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 the chapters preceding both stories, you should do so now.
Feedback, or comments welcomed at, Martinkendell19@yahoo.com
The Conqueror and Ri,
A Twist of Destiny,
Chapter 8: Confirmation
Shadow galloped down the trail leading to the Corinthian Gulf, transporting his mistress and battle equipment to her ship. The Conqueror was wearing a grey tunic that fell below her knees with her chakram clipped to a black belt around her waist, and dark boots on her feet.
The Lord of the Realm was looking forward to getting an early start on setting sail for her voyage as the vessel came into view. After she had spoken to the Chancellor last night about her decision to travel to Crete, she'd summoned her General of the Sixth Army to assemble one hundred-fifty of the finest warriors and prepare a ship for embarkation at first light.
Pulling on Shadow's reins, the Conqueror brought the ebony warhorse to a stop in front of the gangplank that connected to the moderate sized vessel. The azure-eyed ruler turned her head to espy the direction from which she had came, thinking about the petite strawberry blonde she left behind in the castle without saying good-bye. She thought of the chaste kiss they shared in the temple and it made the Conqueror smile slightly at the memory.
'I should have told Ri I love her.' She ruminated.
Out the corner of her vision, the Conqueror saw the General standing atop the deck, adorned in purple armor, equipped with a short sword sheathed on her back, and numerous daggers surrounding her waist.
"Morning, my Lord." The voice called out, descending the bridge.
"Good morning to you, General Glaphyra."
Next, the woman, whose long blonde hair was tied to the back of her head, stood near the steed and its owner. With a right fist over her emblem chest plate, she bowed.
"Everything is in order, my Liege. We are ready to embark at your command." Glaphyra announced.
"Excellent." The Conqueror replied. "Have a couple of your men ferry my saddle-bags on board and one to stay behind to take Shadow back to the Corinthian stables."
"Turel, Oris, and Gagius!" The General yelled. "Come aid our Lord Conqueror!"
The three purple armored men rushed to carry out the request.
They all did their customary salute when Glaphyra gave them each their task, "Turel, and Gagius, bring our Lord's bags up to her quarters. Oris, you will not be travelling with us. You are to return the Conqueror's warhorse to the stables at the castle, then report to Lieutenant Dex."
"Yes, General." They said in unison.
The two soldiers began lifting the saddle-bags and lugged them to the ship while Oris waited beside his Lord and her horse.
The Conqueror dismounted and spoke quietly to Shadow, stroking his black mane, "Sorry boy, but you can't come with me on this expedition."
Shadow neighed in protest.
"At least you'll get to spend Cronus with that Palomino I know you like."
The statement got a whinny out of him.
The Conqueror finished coaxing him, "Now be on your best behavior and don't do anything I wouldn't."
After that, the Conqueror turned away as Oris mounted the dark steed and sped off.
Walking up the ramp, Glaphyra stated, "Now there is only one hundred-forty-nine soldiers."
"It is of no consequence." The Conqueror grinned. "I'll be an addition to your short fall."
The General of the Sixth Army smiled, too.
On the deck, the Conqueror was met with hails from the troops whom was graced being in her path.
"How did your husband take your charge?" The Conqueror asked.
"He was kinda disappointed. Not because he'll miss me." Glaphyra smirked. "But only 'cause he didn't get the opportunity to be in my stead."
"I hope he wasn't too upset."
"Darnelle will be alright, my Lord. He'd already had his fun. He couldn't wait to tell me what happened in the Throne Room with the envoys that he'd abandoned me on the training field for. So likewise, I rubbed his face in it that I was selected to go on a mission with you. And if he's angry when I get back, I'm sure it's nothing a little makeup sex can't cure." Glaphyra responded.
The Conqueror laughed as they made their way below deck to her cabin. When they entered inside, the older woman sat down in her chair behind the desk. Her body was tired from barely sleeping because she laid down thinking about Ri almost all night. She had a mind to lay on the bed in the other aperture that was over to her left in the spacious cabin.
Glaphyra watched the Conqueror close her eyes and relax in the seat. "My Lord?"
"Yes?" She kept her eyelids shut.
"Are you sure we should be going to Crete?" The blonde voiced her concern. "What if Brutus attacks us? You were hostile to the men he sent."
"I doubt Brutus will be irate over the death of a slave and personally, I don't think he's dumb. He needs me and I intend to expose that fact." The Conqueror answered.
"What if you're wrong?"
Cobalt orbs shot open, rooting the General in place. "I'm usually not incorrect about these Romans now, but if I am, it'll prove Brutus is a couple of things and it will be terrible for him, not us."
"What is those two things, my Lord?" Glaphyra inquired.
The Conqueror eyes narrowed. "One, Brutus is an idiot; it'll cause the destruction of his army in the end. Two, he'll lose any chance of securing an alliance with me; which will leave him isolated in the war with Marcus Antonius and Octavian."
"Are you certain Octavian and Antonius will unite together against Brutus?" Glaphyra questioned.
"I'm counting on it." The Conqueror avowed.
Glaphyra was confused. "But surely Antonius and Octavian hate each other. They are the most prominent contenders to fill in the power vacuum in Rome."
"And Brutus is the wildcard I'll be using. The whole goal is to keep this conflict off Greek soil. With Brutus and Cassius hiding themselves as well as their armies in Dia, they are making the Realm a target for warfare. I won't allow that. So, I need them gone. We may have contention when we confront them. I am not dogmatic to not consider that possibility, but when it is over, Brutus and Cassius will be departing Crete." The Conqueror elaborated.
"I wish you would have told me this last night." The General began to jest. "I would've brought less soldiers."
"We'll be fine, General Glaphyra. That is why I required the greatest of your fighters. The Sixth Army are supreme when it comes to a phalanx formation, thanks to you." The mixed raven and silver-haired woman extolled.
The purple armored General beamed at the praise, contented that her Cronus spent in Sparta away from her husband and daughter paid off. "Thank you, my Lord."
"No, the thanks go to you, Glaphyra." The Conqueror professed, closing her weary eyes again. "Lower my banner from the mast, then tell the captain to set sail. We will first tour our borders to make sure we don't have any unexpected surprises before heading for the island of Dia in Crete. Please, do not disturb me unless there is some sort of trouble."
"As you command, Lord Conqueror."
Glaphyra did her salute, exiting the cabin, whilst the sleepy Conqueror slipped into the land of Hypnos.
Tessa sat in the tavern, drinking her ale in delight. She was dressed in a plain tunic with brown boots, inside the only establishment of its kind to open early in the morning. She decided to get herself a strong drink after a raunchy night with a handsome guy whose name she didn't bother to ask. However, the sex was really good, causing Tessa to fall asleep in his arms before waking up to extract her naked body from his embrace, and taking her leave to return to her own residence in the barracks with the Fifth Army.
"Isn't it too early to indulge?"
Tessa recognized the voice. "General Darnelle, I-"
"At ease, Lieutenant." Darnelle cut Tessa off, taking a seat across from her at the table. "I came for some ale as well."
Tessa collected herself, gazing at her General who was donned in a light-brown tunic with a dark-brown vest covering it, and black leather trousers. His long, brown hair, the same color similar to hers, fell back as he took a swig from his tankard and she remembered when it was way shorter.
"What brings you here, General?"
"Need to wash away the thoughts of bad news." He muttered.
"Personal, or professional?" She questioned.
"A mission we were passed up on."
"Well..." Tessa started, concealing her dismay. "Peace can be..."
"Boring." Darnelle implied, holding up his empty cup. "Hey, keep these coming for both of us."
The barmaid came over and placed two more tankards down on their table.
"Thanks." Darnelle affirmed.
"Thank you, also, sweetheart." Tessa winked at her.
"You both are welcome." The barmaid blushed, walking away.
"She's cute." The brown-haired Lieutenant commented.
"I wouldn't know. I only have fondness for one woman in my life." Darnelle admitted.
"Two women, if you count Iona."
"Nope. She's my pride and joy. There's a difference." The mentioning of his daughter's name reminded the General of her recount for the events in her class. "Iona told us about your demonstration."
Having taken a sip from her single-handle cup, Tessa queried, "Did she like it?"
"Iona was incited by it so much, she wants to become a warrior now." Darnelle answered.
"Like mother, like daughter." Tessa professed.
"Glaphyra doesn't think kindly of the idea." Darnelle averred to her in advance of grinning. "You missed out on a vigorous training session, Lieutenant. How are your feelings on instructing the class?"
"It was okay, but kids aren't my cup of tea. You have to be mindful of the words that comes out of your mouth around them, and shit like that. I couldn't wait to get out of there." Tessa confessed.
Darnelle chuckled. "If you've always felt that way, why did you volunteer your services?"
A widened smile formed on her lips. "I got the chance to meet the Conqueror's Handmaiden, and let me tell you, she is incredible."
"Before the Conqueror fought in the Battle of Corinth and won it, Ri use to stay with me and my family sporadically when the Chancellor was on progress with our Lord." Smiling knowingly, Darnelle queried, "Ri is quite the storyteller, isn't she? She use to tell them to Iona when-"
"Yeah, Ri's truly talented." Tessa interrupted. "But I'm not speaking about that. I am talking of her beauty. She is somewhat flirtatious, too."
The General of the Fifth Army began laughing at his Lieutenant's expense. "Calm your libido, Tessa. You don't know Ri and her ways. She's really benign. That's all."
Tessa started getting irritated at Darnelle's laughter. "I can ascertain when someone is being a flirt or not. Mark my words, General. If she's truly a maiden, I am going to be the first to fuck-"
"Lieutenant!" Darnelle slammed his tankard onto the table, his amusement vanishing. "Ri is a friend of my family, especially my daughter. Don't disrespect her, or you'll find yourself demoted and cleaning stalls for the rest of your life."
Tessa was sternly castigated, making her realize the bounds she had overstepped. "My sincere apologies, General. I do fancy Ri, but I will never say anything lewd about her again."
"Apology accepted, Lieutenant Tessa. I'll chuck it up as drunken talk as long as you can refrain from being that outspoken again. Let us finish our drinks and be merry." He asserted, drowning his ale and saying, "Another."
When the barmaid's footsteps was moving towards them, Tessa whispered in good humor, "I bet you I'll fuck the bar wench, though."
"Tessa, she is a friend of my family also." Darnelle joked.
"Oh, come on." She whined, unbelieving.
They both laughed, while the un-suspicious woman gave them their third round of drinks.
Three candle-marks later, Ri was putting on her gold-colored sandals. Her attire for today consisted of a green chiton that covered her knees with a bronze belt encircling the waistline.
She had a late breakfast, and was grateful that the Prince of the Realm had not come to her room during the morning. Ri remained agitated with Lyceus for betraying her trust and wasn't ready to see him. Her foot ware on, she walked over to her closet, looking at the turquoise dress she wore yesterday that was hanging inside.
It was wrinkled below the waist after being hiked up her legs during the ride with the Conqueror to Minerva's temple. The pilgrimage was bumpy at points, causing Ri's hands to rise and incidentally graze her Lord's chest. A similar incident took place when she first rode with the blue-eyed ruler to the temple when she was younger, before her Lord conquered Corinth and wasn't yet known as the Conqueror of the Realm.
"Hold on Ri, we're almost there." The taller lady says, while holding me.
I am too frighten to say any words, and I do not want her to hear the quiver in my voice. I nod in front of her chest, which feels soft and comfy on the back of my head, but with the big scary horse moving so fast, it makes my head bump something hard directly in the center on her breasts.
I wish the jerky ride would be over soon, 'cause I don't like this horse we are riding on. He's the reason of my fear, but I want to be brave for my savior. I haven't seen her since she left for a castle somewhere in Corinth. I have fun with Meleager, who calls me his niece, and Lyceus, though he avoids me lately. When they leave, I stay with another family. They are nice to me and I love telling stories to their young daughter, Iona. She really likes them, too. Nonetheless, I miss the raven-haired woman I'm with right now.
I have no idea where we are going, nor do I care whilst we travel past homes, taverns, and people on this evening. I'm just happy she decided to take me with her because being with her brings me comfort.
Finally, the horse comes to a halt and she whispers in my ear, "We are here."
The sentence makes me joyful that the bumpy journey is over. Milady jumps off the enormous horse, then she casually picks me up as if I'm nothing but air, setting me on the ground.
She begins to stroke the mane of the scary, four-legged beast. "We will be right back, Nightmare. Don't wander away. Okay, boy?"
He emits a loud neigh and it freaks me out.
"Do what you're told." She finish, turning to me. "Are you ready, Ri?"
"Yes, Milady." I reply.
Taking my hand, we start to walk forward to a stone temple atop a layer of stairs.
The horse let loose a snort and his owner yells back, "Stay there Nightmare, or no apples!"
"Will he leave?" I inquire.
"Naw. He knows better. Nightmare love his treats."
Continuing our ascent, I ask, "Where are we, Milady?"
"We are in Corinth. I must seek Minerva's blessing."
So this is Corinth.
"For what?" I'm curious.
"Something that will change our lives forever." She answers with a huge smile on her face.
I like when she smiles, so I'll cease my game of catechism with her because I don't want it to fade. She opens the mahogany door and we step inside.
The temple must not have many worshippers and money from the appearance of it. Derelict comes to mind as I look at the worn out wooden altar and the cracked, discolored walls. The only thing that looks nice is the gold statue, which I am positive resembles the patron diety of this temple.
A woman wearing a ragged, grey robe with brown, shoulder-length hair and amber eyes, walks over to us, greeting my guardian, "Hello again, stranger."
"How are you, Nemina?"
"With the Purge war still ravaging our country, things could be better, but I can't complain when Minerva continues to make a way for us and others to worship as well as honor her." Nemina expounds, her gaze falling on me. "Who is this? She wasn't with you when you first came. Is she your child?"
Mine and Milady's eyes meet each others for a split moment. I do not know what I hope for her to say, but I could never see her as my mother. I wonder does she see me as a daughter figure.
"No." Milady responds. "She is not my child. Her name is Ri. She's ten years old and special to me."
"Hello, Ri." Nemina asserts.
"Hi. Are you a Priestess?" I blurt out.
"Yes, I am the High Priestess of this temple." She proclaim, before asking Milady, "Speaking of names, what is yours? We would like to show our appreciation to you for the offering you gave after your last visit by praising your name to Minerva."
I wanted to know her name too, a little bit. Although I am accustomed to just calling her what I do.
Milady appears uncomfortable. "No thanks is needed, really."
Nemina realizes no cognomen is forthcoming. "And humble as well. I will leave you two alone to pray. May the wise goddess bless and keep you both always."
The High Priestess turns and strolls off. Then Milady grab my hand and we trek toward the altar. Next, the raven-haired woman kneels, bringing me down with her, closing her eyes in orison. I can't help but watch her, wishing I could pry into her mind and learn what her prayers consist of.
I shut my orbs also to thank the goddess for delivering me into the life of the woman beside me. For allowing her to rescue me in Cirra from the slavers whom wanted to use me for ill purposes.
I'm concentrating so thoroughly on my own thankfulness that I squeeze my eyes tight and they crease until the woman next to me speaks, "Ri?"
I open my irises to descry her.
Her facial expression is quizzical. "What are you doing?"
"Thanking the goddess."
"Well, be careful." She grins. "We don't want you to burst a blood vessel from such a simple act."
Her sense of humor is dry, but I still smile at it. I can tell now she is one way with me, and another with others. Nemina can attest to that. Milady's features hadn't changed throughout their interaction, except for when she inquired about her appellation, which only caused her discomfort. Milady is a warrior foremost and choose to be serious probably around everyone she meet. I am glad she shed some of her stoicism for my benefit and maybe hers also.
She takes my hand, placing a small piece of gold in it and I glance at her questionably.
"That is to be set on the pedestal once your prayer is done."
Quickly comprehending, I close my eyes again, and supplicate Minerva for what I honestly want more than anything else on Terra. Afterward, I put the gold piece on the altar.
"That was fast." She mutters, scarcely bemused. "Go outside and wait by my horse, Ri. I'll join you shortly."
I rise to my feet and sadly exit the temple. Why did she make me leave her side? Have I upset her in some way? Did I do the prayer wrong? Looking down the flight of the steps, I behold the black steed and his brown eyes are glaring at me. There's no way I'm standing by that horse. It wants to eat me, I know it.
A little while later, my beautiful savior comes out of the temple and I notice a bandage is wrapped around her left hand.
I run to her, grasping the injured appendage in mines. "Milady, what happened?"
"Nothing to worry about." She dismiss my question. "Why aren't you with-"
"I wanted to wait right here for you." I interject.
She expels a breath. "This is relatively a small matter Ri, but when I tell you to do something, it's for a reason and I expect for you to do it."
I don't understand what is the problem between waiting for her by the door, or near the horse.
Still gripping her hand, I lock eyes with her. "Forgive me and don't be mad, please. I... I'll follow every direction you give from now on."
She caresses my face, moving my long, strawberry blonde tresses behind my ear. "I'm not mad at you, Ri. I just don't want anything harmful to befall you. Look at my warhorse."
I do as she orders, seeing that the giant steed's orbs are on us.
"Nightmare is acutely aware and protective of what belongs to me." Milady informs.
That's why he was staring at me.
"I told you to stand next to him because he will protect you from danger. By you being so far away from him, all Nightmare can do is neigh wildly in order to alert me and what if-" She stops speaking abruptly and bend to my level, face-to-face. "I lost a very dear friend named Iolaus because he didn't listen to my instructions. What if someone tried to hurt you and I didn't make it to you quick enough? You are too important to me, and I'll be consumed by grief. Can you ken that?"
I accede to the severity of her tone and my fingers automatically touch her jaw, wanting to mold it into the visage I like. "Yes, Milady."
She's delighted by my response. It's not the countenance I was going for, but it'll do as she stands to her full stature, and we descend the stairs to her horsey. I'm still afraid of his height, but it's good that he knows I belong to Milady.
"Good boy, Nightmare." She pats his nose. "I have a tasty treat for you when we return to King Glaucus' castle."
"Will I be going to the King's castle, too?" I query, hopeful I don't have to go back to Tegea without her.
She settles herself on the horse and shakes her head in the negative. I become sadden by the answer, even when powerful hands stretch out and I raise my arms to be lifted onto the horse in front of her again.
"Not yet. However, goddess willing, you'll have your own chamber and wardrobe in the castle with me." Milady murmurs in my ear, making my nose crinkle at the confirmation.
"Milady, can you guide your horse, while I hold onto you from the front, facing you?" I question timidly.
"I have many skills, Ri. Is that what you want to do?"
I nod and suddenly my petite frame is once more picked up and turned facing her. I wrap my legs around her waist, clinging my arms to her tunic.
"Minerva is answering my prayers." I state, snuggling into her breasts like pillows, discerning that there is something metal on the middle of both of them.
"And what was it you've prayed for?"
Gazing up at her, I apprise, "We'll be together forever."
That's the smile I was looking for as Milady kiss my forehead.
"Remember to hold on tight." She avow.
The horse begins walking in a trot and an inquiry pique my brain, "What did you pray for, Milady?"
"For our future, Little one." Her cerulean orbs light up. "To change our lives forever."
Their lives did change and it seems to be altering even more, now that Ri was going to be courted by her Lord.
The strawberry blonde didn't know with certainty what she was rubbing against all those years ago. But now that she was older, Ri knew. They were circular rings of some kind on each breast, piercing her nipples.
The dream from last night was fresh, and Ri could call forth the sex scene, but she realized that the younger Conqueror in her fantasy didn't have pierced breasts. The room they were in was a tad darkened, only illuminated by distant candlelight, nevertheless, Ri could still see the dark nipples, the sapphire irises, and the muscular body of her Lord.
She began focusing more on the details of herself with the cropped hair, firm abs, and something else on her back. It looked like a tattoo and the appearance was of some sort of animal, or a creature with wings, but it was too obscured to make out accurately.
'I wouldn't ever decide to get anything ugly like that on me.' Ri mused, closing her closet, she declared aloud, "It is just a dream. I don't have to take it so seriously."
A tap on her chamber door ended whatever rumination she would've had about the lucid vision.
'Probably the Prince.' Ri assumed, traipsing to the door. "Who is it?"
Opening the door, Ri let the young girl, who was decked in a yellow tunic with a black sash circling her hips, cross the threshold.
"Good morning, Ri." Iona greeted.
"Morning to you, Iona. I like the new look."
Iona's blonde hair was loose and fell down the sides of her face, instead of the normal tied to the back fashion.
"Thanks." She avowed. "I came by last evening, but I got no answer."
"The Lord of the Realm summoned me and I had to be with her." Ri stated.
"Understandable. When duty calls, you have to respond to it. My mother is..." Iona's words faltered as she glimpsed the sparkling necklace on her friend's neck. "By Vulcan, where did you get that?"
"It was a gift." Ri explained.
Iona's hands traced the outline of the platinum chain, mesmerized by its glimmer. "An expensive gift, I see."
'You have no idea.' Ri cogitated.
She still couldn't believe the outlandish price of the Conqueror's symbol to her.
"Who gave it to you?"
Iona's question almost made Ri stumble. "A special person who is dear to me."
"Does this person have a name?" Iona smirked.
"When is your next class?" Ri countered.
"In a candle-mark. Why?"
"I have a lunch appointment with the Chancellor and I need to ask Minya to make some accommodations. If you come with me to the kitchen, I'll tell you what you want to know." Ri offered.
"Of course, I'll go with you." Iona was excited. "You have to tell me everything."
"Hang on." Iona became puzzled. "Don't you have a session with Master Eramus?"
Smiling, Ri elucidated, "Let's just say it's handy to know people in high places."
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