Disclaimers: See Chapter 1

Additional Note (Please read):This tale is tied in with, Xena & Gabrielle: A Turn of Fate. If you haven't read chapter 5 of that story, before reading this one. STOP! In the name of all that is holy and do so now for goodness sakes. Both stories are important when it comes down to the full plot. ;-)

Feedback, or comments welcomed at, Martinkendell19@yahoo.com

The Conqueror and Ri,

A Twist of Destiny,

By Ahkiken

Chapter 6: Symbol

"By the gods, that was worse than Tartarus." Lyceus grumbled, returning inside the Corinthian castle after three candle-marks of passing out judgment in the city's Agora.

Lyceus discovered exactly what his sister teasingly laughed at him about. He had to sit and listen to dignitaries, citizens, also other officials, ask, whine, and kvetch tediously concerning one trifle matter, then another. It wasn't enough that he was ignorant on what penalty corresponded with the appropriate crime when an accused person was found guilty, to his trepidation and General Nale's constant hidden irritation of having to tell him, but the insistent cries of the luminaries, as well as the commoners, were downright annoying.

He took great solace in telling most of them no out of spite for giving him a headache. He'd hoped the ruler of Greece would be wrong about the Agora and his first Cronus there would be inspirational for his decision to take part in government.

It wasn't.

'Why does the Conqueror always has to be right about everything?' The Prince moped.

Next, he was hit with remembrance of the only individual that didn't implore him to do something; a decrepit old looking lady who kindly presented a gift to be delivered to the Conqueror. Digging into the insides of his white chest plate of armor, Lyceus pulled out the rusty, bronze, chained necklace the aged woman had given him. He studied the jewelry sharply, gazing at the dull jade jewel that was connected to the chain like a pendent.

'A decent gem, but what an ugly eyesore it's hooked to. I'm glad it isn't for me.'

So fixated on the necklace, the Prince of the Realm wasn't watching where he was going and bumped into the Chancellor.

"Whoa! I thought I was going blind." Meleager joked, holding Lyceus steady from falling.

"Meleager!" He embraced him, excited to see the Chancellor. "When did you get back from vacation?"

"Today actually. The Conqueror didn't inform you?"

'She's becoming selective on sharing intel.' Lyceus mused. "No. It probably fell from her mind."

"'Fell', like you darn near did, rushing into me. What got you distracted?" Meleager inquired.

Showing the object in his hand, Lyceus responded, "This would be the reason. I was so engrossed by it, I became careless."

Meleager inspected it, saying, "If you are giving that to someone you want to impress, they'll like the jade, but the chain is horrid."

The Prince chuckled. "Naw, It's not mines to give. A generous old woman bequeathed this to the Conqueror when I was at the Agora."

A witty quip about the lady perhaps not liking the Conqueror was replaced with a question, "You were at the Agora alone?"

"Not alone. I had General Nale with me. He helped me through the whole affair."

"I didn't mean for it to get dropped on you." The Chancellor admitted.

Lyceus' expression was perplexed. "What?"

"Your sister notified me to judge the Agora today, but I made a pact with her; if she handle it for me, I will take care of it for six days." Meleager started to look apprehensive. "I did throw your name under the wagon before we made the deal though."

"Under normal circumstance, I would be upset. However, I've learned important details that will be crucial to my role as Prince of the Realm. So all is forgiven." Lyceus replied.

Meleager felt jovial. "In that case, do you want to run the Agora for the next six days in my place?"

"Of course I don't." Lyceus shook his head, laughing.

"It was worth a try. Oh, yea. You're why I was walking these halls, then I'm going back to bed. I just couldn't wait to give you this!" The Chancellor exclaimed, taking out an item in the bag he was carrying, unwrapping the cloth to show a sculptured horse, crafted from glass. "I bought it when I was in Rome."

Lyceus grasped the miniature glass horse that was carved to have one of its hooves suspended in the air while the other three were molded onto the crystal plate it was placed on. "Wow. It's splendid. It must have cost a fortune. Thank you, but you don't have to keep buying me these."

"I figured since I've been doing it when you were a toddler, mind as well not stop now. I also know you still love horses." Meleager told him.

Lyceus remembered the first toy horse Meleager had given him. From then on, he'd never ceased and the Prince cherished all of them.

"It started from wooden ones and now glass. You know, I'm hoping the Conqueror will allow me to have that Palomino she has stabled. I'll ride her everyday."

"I'll talk to the Conqueror for you." Meleager offered.

Lyceus thought about it before his features became disapproving. "I'm twenty-eight now, Meleager. I appreciate it, but it's best that I begin standing on my own two feet. I can't have you always trying to solve matters for me, whether it's big or small. Bad enough you have to do that for the Realm as its Chancellor. I'll speak with her myself."

Meleager smiled, understanding that Lyceus was shaking off the spoilt phase and becoming sort of independent.

"Okay, Prince Lyceus. You are a big man now. I see you won't be needing this." The Chancellor playfully reached out for the glass horse.

"No way." He laughed, moving back from him. "And please, just call me Lyceus."

"I forgot, I forgot. Formalities are over with, Lyceus." The Chancellor bowed.

The blonde, younger man simply grinned at the older one whom he looked up to like a father figure since he never knew his own.

"Well, I got to get some more rest. The Realm's duty calls later, and you have to get that hideous present to the Conqueror."

"I'm heading to my chambers first to take this hot armor off and add this new horse to my collection."

They both hugged again in advance of going their separate ways.

"Lyceus, one other thing." Meleager announced. "How did the old woman look? Was she pleasing to the eyes?"

The Prince of the Realm grimaced.



The Conqueror's hands made ripples in the tub, not giving a second rumination to the life she had ended in her Throne Room. The only thing she thought about was where her and Shadow were going to journey to.

'I'll pay a visit to Minerva's temple.' She decided.

Coming to the conclusion that the heated water began getting cold and she was clean, the ruler of the Realm exited the bathtub to don her silk, red robe.

Walking out of her bath chamber, she called, "Akemi."

"Yes, my Lord." The Chambermaid appeared with a towel.

"Has anyone came by while I was soaking?" The Conqueror used the cloth to dry her hair.

"Yes. The Prince of the Realm dropped off a gift."

"Bring it to me." The Conqueror ordered, releasing the towel and sitting on her soft bed.

Several candle-drips later, Akemi returned into the bedchamber, handing the item over.

The Conqueror's eyebrows furrowed. "What took you so long, and what is this?"

"The Prince said a citizen at the Agora wished for you to have it." The Chambermaid affirmed.

"It's unsightly." The Conqueror tossed it to the side of her and laid down on the bed. 'Either someone dislikes me or it's one of Lyceus' petty pranks for sending him to the Agora.'

"If I may, Lord Conqueror?"

"Yes, Akemi." She gave way, closing her eyes.

Picking up the necklace to analyze it, Akemi conveyed, "The chain is tarnished, but the gemstone is appealing."

The Conqueror sat back up and Akemi placed it into her hands again. Looking at it fully, the older woman had to agree. Although dim and not shiny like a diamond, the jade was the most eminent part. The Conqueror did like that aspect of it.

"If you do not find it to be in good taste, you could trash it or give it to someone else." The servant pronounced, inadvertently putting an idea in her Lord's head.

"Akemi, do you know Qoutis?"

Her hair-braided, Japian servant pondered for a moment.

"Yes. He does all of your jewelry." Then, Akemi understood. "You want me to take the necklace to him and have it replaced with something nicer."

"Not nicer. Dazzling." The Conqueror corrected, putting the rust-coated necklace in her Chambermaid's hand. "Go to Qoutis. Tell him to dismantle the bronze chain, but salvage the gemstone. I want him to create a new necklace from the platinum orbs and meld the pendent to it. When it is done, bring it to me. After that, I want you to find Ri. Tell her to meet me in front of the castle."

Akemi had no idea what Ri had to do with the Conqueror's plans. "As you command, my Lord."

She bowed, before setting out to fulfill her tasks whilst the forty-three-winter-old Conqueror reclined happily on her bed again, feeling like a love-struck teenage girl once more.



Four candle-marks later, found Ri slumped in the chair inside her immaculate room, barely listening to her tutor, Eramus, lecture on and on.

"When you have the crowds' ear, you must have the finesse to maintain it. You..." The bald, stubby man could see that his student's senses were elsewhere. "Are you even paying attention?"

"I was..." Ri adjusted herself in the seat. "I am."

"No you weren't, young lady." Eramus begun his reprimand. "The Conqueror of the Realm, in her benign graces, has asked me to instruct you. If you hadn't participated in that class earlier, and placed your own class with me on the back burner, we wouldn't be here right now. The Conqueror seems to have uplifted prospects for your future, as do I. Please, do not disappoint us."

With the mentioning of her former mistress, Ri had renewed focus. Even if the teachings were getting tediously boring, she would endure.

'I pray Aristotle won't be lacking when I become his protege.'

Content he had Ri's full attention, Eramus continued, "Now where was I. Once you have the crowds' ear, you must-"

A soft tap on the strawberry blonde's chamber door, cut short the teacher's repeated quote.

Ri was delighted for the interruption. "May I answer it, Master Eramus?"

"Yes you may." He huffed out a breath. "But we are never using your room again for our learning session."

Opening the door ajar, Ri saw the Prince and allowed him in. "Prince Lyceus, good evening."

"Good evening to you, Ri. And to you, Eramus. Have I disrupted anything important?" The Prince questioned.

"Good evening, Prince Lyceus. Yes, you have, but you are more imperative than what we were doing. Our session was just about to be concluded anyway." The tutor answered.

Packing up his scrolls, Eramus' footsteps carried his rotund frame towards the entryway.

"Farewell, Prince Lyceus." He gave a bow. "Ri, keep up with your studies. I expect you to be in my class at noon tomorrow."

Next, he was out the door.

"Thank you, Lyceus. I was on the brink of hearing a tutorial till I passed out from boredom." She lightheartedly claimed, giving him a hug.

"It couldn't have been that bad." Lyceus pulled away, grinning.

Ri kinda liked how she could talk to the Prince comfortably once again as if they were peers.

"I love Master Eramus. I have been under his tutelage for quite some years now, but he can become a bore." She walked over to her wooden table, pouring herself a cup of water to drink. "Would you like some?"

Her offer of water fell on deaf ears while Lyceus got lost in Ri's beauty. The apparel she had worn to Tessa's class was still donned on her, and the sight amazed him.

"By the gods, Ri. You're divine."

Ri spun her back to the Prince quickly, failing to hide the blush that was creeping up her neck. "You are more than generous, Lyceus."

Lyceus' footfalls were heard behind her, stopping as he enclosed his arms around her slim waist. "I really like what you've done with your hair."

Ri turned in his embrace, locking their eyes together.

"Thank you. It took almost forever to do this morning after you left." Wanting to alter the subject, she raised the ceramic cup, repeating, "Would you like some?"

Lyceus' blue orbs glanced at her lips. "I would love a taste."

Ri placed the cup against his brown, tunic-covered chest, smiling. The Prince removed his arms, grasping the offering, bringing it to his mouth.

Ri began to pour another cup for herself again. She knew Lyceus wanted to kiss her and it would have been received with a resounding no, but she couldn't halt intimate curiosities from entering her mind for his sister.

'I don't want Lyceus and Milady doesn't want me.' She chided, discreetly clearing her throat to query, "What do I owe for this special visitation?"

Many thoughts ran through Lyceus' head. He wanted to tell her about his day at the Agora. How he had to listen to people drone on about their wants and needs. The only thing he really did remotely exciting was send a few thieves to prison after their right hands were sliced off. He wanted to petition that, but any changes of the Conqueror's laws could only be granted by her. It was his first day and he wasn't going to appeal to her like a kid.

He also didn't want to bore Ri with the topic of whining dignitaries or citizens, and he definitely didn't want to tell her the grisly fates of the criminals. Lyceus felt Ri was too fragile for that.

"I want to know how your day went with Tessa and the students?" He asked instead, setting the empty cup on the table.

"It went great." Ri's face lit up, putting her cup beside Lyceus'. "Lieutenant Tessa's display was intense, but informative. And the class enjoyed my story of King Midas."

Suddenly, Ri's disposition changed, causing Lyceus to become alarmed. "Why do you look glum, Ri? Did Tessa do something to you?"

"No. The Lieutenant was fine. I'm just really going to miss them all once I have to leave for Athens." She avowed, taking a seat in her chair.

The Prince bent down in front of her. "Don't be sad, Ri. Everything will be okay. You'll see. When you're finished in Athens, with Aristotle no less, you are going to be even more compelling in your storytelling than you already are, and I don't think that's possible, seeing that you're very talented now."

A smile hinted on Ri's lips. "Thanks again, Lyceus. You always know what to say dealing with my feelings anent to me leaving Corinth. I'm glad I decided to tell you I am going to Athens."

"I am pleased you've told me, too. I would have gone crazy looking up and down this whole castle for you next moon." He proclaimed, then prompt a question that would possibly cheer her up more. "Do you like horses?"

Ri got baffled at the inquiry, remembering riding on a huge black one with the Conqueror when she was young. "They're beautiful, however, their tallness terrifies me."

The Prince laughed. "You don't have to worry yourself over that. Come with me to my chambers. I want to show you my collection."

"All right." Ri agreed, when a knock sounded on her door.

Getting up to answer it, she was taken aback to see Akemi with her hair double-plaited from the sides of her head to the back. "Hello, Akemi. It's been a while since I've seen you. Come in, how are you?"

Stepping inside, Akemi asserted, "I'm fine, thank you for asking."

Bowing to the Prince of the Realm, she said, "Good evening, Prince Lyceus."

"To you also, Akemi." He returned the greeting. "What brings you here?"

"The Conqueror commands Ri to meet her in front of the castle."

Ri was more than excited to yield to her Lord's wishes. "I will join her as soon as me and Prince Lyceus' conversation is done."

Akemi curtsied to them both, and left the room. On her way back to the Conqueror, she couldn't believe what she'd overheard Ri and the Prince talking about before she knocked on the door.

'Is the Conqueror aware of Ri's departure to Athens?' She cogitated.

If not, she was going to find out.



The Lord Conqueror of the Realm was saddled on her dark warhorse, Shadow, awaiting the arrival of her travelling companion. She'd made the choice of only taking five Corinthian Guards to attend her on this trip to the temple. Though Greece prospered and she was moderately liked, the last thing she needed was for some disgruntled fool, thinking she's inattentive, trying to assassinate her. Which was doubtful, but why take chances, especially with a delicate soul like Ri accompanying her. With the Guards in place, it would cause a person to think twice about forfeiting their life.

Shadow emitted a snort of annoyance at having to stand idle. He had endured that in his stall for a half fortnight.

His mistress stroked his mane smoothly. "We'll go soon, boy."

After the admission, the castle's double doors atop the steps opened, disclosing the object of her affections, causing her heartbeat to soar in tempo at the stunningly adorned woman. She couldn't recall Ri being so magnificently dressed. Her gawking ceased when she noticed the Prince walking beside the strawberry blonde.

Ri swore the organ in her chest was going to burst as she observed the sight of her Lord who was decked in a light blue V-neck tunic, black leather trousers with black knee-high boots, and armed with a circular weapon on her right hip that Ri remembered seeing years ago. Her hair flowed freely in the evening wind, and to Ri's greenish blue irises, the Conqueror seemed to have the true appearance of divinity.

Ri, along with Lyceus, bowed when they approached their ruler.

"Milady, I pray I haven't kept you deterred too long?" She inquired, having been delayed by Lyceus' insistence to walk with her.

"Some candle-drips later I would've been gone." The Conqueror lied.

"Forgive me, Milady." Ri professed with remorse.

"There's nothing to forgive. I am sure you have your reasons for prolonging." The Conqueror expressed, eyeing her younger brother. "Now come."

The Lord of the Realm held out her hand and Ri wanted to grasp it, but noting the enormous horse compelled her to unintentionally stepped back from it. The warhorse reminded her of the steed she had rode on with the Conqueror before, only this one was a tad smaller.

Feeling rejected, the Conqueror rested her hand on Shadow's reins. "What is wrong, Ri? Do you deny my offer?"

"Ri's afraid of your horse's height." Lyceus averred.

'Another thing she confided in you?' The Conqueror glared at him. "I was asking Ri, not you, Prince Lyceus."

Fearing the huge, dark horse, Ri remained undecided on what to do.

Looking at her former Handmaiden again, the Conqueror tried assuring her, "Ri, I promise everything will be fine. You have nothing to be fearful of. Shadow is nice when you get acquainted with him. I know his size can be intimidating, but you have ridden with me on a bigger steed than him. No harm came to you then, and he won't hurt you either. I wouldn't let anyone, nor anything, do that."

Ri trusted her Lord and gradually moved closer to the horse.

"Conqueror." Lyceus started stating in irritation. "You shouldn't force her."

Privately, he didn't want Ri to go with his sister. He wanted her to stay with him.

"Lyceus, it's alright." Ri forgot she was in public.

'Lyceus? Maybe there's more to him and Ri than I comprehended... I'll relent.' The Conqueror noted Ri's significant breach in protocol, emphasizing, "You are correct, Prince Lyceus. Ri probably prefer your company better than going with me to Minerva's temple. Come on, Shadow."

Clicking her tongue, she began moving him in a trot, and Lyceus beamed inwardly at the small victory, until Ri yelled out, "Wait, Milady! Wait!"

The Conqueror halted her horse's gait while Ri ran to them. Again she stretched out her hand and without contemplation, Ri seized it with her own. Instantly she was settled behind her Lord.

"Hold onto me tight." The raven and silver-haired woman warned once Shadow speedily galloped down the pathway leading from the castle.

The Prince of the Realm watched the six horses disappear out of view and wondered, 'Ri practically threw herself onto my sister's horse... Am I missing something?'



Ri's arms clung to the Conqueror's strong body, even after they'd made it to their destination. The temple that was dedicated to the Realm's patron goddess had a different design than when Ri last seen it at the age of eleven, yet she could recollect her visit alongside the Conqueror with absolute clarity. She didn't remember the exterior being so glamorous.


"Yes, Milady?"

"Why didn't you tell me you were afraid of horses?" The Conqueror queried.

"I did not want to appear weak to you." Ri confessed.

By not being able to see the Conqueror's visage, Ri couldn't detect if her reply satisfied her or not.

The silence was palpable and awkward, until the Conqueror vocalized, "We can't dismount if you don't detach yourself from me."

"Forgive me, Milady." She removed her appendages.

"Stop saying that, Ri. You aren't doing anything that require my forgiveness."

"Okay." Ri assented, and the Conqueror got off her steed.

Next, she lifted Ri off of the saddle, putting her on the ground as well and focused on the convoy, "Stay outside the entrance. Make certain no one enters."

"Yes, Lord Conqueror." The men acceded in unison, their fists covering their hearts.

It always enthused Ri to see the respect and adoration others bestowed on her Lord. The five soldiers were similar to the many people they've crossed on their journey that bowed in submission to the Conqueror also.

They proceeded up the stone steps while the Corinthian Guards preceded them to open the mahogany door. The interior was more impressive than the outside and different than before, too. It was simonized with sparkles of silver and metallic-purple gemstones. The altar wasn't wooden anymore, but now made from an unrelated source of alloy altogether. Ri couldn't discern what type of metal it was. The only commodity that remained the same, was the golden statue of Minerva, placed behind the pedestal.

Nemina, the High Priestess of the temple, strolled to them. She had went through a transformation through the years as well. Clad in the traditional white robe, her hair was now a mixture of brown and grey.

"My Lord Conqueror. You come to us much earlier than expected in this cycle of seasons." After bowing, her amber irises gazed at the petite woman standing next to the Conqueror. "Ri? By the goddess of wisdom, it's been a while in Cronus since I'd laid eyes on you. You've grown quite pretty."

"Thank you, High Priestess." She accepted the compliment.

"One day, when you are free from the Conqueror's boon, you can stay here and become a Priestess under my guidance." Nemina offered.

"Ri has another priority than becoming a servant of Minerva." The Conqueror stated. "And I am here because something urgent has sprung up. I desire Minerva's blessing."

"As you wish, Lord Conqueror. I will-"

"Alone." The Conqueror interjected, denouncing her services.

Nemina bowed at the waist. Next, she began to escort the other Priestesses and worshippers from the Conqueror's presence.

Ri was set to follow them, but her Lord grabbed her hand, bringing her over to the altar. Falling on her knees, Ri did the same whilst glancing over at the Conqueror to behold that her sapphire orbs were closed in prayer. The former Handmaiden had no clue what was happening in the Realm, but if it influenced the Conqueror to seek out the goddess of war and wisdom's sanctification, it must be serious.

Viewing the statue of Minerva that was looking down at them from across the altar, Ri shut her eyes too, and prayed with genuine purpose for her Lord, as well as the continuation of her reign.

The Conqueror found herself seeking aid on another dilemma other than her confrontation with Brutus. She was trying to fathom why after giving the news to Ri that she would be apprenticed by Aristotle in Athens, instead of telling anyone else in the castle for almost a completed April moon, she chose to confess it to Lyceus. The Prince had imparted to her yesterday that he was smitten with Ri and perhaps he had disclosed the fact to the strawberry blonde also.

'If so, why is she with me and not him?' Confident she would get an answer, the Conqueror ended Ri's orison. "Are you intimate with Lyceus?"

"Milady?" Ri couldn't believe her ears.

The Conqueror turned her head to look directly at her. "You haven't told any other soul in the castle you were leaving for Athens in the coming moon, neither have I, but you did tell Lyceus."

Ri's eyes widened in shock. How did the Conqueror find out? She had only divulged that information to Lyceus this morning.

'He betrayed me!' Ri deduced.

"You don't even call him by his title. You just call him Lyceus as if y'all have a personal relationship. Are you two intimate?" Her Lord inquired.

"No, Milady." Ri was most earnestly.

"What am I to make of this evening's event, Ri?" The Conqueror pressed.

Closing off the tiny space between them, she explained everything, "Lyceus... Prince Lyceus came to my chamber this morning to have breakfast. He has visited me for some days now. I slipped up breaking etiquette because he asked me to call him by his name without the cognomen of prince when we were alone, and I swore I would after he swore to keep my leaving a secret. Today I was forlorn from thinking of my leave. I thought about the people I will miss, my friends, the children I tell my stories to, and... You. I've spent almost eight years in the castle since you've conquered it. Longer than I've ever spent anywhere else. I do not know where I originally belong, nor do I care because Corinth is my home... You're my home, Milady."

The declaration appeased the Conqueror greatly, but she still had a few questions. "Lyceus wanted to console you, that's why you confided in him?"

"Yes, Milady."

"You wish not to go to Athens?"

"It's my dream to be a bard, Milady. But not at the expense of not being with you." Ri expounded.

"Do you love me, Ri. I mean, on the level of wanting me to court you?"

Ri's eyes closed once again. She was fearful of how the Conqueror would react, but nodded her head in the positive.

"Turn away from me, Ri."

Ri's body tensed at the decree. Then, she gracelessly did so on her knees. With her back to the Conqueror, Ri could feel something cold encircle her neck, coaxing her to believe it was a blade and the Lord Conqueror was going to kill her for the amorous pronouncement. Hastily opening her eyes, Ri's gaze coruscated to the necklace that had an identical glimmer to the temple's altar they were kneeling beside and a jade pendent was dangling below her throat.

Ri felt herself being raised onto her feet with the Conqueror, before warm breath tickled her ear, claiming, "This is my gift to you and a symbol of a promise."

The Conqueror twirled her around to connect blue with aqua orbs. "You are still going to Athens to become a bard. It is a dream I wish for you as well. Once I'm finished with my progress abroad, I will visit you immediately when I return to Corinth. I'll have to anticipate the possibility of a battle, so I cannot speak of my love for you at the moment, for it will cloud my concentration."

The Conqueror's fingers took the silver clasp out of Ri's hair, allowing the reddish-blonde curls to cascade down her face, past her shoulders.

"You're gorgeous, Ri." The Conqueror became spellbound.

Staring into each other's eyes, the Conqueror slowly touched Ri's lips with hers briefly. Ri savored the short experience by shutting her eyelids and picturing it over in her mind as the older woman kissed her forehead.

"We will talk more about us when I see you in Athens."

"How long will you be gone, Milady?" Ri asked.

"I don't know, but I will be back." She assured her.

"And I'll be waiting."

The Conqueror smiled, caressing Ri's face, wanting to kiss those rosy lips again, but felt slightly inadequate. It has been thirteen full seasonal cycles since she was romantically intimate with a person and she didn't want to press her luck. Ri was young, and the Lord of the Realm haven't forgotten how easily they could change their mind from one lover to the next.

Perishing the cogitation of losing Ri in advance of their relationship starting, the Conqueror recalled the appointment she had to keep with her Chancellor. "We must get ready to head back to the castle before nightfall."

Ri nodded happily and trekked her way to the temple's entryway, but saw that the Conqueror wasn't following her. "Milady?"

"Go. I'll be there." The Conqueror declared, smiling.

Returning the smile, the jubilant young storyteller left out of the door with a bounce in her step. Once she was alone, the Conqueror un-clipped her chakram and slashed a shallow cut through the flesh of her palm.

Placing the blood-soaked appendage on the shining altar and looking at the golden idol of her patron goddess, she muttered, "Thank you."


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