Disclaimers: See Part 1

Additional Note (Please Read): Just a reminder, this story is tied with, Xena and Gabrielle, A Turn of Fate. If you have not read the first two chapters of that story, I got three words for ya . Go read them . ;-)

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The Conqueror and Ri,

A Twist of Destiny,

By, Ahkiken

Chapter 2: Discretion

He observed her while she slowly drank the last few swallows of her fruit juice.

She blushed when she set the metallic mug down, catching his eye. "Thank you, Prince Lyceus, again for a fantastic breakfast this morning."

"Ri." Lyceus calmly rested his hand on her's.

The greenish blue orbs of her's was shrouded by her long strawberry blonde hair. His other hand moved the cascading locks to peer in her eyes.

"You don't have to call me, Prince." he reminded the woman as he caressed the side of her face. "Only, Lyceus."

Ri's features were flush deeper. She had never been this close to another person, save one, making this moment odd. It was Lyceus' fourth time in a several days span, waking her up for morning eats, and with each visit the Prince's touch grew more affectionate. She now came to the conclusion of what Lyceus truly wanted from her. Though she was not fully knowledgeable about the world, Ri was too old for naiveness and not see.

"Thank you, Lyceus." she corrected for his benefit.

Lyceus smiled and tenderly stroked her face once more.

'Gods, she's lovely.' Lyceus thought unable to take his hand off of her.

His eyes unconsciously looked over her body. Ri was still in her night shift, but it wasn't plain like some peasant. It was cream colored, the arm sleeves were sheer just like it was around her neck down to just above her small breast, and it coax her milky skin to taunt him. He wondered what her breast would feel like in his hands, and mouth. His fingers slid to the see-through fabric around Ri's neckline.

'I should tell her how I feel about her.' he mused within himself.

However, Ri started to feel slightly uncomfortable, the Prince noticed it, and pulled away.

"Did I offend you?" he asked tentatively. "I apologize if I have."

"No. It's just, I..." words failed her.

For a person that wanted to be a bard someday, it was inconceivable that her vocabulary would vanish.

Ri took a thorough look at Lyceus' appearance and had to admit that he was attractive. Golden wheat hair chopped short on his head. Small, but muscular arms, chest, and legs, from what she could infer underneath his brown tunic and trousers. Blue eyes that were just a tinge darker than his sister's, the Lord Conqueror.

A childish grin shaped Ri's lips at the thought of the magnificent cerulean eyes of her Lord, that majestically made anyone happy to fall into their blue depths.

After watching the change in Ri's demeanor, it gave Lyceus renewed hope that he had a chance. "Ri?"

Ri's hearing hadn't registered the Prince's voice, for she was lost in her own revelled thoughts of the Conqueror. Suddenly her face became gloomy as she recalled the fact that she haven't seen, or heard from her Lord in almost a full moon cycle. Not since their last dreadful cronus together.

"The Lord Conqueror commands to speak with you."

 

I finish up folding the last pair of sheets and handed them to Akemi, the new chambermaid our Lord brought back with her after her progress east.

 

"I'll be back shortly." I tell her.

 

Akemi nodded and carried on her duties. We never really talked much since she had arrived, but she seems nice.

 

"As our Lord commands, General Draco." I reply meekly.

 

He snorts in disgust as we leave the Conqueror's chambers.

 

Of all the people to send for me, it had to be the person that doesn't like me. The Chancellor of the Realm would have been a much better choice. Even though I can't fathom what I had done to ensure his dislike for me, my Lord holds Draco in high regard, and so shall I.

 

The walk is silent for the most part and I have no idea where we're going. Some of the other occupants inside the castle greet me warmly, it almost makes me carefree to investigate about General Draco's well being, but I catch myself from doing such a thing.

 

Soon we are coming towards her War room. I have never been in there before. Maybe I am to be punished for some slight against the Lord of the Realm. I probably forgot to do a chore, or failed to fold her clothes correctly. The Conqueror had never raised her hand at me, let alone her voice, and deep down inside, I believe she never will. Although I know what she is capable of. I have heard of many tales and rumors about her. Knowing all of that, I still feared Draco more.

 

I must have hesitated a split second too long for the General. "I have more pressing concerns than you, little girl."

 

He grabs my arm a bit roughly. I grimace, but allow him to lead me along. I hate it when he calls me that. I may not know my true age, due to an incident I suffered when I was younger, but foregoing my stature, I know I'm not some little girl.

 

We enter through the huge oak doors, and I feel Draco's grip loosen from around my arms. He may not think it, but I knew why he released me as we drew closer to our Lord. To seemingly harm me, or treat me unjustly, would incur her rage. She was like that about me, and I would never again want to hear another human being died for me, not the way that slaver did many years ago.

 

The dark General's movements stopped as we came upon another door. When he opened it and we stepped inside, I viewed the room with eyes of an eager student, wanting to capture every detail. The onyx walls was colored with dark and greyish tones, complimenting the obsidian round table. Surrounding the table, was seven decorative chairs, and sitting in the most regal high chair, closer to the only large window that illuminated the entire room, was my savior from eleven years passed.

 

She glanced up from her writings, and smiled leaning back in her seat. It always made my heart skip to see her this way.

 

"My Lord Conqueror." General Draco announced placing his right fist over his chest in salute. "The lady, Ri."

 

It was then that she arose.

 

"Leave us."

 

Repeating his formal greeting, he departed, closing the door behind him.

 

"Milady." I bow to her. "You've sent for me."

 

Her smile grew wider as she took my hand to lead me to the chair that she was just sitting in.

 

Now that I'm thinking about it, maybe Draco does have a good reason to be antagonistic towards me. The Conqueror spoiled me rotten ever since I fell into her life. I could eat whenever I liked, I had the best tailor made clothes, my bed chamber, although modest, was far glorious than my rank declared. I am the Lord Conqueror's hand-maiden, or servant, but it doesn't matter because she treats me like nobility. When others was demanded to call her Lord, Conqueror, Liege, or another honorific. I could always call her, Milady, which I have done since I was younger. And here I am, right now, sitting in her chair. A chair fit only for the Lord of the Realm.

 

I sometimes feel she's kind to me, because of how she found me all those years ago. Then mostly I sense she see me as a daughter figure, and even though the long raven hair I remember playing with when I was younger, now has streaks of silver like uncle Meleager, I still don't see her as a mother. I have told her that before, but I have never told her how gorgeous she is, how I wish she would grace me with her...

 

"Ri." My Lord broke my hidden thoughts with her voice.

 

"Yes, Milady."

 

The smile on her face just wouldn't go away, and it made my heart beat faster looking up at her. What made her so happy today?

 

"I have important news for you."

 

I nod my head lazily, greatly intrigued.

 

"I have made arrangements for you in Athens."

 

What?

 

"You will no longer be my hand-maiden."

 

What!

 

"Now that Akemi is working sufficiently enough, I am sure she can fill your role indefinitely."

 

WHAT?!

 

"You will be tutored by one of the greatest scholars ever." she continued on with that growing smile I'm beginning to resent. "He is visiting from Macedon and he'll be teaching you an infinite amount of, ideals, locations on Gaia, stories of gods and legendary heroes. He even taught, Alexander the Great."

 

The Conqueror turned away from me, still engrossed in her one sided conversation. "You'll learn how to deliver speeches with proper etiquette, create characters beyond imagination, and also, as a bonus, you will be getting an allowance while you are there."

 

Allowance? I don't even know what the current dinar resembles.

 

Making a turn about towards me, my Lord made a mocking face. "Don't think for a second that you can slack off, because I will be keeping in contact with your teacher concerning your progress."

 

Then she smiled again. That same smile I now hated. She's happy to be rid of me. Who can blame her, I have been a burden to her. I have no money, the clothes I own are made for me, but they aren't mines that I bought. Akemi already does more work than me now.

 

It hits me. No wonder, my Lord insisted that I focus on my writing and arithmetics. She was grooming Akemi to take my place all along.

 

The excited expression diminished from the Conqueror. "Hey, I was just joking. I know you will do a good job in the Academy."

 

I perk up somewhat with that astonishment.

 

"Athens Academy for Performing Bards." I recite the place I dreamed about going to since I've mastered reading and writing two years ago at the age of sixteen. I'm eighteen now, well, that's the age I am in accordance to my Lord's conviction, and maybe it's best for me to go out into the world.

 

"Yes. You'll be in Athens, the city is far breathtaking than here in Corinth. The roads are better too, I've commission them myself." she stated proudly. "It'll have everything you want."

 

Not everything.

 

I can't help, but look defeated again. I would rather stay here than travel to Athens. I'll surrender my dream, but if my Lord wishes it, so be it.

 

"Okay." I sound surly, with my head falling.

 

The Conqueror looks weary, before dropping down to her knees, placing her hands in mines, she ask. "What's wrong? I thought that you would love this?"

 

I love you!

 

I remain mute, so she went on to say. "When Akemi came here, I purposely allowed you more freedom from attending me, so that you could practice your craft and learnings." The Conqueror lifted my chin up, eye to eye. "Although, you mostly never used it."

 

Could never get anything by her. "My deepest-"

 

"Stop it." she quiet me sternly. "I seen you telling tales to the children, one day Iona came up to you after you were finished and asked you, why did you decide to stay a servant when you can tell stories all over the world. Do you remember your reply?"

 

How did she know, ahh, forget it. She'll just say, I have many skills. Putting on a sober look, I told her.

 

"I said, I owe our Lord so much. More than she have ever asked of me, or had taken from me. So I will do what I must to please her, always." I reiterate the same exact words as if I was an echo from that day.

 

A tear fall down my cheek as I lose my composure. "It's true, everything I said to Iona I meant, and I mean them now."

 

The Conqueror wiped the tear away and kissed my forehead in advance of saying. "You are not obligated to me Ri, okay?"

 

I nod my head dumbly while more tears escape.

 

"Stop crying."

 

I immediately do as she say, not without some difficulty. Again the Conqueror wipes my face and stands to her full height. I strain my neck to take in her tall stature.

 

"Listen to me Ri." I acquiesce to the authoritative voice. "Your service for me as hand-maiden is at an end. You are to go to Athens in two moons. You will do what is asked of you, as long as it's no danger to yourself, or your virtues. I will write to you personally with every free cronus I can spare. You will excel in your studies and live the life of your choosing. Do you understand?"

 

I nod my head again.

 

"I can't hear you."

 

"Yes, Milady." I felt my heart shatter.

 

I will never see the Conqueror again. I would only be graced with her words on a scroll, a piece of parchment.

 

"And know this, Little one." she leans down to me. "You are my obligation."

 

After kissing my cheek, I felt better knowing that she still cared strongly for me. She even used the nickname from when I first ever saw her. I felt contentment...

 

Sort of.

 

"You're dismissed."

 

I stood on my feet and bowed once more, then proceeded to walk towards the door. Before opening it to take my leave, I was curious about something.

 

"Milady?"

 

"Yes." she smirked.

 

She probably know what I'm going to ask. "Who will I be studying under?"

 

The Conqueror smirk transformed again into that smile, and I had decided...

 

I don't hate it after all.

 

Prince Lyceus new found hope had disappeared into puzzlement for Ri's unexpected change of emotions.

"You're alright, Ri?" he asked again.

"Forgive me Prince Lyceus, I wondered off into a day dream." Ri offered weakly.

'Ah, back to formalities. Maybe it's best that I don't tell her.'

With that mental note, Lyceus went on asking. "What's up Ri, you can talk to me?"

Could she? Could she talk about the fact that she would be leaving Corinth, possibly for good.

"Is it me?"

The sadden tone persuaded her to attain him. Though she was not receptive of his feelings for her, she didn't want to lose the Prince's friendship.

"No, Prince Lyceus. It isn't you. It's... Between me and our Lord, your sister. I don't think anyone else in the castle is aware yet."

"Aware?" he questioned, hoping to speed her along.

Ri released a sigh. "I am commanded to go to Athens. I doubt if I'll ever return here."

Lyceus was livid, he haven't heard such talk from the Lord Conqueror. "I have spoken to my sister yesterday. She made no mention of your leave in our conversation of you."

'My Lord and Prince Lyceus, conversing over me?' Ri was fluster. "What brought forth me as a topic, mind my asking?"

It was Lyceus turn for his cheeks to redden. "Well, you know... Ah, stuff, like um... How were your duties coming along. Was you getting on well with Akemi."

While he was lying, a thought dawned on him. "Is the Conqueror sending you away, because of Akemi?" Lyceus found himself getting upset at the notion, until Ri dispelled it.

"No. I'm to report to the Academy there. To begin my apprenticeship as a scholar and bard."

Lyceus was still bitter that his sister hadn't shared this information with him. After telling her how amorous he had become for the inspiring storyteller, he had a right to know.

He expressed a smile. "You're finally about to achieve your life goal. You're going to find so much success and fame." Next, his smile flipped upside down. "When I meet with my sister later this morning, I will be sure to let her know of my displeasure for keeping this from me. You are my friend, not chattel."

Ri hastily seized his wrist as Lyceus tried to stand up from the small table they had eating their morning meal on.

"Please Prince Lyceus, I beseech you not to engage Milady, our Lord on this matter. Like I told you, I don't believe anyone else knows. She gave me this order in private and I would become disheartened if she housed any anger towards either of us for not respecting her confidence."

Gripping the panicky maiden's arms gently, Lyceus tried to relax her worries. "Ri, I promise, no harm will befall-"

His sentence was cut short as Ri squeezed even tighter.

"No!" she yelled forcefully in a tone Lyceus had never heard her use before.

Realizing she had not only touched the Prince in a roughly manner, but raised her voice to him as well. Ri released him, and stood up urging him more delicately. "Forgive me, for my offense. I realize that you are the Prince of the Realm and are free to your own discretion, but I implore you most earnestly, to refrain from discussing what I revealed to you with our Lord."

Standing up too, Lyceus understood the emotion in Ri's eyes. She was sincerely fearful, not for herself entirely, but for him. Although the Conqueror was renown for extreme violence when warrant, his sister gave him no pause for such fear.

Nevertheless, Lyceus decided to appease the troubled woman. "I will keep silent on this. I respect that it is the affairs of you and the Lord Conqueror."

"Promise me." she needed reassurance.

"I promise by Venus, I will never speak of this to anyone." he swore.

Ri was relieved as she clung onto Lyceus for a hug.

"Can you do something for me?"

"Yes, Prince Lyceus?"

"Promise to end the formalities, at least when we are alone." he said.

Ri drew back looking into his blue orbs. "I promise by the Realm's patron goddess, Minerva, I will cease addressing you formally."

The younger brother of the Conqueror gazed into Ri's aqua irises, feeling entranced. His hands once again touched her fair face.

"I love you." he admittedly declared.

Ri knew that she could possibly never love the Prince of the Realm the way he loved her. In spite of that, she told him as a genuine friend. "And you have my love also... Lyceus."

Lyceus' lips tenderly kissed her forehead, almost in the same way the Lord Conqueror had done two fortnights back, with different results. Ri didn't feel her heart flutter while she was with him.

"I'll miss you." Ri said.

Lyceus laughed. "Hey don't write me off so fast. I'll visit you, and when your studies are over, you can always come back here to share a tale with the citizens of Corinth. Heck, even if no one shows up, I'll be there." he teased.

Ri cheered up immensely, she haven't considered the thought of returning to perform her newly acquired skills for the people of Corinth. Determination burned within her, she would go to Athens, learn what is taught, master what she needed, return back to the castle of Corinth, and make the Lord of the Realm proud.

She was sure Iona, and the younger children would enjoy her new tales.

'The children!' she remembered.

Spinning quickly away from her guest, she startled the Prince.

"What's wrong?" Lyceus marveled at the fast pace the short strawberry blonde was moving about trying to stack the empty plates and mugs on her wooden table.

"I forgotten that I would attend, Lieutenant Tessa's class."

Lyceus was sceptical. "Tessa is teaching a class?"

"Usually it's Clydmus class." Ri began saying while removing the piled dishes off the table. "But now that the Imperial army has free cronus doing peace, Tessa offered to teach the children about weapons training. She asked if I would grace them all with a story. I couldn't deny the offer, what kind of monster would I be."

The Prince grinned at Ri's jest, while taking the plates and mugs out of her hands.

'I need to pay more attention to what's going on in the Realm, and more aware of what's taking place inside the castle to some extent.' Lyceus chided himself walking with Ri to her chamber door, to give her privacy.

"Better you to entertain them, instead of Joxer, huh?"

Ri laughed as she visualized the court Jester doing something silly. "I wouldn't say better."

Lyceus balanced the dishes in one hand to give Ri a farewell embrace. "You are, everybody agrees and so do I."

After breaking apart, Ri opened the door saying. "I thoroughly enjoyed this morning, Lyceus, and thanks for taking care of the dishes for me."

"As well as I, Ri, and you're welcome, I did eat off of them too."

A question crossed his mind. "Oh, who will be your teacher in Athens?"

Ri gave the Prince the same widen smile her Lord had given her when she told her who she would be apprenticed by.

"Aristotle."

TBC

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