Disclaimers: See Chapter Part 1
Additional Note (Please Read): This story is tied to, Xena & Gabrielle: A Turn of Fate. If you have not read the third chapter of that story before reading this one, you should do so now. Don't let Mr. T pity the fool if the full plot escape you. :-)
Feedback is always welcomed at,
The Conqueror and Ri,
A Twist of Destiny,
Chapter 3: Accomplishment
The General hated Egypt. Not because of its people, the language they spoke, or the Pharaoh.
It was the endless amount of sand and the damn excruciating Helios that felt like fire. He couldn't fathom how the Egyptians could live here all year around, especially in this season of spring. Though his skin was as dark as the people of the ancient country, Helios still did murder to his flesh, and the golden armor he wore made it severely worse.
While gazing out at the Nile river, he remembered the trek through the dry desert, onwards to the Egyptian palace of Alexandria with a contingent of forty troops; twenty men from both the Second and Third Army. To his amazement, his fellow General either was unfazed or simply tolerated the unsufferable heat. Strange, since he was way lighter in pigmentation.
'Just drink lots of water, and hope the royal couple are as miserable as you are.'
He recalled Palaemon's laughter when he failed to lighten the mood. The dark General been to Egypt before when the Conqueror advised the same liquid element to fight back the effects of Helios. Water quenched his thirst, but did little for his agitation towards the shining celestial.
A light knock was barely audible on the door of the guest chamber he occupied.
"Come in." Draco answered.
Staring out the small window of the decadent room, Draco grasped the silver cup that rested on the oak stand next to him.
Without turning around, he stated, "Finally, Palaemon. Let's get this visit over with and return home from this inferno of a city."
Bringing the crisp cold water to his lips and drinking his fill, he began to face his compatriot.
"I can't believe Cleopatra's audacity to stall us for a whole-" His sentence dropped once he caught sight of the person standing by the chamber door.
It wasn't General Palaemon.
The soldier's fist came over his chest in salute to his commander.
"Lieutenant Hector, what is the meaning of you coming here?" Draco was clearly annoyed at the young man whose origins hailed from Carthage.
Hector's complexion was a few tones lighter than his own. Draco had always coincided Hector's birth with the conquest of Carthage by the ambitious younger Julius Caesar. With Rome's history of pillaging, it's easier to agree Hector's mother were either raped, or willingly available to one, if not many of the soldiers. However, the Lieutenant of the Second Army never talked about his parentage, and the Lord Conqueror hadn't inquired about it. The only thing she cared to know was if he were a capable fighter, which he is.
"General Draco, I have come to inform you that General Palaemon is indisposed. He has been unwell since last night."
"We have an audience with the Pharaoh." Draco said in eloquence. "What caused his indisposition?"
"The General is suffering from over-consumption of water." Hector replied.
"What?" Draco stared at his Lieutenant dubiously. "I haven't ever heard of such an ailment."
"He is enduring water intoxication. It has been confirmed by the palace's physician." Hector affirmed.
'Damn it, Palaemon.' Spinning sharply, Draco tossed the remaining water in his cup out the window and watched the slaves work outside the palace while mumbling, "Drink lots of water they say. Ha, now the fool is sick."
"I also have reports on the three scouts whom went on reconnaissance."
Still observing the drudgery taking place, the General asked, "What of them?"
"Out of the three that left, one returned deeply dehydrated. The other two perished from exposure to the elements." Hector answered.
It was a shame to Draco when warriors died by different means, instead of battle. "Which army do the casualties belong to, and did they discover any oddities?"
"One from both the Second and Third Army. Argin, the scout that returned, did mention an-"
Draco held out a hand for Hector to be silent. "If you have the report on your persons, bring it to me."
The young Lieutenant realized what Draco meant. One could never be too cautious in another's residence. Spies were plenty, from experts to novice servants. All with their ears open to catch any kind of rewarding information.
Hector was disappointed in himself for almost making a rookie mistake, handing the small slip of parchment to his General.
Draco skimmed over it, before ripping it to shreds with a smile. 'Just as the Conqueror assumed.'
Another rap on the door brought both men to full attention. Draco gave his Lieutenant a signal to open it.
A half-naked slave, only having a cotton cloth to hide his lower private member, bowed and reported in broken greek, "The Pharaoh is ready to receive you."
Draco inclined his head in acceptance.
"I'll await your departure." The Egyptian said, taking a second bow, he closed the chamber door.
Hector remained standing erect, while Draco addressed him, "I suppose the General of the Third Army will recover."
"Correct. With plenty of rest and a sufficient amount of honey milk, General Palaemon will be good as new."
In an outburst of dissatisfaction, the General of the Second Army threw the empty cup against the wall. Hector's posture faltered for a moment at Draco's behavior.
After regaining his composure, Draco questioned, "How are the men holding up?"
"The Second Army is lodged in their own barracks separate from the Third just like it was since we first gotten here a half fortnight ago. Both armies are still comfortable from what Lieutenant Batius of the Third Army had shared with me, but there are some concerns." Hector responded.
"The Second and Third armies both lost a man. Argin spent three candle-marks after he came back from recon deliriously saying Helios will kill us all. He's stable now, and appears able to handle his duties, but his words has frighten most of the men. They are worried about the return trip to our ship." He elucidated.
Draco pondered on the issue. The two scouts whom died, did so in service to the Realm, and no matter the manner or how anyone felt about it, showing cowardice is not acceptable. He was hoping he hadn't selected cowards for this simple mission.
"Tell them Argin and his fellow scouts had underestimated Egypt's temperature. Now that we all know Helios is dangerous here, they must learn from others mistakes. So be sure to drink and store up enough water to keep them hydrated, but not too much. We don't want them coming down with the same illness as General Palaemon."
"Drink sparingly." Hector confirmed.
Draco nodded, securing a dagger in his gauntlet to protect himself from any unforeseen danger.
'I can not be armed when I am in the presence of Cleopatra, but seeing how I'll be alone with her, I'm not taking any chances.' He cogitated before whispering in Hector's ear, "Once you've spoken to the army, make your way back here and wait for my return. My next orders will correspond with the outcome of this meeting. If I don't show in a candle-mark, gather the Second and Third armies with or without General Palaemon, then head towards the ship. Slaughter whoever stands in your way."
"As you command, General."
After saluting each other, they left the guest chamber, with Hector going to the barracks and Draco following the servant through the palace halls.
The General was happy to almost be done with his charge. If he never saw another half-dressed Egyptian slave, he'll be fine for the remainder of his life. Although his stay in Alexandria wasn't all that bad; the slave women were pleasantly accommodating.
Finally, they had arrived inside the Hall of Pharaohs.
"The Pharaoh will join you soon." Stating that, the slave took his leave, leaving Draco by himself.
Taking in the space he was in, the General looked over the many golden statues of the Pharaohs who ruled Egypt during its ancient past, before the fledgling Ptolemaic dynasty. The statues were illuminated in its brilliance by the decor of the walls, with drapes the color of honey brown and white hanging off of it.
Draco walked towards one of the golden imageries that beckon his attention. As he touched the gold face, he heard a voice behind him.
Draco whipped around quickly. The Egyptian in front of his view was relatively old, possibly more older than the Chancellor's age range. He wore linen cloth, dyed brown, that covered his upper and lower body, to the General's relief. Brownish gold sandals also adorned his feet. Black eyeliner circled his dark eyes, and a medallion representing an Egyptian deity graced his neck. The Egyptian's arms had interlacing golden bracelets covering them. His head was shaved bald, save for a long rat-tail that hung from the back of his head to his waist. Draco continued to eye the man with disdain, whilst he went into his tale.
"She was never a Pharaoh like the others whom are immortalized here. However, Pharaoh Cleopatra the VII decided the wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten should be beside him since they ruled together side-by-side. Nefertiti was known for her great beauty, not unlike our ruler today. After her husband died, she became de facto Pharaoh, changing her name to Neferneferuaten, ruling Egypt for three years before dying from an outbreak of plague. Nefertiti symbolises everything our Pharaoh inspires to be. A devoted ruler to her people, a wonderful provider to her children, a loving wife to her husband, and above all else, a harbinger of peace." His yarn finished, he questioned Draco, "Can your Lord Conqueror avow the same?"
The General's ire was greatly provoked. "Who the fuck are you? Where's Cleopatra? My audience was to be with her."
"Forgive me." He proclaimed, bowing. "I am Ansem, the Pharaoh's High Priest."
"Do you take me for an idiot!" Draco yelled, his anger getting the best of him; he was tired of this gods forsaken land and wanted to head back to Greece. "Priest belong in temples, not handling the affairs of politics."
"On the contrary." Ansem started explaining, keeping his calm attitude. "We High Priests are the closest to the gods here, but unlike the feeble minded people you call priest from your lands, High Priests has served and participated in public affairs alongside their Pharaohs for centuries. I served as High Priest for twenty-five years. It was I who summoned your Lord here when she was known as the Lion of Amphipolis."
The General couldn't stop a contorted expression. He knew the Lord Conqueror's tale of how she barely made it out of Egypt alive after the betrayal of the Egyptians.
Draco folded his arms across his chest, staring Ansem in his face. "So it was you who betrayed her also?"
Keeping eye contact, he averred, "What happened to your Lord those many years ago, were between her and Caesar, for which he paid for with his life just last year. We had paid for that fiasco as well."
Draco allowed a smirk to play on his lips, teasing, "Yes. The raiding of your precious library. It fits wonderfully in Athens."
That comment actually got a reaction out of the High Priest, recalling scenes in his mind from three years ago when the Conqueror came with a massive army to besiege Alexandria, terrifying Pharaoh Cleopatra. Caesar had left her many moons beforehand to obtain Brittania for the Roman Empire. After failing to do so, Brittania wounded up being annexed by Greece's growing empire instead. The Dictator chose to try and keep hold of the territories Rome still held, never returning to Egypt again.
Cleopatra was alone and had to face down a vindictive Conqueror. Needless to say, the Pharaoh had to surrender without a fight, accepting all of the Lord Conqueror's preposterous requirements, which were; free trade of grain up to three years, a huge sum of monies were to be distributed to the Conqueror's Realm, and the most famous library in all the known Terra was processed, then packed away to be delivered to Greece. Cleopatra became so overwhelmed, she promised the Conqueror she'd be her personal whore if the raven-haired woman ceased anymore outlandish demands. Luckily, the demeaning act coerced the Conqueror to relent, but she hadn't taken Cleopatra up on her offer, to the Pharaoh's dismay.
She needed someone as strong as the Lord Conqueror to stand with her, but the Conqueror knew that too. Although she could have fucked Cleopatra, and left her with empty promises, she'd always disliked the Pharaoh's use of sex for power. Even way back when the Conqueror was the naive Lion of Amphipolis playing bodyguard to a younger Cleopatra, whom was trying to grab total power from her brother, Ptolemy II, while keeping the Romans at bay.
In the end, the Lord Conqueror of the Grecian Empire left Alexandria with almost everything, leaving Cleopatra VII with a crumbling kingdom that thankfully wasn't annexed, nor was a garrison placed there. Hard Cronus lied ahead and when word of the Dictator for life, Julius Caesar, was dead at the hands of assassins, the Pharaoh's hope for a restored Egypt laid to rest with the once great Roman General. If it was not for Marcus Antonius taking an interest in Cleopatra, all could have been lost.
Regaining his bearings, Ansem retorted, "What a pity to lose our grand library. It was filled with such profound knowledge and history. Even you barbaric Greeks should be thankful."
"Oh, we are." Draco smiled, then inquired seriously, "Enough of your dido, where's the Pharaoh?"
"She is currently preoccupied at the moment. This is a matter of overseeing the Lord Conqueror's change on the trade agreement that was forced on us. It doesn't take a genius to know whatever she commanded isn't negotiable, which allows me to listen and pass it on to my Pharaoh."
Next, Ansem trekked over to a white marble table, signaling the General to have a seat.
After they both took their seats at the table, the High Priest conveyed, "The Pharoah has a husband and twin toddlers to care for. So General Draco, let's begin."
Sitting across from each other, Draco yielded. "Fine, Priest."
Pulling a scroll from his side pouch, he handed it to Ansem. Taking the proffered rolled parchment, the High Priest scanned its contents critically.
"Ah." He sighed in scorn, laying the scroll on the marble. "The Greeks wishes to extort Egypt again. These are not suitable commands. Their as ludicrous as the last demands forced on us."
"The Conqueror of the Realm states; free trade is lifted, but Egypt will only receive thirty percent of the proceeds, instead of forty. To ensure the continuing peace of the Realm, Egypt's army is not to expand beyond the White or Blue Niles, and shouldn't be anywhere near the east nor west of the Mediterranean Sea close to Grecian borders." Draco reiterated what was written on the scroll. "Lastly, and this was personally told to me by the Conqueror to tell the Pharaoh. It isn't on the scroll and seeing you are the only ear here for her, I'll say it to you. Marcus Antonius must leave Egypt as soon as traveling arrangements can be made for him... And his troops."
Ansem was surprised by the General's last remark. 'How could they have found out? Marcus was very discreet when he stationed his army here.'
"Don't ponder on it too much, Ansem. The Lord Conqueror is nobody's fool. They were well hidden. It caused us the life of two men while they surveyed your hot ass land. You are fortunate I don't seek reimbursement, but Egypt has enough problems."
"Hmm. It seems our little Lion has grown up from her naivety since her first visit here. However, she is still foolish and none of you will survive if-"
"I am here as an acting ambassador for the Realm of Greece. If anything drastic was to befall upon me, General Palaemon, or any of our men from the Second and Third Army, Egypt will pay the consequences." Draco promised.
Ansem became appalled by Draco's misconstruction. "I'm not threatening you, General of the Realm. I'm offering a friendly warning. If you would kindly let me finish what I was trying to express."
"Get on with it. Just be mindful of your words. My tolerance of you and your disrespectful tongue is reaching its limit." Draco expounded.
"As I was trying to say, none of you will survive if the Conqueror doesn't destroy the true enemy of the Realm." Ansem said, cryptically.
Draco wasn't impressed.
"The Romans? Their Triumvirate?" He listed, sarcastically.
"Not the Romans nor Egypt either, but the Amazons." The High Priest revealed.
Draco ran into the warrior women before that lived off the land. They were fierce fighters and hated men. He encountered them along with the Conqueror. Both were left with antithetical opinions on the surviving Amazon tribes remaining in the world, especially when the tribes that were once scattered, united together in Greece not far from the Realm's capital, Corinth. It was only a matter of Cronus before they were fully ruled by one queen, and seek retribution against the Lord Conqueror.
"The Amazons are of no importance. They are nothing compared to the Realm's might." Draco asserted.
"You don't believe that." Ansem challenged.
"It doesn't matter what I think. The Lord Conqueror-"
It was Ansem's turn to interrupt. "Is a fool."
In an explosive rage, Draco jumped up from his chair. "I warned you to mind your tongue!"
Ansem kept his cool.
"Look around yourself, General. There's not a guard or slave protecting me. This..." He picked up the parchment, h is dark orbs gleamed with exactitude as he let the scroll fall back down . "Is supposed to be a meeting for the Realm's renewal of the treaty the Lord Conqueror had constrained on Egypt. But we both know the truth. It's not a negotiation or diplomacy; it is an act of dictatorship. Now, can you comprehend exactly why I am here in Pharaoh Cleopatra's stead. Your Lord is a monster."
Draco grew very close to broadcasting his hidden dagger into the High Priest's throat. "You presume to disrespect the Realm and not accede to the Conqueror's will?"
"Settle yourself, General Draco. Unless you plan on using that dagger underneath your gauntlet."
Draco kept his stupefaction at bay, surmising, "Spies."
"Doesn't every kingdom use them?" Ansem asked the rhetorical question, gesturing for the General to sit back down, nevertheless, Draco decided to remain standing. "Have it your way. Besides, Egypt will recognize the Conqueror's decree. I will put it to the Pharaoh and she will make it so."
"Good." Draco muttered.
Turning around to make his exit, Ansem halted him with an inquiry, "The Amazons, General Draco; what are you willing to do in order to rid the Realm of them?"
"Nothing. It is not my place."
Ansem rose to his feet, walking slowly to Draco.
"But it is in a sense. You foresee how dangerous they will be in the future." His legs stopped moving to stand behind the dark-skinned man. "A plot is set to obliterate the harlots."
"Why would you or your Pharaoh care about the Amazons? They are Greece's pest, not Egypt's." Draco queried, his back remained to the High Priest.
"The Conqueror left an onus of money troubles for us three years ago after her departure. Egypt struggled to make ends meet. Cut backs here and there, tax increases, and slavery helped with adjustments. Just before the Egyptian Amazonian tribe profligated our land, a group consisting of thirty members were captured. These rodents make an exorbitant amount of money to slave traders. We made an amazing profit off enslaving and selling them." Ansem elucidated, worried he hadn't snared Draco's intentness. "Men will pay almost anything for these exotic so-called women to not only bring them to heel, but to teach them the ways of man since most of them haven't ever been touched intimately by one. You hate them Draco, don't bother denying it. Imagine how priceless this opportunity can be. You will be rich and the Amazons would also be swept away from being a concern to the security of the Realm. Killing two birds with one stone."
It was no lie, Draco hated the Amazons and all they stood for. First impressions are everything and after meeting the Serbian tribe, they really bequeathed a bad distaste for all of their kind.
He didn't like Ansem either, and wondered how the High Priest knew how he felt about the savage women, however, he became curious to learn more about the scheme. "What would this stone cost me? I must be deceitful to my Lord?"
Ansem beamed wickedly. "A small appraisal to aid in moving our plan in motion. Nothing extreme."
Draco needed more information than that. "When? What am I to do?"
Ansem clapped Draco's shoulder. "We'll keep in touch. Then you and the Realm shall truly have a sense of accomplishment."
Their meeting concluded, the General finished his walk out of the Hall of Pharaohs to prepare his men for the circuit back to their Grecian ship as a pair of eyes that were concealed behind a secret aperture watched.
To Be Continued...
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