THE CONQUEROR’S CAMPAIGN
By CJ Wells
Disclaimers: Xena‚ Gabrielle‚ Palaemon‚ Borias‚ Alti‚ Cyane‚ Solan‚ Dagnine and Darphus belong to those rather fortunate individuals affectionately known as The Powers That Be at Studios 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. All other characters named are mine.
Series Credit: The characters of this "Altaverse" Conqueror story originate from my Embrace/Freedom Conqueror Series. The events of this story take place shortly after the events as presented in the Series‚ thus a thorough understanding of this story will be achieved only if each story of the Series is read. So please indulge and enjoy.
Story and Character Warning: Unlike my preceding Conqueror Series‚ this story will be one long narrative presented in parts. Like the preceding Series‚ the story will be told from both Xena and Gabrielle’s points of view. And while we’re on the subject of the Warrior Princess and her (battling?) Bard of Poteidaia‚ the Xena and Gabrielle of this tale are the Conqueror and former Concubine as first introduced in The Embrace. Differences from their ever evasive and ambiguous television counterparts are obvious.
Sex Warning: Graphic‚ consensual and very lesbian. You’ve been warned.
Violence and Profanity Warning: As segments of this story will involve physical altercations‚ some on a grand scale‚ both will be present.
To all of my beta readers: Thank you!
Comments and Feedback: I am always appreciative.
I. THE CONQUEROR’S LOG
It was the day after my thirty-third birthday that I learned I would be going into battle with the Scythian warlord Shaikheti. I had awakened that morning‚ as I had practically every morning since our return to Corinth‚ wonderfully planted in my consort Gabrielle’s loving embrace. As she slept‚ her warm breathing sending waves of air across my chest‚ I was taken back to a place and time years before I had ever met her.
* * * *
I met Shaikheti shortly after my return from Chin. Years before‚ he and his Scythian kinsmen had joined Borias and his band of Sarmatian thugs in a series of battles against the Goths of Germania. The Goths won‚ but Borias and Shaikheti remained friends despite their embarrassing defeat. They separated‚ but while Borias pillaged throughout the lower Steppes and Thrace in the successive years‚ Shaikheti ventured south into Anatolia. When I met Borias in Thrace‚ he told me about his friend‚ but Borias had been led to believe that Shaikheti was murdered by the Persians near Byzantium. However‚ when the two reunited in Thrace in my presence twelve years ago‚ Shaikheti was very much alive and leading a small army of both Scythian and Persians warriors.
Shaikheti was about the same age and size as Borias‚ but he was not nearly as good looking. What he lacked in appearance was made up in temperament. He was smooth and charismatic and he possessed a melodic voice that was almost hypnotizing. The three of us decided to merge our armies‚ but this merger was short lived. A few weeks into our collaboration‚ I met the Northern Amazons’ expelled shamaness‚ Alti‚ and I allowed myself to be infected by her with the desire for ultimate power. After I murdered Queen Cyane and the elite of the Northern Amazons‚ Borias and I began arguing… a lot. Shaikheti seemed to share my enthusiasm for power and didn’t necessarily disapprove of my actions‚ but he maintained his loyalty to Borias. Thus‚ he never interfered with our quarrels. I recall many times Shaikheti‚ sitting in our command tent‚ calmly eating grapes and watching as Borias and I shouted at each other until we lost our voices.
However‚ I also learned early on that Shaikheti had a weakness. He was terminally lazy. He easily recruited and loved commanding warriors‚ but he never wanted to get his own hands dirty or bloody in battle. When we rode into a village‚ while Borias and I strove to take out as many men as possible‚ Shaikheti would sit atop his horse as if he was some sort of sanctimonious ruler‚ directing his men on what to take and whom to kill. I was over it fast. Thus‚ when Borias finally decided to split our armies and leave‚ I recall telling him to take his "useless boyfriend" with him. Borias was so offended by the implication that he raised his hand and balled his fist to strike me. Balling both of my fists as well‚ I dared him to do it. But I was pregnant with our son‚ Solan‚ and Borias was too honorable to hit a woman in that condition... even me.
After Borias left‚ I made Dagnine of Athens my Second-In-Command. He had committed more kills than any other man in my army‚ and always seemed to want to please me. I had heard that Borias and Shaikheti split their armies shortly after they left me. Perhaps Borias grew tired of Shaikheti’s ineffectiveness as well.
When Borias later returned in his attempt to take away my newborn son‚ Dagnine murdered him as an act of loyalty to me. Sadly for him‚ Dagnine never knew that I was pregnant‚ and thus didn’t understand it when I dug my boot dagger deep into his gut‚ avenging the murder of my son’s father. When word spread that my Second murdered Borias‚ falsely presumed under my order‚ Shaikheti attempted to have me murdered to avenge Borias’ death.
Shaikheti’s attempt was futile. Of course‚ he didn’t attempt the assassination himself. He sent two inept Persians from his army. Apparently‚ he wasn’t serious‚ because my new Second-In-Command‚ Darphus‚ easily disposed of them both before they could even get near me.
I didn’t hear the name Shaikheti spoken again until about two months before I freed Gabrielle.
* * * *
It was a strange time in my life. I was about to realize that my deep love for Gabrielle‚ which I had believed for a long time to be my own little secret‚ was shared by two other individuals in the palace‚ Palaemon‚ Commander of my Imperial Guard and the closest thing that I had to a friend‚ and Demitrius‚ my palace librarian and Gabrielle’s closest friend at the time.
I remember that it started out as a beautifully sunny day. The temperature was perfect‚ so Gabrielle was enjoying the flawlessness of that day by sitting outside in the palace gardens writing in one of her scrolls. I found her there and‚ concealing myself behind one of the palace columns‚ I peeked around it and stared at her for the longest time. I caught myself doing that quite often‚ staring at Gabrielle from afar. That particular day‚ Demitrius caught me as well.
"Pardon me‚ my Liege‚" he whispered. I suspected that he didn’t want to alert Gabrielle to my presence.
Embarrassed‚ I grabbed him by his tunic and pulled him into the corridor of the palace and away from Gabrielle’s view. "What do you want?" I asked angrily.
"Palaemon has been looking for you‚ Conqueror‚" Demitrius replied. "Something about the Persian warlord Shaikheti."
"Shaikheti’s neither Persian nor a warlord‚" I proclaimed. "He’s a lazy pile of dung."
"I stand corrected‚ Conqueror‚" Demitrius remarked. "Nonetheless‚ Palaemon is seeking you regarding this individual."
"Very well‚" I said as I released Demitrius’ tunic. I began walking toward the war council chamber when his voice stopped me.
"May I ask you a question‚ my Liege?" he queried.
I turned to face him. "What?"
Demitrius slowly approached me. "I am an old man who has seen and experienced much in my life."
"And I believe that I have come to a place in my life‚" he continued‚ "when my agedness has earned me enough respect that I may ask of Your Majesty that which a younger soul would not be permitted to ask."
"Is there a question on the horizon‚ old man?"
"Yes‚ my Liege‚ there is‚" he said. "You have practically everything that anyone could ever desire‚ but if you could ask of the gods to give you one thing that you don’t have now‚ what would it be?"
I planted my hands on my hips and let out a deep laugh. "What insanity propelled you to ask such a question?"
"I’m old and I have nothing to lose‚ Conqueror‚" came his simple reply.
I grabbed Demitrius’ tunic again. "Oh‚ but you do have something to lose‚" I said. "I could kill you right now‚ old man."
He didn’t respond‚ but there was no fear on his face. I released him. "I’m not answering you‚ Demitrius‚" I said as I turned from him again and began walking away.
"May I guess?"
I stopped and turned to face him. I’m not amused by this old man’s game‚ I thought. "If you feel that you must entertain yourself at my expense‚ yes‚ guess‚" I said.
Demitrius didn’t hesitate. "I believe the one thing that you would ask of the gods is Gabrielle’s love."
I ran up to him and stuck my finger in his face. "You’re wrong‚" I lied. "You don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about." I turned and stormed away from him‚ but then stopped and turned to face him again. He hadn’t moved.
"If you ever mention this ridiculous conversation to anyone‚ I’ll kill you‚" I said. "Do you understand me?"
"I understand‚ my Liege."
I summoned Gabrielle to my bedchamber that night. We didn’t have sex as we were both having our cycles‚ but I couldn’t sleep that night either. Thus‚ I lay there‚ my head propped up on my hand‚ staring at her as she slept and hating Demitrius for knowing me all too well.
* * * *
The following morning‚ Palaemon and I sailed to Lydia to fight Shaikheti. We weren’t away very long. As I suspected‚ Shaikheti sent his troops to confront us. I never saw him. Although he had managed to build an army of considerable size‚ without the presence of a more effective leader‚ his men didn’t stand a chance against my mighty force. The day that his pathetic warriors surrendered‚ I decided that we would spend that one last night in Lydia resting at our army camp before sailing back to Corinth. I remember that that particular night was rather cool and‚ because I was still too energized from fighting‚ sleep eluded me. I decided to spend the night perched next to a fire sharpening my weapons.
Palaemon eventually joined me‚ trying very hard to engage me in casual conversation.
"Easy battle‚ huh‚ my Liege?"
"Gets pretty chilly here at night‚ doesn’t it‚ Conqueror?"
His ambitious questions and my disinterested answers went on for a while before he finally said something that captivated my attention.
"I had this interesting conversation with Demi… Demitrius before we left Corinth‚ my Liege‚" Palaemon said.
I stopped sharpening my sword. "Is that so?"
"Yes‚ Majesty‚" he responded. "He told me that he and Gabrielle had the most unusual exchange."
"You don’t say." I tried to sound as impartial as possible‚ but inside I was burning like a lighted torch.
"Yes‚ Majesty‚" he said. "Would you be interested in knowing the question he asked her?"
I lifted my sword to look at my reflection in it. "Go ahead‚ Palaemon‚" I responded after a few moments.
"He asked Gabrielle if she could have anything in this world‚ besides her freedom‚ what would it be‚" he said. "Do you care to know her answer?"
I impatiently sighed and looked at Palaemon. "Demi told me that she said she would wish to be able to touch you‚ Conqueror‚" he said. "Mighty strange answer‚ huh‚ Majesty? Isn’t touching you the most important function of your concubine?"
"What else did Demitrius tell you?"
I reached over and positioned the tip of my sword under Palaemon’s throat. "You’re lying!" I exclaimed.
He seemed shocked. "No I’m not‚ my Liege‚" he insisted.
I looked deep into his eyes to detect his deceit. "Demitrius didn’t tell you about asking me that very same question?"
Palaemon gasped. "Demi isn’t crazy enough to do that… is he?"
I removed my sword from Palaemon’s throat. "Did he‚ Conqueror?"
I resumed sharpening my sword. "By the gods‚ he did‚ didn’t he? Ha! That old man’s braver than I thought."
"Give it a rest‚ Commander‚" I warned.
"Well‚ what did you tell him?"
I didn’t respond. "Let me guess‚ my Liege‚" he continued. "You told him that you would wish to kill Caesar over and over and over again. Am I right?"
"Why would I wish that‚ Palaemon?"
"Because you’re always saying that killing Caesar once wasn’t enough."
I smiled at my Commander. "Nothing gets past you‚ Palaemon‚" I said‚ knowing full well that he had just been lying to me.
When I returned to the palace‚ I immediately went to the library to confront Demitrius. He wasn’t there‚ but rather‚ was sitting with Gabrielle in the palace gardens. After marching up to them‚ I roughly grabbed him by his tunic and hoisted him to his feet. Gabrielle instantly began crying.
"Get out of here‚ Gabrielle‚" I demanded. She didn’t move and began frantically shaking her head. "I said get out of here!"
"Please‚ my Lady‚ please…" she implored. Demitrius interrupted‚ "Gabrielle‚ it’s okay‚ sweetheart. Go."
Gabrielle still wouldn’t budge. I shoved her. "I said get the fuck out of here!"
She fell to her knees. "Please‚ my Lady… whatever he did‚ he didn’t mean it… please…"
I was tearing up inside. It was destroying me to see the woman that I love beyond description crying and begging for the life of a man that she presumed I was going to take. It was also destroying me that she loved him so much that she would risk her own life begging for his. I released Demi and‚ grabbing her by her arms‚ lifted her to her feet. Deep down in my soul‚ I wanted to fall to my knees and beg her to love me‚ but my hurt and anger were dominating me as I began forcefully backing her up to the entranceway of the gardens‚ saying over and over in my mind‚ Don’t you cry‚ Xena. Don’t you dare let her see you cry.
When we reached the entranceway‚ I released her arms‚ but shoved her again. "GO!" I shouted. From behind me‚ Demi added‚ "Go ahead‚ Gabrielle. It’ll be all right."
Through her tears‚ Gabrielle gave me a painfully dirty look and stormed out. I backed up a few steps‚ thoroughly aching from that look‚ before turning around and approaching Demi.
"You told Palaemon about our little conversation‚ didn’t you?" I asked as I gripped his neck.
"Yes‚ Majesty‚ I did‚" came his reply.
"So‚ my senior librarian blatantly disobeyed my order and my Imperial Guard Commander lied to my face."
"Before you forfeit my life‚ my Liege‚" Demi said as my grip on his neck tightened‚ "may I be allowed to explain?"
"No explanation’s going to spare you‚ old man‚" I said.
"I understand‚" he stated‚ "but it would satisfy me for you to know why before I cross over."
I eased my grip somewhat. "Okay‚ explain."
"Palaemon and I have been speaking with one another about you and Gabrielle for some time‚ Majesty‚" Demi started. "It has never been out of any disrespect to you. We both care deeply about the young girl’s well-being and‚ as you know‚ Palaemon worships you. I have no excuse for why I shared our conversation with Palaemon‚ only to say that he is the only other person that I know who has a sincere connection with you."
I looked away from him as Demi continued. "I can never claim to fully understand the inner workings of a woman’s mind and heart‚ my Liege‚" he said‚ "but I believe that Gabrielle brings you both great joy and great sorrow at the same time…" There was a pause. "It doesn’t have to be that way‚ Conqueror."
I released his neck and‚ stepping back from him‚ I unsheathed my sword. I gripped the handle very tightly as I prepared to end Demitrius’ life. As he closed his eyes in preparation for his execution‚ I thought about Gabrielle. I thought about her dirty look. She hated me‚ I believed. It tormented me like Tartarus to believe that she hated me so much. And killing Demitrius‚ a man whom she loved‚ a man who had become like a father to her‚ would serve only to seal that hate toward me for eternity. I was already greatly fearing life without her. To spend the rest of our lives together knowing that she despised me more than any other living soul was too great a fear for me to bear. Saying nothing‚ I lowered my sword‚ turned and walked toward the entranceway.
When I opened the door and stepped inside the hallway‚ I observed Gabrielle sitting on the floor and leaning against the wall‚ her face buried in her kneecaps‚ crying uncontrollably. "Get up‚ Gabrielle‚" I commanded.
When she looked up at me‚ her beautiful tear-stained face nearly brought me to tears. I pointed toward the gardens. She immediately jumped up and ran outside. I watched as she ran into Demi’s arms and held him close. He returned the embrace. I listened.
"I’m okay‚ Gabrielle‚" he told her.
"What did you do to anger her‚ Demi?" she asked as her face was burrowed in his aged chin.
"It’s all right‚" he said. "Everything’s fine now."
"Don’t ever anger her again‚ please‚" she said. "I would be lost without you."
At that moment‚ I stormed down the corridor and‚ locking myself in my bedchamber‚ I cried for the first time since the night I gave up my son.
When Gabrielle reported to me that night for service‚ I very seriously considered honoring that wish of hers to caress me. I had denied us both the beauty of her touch since the first night of her servitude to me five years before. Regrettably‚ I didn’t go through with it‚ but I made no requirements of her to pleasure me either that night. Instead‚ without saying a word to her‚ I pleasured her body. I vigorously touched almost every part of her with my hands or mouth and then I gave her oral pleasure. And when she came down from climax and drifted off to sleep‚ I remained awake and stared at her‚ feeling both joy… and sorrow.
* * * *
My birthday was a far cry from those tortured days of unrequited love. Like Gabrielle’s birthday a month before‚ we spent most of the day in our bedchamber‚ eating‚ playing‚ relaxing and loving each other. For her twenty-sixth birthday‚ I had pampered her rotten. I bathed her and then gave her a full body massage‚ applying a rich scented oil all over her. Afterwards‚ I presented her with a beautiful blue chiton‚ one of Illiana’s creations‚ and a sapphire ring and matching necklace. Later in the day‚ I sang a song for her. I cannot explain why‚ but I had never actually sung in front of Gabrielle before‚ although I had hummed her to sleep a few times in recent months. She beamed a brilliant smile as I sang‚ afterwards commenting‚ "You have a beautiful voice‚ Xena. I didn’t know you could sing so well‚" to which I replied‚ "I have many skills."
For my birthday‚ Gabrielle gave me a silk scarf and a new scabbard for my sword that she crafted and sewed. It had a unique pattern on it and was quite lovely. "This is one of the patterns that I adopted from the Amazons‚" she told me. She also spent quite a bit of time primping my hair. She braided it and then took the braids out and gently brushed it. Then she pinned it up and sprinkled flower petals on it before taking it down and braiding it again. "You having fun‚ Gabrielle?" I asked. She had taken the braids out a second time and was pinning my hair into a single large bun on the back of my head.
"I certainly am having fun‚ Xena‚ my Lady‚" she replied.
When evening rolled in‚ Gabrielle recited a beautiful poem that she had written. I fell into the melody of her voice as she spoke. After her gifts‚ we enjoyed a parade of food and wine before engulfing ourselves in each other’s passions.
I went to bed with my Gabrielle that evening fully sated‚ sexually satisfied and profoundly happy. Never entering my mind was the prospect of yet another conflict‚ let alone that with such a tired nuisance as Shaikheti.
I was relaxing that following morning after my birthday‚ reflecting on the glory of the previous day when a hand began kneading my breast and lips began sucking the lobe of my left ear.
"What are you doing‚ Gabrielle?" I asked
CONTINUED IN PART TWO
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