrivaled mastery, one had to observe the Lord Conqueror - not on the practice field, but on the battlefield where there were no restraints. She suddenly remembered how Milos, one of the two guards that had watched over her during the Conqueror's campaign to Persia many years ago, had described her Lord in battle and how her Lord had commanded everything on the battlefield. Now she finally began to grasp that he hadn't been exaggerating.

The Queen noticed that no more arrows were being shot from the palace. The Conqueror was single-handedly fighting masses of men, now.

“My Lord is all alone out there fighting for our lives!” she shouted, out of her mind with worry, and tried to leave the balcony a second time, but again, the guards grabbed her and prevented her from leaving.

“Let go of me, I am Queen of the Realm!” the Queen screamed and shook her body in frenzy in an attempt to release herself from the guards' firm clasp.

The Conqueror apparently heard her Queen's voice over the clamor of battle, for she lifted up her head and threw a glance at the balcony where the Queen was standing. For a moment, their eyes met and at that moment one of Likos' men found an opening, aiming his blade to plunge it into the Conqueror's flesh, but he froze, as if he didn't have the courage, the grit to lay his sword on the Conqueror's body and injure such greatness. The Conqueror quickly regained her focus and cut down his hand with a single, powerful strike that cut through the bone as if it was as soft as a flower stalk, sending the limb to the ground holding the weapon still.

"I must join my Lord and fight," the Queen stated and sent her elbow to hit the guard in his ribs.

He took it, of course, without protest, thinking the blow was stronger than he'd thought it would be. “Your Majesty must be guarded at all times,” he said, but it was his following words that amazed her: “The Queen must never shed another's blood,” he said.

“My Lord ordered it?” the Queen asked perplexed. Her Lord had given the order to protect her, not wishing her soul to be sullied by the act of killing nor her conscience to be burdened by the act of ending another's life – in essence, preserving her innocence.

The guard nodded his head.


“I believe it was soon after your Majesty's coronation as Queen of the Amazons.”

And then something happened that was too staggering, too uncanny and too extraordinary to believe. From the south end of the palace grounds came running in bursts of incredible speed three prides of lions, dark-mane, gold-mane and white-mane, of around fifteen adult lions and lionesses per pride. They seemed to rush towards the Conqueror, roaring, bristling their coats and manes to make themselves appear larger than their size and exposing their canines.

Upon catching sight of the advancing lions, Likos' warriors instinctively backed away from the Conqueror and halted their ceaseless attacks. Then paralyzing shock shackled their limbs, and a few lost their grip on their weapons. The moment froze in time.

When the lions reached the Conqueror, their Master took out her leather whip rolled on her belt, delivered a single lash on the ground and cried: "Sit!"

The lions sat in one line with the Conqueror, half to her right and half to her left, occasionally growling, sniffing the air, which was saturated with the odor of fresh blood, and surveying their surroundings. None of them was tempted to feed off the countless torn cadavers that covered the earth. They just sat and waited for their Master's order, and all who witnessed understood it.

The scene displayed on the Corinthian palace grounds that day was unimaginable, inconceivable and incomprehensible. The sound of the lions' roars, the Conqueror's voice, the whiplash and the sudden absence of the sounds of battle, sent the Corinthian subjects curious to the windows, pushing and shoving against one another in order to be able to look through the cracks of the bolted and covered windows and see what was happening outside. Some carried benches and chairs to the windows in order to get a better view from a higher vantage point.

Gasps of bafflement, repeated rubbing of eyes in disbelief, grabbing shaken heads with both hands and unintelligible utterances became the most common displays of behavior and emotion. There was no terror any longer and fear was all but forgotten.

The Queen noticed that she had stopped breathing. Mesmerized, she couldn't look away even if she wanted to. Her eyes widened, her mouth dried and a dull ache began to plague her heart.

"Likos!" the Conqueror threw her sonorous voice to the back of Likos' men, where he stood with his three sons, all gawking and unmoving. "For the words you have uttered on this day on my lands and for your intent of raping my wife and daughter – your dying will last for long days!" The Conqueror's vow reached and rang in everyone's ears.

Freezing sweat broke on Likos' and his sons' backs.

The Conqueror raised the hand holding the whip and dispensed three lashes to the ground, one after the other. When the whip hit the ground for the third time, the Conqueror ordered:


At once, the lions rose from the ground and leaped at the Conqueror's command, chasing after the terrified men, springing on them, tearing their flesh with a swipe of their clawed paws, covering the men's mouth and nostrils in their jaw causing their prey to suffocate, closing their canines around the men's necks and easily tearing the delicate, fragile flesh.

Likos and his sons, who stood closest to the northern wall, dashed towards it and tried to scale up the stones protruding from the structure but failed, for fear unsteadied their legs. From their relatively safe distance from the lions, they shouted orders at their men, but terrified men were not inclined to follow orders and self-preservation won over any sense of duty, especially the type that could be bought and paid for. Nevertheless, some managed to recover from the initial shock and raised their weapons against the strong, charging beasts.

The Conqueror whipped the earth twice to her right and the male lions formed a row flanking Likos' men from the right, and then whipped the earth two more times to her left and the lionesses formed a similar row to left.

The people in the palace still riveted to the windows could not believe their own eyes.

The Conqueror fought amidst them, exuding authority over the carnage. Three more lashes and a single command: "Kill!" and the animals surrounding the remnants of Likos' warriors pounced, devouring, tearing, clawing, snapping bones, some digging their teeth deep into the men' haunches and with a jerking motion upwards broke their prey's backs.

The cries of agony, pain and utter horror were gut-wrenching, as were the sounds of bones being crushed and chewed by powerful jaws. Many couldn't imagine a worse death than being devoured alive. The mothers in the palace tried to pull their inquisitive children from the windows and cover their eyes and ears, so to minimize their exposure to the horrifying sights and sounds. The younger children burst into tears and buried their heads into their mothers' bosoms for sanctuary.

The ferocious Conqueror dominated the center of the field, and whenever one of her lions came near Likos and his sons, she delivered a single lash to its nose until the Conqueror's pride learnt to steer clear of the four, for they were their Master's quarry. She then sent her whip to be wrapped around Likos' and his sons' swords and disarmed them, not out of concern of their swords but of concern that in a cowardice act they might deprive her of vengeance.

The ever-dwindling men were left to choose whether to die by the Conqueror's lethal sword or to die by the Conqueror's feral pride. A good portion of them didn't know which of the two the better death was.

The Queen was still watching her Lord and the pride from the balcony. She thought it looked like a giant stomping on ants, like a tidal wave of bleak death and destruction washing over the enemy, decimating them and sending them in horrendous methods to a perpetual darkness.

And then it was over. All was still and quiet but the cool dusk breeze against the brush and the occasional lions' growling.

The Queen broke free of the guards, who had loosened their hold over her, and darted outside the Imperial chambers. Ignoring the presence of her subjects in her wake, she ran through corridors and clomped down the staircase, two stairs at the time, till she reached the palace's main gates.

"Open them!" she ordered the guards and the gates were finally unbolted and swung wide open.

The sun had almost guttered out, and night was about to pull up its dark hood. The sky was crimson and so was the earth.

The Conqueror returned her blood-dripping sword to the scabbard, then rolled back her whip and secured it on her belt. Spatters of blood and fragments of human remains covered the Ruler's stoic features, chiseled lengthy form and unkempt dark mane. The fading sun's rubescent rays bounced off the Sovereign's golden armor making it glow with claret luster.

The Sovereign Lord of the Realm tightened her muscles into perfectly curved bulges, pressing hard bones for the last time before relaxing her body.

Opalescent sapphire stare raked through the surroundings, catching Likos and his sons rooted to their place. Two of his sons, the Conqueror noticed, had tears painting a couple of fine clean trails on their dirty faces, distorted by fright and a touch of mental disturbance. The Conqueror knew neither of them was going anywhere.

The lions and lionesses, coated in blood as well and with pieces of flesh and bone caught between their canines, leisurely roamed the field without yet feeding, until the Conqueror, who was facing the palace gates, outstretched her arms to both sides of her body and whistled.

That epic image would inspire bards throughout the Realm for years to come. The giant feline predators encircled their Master, scampering around her, licking the rusting blood from her opened palms, and her forearms. Some rubbed themselves against her legs; some lifted themselves up to stand on their rear legs, placing their claw-sheathed palms against her stalwart shoulders, sending their large pink tongues to lick the blood off her face. The Conqueror stroked their manes and coats and firmly yet affectionately patted them along their massive figures. They returned her affection and nuzzled her and groomed against her.

Now, they could almost be mistaken for giant domestic pets.

The Conqueror beheld the palace, the peeping eyes of her subjects through the cracks and her wife at the entrance, and smiled the most sinister smile that made chilling shivers run down the spines of all who stood witness, the Queen included.

The Conqueror clapped her hands four times above her head and ordered the animals, "Feed!"

The lions and lioness did as they were commanded and began to scavenge and gorge on the carcasses scattered in abundance on the ground while the Conqueror walked among them, keeping them away from the bodies of the Imperial guards that lost their lives in battle, and fondly tapping over their ribs as they fed.

After some time had passed, the Conqueror's ears pricked as did the ears of her lions. The Imperial Guard Cavalry was swiftly galloping towards the outer gates of the palace wall.

For the Imperial Guard's safety, the Conqueror clapped her hands twice and ordered, "Pen!"

The lions ceased their feeding, and ran back to the menagerie, several of them slightly brushing against their Master or stopping briefly before her, lowering their heads on their way, as if honoring her.

Of all the battlefields Commander Periander had had the misfortune to witness, none had prepared him for what greeted him on the palace's grounds. With their swords ready, he and his men dismounted their horses and ran their puzzled and revolted eyes over the remains splayed upon the earth, some covering their mouths and noses, squinting, trying to guess what could have caused such obliteration of the human form.

Then they looked at the Conqueror and bowed before her.

"Majesty," Commander Periander greeted the Ruler.

"Took you long enough to get here…" the Conqueror seemed stern but sounded almost amused. "You left me and my lion subordinates to do all the killing," she continued in a humorous ornery tone.

At first, Commander Periander thought he misheard his Sovereign, but when he glanced once more at the littered grounds he realized he had not. "Your Majesty commanded the lions?!" he asked to be sure, feeling almost insolent and inwardly he prayed that he hadn't sounded as if disbelieving to his Master's ear.

"Of course I did," the Conqueror stated, swollen with bluster, then averted her gaze from him to her wife, who was still standing at the palace's main entrance and added, looking intensively into her wife's eyes, "They are only lions. Can't you?!"

As the Conqueror began to stride towards the palace, never breaking eye contact with her Queen, she threw her final words to Commander Periander from the corner of her mouth, "Arrest Likos and his sons and place them under guard. They are to remain alive and face my judgment." After a few more strides, the Conqueror continued, "Oh, and for failing to report here in time and perform your sworn duty, you and your men are to clear these grounds. The bodies of the Imperial Guards are to be prepared for burial and the carcasses of the traitors are to be fed to my lions. They deserve it for doing your duty."

"Yes, Majesty," he said and bowed.

The Queen's gaze was still ensnared by her Lord's, and as the Conqueror advanced towards her, the Queen began to weep out of love. She sobered up by a terrible epiphany that she had made a grave, awesome, colossal and tragic mistake. The Queen of the Realm tumbled to her knees so abruptly and so quickly that the guards and her ladies in waiting standing around her failed to catch her before her knees touched the ground beneath her.



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