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 story “Lord Conqueror of the Realm”. I strongly recommend you read it first because in this story there are references to events that took place in “Lord Conqueror of the Realm.” Here is where you can find it:
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!
Another fortnight had gone by. In the middle of the night, as she was tying her horse after returning from the Thracian border, Princess Athena wondered how she would be able to face her mother empty handed. She would prefer confronting an enemy on the battlefield rather than face her mother. She wasn't sure she would be able to endure the look of sorrow and profound disappointment across her mother's face, but there wouldn't be any way to avoid it. It was inevitable. What could she possibly tell her mother to comfort her?
"Athena!" she heard her mother's familiar voice from behind her.
The young Princess tarried before she turned, as if she wanted to grant her mother a few more moments of grace before finding out the truth simply by looking at her face. She took a deep breath and replaced an expression of concern with one of awkward jaunt. Pretending is very tiring, she thought.
"I'm so relieved to see you back safe. Now hand it over," Queen Gabrielle said as chipper as a child on his birthday.
"I haven't been given any messages to deliver," the words finally fell out of Athena's mouth, almost slurred. It took all her strength to brace herself in anticipation to see a wave of inconceivable pain wash over the loving Queen.
"Please, Athena, don't play with me and let me have the letter my Lord wrote me," the Queen said.
Athena thought her mother's last sentence sounded like she herself didn't believe her own words.
Athena couldn't bring herself to speak again. Hurting her mother with words exhausted her and she felt like the words she had already said left her drained. All she could do was shake her head.
It was like looking at a delicate rose being crushed under a crass boot. When her mother burst into crying, Athena thought she would have given anything to spare her mother the brutal, relentless pain. She encompassed her mother's shivering frame and held her tightly in her arms. At that moment, for the first time in her young life, she felt wrath- nearing hatred toward the Conqueror, and she welcomed it. Rage was easier, more natural for her than compassion, and demanded less of her. A daunting thought ran through her mind, then. Being sired by the Conqueror and having the same blood course through her, was she too capable of such infinite, inhuman, undiscriminating and indifferent cruelty?
She wouldn't indulge her own ire. Her mother needed solace.
"There, there mother,” she said and gently tapped upon her mother's back. “ I trust a letter will arrive within a day or two," she lied and she knew it.
Other than sobs the Queen was incapable of issuing any other utterance.
"I'm sure there must have been some unexpected delay. Perhaps her Majesty is still contemplating her words to you," Athena continued to lie and she had a decent sensation that her mother didn't believe her for the crying didn't subside.
After some time had elapsed, the Queen cried all the tears that she was able. Princess Athena wiped off her mother's wet, blushed and woeful features, before heading back to the Amazon village. That night, not having the heart to leave the Queen alone in her misery, Athena slept in her mother's hut.
With the new day about to begin, Queen Gabrielle garnered her meager strength and got out of bed. She thanked Athena for staying with her the previous night. At breakfast, she sat amongst the Amazons and listened to their chatter. They conversed with her about their everyday life, trifle matters really, but Queen Gabrielle found it a blissful distraction from her plight and drew strength from their offered rapport and unconditional amity.
It was an exceptionally cold morning, and when all the daily labors were finished, the Shamaness invited her sisters to the steam hut for warmth and cleansing. She lit up a blazing fire in the hearth inside the spacious hut, which didn't have a chimney at the top of it, and place rocks over it. When the fire subsided, the Shamaness poured water over the hot rocks and smoky steams permeated the wooden hut. A few Amazons, Queen Melosa, Molpadia, Mysia , Princess Athena and Queen Gabrielle entered the steam hut after spending the better part of the day training and toiling and sat on the few benches along its walls.
"This is bliss," said one of the Amazons.
"A perfect substitute for those of us who haven't been lucky or wise enough to secure a mate before winter," another agreed.
"I don't understand what you mean," said Naya.
"Of course you don't. Since your joining ceremony you've had a mate to keep your bed warm. You've forgotten all about sleeping alone on cold days in a cold bed," Mysia teased, and took advantage of the smoky steams to feast her eyes on the Queen's sleek form discreetly , but Princess Athena who sat by her noticed. Princess Athena saw things as they were. The thought of seducing Queen Gabrielle had crossed Mysia 's mind; however, along with it crossed another thought. Queen Gabrielle was the Conqueror's wife so if she were to pursue her desire, the only question would be whether some eerie mishap would befall her once word of it got to the Conqueror or whether she would be bluntly executed before an audience for treason.
"Well, a talented lover is very hard to come by," said one of the Amazons and elicited a few smiled and knowing nods.
"My former lover was superb. Her only shortcoming was that she was generous with her talent and shared it all around," someone else added and made the others snicker.
"My late consort was a wonderful lover," Queen Melosa contributed to the steamy conversation.
"I believe I speak for everyone when I say that we've heard, my Queen," said Naya and they all began to laugh.
Princess Athena was dumbstruck yet again to see how different things in the Amazon were as opposed to the Realm. No soul in the Conqueror's court would even dream of speaking in such manner to her.
"Her Majesty seems awfully quiet," teased the youngest of the bunch who didn't know better. "How is the Lord Conqueror as a lover?" she asked, in the spirit of things, and earned herself a jab in the ribs by a fellow Amazon who sat by her.
Queen Gabrielle downcast her gaze and if it weren't for the obscuring white humid steams, one could detect a gentle blush about her. Nevertheless, curiosity has always been a vital part of human nature, including taking a healthy interest in one's neighbors. All fixated their eyes intently on Queen Gabrielle for an answer, including Princess Athena, who hoped she wouldn't learn more than she cared to.
However, an answer came from a different direction, out of an unexpected set of lips.
"The best lover I've ever had," was Molpadia's answer.
All sprightly prattles halted abruptly and all gazes were shot at her in astonishment. They all could neither believe nor grasp Molpadia's thoughtlessness and rudeness.
The only thing that kept Athena from darting off the bench and casting a thorough beating to the insolent Molpadia was the Conqueror's warning to her not to interfere in her mother's private affairs, and so as her blood seethed in rage till it out-heated the steams, she waited for her mother to do so.
All eyes returned to Queen Gabrielle. It would be fair to say that most present in the steaming hut, not unlike Princess Athena, anticipated the Queen of the Realm to react severely. After all, who would dare raise an objection or an arm against the Queen in Molpadia's defense? Yet all they could see was a shade of red on Queen Gabrielle's lowered features that not even the white thick steams could conceal.
Queen Gabrielle remained seated in her shame, and her daughter failed to understand her mother's lack of retaliation.
The Shamaness was quick to change the subject and spoke about the Amazon Nation's ancient rituals so to somewhat cool the atmospheres in the steam hut, and in order to relieve the Queen of embarrassment.
As if to add insult to injury, as they were about to exit the steam hut, Molpadia turned to Queen Melosa and asked: "With your permission, my Queen, I wish to travel to Corinth , and offer the Lord Conqueror my assistance."
That request caused similar reactions from all parties as her previous words had caused.
"I trust that the Lord Conqueror has all the assistance required at her disposal in Corinth . Your presence is needed here," Queen Melosa replied.
After supper, and after everything that had happened earlier at the steam hut, the Shamaness invited Queen Gabrielle to her hut. As both women sat opposite one another, the Shamaness turned to the Queen and said: “We have been meeting here almost daily for quite a while, Gabrielle, and in all that time, you have trusted me with some of your most private matters, and still you have yet to disclose anything about the most considerable part of your life.”
“My Lord,” Gabrielle muttered.
“Indeed,” the Shamaness affirmed.
“You must understand, I am to act with prudence and judgment with my Lord's secrets,” the Queen maintained her reluctance to speak.
“I gave you my word that nothing you tell me would ever reach outside these walls and I have been true to my word to you,” the Shamaness pressed on.
“And I gave my word to my Lord that I will not reveal matters that concern her,” the Queen insisted.
Queen Gabrielle didn't reply.
“Allow me to suggest another approach: try and speak about matters which are not private,” the Shamaness said. “Tell something, no matter how small, that would not breech the promise you've made.”
Queen Gabrielle thought for a while but nothing came to mind.
“Close your eyes and let your mind race without guidance, without deliberate thought. No matter how long it takes, till you find something you are free to speak about,” the Shamaness instructed.
Queen Gabrielle complied with the Shamaness' instruction and then an episode presented itself and she began to speak. “It was soon after my Lord and I were married. I was living in a palace that had halls bigger than the entire village I grew up in. Virtually within a heartbeat I turned from body slave to wife and Queen of the Great Lord Conqueror. As to be expected, there was some resentment amongst my Lord's household servants and domestic slaves.
“When I asked for flowers to be brought into the Imperial Chambers, the servant in charge of the Royal gardens refused me. He said that my Lord didn't care for flowers in her Chambers. When I asked the cook to make a few alterations to the meals being served, she refused me and said that my Lord liked her meals the way they were being served. It was the same with the chambermaids when I expressed my wish regarding the linens and such.
“One night my Lord noticed my frustration and ask me what was troubling me. At first I was too embarrassed to say for I thought to myself that my Lord had more important matters to occupy her mind rather than trifle matters such as flowers, meals or linens. But when my Lord pressed me to speak, I told her everything that had happened with her servants. Despite the late hour, and the fact that most of the household servants were asleep, she had her household steward Karpa assemble the entire household staff in the Great Hall.
“I shall never forget my Lord's words to them that night. As she rested her hand on the small of my back, she said to them: ‘I thought all of you knew my wife. Apparently it is not so and so I shall rectify it at once by making proper introductions. This is her Majesty the Queen of the Realm, your Sovereign and my wife. She is the Mistress of this house. If she makes changes in this house's routine that is not to my liking, I shall will myself to tolerate it. What I shan't tolerate is your insubordination towards her.' My Lord ordered the servants who had dismissed my requests to step forward, and then ordered them to leave the palace first thing at daybreak. She then addressed the rest of the staff and said, ‘I trust that it is now clear to the rest of you that you are all dispensable to me. Her Majesty the Queen is not.'
“On our way back to the Imperial Chambers, I couldn't help but think about the poor servants who had lost their positions. I told my Lord that the last thing I wanted was for those people to lose their home and wages. My Lord assured me that the next morning Karpa would speak to her and beg forgiveness on their behalf and that she would pardon their slight against me and would reinstate them.”
The Shamaness smiled a mysterious smile, “Of all the years that you have been with the Conqueror and of all the things you have experienced with her, think, why did you choose to convey this particular incident to me,” the older woman said.
Queen Gabrielle considered the Shamaness' question then replied, “My Lord demands others respect me.”
“There is much more to it than that." The Shamaness walked the Queen to the door. "Tonight, before you sleep, search deeper within your soul.”
Lady Satrina, Nobleman Timaeus and the Imperial sculptor all stood taut and vigilant as they watched the Lord Conqueror slowly approaching the new statue that the Imperial sculptor had created. When the Conqueror leaned down to closely examine the statue's facial appearance, Lady Satrina began to bite her nails and the artist took two steps backward.
This likeness of the Queen differed from the first model by one thing. The countenance of this statue portrayed the Queen with a tilt of the head down and to the right, accompanied by a slight lowering of the right shoulder and the gaze pointing downwards, also slightly to the right.
The Conqueror gently slid the back of her fingers against the smooth ivory planes of the statue's features. "I am pleased, sir," she finally said with a touch of humbleness in her voice, with her back still turned to them and facing the statue.
"Thank you, your Majesty," the Imperial sculptor replied with pride and inwardly, sighed in relief.
It seemed as though the Conqueror wasn't able to overt her gaze away from the frozen Queen. "I shall direct my clerks to pay you three times the agreed upon amount of your fee."
Lady Satrina and Nobleman Timaeus thought they heard a tremor in the Conqueror's voice.
"Your Majesty is very generous. Thank you," he said as he began to pack his tools and left.
"You may take your leave as well," the Conqueror ordered Lady Satrina and Nobleman Timaeus.
"Majesy," the each said and bowed before her before leaving her presence.
After the heavy doors to the Imperial chambers closed behind them, and when they placed enough distance between them and the Imperial chambers, Nobleman Timaeus turned to Lady Satrina and expressed his wonder, "Have you seen what I have seen, dear Lady?"
"The statue's face… it had the same expression as her Majesty the Queen has when she curtsies before the Lord Conqueror," Lady Satrina replied as they went down the stairs together.
"For a moment I thought I was imagining things," Nobleman Timaeus voice strained as he limped down the stairs.
"What a clever man the Imperial sculptor is," Lady Satrina stated.
"Both versions were magnificent, but I liked the first one better," admitted the Nobleman.
"As did I, Nobleman," Lady Satrina enthused.
The following day, when Lady Satrina returned to the chamber where the statue had stood the day before, she discovered it was gone. She knew there could be only one person in the Realm who would dare move it. The Conqueror had moved it from the chamber into the Imperial bedchamber.
"Have Lady Cyrene's traveling chest placed in her usual chambers and have the cook warm up a plate for her," Lady Satrina instructed one of the servants as Lady Cyrene arrived at the palace. "How good it is to see you, Lady Cyrene, and in such good health," the steward greeted the Conqueror's mother.
"You haven't changed a bit, dear Satrina," Cyrene opened her maternal arms and held the younger woman tightly against her full figure.
"I trust you had a pleasant journey," Lady Satrina inquired as servants took Lady Cyrene's luggage and proceeded to her assigned chambers.
"The weather could have been more merciful," Lady Cyrene laughed.
Lady Satrina entwined her arm with Lady Cyrene's as they strolled together through the corridors. "You have been missed," Lady Satrina said. She could barely admit to herself how tremendously relieved she was as soon as her eyes had fallen on the sight of Lady Cyrene at the palace's doors.
Ever since the day the Queen had given birth to Princess Athena, a genuine rapport had developed between the two women. Lady Satrina's loyalty towards the Royal couple had endeared her to Lady Cyrene, and Lady Cyrene's maternal disposition endeared her to Lady Satrina.
"As have you," Lady Cyrene returned in kind, "We mustn't allow so much time to pass in-between meetings . "
"I only wish we could have met in happier times," Lady Satrina's voice saddened.
"Has there been any improvement?" Lady Cyrene asked quietly.
Lady Satrina looked around cautiously, making sure no one was eavesdropping, and whispered in Lady Cyrene's ear, "Two moons have passed since the Conqueror's return to Corinth and it grieves me to say that it may have even gotten worse . "
Lady Cyrene took both Lady Satrina's hands in hers, "Please let her Majesty know that I have arrived."
"Thank you," Lady Satrina said and made her way to the Imperial chambers.
She knocked on the doors to the Imperial bedchamber. Past moons had taught her that the Conqueror wouldn't invite her to enter but rather trouble herself to the doors, and just as she thought, a few moments later the heavy doors were opened and the Conqueror exited the Imperial bedchamber, which hadn't seen a chambermaid in over two moons.
"What is it, Satrina?" the Sovereign asked.
"Lady Cyrene has arrived at the palace a short while ago, Majesty" replied Lady Satrina as she dipped a curtsey.
"Did she, now?" the Conqueror asked suspiciously.
"Indeed, your Majesty. I have taken the liberty of showing Lady Cyrene to her usual chambers. I trust it meets with your Majesty's approval?"
"It does. After Lady Cyrene is comfortably settled and dined, I shall receive her in my study."
"Yes, Majesty. Would there be anything else?"
"No. You may take your leave."
Some time later, as instructed, Lady Cyrene was escorted by a servant to the Conqueror's study. He knocked on the door and awaited an invitation.
"Come in," the Conqueror called, and the doors were opened.
"Your Majesty," the servant bowed before her, "Lady Cyrene is here to see you."
"Show the Lady in," she said, got up from behind her desk and moved to stand in front of it facing the chamber doors.
"Majesty," Lady Cyrene said and curtsied before the Conqueror as the servant closed the wooden doors behind her.
"How good and I must say surprising it is to see you here, mother," the Conqueror said and clasped her hands behind her back.
"I have missed you and your dear wife, but most of all I have missed my granddaughter. I've been meaning to pay a visit to you all for quite some time now," replied the elderly woman.
The Conqueror looked intently at her mother. "I'm afraid that you are in for a bit of disappointment. Her Majesty the Queen and her Grace aren't currently in Corinth ."
"Oh?!" muttered Lady Cyrene and did her absolute best to feign surprise. "May I ask where they are?"
"They are staying with the Amazons at the present time." The Ruler inspected her mother's reaction. "But I'm confident that you're already aware of it," she then added, not without some amount of exhortation in her tone of voice.
"I might have heard something to that effect," Lady Cyrene had to confess. The Conqueror was not a fool and lying to her, mother or not, was ill-advised.
"May I ask, Majesty, why her Majesty the Queen is there yet you remain here? It is a tad unusual, is it not?!"
The Conqueror walked around her desk and seated herself. "Her Majesty is her own keeper."
"Is she?!" Lady Cyrene questioned and seated herself as well even though she wasn't invited to.
"What do you mean by that?" the Conqueror demanded to know, leaned forward and interlaced her fingers over the surface of her desk.
"I'm sure I meant nothing by it, Majesty," the older woman replied, not yet wishing to enter into a conflict with the Conqueror.
"So, is it your intention to tell me the true reason behind this visit of yours or are you in the mood to play games with me?" The Conqueror reached for a flask containing her favorite brand of spirits and poured herself a goblet full.
Lady Cyrene wouldn't allow herself to be intimidated by her formidable daughter. "I have heard some disturbing rumors, Majesty," she said and moved to the edge of her seat.
"What sort of rumors?" the Conqueror asked and soothed her throat with the intoxicant.
Lady Cyrene drew a deep breath. "That your Majesty is rarely seen outside her chambers."
"Is that so? What else does rumor have it?"
Lady Cyrene's gaze rested absentmindedly over the flask holding spirits and proceeded to say, more softly this time like the concerned mother that she was, "You brood too much, you drink too much… you are too much… and the people around you are getting nervous and restless."
"Are they?!" the Conqueror grumbled, "And just who are they ? Surely 'they' have names, don't 'they'?"
"Majesty, there was no one in particular, just rumors. You are the most renowned person in the world. There is precious little you can keep secret."
When she saw how concerned her mother was, something inside the Conqueror softened by a grain or two. "The spirits help me sleep at night. It drowns the noises in my head, and allows me some peace."
As more spirits was poured in portions that alarmed the seasoned innkeeper, the Conqueror gave her an abbreviated version of events that had taken place on Amazon territory.
"What was it about her Majesty the Queen's decision to stay there that angered you so, daughter?"
"She chose them over me!" the Conqueror raised her voice and slammed her fist so hard on top of the desk's surface that it made the goblet skip in the air and its contents spill over the rim.
"Is that what she did?" Lady Cyrene asked.
"Haven't you been listening to what I have been telling you?!" the Conqueror asked as if she couldn't fathom what there was to misunderstand or misinterpret. "She is my Queen! My wife! She ought to obey me."
The Conqueror could feel the same rage that had flooded her during her last words to her Queen rushing up inside her once more.
"She is the woman you love, you ought to respect her," Lady Cyrene countered, ignoring the grave danger her own words posed to her person.
"You will do well never to forget to whom you speak in my presence, old woman! Being my mother does not exempt you in any way or form from being punished for uttering such devious and malicious lies about me." The Conqueror's cobalt eyes were frosty and fearsome.
For Lady Cyrene, that conversation brought back memories from years before, when she had visited with the Conqueror when the Queen had been her body slave. It had been then after the trail, when she had witnessed the Conqueror bestowing a gentle gesture upon a slave, that she had learnt the truth. She knew perfectly well that her words would bring about her daughter's wrath upon her. She did not delude herself into believing to the contrary.
She stood up and approached the Conqueror. "I am an old woman," she said, "and I haven't much living in me anyway, Majesty." Lady Cyrene placed her hand over the Conqueror's forearm and gently said, "You love her."
"You have lost your senses in your old age," the Conqueror sneered and demonstratively took her arm away from under her mother's hand.
But Lady Cyrene would not rest her tongue till she had said her peace, "You love your wife. You have always loved her… ever since she was your servant. You weren't fooling me then and you are not fooling me now."
"Never say those words again or so help me…" the Conqueror hurtled to her feet, knocking her seat to the ground with an awful thud.
When she looked into the Conqueror's eyes, Lady Cyrene saw for the first time how her daughter looked just before she took a life, but that expression across the Conqueror's sharp countenance didn't deter her. "The love that the two of you share is so rare. I have lived longer than you but never found a love like yours. My only regret in life is never knowing this kind of great love and you just squander it away. Tell me, daughter, haven't you wasted enough time already?!"
"Do not bother with unpacking. You will leave Corinth this instant!" the Conqueror breathed down on her mother.
Lady Cyrene turned to leave, but before she curtsied, she had to say her final words. "Majesty, if things will continue as they are, the Realm will disintegrate. You have a responsibility to your subjects. Should you continue to conduct yourself in this manner for a little longer; the wolves will soon be at your door."
"Do not tell me how to rule. I have ruled this great Realm for a quarter of a century and have done so exceedingly well without the need of an innkeeper's advice. You will not set foot in Corinth again till further notice."
"By your will, Majesty," Lady Cyrene said.
"One last thing," the Conqueror strode towards her mother with both hands clasped together behind her back, "I have no need for someone who thinks he might have something over me to make an attempt on my Throne. You will not spread your lies. Do not test me.""You've just made me be ashamed of you again. I hoped I would never feel this way again," Lady Cyrene voice was laden with bitterness. She curtsied before the Conqueror and murmured, "Your Majesty."
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