THE CONQUEROR’S CAMPAIGN
By CJ Wells
Disclaimers: For full disclaimers‚ see Part 1. In addition to the aforementioned fabrications of TPTB‚ Marcus‚ Rahl and Adiah belong to that happy-go-lucky bunch as well. This chapter has a reference to bondage. It also has a minor reference to male/female sexual activity. Neither is graphic and the latter does not involve either of our two Heroines.
A Note: This installment makes reference to the ancient Kushan Empire. That empire reigned in the region of central Asia that included an area that is now part of modern northern Afghanistan. I wrote this installment well before September 11‚ 2001‚ thus the reference is purely coincidental. Please know that my heartfelt sympathies go out to all of the people of New York City and Washington‚ DC and all of those personally affected by the tragedy of that day. May God bless and keep you.
X. GABRIELLE’S SCROLL ENTRY
Although Xena has grown and evolved from much of her evilness over the last few months‚ there is a darkness within her that continues to loom like a cloud; a cloud gathering enough energy to produce the frightening noises of thunder and the dangerous bolts of lightning. That darkness seems to manifest itself mostly when she feels betrayed. For her‚ betrayal is the worst evil. I suspect that she has felt that way since Caesar’s betrayal many years ago. Xena the Conqueror has a code‚ and for her‚ betrayal is the antithesis of that code.
When Xena discovered Magistrate Lucius Cocles concealed behind a hidden door‚ apparently peering at us through a tiny hole cut through it and the tapestry that covered it‚ I believed that she interpreted his voyeurism as a deviant form of betrayal. He had betrayed her trust in him by disrespecting our privacy. I really didn’t know this man nor did I have any level of care for him‚ but I didn’t want Xena to kill him for what I merely perceived as perversion and reckless stupidity. Yet‚ murder was clearly on her mind as she ripped him from the floor of the darkened chamber that served as his peeping room and threw him across his bedchamber that was serving as our evening accommodation. He slammed into a table before falling to the floor. Before I could grab her to stop her‚ she instantly sprinted across the chamber and‚ grabbing him by neck‚ she balled her fist and punched him with such force that he fell limp. She grabbed him by his hair and punched him a second time before I could grab her by her right arm.
"Stop it‚ Xena!" I yelled frantically.
She yanked her arm away from my grip and hoisted up Cocles‚ who was unconscious at this point‚ and threw him across the room again. Still amazed by her level of strength and speed‚ I grabbed her arm again‚ this time with both hands.
"Xena‚ I said stop it!"
She once again yanked her arm away‚ but turned to face me. "Why?" Her eyes were colorless. She looked crazed‚ enraged‚ evil. "Why shouldn’t I tear him into little pieces?"
I made my voice as calm and reasoning as possible. "Why‚ Xena?" I asked. "Because he’s a weak and perverted man? Because he’s a voyeur?"
"No‚ because he looked upon your nude body in desire‚ Gabrielle!" Xena exclaimed. "No one looks upon your body in desire but me!"
I gently grabbed her forearms. "You’re going to kill this man for seeing me naked?"
Xena released her arms from my grasp. "And for wanting you and betraying me‚ yeah‚ I am."
As she began to back away from me and toward Cocles’ slumped and bruised form‚ I felt heat rise to my face. "This is insane‚ Xena!" I shouted. "Why don’t you just kill all of those other nobles who you allowed to watch me service you?"
I didn’t initially know from where that came when I said it. I had allowed myself to bury some of the hateful feelings that I had toward the Conqueror. Xena had sought and received redemption from me time and time again since giving me freedom. But forgiving is not forgetting and I had always been particularly angered by those times as a slave when she displayed me as her personal sex toy to others. I thus took her abuse of Cocles as strangely hypocritical.
My remark stopped Xena in her tracks‚ but she didn’t respond. She just looked upon me with sheer wickedness in her eyes. I slowly approached her. "Xena‚ what Cocles did was wrong‚" I said softly. "But he doesn’t deserve your violent wrath."
"He desired you‚ Gabrielle‚" she said.
"He desired you too‚ Xena‚" I responded. "He disrespected us both‚ and he abused his position in the Realm. But do you know what he ultimately did?"
"What?" she shot.
"He got hard and pleasured himself while watching two women in passion‚" I said. "What man in Rome‚ in Greece‚ in Gaul‚ you-name-it‚ hasn’t been guilty of doing that or wanting to do that?"
Xena folded her arms. "Sodomites‚" she said.
"I am being serious‚" she retorted. "We’re not just two women. I’m the Conqueror and you’re my consort. Don’t you feel that a level of respect and loyalty goes with that?"
"Of course I do‚ Xena‚" I said. "So punish him for disrespecting the Realm‚ not for getting a glance at our bodies."
Xena turned and walked toward Cocles. She stopped to grab a pitcher of water. "Perhaps you could ask him what compelled him to take such a risk for such a simple pleasure before you kill him‚ Conqueror‚" I said as I folded my arms.
Xena threw the water from the pitcher onto Cocles’ slumped form before kneeling down next to him. He was slowly regaining consciousness. "My consort would like to know why you would take such a risk for the pleasure of your hardened manhood locked in your grip?"
I approached and knelt beside Xena.
"I… uh… I…" he slurred.
"Speak up‚" Xena said. "We can’t hear you."
"I… was foolish‚ Majesty‚" he was finally able to say after a series of painful coughs. "I have no excuse."
"Have you other secret areas in this manor for your perversions?" she asked.
"No‚ Majesty‚" he responded. "This is the only one."
"I take it that you’ve done this before?" she asked.
"Yes‚ my Liege‚" he said and then quickly added‚ "but this is the first time with you‚ Majesty."
"Of course it’s the first time with me‚" Xena remarked. "What opportunity would have presented itself to make it a second time?"
"When you were here before‚ with Marcus Agrippa."
I instantly found myself shooting an evil stare at Xena‚ who had essentially been humbled by Cocles’ disclosure. She stood and walked over to the chamber door. Opening it‚ she exited the chamber and returned shortly thereafter with Commander Marius and two of Cocles’ own guards. "I suspect that there is some type of holding cell or dungeon in this manor?" she asked one of the guards.
"Yes‚ my Liege‚" the guard answered.
"Take him and have him confined there‚" she ordered.
"And have his personal healer look in on him‚" I added.
The two guards looked at Xena. "You heard what she said‚" she retorted.
"Yes‚ my Liege‚" the two guards said in unison before departing with a badly bruised and limping Cocles.
"Was he stupid enough to spy on you two‚ Conqueror?" Marius asked.
"You know about his voyeurism‚ Commander?" Xena angrily responded with a question.
"I’ve heard rumors‚" he said‚ "but I would have never suspected that he’d risk spying on you‚ my Liege. He must have a death wish."
"Gabrielle’s the only reason that he’s not already dead‚ which is to say that I won’t put him to death tomorrow‚" she stated. "Go and make sure that his guards aren’t more loyal to him than they are to me‚ Commander."
"By your will‚ Conqueror‚" Marius said before departing.
Xena went over to a table with a basin of water and began washing Cocles’ blood off her hands before returning to that adjoining room to inspect it. I removed my robe and returned to bed to await her. There were many moments of careful inspection of both rooms and the corridor before Xena was satisfied that all was secure. As she lay on the bed‚ I turned on my side to face her.
"So‚ you shared this bed with Marcus Agrippa‚ eh‚ Xena?" I asked.
"By the gods‚ that was so many years ago‚" she responded. "I remember the campaigns much more vividly than my sexual encounters. I don’t even remember specifically being with Marcus here."
"Well‚ you were here‚ according to Cocles‚" I said.
"Well‚ I don’t remember it‚" Xena retorted.
We lay side by side in a bitter silence for some moments before Xena rose and threw back on her robe and sandals. "I need to get some air‚" she said before storming out.
I waited only a few moments before deciding to go after her. I wasn’t sure what was troubling her; the issue of her former relationship with Marcus or her lingering desire to end Cocles’ life.
I was able to ascertain Xena’s whereabouts by asking various patrolling Manor guards. She had made her way past the Manor’s central foyer to a veranda‚ which had a beautiful wading pool. Xena was sitting at the pool’s side; her sandals were removed and her feet were relaxed in the pool. I approached and sat next to her‚ placing my feet in the pool as well. She was looking at her hands.
"Is this about Cocles or about Marcus?" I asked.
"Is what about Cocles or Marcus?" she responded with a question. She was still looking at her hands.
"Your need for air‚" I said.
"No‚ I’m not thinking about them‚" she said in a rather strained voice.
"Well‚ then‚" I said. "What are you thinking about?"
"What I’m always thinking about‚ Gabrielle‚" she said as she looked over at me. "You."
"What about me‚ Xena?"
"About what you said."
I thought for a moment. "What you used to make me do with you… servicing in front of others?"
"Yes‚" she said in an almost whisper.
"Do you want to talk about that‚ Xena?"
"Do you‚ Gabrielle?"
"Yes‚ I do."
* * * *
On five occasions‚ in the first two years of my servitude to the Conqueror‚ I was ordered to service her in front of an audience. Two of the occasions were out of sheer malevolence‚ with my parents and that young Guardsman that she later murdered‚ when she wanted to shame me. The other three occasions were for her amusement‚ I had long suspected.
The first time was about six months after I had come into the Conqueror’s service. She was hosting in her palace the ruler of the Kushans‚ Basileus Kanishka. He had traveled all of the way from his kingdom of Sakastan to broker an alliance with the Realm in the hope that the Conqueror would finance his attempt to overthrow the neighboring kingdom of Parthia. I was studying my reading lesson in my bedchamber when I was summoned and wasn’t aware of what awaited me until I was in the Conqueror’s stately reception chamber‚ standing naked in front of this beast of a man with his thick beard‚ his leering stare and the combined stench of ale and an unclean body. The Conqueror was repeatedly running her hand down my hair as she spoke to this man in his language. I felt as if she was displaying me as her pet until Kanishka attempted to grab my right breast. She gripped his wrist and flung his arm away‚ saying something to him that I’m sure was an admonishment. Shortly thereafter‚ I was ordered to kneel on some silk cushions in the chamber where I then serviced her while this ugly‚ smelly man watched‚ smiling with his yellowed teeth showing the entire time.
When I was relieved of duty that night‚ I retreated to my bedchamber and vomited. The Conqueror sensed my disgust at what I was required to do and‚ angered by my inability to fully respond to her in front of this man‚ punished me harshly the following day. I would learn from my friend Demi that Kanishka received his financial backing and did‚ in fact‚ defeat the Parthians only to later be invaded and overthrown by the Conqueror’s army.
I know now that Xena was trying very hard at that time to build up in me a hate for her. Unfortunately‚ at the time she was greatly succeeding.
The second time is a blur to me because I was given something to drink beforehand and was then blindfolded. The drink was laced with something that heavily sedated me. I only recall that that the audience was a nobleman and his wife and we were again in the reception chamber. I wasn’t required to do anything this time but lie motionless on those same cushions while the Conqueror groped me. At some point she planted her body on top of mine. I recalled a strong fragrance of rose oil emanating from her and recalled wondering why she smelled so good. Although I remember feeling a faint sense of sexual pleasure from the experience‚ I still hated her for putting me on display.
The last time that it happened was about three months after I was shamed in front of my parents. I had become so hateful of the Conqueror that it was difficult for me to respond to her at all during service‚ which had become outright tedious and burdensome for me. I didn’t realize it then‚ but she must have sensed my contempt because she often resorted to blindfolding me or turning away from me rather than looking into my repulsed eyes during service.
I was summoned to the Conqueror’s bedchamber this time where she ordered me to lie down and then tied my ankles and wrists to her bed. Two people were then escorted into her chamber. The woman was a High Priestess of one of the islands; Syros‚ I believe. Her body slave‚ a young man probably no older than twenty‚ accompanied her. She was at least fifty.
The Conqueror and the Priestess drank a goblet of wine before wandering over to the foot of the bed where I was on display in my bound state.
"She is quite a beauty‚ Conqueror‚" the Priestess said. "Where did you acquire her?"
"Right here in Corinth‚" the Conqueror responded. They could have just as easily been discussing Argo.
"Hmm.." the Priestess responded. "Quite a beauty. Her skin has a lovely tone and I do love the color of her eyes and hair."
I was looking at the Conqueror‚ who looked into my eyes for a single moment and then looked down at my left foot. "I wish that I could give her babies‚" she said before looking up at the Priestess.
The Priestess’ eyes widened. "By Zeus‚ my Empress‚" she said. "That’s an unusual thought. Why would you want to give her babies?"
"I don’t know‚ Priestess‚" the Conqueror responded. "We fuck enough. It’s a shame that nothing comes of it."
"How often does she service you?"
"Practically everyday‚" the Conqueror boasted. "Oftentimes more than once a day."
The Priestess drew in a dramatic breath. "By Zeus‚" she said. "That sounds ever so exhausting."
"She’s allowed breaks during our monthlies‚" she said‚ adding‚ "but luckily for me‚ our cycles come at the same time and have the same duration."
The Priestess looked at me and smiled. "I think that plenty comes of your intimacies‚ my Lady‚" she said.
"What are you talking about?" the Conqueror asked.
The Priestess returned her gaze to the Conqueror. "This girl brings your life great joy‚" she responded. "I can see it in your eyes and hear it in your voice when you speak of her."
The Conqueror‚ who had been attentively looking at the Priestess during their conversation‚ instantly looked away from the older woman as though she wanted to actually hide her eyes. "She brings your life joy and gives it a purpose‚ I suspect‚ Conqueror‚" the Priestess continued. "You may not yet realize this‚ but I can see it. I believe that this sweet young girl will be a part of you for all eternity."
The Conqueror returned her gaze to the Priestess. "Be very careful‚ Priestess‚" she warned. "Your false prophesizing could be very dangerous to your health."
"Very well‚ my Lady‚" the Priestess responded before walking over to a couch that was moved closer to the bed. Her young body slave‚ who was already sitting on the couch‚ had removed his clothing. She lifted her tunic and‚ spreading her legs‚ sat on his thighs‚ her back to him.
The Conqueror removed her regal chiton and‚ grabbing a silk scarf‚ blindfolded me. After doing so‚ she climbed onto the bed‚ straddled me and‚ leaning down‚ whispered into my ear‚ "Try to relax‚ Gabrielle." I remember thinking at that moment how utterly preposterous it was for her to suggest that‚ given all of the circumstances at hand. But then she began kissing my neck and firmly kneading my breasts and massaging my shoulders. Then‚ I felt the weight of her soft body cover mine. Her strong hands then began ardently‚ but soothingly massaging the backs of my thighs and my rear as she began her sensuous rhythmic thrusts.
Off to my left‚ I heard the sounds of sex. The boy slave was having intercourse with the Priestess as she sat on his legs. For a few moments‚ I heard his increasingly excited panting. I heard her moans. But their sex was soon drowned out by our sex. Perhaps it was the Priestess’ words to the Conqueror‚ for her touches felt wonderful and her heavy breathing and moaning in my right ear excited me. Our sex was connecting in such a wondrous bliss that I allowed myself to forget about my tied limbs‚ my hate for her and our "audience." As climax was on the horizon and I lost myself to pure lust‚ I did something that I had never done before during service. I spoke to the Conqueror.
"Please remove the blindfold‚ my Lady‚" I whispered ever so lightly.
Much to my surprise‚ she did. We then looked into each other’s eyes. I don’t know what the Conqueror saw in my eyes‚ but I knew in my mind then that my hatred had been temporarily replaced by a primal longing. In her eyes‚ I saw what I always saw in those days; evil‚ beautiful‚ blue.
After climax‚ the Conqueror again looked at me briefly before turning her gaze over to the satisfied Priestess and her young slave. "I think that I’m right‚ Majesty‚" the Priestess said.
The Conqueror rose up off me and looked away. "Your services are done‚ slave‚" she said as she untied me. "Leave."
Grabbing my shift and putting it on‚ I retreated to my bedchamber and did for the first time what I would often do in the years to come after satisfying sex with the Conqueror. I cried.
I don’t know whatever became of that Priestess. I’ve not since seen or heard anything about her. But that incident was the last time that Xena and I were intimate in front of others‚ until Cocles.
* * * *
"You want to know why I did it‚" Xena answered before I could even ask.
"Yes‚" I said.
"With Kanishka‚ it was strategy‚" she said. "His kinsmen have absolutely no regard for women. None of the kingdoms in that region do. Kanishka had to swallow his pride in order to ask for my help‚ but he knew as I knew that he couldn’t win a war against the Parthians without it. I needed to make him feel as though he was dealing with a male mind trapped in a woman’s body."
"Why?" I asked. "He came to you for help. Why cater to his insecurities?"
"Because I wanted his loyalty‚ Gabrielle‚" she said. "The regions of outer Persia was very appealing to me‚ and I saw helping him as a way to extend my power without sacrificing numbers in my own troops. He understood that my help had a price and that price was that his newly expanded kingdom would be protected as a province of the Realm. Thus‚ I gave him just enough backing to beat the Parthians‚ but his victory left his army weak as well. When I came to claim my ‘reward’ for my help‚ he reneged‚ vowing never to answer to a woman. So we invaded and took the land anyway."
"What happened to Kanishka?"
"He vowed that he would never answer to a woman‚" she said‚ "so I killed him."
Although not at all surprised by Xena’s revelation‚ I still fell silent for a few moments. "So‚ I meant very little to you at that time‚" I said.
"Quite the contrary‚ I had already fallen in love with you‚ Gabrielle‚" Xena professed‚ "but I was angry and frightened by my feelings. I spent as much time wanting to look upon you adoringly as I did wanting to torment you for making me feel that way." She paused and sighed. "I was truly evil."
Another silence. "Who was that couple‚ Xena‚" I asked‚ "the second time?"
"Commander Rahl headed my Athenian army‚ Gabrielle‚" she replied. "He was one of my most loyal officers."
For some reason‚ I felt a knot in my stomach. "So‚ what strategy was needed that time?"
Xena sensed my growing fury. She looked down at her hands again. "No reason‚ Gabrielle‚" she said. "I’m an evil bitch‚ remember?"
"No‚ Xena!" I found myself shouting. "There’s always a reason with you."
Xena looked up and then at me. "Rahl and his wife Adiah were very much in love‚" she said. "We had been enjoying evening meal when Adiah asked if I was ever going to marry. When I told her no‚ she practically took pity on me‚ saying that I was missing out on the most beautiful sensation given to us by the gods."
"Being in love?" I asked.
"So I set out to prove her wrong‚" she said. "I wanted to show them both that I didn’t need love when my physical needs were being met on demand."
There was a pause as she looked away for a moment and then back at me. "I’m so sorry‚ Gabrielle‚" she said.
For the first time‚ Xena’s apology fell upon deaf ears. "Did they enjoy watching me service?" I asked with the heat of anger in my voice.
"No‚ they didn’t‚" Xena replied softly‚ sensing my anger I suspected. "Rahl had been a dedicated warrior within my ranks for years‚ but he wanted no part of the Realm or me after that night. He renounced his commission and the two of them left the Peloponnese."
"Did you kill them too?" I asked.
"No‚" she responded in a strained voice. "They had a young daughter that I wasn’t about to make an orphan."
There was another tense silence.
"And the Priestess‚ Xena?"
"Priestess Jacinthia of Syros was an old ally‚" she responded. "She had provided me valuable intelligence information during the years of my conquests."
"What prompted your display of me that time?"
Xena didn’t hesitate in her response. "I wanted to show you off to her."
I had my own confessing to do. "I felt something that night‚ Xena‚" I said‚ sighing away my angry tension. "Strangely enough‚ her presence and what she said to you broke down a barrier of hatred in me."
Xena gently took my hand in hers. "I was so in love with you‚ but I was careless‚" she said. "I should have known that a High Priestess of her maturity and wisdom would easily catch on to my feelings for you. She figured it out right away and said it to me after you were dismissed."
"Were you not ready to hear it‚ Xena?"
"No‚ that wasn’t the problem‚" she responded. "For me‚ my victory‚ my power has always been about being void of weaknesses. If an enemy discovers your weakness‚ they can exploit it. They can destroy you. Jacinthia figured out my weakness that night."
"But she wasn’t an enemy‚ Xena‚" I said.
"In those days‚ I considered anyone and everyone a potential enemy‚" she remarked. "In any event‚ I couldn’t afford to have Jacinthia reveal my weakness to anyone else‚ even if it was done as an innocent remark to someone."
I looked into the eyes that I used to see as evil‚ beautiful‚ blue. "You killed her‚ didn’t you?"
"Yes‚ I did."
"And the slave boy?"
There was a part of me that‚ at that moment‚ wanted to tear my hands away from Xena’s grasp and run away. But I quickly reminded myself of the very thought that I had had earlier; the very thought that I had written down in this scroll: Xena has grown and evolved from much of her evilness‚ but not all of it. The Xena of this night would have killed Cocles had I not stopped her‚ but this was the same Xena who had the deepest look of shame on her face for revealing to me why she displayed me and what she had done to that innocent woman and boy five years ago.
"Do you feel that the High Priestess deserved to die‚ Xena?" I asked.
Tears began streaming out of her beautiful eyes. "No‚" she said before burying her head on my shoulder. I released her hands and threw my arms around her. She threw her arms around me and drew me closer.
"I killed a good woman for no other reason than knowing that I was greatly in love with you‚" she said.
I began stroking her hair. "You’ve come a long way‚ Xena‚" I said. "Back then you would have admitted to killing the Priestess to protect your stronghold."
Xena pulled back and looked at me. "Have I come a long way?" she asked more as a challenge.
"You tell me‚" I responded. "If Cocles dies tomorrow‚ what will the true reason be?"
Xena didn’t respond‚ but we remained there at that wading pool for some time before exhaustion demanded that we retreat to our guest bedchamber. Our trip to Rome was creating so many revelations to us. Before drifting off to sleep that night‚ I wondered what further revelations awaited us for our reunion with Callisto.
CONTINUED IN PART ELEVEN
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