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 stories' chapters preceding this one, you should do so now.
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The Conqueror and Ri,
A Twist of Destiny,
Chapter 17: Retention
Hanging with Iona and Minya did nothing to heighten Ri's spirit yesterday. On the surface, she managed smiles with laughter at her two friends' banter, happy they were getting along after what happened between them at the expense of her a while ago. Still, her mind was befuddled from what Meleager had spoken that day.
'Fond of each other? Yes. Love in a romantic way? I don't think so.'
It was relayed in such a direct manner that it created condemnation to think otherwise. He had also voiced why Ri and the Conqueror couldn't possibly be in love. Being illogical, or any other phrases based around mental unreasoning could be used to describe that Ri mistook her Lord's motives in Minerva's temple.
'But I was there with her.' Ri cogitated, sitting at her vanity table, wrapped in her robe during the early morning. 'There weren't any mistakes about Milady's intent.'
Once finished with her bath, the petite storyteller sat where she was, remembering what the Chancellor had said to her at the Banquet hall. Since then, that's when doubt snared Ri's thoughts, causing her in the end to concede to Meleager's logic. Their last conversation inside the Conqueror's chambers dismantled the notion, forcing Ri to evaluate everything again.
'He appeared more concerned about the Prince and I, playing as a mediator for us. Howbeit, is it to appease both parties involved, or only Lyceus?'
Ri discarded the cognition. Her proclaimed uncle hadn't ever acted malicious towards her, no matter how malignant he seemed when it comprised of her relationship with the Lord of the Realm. Although he was content with it after Ri confided in him, the following day the Chancellor told her to dismiss the idea, until the Conqueror returned. What instigated a change in him?
A name beamed within Ri's skull, 'Lyceus.'
What did he say? Did the Conqueror's younger brother confess his feelings of love for Ri to Meleager? If so, it had begun to make perfect sense. Nevertheless, it didn't answer the main question. Why would the Chancellor back Lyceus and not the Conqueror?
"I'm going in circles with nothing but speculation at this point." Ri huffed, putting her head on the desk.
Overall, Meleager enunciated a key factor that was irreproachable. Ri and the Conqueror never stayed in each others company for long periods of Cronus. One moment the Conqueror was there, then she would be gone out of Ri's life, off to conquer some new land, if not bringing someone to heel.
The Lord Conqueror nearly missed Ri's birthday the year she turned eleven inside the newly acquired Corinthian castle, and the young woman never forgot it.
"Milady?" I query, opening the door to her assumed chambers.
I view the inner antechamber with glee. It's huge! I wonder will mine be similar in size. Me, Lyceus, and Uncle Meleager had come here to Corinth from Tegea two moons ago. No permanent residence is made for me as of yet, due to the fact Milady has been preoccupied with other matters. So for now, I'm lodged temporarily in small quarters.
Strolling farther, I enter into the bedchamber. The room is semi-dark with help from Selene's glow and I begin to have second thoughts for my decision to come here, notwithstanding that Meleager did tell me she would be back in the castle today. I can discern that the bed is covered with decorative, silk sheets and blankets, but not the body of Milady. Maybe this isn't her room at all. Besides that, it's night. Shouldn't whoever occupy this chamber be in bed?
Whatever uncertainty I have about this being Milady's chambers are dashed when I hear her melodious tone coming from the outer room I was recently in.
"Gods, Old man!" Milady exclaims. "I just got back, at least allow me to bathe before we talk of my progress in Sparta."
She sounds irritated and it makes me panic. Footfalls echoes closer to the area I'm trespassing in, so I hide myself under the bed, clutching the rolled parchment that I planned to give her tightly.
"Can you blame me for wanting to know what happened in Sparta with King Leonidas?" Meleager asks as they gait into the bedroom. "He's practically the head of the Peloponnesian League, now that you took King Glaucus and his heir out of the loop."
Servants come into the room, too, lighting candles to illuminate it.
"I will prepare your bath, my Queen." One of them declares.
Milady is a queen now?
It's put to rest when she states, "Don't call me that. I am not your queen."
"Yes, my Mistress."
I hear footsteps moving 'round till finally Milady says, "Thank you. You may all leave now."
"Yes, Mistress." Different voices reply in sync.
Hurrying feet traipses out of the bedchamber and the door closes.
"You could have left also, you know."
Uncle Meleager laughs. "Not yet."
I see Milady take off her boots. Short moments later, she's sitting down on the bed and the sound of liquid getting poured in a cup greets my ear.
"I'm not too fond of having slaves. They will all be given their freedom and can choose to work here for pay, or leave." She pauses briefly. "And I don't want them all in my chambers like that. I'll have to get a Chambermaid."
"As you wish... Hey, that's your second cup! Don't drink too much of that."
"Please, Meleager. I don't overindulge in spirits. I know how you are concerning alcohol."
"Is King Leonidas with us or against?" He questions briskly.
Milady releases a sigh. "He is on board. He's not entirely upset about the ordeal either. 'King Glaucus was useless'. His words."
"And how does he feel regarding Prince Bellerophon?"
"That's a bit touchy with him. Although his father was a horrible king during this war, the King of Sparta had great hopes for the Corinthian heir." She responds.
"Bellerophon remains alive." Meleager spoke. "Do you think King Leonidas will join him if the young man ever tries to reclaim his rightful throne?"
Milady reviles, "Bellerophon is broken. I made a decree that his name shall forever be left unspoken after today. As far as anyone on Terra is concerned, I am the ruler of Corinth. King Leonidas doesn't like it, but agreed all the same."
"What's next?" Meleager inquires.
"We end this stupid strife that is tearing Greece asunder. I'm gonna head back to Tegea tomorrow. There's something in those mines on the outskirts of the town. I can feel it. Thereupon, we'll have more than enough funds to supply the castle's servants and our campaign."
"Is this about the numerous silver ores you believe is buried inside?" Meleager chuckles. "You have faith because you found a couple, you'll discover more?"
"They're not silver ores and laugh all you want." Milady retorts. "How is Lyceus?"
"He's excited by all of this. I have him settled in his own lodging. He picked it out himself." Meleager pronounces. "Do you like how I have taken the liberty with yours?"
"I do. This was King Glaucus' chambers. It's grand and fitting for you." Milady asserts.
"No. No. This is yours. You deserve it. If not for you, none of this would be." Meleager affirms. "I have my own anyway."
"Well, when I go on progress away from Corinth, these chambers will be yours, Meleager."
"You are very kind, Young lady."
"Please. I'm no longer youthful." Milady scoffs. "My birthday is tomorrow, marking me another year older."
"That's why I had your chambers decorated for you. Happy birthday. Now that you know you're getting older, perhaps you'll stop referring to me as-"
"Not a chance, Old man."
They both start laughing, whilst I'm freezing on the cold floor.
Silence fills the room, until Milady queries, "How's Ri?"
She's asking about me. She hasn't forgotten me.
"Ri is fine. I plan to have her choose her own chambers tomorrow, seeing it is her birthday, too." Meleager answers.
"If only we really knew what day she was born." Milady sounds sullen.
"She loves having the same born-date like you."
"I want to set out early in the morning, so I'm going to miss Ri... Tell her happy birthday for me."
Meleager accedes, "I will. You should get to that bath while the water is hot. I'll see you off in the morning."
"Alright." She rises from the bed. "I'll walk you to the exit, General."
I listen as they depart the room and become sad with the knowledge that Milady won't be celebrating our birthday with me. I haven't seen her since we travelled to the goddess of war and wisdom's temple. Missing her would be an understatement for me. I can't explain it, but it's like my soul cries out for her. I feel tears stinging my eyes before I shut them.
Opening them again, I recall where I am and realize I must have dozed off 'cause the chamber is once more shrouded in darkness. Yawning, I start to crawl from under the bed. No longer beneath it, I remember the scroll I brought with me to present to Milady. It's the purpose I came here in the first place, other than seeing her.
Crawling underneath the bed again, I grab the parchment and whilst moving backwards on my knees, I collide against something behind me. Awkwardly, I turn around and see a pair of bare feet. My gaze look up and up, then up some more, locking eyes with Milady. By the gods, she's tall.
"Ri?" She prompts dubiously. "What are you doing?"
I find my vocals, "To see you, Milady. I wanted to give you a gift."
She bends slightly, placing me onto my feet. Next, Milady traverses to a table stand and ignites a candle. When she looks at me in the candlelight, I don't only notice the beautiful robe she's wearing, but her facial expression as well. It's a look I've never seen her give me. Self-consciously I peep down at my white shift to ascertain what's wrong. Finding nothing out of the norm, I focus on her again.
"Ri." Her mien changes to happiness. "Come here."
With haste I am in her arms, absorbing every bit of warmth, and dare I say love, that I can get out of our embrace.
"You are cold." She holds me. "Let's get you warmed up."
My legs are lifted off of the floor and I'm carried over to her bed. Milady pulls the covers over top of my frame, making me toasty already.
"So, what did you bring me?"
I show the scroll I've made for her. "I don't have any dinars to buy you anything, but I pray you'll like it."
Milady takes it out my hand and I arrest my breath while she reads it. It was a retelling of our Cronus together at Minerva's temple and the journey back to Tegea with poetic flair.
"This is good." Milady caresses my hair playfully. "You could be a great story writer or bard. Darnelle told me you tell stories to his daughter, Iona."
"Yes." I assent. "She seems to like them a lot."
"I don't have a present for you, however, I can arrange something special."
"Like what?" I smile.
"I can get you a master tutor. They can teach you all that is required to be the most amazing bard ever." Milady avers.
My heart soars. "Will you?"
She leans down kissing my forehead. "Yes."
I watch as she sets the scroll on her table. Blowing out the candle, she lays adjacent to me on her comfortable bed.
Memorizing what she purported to Uncle Meleager, I timidly offer my services, "Milady, if you don't want any slaves, I could be your Chambermaid...or Handmaiden."
"You've heard that, huh?" She probes.
"Yeah, I did. So can I?"
"Ri, I don't know. I do not want you becoming a servant to anyone, especially me."
"But I want to do that for you." I press. "It'll allow me to see you more whilst we are here. Please. I'll be good at it. I know I will. Please."
"It is our birthday." Milady gives in. "Fine, but not until after the Winter Solstice."
"Thank you, Milady." I enclose a sole arm around her, bestowing an embrace.
"You are welcome, Little one."
"For everything." I imply, squeezing harder.
"You saved me from slavers. You took care of me. Said we would live in a castle, which we do. Are having me tutored by a master and letting me become your Handmaiden." I elucidate.
"I didn't take care of you, Ri. Meleager, Darnelle, Glaphyra, and Lyceus, to an extent, did that."
"Nonetheless, it's because of you." I correct. "In a way, it was you."
"How did you get so smart for your age." Milady tries tickling my sides, but suddenly halts when accidentally grazing my chest.
Quietness descends upon us and I am unsure what to think as she moves away from me. Perchance that is why she was staring at me. My body has developed quickly for a ten-year-old. I have grown a bit taller. My breasts, though not too big, has gotten bigger since we last laid sight on each other.
"Yes." She draws out silently.
"Can I ask you something?"
"Sure. Only if you answer mine." She counters.
"Why do you call me, Milady?"
"I'm sorry." I feel admonished. "It's the only name I know to call you. I can refer to you by what others are."
"And what is that?"
"Destroyer." I expound tentatively. "The Destroyer of Nations."
She ejects a deep breath. "No, Milady is a wonderful name. You've called me that since we'd met. I like it, so don't ever stop, okay?"
"I won't. Yet, you asked more than one inquiry. If this was the question game that me and Uncle Meleager play, you would have lost." I jest.
"Since I lose, whatever you ask for I will oblige." Milady professes.
"Spend all day with me tomorrow." I predicate without hesitation. "Don't go to Tegea."
"If you were a spy, you'd have known all my grand designs from under my bed."
I nod my head, pondering if she can see me clearly in the dark, though I'm far from her.
"You little sneak." Milady snickers, answering my cerebral inquiry. "Well, I am a woman of my word. We'll go to Minerva's temple and after that we will do whatever you desire."
On impulse I hug her once more, setting my chin above her chest, and breathing in the lovely scent that permeates from Milady's pores. "Do we have to ride Nightmare again?"
"Nightmare is gone, Ri. We'll take a carriage instead."
Her verbalization is glum for reasons unknown, causing me to kiss her cheek, thus bringing a grin to Milady's face.
"You're sleeping with me tonight, so rest up. We're heading out early. Gods up high, let's hope it doesn't snow."
"Alright." I obey. "If it does snow, we still can travel to the temple, right?"
"Of course." She smirks. "I have many skills."
Smiling and closing my eyes, I snuggle firmly on her. "Goodnight, Milady."
Her fingers commences twirling my long hair. "Goodnight, Ri."
"She does love me." Ri raised up from the table. 'It has to be more than fondness. I know it. I know it. We spent the whole day together on my eleventh and her thirty-sixth birthday. She did leave the next day, but my feelings never altered and her attitude towards me didn't either... Or has it?'
The retention that Meleager ordained was no longer applicable. Ri had to talk with someone apropos to this. She couldn't keep it restrained inside her brain. Albeit, who could she speak to? Iona was beginning her training today with Lieutenant Tessa, and Minya would probably share what Ri would tell her. Though the Royal cook was a good friend, she was terrible at keeping quiet about things.
However, the storyteller needed to remain tactful. The last outcome she wanted was for the Chancellor of the Realm to find out she'd become disobedient. There was only one other person she could converse with. After her class with Master Eramus, Ri chose to go to his apartment.
Then she would explicate everything.
To Be Continued
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