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Princess of the Realm
Written by WarriorJudge
When the fire signals reached Corinth, heralding the defeat of the Nordic Lands, the Queen and Princess Sieglinde were sitting together in the Imperial Library, reading for some distraction. It was Lady Satrina who came bearing the good news. Such wonderful news caused the Queen and Princess Sieglinde to forgo their customary regal reserves and all three women embraced each other with tears of joy and relief in their eyes and free, careless laughter on their lips. During those dark times in the Realm of torture, relentless persecution and bloodshed, good news was in short supply.
There was nothing the Queen wished better than to run to her Lord and share with her, her mirth that their eldest was alive and on her way back to Corinth after having vanquished the Realm's enemies. However, they no longer shared such a bond between them and before the Queen began to drift into her own despair, she suddenly noticed that Princess Sieglinde's tears of joy had turned into tears of grief and mourning. Sieglinde's tears soon turned into loud sobs and the Queen caressed the wet cheeks.
Lady Satrina pushed aside the parchments that were scattered over the oak table before the royals, poured a cup of water and handed it to Princess Sieglinde to drink and calm herself.
"My homeland… My people…" Princess Sieglinde barely managed between sobs. "I imagined I would be strong enough to…" she mumbled between quivering lips. "It is not out of disloyalty to the Realm, Majesty," she tried to explain her strife to her mother-in-law, "but I know the atrocities that are an integral part of war… the rapes, the senseless butchery… I cannot stop my heart from grieving for my people."
"Shhh…" the Queen hushed the Nordic Princess and tightly hugged her shoulders. "Warriors of the Realm are bound by my Lord's code of purity of weapon. Unarmed civilians are never to be harmed and women are never to be taken against their will. My Lord does not tolerate even the slightest disobedience or deviation from her law."
"Of course, Majesty," the young Princess said and sniveled in an effort to stop the sobs. "Please, forgive me for I did not intend to cast any blemish or any doubt…"
"Do not trouble yourself, your Grace," the Queen rubbed her palm against the Princess’ back to calm her.
Princess Sieglinde raised her bloodshot eyes and directed her gaze to the Queen's. "My brother is alive still, is he not?" she asked with a small voice, croaky by profound concern.
"If my Lord's treatment of Likos, Sirus and Drusus is any indication, then your brother is still alive and on route to Corinth to face my Lord's judgment," the Queen answered as softly as she could and wondered if her words were any consolation, for her Lord meted severe punishments, far worse than death on the battlefield.
Renewed streams of tears slid down from the grey eyes. "Poor Baldr… So foolish and proud… I thought I could be brave enough to accept his inevitable fate… But I don't think I can."
The Conqueror had been promoting the knowledge of the extensive torture methods that the traitors suffered in the palace dungeons by her hand.
"Sweet Sieglinde," the Queen spoke like a mother, "I shall beg my Lord to pardon your brother."
"I am profoundly grateful for your gracious Majesty's graces, but the Lord Conqueror will not pardon such acts of sedition and insurrection. All I can hope for is leniency and pray the Lord Conqueror to grant my brother a quick death.”
The Queen knew that Princess Sieglinde was right to think so. In the past, her Lord had been willing to spare Phillipon’s, her previous owner’s daughters, because no one outside Amazon Lands had been aware of their offence against their family. With the Nordic Prince it was different, for the entire world knew about his betrayal. Therefore, the Conqueror would not spare his life and would execute him in public for all to behold and dread.
“I shall appeal to my Lord and beg for leniency, then,” the Queen offered wholeheartedly.
“With respect, I do not wish to further add burden to the discord already existing between your Majesties, and moreover, Baldr is my brother, therefore, it is I who should be the one to plea in his behalf," the Nordic Princess answered.
That morning was the day of Sirus’ and Drusus' executionsand first of the three days of Likos' execution. The Conqueror had promised Likos that his dying would last for days and the Conqueror had never gone back on a promise.
Contented that she had extracted all necessary information out of them, the Conqueror stood in the dungeons and watched as the three former noblemen and their families and households' staffs were being prepared to meet their deaths. The men's bodies were black, blue and red from all the beatings and injuries they sustained during their interrogations, and some of their fingers and toes were missing.
The children in their families were allowed to say goodbye to their parents and grandparents, and then kicking, screaming and crying they were torn away from their mothers' and grandmothers' arms by Imperial Guardsmen. Their efforts to grab hold and cling onto their mothers’ and grandmothers' rags failed. The cries and the wails were insufferable, and it was all the guardsmen could do not to grimace and hold their hands to their ears and press as hard as they could to at least muffle the horrendous sounds.
Likos' wife threw herself at the Conqueror's feet. "Majesty," sheimplored, wailing. "What will become of my grandchildren?" she asked.
"All underage children will be banished to the province of Chin, never to set foot outside its borders upon the pain of death," the Conqueror answered through pursed lips, stern and stoic as she looked down at the older, grief-stricken woman at her feet. "You ought to be grateful for it, for if I were to do to them as your husband had intended to do to my wife and child, I would have raped you and all the women and children in your family, and then have the entire Imperial Guard take turns." The Conqueror kicked the woman off her boots as if not wishing to get filth on them, then yelled: "But I am not a savage!"
"Your gracious Majesty," Drusus said as one of the guards detached his shackles from the iron ring embedded into the stone wall of his cell, "I beg of you to take pity on the women and banish them, as well."
The Conqueror looked at his beaten, scarred body, noticing that his legs were barely able to carry him. "During the interrogations it was established that the women had been well aware of your plot, but rather than act upon the allegiance they owe me, they chose to be loyal to you, and for that they are equally guilty. All who resided under your roofs had knowledge and yet none spoke up!"
Sirus, huddled in the corner, shivering and burning in turns, coughed before he managed to speak, "I beseech your gracious Majesty to forgive me before I die."
The Conqueror folded her arms over her chest. "I keep wondering," she began to say thoughtfully and rubbed her chin with her forefinger, "What did you all think would have happened if by a small chance you had succeeded in defeating me and conquered my Empire with that dastardly act of treason of yours?!"
Likos, Sirus and Drusus exchanged looks between them.
"Was it your intention, perhaps, to form a peaceful republic, where each of the Realm's provinces would have been divided among you and your coconspirators? Is that what you thought would have happened?!" the Conqueror demanded to know as she paced back and forth in front of them.
It appeared that all three of the traitors had no answer to give.
The Conqueror began to laugh, but then her brows furrowed. "Of mankind I say in general, they are fickle, hypocritical and greedy of gain. How long, do you reckon, before one or all of you would have raised arms against the other for greater portion of the spoils or for greater power?!"
The three traitors held their heads down and mouths shut.
"I remember what sort of a place the world was before I conquered it and became its Ruler. Warlords fought each other for more power, more lands and more gold while commoners paid the price – their homes plundered and burnt to the ground, their wives and children raped and sold into slavery so as to finance their wars, innocents killed and the earth soaked with blood. That is how it has always been until I rose… the weak being trampled over by men with some power – but you do not care about the commoners, do you?!"
The Conqueror ceased her pacing and faced the traitors. "You need me to rule you all! Not everyone can master and wield power!" the Conqueror shouted. "Do you think your republic would have been better than my autocracy? What form of government is of no consequence – what is, however, is what type of sovereigns are in rule – the type who lead and protect their subjects or the type who only care for their own personal gain."
A few moments passed in silence and then the Conqueror continued, "It is I who make and unmake Noblemen in this Realm. It is I who make and unmake Generals in this Realm. I ordain the Realm and you should have remembered it and acceded to it."
Before the Conqueror turned to leave the dungeons and ride to the scaffolds, she said to them gleefully, "My Heir defeated your collaborator in the North, of course," then turned to the guardsmen and said, "Bring them all to the central square. The women, households' staff and adult sons and daughters of these traitors are to be put under my blade first, for I wish Sirus, Drusus and Likos to watch me take from them all that they have left."
"By your will, Majesty," the guardsmenconfirmed the order rendered.
"And have the Imperial Healer brought to the scaffolds, for I do not wish for these wretched men to expire before I am satisfied," was the Conqueror's last order.
The streets of Corinth, much to the vendors' delight, were teeming with people from all over the Realm, noblemen, courtiers and commoners alike to witness the traitors' executions about to take place in the centre square where the scaffolds were waiting.
The grey skies were grim with clouds, but the ominous weather did not deter the masses from attending.
The Conqueror was standing upon the high platform when the iron barred wagons carrying the condemned arrived at the centre square and were driven to where the scaffolds stood, from which Sirus, Drusus and Likos had a clear view.
The condemned huddled against the iron grates, some weeping and some raving, both weak and malnourished.
One by one, starting with the traitors' household staff, men and women stretched their necks under the Conqueror's swords and their heads were swiftly severed and their lifeless, gaunt bodies dropped to the side with a twitch to the cheers of the masses. The guardsman in charge of the heads was quick to pick up the rolling heads by the hairs and hand them over to the Conqueror to be held up. This was done not to display the crowd with the heads, but to show the heads the faces of the audience and their own fallen bodies. Consciousness remains for a few moments after beheading before death occurs. The heads were then given away to be put on spikes. In-between strikes, the Conqueror’s sword was honed so that the blade would not become blunt, and the procedure remained relatively dignified and painless.
When the decapitations of Sirus, Drusus and Likos’ families were about to begin, and the wives, mistresses, sons and daughters were being aligned at the foot of the scaffolds, the Conqueror turned her glare to the wagon where the former noblemen were confined to, still.
“Enemies of the Realm!” the Ruler called out to them, “you will open your eyes and witness your families’ executions or I shall nail your eyelids to your foreheads, I give you my word!”
As Drusus’ trembling wife was escorted up the stairs to the scaffolds, pale as a sheet and shaking all over, her husband began to cry and unintentionally averted his eyes away. The Conqueror signaled two of the guardsmen standing beside the wagon. The guardsmen climbed up the wagon and entered the iron cage and with the thumbs and forefingers forced Drusus’s eyes open and with their palms fixed his head to face the platform.
“Given your former station, have you any last words?” the Conqueror asked the frightened woman, who was supported still by the guardsmen leading her to kneel upon the straw that was drenched with the blood of the previously executed.
She nodded her head, and with a faint voice she said, “I wish to thank your Majesty for granting me an honorable death, and pray your Majesty to pardon the despicable offence I have committed.”
The Conqueror looked down at the woman with a sealed expression. “Remove your hair from around your neck,” were the only words spoken.
But the condemned's hands shook too hard to manage even such a simple task, and so one of the guards exposed her neck instead, nevertheless Drusus’ wife trembled violently and was unable to keep steady.
“You must keep still, Adonia, or I shall have to swing my blade repeatedly rather than complete the act with a single strike,” the Conqueror spoke without anger. “It’s for your own good.”
“My apologies, Majesty, but I cannot control the shakes,” Drusus’ wife sobbed.
“Guards!” the Conqueror called out, and two guards held Adonia down, steadily.
And finally, with a single blow, the Conqueror ended Adonia’s life.
Next, under the Conqueror’s sword, came Drusus’ son and two daughters – their blood mixing with their mother’s on the solid planks underfoot, and after them came Sirus’ family and household, then Likos’, while Sirus, Drusus, Likos and his three sons were forced to watch.
Drusus, Sirus, Likos and his sons were shoved up the stairs of the platform. When they reached the landing, they were chained to the five wooden crosses arrayed in a crescent moon shape so that they could each have a clear view of the other. A few slashes of the Conqueror’s sword to the rags that covered the prisoners' beaten bodies left them naked as the day of their birth for all to see, so to shame them.
"Subjects of the Realm!" the Conqueror addressed the audience gathered around the scaffolds, and approached the fore of the platform, her leather boots stepping over the puddles of blood she had spilt. "Let the punishment I am about to mete upon these wicked, treacherous men set an example to all those who dare foment rebellion in my Realm and plot against me. Insurrections against the Throne shall never be pardoned."
The Conqueror stuffed four branding iron rods into the burning iron barrels standing in the left corner of the platform, and then took her whip into her hand.
All five men received forty lashes each. Whenever one of them fainted due to the severe pain, the Imperial Healer was ordered to treat them so to be able to continue to withstand the Conqueror's chastisement, which was far from over.
The entire frontal sides of the traitors' bodies were covered with open, bleeding welts by the time the Conqueror finished.
"Drusus! Sirus!" the Conqueror called out to both men, whose heads were drooped between their shoulders, too weak to keep them upheld.
The Conqueror approached them with a dagger and released their right hands from the cross, making their bodies slump forward.
"Take your cocks in your hands and stretch them outwards," the Ruler ordered them.
Both men shook their heads, wailing and instinctively covered their genitals with their free hand.
"Please, Majesty… Mercy!" Drusus squealed.
"Do not test my patience!" the Conqueror's voice raged. "Pull it out now for if you don't, I shall make it twice as painful!"
The men cried buckets as they stretched out their genitals to be put under the Conqueror's blade.
The Conqueror brought the dagger to Drusus' member and testicles and rather than remove them with a single strike, the Conqueror slowly sliced into the soft, live flesh. "If you let go," the Conqueror warned through his screams of agony, "mark my words - I shall feed it to you – raw!"
When his manhood was completely severed, the Conqueror ordered him to first lift his hand holding the organ in the air and to show it to the grimacing crowd, then to throw it into the fire. As gashes of blood came in spurts from his injury, the odor of burnt flesh permeated the air. Before Drusus died from extreme loss of blood, the Conqueror asked him for his last words, but he was in too much pain to speak intelligible words. Upon receiving no answer, the Conqueror disemboweled him and cut off his head with an axe, which was considered a lower form of a beheading.
Sirus received the same treatment as Drusus, but Likos and his sons suffered far worse than that.
"These pigs' crimes surpassed those of their coconspirators," the Conqueror announced as she gestured with her arm in the direction of Likos and his sons, "for not only have they waged war against me, but they meant to rape my Queen and my daughter. Therefore, their execution will last for three days, and by the punishment I have designed for them you will all know without a doubt that there is no greater crime in the Realm!"
In the Conqueror's mind, Likos and his sons' crimes had been far greater than that of Perous, who had instigated the mutiny in Cyra, and therefore deserved far worse than Perous had suffered by her hand.
TheConquerorthenturned to Likos and his sons, still chained to the crosses. "In the next three days," the Conqueror stated so to put the fear of death in them, "Every body-part that you intended to touch to my wife and daughter you will lose."
On that day, the Conqueror severed Likos’ and his sons' genitals, but cauterized their wounds so that they would survive and remain alive for the next day. When they were returned back to their cells, the Imperial Healer was charged to keep them alive to face the Conqueror again.
On the second day of Likos’ and his sons' punishment, the Conqueror delivered forty more lashes and cut off their tongues.
And on the third day, the Conqueror signaled the guards and on her cue they carried four stony blocks, which resembled alters with metallic manacles in two of its corners, up the platform and placed them at the fore of it.
Likos and his sons were released from the crosses after suffering forty more lashes of the Conqueror's whip. They were made to turn around and show their bare buttocks to the spectators where the Conqueror had branded her insignia into the flesh. It made the audience laugh and mock them.
Then, their lambasted, mutilated bodies were forced to bend over the blocks and their hands were secured by the manacles.
The Conqueror sodomized them with a hot branding iron as her victims floundered beneath her pernicious and violating attention. The sights, sounds and odors were too unbearable to witness and many of the people in the crowd covered their faces, pinched their noses and averted their eyes away. Nobody laughed anymore, as shrieks burst out of the men's strained throats and as smoke came out of the men's rears while their flesh was charred from the inside. The Imperial Healer was ordered several times to approach Likos and his sons to force awareness upon them, so that they would not miss even a single moment of the horrid experience.
Their hands were the next members to be cut off.
At noon, Likos and his sons' trounced bodies were bound to the stakes and small fires were set at their feet, for it was the Conqueror's pleasure that they should not die too quickly of suffocation by the smoke but that they should die slowly by the burning flames.
For their last words, Likos and his sons, who no longer had tongues in their mouths, could offer only pitiful mewling. When the fire began to consume their flesh, horrifying screams erupted from their throats and made all in attendance that day wince and squirm.
Weak and tiny raindrops began to fall from the sky and many present believed that it was the Conqueror who controlled the clouds and made the rain to pour down just slightly so that the burning of Likos and his sons would be prolonged even further without the fire being put out.
When the flames reached the condemned's necks, the Conqueror disemboweled them with her sword and decapitated them with an axe.
There were no cheers from the spectators this time. Once more, subjects of the Realm who attended Likos’ and his sons' executions were overwhelmed by their Sovereign's uncompromising, fantastical cruelty and ruthlessness to the point where no voice could have been produced. No one moved until the Conqueror stepped down the platform and only then did they bow and curtsy before her.
A short while later, in the early afternoon, the Conqueror retired to the Imperial Chambers, and one form of lust was replaced by a different form altogether.
The Imperial Healer faltered on stumbling legs to the infirmary in order to continue in private the libation which he had began from the moment that Likos and his sons finally had died. When he tumbled into the infirmary, drunk beyond measure, he saw the Queen showing the facility to the Shamaness.
"Majesty," hebarely managed, and even that single word came out slurred. He tried to bow before her but his body slanted to the side and he fell into one of the empty beds closest to him, knocking over a chair as he clumsily went down.
Both the Queen and the Shamaness rushed to his side. The Queen pried open his hand and took out the flagon of wine he was clinging to with all his might as if his life depended on it.
"Majesty," the old man sobbed like a child and directed his bloodshot, watery gaze into the Queen's eyes.
"What happened to you?" the Queen exclaimed, alarmed, though she suspected as to the reason behind his uncharacteristic drunkenness.
"In all my years as the Lord Conqueror's Chief Healer, I have treated many injuries and seen petrifying, repugnant and horrible sights," the old man wailed so strongly that the Queen could barely understand what he was saying, "but to this day I have never seen such display of ultimate human suffering."
The Queen then realized that that Likos’ and his sons' executions had ended. She looked down at the broken man who had been at her side for many years and from whom she had learnt so much and her heart went out to him. She gently stroked his white hair and found no words to comfort him. The reaction of a seasoned Chief Imperial Healer to the executions taught the Queen just how atrocious Likos’ and his sons' executions had been.
"I shall beg the Lord Conqueror to permit me to retire from service for I can no longer…" he mumbled but then his eyes framed by deep wrinkles closed and he fell into a deep sleep.
The Queen covered her mouth in anguish and could not arrest her tears. "What am I to do?" she sounded desperate.
The Shamaness cleared her dry throat. "The darkness?" she inquired tentatively.
The Queen nodded her head. "Princess Sieglinde once told me that in her homeland… there were lands far, far to the north, when during the wintertime, so the stories told, nighttime would last for days upon days." The Queen wiped her tears away. "That is how I've been feeling for so long… Days upon days of thick, omnipresent darkness that pervades me as though I've been buried in the earth whilst still breathing."
"I know, my Queen."
The Queen looked down at the old healer, who was obliviously snoring, and understood that he toowas infected by the darkness.
"I have been dutifully servicing my Lord for these past days, but my Lord…" the Queen paused to consider her words, "remains unattainable to me," she eventually said and downcast her eyes to look at her hands, playing with the embroidery of her dress.
"Gabrielle," the Shamaness covered the Queen's hands with her own and searched her eyes.
"Every night I wait on my knees…" the Queen emitted a scoff as though she was mocking herself for something. "Seems appropriate enough… waiting on my knees like a beggar, with my hand out – wordlessly begging my Lord for pittance of her love and affection. But my Lord…" her voice trailed off and after some time had passed she added, "My Lord is too immersed in darkness…," and her voice trailed off again.
"May I advise you on the matter?" the Shamaness asked.
"Perhaps it is your expectations," the Shamaness delicately suggested.
"How do you mean?"
"The Conqueror is highly astute and can sense your expectations. The Conqueror can read your posture, your expression, and your tiniest gestures and know that you want something from her and expect to receive it and are disappointed when you do not. The Conqueror must sense that you have your own agenda, and that you are there for yourself as well."
"You are correct," the Queen's shoulders dropped and a deep sigh escaped her lips. "I understand now what I must do."
"Neither my love, nor my desire has won me my Lord's heart the first time, but my selflessness and submission to my Lord's will alone," the Queen said with an air of determination about her and got off the bed in the infirmary.
Meanwhile, in the Imperial Chambers, Thetis gentle rapped upon the doors and entered the antechamber. The thick curtains were drawn and so although there was daylight outside, the Imperial Chambers were dimly lit.
The Conqueror was sitting in her armchair. Her pensive gaze was fixed on the flames dancing low in the hearth. With no small amount of effort, the Ruler tried to think about absolutely nothing.
Thetis made three tentative steps into the Imperial antechamber and would not venture any further than that. It was best, she thought, to keep close to the entrance. An ominous feeling deep in her stomach advised her against coming too close to the Conqueror at that time, and she trusted it.
"Majesty," she called out with a small voice at the general direction of the dark figure sitting, brooding near the hearth, whose profile was barely discernable.
It took awhile before Thetis was granted a response.
"What?" a single word that sounded more like a low growl of an animal was thrown at the attendant.
It was odd, Thetis thought, that she saw no movement. "Pray, pardon the intrusion, but her Grace, Princess Sieglinde, requests an audience with your Majesty." Thetis’ words were uttered very carefully.
She waited again for quite some time before she heard a deep breath being exhaled and saw the dark figure stir in the armchair.
"Show her in, and before you do, open the curtains," the Conqueror said.
"Of course, Majesty," Thetis replied and went to draw opened the curtains and allow light into the bleak chamber, thinking all the while that her Master probably did not wish to scare the poor lass to death.
When the antechamber was washed with daylight again, Thetis, who still opted to keep her distance from her Master, gandered at her from the corner of her eye, and saw her brushing her fingers into her dark, somewhat disheveled mane and straightening the regal chiton at her shoulders.
The attendant went to the entrance and invited Princess Sieglinde inside, then left, closing the doors behind her.
The Conqueror rose from her armchair and saw Princess Sieglinde curtsying before her.
"Your Majesty," Princess Sieglinde greeted.
"Your Grace," the Conqueror greeted back.
The Nordic Princess straightened upwards. "Thank you, Majesty, for granting me audience."
"What can I do for you?" the Conqueror asked.
Princess Sieglinde seemed hesitant, even nervous. She stood in front of the Conqueror picking and choosing her words in her mind, unconsciously touching the cap that covered her hair briefly, till she realized she was making the Conqueror wait for her.
"I…" she began to say, and then paused.
The Conqueror clasped her hands behind her back. "You may speak freely, your Grace," she encouraged her daughter-in-law.
Nevertheless, Princess Sieglinde wondered just how freely she could speak, really. She decided to be brave.
"I heard about the traitors Drusus, Sirus, Likos and his sons’ executions which took place earlier today," Princess Sieglinde stated and her eyes absentmindedly evaded the Conqueror's.
"And?" the Conqueror asked with a rise of her brows and something in the manner in which she spoke gave Princess Sieglinde the impression that the Conqueror had a pretty decent idea as to the purpose of her visit.
"I came here initially to beg your Majesty to show leniency towards my brother, Baldr, for although a traitor, he is still my kin, and it troubles me greatly to think that he should meet with the same punishment as your Majesty's punishment to his coconspirators."
The Conqueror wore a curious expression on her face and intrigued, waited for Princess Sieglinde to continue.
"But now that I stand here before your Majesty, I have come to realize that if your gracious Majesty is to grant me but one wish, then I best spend it on someone who deserves it better than my brother and whom I have grown to love and cherish as a mother."
The Conqueror's features turned from one of curiosity into one of ire, for she could foresee the direction in which Princess Sieglinde was going, placing herself, perhaps unwittingly, in what every child in the Realm knew was the most dangerous place in the world.
Princess Sieglinde noticed the fast change in the Conqueror's mood and the frown on her features, of course, and she was well aware of the grave danger she was in.
"I beg your Majesty to forgive the Queen, for I think the Queen deserves your Majesty's mercy better than my brother."
And there it was in a flash. Princess Sieglinde caught a glimpse of the beast riddled with blood-lust that the Queen had told her about, rearing its head and glowering at her through feral, intimidating, shinning eyes. It was pure instinct that made Princess Sieglinde lower her head and exhibit capitulation.
"Withdraw your plea before I deny it," the Conqueror gave the young Princess an opening to reconsider.
But Princess Sieglinde would not take it.
"With all humility, I beseech your Majesty to hear me out, and afford me the license to speak freely," she implored and was now looking directly into the Conqueror's eyes, not out of defiance but out of conviction.
"Go ahead, then," the Conqueror finally said. She knew that there was no necessity in warning the Princess to tread very lightly, for Princess Sieglinde was wise enough and well bred to do so without it.
"Both her Majesty and I are wives," Princess Sieglinde said and a faint smile suddenly adorned the angles of her lips as if she enjoyed saying it or delighted in that notion, but quickly enough the smile disappeared. "We are wives of great Rulers and as such, we are frequently required to be forgiving on small offences which oftentimes go unnoticed by our Lords and for greater offences which oftentimes aren't appreciated or even acknowledged."
As Princess Sieglinde spoke, the Conqueror detected neither bitterness, nor resentment. To the Conqueror, Princess Sieglinde spoke as one who had shrewd understanding of her reality and who had accepted it completely and without reservations – not out of some resignation to something she had no power to change, but because she genuinely believed that that was how it ought to be.
"We forgive when our Lords are being detained in meetings; we forgive when our Lords are kept away from us due to their many obligations to their station; we forgive when our Lords’ anger towards others' is directed unintentionally at us, and we forgive our Lords' indiscretions. We forgive as is our duty and so that our Lords, who carry great responsibilities, are able to perform their duties with a carefree mind."
"As wives," Princess Sieglinde continued, "we are expected to forgive and we do so wholeheartedly even when it is difficult, and we do not expect our Lords to apologize to us."
The Conqueror beheld her daughter-in-law with perfect adoration. The Ruler comprehended what was spoken between Princess Sieglinde's words. What Princess Sieglinde was also saying, the Conqueror understood, was that she had already forgiven and would continue to forgive truly, Athena's infidelities and that she did not expect Athena to apologize to her – for Princess Sieglinde understood that Rulers of the world need not apologize as a principle because of who they were.
"Some may think it a weakness, but I think it is our strength," Princess Sieglinde said and smiled, "and I know so does the Queen's Majesty."
Oh, how clever was her daughter-in-law, the Conqueror thought, and had it not been for the circumstances and her foul mood, she would have cracked a smile of her own in delight.
Princess Sieglinde halted her speech once more.
"Go on," the Conqueror urged the Norsewoman.
"I shall not intervene any further in the specifics of the discord between your Majesties and I shall not argue in her Queen's Majesty's defense."
Both the Conqueror's eyebrows rose in surprise.
"I will only say this," Princess Sieglinde continued, "and with that I shall conclude my earnest plea to your Majesty: The Queen's Majesty has forgiven your Majesty many times over the years. I know it to be true not because I was told as much, but because the Queen is your Majesty's wife and so she must have. More than I wish for my brother a quick death, I wish for her Majesty the Queen to be happy again."
Princess Sieglinde breathed out slowly, as if she had just completed a great, arduous task. She did not expect the Conqueror to answer her plea. She simply said, "Thank you, Majesty, for granting me audience and for hearing my appeal."
The Nordic Princess curtsied deeply before the Conqueror and murmured, "Majesty," before vacating the antechamber.
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