By CJ Wells
© 2000


Disclaimers: Xena‚ Gabrielle and Palaemon belong to those rather fortunate individuals affectionately known as The Powers That Be at Studio USA‚ Ren Pics and whatnots. The only thing I’m gaining from them here is the personal satisfaction of toying with the characters in my own image. Pythagoras (582 B.C. — 500 B.C.) was a Greek Philosopher and Mathematician. Julius Caesar was Julius Caesar. All of the other named characters are mine.

Series Credit: This vignette is a prequel to my continuing Embrace/Freedom Conqueror Series. The events of this short story take place approximately one year before the events of The Embrace & Freedom. However‚ it’s imperative that you at least read The Embrace & Freedom prior to reading this story or it may not make much sense. This story is told in its entirety from Commander Palaemon’s perspective.

Character Warning: Because this is a prequel to the series‚ Xena the Conqueror has not yet professed her love for Gabrielle. Gabrielle has not yet been freed. Thus‚ the "realities" of their Mistress/Slave relationship are still in full force and effect.

Lesbian Sex Warning: Since this story is told from Palaemon’s point of view‚ and it’s not like he was standing off to the side with a camcorder‚ the sexual situations between Xena and Gabrielle are inferred rather than graphically detailed. This is still very much an "Alt" story‚ however‚ and because there is discussion of lesbian sexual subject matter‚ I still would not recommend this reading for those under age 18.

&%#$@! Warning: Officer Barbrady’s gonna have me arrested.

Violence Warning: Actually‚ not much. Some minor skirmishes between Xena and Palaemon‚ but nothing graphic. No sexual violence‚ neither expressed nor implied.

To my beta readers‚ Mary‚ Sue‚ Inga and Jean‚ Thank you!

Comments and Feedback: Please let me know what you think!


When I was a young lad living in Athens‚ my father took me to a house of porneuesthai. He paid a beautiful porne to introduce me to sex. Father wanted me to experience sex with women early to solidify my lust for them and cut short any chance that I would allow myself to be entreated or titillated by one of the older men of state‚ many of whom took youthful men and boys as lovers for a time. Father never understood the practice of many of his kinsmen‚ although it was quite common‚ but he never quite understood women either. He believed‚ as did many of the men with whom he associated‚ that when one combines the feelings of physical desire with an acknowledgment of love‚ a substantial distortion of one’s psyche is created‚ which is analogous to insanity. Father believed that most men are spared those feelings of love‚ but women always fall prey to them. "Women‚" he would say‚ "are fickle-minded from birth. Love is a flaw of womanhood. A woman doesn’t require the strength of body and mind that a man requires‚ since her primary purpose in life is to be at a man’s disposal for sexual pleasure and to bear his sons."

It’s a shame that Father didn’t live to meet Xena the Conqueror.

I am Chief Commander of the Conqueror’s Imperial Guard. I was awarded this position after I fought along side her in her successful campaign to defeat Julius Caesar and conquer Rome. When I came to Corinth to command her elite Guard‚ our Majesty quickly dispelled every predisposed notion that I had had about women. She has the strength of ten men‚ the intellect of the greatest of philosophers‚ the mystique of an oracle and the will of a god. There are those of my contemporaries who believe that she herself is the progeny of a god. Many of my men will swear that she is the daughter of Ares‚ God of War‚ because without argument‚ she is the greatest warrior known to man. Others will swear that she is the mortal incarnation of either the great Goddess Athena or Eris‚ Goddess of Discord. Others believe her to be the daughter of Hephaestus‚ because she is the most skilled mortal with a sword and dagger‚ and because she possesses a mysterious circular weapon that she calls the chakram‚ which only she can wield without losing a limb.

I believe she is the daughter of Zeus himself. But if by chance she is the progeny of mere mortals‚ she is definitely a favored mortal amongst the gods.

Never has a mortal‚ man or woman‚ possessed her focus‚ her courage‚ her strength‚ her fearlessness and her will to win any battle that comes before her. I am in total awe of this woman.

Yet again‚ contrary to Father’s belief‚ I initially discovered that Xena the Conqueror apparently did not possess that flaw of womanhood. In my ensuing years under her command‚ I have witnessed how she interacts with her subordinates. She rules with hubris. Xena the Conqueror treats her subjects as she pleases. She has no fear of penalty or retribution. If a soldier‚ civilian or slave disobeys her‚ they’ll wind up dead or wishing they were so. She demands ultimate respect from everyone‚ including and especially the men and women of her troops. When our competence shines‚ we are greatly rewarded. When we fall short‚ our punishment is harsh. From her troops‚ Xena the Conqueror receives that respect. To her subjects and slaves‚ she is the face of death itself.

However‚ just as I was convincing myself that our Supreme Ruler was completely void of love or any of those other softer human emotions‚ something bizarre began happening.

About a year after conquering Rome‚ while our Ruler was comfortably positioned as the Destroyer of Nations‚ she was requested by some of my military contemporaries to discuss a possible uprising in Pergamon. On our way to an important meeting to confer with them‚ she was distracted by a common slave auction in the Corinthian agora. That day‚ the Conqueror added another body slave to her seemingly ever-growing collection.

I could not have remotely anticipated it at the time‚ but this young slave would change the Conqueror’s life‚ and in essence‚ my life as well.

Her name is Gabrielle‚ and practically from the moment she was acquired‚ she became the Conqueror’s hetaera. All of the Conqueror’s other body slaves were sold the next day‚ and from then on‚ the Conqueror became a mass of contradictions when it came to the young woman. During the first year or two of Gabrielle’s servitude‚ a small number of times‚ the Conqueror would injure her to the point where the girl required healing attention in the infirmary. And yet‚ while the girl recuperated there‚ the Conqueror would go to her‚ sit by her bedside‚ and on at least one occasion that I observed‚ hold her hand as she slept. On a few occasions‚ it has been said‚ the Conqueror would require Gabrielle to service her in front of her diplomats or political leaders‚ and yet she would mutilate or kill any man‚ regardless of his rank or position of state‚ who made the mistake of looking at Gabrielle adoringly or desirously. Periodically‚ the Conqueror would degrade the girl‚ calling her unrepeatable epithets‚ and yet she adorned Gabrielle’s bedchamber with the finest furnishings‚ had her personal dressmaker Illiana create the finest chitons for Gabrielle to wear‚ and nourished the young woman with lavish meals. As a token of affection‚ I presume‚ our Ruler even had Illiana make Gabrielle a beautiful cloth doll.

During these past few years‚ I haven’t known what to make of our Majesty’s behavior when it came to her little hetaera‚ but after the events of the last two days‚ I have had a revelation. Father was correct after all. Xena the Conqueror is desperately‚ tragically in love with Gabrielle.

* * * *

Earlier today‚ I found a very frightened Gabrielle hiding in a small space behind the back wall of a kitchen cupboard. She had been missing for several candlemarks and the Conqueror was threatening to decapitate me if I didn’t find her.

The kitchen servants‚ who were apparently more loyal to Gabrielle than to the Conqueror‚ had carefully hidden the girl. That was not an anomaly. Gabrielle is a warm and kindhearted young woman who gives so much of herself through the stories she tells to the other servants and their families. I don’t think there is a living soul in the Imperial palace that doesn’t totally love her. In any event‚ I was finally able to extract information as to her whereabouts after promising the head cook Andronius that I would do everything in my power to convince the Conqueror not to punish Gabrielle too severely. It was a promise that I intended on keeping.

When I was brought to her‚ she was cowering in the space with her arms wrapped around her legs. Her face was dirty and tear-stained. I decided to climb into the confining space with her.

"Hi‚ Gabrielle‚" I said to her.

"Hi‚ Commander Palaemon‚" she replied in her soft voice.

"You want to tell me why you’ve been hiding in here?"

"What difference does it make‚ Commander‚" she said. "My life is forfeit anyway."

"Not if I can help it‚" I said sincerely. "What’s going on?"

Yesterday evening‚ Gabrielle had been reading at one of the tables in the Conqueror’s bedchamber. She is the only one of the Conqueror’s slaves who can read and write‚ and at this particular time‚ she was studying the early philosophic teachings of our historic Greek thinker‚ Pythagoras. The Conqueror was seated at the table as well. Gabrielle said that our Ruler was looking over some maps. Repeatedly‚ the Conqueror would look over at Gabrielle as she read. Gabrielle indicated that this behavior‚ and by that I mean the Conqueror’s staring‚ had become quite common over the last year or two. Gabrielle could sense that the Conqueror’s desires were brimming‚ and that service would be required soon.

Gabrielle continued reading for several moments until finally the Conqueror stood up and positioned herself behind Gabrielle.

"Get up‚" Gabrielle indicated that the Conqueror commanded to her.

Gabrielle stood up and was immediately lifted up by the Conqueror. However‚ to Gabrielle’s surprise‚ she was not carried to the Conqueror’s bed. Instead‚ she was carried out of the bedchamber and taken down the corridor to her own bedchamber. Inside‚ Gabrielle said that the Conqueror deposited her on the bed and ordered her to undress.

"I suppose that’s when services were rendered?" I inquired.

"Yes‚" Gabrielle replied.

"Did she hurt you?"

A blush invaded the young woman’s cheeks. "Not exactly." Suddenly‚ a brief but wicked smile flashed across her face.

I had never discussed our Majesty’s sex life with her or anyone else‚ but I admit‚ I was quite curious to know the reason behind that blush and that momentary grin. I didn’t ask Gabrielle for specifics‚ but from my generalized questions and much to my subversive delight‚ she was willing to divulge some things to me.

Gabrielle told me that the Conqueror started out by performing an oral pleasure on her. I didn’t know what she meant by that‚ so when I inquired‚ she indicated that the pleasure was oral copulation. I asked if it was the first time that this had ever happened. She admitted to me that service with the Conqueror had been‚ for the most part‚ pleasurable to her for at least the last three years and that oral pleasure was one of many long-time customary practices in their sexual activity. Until that moment‚ I had always assumed that the Conqueror‚ like any man who keeps a hetaera‚ sought pleasure from Gabrielle without the least bit concern for the young woman’s own satisfaction. It was amazing to learn that‚ over the years‚ Gabrielle hadn’t been the only one servicing in the privacy of the Conqueror’s bedchamber.

Gabrielle went on to tell me that this service lasted quite a while‚ as it often does‚ before both she and the Conqueror achieved release. Gabrielle didn’t go into great detail‚ but she shyly mentioned that some other intimacies followed the oral pleasure‚ and that there was some kissing‚ titillation and other such touches before climax. As she spoke‚ I tried desperately not to allow my private imaginations of two beautiful women engaging in sex arouse me. Once service was completed‚ Gabrielle told me that the Conqueror got up from the bed and began pacing around the room.

"Is that typical?" I asked.

"Servicing in my bedchamber isn’t even typical‚ Commander‚" she replied. "On top of that‚ the pacing was making me nervous."

"What happened after that?" I inquired.

"She picked up the doll that Illiana had made for me‚" Gabrielle said. "She asked me where I had obtained the dress that the doll was wearing."

"I don’t understand‚" I said.

"The dress that I had on the doll last night wasn’t the same one it had on when it was presented to me as a gift‚" came her explanation.

"Oh‚" I said. "What happened after that?"

"I told her that Illiana had made the dress for the doll‚" Gabrielle explained. "And then she asked me if that was the only extra dress I had for it."

I found it quite strange that our Majesty would be so curious about a doll. Gabrielle’s continuing explanation began to shed new light‚ however.

"When I told her that Illiana had made several dresses for me‚" Gabrielle continued‚ "the Conqueror looked away and said that Illiana loves me very much. I didn’t think I had heard her correctly‚ but she repeated herself. ‘Illiana loves you very much‚ you know‚’ she said."

"What happened after that?" I asked.

Gabrielle explained to me that the Conqueror wandered over to a table and picked up an ornate vase. She asked Gabrielle about the origin of the vase‚ as it was not something that had been given to Gabrielle on the Conqueror’s behalf. Gabrielle informed the Conqueror that the vase was made by the palace potter Khalit‚ and was given to Gabrielle as a gift on behalf of his wife Alithia‚ who serves as a palace chambermaid.

"She became angry and demanded to know why Alithia would ask Khalit to make me that vase‚" Gabrielle said.

"What did you tell her?" I asked.

"I told her the truth‚ Commander‚" she replied. "Alithia appreciates the time I spend telling stories to her children and to the other children of the palace servants. The vase was a token of gratitude."

"I see‚" I said. "And then what happened?"

"That was it‚" Gabrielle said. "She put on her peplos and left my bedchamber."

As Gabrielle rested her chin on her knees‚ the image of the naked Conqueror pacing around the girl’s room filtered through my mind. I don’t know why‚ because the Conqueror has never been shy about her body‚ but I naturally assumed that she immediately dressed after services were rendered. I was learning that there was a great deal of physical intimacy between these two women.

Gabrielle told me that this morning‚ she rose to find a most beautiful bouquet of flowers in the vase. "The assortment was so colorful‚ Commander‚" she said as I saw a strange sparkle in her pretty green eyes. "They made me happy and I just wanted to show them off‚" she continued‚ "so I ran to the library and grabbed Demi and then I went to Mia’s quarters and took them both back to my bedchamber and showed them."

"Where do you suppose they came from?" I asked‚ knowing full well the answer.

"HER‚ of course‚" she responded. "Do you think anyone else would be insane enough to cut flowers from the Imperial Gardens… and come to my bedchamber in the middle of the night with them?"

"Why do you suppose she did that?" I asked‚ not really knowing the answer at the time.

"I thought that maybe it was because she liked me a little bit‚" she said. "By the gods‚ am I stupid." At that point‚ Gabrielle began crying.

I grabbed her hands. Gabrielle is a small woman‚ and I had never really noticed until that moment that she had such small and delicate hands. "You’re not stupid‚ Gabrielle‚" I assured her. "I think the Conqueror does like you… a little bit."

"No‚ she hates me. She hates everyone‚" came Gabrielle’s angry response. "She’s evil incarnate."

"Why‚ what happened?"

Gabrielle told me that after showing off the flowers to Demi and Mia‚ she ate her morning meal with Mia‚ who serves as the Conqueror’s indentured personal chambermaid. She then joined Demi in the library where he serves as the palace librarian. She said that she resumed her study of Pythagoras until‚ in the early afternoon‚ she was summoned for service.

"It wasn’t pleasurable‚ Gabrielle?" I asked.

"No!" she retorted. "She used IT on me."

Gabrielle didn’t need to explain to me what "it" was. I had learned some time ago that Moyshe‚ the Conqueror’s Judean-born leather craftsman‚ had created a phallus for her. I had never seen the instrument‚ but Moyshe told me that the device was quite large and probably not very comfortable to the one receiving it in penetration. He also told me that just after making it‚ he worried that the device might actually do physical damage to the recipient and advised the Conqueror to consider allowing him to construct a smaller one. He said that she ignored his pleas to her.

Unlike her earlier admissions about her service with the Conqueror‚ I had no desire to hear any details about this service. "What happened after service‚ Gabrielle?" I asked as I felt my own heart breaking over her obvious hurt and anger.

"She got up and left her bedchamber‚ Commander‚" Gabrielle responded weeping. "I was so angry. I felt so betrayed. She hadn’t used ‘it’ on me in months. I thought that maybe she had grown tired of it and would never use it on me again. But she had to remind me that I’m nothing to her."

There was a pause‚ and then she continued. "I ran to my bedchamber and threw the flowers out of my window."

As Gabrielle finished telling me the tale that would wind up with her hiding like a mouse in this musty wall‚ I had a revelation. Gabrielle is desperately‚ tragically in love with Xena the Conqueror.


* * * *

I knew about the flowers being tossed from Gabrielle’s window. One of our unfortunate palace gate Guardsmen was struck by the flying floral arrangement and instantly became the butt of jokes to his barrack mates. Word had spread like a plague and it was shortly thereafter that Gabrielle came up missing. I was immediately summoned to the Conqueror’s bedchamber‚ where I was ordered to dispatch every available palace Guardsman to comb every nook of the palace in order to find her. I was further instructed not to allow any human‚ horse or carriage of any sort to either enter or leave the palace grounds until she was found.

"I will make this palace a prison and all of us prisoners until that bitch is brought back to me!" she proclaimed.

When Gabrielle had still not yet been found after several candlemarks of frantic searching‚ I went to the Conqueror. She was standing by one of her windows and refused to face me. "Tell me that my little whore has been found‚ Commander‚" she said in a low voice.

"Not yet‚ my Liege‚" I responded. "But she will be."

"Then why the fuck are you just standing here‚ Commander?"

"I‚ uh… when she’s found‚ my Liege… please don’t hurt her."

Instantly‚ the Conqueror’s breathing seemed to get heavier and her hands balled into tight fists. However‚ just as instantly‚ she exhaled and flattened her hands on the windowsill. "I don’t understand women‚" she said very quietly.

That was odd. "Excuse me‚ my Liege‚ but you are a woman."

"Get out of here‚" she said in an even quieter‚ yet more portentous voice.

When I was out of the Conqueror’s bedchamber‚ I stood for a moment and reflected on her comment. She doesn’t understand Gabrielle‚ I thought. That’s what she was saying. But she anxiously wants to understand the young woman.

It was then that‚ betting on a hunch‚ I made my way to the palace kitchens.

* * * *

"That’s why you hid‚ Gabrielle?" I asked. "Because the Conqueror would learn that you had disrespected her by throwing her gift to you out of your window?"

"It wasn’t my idea to run away‚" she said. "Mia begged me to hide. They were going to wait until nightfall and stow me away in one of the produce carriages."

By "they"‚ she meant many of the palace servants that‚ I deduced‚ had conspired to spirit young Gabrielle away from Corinth to a secret destination until the Conqueror decided the girl wasn’t worth seeking anymore. This was the second time that a conspiracy was formed to plan Gabrielle’s escape. The first time occurred about three years ago‚ after the Conqueror took Gabrielle forcefully in front of the young woman’s parents. Demi‚ Mia and Moyshe were among the conspirators at that time‚ but Gabrielle became fearful that the others would suffer the Conqueror’s fatal wrath if their involvement was discovered‚ and thus‚ she herself terminated the operation.

This matter had to be repaired as well. I knew that the Conqueror would never decide that Gabrielle "wasn’t worth seeking anymore‚" and I didn’t want Greece to be torn apart by her in her desperate search for the girl.

"Let me take you back to her‚ Gabrielle‚" I said. "I will do everything in my power to prevent her from hurting you. I promise."

As we neared the Conqueror’s bedchamber‚ I noticed that Gabrielle’s breathing became more labored. Stopping in front of the door‚ I briefly put my arm around her and squeezed her shoulder gently with my hand. It was my way of reassuring her of my commitment to her safety. Removing my arm‚ I knocked on the chamber door.

A voice from within called out. "Who is it?"

"It’s me‚ my Liege‚" I responded.

"Are you alone?"

"No‚ Majesty. Gabrielle is with me."

There was a momentary pause before the Conqueror spoke again. "Enter."

When we walked in‚ she was sitting at the small throne that she keeps in the chamber. I decided to slowly walk toward her. Gabrielle remained beside me‚ but was trembling with immense fear. As we approached the Conqueror‚ she removed a dagger from her boot and began rubbing her thumb on it.

"I see that you found her‚" she said.

"Yes‚ my Liege‚" I replied.

"Very well‚ Commander‚" she said in a tone that I did not like at all. "You may leave now."

My heart began racing‚ but I had a promise to keep. "Not until you assure me that you won’t hurt her‚ Conqueror‚" I said.

She stood‚ already not a good sign. "Excuse me‚ Commander Palaemon?" she inquired in a voice that hissed like a cobra.

I cleared my throat. "With all due respect‚ my Liege‚ I do not wish you to hurt Gabrielle."

Among the Conqueror’s multitude of talents‚ she is as fast as a wild cat. Before I could blink‚ she had extended her arms‚ grabbed Gabrielle by the collar of her tunic‚ and placed her in a headlock. The Conqueror’s left arm was around Gabrielle’s neck while her right hand held the dagger to the girl’s chin.

"You dare defy me over this worthless whore‚" the Conqueror asked in a menacing tone.

"No‚ my Liege‚" I said‚ trying to maintain civility. "I only ask that you not hurt her."

"Get the fuck out of here‚ Palaemon‚" she demanded.

"Don’t hurt her‚ Conqueror‚" I repeated.

"I said get the fuck out of here!"

I didn’t respond but refused to move. She pushed Gabrielle aside and lunged at me‚ dagger still in hand. I fell to the ground. She gripped my neck with the powerful long fingers of her left hand. With her right‚ she brought the dagger to my throat.

"I can’t believe you’re willing to die over HER‚" she said as she cocked her head in the direction of Gabrielle‚ who was now on her knees embracing herself and shaking her head at me‚ I believed‚ in a silent plea for me to abort my gesture of protection.

The Conqueror was choking me with her grip. "Please‚ my Liege‚" I struggled to say. "Don’t… hurt… her."

I looked into the Conqueror’s spectacular sky blue eyes and saw something for the very first time. I saw a light and I saw moisture. I couldn’t believe it. It was so momentary that I almost convinced myself that I was seeing things. The air I’m losing is making my mind feeble‚ I thought for an instant.

The Conqueror rose up off of me and went over to Gabrielle. "Get up‚" she commanded to the girl. When Gabrielle stood‚ the Conqueror slipped her hand between the girl’s long‚ honey blond hair and her shoulders and gripped her neck. Our Ruler didn’t say anything. She just watched me as I stood up.

I rubbed my neck for a few moments. "Don’t hurt her‚ my Liege‚" I said before exiting the bedchamber.

* * * *

A short time later‚ the Conqueror came to me at my palace barracks quarters. "Let’s go‚ Palaemon‚" she simply said.

Grabbing my sword‚ I followed her to the palace courtyard. There‚ we fought for several moments with our swords. She eventually kicked my sword out of my hand and‚ throwing her sword to the ground‚ she backhanded me. I punched her in her stomach. When she doubled over‚ I elbowed her right ear. She went down on her knees only momentarily‚ but then swiped her long left leg up under me. I fell back. Straddling me‚ she began a series of blows to my face. I was striking her as well.

The Conqueror and I fought for quite a long time. Neither of us spoke a word. Finally‚ it was over. The Conqueror rose‚ picked up her sword and walked away. Blood was draining from her ear and her nose. My nose bled as well‚ my wrist and back ached‚ and I knew I would have a black eye in the morning.

Shortly after the Conqueror departed‚ Mia ran up to me.

"Did she hurt her?" I asked.

"It’s amazing‚ Commander‚" she responded. "No‚ she didn’t."

Mia’s servant’s quarters had a second door that leads directly into the Conqueror’s bedchamber. If she cracked the door slightly‚ she had a partial view of the bedchamber. From her vantage point‚ Mia witnessed much of what went on when I returned Gabrielle to the Conqueror. Luckily‚ she witnessed everything that went on after I had left.

"What did she do?" I asked.

"The Conqueror asked Gabrielle if she was ready for her punishment‚" Mia began. "Gabrielle said‚ ‘Yes‚ my Lady‚’ and the Conqueror took her over to the wall next to the chamber pot. She shackled Gabrielle to the wall."

"By the gods‚ woman!" I said as I wiped my bloody nose. "You don’t think being shackled hurts?"

"No‚ she isn’t shackled against the wall like a prisoner in the dungeons. The chains are loose and give her plenty of mobility. She can even easily use the chamber pot."

Mia snickered. I snickered as well. "Did the Conqueror say anything?"

"No‚" Mia replied. "But you know her. She never has much to say. She just left Gabrielle there and walked out."

I stood up as Mia continued. "I slipped into the chamber and gave Gabrielle some bread and water. She was smiling‚ Commander. She even joked about the convenience of being so close to the chamber pot. I’m sure she was expecting a beating at the very least and was relieved that nothing of the sort happened."

I knew that the Conqueror wouldn’t return to Gabrielle before tending to the slight wounds that I inflicted‚ so I decided to head back to Mia’s quarters to await the Conqueror’s return. For the first time in my service to our Ruler‚ I planned on doing a little eavesdropping as well.

When Mia and I entered her servant’s quarters‚ we immediately went over to the second door and looked in on Gabrielle. She was sitting against the wall. Her legs were crossed and her shackled hands rested in her lap. The chains attached to the shackles on her wrists were quite long. It was apparent that she could easily move several paces in any direction. Also‚ she did look rather comfortable under the circumstances. I decided not to let Gabrielle know that I was there. I felt that the knowledge might affect the way the girl responded to the Conqueror when she did return. As for Mia‚ she informed me that Gabrielle was well aware that she often looked in on the happenings in that bedchamber. I think it gave Gabrielle a strange sense of security. However‚ Mia couldn’t see the bed from her view.

We waited for a while before we heard the sound of the Conqueror’s bedchamber door open and close. Like mischievous schoolchildren‚ we scurried over to Mia’s second door and cracked it open again. The Conqueror had washed her face‚ although a prominent bruise was present on her left cheek. I felt rather proud of my handiwork.

The Conqueror crouched down on her knees and stared at Gabrielle. "What in Tartarus did you think you were doing?" she asked after a long silence and in a surprisingly strained voice.

"I was being stupid‚ my Lady‚" Gabrielle replied. "I was thinking like a whimsical child. I let myself forget." Gabrielle lowered her head.

"My Chief Commander of my Imperial Guard was willing to sacrifice his life for you‚" the Conqueror said. "That’s unacceptable‚ slave."

"I know‚ my Lady."

Xena the Conqueror rose up. "I have come to a decision‚ Gabrielle‚" she said. "I plan to award you to Palaemon‚ since he CARES so much about you. You can be his personal concubine." My heart began racing.

Gabrielle looked up. The Conqueror continued. "But the choice must be yours. Either you stay here or you go to him today. Which will it be?"

"I… I… I don’t know‚ my Lady‚" Gabrielle responded.

"What do you mean you don’t know?" the Conqueror countered. "It’s a simple question. Him or me?"

"I… I need to think about it‚ my Lady."

"What is there to think about?"

Gabrielle didn’t respond. "ANSWER ME!" the Conqueror demanded.

"I can’t‚" came Gabrielle’s weepy reply.

At that moment‚ the Conqueror turned and stormed out of the bedchamber. "I have to go‚ Mia‚" I announced before dashing back to my own sleeping quarters. Taking a shortcut and praying to the gods‚ I managed to get there in a matter of moments. Just as I had suspected‚ the Conqueror knocked shortly after I had arrived.

"I’m giving Gabrielle to you‚ Palaemon‚" she said after I opened my door.

"I don’t want her‚ Majesty‚" I responded.

"What do you mean you don’t want her?" she posed. "Don’t you find her attractive? Don’t you find her desirable? You were willing to die for her!"

I took a deep breath. "I promised her that I would do everything in my power to keep her safe‚ my Liege‚" I said. "I was keeping my promise to her."

The Conqueror folded her arms. "Well‚ you left her with me‚" she said.

I folded my arms. "At that point‚ I knew you wouldn’t hurt her‚ my Liege‚" I said self-assuredly. "As for her kalos‚ yes‚ she is attractive and yes‚ she is desirable. But I will never find her as attractive and desirable as you find her to be‚ Conqueror."

There was a tense silence that followed my remarks. I didn’t know what to expect‚ but I was relieved when the Conqueror elected to simply walk away back toward her bedchamber.

Later‚ Mia came to my quarters.

"What happened after I left‚ Mia?" I inquired‚ deciding not to divulge the conversation I had had with the Conqueror.

"She left for a while‚ but came back‚" Mia replied. "I gave Gabrielle some grapes while the Conqueror was gone."

"Was she okay?" I asked.

"Scared‚ but fine‚" came Mia’s reply. "When the Conqueror came back‚ she told Gabrielle that she didn’t have to make the choice anymore. She said that you didn’t want Gabrielle. Is that true?"

"Sort of‚" I said.

"The Conqueror was quite nasty about it‚" Mia continued. "But Gabrielle surprised us both‚ I suspect. She told the Conqueror that she would have chosen her."

I was neither surprised nor offended. "Is that so?" I asked.

"Yeah‚ Commander‚" Mia answered. "She said something like‚ ‘I know what to expect with you‚ my Lady‚’ and that ‘Commander Palaemon would be starting over for me.’ I think Gabrielle’s totally crazy."

"What did the Conqueror say after that?"

"Well‚ you know the Conqueror‚" Mia said‚ chuckling. "She didn’t say anything. She just unshackled Gabrielle’s wrists. She was kneeling mighty close to Gabrielle when she was doing it‚ closer than she had to be. And they stared at each other. Just between you and me‚ I think the Conqueror was overjoyed that Gabrielle chose her."

"So‚ nothing else was said?" I asked.

"Not really‚" Mia advised. "Gabrielle got up. The Conqueror ordered Gabrielle to go wash herself. Eventually‚ they both laid down. I couldn’t see them‚ but I can sometimes hear when they talk over there‚ and as usual they weren’t talking. It was quiet for a long time after that. I’m sure they’re having sex right now."

"What makes you think so?" I was perturbed.

"That’s what they do‚ Commander‚" she said. "It’s just their way."

I thought for a moment. "Go back there‚ Mia‚" I said. "Report to me if you hear anything that might require my attention."

After Mia departed‚ I sat on my bed and thought. I had learned something very profound and intimate about our Ruler and her special young hetaera. These two women spend so much time together‚ but they really don’t communicate with each other. It’s not surprising that neither one knows how the other one feels. They don’t know each other’s pain‚ each other’s longing‚ or each other’s love. Mia was correct. For them‚ sex was their only way of expressing love for each other. Gabrielle wasn’t angry because the phallus was physically uncomfortable‚ although I’m sure it was. She was angry because the Conqueror wasn’t communicating love by using it. Perhaps the Conqueror chose then‚ after having given Gabrielle that lovely arrangement of flowers‚ to use the phallus because she wanted to convince herself‚ as well as Gabrielle‚ that she doesn’t love her.

On the other hand‚ the Conqueror may not even be aware that Gabrielle loathes the device.

I don’t know what is yet to come in our Realm‚ but I do know that this little episode in the lives of our Ruler and her spirited young slave will somehow have a profound effect on us all. As I turn in for the evening‚ I can’t help but to smile. Right now‚ I am feeling ever so grateful for the wonderful and mysterious presence of that "flaw of womanhood."


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