Disclaimers: See Chapter 1
Additional Note (Please read): This story is tied in with, Xena and Gabrielle, A Turn of Fate. If you have not read the chapters of both stories prior to this 4th one here, you should do so. That way you can keep up with the plot better than Keeping up with the Kardashians. Small joke there. Enjoy.
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The Conqueror and Ri,
A Twist of Destiny,
Chapter 4: Derivation
"Aww yes, that was delicious." Meleager sighed relaxing on the divan.
The Conqueror had to concur after finishing the rest of their breakfast meal. "Very well seasoned. I have to let Minya know that she has outdone herself."
"I don't think I'll ever move from this spot here on your sofa, my Liege."
"Oh, you'll be moving." the Conqueror replied. "You have the Agora to run."
Meleager sat up. "Okay, okay. How about making a deal?"
The Chancellor was happy to get his foot in the door for negotiations. "If you succor an older gentleman, whom has traveled long and far, by adjudging the Agora today. I swear by the hammer of Vulcan, that I will have the blacksmith craft out new horseshoes for, Shadow."
The Lord Conqueror thought nothing of Meleager's terrible offer, but she did think about going for a ride on the enormous black warhorse later on when the evening god, Hesperus took Helios down a bit.
Shadow has been with the Conqueror since her conquest of Athens after she lost her first warhorse, Nightmare, who was mortally injured doing the Battle for Corinth. Shadow was somewhat smaller than its predecessor, but much more agile.
"Age has made you a horrible deal maker. I anticipated on hearing that you would at least take care of the Agora cases for several days, if not a fortnight, or a moon. I can always have the blacksmith make horseshoes for me whenever I want, Old man." the Conqueror pointed out.
"No wonder you said this was the beginning. I'll never give up another vacation again." he sighed. "Fine. Six days."
"Deal." the dark and silver haired ruler accepted.
Joining hands in a concurrence, the Conqueror got up off her end of the sable couch.
"Unlike some people. I have to work, the Realm never sleeps." she teased. "I not only have to be at the Agora, but I also have to keep the confabulation with Brutus' envoys."
Meleager risen to his feet as well. "Do you want me to accompany you doing the conference?"
"That won't be necessary."
Next, she embraced her Chancellor. "You go get some sleep. Meet back with me before nightfall."
"Yes Conqueror." he said.
Meleager looked at the mess that was on the table and it beckon him to think of a little strawberry blonde, that he favored as a niece. "Will Ri be along to put everything neatly in order?"
Not wanting to get into a subject that would consume more of her day, the Lord of the Realm lied. "I gave her a few days off, so she could work on her studies."
"Well, if you see her before I do, tell her I said hello." Meleager responded.
The Conqueror inclined her head in acceptance of the request.
After that, the Chancellor of the Realm took his leave. The forty-three old, blue eyed beauty made her way inside her bed chamber to add to her apparel. She decided not to wear any chain mail and instead buckled the greyish armor over her silver blouse. Even though she no longer went by the moniker, Lion of Amphipolis, she still loved the image of the lion's claws on the shoulder pads of it. Next, she fasten both the silver bracers on her upper arms and gauntlets on her wrists.
Finally she strapped the double hip sheathes around her waist, filling one of them with a regular long sword and the second with her new Lion blade, but stopped from doing so to admire it. It was forged from the platinum orbs that were being mined in Laconia. The Conqueror stared at the gold lion headed hilt of the sword, with rubies to resemble its eyes. Though the blade was changed from regular steel to platinum, the lion hilt was still original since the day the people of Amphipolis had asked the blacksmith, Camus to create it.
When she first received it, the Conqueror was eighteen winters. She could never forget holding the blade up straight, pointing to the heavens while the whole crowd cheered her name. 'Xena, Lion of Amphipolis!' repeatedly.
'And they all had first doubted me being a decent swords woman, even my mother.' the Conqueror smirked as she remembered the first day she ever swung a blade.
"Mother! Toris playing with swords again!" I shout watching my older brother practice with the weapon along side the other boys of the village.
All of them was being taught by some old man with brown hair. I want to learn, but my mother forbids it. Which was fine when me and Toris couldn't pick up a sword after she caught us playing with our father's, we never even got a chance to swing it. Mother would always go on saying, people with swords became a target. Whatever that means. I guess it has a lot to do with our father.
He was a warrior too, until one day, four summers ago, he left to partake in a neighboring village problem with bandits. He never returned back home. She fear that will happen to us. Well now that's probably a load of crap, because I'm seeing with my own two eyes, my older brother with a sword in his hand.
"Xena, what are you on about girl?" my mother finally answers.
"Look." I point out the tiny kitchen window.
"Yes. Meleager is teaching the bigger boys how to use a sword." she replied.
"Toris is among them."
"But you told us that we couldn't." I whined.
I hate it when I do that, but this was highly unfair.
"Sweetheart, come sit here."
She brings me to the chair in the living room and begin saying. "Xena, Toris is a grown boy now and that makes him a man."
Toris, a man, a grown up? Please.
"He's free to make his own choices, and though I am against it, he chose to learn how to use a sword. To fight if need be."
"I want to, too."
"No Xena." she says quickly. "Why don't you focus on other things that fourteen year olds do. I hear that nice boy, Petracles likes you. I'm sure you'll like him as well if-"
"No!" I interrupt her.
This could cause me a spanking, but I don't care as I protest. "I don't want a boyfriend!"
"Xena of Amphipolis. You calm that tone down with me." my mother rebuke me. "You may not want a boyfriend now, but in the long run, you will."
"No I won't. I never want a boyfriend." I announce proudly.
My mother looks apprehensive. "Surely you don't want a girlfriend for a lover."
What? Is that even possible?
"No. I want neither a boyfriend, or a girlfriend, nor any kind of lover."
My mother face goes back to her normal appearance, until I state.
"I want a sword."
"I had enough, Xena. You will stay in this house and clean the dishes. When I come back from the market, it all better be cleaned, or your butt is going to be in such a world of pain, you'll be begging for Pluto to come take you. Do you hear me?"
"Yes." I obey.
"Now get to it." she tells me in advance of going out the door.
I watch her say something to Toris and then talk to the old man named, Meleague, or something like that. I don't remember.
I soak the plates and ceramic cups while sullenly glaring at Toris welding his sword clumsily.
"What an idiot." I scoff.
I love him dearly, but it should be me out there. If not with him, at least taking his place. Next, my eyes leave my inapt brother, and gaze at the other trainees and realize that some are around my age.
"Unfair!" I shout, accidentally breaking one of the ceramic cups.
My mother is going to tan my hide browner than what it already is. Still, I decide to leave it there on the floor. I'm too pissed off to care.
When I am almost done my chore, I see Toris set his weapon down on the ground and come inside the house.
"Hey Xena, I'm parch, can you... What did you do?" he ask me looking downward at the cup I broke. "Mother's gonna whip you for sure."
"It was a mistake." I pout.
I hate it when I do that.
"You better get it up. Mother is going to be back soon."
"I'll get it up when I'm ready." I told him, then I retort. "Aren't you going to pick your sword up off the ground? Than again, you should leave it there. Gaia keeps it more steady than your own hands."
I laugh while running cold water into one of the clean cups for him. Toris face gets dejected, but to my dismay he pep up.
"You're only jealous of me Xena. I get to use a sword, while you get to watch and dream."
Quicker than the fastest god, I splash him with the full cup of cold water. Drink that you jerk.
"Ahh! You stupid girl. Now I'll have to change. You best believe I'm telling mother." he threaten running up the stairs.
"So what!" I yell out.
I'm in for it now. I've not only broke one of our cups, but I know Toris is going to make like I doused him before he started teasing me, and the floor's wet also. I'm getting a whipping for sure. This isn't how it was suppose to be. Minerva told me when I was just six winters, that I was destined for more than greatness. That I would unite kingdoms, build an empire. Maybe it was all a silly dream, brought on by a silly girl. It's all a little vague now, no way the goddess of war and wisdom visited me.
I glance outside again, and saw that all the other pupils had placed their swords on the ground to take a break. The old man was alone. For how long, I didn't know, but something in the back of my brain screamed at me to take this opportunity before I lose it.
I let the plate fall into the soapy water, then hesitate before opening the door. I'll get in trouble if mother catches me, but after reminding myself of all the wrongs I have already done, I'll live for the moment. I am going to get it anyway when she comes back. How much worse could it be?
I run out the door calling the guy that was teaching the village males. "Old man!"
He looks around and then points to himself.
I nod my head. "Yea, you."
"Hey little girl, I'm not an old man." he said.
I trek up in front of him. "I'm not a little girl. I am a young lady."
"Of course you are." he grins. "How old are you, young lady?"
"Younger than you are." I elude answering.
"Well you are tall. I mean really tall."
I feel he is teasing me like the other villagers do.
"Don't make fun of me." I cried.
I hate it when I do that.
"I'm not. You're unique, I haven't ever met a girl as tall as you are." the old man clarified.
"Me either. Nor has anyone else in Amphipolis. I get teased a lot." I confess.
"People only make fun of others, because of their own misunderstandings."
Immediately I am comfortable with the old man. "Thanks. That made me feel better."
"You are welcome." he smiles then sips his drink.
I need to hurry. It's only a matter of cronus before my mother gets back.
"May I use one of your swords?" I inquire nicely.
"Um, I'm not positive that's a good-"
"Please." I plead.
His expression is cogitated. "No, no. I'm sorry."
"Is it because I'm a girl?"
He sobers up. "What makes you think that?"
"There's no other girls out here with you. Just my brother and other males." I justify my question.
"I'm not a sexist, if that's what you mean. Most girls don't like to learn about weaponry. They prefer dolls and boys over a sword. You are one of a kind." After saying that, he begin to look thoughtful. "You're Toris' sister and Cyrene's daughter, Xani."
"It's Xena, Old man." I correct him.
"My apologies, Xena. I still can't. Your mother made it crystal clear that I was to only train your brother and not let her fourteen year old daughter anywhere near these swords."
I knew mother would cover all her bases when she spoken to him before she left. I turn around, crestfallen I decide to try one more card.
The guilt trip.
In my saddest tone I could muster, I confide my biggest secret. "When I was six, I don't know, maybe it was a dream. The goddess, Minerva came to me. She said that I was going to do incredible things in this life. That I would unite kingdoms, build an empire, and see wonders, not all good, nor all bad."
Somehow, I started to remember Minerva's visit more clearly, and my voice lost the sad play acting as I went on. "The goddess told me that, most will see me as a savior, others will fear me and try to destroy my life. I will be faced with obstruction, making it my goal to persevere. I will be met with heartache and pain, but I will find happiness with joy as well, for they go hand in hand."
I turn back to face him and finish. "She said, my greatest weapon will not only be a sword, though I will have amazing expertise over it along with other numerous weapons, but my heart and my soul, those together will be the strongest weapon I'll ever weld. Greater than anything formed from derivation."
With my monologue over, I take a couple of steps towards my home, no longer caring.
"Hey, young lady."
A hand is on my shoulder. Turning my head, I see the old man, he's only a few inches taller than me.
"You had me going for a moment there, but your words caught me off guard. It's no way a teen of fourteen, who doesn't fully know the world yet, could speak such truths about pain, joy, and most of all, life. I believe you were touched by the gods." he replied.
"It was the last part you revealed that made me accept your words to be true. If you just wanted to utilize the sword, which I know you do. You wouldn't have thrown that part in about your heart and soul being your greatest weapon." he told me. "Come on, let me show you some things while my other students are taking a rest."
I enthusiastically stroll beside him. Gathering up one of the swords, I forgotten how heavy it is, no wonder Toris was having trouble.
"Get use to the weight first. Once you do, we shall begin. I won't be able to teach you much today, but I promise to finish your training." my new teacher swore.
I push myself to accept the weight, soon enough, me and the old man are swinging our blades almost in sync. I'm a candle-drip, or two behind, but I am getting the hang of it as I follow his three step instructions of, thrust, block, and swing.
"When in battle against your opponent, make sure that your confidence is higher than their's." my teacher explains.
While trying not to puff air a little, I brag. "Oh, I'll have no troubles there."
"Don't be a braggart, young lady." he reprimand me. "Know inside yourself that you are a stronger force to be reckon with, but never tease, or underestimate your challenger. Let them do that. The mind of a true warrior, stays focused at all moments."
I take what the old man says to heart, and redouble my efforts.
A quarter of a candle-mark later, I am sweating and now panting, but still my hands are steady as I follow along with my new mentor in perfect sync now.
"Hey, you're doing pretty good. A lot better than all my students today, including your brother." my teacher acknowledge.
I bloom with pride, but stay on task. The old man then moves swiftly behind me.
Back to back, he states. "In battle with allies, be aware of them, but don't be aware of them."
"What? I don't get that one." I admit still doing the three tedious steps.
He chuckles before answering. "Be mindful of your ally, but keep your instants focused on the fight. Have faith that your partner can handle themselves, but watch out for them also."
"Like... Stay connected to the battle, and be aware of everyone. My allies and enemies." I reply.
"Exactly. You're a bright young lady. Always remember Xena, keep your friends close, and your enemies far away from you."
"That sounds like the opposite of what you have just told me." I huff.
He say. "You'll get it when you are older. Lets take a break now."
I am relieved when he announces that. Still holding onto the borrowed sword, I sit down on the ground, looking up at the old man drink from his cup. Next, he offers it to me. I take it from him and curiously sniff the clear liquid.
"Hey, it's only water. I left the hard stuff alone when I was in my late teens." he said.
"That must have been a long cronus ago." I jest.
He sits down as well. "I'm 27, that hardly qualify me as being old."
"Says the, old man."
We both smile and laugh.
After our small moment, I started to drink the proffered water when my mentor says. "Xena, in a real battle, know that only one thing is real. It's not fear, that's a choice. Danger is real. The danger of dying, but never fear it, cause once you do, it's over for you. Your life will automatically be forfeit by it. Remember that as well."
Another lesson I'll keep in mind. Then, all too soon, the old man's students come back staring at me.
I hear one of them say. "What's she doing here? Girls can't use swords."
I thought it was Toris, but instead it was the village idiot, Elius making the others laugh at me. I hate being laughed at. I'll show him. My hand tightens around the handle of the blade when my teacher tell them.
"Y'all may chortle and joke all you want, but she'll put you all to shame."
He gives me a certain look, and I take it as a signal to show off. Getting to my feet, I give the blade in my hand several twirls, watching the males gaze in awe. I can't believe I did it right without breaking my wrist. Minerva must be blessing me. I end the twirls and prove I can take the weight of the sword by thrusting it skyward. Holding it for what I feel is a generous amount of moments, I finish with a downward strike onto the ground, and then make a defensive pose. I feel like a warrior, until i catch a glimpse of my mentor.
His expression is mystified, I realize I have already failed one of the warrior rules by bragging with my skills. Then out of no where my arm is grabbed, and I'm looking into the most angriest blue eyes.
"Mother." I gasp dropping the sword.
"Don't, mother me. I seen you already. I was standing here throughout the whole display you put on." she responds.
I was terribly mistaken, my teacher wasn't giving me a signal at all. He was trying to warn me. I'm a simpleton.
"What is this I hear about you breaking dishes, and throwing water on Toris? You know he ran to get me, to tell me everything. Good thing I meant him halfway back from the market, to see you with my own eyes having that sword in your hand, so you can't deny it." she went on.
That's why Toris never came back out, it doesn't take long to change clothes. Big snitch went and told on me.
My mother then turned her attentions on the old man. "And you, Meleager. I asked you to not let my daughter become apart of your training group. To keep her away from your weapons, but you let her do it anyway. What were you thinking?"
"Forgive me, Cyrene, but your daughter has been-"
"Really great." I cut him off mid-sentence.
I give him a look to let him know what I had divulged earlier was our secret, hoping that he don't misinterpret me the way I did him. Unlike me, he understood.
"Really, really great." he followed up.
"It doesn't make a difference. She's never touching anything again. Come on Xena, in the house you go." she said dragging me along while the village male students snickers at me, until our mentor hush them.
I'm about to get the beating that no young life should endure, but somehow I manage to smile.
As my mother drags me farther away, I cheer. "Thank you!"
"You're welcome, young lady! And the name's, Meleager!" he yelled out.
Before my mother slams the door, I shout.
"Okay, Old man!"
The young fourteen winters old female would go from being a teased backwards girl, to an unimaginable warrior that the whole town village relied on, and revered enough to call her the Lion of Amphipolis. The Conqueror pulled herself from the reverie. She didn't deserve that title anymore. She had failed her hometown, and became a monster in her thirst for revenge.
After sheathing the Lion blade, the Conqueror grasped another weapon she had considered herself unworthy of. The round disc her lover from Chin had given to her. The chakram, that was created from an unknown alloy of silver and gold that had nine emeralds embedded in a circular fashion around the edges.
Amongst the many other gifts she was given, the chakram and the practice of meditation from using, The Sacred Book of Life, to boost her already immense skills, were the two mostly cherished from, Lao 'Ma. The Lord of the Realm placed a delicate gentle kiss on the chakram in advance of clipping it on her right hip, along side the Lion blade.
A knock came from the outside of her chambermaid's door.
"Enter." the Conqueror gave the command.
Akemi opened the door and walked through. She had changed from her nightly attire. Now she was wearing a smooth grey chiton that had one strap over her shoulder and stopped below her knees, with black sandals and she wore a Grecian hairstyle. Her dark tresses was divided by two braids, formed from both sides of her head to unite in the back and held in place by an ebony clasp shaped like a grasshopper.
"I have finished my meal. I came to ful-fill the remainder of my tasks, my Lord."
The Conqueror had another idea.
"You can resume those later. First, I need for you to bring me the Prince of the Realm." she responded.
Akemi bowed, before making her exit.
"As you wish, Lord Conqueror."
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