Announcement - Thanks to my savvy, diligent and extraordinary beta-reader, Nancyjean – Both Lord Conqueror of the Realm and Queen of the Realm can now be found on an Ebook format as well. (epub, MOBI, PDF) on the
Xena Library web site. It is listed under the LORD CONQUEROR OF THE
REALM SERIES, so scroll down to the L's.
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 following day, during twilight, the Conqueror and the Queen were reclining atop a hip of furs and pillows as the setting sun made its decline into the calm sea. The Queen appeared gloomy and pensive.
"What could be the cause of such a disconsolate air about you when we are together?" the Conqueror inquired with a beguiling smile that momentarily lifted up the Queen's glum mood.
The Queen trenched herself deeper into her Lord. "I was thinking about the sights I saw on the palace grounds from the balcony during the battle with Likos and his men…"
The Conqueror pressed warm lips to her wife's temple and moved them against it as she spoke, "Did the violence and the blood disturb you?"
The Queen took a few moments to consider the Conqueror's question. "At first it did. The blood and the sheer brutality are the most immediate, most noticeable things that snare one's attention in the beginning. It has such an overwhelming effect that it was almost difficult to discern anything else beyond the most obvious. But now that I am far from it, I can say that the displays of pain, suffering and dread of meeting with death are the things that have stayed with me… Faces contorted by terror and agony… the cries and the screams…" Her voice faded, her features went white as a sheet and her eyes became transfixed and glazed like she could see the awful sights before her.
"I wish I was better able to spare you…" The Conqueror's voice was laden with regret, such as the Queen had never heard before.
"You have spared me the partaking in the carnage of war, my Lord."
"I got here just in time, did I not?" The Conqueror tried to lift up her wife's spirit with a light and mischievous comment. "Though I must say, you looked very fetching in your Amazon Queen attire."
The Conqueror waited in vain for a smile to appear on her wife's lips.
"The Imperial guardsmen disobeyed my order and prevented me from joining the battle –by your orders, I was told."
The Conqueror kept her face sealed, and wondered whether her wife's words were merely a statement of fact or a grievance of some sort.
The Queen argued: "I could have fought alongside them and been of some help defending my family and my subjects. I was well trained."
"My love," the Conqueror whispered and her voice had an appeasing quality to it. She placed a gentle finger beneath the Queen's chin, motioning the Queen to face her. "I have no doubt in my mind that you are a capable Amazon Queen, who is well versed in the art of war."
"You were protecting me, Xena," the Queen faintly smiled and the fact that she used her Lord's name implied that she profoundly cherished what she knew was her Lord's gracious and thoughtful act of love.
"Not just your life," the Conqueror explained.
"I know, you meant to save my soul from the damaging residues of killing. Your order was not that I must never fight but that I must never shed another's blood ."
"It is my will that you should forever maintain your innocence. I did not wish for your light to be vanquished by blood."
Cradled, the Queen stirred in the Conqueror's arms. The topic of conversation evoked troubling memories that made contrition bloom in her. "I must confess an offence I've committed against your privacy."
"That sounds awfully dire," the Conqueror commented, amused. "How so?" she asked curious.
"One evening, on my way to my chambers, I heard you engaging in conversation with the attendant about killing foes in battle."
The Conqueror seemed quite astounded but she was in good humor and in a particularly forgiving mood, and inwardly she went as far as to feel guilty for having tormented her wife for her disobedience by invoking jealousy in her.
The Sovereign recalled the conversation quite well.
"Did you hear all of it?"
"I heard most of it. I think you weren't entirely truthful with the servant."
"In what way, do you reckon?" the Conqueror asked. She knew that the Queen was right in her assumption but she wondered as to her wife's thoughts.
"You told her that when you killed for the first time you felt nothing and I do not believe it to be the truth," the Queen replied.
The Conqueror mindlessly brushed the tip of her finger against the Queen's healing lips. "And what do you think is the truth?"
"It is the fact that you feel so strongly and so passionately that you need to build such massively strong, shielding walls around you."
The Conqueror observed her wife, who knew her better than she knew herself, with loving eyes and said nothing.
"When I saw the horrors of war occurring before my eyes, for the first time, I think I got a true, real and potent taste of the toll it takes on mind and soul and the turmoil it must create within one's self to inflict them even when not striking the first blow – even for the purpose of protecting and fighting for the greater good."
After a few more moments passed between them in silence, the Queen continued to say, "I think it is why you exhaust yourself so… Waking up at the crack of dawn and falling into bed late at night… So that you will have a dreamless sleep… so that the faces of the people you've destroyed won't return to haunt you during the short time between when your head is laid on the pillow to the moment when sleep claims you."
"I sleep well in Thira ," the Conqueror muttered.
"Because in Thira you know that I am safe, and because in Thira you can pretend that you are no more than Xena of Amphipolis, born by Cyrene and husband to Gabrielle rather than the ruthless Conqueror of the world."
There were no words the Ruler could offer against the truth and what emotions her wife stirred inside her she swallowed.
"I know that you have been keeping from me that…" she paused in search for words, "that price you pay and I admire you for it because of the great self-control and immense effort it draws from you and I love you for it because of this urge you have to constantly save me from the darker elements of life and rule, but I am your wife and sometimes I too have the urge to protect you, your peerless power notwithstanding."
“You do, without even realizing that you do. When I come to bed at night and lie next to you… just having you there with me… knowing that a pure-hearted woman like you loves me and is willing to share a bed with me is comforting beyond anything you can imagine.”
The Queen experience another moment of great revelation – When she had refused to share a bed with her Lord, not only had she betrayed their bond but she had also robbed her Lord of her place of refuge and solace and the shame she felt at that moment inspired her to wish to punish herself for it. She knew, however, that self-flagellation would serve no good, nor would it serve her Lord, for certain.
She kissed the Conqueror's palm, callused from years of rigorously wielding weapons. “I am your love and companion on this earth. You needn't carry the burden alone. You can speak to me even about those terrible secrets you keep buried beneath layers of the stony ground in your heart and allow me to carry it with you – and share this heavy encumbrance with me without ever fearing either my scrutiny or staining my innocence.”
A clutter of dishes being arranged outside at the antechamber informed them that the evening meal had arrived and was waiting for them.
"Shall we go and have supper?" the Conqueror asked, deliberately refraining from making a promise to her wife or even hinting that things would be different henceforth. She did not wish to give her word that she wasn't sure she could keep but inwardly decided to make everything that was in her power to fight herself and break molds it took years to create.
The Queen understood. She nodded her head and disentangled her body from that of her Lord's.
At first they took their supper in silence, as if they said all that needed to be said to one another already, but when the Conqueror saw her wife pushing the fish on her plate from one side to the other, she said, "It would seem that you are not without your own shadows tonight. What has darkened your spirit?"
The Queen poured herself some sweet wine, which she rarely ever consumed, and it worried her Lord even more. A notion, a dark notion that she had been pushing down into the most obscure recesses of her mind caught up with her all of a sudden.
The Conqueror put down her knife and covered the Queen's hand resting on the table with hers as her gaze sough out that of the Queen's.
"What is it?" she asked gently, suppressing her alarm. "Tell me."
"I am afraid to," the Queen replied with an unreadable tone of voice.
"You were brave enough to meet Likos and his army on the field… brave enough to face me yesterday… muster up that wondrous courage of yours and speak to me."
"I'm afraid to say what I dread in my heart is true." The Queen averted her gaze away from her Lord as if she could not face her.
"What is?!" The Conqueror could no longer hide her concern and shook her wife's hand under hers.
"I fear that the uprising against your reign and the subsequent wars and lives lost – all happened because of me… that my defying you has made you appear weak in the eyes of your subjects, giving them the grit and the cause to betray you." The Queen burst into tears and her eyes reflected horror and profound guilt. "I am responsible for so much death!" she sobbed uncontrollably, and in her distraught state nearly knocked the plate before her off the table.
The Conqueror immediately rose from her seat and knelt next to her Queen still seated at the table, shoulders quivering by the force of her grief.
"Stop it! Do you hear me?!" The Conqueror raised her voice so to be heard over her wife's cries. She tried to catch her wife's eyes with her own and when she couldn't she pinched her wife's chin and forced her to direct her gaze at her. "Stop it at once!"
The Queen did her very best to obey the command, and her cries somewhat subsided into whimpers and sniffles.
"Now you heed my words," the Conqueror spoke firmly. "It is not your fault!" she stated fervently. "You did not foment rebellion in the Realm. It was not you who plotted against me – not you who raised arms against me. You are not accountable for the actions of treacherous men in my domain."
"But -" the Queen attempted to speak but the Conqueror cut through her speech.
"Hush now, and listen to me," the Conqueror said and rested her finger over the Queen's lips, barring her from speaking. "Do you honestly think that four noblemen raised armies of thousands and challenged the greatest force in the world… because you would not open your legs for me?!"
The Queen listened carefully and considered her Lord's words, hoping they did not sound convincing to her simply because she was so eagerly wanting to be convinced.
The Conqueror continued, "Rebellion against rule is a certainty - an integral part of being in power. It will always happen regardless of anything either you or I can do. Trust that every few years someone will try to free himself from under my authority – And this time, if it hadn't been our discord, it would have been some other excuse, equally poor – such as the position of the stars in the sky or the word of one oracle or another. The only reason that rebellion does not occur every other day but once in a decade or two is because of the fear I strike and cultivate in the hearts of my subjects. However," the Conqueror shortly paused, "once every few years the world needs a reminder of who I am – and I give it."
The Queen calmed down as the Conqueror tenderly wiped the tears from her flushed cheeks.
"Are you being truthful with me or are you…?" The Queen trusted her Lord completely, but she just found it hard not to trust her own feeling of guilt, still having hold over her.
"You know I am." The Conqueror smiled and the Queen pressed her body against her Lord's as a silent plea for an embrace. Her Plea was answered.
After some long moments passed between them taking comfort in each other, it was the Queen who pointed out, with her chin still resting on the Conqueror's shoulder, "Your food is getting cold, my Lord."
"If it is only my food that is getting cold then indeed I am very fortunate, my Lady." The Conqueror let out a low, thick chuckle the melted away any remnants of concerns the Queen held.
They went on to eat their supper, exchanging lewd comments and jests between them and laughing about them, while excessively stroking each other with their bare feet under the table. When they finished eating, the Conqueror rose from her seat and extended an inviting hand to her wife.
"Let us go back to bed, my Lady, for you are far from finished compensating me."
"I do not think you will ever deem me finished compensating you, my Lord," the Queen teased, taking the offered hand and standing up in one sensual, fluid motion.
"Was that a complaint I've just heard you raise?!" the Conqueror inquired, amused as she gently pulled her wife towards the bed.
Wearing the mask of false innocence, the Queen replied, "Of course not, my Lord."
"Then get your ass back to bed this instant!" the Conqueror feigned an irresistible order with a mixture of wickedness and arousal glittering in her eyes.
The following night, after competing over who would fall from exhaustion first by several, consecutive intercourses, they lay spent, panting and sweating in each other's arms again. The Conqueror rested her weary head atop her wife's rising and falling belly and from her wife's drenched sex she inhaled the blending scents of their desires.
"I haven't revisited the memory of my first kill in many years," the Conqueror began to speak as her wife fondly braded a few strands of ebony hair as was often her habit.
But as soon as the Conqueror finished uttering her sentence, she felt her wife's hands stop their task.
"He was approximately my age. A handsome lad, he was with big dark eyes and sparse beard, untrimmed, like he was so proud to finally exhibit signs of manhood that he did not have the heart to cut a hair of it - a misguided young fool, who joined a band of raiders in another man's quest for power, sweeping through Amphipolis. He was weaker than me, to be sure, but I had not expected to gain the opening for my lethal strike as soon as I did, or perhaps I hadn't wished for it to present itself to me quite so soon, as if in fear that I was not ready for everything in my life to change so vastly and so abruptly. I remember hesitating for a brief moment, but my sword-arm was steady. Nevertheless, I missed his heart, if you can imagine," the Conqueror spoke as her eyes moved sluggishly over the sight of her wife's glistening thighs slowly drying. "My sword hit just below his shoulder and then not even deep enough, at that. The injury caused him to drop his sword to the ground, and I saw his big dark eyes open so widely that for a moment they appeared as though belonging to a fawn. He seemed shocked like he was not prepared to die, and I think he was not prepared to kill either. My second strike did not miss its target and after he fell at my feet my sword-arm moved like it was being mastered by some force other than me, and before long others fell one after the other. To this day I would not recognize their faces if they stood right in front of me in the noon-sun."
The Queen resumed playing her fingers into her Lord's hair, and the Conqueror drew in a deep breath and went on to tell the events of that day. "I am not sure how long it took. I had not sensed time as it passed when I realized I was standing in the midst of dead bodies, right in a shallow pool of blood next to a ripe pile of horseshit. I heard my men, my fellow villagers, my neighbors whom I had equipped and trained, shouting my name. It sounded like they were shouting it from leagues away, when actually they were standing no more than a few feet away. Next I remember being lifted up in the air. I looked down and saw two older men, my childhood friends' fathers. I was sitting on their shoulders, which pressed against each other. My blood pounded in my ears like I had never felt it before, not even after running to the limits of my abilities. Waves of heat, as though I was sitting in the middle of a bonfire, broke on my skin… so hot that I could feel it humming in flashes. Lust and rage – were the only sensations I could recognize. I thought that if I would open my mouth and spit, I would surely spit fire that would burn the whole of Amphipolis to the ground. I do not remember the ride to the brothel and I do not remember renting a chamber and three women that night, like I knew one wouldn't be enough. One moment I was carried while all around me people were cheering and the next I was in a middle of this poor young woman…"
The Conqueror considered turning over to face her wife but found herself unable. "Close to dawn they limped out of my chamber, sore and bruised like a savage animal mauled them… And I was left alone. I had half a mind to pay them extra so that they would stay with me and sleep next to me, but I did not wish for rumors about how the semi-god from Amphipolis was too scared to sleep alone to circulate and damage the reputation I meant to build for myself. I remember lying that night in near darkness. Too tired to get up and add logs to the hearth but not tired enough to fall asleep, it seemed. For all the exertion I placed on my body, you would think that I must have felt my muscles aching but all I felt was, was the weight of an incredibly heavy mass crushing my chest and though opened, before my eyes – all I could see was those big dark eyes like that of a fawn in a sea of red."
The Queen was silent. She touched her suddenly cold palm to her Lord's forehead and gently motioned it to turn. The Conqueror complied and turned to face her wife and observed her loving features through two round mounds.
"What happened after that?" the Queen asked almost in a whisper.
"The next day I walked around like a drunk for I was very tired , however inwardly I dreaded the night . Much to my mother's chagrin, I spent the following night in a brothel as well, hoping to wear myself enough for sleep to come quickly, but it did not – not that night. When I left the brothel at first light I went back to my mother's tavern. Both she and my brother Lyceus could tell immediately that I was not myself. They made several attempts to question me but I rudely rejected them all. As the days went by it became easier to fall into sleep. I had to force my mind to stop from thinking about that lad, but despite all my efforts as well as Lyceus ', I could not restore myself back to who I had been before. A few days later, the warlord regrouped and charged Amphipolis a second time."
The Conqueror watched her fingers move over the wavy pattern of her wife's ribs like they were the strings of a lyre. "Toris had just gotten married so he took his bride to safety. Lyceus insisted on joining the fight. He died under my command…" the Conqueror said with a tremor in her voice and after a short recess she went on to say, "I haven't felt anything after that other than rage and lust for carnal needs and blood… until you."
The Conqueror sensed her wife's heartbeats quicken, and in her eyes she saw oceans of love and happiness.
"You saved the lives of the innocents," the Queen said and caressed the high cheekbone, "and as for that lad, misguided and foolish as he might have been… You told me only yesterday that I was not accountable for other people's deeds, and as much as you might wish it, even you, my Lord, cannot control everything." The Queen smiled and saw her smile being mirrored back to her. The Conqueror obviously found her last claim amusing.
"He made his choice and so did you," the Queen concluded.
"I know that now," the Conqueror replied, and after a while of heavy thought, she said, " I've known men who could kill indiscriminately and without scruples, who could slay without ever loosing a night's sleep over it. I used to covet that ability and perceived my emotions as weakness that would surely hinder my path one day."
"These men are rabid monsters who are the weak – they are not honorable and strong as you are. You fight for the greater good."
"The greater good," the Conqueror scoffed. "Have I managed to convince you of it or do you love me so much that it distorts your view of me?!” she asked, raising an eyebrow. "I do care for my subjects and I assumed upon myself my obligations towards them, but -"
The Queen wouldn't hear of it. She cut through the Conqueror's speech, rising higher against the pillows under her back to better her sight at her Lord. "I do not discount your insatiable hunger for power, but your lust for power does not negate the peace, the prosperity, the order, the wise leadership…"
The Conqueror covered the Queen's mouth with her own and swept her into a long, enticing kiss that made the Queen's toes curl. "I know," the Conqueror smirked, "I was just teasing you. I do so love to hear you praise me. Yours are the sweetest praises ever spoken."
"Absolutely insatiable…" the Queen whispered and looked into her Lord's smoldering eyes.
The Conqueror stretched and expanded her spine in a languid, agile movement like a lion rising from its lay and blanketed her wife's naked body with hers, pressing her loins between the Queen's thighs.
"My peace and pleasure, my love, are in your keeping." The Conqueror lured her wife with leisured kisses coupled with the slow building simmer stoked by illecebrous grinding into the Queen's sex.
"As do mine in yours, beloved Lion." The Queen melted underneath her Lord and crossed her legs over the clamping and unclamping muscles of her Lord's backside.
It had been five days since the Conqueror declared the sequestration and seclusion of the Imperial bedchamber from the rest of the palace, and the world. Another lovely morning of high spirit and bright light celebrated the reunion between Lord and Lady.
The Queen lay on her stomach with her head in the direction of the foot of the bed, purring like a satisfied feline, savoring every knead and every touch that her Lord, who lay in the other direction, applied to her feet as she massaged with incredible skill.
"Have you the feeling that we are forgetting something?" the Conqueror asked her wife as she watched the part of the Queen's anatomy that she cherished to no end.
The Conqueror's stare was so intense that the Queen could feel it furrowing the firm flesh, and the only thing she suspected that she had forgotten was the sensation of clothes against her skin.
"Not even an inkling, my Lord," the Queen moaned while her Lord's thumbs were rubbing the arches of her feet. Immersed in her own distracting pleasure, she let out weakly, "This feels so good," drawing out her words.
"I have this gnawing feeling that we are forgetting something…" the Ruler insisted, never neglecting to apply perfect pressure to her wife's delicate feet. "We are forgetting something small," she said thoughtfully.
"The Realm?" the Queen suggested, too preoccupied by the sensations that her Lord was creating in her. Her feet had always been sensitive and her Lord knew exactly how and where to touch them so to create this unhurriedly built carnal desire in her.
The Queen's response proved to the Conqueror just how distracted and hazed her wife was. She brought the Queen's feet to her mouth and began to suck and lick each and every one of the Queen's toes, lavishing on them warm wetness and delicious tagging that made the Queen squirm in pleasure, feeling like the hot cavern of her Lord's mouth was suckling at her sex nub. The Ruler released her wife's feet from her warm hands, and from the foot of the bed she heard her wife emitting a displeased groan of protest.
"The Realm is not small." The Conqueror moved from her reclining position and walked on all fours upon the bed, then gently embedded her teeth into her wife's teasing rear asset and moved to hunker down over her. "The Realm is vast," the Conqueror husked in her wife's ear . "You are in heat again and it addles your mind, Gabrielle."
The Queen's buttocks swayed suggestively against the Conqueror's crotch, and were confronted with aggressive, imposing hardening pushing back against her.
"And just what do you call that bulge asserting itself onto me, my Lord?" the Queen inquired knowingly and made the Conqueror's lips stretch into a lascivious smile.
"I have yet to give it a name, my Lady." The Conqueror snaked a hand beneath her wife's wet folds and the stiff little fleshy crown above them, and grazed her teeth against her wife's nape.
The Queen groaned, intoxicated by arousal. "Should I take it to mean that you are leaving naming it to me, my Lord?"
The Conqueror chuckled before she tenderly bit the Queen's earlobe and whispered, "Well, you are the wordsmith in our family, are you not?"
A slow rocking began between the two bodies, desperately striving towards the climax of their passion.
"I still cannot remember what that small thing I think I've forgotten is," the Conqueror muttered, her voice strained and ragged.
"It seems to me, my Lord," the Queen said as she grounded herself against the Conqueror's hand while above her the Conqueror did the same against the swell of the Queen's twin globes, smearing them with her fluids, "that you are not investing your full attention to the task at hand."
"And what task would that be, my Lady?" the Conqueror asked. Of course she knew the obvious answer, but she craved to hear her wife utter obscenities.
And she was not disappointed. The Queen quickened the pace of her urgent bucking and stated simply: "The task of making us come, my Lord."
Meanwhile, on the other side of the door in the Imperial antechamber, breakfast was being placed on the table by one of the servants when the doors were opened for a second time that morning, making the servant jump in her skin, startled.
Princess Terreis, accompanied by Lady Satrina and Lady Cyrene, entered the antechamber.
"Your Grace," the servant present curtsied, and threw a concerned glance towards the closed doors of the Imperial chambers.
"Have our illustrious Conqueror and the Queen's Majesty given any signs of life, yet?" asked Lady Cyrene.
"Not as of yet, Lady Cyrene." The servant cleared her throat and downcast her eyes at the young Princess, before she vacated the antechamber, carrying with her yesterday's dirty dishes.
"The child misses her parents and her governess informed me most strenuously that her Grace demanded to see her parents, now, otherwise she would resume those horrible screams," Lady Satrina whispered to the Conqueror's mother. “My ears are still ringing.”
"So my grandchild has reached past the point of reason," Lady Cyrene remarked.
"Her Grace is probably the most patient member of the Royal Family," Lady Satrina snickered.
"Oh yes, no doubt," Lady Cyrene concurred with a nod of her head.
" An outbreak of plague, fire or war, was it?" asked Lady Satrina.
"I believe so," Lady Cyrene replied.
"Surely, the Lord Conqueror won't punish her Grace for interrupting?" claimed Lady Satrina.
As Lady Cyrene leaned down to be on one level with her grandchild, she said, "Of course not," to Lady Satrina then turned her attention to Princess Terreis and said, "Go to the doors, knock and wait for permission to enter, your Grace," with a little nudge to the child's shoulder.
With tiny, hesitant steps, Princess Terreis walked towards the doors, suspicious almost, which made the two older women rooted in their place behind her realize that the young Princess had clearly inherited her parents' instincts. Upon reaching the doors to her parents' bedchamber, the Princess halted. She raised her wee hand so to knock on the doors but stopped, then turned to look back at the two Ladies standing behind her in a seemingly safe distance.
Both Ladies nodded their heads with unabashed enthusiasm to further encourage the child.
Trusting, Princess Terreis knocked on the door.
At first, the Conqueror and the Queen - too engrossed in each other and what they were doing - did not hear the rapping on the doors.
After a few moments upon receiving no reply, Princess Terreis had to resort to louder knocks joined with a an exclamation, "Your Majesties, it's me!"
Inside the Imperial bedchamber, the Conqueror and the Queen were torn out of their world. As soon as the Conqueror heard her youngest' voice she froze, pressing down against her Queen, petrified.
"Terreis!" she whispered in a moment of lucidity as if she just remembered what had been that small irritating thing she'd thought she'd forgotten.
"I'm too close to stop," the Queen whimpered, looking amusingly pitiful, and she kept on writhing to encourage her Lord to continue.
"A slave to your desire for me," the Conqueror whispered a teasing jest.
"And proud of it," the Queen whispered back her retort.
The Conqueror's hands were full beneath the Queen's body, one half buried and half twirling firmly over the Queen's sex, and the other kneading a hefty breast. To keep quiet and not give away their fervent coupling, the Queen stuffed her mouth with linens to muzzle any uncontrolled sounds of pleasure she knew she would surely emit.
"Your Majesties," Princess Terreis shouted again and wondered why it took so long to receive a response.
The urgent thrusts resumed to conclude the delightful morning mating, and when release overtook the Conqueror and the Queen only muffled sounds could be heard, sounds that did not reach outside their bedchamber doors.
As soon as they were able, they got off the bed and on weak legs they covered their naked bodies and slumped back onto the bed.
"Come in, little one," the Conqueror called out, still rasping.
The doors flanged open widely and Princess Terreis charged in, eager to reach her parents' bed already, only she remembered the presence of the two ladies standing in the antechamber and so her dash came to a halt and she curtsied before her parents and greeted them according to proper decorum. There was something in the sight of both her parents reclining together in their bed that made her feel happy and relieved beyond measure and those emotions were written across her visibly and unmistakably.
"Your Grace," they greeted her back.
Realizing they were not alone, the Conqueror cast a glance behind and beyond her youngest, and glared at Lady Cyrene and Lady Satrina. "You two…" she muttered, and shook her head disapprovingly. "Hiding behind a little, defenseless child… Have you no shame?!"
"Majesties," both Lady Cyrene and Lady Satrina curtsied before the Royals as well.
The glimmer in the Conqueror's eyes and wee smile on her lips betrayed the true nature of the Conqueror's playful mood.
"Lady Cyrene and Lady Satrina , " the Queen greeted back.
"Majesties," opened the Conqueror's mother, "Now that I see that peace has clearly been restored to the world, then with your permission I shall not impose on you.”
"Thank you mother," the Conqueror replied, smiling, and Lady Cyrene exited the Imperial Chambers.
"Satrina," the Queen addressed the overjoyed seasoned steward, "Please, have my ladies in waiting attend to me after breakfast."
"With pleasure, your Majesty," Lady Satrina nearly giggled, and went about her business giddy.
Once the Royals were alone, Princess Terreis resumed her dash and leaped into her parents' bed. When she settled comfortably between them, she sniffed the air and pointed out with the innocence of her young age, "It smells odd in here."
Mortified, the Queen cringed in her place, murmuring beneath her breath to her Lord, "She has inherited your acute sense of smell."
The Conqueror covered her daughter's petite ears with both hands and murmured back to her wife, "One does not require my acute sense of smell to discern the unique odors in here."
The Sovereign then removed her hands away from Terries' ears. "Did you miss us, my little Princess?" she asked.
"Terribly, my Sire," Terreis replied. "I was not permitted to visit with you . "
"Your Sire and I have been busy," the Queen replied and stroked her daughter's hair.
"All is well now," Terreis comment sounded almost like a question, and to receive the much needed confirmation she turned her comment into one, "is it not?!"
"All is well, now, little one," the Conqueror assured.
Princess Terreis kissed both her parents and received many kisses from the both of them in return.
"May we visit the lions after breakfast?" Princess Terreis asked, hopeful.
"You are to attend your geography lesson with your tutor after breakfast," the Queen answered and turned her eyes from her daughter to her Lord, but as soon as her eyes met those of her Lord's she could see her Lord grow soft for their daughter.
"It is a beautiful morning, my Lady. Geography can keep, can it not?!" she asked.
Princess Terreis waited to hear her mother's final word on the matter. "Your Sire has made a decision, Terreis. The menagerie it is, then."
"Thank you, mother, and thank you, my Sire." Terreis nearly jumped up and down in the bed with joy.
"Now go and inform your tutor about the postponement, and then invite Princess Sieglinde to join us," the Queen instructed.
"Yes, mother," Terreis said with exuberance and as she left the Imperial chambers nearly running, she could not believe her good luck.
The Conqueror laughed.
"My Lord," the Queen said, rising from the bed, folding her arms over her bosom, "I exhort you to mind your indulging Terreis to the excessive. You do her no favors by spoiling her, but quite the contrary – you are doing her a great disservice, which you will most certainly reap in the future."
The Conqueror rose from the bed as well. She knew, of course, that her wife was right. "It's just that I find it quite difficult to deny that little version of you," she said, knowing full well it was a poor argument not worthy of the word 'defense.'
"I do empathize, for I have the same impediment where your firstborn is concerned, but Terreis is your second in line and so she must be prepared as well, and while I adore your softness towards her, I would greatly appreciate it if what she lacks in will-power and eagerness to learn you make up for with discipline."
The Conqueror sat down to the table to take her breakfast, pulling her wife to sit on her knees.
"Of course, you are right, my Love," the Conqueror agreed and sucked a mouthful of grapes from the cluster that her wife brought to her mouth.
“And while we are on the subject,” the Queen began to say.
“Yes?!” the Conqueror asked.
“If you'll permit me to suggest to you, my Lord…” the Queen's voice trailed off.
“What is it, my Love?”
“The love in you is so awesome, my Lord. Perhaps you might consider deflecting some of that soft affection you show Terreis towards Athena.”
The Conqueror contemplated her wife's words for a few long moments. “She makes it difficult for me to do. She displeased me on too many occasions to ignore.”
“I know she did, and she will again, but it breaks my heart having her believe that you do not love her or that you love her less than you do Terreis.”
“I understand,” the Conqueror muttered and tightened her embrace around her Queen. “Now tell me more about how you commanded and oversaw the defense of Corinth .”
When the Conqueror and the Queen finished breakfast, which consisted more of the exchanges of countless kisses than actual eating, the Queen's ladies in waiting arrived to attend to the Queen.
When the couple walked hand in hand together through the outer doors of the palace, they met with Princess Sieglinde and Princess Terreis already waiting for them.
"Good morning, Majesties," both Princesses greeted and curtsied.
"Good morning," the Conqueror and the Queen returned the greeting.
When the Conqueror leaned down to pick her daughter up in her arms, perching her over her shoulders, Princess Sieglinde observed the bright happiness that shone from them stronger, much stronger, than the late winter sun.
"It is so wonderful to see your Majesty so glowing with happiness at long last," Princess Sieglinde whispered softly at the Queen's ear.
"I trust that your day of happiness is at hand, too, dear Sieglinde," the Queen whispered back.
As the Royals made their way through the palace grounds and gardens to the menagerie surrounded by hints of spring, from high up on the Conqueror's shoulders, Terreis asked, "When will Athena return home?"
"Anytime between seven to ten days, your Grace," Princess Sieglinde answered.
"Good," Terreis expressed her satisfaction, "I cannot wait to show her how much my checkers has improved."
In the menagerie, the Queen, Princess Sieglinde and Princess Terreis went inside the vast cages, keeping close to the Conqueror and being safe and protected by the proximity to her, until the lions were made to recognize them as the Conqueror's pride of sorts and exhibited friendliness and playfulness as they did towards their Master.
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