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 15: Recitation
"And that's why it is important to have the crowds' ear." Eramus stated.
Ri's eyes widened as she nodded in reluctant agreement. The morning was moving rather sluggish for her liking, and she couldn't wait for the study session with her tutor to be over.
"Any questions in regards to what I have just spoken on?" He asked.
"No, Master Eramus. I got the gist of it." Ri responded.
"Good. Now, moving onwards-"
"I do, however, have a query on a different subject." Ri shyly interrupted.
Her teacher feigned interest, because if any utterances didn't refer to the issue he was talking about, Eramus rarely gave a care. "What might that be, Ri?"
"Bards tell tales almost everywhere they go, correct?"
"That is a rhetorical question." Eramus briskly chided. "Please, get to your point."
The storyteller hid her displeasure. "Well, that is my main case. Bards recite not only each others' fables, but the poetry of poets, too; from Homer to Ovid, and Adrianus."
Eramus was getting irritated. "That is what storytellers do."
"True, but I don't want to just become a bard. I want to write my own stories, also." She hesitated before divulging, "I want to be a playwright."
The sound of laughter trailed her announcement. "A playwright? You actually want to create your own fables? Let's focus on one thing first, then we'll try others, okay?"
His perfunctory dismissal fueled Ri's agitation. "I concede that I'm not yet a professional, but I am very good at storytelling. Recitation is fairly easy for me. I... I desire a challenge, so I was hoping you would give me some advice on writing my own tales."
"I'll repeat, let's focus on one step first, prior to taking two steps ahead of ourselves." The rotund man ingeminated. "I've heard you are a decent raconteur. That's good and all, withal, you may need a few more skills to acquire. After you learn them, you can go on to greatness, even becoming a dramatist."
"Not now, though?" Ri probed dubiously.
Eramus shook his head in the negative.
"You haven't seen me recite any tales to the denizens of the castle." Ri elucidated, displaying her disenchantment with Eramus' decisions. "How can you deduce I'm not ready? Milady have faith that I am capable of being anything I choose."
"Ri." Eramus began his umpteenth reprimand, "The Lord Conqueror of the Realm has placed this honor upon me to teach you all I know. You can try being a smart-aleck with Aristotle, nonetheless, I will not tolerate your disrespect by thinking you are more knowledgeable than me when it comes down to captivating an audience, whether by narrating or writing your stories yourself. Do I make myself clear?"
"I just want to-"
"Do I make myself clear?" Eramus firmly interjected.
"Yes." Ri pessimistically acceded.
"Now, moving onwards."
Eramus started his second lesson, howbeit, Ri simply ignored him. It was all the same anyway. She wanted to look out the window of Eramus' classroom and get lost in the sights of the outdoors, but her instructor would only complain about such actions.
'What would you have me do, Milady?' Ri cogitated. 'You wouldn't keep me from doing what I truly wanted. I know you'd coach me on.'
Ri grinned to herself, for she had her answer. The long-haired, strawberry-blonde decided to scribble down her own fantasies, regardless of what Eramus had declared.
"Young lady." Eramus was preparing to make a fuss once more. "What are you grinning about?"
"Nothing." Ri lied, putting on a straight face. 'Nothing at all.'
A couple of candle-marks later, the Chancellor of the Realm sat in the regal chair inside the Throne Room, whilst the twin oak doors opened, permitting General Draco and General Palaemon to enter. Both wore their armor; one of gold and the other of black, respectively.
"My, my." Meleager teased. "I have received a scroll almost a fortnight ago elaborating that the mission in Egypt was successful and you all would be arriving in Corinth promptly."
The Generals saluted their Regent, and Draco expressed, "All went well, until we got caught in a vile storm off the coast of the Realm's Grecian borders. It obstructed our ship from having access to the Corinthian Gulf. We'd chosen to sail farther upwards to the Chalcidice region, when we passed another ship that looked to be holding refuge on the landing pier of Cythera. From what we could discern through the rain and lighting, their banner was removed off of the mast, so we weren't able to ascertain if it was a merchant ship, nor if they hailed from our domain or another."
'Could it have been the Conqueror? She should've already reached Crete and be returning to Corinth by now.' Meleager ruminated. "Should we be diligent in discovering whom occupied the vessel?"
"No." Palaemon replied. "It was merely a single ship. They appeared harmless and unable to pose a threat of any kind."
Meleager recalled a specific aspect in the missive he'd received from Draco. "You appear to have recovered well from the sickness you've contracted while in Alexandria, General Palaemon. Thank the gods, that is wonderful."
"Yes, too much water caused a virulent within me. I'm thankful that Egypt's physicians could succor me successfully." He praised.
"How about the two scouts we had lost on recon? What did they find?" The Chancellor inquired.
"Several Roman ships were secreted on the outskirts of Egypt." Draco reported.
"Roman?" Meleager strived to put details together. "And they belonged to Marcus Antonius?"
"Yes. His fleets, along with himself, will be leaving the country and traversing back to Rome just as the Lord Conqueror ordained." The General of the Second Army explained.
'Perhaps they are the same ships that Vercinix had seen in Gaul.' Meleager speculated. 'Did the Conqueror already have an idea regarding that?'
Meleager's ratiocination was doused in vexation. He didn't like the notion of being kept in the dark when it came to matters of the Realm. Whether abroad or not, he was the Chancellor, and information of all forms that concerned Greece, should always be relayed to him.
"The troops that died will be granted a ceremonial service. Their families will be given their dividends, plus compensation." Meleager affirmed. "Tomorrow I will update you both on the alterations of government that has taken place here, Gaul, and in Rome, when we commune for our conference in the War Room."
"There is one other occurrence to address." Palaemon confirmed. "Whilst voyaging the peninsula of Chalcidice, we aided a Macedonian vessel."
"Alexander II." Meleager surmised.
Draco and Palaemon looked puzzled, curious as to how the Chancellor could have known.
He didn't keep them wondering, "Alexander was supposed to have arrived awhile ago, too. The massive rainstorm delayed his progress also."
"He is just outside these doors adjuring to speak with you. But why is he here? The Tribute to the Conqueror isn't till Junius." Draco noted.
"His arrival here is for an entirely different purpose." Meleager rejoined. "Show Alexander in. I shall converse with him in private."
Both Generals placed their right fists over their hearts, then proceeded to open the doors of the Throne Room to allow the son of the former king of Macedonia to cross its threshold before taking their leave. The clean-shaven, bronze-skinned, blonde-haired, handsome man proudly walked in. Black leather armor with designs of gold as well as silver covered his crisp white tunic, and a grey cape flowed from its shoulder pads to his lower back. Alexander's legs were bare and sandals adorned his feet while he strode towards the dais. Meleager felt underdressed for the occasion; he casually wore a plain shirt and dark trousers.
"I must say it is more than an honor to have an audience with the Mighty Meleager." Alexander II greeted, inclining his head.
"Alexander, welcome to Corinth. I'm gladdened to see you are well and unharmed by the tempest weather that hindered your journey."
"The happenstance of being spotted by your generals was a godsend." Alexander asserted.
"Has Cassander travelled with you, too?" The Chancellor queried.
"No, he remains in Macedonia handling my affairs of state." The vain man smiled ruefully. "Or should I rectify that by saying Cassander is handling the Conqueror's affairs of state. We all know who truly rules Macedon."
"Either will suffice, Alexander."
"Oh please, Chancellor. My father's name was Alexander. Although he was a great man, he was his own person with his own identity. You can simply call me Alex from now on. Everyone else does in Macedonia."
"I can respect that." Meleager acquiesced. "So, Alex, what is it that brings you to Corinth earlier than expected?"
"Ah, the man who fought beside my father." Alex commenced his flattery. "The youngest general in his army. How old were you again? Seventeen, if not a tad older? The violence you must have espied on his final campaign in Indus. If you hadn't disappeared after my father's death, you could've obtained the governorship of Macedon, not Cassander."
Meleager reminisced of Alexander the Great, including his old, fellow generals. Hephaistion, Parmenion, Antigonus, Cleitus, Cassander, and Ptolemy, who would go on to rule Egypt. Ptolemy's procreation was a catalyst for creating turmoil for Xena during her youth, preceding her rise to becoming the ruler of the Greek Empire.
'If only Alexander would have lived longer.' Meleager mused, sullenly.
"Why did you abandon the army, Meleager?"
The unalloyed inquiry jarred him to purport honestly, "Politics that are built on corruption isn't my strong suit."
"Whereas you are here in Corinth as Regent, I presume. Playing the role that the Conqueror has lain out for you." Alex mockingly said.
"I'm grateful for all that the Lord of the Realm has bestowed on me, Alex." Meleager retorted. "What is it that you want?"
Choosing to drop his adulation completely, Alex begun pacing. "For you to profoundly grasp what I'm about to aver, I want you to picture a map of the known Terra in your head. Will you do that?"
"Now, imagine its kingdoms like Brittania, Sparta, Egypt, Babylon. What do they all have in common?" Alex inquired sarcastically.
Meleager shrugged his shoulders, no longer indulging the Macedonian's game.
"Though they are clients of the Realm, they are ruled by kings and queens." Alex specified, halting his movements to list names, "Queen Boadicea of Brittania. King Leonidas of Sparta. Pharaoh Cleopatra of Egypt. King Antigonus II of Babylon. Do you catch my drift?"
Realization dawned on Meleager. "You want to be king of Macedonia."
"Check and mate, Chancellor."
"Hmm. I will discuss this provocation with the Conqueror when she-"
"This isn't a provoked statement of annoyance, nor should it garner your negligence." Alex intervened, keeping his calm. "It is justly my birthright."
"Alex, every king and queen you've mentioned were already in that position when the Conqueror came into power." Meleager explicated.
"I know they had their titles when she conquered them." Alex stressed.
"And you want emulation. I understand. Again, I will talk with the Conqueror once she returns to-"
"You are the Regent." Alex cut him off twice. "Your word is law. Why don't you just make it so by decree and cease trying to placate me."
"Your interruptions whilst I am speaking is most unwelcoming, Alexander II." Meleager admonished. "If it wasn't for my history with your father, I would have you thrown out of this chamber and castle altogether."
'Foolish man!' Alex raged inside himself, nevertheless, he bowed in submission. "I greatly apologize for my intransigence."
"The Conqueror will be returning straightaway once her progress is concluded. Until then, guest chambers has been made up to accommodate you. You're free to enjoy all the pleasures Corinth has to offer." Meleager apprised him.
Forcing a grin on his lips and bowing again for the generosity shown, Alex strolled out of the Throne Room. If his mood could set objects aflame, the Corinthian Castle would be burning to the ground with the Chancellor along with it.
Some candle-marks elapsed, and Ri sat at her vanity desk, combing her long tresses, erstwhile stewing in discouragement.
'Eramus is an idiot! A stupid, zany, foolhardy man!' She groused mentally. 'I once looked up to him and was fond of his teachings, but now I see him as he really is... A fake!'
A knock resonated on her door, and Ri put the comb down to answer it, "Hello?"
"Ri, it's Iona." The young teen announced on the opposite side of the closed doorway, before it opened.
"Whoa." Ri was taken aback by Iona's attire.
She wore a yellow tunic, ebony leather trousers, and boots. Her blonde locks were tied in a pony-tail; similarly like her mother's once more.
"I know, right. Except for my hair being pulled back, totally different, huh?" Iona squealed excitedly, shutting the door. "Lieutenant Tessa asked if I wanted to go with her to Minerva's temple. I'm going to ride a horse alongside her."
"Darn it. I forgot she was visiting there today. She did proffer if I would accompany her yesterday." Ri rubbed her head, attempting to rid herself of the ache that was setting in.
"You knew?" Iona was surprised. "She didn't mention that. Do you want to join us? We rarely have any Cronus together, now that you've locked yourself into your studies and storytelling."
"Please, don't comment on my lessons, Iona. Master Eramus is a rhetoric bore and I can't wait to be done with him."
Iona's eyes went wide at Ri's saucy declaration. "What happened today? Have you been drinking again, or is it another secret that you want to tell me, but can't?"
"It's not. I'm not consuming any spirits either." Ri clarified. "And forgive me, I did say I would tell you everything concerning me and the Conqueror, but the Chancellor commanded me to remain silent."
"It's not your fault." Iona understood. "Come on, Tessa's at the front of the castle waiting for me. You can inform me of your session while we walk."
Ri descried the blue chiton she was wearing. "Do you think I should change?"
"Nope. You're fine as you are." Iona tugged on Ri's hand. "Let's go."
"He laughed at you, but haven't listened to you entice an audience with your tales?" Iona was baffled after hearing Ri's recount of what happened whilst they traipsed outside the castle's doors. "Not even once?"
"Master Eramus never spared me one moment in Cronus, and he expects that I'm gonna listen to him." Shaking her head vigorously, she uttered, "He's got another thing coming, because I am still going to write my stories."
"I agree. You should do it, Ri." The younger girl encouraged, before happily avowing, "There's Lieutenant Tessa."
Below the steps, the brunette was atop her horse and holding the reins of another, while gazing at the two females descending the stone stairs.
'Oh, boy.' The Fifth Army Lieutenant thought when she saw Ri.
"Lieutenant Tessa, Ri wanted to know if your offer still stands?" Iona questioned as they stood next to her.
"Um, get on your horse, Iona. I need to chat with Ri alone." Tessa proclaimed.
"Oookay." Iona was uneasy, walking away to give them privacy.
"I don't mean to impose, Tessa. I didn't expeditiously confer with you about your proposal, and can fathom if you only intend to go to the temple with Iona." Ri expounded.
"It's not that." Tessa dismounted her steed, trying to figure out how to tell the storyteller that they couldn't be around each other anymore. "I can't take you with me."
"Well, you do have transportation for just you and Iona." Ri glanced at the two horses. "Besides, I am inept at riding them. Yet, they're not enormous like Milady's steed, and don't frighten me. I could hold onto you or her from behind, and we can travel that way."
'I would love to feel your arms encircling my waist.' Tessa's cognition stirred, withal, she stayed uncomfortably quiet.
Silence was all the answering Ri received, and catching the hint she relented. "It's okay, Tessa. Perchance when you get back we can have dinner, or-"
"No, we can't."
"What?" Ri became confused. "Why?"
"Ri, I'm sorry." Tessa gave her an apology. "I don't want to hurt your feelings, but I can't spend any Cronus with you. We cannot be friends."
Tessa spun around, mounting her horse again.
"I don't understand. Why can't we continue being friends? Is it something I've done?" Ri urged.
"Let's get going, Iona!" The Lieutenant blared.
The honey-eyed blonde slowly climbed the saddle of the brown-colored mare, wondering what was going on between Tessa and Ri after noticing her friends' countenances. "What's wrong?"
"I'm unsure, Iona. Tessa won't tell me." Ri muttered sadly.
Tessa allowed herself to become irked. "Maybe you should've told me that you and the Prince have an intimate relationship."
"Prince Lyceus?" Ri couldn't believe her ears. "What happened? Did he make up fabrications to you?"
"The Prince demanded for me to stay away from you, and that's what I am doing." Tessa predicated tersely. "See you around, Ri."
Tessa started her horse into a trot and Iona followed, looking back at her friend with a remorseful expression, before they took off in a full gallop.
Her emotions in tatters, Ri observed them as they vanished. She was beginning to feel like Lyceus and Meleager opted to control her life. The two most important people whom she had been raised with, were also the same ones causing her emotional chaos.
Ri turned towards the castle's doors, restraining herself from crying whilst she ascended the steps once more to enter the lonesome Corinthian castle.
To Be Continued
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