Disclaimers: See Part 1
Additional Note (Please Read): This story is tied in with the tale, Xena & Gabrielle: A Turn of Fate. If you have not read both story's chapters preceding this one, you should do so.I would also like to thank my readers, especially, Silvermoonlight, Bexteron, Marijke Bush and Nancy G. Your comments means lots and lots and lots to me! ;-)
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The Conqueror and Ri,
A Twist of Destiny,
Chapter 10: Fabrications
The Grecian fleet sailed on the Mediterranean Sea, making its way back to Greece. Adorned in a tan tunic and trousers with boots on his feet, Draco gazed at the horizon from the side of the vessel, rejoicing mentally that he would soon return to Corinth. Although they were departing Egypt with two less members of their party than when they'd first arrived, the General of the Second Army was confident that the mission was a success and the Conqueror's commands to Cleopatra will be carried out. Now it was just a matter of how long it'll take for, Marcus Antonious to sail back to Rome, so that the next phase of the Conqueror's plans could be executed.
'Maybe we should had stayed and made certain that, Antonious left.' he ruminated.
However, that wasn't in their mandate. The Lord of the Realm made it crystal clear that they were to deliver her orders and then make preparations to disembark immediately afterwards. Draco was still dwelling on the words of the enigmatic High Priest, Ansem.
The Egyptian spoke of destroying the Amazons, but Draco felt there was much more to it than he was letting on. The destruction of the whole Amazonian race wouldn't cause Draco to lose a bit of sleep and he'd gladly be happy to aid in putting nails in the harlots' coffins, but he knew something was amiss if he played a role. A heavier price had to be paid on his part and it would have increased ramifications other than enslaving the warrior women for money. Draco was positive, a bifurcation would come into effect, harming not only the Amazons, but the Realm also. He needed to learn more.
'What is your game, Ansem?'
"What's on your mind, Draco?" a voice inquired.
Draco glanced at the General of the Third Army standing beside him, wearing solely a white tunic and sandals. "Glad to see you're feeling better, Palaemon."
The cropped blonde gripped the wooden railings while gazing out at the greenish blue Sea. "Thanks. Honey milk does wonders for the ailment I had."
"Won't be drinking water for some cronus now, huh?" Draco jived.
Palaemon smirked at the joke. "Probably so."
"Did you hear about the scouts from both our armies?"
"Yeah." Palaemon responded. "Lieutenant Batius informed me. What a shame."
"It made the men wig out. Had them fearing that we all was headed to Pluto." Draco said. "Argin, the damn fool wouldn't shut up. Telling anyone with ears that Helios will kill us. I should have him flogged."
"He almost lost his life." Palaemon was in bewilderment from his compatriot's threat. "Helios' heat affected his brain, causing Argin to speak deliriously. He shouldn't be at fault for confused actions."
"Gods, Palaemon." Draco swore in frustration. "I won't whip him."
"Good choice." Palaemon was relieved.
"I'll demote him to a foot soldier instead." he replied with a smile.
The blonde General shook his head. "Fine, Draco. Demote the poor guy."
They stood in silence watching the scenery, losing the line between the sky and sea.
Next, Palaemon asked. "How did your audience with the Pharaoh go?"
"Didn't meet with her." Draco confirmed.
"What?" he questioned. "If not Cleopatra, who had you spoken to then?"
"Ansem, the High Priest." Draco answered. "He made the conference interesting."
"Sorry I weren't there." Palaemon apologized.
Draco snorted. "Ansem's an ass. You were fortunate to get sick and miss his company."
"So you didn't get any enjoyment from the encounter?"
"Of course I did." Draco responded. "The look on, Ansem's face when I'd told him Antonious had to leave Egypt and take his hidden army of Romans with him, was a real highlight of my day. You should've seen that."
"Darn." Palaemon was disappointed. "Anything else happened?"
The General of the Second Army decided to keep Ansem's cryptic message dealing with the Amazons a secret. "Nope. I exit after I've relayed the Conqueror's directive and Ansem concurred with them on Cleopatra's behalf."
"Does the Conqueror know of our progress?" Palaemon query.
"I have sent a scroll to Corinth before we left Alexandria." Draco stated. "She should receive it in a few days."
Palaemon released a contented breath. "I can't wait to reach Greek soil."
"Nor can I." Draco agreed. "Hopefully we'll get to the homeland in a half fortnight, if we bypass any storms."
Palaemon stared at the aqua colored Sea. "The water is reminiscent of the Conqueror's Handmaiden's irises. I wonder what amazing fables she had told since we'd been gone."
Draco scoffed. "Are you trying to get a rise out of me, Palaemon?"
"I happen to like Ri's stories. Don't you enjoy-"
"You know damn well I do not." Draco interrupted. "Did she manage to entice you as well, Palaemon? Now you're in love with the little slut?"
"Jeez, Draco. You can become a jerk when you want to." he retorted. "I'm merely a fan of her tales and so are many others. That doesn't mean we're all in love with her. I don't understand why you're the only person I know that do not care for, Ri. Going as far as to slander her a slut."
"You weren't a part of the Conqueror's army eleven years ago when we discovered Krykus' plot of selling slaves in Cirra." Draco said. "I am sure a lot of his men had a go at the whore. Handmaiden? Ha, don't make me laugh."
"And your incontrovertible evidence that Ri isn't a virgin?" Palaemon countered.
"After our Lord checked Ri's injuries in private, she became enraged and crucified Krykus and his men personally." Draco responded. "She had already beaten the Tartarus out of the guy and they were all doomed to die. Why would the Conqueror's anger enhance once she'd finished inspecting Ri?"
"That's all you got?" Palaemon wasn't buying what his fellow General was selling.
Growing enervated from the conversation, Draco stated. "All the other women we saved was raped repeatedly. What more proof do you need to discern that Ri wasn't touched too?"
"Assumptions, Draco. Perhaps the Conqueror knows, Ri is untouched. That's why she calls the girl her, Handmaiden."
"Or the Conqueror just pity the girl." Draco retorted.
"Okay, this happen eleven years ago, right? Ri is eighteen now. So back then she was seven. Isn't that a tad young to be raped, Draco, or was Krykus a sick man?" Palaemon inquired.
"I don't believe the bitch is eighteen." Draco mumbled. "I think she's older than that."
"Wow." Palaemon shook his head again. "All this virulence for a disadvantage villager who either way you cut it, Draco, was abused by Krykus. Why do you dislike her so?"
'None of your fucking business, Palaemon.' he thought.
Draco took his dark brown eyes off the Mediterranean and focused on his companion. "You love the Conqueror, don't you, Palaemon?"
"Yes." he replied. "She is our Lord. Who doesn't love her?"
"Don't play coy with me. You know exactly what I speak of." Draco declared.
"What's your point?" Palaemon was becoming antsy. "Want to assume on other imaginary thinking?"
"Forget it, but mark my words." Draco proclaimed. "If that so-called bard gets her way, you can kiss your dreams farewell."
The brown skinned General walked away, leaving Palaemon alone, whom was perplexed by his final statement. Feeling uneasy, Palaemon haven't a clue how, Draco knew that he loved the Conqueror intimately. What did Ri have to do with it? Draco had hinted at something more.
'Is it possible?' Palaemon mused. 'Could Ri be in love with the Conqueror too?'
The blonde haired man didn't get a chance to ponder on the thought longer.
"General Palaemon." a warrior dressed in black armor came up behind him.
Without turning to face him, Palaemon said. "Not now, Lieutenant Batius."
The Lieutenant moved closer and whispered in his ear. "It is a matter of importance."
Taking a concealed rolled scroll out from inside his armor, Batius handed it to his General. Palaemon began to unroll it and read the contents with vigor. He then caught sight of Draco going below deck. Reading the scroll slowly once more, Palaemon tore the parchment to pieces, casting it to the Sea. Next he pulled Batius roughly to him.
"Why haven't you been brought this to my attention?" he questioned quietly.
"Too many soldiers were around." the Lieutenant of the Third Army grew fearful.
"Do you know what was written on that scroll?"
"Yes, General." Batius affirmed.
"No one is to find out. Ever." Palaemon shoved his Lieutenant away harshly.
Batius saluted and departed quickly.
The General of the Third Army sad grey orbs gazed back at the Mediterranean. Again he lost the line between the sky and sea.
Ri had a glorious day, spending all of it with her Uncle Meleager. She hardly thought about what, Iona had said to her and focused on the fact that she fell more in love with the Conqueror for giving her the necklace. After the Chancellor ceased laughing at her last question, he explained to Ri that the jewelry was created from a newly found metal that was discovered in Laconia, right in Tegea, the town village her, Iona and Lyceus were in, safely hidden from the Peloponnese Purge. Meleager told her that, the platinum orbs were only owned by the Realm, and any item crafted from it was technically priceless, but could be worth the cost he had mentioned.
This information made Ri gleeful. The confirmation that her Lord bestowed a gift on her that so far has only been used for the Conqueror's weaponry and Minerva's temple, was very appealing to the aspiring bard. She comprehended that soon the alloy would be distributed to other countries for commercial gain, but being the sole person to have received it first out of everyone on Terra, in jewelry form and from the Conqueror no less, sparked volumes of unknown dimensions inside Ri's soul.
Ri stepped out of her lukewarm tub and watched the rivulet of water stream down her small ample breasts in droplets. She remained curious why her body was dissimilar to the one she'd dreamt of. Not only was her bosom slightly bigger in the dream, but also her body's definition was much more pronounced. She had abs for days. Her arms, thighs and legs appeared muscular as well. Though the strawberry blonde was slim, she couldn't help feeling out of shape compared to her dreamy double. Ri had no abs, nor muscles anywhere on her body. All those parts of her anatomy was covered in baby fat. She looked totally different from the sexy cropped towhead in her dreams.
'And what was that creature on my back?' Ri ruminated.
Donning an envy green robe, Ri tied the sash, closing it and sat down at her vanity desk. She began fingering the jade stone on the shiny chain, willing it to glow the way it did when she woke earlier doing the morning. Her hands dropped from the gem when no illumination came and Ri begun to scrutinize her appearance in the mirror. She wasn't an extravagant beauty, but she was pretty nonetheless. Her eyes was her best trademark, including her long reddish blonde hair.
'At least I got that over my short haired twin.'
Ri started to analyze her large ears and smiled remembering when she was younger, the Conqueror would always tickle them, saying they were adorable. Ri realized she missed her Lord for the umpteenth cronus of today. All she wanted to do was see her, hold her and kiss those soft lips again. Ri wished instead of the chaste peck that was given to her, the Conqueror would've drove her tongue into her mouth and took her virginity right there on the polished altar.
Ri halted her lewd cogitation and prayed for forgiveness. 'Pardon my thoughts, wise Minerva. I mean no disrespect to you, nor all that belong to you.'
She added. 'Please protect my Lord and the warriors that travel along side her. May they be unharmed and guarded by your might. Allow them to return to Corinth alive and well, especially my savior, Milady of the Realm.'
Finished with her prayer, Ri picked up her comb and started to run it through her damp tresses when a knock sounded on the chamber door. Ri stood and opened it.
"Prince Lyceus." she was shocked. "It is late."
"I know." he smiled. "I stopped by early, but you weren't here. I wanted to have dinner with you."
"I have already eaten with the Chancellor."
"I figured." Lyceus pressed on, showing her the single tray he was carrying. "So I brought dessert. Lemon pie and your favorite, nut bread."
"Prince Lyceus, it is really late and I'm a little sleepy. Perhaps another day." Ri said.
"Okay." he was crestfallen. "Another day."
Ri was upset with Lyceus, but felt badly for sending the Conqueror's younger brother away. "Prince."
"Yes." Lyceus answered.
"Give me a moment to get decent."
He nodded his head as Ri shut the door. After that, she slipped off the robe, covering her nude body with a cream colored shift. Opening the door once more, Ri invited Prince Lyceus inside.
Entering, Lyceus walked over to the table they'd ate breakfast on yesterday morning. Setting the tray on the oak furniture, the Prince of the Realm pulled out a chair for Ri. When she was seated, he placed a ceramic saucer in front of her, filling it with a piece of lemon pie and a couple slices of nut bread.
"Thank you." Ri replied.
"No. Thank you for letting me be in your presence." Lyceus shot back.
Next, he took a huge piece of pie and set it on his saucer dish, before sitting down as well.
"Sorry for disturbing you though."
"It's fine. I just got out the tub." Ri bit into her bread.
"I can tell." Lyceus pointed out. "Your hair is wet."
"And unruly. I was combing it when you knocked." Ri responded.
"You still look radiant." Lyceus stated.
Ri grinned shyly, then they ate silently for a while. Each in their own world, until Lyceus asked.
"How have your day been?"
"It was wonderful." Ri neglected to give thought to what happened in the kitchen with Minya and Iona. "I stayed with Chancellor Meleager all afternoon, talking of this and that till Selene switched positions with Helios. We had a nice dinner and then I came back here. How about you, Prince Lyceus?"
Lyceus put his pie down. "I thought the formalities was ended between us, Ri."
Ri let loose a sigh and set her second slice of nut bread on the saucer too. "It was. As long as you'd kept your promise. Seeing that you didn't, I think we should go back to being formal."
Abashed, Lyceus inquired. "My promise? What promise did I break?"
"Never mind." Ri answered. "Lets finish eating, shall we."
"We can, once you tell me what I have done." Lyceus affirmed.
"Prince Lyceus, I rather not." she declared. "I was having a marvelous day. I would like it to end on a good night also."
Lyceus ran his hand through his blonde hair. "I don't understand what promise I haven't kept."
Ri found herself getting angry. "You know what promise I am referring to. You swore by Venus, the goddess of beauty and love, that you would keep my confidence."
"And I've kept my word."
Ri couldn't believe Lyceus' audacity. "Don't lie to me, Prince. It's insulting and I wouldn't ever insult you."
"I'm not lying." he became offended. "Do not discourage my honor."
"How else could your sister, our Lord have known I've told you that I was leaving Corinth for Athens?" Ri questioned. "You were the only person I had confided in."
"The Conqueror knows?" Lyceus was surprised. "She didn't learn it from me."
"Sure she didn't." Ri said sarcastically.
Lyceus was baffled. "Did the Conqueror fabricate untruths about me?"
"She didn't have to."
"But she told you, she knew?" Lyceus query.
Ri glared at him, but then soften. "You were suppose to be my friend."
Lyceus got upset. "This is bullshit, Ri! If the Conqueror told you it was me, she is the liar."
Ri grasped her necklace. "Don't ever call her that."
Ri's movement brought her un-noticable gleaming jewelry to Lyceus' attention. He instantly recognized the jade gemstone, scarcely obscured by her hair.
"Now I get it." he snapped. "The Conqueror gives you a present and now she's your best friend. She couldn't have been that disappointed at you, so why are you giving me crap concerning this? It can't be that serious if she's granting you lavish jewels."
Ri knew she couldn't deny where the necklace came from. Even Meleager had stated that, Lyceus had gotten it from the Agora to bring to the Conqueror.
Realization gripped Lyceus. "I should've known she desired you."
"It's nothing. It's just... It's just a farewell gift." Ri lied.
"I should have known." Lyceus repeated, seemingly ignoring her. "When I avowed to her how I felt about you. I could see it in her eyes. Yesterday left me wondering after you and her rode off, but now it's confirmed."
"What are you talking about, Prince Lyceus?"
"The Conqueror is in love with you, Ri." he responded. "And so am I."
Ri became stupefied by Lyceus' confession. Not only his claim of love, but that of the Conqueror also. They both were in love with her and Lyceus revealed his true feelings to his sister. Why haven't the Conqueror done the same thing and explained to him how she felt as well?
'Why won't I disclose my feelings for Milady to, Lyceus?' Ri acknowledged her own blunder. 'Is all three of our relationships built on hidden fabrications?'
"I'm in love with you, Ri." Lyceus professed.
"It'll be wise if you left my chamber, Prince Lyceus." Ri replied.
The Prince arose with a gloomy facial expression. "It's obvious that you do not share the same sentiment."
Next, he vanished out the room. Ri got up from the table and laid in her bed. She disregarded doing her hair, knowing that it'll be a tangled mess tomorrow. Nonetheless, she didn't care. She wasn't sure how to handle this newfound information that, Lyceus admitted. Ri had an understanding that he liked her. She had no idea he was in love with her.
And what of the Conqueror? The blue eyed woman never asserted that she loved Ri. Now the Prince's attestation claimed that she too was in love with her. The petite storyteller didn't want to hurt anyone and her heart did truly lie with her Lord.
Ri curled up, reflecting inward. She was weary of the circle of deceit when it coincided with herself and the two siblings that wanted her love.
'From here on out, I will be honest with all my heart.' Ri mused as she closed her orbs. 'I swear by the gods, I'll be.'
To Be Continued
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