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 14: Contention
The Conqueror stared at the halcyon sky, jovial the terrific, lightning rainstorm had ended after a fortnight of waiting idly on the coast of Cythera that was near Laconia and its capital, Sparta. The storm was so severe that it caused her, including the Sixth Army, to halt their progress of securing Greece's borders, or face the possibility of a watery grave, and dying wasn't on the Conqueror's agenda. Now with the weather submitting its seasonal breeze of spring, the Lord of the Realm was ready to restart her journey as she stood on the deck of her ship whilst her soldiers made preparations for the voyage.
She really missed Ri, wondering constantly what the young, former Handmaiden was doing, and curious if she was ready to go to Athens in Junius. Also, she couldn't stop pondering if the fledgling bard's thoughts circulated around her as much as the Conqueror ruminated on the strawberry-blonde.
'I should have told you I love you.' The Conqueror went grousing again.
That's all she mostly dwelled on throughout her Cronus at sea. The Conqueror was certain Ri loved her and looked forward to returning to Corinth, then Athens, to lay claim on the younger woman. Yet, she dreaded the reunion, too. It had been a long while since she was in a relationship and she hadn't ever courted a past lover before. She had no idea what to do exactly and grew uneasy concerning a stratagem for courtship.
'Enough of this.' She rebuked herself. 'Focus on the mission at hand.'
Albeit, she couldn't stop her rampant ratiocination of Ri. Maybe she could get advice from somebody. Perhaps Meleager, her Chancellor. He'd know what to do, because he always seemed to ascertain how to handle any situation, especially dangerous ones.
'Even when I don't agree with his choices.' The Conqueror's mind frame rekindled a major incident with vivid clarity.
"You are coming a long way, Xena." Meleager praises. "I'm proud of you."
"I can be better if mother would let me train with you more." I complain strongly.
"Be grateful she's allowing you to do it at all." He admonishes me.
I think back a year ago and have to admit, he has a point. After my mother caught me outside with Meleager and his pupils, showing off with a sword in my hand, I was a ticket away from getting a thorough beating. Luckily, Meleager tapped on the door and talked her out of doing the deed. I still got punished, though.
"You are right." I accede. "And thanks again for saving my ass from mother that day, Old man."
"Young lady, you cease those profane words." Meleager reproves. "You are picking up bad habits from the males, and I'm not having you speak that way around me."
"I'll stop." I say, giving him a cunning smile, and he slowly grins at me.
We continue to sit on the verdure hill, looking at the birds and relaxing. I wish we've gotten some sword drills in today.
"Can we train tomorrow?" I query.
"I don't know." Meleager answer. "With your mother's pregnancy expecting to drop any moment, we have to keep you close to home and unwearied. Not tired and worn out."
"Toris doesn't have to worry about such trifles."
"Your mother being pregnant, isn't of little importance, Xena." I'm chastised once more. "You are a female and should be there for her. Toris is a man and a warrior."
Here's the sexist talk again. Men can do this and that, while women stay home to make babies.
It is unfair, and Meleager knows it. Ugh, it's all my mother's doing. She doesn't want me to become a fighter. All she wants me to do is cast my will to be a swords-woman aside to settle down, with Petracles no doubt, and I don't like him in that fashion. Why in Pluto did my mother get knocked up anyway? She couldn't take precautions? And where in Tartarus is the guy who had done the deed? Jeez, I know my father has been dead for five years now, but damn, did she have to be promiscuous? Sex must be very imperative to adults.
I peek lower at my grey tunic, appraising how much bigger my breasts has grown. The boys have taken notice, too. They've noted my height, also. I'm taller than when I was fourteen; past five feet now. I hope my growth is coming to a cessation.
"I'm never having children." I pronounce unexpectedly, tossing leaves of grass.
Meleager laughs. "You are too young to be thinking about that."
"I'm serious. I don't want to end up like my mother." I retort. "A baby on the way and no father to help raise it. What kind of family is that?"
The Old man appears thoughtful, uttering, "What if I told you-"
"Meleager! Meleager!" Elius shouts, interrupting him and my surging curiosity for what my mentor was going to vocalize.
"What is it?" He inquires.
Elius stops running and catches his breath to avow, "A warlord named Cortese and his men were just sighted in Eion. They are moving and gearing to attack us here in Amphipolis."
"Are you positive?" I query, rising to my feet.
He looks at me and nods his head.
"Does the council elders know?" Meleager asks.
"Yes, but they haven't warned the villagers 'cause they don't want to alarm everyone if it turns out to be nothing." Elius purports.
"Go get your fellow companions, Elius, and meet me back here after I've consulted with the elders." Meleager replies, getting up as well.
"Yes sir." He affirms, and runs off.
"I'll get ready, too." I state.
"No, Xena." Meleager is stern. "You get on home to your mother and stay there."
"This is a declaration of invasion and contention. I will not cower!" I yell.
"Don't fuss with me, Xena... Do as I command."
"What?" Meleager's face broadcasts astonishment.
"Why can't I join you all, also?"
"Battles aren't for you yet, Xena. I'm only taking the older teens with me. No fifteen-year-olds, nor younger is allowed." Meleager responds.
"But you taught me how to fight." I cry.
Gods, I hate it when I do that.
"You aren't going. End of discussion."
"Not fair!" I demur and remain confrontational. "But Toris can go?"
"Of course he's going... He is my best student." Meleager asserts.
"I would be the greatest of them all in your opinion if you'd trained me more." I accuse.
"Xena, let's be honest here. You are good and I see potential, nonetheless, in every sparring practice you've been in, you were defeated." Meleager avers. "How can I rely on you in a real battle?"
"It's not my fault I lose to the other pupils. Really it's not." I challenge. "They all are sloppy. If I wanted to, I could take off their heads, or appendages. I don't want to grievously injure them, so I wound up losing. If you teach me how to disarm my opponent, or let us spar with wooden swords, I won't have that problem."
Meleager appears as if he's pondering it over, prior to phrasing, "Go home. Leave this to me and the others."
He starts to walk away and I bellow, "What makes you high and mighty, Meleager, that you can decide who fights or don't? I could probably defeat you in a duel if I go all out, too!"
Meleager glares at me for the first Cronus ever and I'm disturbed by it. Walking back towards where I am, he stands in front of me.
His tone is menacing, "Young lady, I have served in the army of Alexander the Great!"
No way! Alexander from Macedonia? King Alexander?
"I was a general and fought in many wars, and I tell you right now, a battlefield is no game. It's no fun. It is bloody, gory, and will leave you with nightmares, causing you to pick up a bottle of whatever intoxicant you can get your hands on just to drown the memories out. After killing another human, it changes everything." Meleager reveals. "You're only a kid... You think you are capable and prepared to kill, but you are not."
"I am." I profess indignantly, while locking my irises with his.
"Go home, Xena!" He shoves me a couple of steps backwards. "Guard your mother and unborn sibling. If I see you anywhere close to this skirmish, I'll refrain from teaching you further."
Meleager stalks off again to the council of Amphipolis, and I dejectedly view him disappearing over the hillside.
"Forget you, Old man!" I pout with tears in my eyes. "I... I don't need... Forget you!"
I lay on the grass and sob.
Hate it when I do this, but I feel destroyed. Yes, I'm fifteen. Yes, that's a minor age, however, I'm better than all of Meleager's students, and he tells me no, I can't defend my town village. This is more my home than his, and I would die defending it. Okay, he was a general and participated in numerous military warfare in Alexander the Great's army. The army that conquered Persia, Babylon, Egypt, and probably many other countries on Terra if King Alexander of Macedonia didn't expire during his conquest of Indus, a location that didn't belong to him, unlike what Amphipolis is to me. This is my place of birth, but I can't face the invaders who want to pillage it!
My droplets subside and sorrow alters into rage that erupts within me. I will not dawdle whilst my home is threatened... Meleager be damned.
Ascending onto my feet, I wipe my cheeks and head home, but I'm not cowering there. I'm changing my clothes, grabbing my sword...
And going to battle for Amphipolis.
"Glad you sensed that dreary downpour and thunderstorm, or we would've had a rough sail at sea." Glaphyra announced, dispelling the Conqueror's recollections of neglecting Meleager's exigent caution decades ago.
"We should have smooth sailings from here onwards." The Conqueror proclaimed.
"We're still touring the Realm's borders?" Glaphyra prompted.
"At this rate we will not be returning to Corinth for the tribute in Junius." Glaphyra speculated sullenly. "You missed it last year when you went to Rome and Japa. Do you intentionally try to jilt it?"
"We'll make it. We simply have to make haste like the messenger god." The Conqueror elucidated.
"I'll get the selected troops ready to row for our embarkation and hopefully Neptune will bless our voyage because so far, it is not panning out well." Glaphyra complained. "I lost Oris and I was looking forward to doing one more objective with him."
"The soldier whom rode Shadow back to Corinth." The Conqueror remembered. "You didn't have to send him back. It could have been anybody."
"I know, but he's being promoted to Lieutenant of the First Army."
"The First Army? Well, that's great news. Every army has a general and lieutenant again. Awesome judgment call from you, General Glaphyra. I'm assuming General Nale had an eye on Oris." The Grecian ruler acknowledged. "Switching soldiers from one army to another, I don't reckon that's been done before."
"Nope. We are the first two armies to do it." The blonde cheered.
"Congratulations." The Conqueror's grin faltered. "Now, get this ship in motion."
"Yes, my Lord." Glaphyra saluted and set to work.
Ri's life was busy and alcohol free. She'd studied with Eramus almost everyday and, at her leisure, she told stories to the denizens of the Corinthian castle. She hadn't spoken to Meleager nor Prince Lyceus at all, notwithstanding, the trim woman haven't really been in personal contact with anyone other than Iona and Minya on occasions. The only person she'd spent Cronus with on a regular basis was Tessa.
The Lieutenant of the Fifth Army would come by Ri's chamber nearly every evening. They'd converse over dinner, then Tessa would bid her goodnight till the next day. Ri felt that it was nice to have company with her during the dismal fortnight of nonstop raining and lighting. She was also lonesome from pining for the Conqueror's return.
Everyone, for the most part, knew Ri was travelling to Athens in Junius, only fourteen days away. Most people who had knowledge of the storyteller's affairs became jubilant for her success at becoming tutored by the famed Aristotle. Some were worried that she would soon be gone from Corinth to take residence in Attica for the rest of her days. Nevertheless, no one knew of Ri and the Conqueror's private plans to be together.
While days tarried on, Ri began to distrust all she swore she'd known in relation to her and the Lord of the Greek Empire's looming romance. Preceding the ceremonial dinner for Lieutenant Oris, the Chancellor enjoined her not to inform anyone else apropos to the prospects of being courted by the Conqueror, and Ri complied to it. Even when people quizzed on about who bestowed the sparkling jewelry around her neck, she became reticent to confess that as well.
The dream of herself, a younger Conqueror, the warrior in blue armor, and the auburn-haired female she had not once seen in her life, still remained fresh in Ri's cognizance. It infringed her brain so much, she started to have convictions that the toned woman, who was petite with short blonde hair, wasn't her at all.
'It was only a dream. Just a dream. Nothing more. So let it be.' Ri mused.
"What are you thinking?"
Ri gazed at the Lieutenant sitting across from her at the dining table in her chamber. "Not much, Tessa."
Dark-green orbs gleamed with mischief whilst she was elated to be in Ri's presence. Her apparel was always stunning, like now, adorned in a pretty, double-strapped, yellow dress. Ri dazzled Tessa more than her glorious, stunning necklace. The brunette tried to ignore how erotically its jade pendent dangled above the strawberry-blonde's ample breasts.
"I'm sure there is a lot going on in that beautiful head of yours." Tessa grinned, her heart racing as she espied Ri sucking in both her bottom and top lips while a shy beam graced her features. 'Gods, she'll cause me to come undone. She's seductive without even trying.'
Ri scrutinized her visitor, wondering what made her visage seem anxious. "What's on your brain, Tessa?"
The quick response coaxed an inquiry, "Me? What about me?"
"You're aware that you have admirers here in Corinth?" Tessa shot back.
"Yes. But Virgil is a bit young for me." Ri smiled, drinking her tea.
"Virgil?" Tessa was amazed. "The Fool's son has an eye on you?"
Ri nodded. "There must be others if you weren't referring to him."
"Many others." She smirked.
Looking into Tessa's eyes, Ri probed, "Really? Are they in my sight now?"
Tessa was loving this game of wills they happened to fall into easily after awhile of being with one another. Cogitating on what to divulge, she could set all her cards on the table and tell Ri how she felt. But would a single night of passionate sex do? Could the Lieutenant of the Fifth Army sleep with Ri only once and let her go as another conquest, or would Tessa be swept away in the rapture of the talented storyteller.
'Not now. She may not want me yet, anyway. I have to tread carefully.' Tessa declined to evince her desires. "No, they aren't. Although, there are a lot of them if you know where to look."
"I'm positive of that." Ri concurred. "I don't care to seek them, though."
"'Cause once you go seeking trouble, Tessa, it'll find you." Ri teased.
"Like the person who left you with that necklace and lingering thoughts of them?" Tessa urged.
Ri fingered the gemstone, enjoying their banter. "They are never far from my ruminations."
"So, do I get the name of this mysterious admirer?" Tessa was becoming envious.
"Hmm. Then, it wouldn't be my secret. Would it?"
Tessa chuckled lightly, recalling Ri expounding that the individual whom admired her was based in secrecy.
Glancing out of the window and taking in the nightfall as well as the silver sphere of Selene, Ri concluded their night, "It's late. You should get going. I know we both have lots to do tomorrow."
Tessa assented, hence they stood up from their chairs and traipsed towards the door.
A second query was on Tessa's tongue, "Are you being courted by this man or woman?"
Ri slyly predicated, "I have to wait for Milady to return before I'm to be courting anybody."
"She'll be back soon." Tessa opined, stalling her exit.
'If somebody else speak that lie, I swear.' Ri hid her vexation.
She was cognizant that the Conqueror wasn't coming back to Corinth soon. The Lord of the Realm wouldn't arrive until Ri was packed and off to Athens. Still, she bobbed her head in agreement.
"I was planning on going to Minerva's temple tomorrow. I haven't ever visited it. Have you?" Tessa inquired.
"Thrice actually." Ri rejoined. "Once when I was ten, and again on my eleventh birthday. Recently I had accompanied our Lord not too long ago. It is luxurious."
"Would you care to join me?" Tessa offered.
"I have a class with Master Eramus, but I'll let you know if I'm free afterwards." Ri expressed.
"'Til tomorrow, Ri." Tessa kissed the back of her hand. "Goodnight."
"Goodnight, Tessa." Ri blushed.
Finally, the Lieutenant opened the door and departed the chamber. While traversing the corridors, Tessa was in the clouds. The green-eyed warrior didn't care half of a dinar if Ri was being pursued by another.
'I'm so close to grasping her, I can feel her clit on my fingertips.' Tessa surmised joyously.
"Lieutenant Tessa, may I have a word with you?" Prince Lyceus queried, surprisingly looping a corner.
"Prince of the Realm." Tessa saluted, somewhat put off by his sudden appearance. "I concede to you of course."
He got straight to business, "Was you with Ri tonight?"
"Yes. We had dinner, chatted, and-"
"Stay away from her." Lyceus interjected.
"Prince?" Tessa became baffled.
Lyceus leaned closer to her ear, speaking loudly and directly, "I know what you are doing. I'm knowledgeable of your reputation for bedding anyone who catch your fancy. Ri will not be your victim. Do you understand?"
"Prince Lyceus, my intentions is not designed for lusty lewdness."
"Don't play me for a joke, Lieutenant." Lyceus was getting upset. "I comprehend what you do. Ri won't end up like that barmaid at some dingy tavern. I won't allow her to be your toy. Stay away. Are we clear on my meaning and decree?"
'How do he know about the tavern wench?' Tessa was visibly puzzled, but bowed in submission. "Yes, Prince Lyceus."
Tessa turned on her heels and progressed to her destination, as dark-blue eyes descried her retreating form.
'Ri is not for her!' Lyceus frowned. 'She is meant for me.'
To Be Continued
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