Disclaimers: See Part 1
Additional Note (Please Read): This tale is tied in with, Xena & Gabrielle: A Turn of Fate. If you haven't read both story's chapters preceding this one, you should do so now.
Feedback is always welcomed at Martinkendell19@yahoo.com
The Conqueror and Ri,
A Twist of Destiny,
Chapter 13: Congratulations
Iona remained standing against the wall, overhearing the three Lieutenants' conversation.
"Is Ri being courted by anybody?" Oris probed.
"Not to my knowledge." Tessa answered. "Ri is the Handmaiden to our Lord."
"She's a Handmaiden?" Oris was enticed. "A virgin you mean?"
"Yes." Tessa said.
"With her looks, I can't imagine her being that for very long." The Brittania-born Lieutenant praised.
"General Glaphyra speaks fondly of the Conqueror's Handmaiden. I didn't know it was Ri though, because she's never mentioned her by name. I assumed it was two different girls." Dex confided.
"Ri was raised with us." Iona chimed in. "She is like a sister to me."
'That's why General Darnelle interfered with my suggestion of going back to my room.' Oris derived.
Tessa had forgotten that the fifteen-year-old stood close by. "Iona, we don't mean any dishonor to Ri. We respect her a huge deal."
"It's alright, Lieutenant Tessa." She pronounced. "Ri is special to me as well."
"Would you like to rejoin us?" Dex asked, offering her a chair.
Iona shook her head. "No, thanks. I'm waiting for Ri to return."
"So am I." Oris whispered.
'You'll never have her. Not when I had my sights on Ri first.' Tessa mused.
"Here you are."
The Lieutenants began to rise in order to hail their Regent.
"At ease." Meleager stated. "I'm searching all over for the new Lieutenant of the First Army, and find him hiding back here."
"Chancellor, I was merely chatting with my compatriots." Oris replied.
"I see. I see." He repeated. "Now, I would like to have a chat with you, if you don't mind."
Getting onto his feet, Oris responded, "As you command, Chancellor."
"Follow me." Meleager started walking and Oris trailed behind him.
"Breaking in the novice." Dex teased.
"Hope he doesn't break a sweat." Tessa added.
After the two Lieutenants laughed, the brunette recognized a familiar figure.
"General Vercinix!" Tessa shouted.
Vercinix and Mendala were walking hand-in-hand when they heard Tessa's voice. He was wearing a brown tunic with an ebony leather vest covering it, and black trousers. His wife was clad in a orange-colored dress and sandals. Her dark-blonde hair hung loosely around her shoulders.
"Welcome back to Corinth." Tessa greeted once they made their way to the table.
"Thank you." Vercinix averred. "It's good to be back."
"Is Lieutenant Kira handling her charge well?" Dex queried.
Vercinix smiled. "Your wife is doing fine, Dex. I guarantee she'll be writing you soon."
"That's nice to hear." Dex expressed. "Mendala, you look lovely this evening, by the way."
"Thanks, Lieutenant Dex." She accepted the compliment.
"Where are the kids?" Dex noticed they weren't with their parents.
"They're being entertained by the Jester." Mendala disclosed.
"How was Gaul?" Tessa questioned.
"Interesting at best." Vercinix remembered his pivotal worry. "I'll give you the details later, however, have y'all seen the Chancellor?"
"He just left with Oris." Tessa proclaimed. "I'm sure you are aware of his promotion."
"Yes. I came to give my regards to him also."
Nale stealthily came up in back of Vercinix. "Did you know that Alexander II is arriving here within an half fortnight?"
"Nale." The General of the Fourth Army grasped his forearm in a warrior's embrace. "I hear that you're finding soldiers from other armies to fill your ranks."
He chuckled. "It isn't like that. Oris is gonna make a great lieutenant. General Glaphyra wanted to elevate him, but Dex would have been out of a position."
"Lucky Dex." Tessa smirked at the Lieutenant of the Sixth Army.
"And how are you, Mendala?" Nale prompted, giving her a hug.
"I'll be better once we give our congratulations to the new Lieutenant of the First Army and my husband speaks to the Chancellor." She declared. "I want to spend Cronus with my whole family alone."
"Yes." Vercinix was in agreement. "But tell me, when is Alexander's exact arrival?"
Iona shelled completely up after General Vercinix and his wife made an appearance. She was on the lookout for Ri more than ever.
'Why did you leave, Ri?' Iona ruminated. 'Please, gods, don't tell me I offended her again.'
The honey-eyed girl had anxiety from phantom ratiocinations. It was relieved momentarily when she saw Ri saunter towards her with an unusual sway.
"Iona, we have to talk." Ri affirmed, grabbing Iona's arms and pulling her away from the adults' table.
"Ri, what did I do?" Iona inquired. "And why are you walking like that?"
The strawberry-blonde was made conscious of her erratic footfalls and halted her footing with a giggle. "You would think I had no clue how to walk properly."
"Ri?" Iona wanted to discern Ri's behavior, because the only people who acted similar to her, were the ones whom partook in alcohol. "Are you drunk?"
The storyteller laughed. "I had a little alcohol. Your father gave a toast to me and he made it clear about bad customs to deny it. So I drank for mine as well as Lieutenant Oris' success. Where is the new Lieutenant? I have to apologize for abruptly taking off during our introduction."
"Don't bother, Ri." Iona griped. "He likes you... A lot. He'll accede to anything you say."
"Are you talking about Prince Lyceus?" Ri quizzed.
"No. Lieutenant Oris."
"Oh." Ri's drunken cogitation was on the Prince, recalling seeing him not too long ago, waltzing pass the entertaining juggler. "Lieutenant Oris is attractive, but I do not know him. His affections for me would be wasted."
Jubilant to learn that Ri had no interest in her crush, Iona explained, "Lieutenant Oris just traversed off with the Chancellor of the Realm."
Ri revoked the memory that she had to meet with Meleager soon, too. She wondered what matter he wanted to converse on that was thoroughly important to impose a cancellation of her class with Master Eramus.
"You have something to tell me." Iona reminded her.
'What is it that I wanted to say to Iona?' Ri's concentration was haphazard. "I forgot. Although it was important."
"How much did you drink?" The younger blonde smiled. "You can't be soused from solely one cup of wine."
"One is all I had." Ri clarified. "Have you enjoyed yourself while I been gone?"
"Not really. I had to listen to Lieutenant Oris go on and on about you. It got rather boring." Iona proclaimed. "Why did you jet off anyway?"
"Because... I was mad at you." Ri's irritation at Iona came back to her retention.
"What did I do?" Iona became dismayed.
"You told everybody I was leaving Corinth and that I would be taught by Aristotle. I want to be the sole person to apprise people about my personal affairs." Ri explicated.
"I didn't know that's how you felt." Iona began feeling sorry. "I assumed because the Conqueror gave you leeway, it was alright to reveal your exciting news freely."
"Not yet, Iona." Ri reproved. "Minya doesn't even know. I want to tell the people who are close to me first. Anyone else is a distant candle-drip compared to that."
"I get what you are saying." Iona conceded. "I'll never take initiative with what relates to you again."
"You are very loyal, Iona. I should've spoken earlier and none of this would have occurred." Ri embraced her. "I'm torn on what to do, concerning my leave."
"Do you desire to remain in Corinth, instead of going to Athens?"
"I'm not sure." Ri confessed, disengaging. "Milady demands it of me. It's always been my dream to go out into Terra and become a bard. Still, I feel as if something is amiss if I do."
"You have to live your life, Ri." Iona uttered.
"You are correct. I plan on doing that." Ri became talkative. "I'll learn from Aristotle, and Milady promised she would visit me in Athens."
"The Conqueror personally told you she will make visitations?" Iona was wide-eyed.
Ri blushed. "Yes, she did. There's so much I have to evince to you, Iona. But I have to talk to the Chancellor. He said it was imperative. I'll request if you can be seated next to me at the Royal Table."
"That will be amazing. I'll take it that you and I are safe once more?" Iona jested.
"Yes, we are, soldier." Ri did a mock salute and trekked away, making the teen guffaw.
Across the expansive Banquet Hall, Oris almost gushed, for here he was in the presence of the Mighty Meleager himself; the man who fought alongside Alexander the Great. Now he served the Lord Conqueror faithfully as Chancellor of the Realm and Regent in her stead.
Oris couldn't believe Meleager was verbally communicating with him, anent to serving the Grecian Empire, "Being a Lieutenant is one step from becoming a General if you excel in your duties."
"I comprehend that, and I must admit, sir, it is an honor to be speaking to you directly." Oris extolled. "I will make the Realm proud."
"You have been granted this elevation by General Nale for a purpose. Even Prince Lyceus agrees with your rise in rank. I look forward to you fulfilling your tasks with utmost fortitude." Meleager encouraged.
"I will, Chancellor. Thank you, for allowing me this private address." Oris placed his right fist across his plated-chest.
"You are welcome. That is all." Meleager dismissed him. "Now to find Ri."
"Ri?" The Lieutenant asked. "Long hair that's held in place by a brooch? Short, petite, and beautiful?"
"Yes. That would describe my niece."
"Your niece?" Oris' heart dropped. 'Why didn't General Darnelle or Lieutenant Tessa mention that?'
"She should be waiting at the Royal Table for me." Meleager assumed. "Branch out and take in the celebration, Lieutenant Oris. Be at our table when the banquet begins."
"Yes, Chancellor." Oris eagerly agreed, contented that his idol wasn't vexed that he openly appraised Ri in front of him.
Back at the warrior of the Realm's table, Darnelle returned to his comrades-in-arms to query, "Have any of y'all seen Ri?"
"You didn't catch up with her?" Dex retorted.
"Yeah, but she took off again." He glimpsed the empty wall where his daughter was once leaning on. "Where's Iona?"
"Calm yourself, General. Ri and Iona are with each other. I observed them wandering the Banquet Hall together." Tessa informed.
"Good." Darnelle breathed, finally acknowledging the newcomers. "General Vercinix and Mendala. What a sight for sore eyes."
"You don't appear to be shocked to see us." Vercinix gave him an embrace.
"I already seen your children with the Fool." Darnelle claimed, clutching Vercinix's forearm, prior to kissing the hand of Mendala. "You are looking gorgeous."
"Don't let your wife hear that." She jived.
Darnelle smirked, questioning, "So, what's going on?"
"I was telling Vercinix about Alexander II, and he started elucidating about Roman ships that were in the vicinity of Gaul. He's surmising it pertains to the Conqueror and the Realm somehow." Nale reiterated.
"I fear it does." Vercinix asserted. "Rome is at war with its own. If Marcus or Octavian knows about Brutus wanting to make an alliance with the Realm, anything is possible from all points of view."
Darnelle, Nale, Dex, and Tessa took a moment to cogitate on the statement, realizing that it couldn't be rejected as summed up paranoia.
"I suppose you could be right, Vercinix." Darnelle assented.
"Why didn't someone tell me Ri is the Chancellor's niece?" Oris queried when he reached their table. "I nearly embarrassed myself in front of him."
"Ri grew up really close to the royal family." Darnelle enlightened the young Lieutenant. "She's technically a princess."
Oris was starting to broach Ri's station as a Handmaiden, "But I thought-"
"This here is the man we all are celebrating." Tessa interjected. "Lieutenant Oris of the First Army."
"Then we must congratulate your ascension, Lieutenant Oris." Mendala shook his hand, turning to her husband. "One other person to speak to."
Vercinix took his wife's hint to hasten their objective for coming to the dinner celebration. "Congrats, and good luck with your promotion, Lieutenant Oris. I take it you can show me to the Chancellor?"
"He's engaged with his niece at the Royal Table."
"That is too bad, or convenient. Can we go, my love?" Mendala beseeched Vercinix.
"Yes. I will talk with the Chancellor tomorrow." He gripped Oris' forearm. "Serve the Realm proudly."
Oris was in Elysium; not only did he have an audience with the Mighty Meleager, but he was embracing Vercinix of Gaul. "I will."
Over at the Royal Table, Ri was sitting down beside the elegant chair that usually seated the Conqueror, watching the castle's servants set plates, utensils, and ornate glasses on the blue silk cloth that adorned the table's wood. She was tempted to indulge in another cup of wine, but decided against it when Meleager sat next to her.
"Did I keep you waiting long?" The Chancellor smiled.
"No, Uncle. You did not." She relayed. "Is it okay for Iona to eat with us?"
"That's acceptable. Now tell me, what happened between you and Akemi today?"
Ri hardly hid her annoyance of the Chambermaid. "She was insolent, and it discomfited me."
"So, you were rude to Akemi by slamming your door in her face?" Meleager pressed on.
"I didn't slam my door. I closed it."
"In her face?" Meleager echoed.
"Yes, I did." Ri chortled under the effects of alcohol.
"That was unkind, Ri." He admonished. "Akemi said you were acting like it was a problem when she'd arrived at your chamber. You told me you were going to be here anyway for Iona, but if you didn't want to come, all you had to do was say so."
Ri was becoming easily agitated. "I wouldn't dare disobey an order from you, Chancellor. Akemi was being acrimonious towards me."
'Akemi alleged that Ri was belligerent to her.' Meleager mentally recalled.
"She'd got what she deserved." Ri avowed smugly. "Jealousy is not her color."
His niece's attitude was getting distressful. "Ri, what has gotten into you?"
"Clearly it's something." Meleager gently held Ri by her jaw, looking into her eyes and flushed features. "You've been drinking."
"I only had one cup." Ri quickly verbalized. "General Darnelle said I could when he made a toast to me."
"Darnelle?" Meleager was upset, 'cause he seen what hard spirits and wine could do to a human, hence why he had chosen to forsake consuming it.
"It's not his fault. Don't be mad at him on my account. Please, Uncle." Ri pleaded.
Allayed by Ri's supplication, Meleager's anger dispersed. "No more. Do you hear me?"
Ri nodded vigorously. "I'm done for tonight and the rest of my life. So help me, Dionysus."
Meleager was appeased and hoped to take advantage of Ri's tipsy state. "What is Akemi jealous of?"
"My necklace." Ri provided. "She can't stand the fact our Lord gave me a wonderful gift."
"Are you presuming, or are you positive?"
"I could be wrong, but twice she has acted differently towards me, and today it precipitated into a small quarrel." Ri discussed. "Can we stop talking about Akemi? She's giving me a headache."
"Okay." Meleager consented, delving into a subject that related to her and the Conqueror's relationship, "What was professed when the Conqueror conferred the jewelry to you?"
Ri's facial expression glowed with happiness whilst she paraphrased, "Milady inquired did I love her intimately. Albeit I was fearful, I had to be truthful and gave her my reply, which was yes. She asked me to turn my back to her. After I complied, I felt something cold touch my neck. I presumed that she was gonna kill me."
"What made you think that?" The Chancellor became puzzled.
"I don't know." Ri was honest. "I mean, I have knowledge of what she can do... What she has done. There's a rumor floating around that a day before she left Corinth, Milady slit the throat of a slave in her Throne Room, and that's just one of the many stories I've heard. Disclosing that I love her, made me extremely nervous."
"The Conqueror frightens you?"
"No. She doesn't. I... I can't explain it." Ri muttered. "I know she would never hurt me."
"If you truly love the Conqueror, you wouldn't have been concerned about her taking your life."
"I wasn't." Ri became adamant. "It was only a split cognizance."
Meleager moved the conversation along. "Once she gave you the necklace, what happened next?"
"She kissed me." Ri cheeks had reddened brightly.
"Kissed you? On your lips?" Meleager queried.
"Yes. It was chaste and very brief." Ri replayed the loving recollection in her head. "The sweetest kiss ever."
"Did the Conqueror promise that you two would be together?"
"Not exactly." Ri divulged. "She had only promised to visit me in Athens."
"No deep admiration was mentioned?"
"She..." Ri sighed, feeling rather foolish, fretting if Darnelle was right and the Conqueror cared for her as a mother would for a child. "No, there wasn't."
"Have you been apprising anyone else about you and the Conqueror, other than me?"
"No, but I planned on being-"
"Glad to know." Meleager cut her sentence short. "You should refrain from doing so, until she returns."
"Why?" Ri protested, while her face went gloomy. "I thought you were gladdened for our love."
"I was, but now I'm not quite sure how to feel. The Conqueror plausibly doesn't share the same emotions you do." Meleager contested.
'Not you, too.' Ri grew disheartened by her uncle's predication.
"The banquet must begin." Meleager conveyed. "We will continue this at a later date. Just remember, don't say anything about the Conqueror courting you."
"Yes, Uncle." Ri concurred, dejectedly. "I'm going to get Iona."
"Alright." The Chancellor kissed Ri's forehead, and she rose from her seat.
Meleager felt kinda sad for the trim storyteller. Nevertheless, he had to get the information he needed to help patch up Ri and Lyceus' friendship. He would also bring that topic up to her when they conversed again.
"Ladies and gentlemen!" He blared. "Take your seats, please! The ceremonial dinner is commencing!"
The celebration was coming to an end when Ri excused herself from the Royal Table, saying good night to the Chancellor, Lieutenant Oris, and Iona, but not the Prince. She hadn't talked much throughout the dinner, opting to be silent whilst her mind tried to make sense of all that General Darnelle and Chancellor Meleager had implied apropos of the Conqueror's feelings for her. Withal, the food did sober her up.
Ri had traipsed into the Great Hall by herself, and her cognition was all over the place. She would have to renege on her promise to the gods anent to staying honest and veridical. When she passed a window, the strawberry-blonde espied that it was raining and thundering heavily. Her greenish-blue orbs could scarcely make out the ignited stars and the silver ball of Selene that filled the sky.
'Can you see what I see, Milady? Can you feel me in your heart?' Ri pondered. 'Gods I miss you. Come home to me.'
"Jupiter must be angry." A feminine voice purported.
Ri didn't cast her aqua irises away from the stormy night. "Perhaps he is."
Tessa's footsteps ceased juxtaposed to Ri, and she gazed out of the window as well. "I watched you exit the Banquet Hall looking lost. Are you okay?"
"No." Ri avouched. "I'm thinking of someone."
"Is it the same person who gave you that magnificent jade necklace?" Tessa questioned.
No other words were forthcoming, so Tessa kept talking, "I have faith their thoughts are of you, too."
Ri grinned sadly. "You think so?"
"Of course. They would be insane not to dwell on a pretty woman like yourself." Tessa complimented.
"Thank you, Lieutenant Tessa." Ri gave her gratitude.
"Don't thank me." The green-eyed warrior touched Ri's bare arm lightly. "And, please, call me Tessa."
Ri broadcasted a brilliant smile. "I will, Tessa. If you will pardon me, I'm going to retire for the night."
"Can I escort you to your chamber?" Tessa proffered.
"That would be appreciated." Ri acceded.
Linking arms with Ri, Tessa began ruminating in glee, "Oh, I'm going to love seducing her more than that barmaid I'd fucked yesterday.'
As the two women strolled off, a pair of dark-blue eyes narrowed in their direction.
To Be Continued
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