Disclaimers: See Part 1
Additional Note (Please Read): This story is tied in with the tale, Xena & Gabrielle: A Turn of Fate. If you have not read both story's chapters preceding this one, you should do so now. I also would like to thank my readers for keeping up with my tales, may my Muse continue to amuse you all.
Feedback is always welcomed at Alexjanos612@Yahoo.com
The Conqueror and Ri,
A Twist of Destiny,
Chapter 9: Origins
"Why don't you take it off, instead of covering it?" Iona asked.
Ri wrapped the lime colored scarf tightly around her neck as they walked through the Corinthian castle. "I don't want to draw attention from anybody and I'm not taking it off."
'Just tell her and get it over with.' Ri mused. "I promised Milady last night that I wouldn't ever remove it."
Iona's footsteps halted. "The Conqueror! Our Lord gave you that gift?"
"Lower your voice." Ri glanced at the denizens that was gazing in their direction.
"Sorry." the fifteen year old blonde apologized as Ri interlaced their arms and continued walking. "It is an astounding piece of jewelry, I get why you want to hide it, and I know that you are the Conqueror's favorite subject, but why did she give you such a perfect present? It seems like the sort of token a man would bestow on his betrothed."
'Is that what this is?' Ri pondered. 'A symbol for marriage? Is Milady, the ruler of the known Terra, planning to marry me when she gets back?"
Honey brown orbs widen at Ri's happy expression. "By the gods. That's it, isn't it?"
"Of course not, Iona." Ri downplayed her true hopes. "It's a farewell gift. That is all."
"Now I see. The Conqueror presented you the necklace in case something bad happens to her in battle."
"She's going into battle?" Ri inquired.
"You didn't know?" Iona was surprised. "My mother went with her. They set out already at first light. My father's kinda upset that they were going to see some action while he's stuck here in Corinth."
'Prospects of war. That's the reason for the trip to Minerva's temple.' Ri theorized.
"Are you worried for their well being?" Iona questioned.
"Our Lord is formidable and from what I also heard, General Glaphyra is an excellent fighter as well. I have no concerns." Ri answered half heartily. "With that aside, how are your parents? I miss them."
Iona shrugged her shoulders. "They're alright. I told them something yesterday and they both have different opinions."
"What did you tell them?"
"Don't become all Mercury on me, Ri." Iona grinned. "You told me that the necklace is a farewell gift, yet you had no knowledge of the Conqueror's plan to leave. So how can it be a farewell present?"
"Because I am the one leaving."
"What?" Iona stopped again, letting Ri's arm go.
"I leave for Athens in Junius." Ri said sadly.
"That's a moon away. Did the Conqueror impart this to you last night?" Iona was glum.
"She been told me, since April." Ri replied.
The younger blonde became angry. "You knew that long and you're now telling me this? I thought we were friends?"
"I wanted to inform you first out of everyone in the castle. I didn't, because Milady enjoined this to me in confidence. It wasn't until I broke it with Prince Lyceus, that-"
"You disclosed it to him before me?" Iona interjected.
Ri put her hands on Iona's upper arms. "We had breakfast yesterday morning. I was really troubled in his presence about my leave, that is the only excuse I have for telling him, but now that our Lord knows what I'd done, she do not care who I reveal it to."
"The Conqueror is cognizant of everything." Iona giggled, wiping a tear from under her eye.
"Yeah, she is." Ri concurred, pushing her anger at the Prince for informing the Conqueror, to the side. "Are you mad at me, or do you forgive me?"
Iona smiled brightly. "You're like a sister to me and I hope you feel the same way too. I thought you deliberately kept this from me and told the Prince, because you trusted him over me. Now that I know the truth of your reasons, yes I forgive you, but I am going to miss you."
Ri pulled Iona in an embrace while she cried. "You're like a sister to me also. Please stop crying. I'm gonna miss you as well, but I'll be back."
"Honestly." Ri swore. "Corinth is my home."
"You better come back home then." Iona sniffled.
Ri helped Iona dry her face and resumed their walk.
"What awaits you in Athens?" Iona asked.
"Nope. I'm not telling you another word, until you tell me what your parents aren't agreeing on." Ri parried.
"Alright, Ri. Brace yourself." Iona warned.
"I am." Ri said.
"I don't want to be an architect anymore." Iona announced. "I want to be a warrior."
"Get out of here." Darnelle laughed, sitting inside the gothic War room with his fellow Lieutenant Tessa, the General Nale of the First Army, Lieutenant Dex of the Sixth Army and Meleager the Chancellor of the Realm. "Jr is actually coming here? The yearly tribute to the Conqueror isn't till next moon."
"Alexander II will arrive early than expected. It seems he has more to share with The Conqueror other than encomium." Meleager said.
"Does the arrogant brat know that she's not even in Corinth?" Nale questioned, recalling last year how annoying the handsome, vain son of Alexander the Great was.
Nale was a Lieutenant under Meleager then, before the old General abnegated the position to him and filled in the newly created spot of Chancellor. "I do not want to be in his company longer than need be."
"I received his letter this morning. He have already left Macedonia, and will probably get here in a half fortnight." Meleager answered.
"It'll be nice to see the Macedonian." Tessa beamed. 'Perhaps, we'll fuck again.'
The General adorned in white armor scoffed knowing what she had in mind while Darnelle tried to cover his grin by placing his hands on his mouth.
"As it is." The Chancellor looked at Tessa shamefully. "Once Alexander II arrive, we will treat him cordially and respectfully, unless he give us pause not to. Are we in agreement?"
"Yes, Chancellor." All four warriors responded, although one of them was dismayed.
The door to the War room opened and Prince Lyceus walked in. Everyone stood and bowed.
"Speaking of Jr, look who chose to attend our gathering." Darnelle teased.
Lyceus ignored the quip. "Good afternoon to you all."
After that he took a seat beside Tessa who was gawking at him as every warrior of the Realm reclaimed their chairs.
'Damn he's attractive.' she thought, appraising his facial features to his royal attire that consisted of black leather britches and boots, a long sleeve sapphire shirt made from silk, with an ornate golden chain hanging around the collar.
"Prince Lyceus, it is an honor." Lieutenant Dex saluted, it was rare for lieutenants to take part in council meetings.
"Yes, a true honor." Tessa did a salute as well.
Meleager hid his shock at Lyceus unexpected arrival. "Moving along. While the Lord Conqueror of the Realm is away on progress, I will be the authoritative figure in her absence, just like when she went to Rome last year. Any and all problems should come to me."
Everyone nodded their consent.
"General Nale, have you selected a new Lieutenant for the First Army?" Meleager asked.
"Yes. He is from the ranks of General Glaphyra's Sixth Army." he replied.
"Do General Glaphyra comply with you choosing a member from her army?" the Chancellor inquired further.
"She does." the purple armored Lieutenant Dex spoke. "In fact, she recommended him, herself."
"So who is it?" Meleager was intrigued.
"Oris." Nale answered.
"I had him escort the Prince to the Agora after he returned the Conqueror's warhorse." Dex said.
Meleager turned to Lyceus. "What is your take on him?"
"I've just met him today, but from what I'd seen, Oris is a fine young man when it comes to duty. I think he'll be a good choice." he replied.
"Then it is done. Oris will be initiated into the First Army tomorrow. There will also be a banquet to celebrate his promotion. That is all I have for now. Thank you all for coming, the council is adjourn." Meleager announced.
The two Generals, along with the two Lieutenants and Prince Lyceus stood to salute their Regent Chancellor in advance of departing the War room.
"Prince." Meleager called. "Stay a moment."
Lyceus sat down in a chair closer to him. "My apologies for summoning you to handle the Agora without consulting you first."
"That's okay. It wasn't as irritating like yesterday and I'm getting the hang of it." Lyceus admitted. "You're not only the Chancellor now, but the Regent of the Realm as well. You've got tons to do and I don't mind helping out however you deem fit to use me. I am serious about taking more part in government."
"Good to hear, Lyceus. I must confess to you, it isn't so much a burden as it was the year before. Being a General of an Army and running the Realm was difficult." Meleager smiled. "If you keep this attitude up, one day you'll be the Regent in your sister's stead."
"Thanks, Meleager." he glowed at the comment. "Is there anything else? I want to visit Ri for lunch if she's free."
"Me and her are having lunch together."
"Oh." Lyceus felt briefly dejected. "Maybe I'll catch her for dinner."
Noticing the gloomy tone, Meleager became curious. "How is your relationship with Ri? Do you like her?"
"I adore her, but..." Lyceus stopped speaking.
"I'm not sure how she feels about me. One moment, it's like we are on the same accord, the next, she's different. If I could sum it all up, I would say, she's afraid of getting close to me." the Prince confessed.
"Have you told Ri yet?" Meleager asked.
"No." he responded. "I drop hints here and there, but I hadn't approached her straightforwardly."
"I see. I see." the Chancellor echoed.
Lyceus chuckled. "You ever noticed you do that?"
"Do what, Lyceus?"
"Repeat yourself once in a while."
"Old habit, I guess." Meleager smirked. "I'll ask Ri if the feelings are mutual."
"Will you?" Lyceus dropped the exciting idea with a sigh. "I am grateful for all that you are always willing to do for me, but I'm wholehearted in asking you not to do that."
"Understandable, Lyceus. I won't ask her." the Chancellor replied.
Minya, dressed in an apron over top her burgundy shirt and purple skirt, lifted the hot loaves of baked bread from the wooden stove and set it on the table in the kitchen to cool.
'She have no fashion sense.' Iona ruminated over the royal Cook's clothes.
"A warrior." Minya began. "Are you gonna stop taking your architectural class?"
"I asked her the same thing." Ri said, biting into a fig.
"And just like I explained to, Ri." Iona playfully glared at the munching strawberry blonde. "I'm going to finish the class. It'll be advantageous in case the Lord Conqueror commission more ships."
"An architect soldier. You don't run into someone like that every day." Minya retorted.
"That's what I said too." Ri giggled after Iona threw a date at her.
"Great minds think similar." Minya laughed.
"Aged minds, you mean." the younger blonde jest. "My father is comfortable with my decision, my mother is not though. I don't want them to fuss about it, but I do not want to lose the goal of becoming a warrior."
"It is a sudden change, Iona. Four days ago, you were talking of building temples for the gods that would be far grander than the ones already built anywhere on Gaia." the Cook elucidated. "What happened to bring this about?"
"Lieutenant Tessa of the Fifth Army taught weapons training in Clydmus' class yesterday." Ri exposed. "That is what triggered it."
"That's not it." Iona said.
"Must have been some class." Minya mocked.
"It was... Intense." Ri responded.
"It was beyond intense." Iona's eyes lit up. "It was intoxicating. When I held that wooden sword in my hand, I felt elation."
"Sounds better than sex." Minya thoughtlessly mused out loud.
Ri blushed, remembering her earlier activity in her chamber while Iona stared dumbfounded at the Cook.
"Ignore that and forget it ever being mentioned." Minya implored.
"Forgotten." Iona mumbled.
Ri jumped back on the previous topic. "So getting roughed up by Tessa, haven't daunt your spirit at all?"
"My hand stung badly afterward, but it made me eager to learn. My father said that I had un-trained hands, but once I get use to a blade's handle, I'll be fine." Iona replied.
"Can't say that I can vision you as a warrior type. You are a beautiful young woman. I see you as anything but that." Minya pronounced.
Iona became defensive. "My mother is beautiful. So is Lieutenant Tessa and don't get me started on the Conqueror. Even at her age, she's a Venus."
Ri shut her eyes to picture the dream again when her Lord brought pleasure to her body and in return gained fulfilment as well.
Minya's voice ended the revelry. "They are children of the War god, Mars. You, Iona aren't.
Iona stomped her foot in exasperation. "Have y'all ever watched the soldiers practice on the training field?"
Both women gave negative responses.
"Well I have and even that is exhilarating to me. What Lieutenant Tessa displayed in the classroom, sealed it."
"Iona, I am with you either way. I just think you should evaluate it thoroughly, before making a rash choice." Ri offered reasoning. "Warriors have to kill and can be killed. I'm positive that can weigh on a person's conscience."
"I have parents that are warriors." Iona was irate. "I know that they can die and I know that they take lives. Minya, you don't have any soldiers for parents. They were common farmers. And you Ri, don't remember who any of your family are."
The pained expression of Ri's, filled Iona with sadness.
"That's quite enough young lady." Minya responded sternly. "You may have already had you mind made up, but we were just trying to aid you in a decision you'd sprung on us."
"It's alright, Iona." the petite strawberry blonde's lips formed a sad smile. "I should get going. Thank you Minya for making the food I requested."
Ri begun reaching for some of the trays, until Minya stopped her. "You're most welcome, Ri. Don't bother carrying all of this though. I'll have the servants bring it to you and the Chancellor. You go on ahead, I'm certain he's waiting for ya."
Next, Ri left without saying another word.
"I'm sorry, Minya." Iona apologized.
"I'm not the person you should be telling that to. You, along with a handful of others knows what that poor girl went through. You were wrong, Iona and when Ri calms a little, you need to tell her you've made a mistake in judgement. She'll forgive you." Minya scolded. "Don't you have a class to go to? If not, I don't care, get out of my kitchen, I'm mad at you."
A half candle-mark later, Ri was sitting on one of the divans in the Conqueror's chambers across from Meleager, who was seated on the other while the castle's servants and Akemi completed setting their meal in front of them.
Once done, they bowed and exit, save for the chambermaid. "Will there be anything else, Chancellor?"
"Thank you, Akemi. That will be all." he dismissed her, breathing in the aroma of the entree.
Akemi curtsy and left the chambers.
"I am highly appreciative of you for asking Minya to prepare our lunch with such delicious edibles of my liking." Meleager was pleased, placing an assortment of food on his plate.
Ri began to do so too. "You are certainly welcome."
"I've been engrossed with the affairs of the Realm, but I haven't forgotten our game we were to engage in. Are you ready to start it, Ri?"
"Yes. You may begin."
The Regent gazed at Ri and pondered if she was in a low mood. "Are you okay?"
Shaking her somber morale, she joked. "I'm sure you don't want that to be your first query. Remember, we only get three."
"Alright then." Meleager said. "What is it that, the Conqueror promised you?"
"She would visit me in Athens." Ri answered.
"Nothing more?" Meleager followed up.
Ri clicked her tongue in teasing fun. "You can't ask two in a row. It's my turn. Is our Lord going to war?"
"Nope." he responded simply.
'I've should've phased that better.' Ri reprimanded mentally.
At least she knew that the Conqueror wasn't at war. Still, she could be in another form of contention.
"Is the Conqueror in love with you?" Meleager questioned.
The direct inquiry had Ri baffled. The blue eyed woman spoke of a love for Ri, but she hadn't confessed a devotion of being in love with her. The Conqueror have never once said she loved her.
"No." Ri gave her reply, praying it was untrue. "She is not."
Meleager read a flicker of despondency in Ri's eyes and had his last query ready when it was his turn.
"Is she in danger?"
The austere tone caught the Chancellor's attention with its depth of worrying.
Dropping the loaf of bread, he put her mind at ease. "Ri, the Conqueror of the Realm will be fine. Trust me."
Ri relaxed her nerves.
"I'll let that one be a freebie, since you were deeply concerned for the safety of our ruler." Meleager grinned. "Ask something else."
Ri wanted to confirm if he was made Regent again while the Conqueror was away, but thoughts of Iona's statement caused her to seek knowledge about her origins.
"Where am I from?"
Meleager lost his grin.
"Who are my parents?" she looked at his brown orbs, wondering why tears couldn't fall from hers. "I've never gave it any thought before until now. I want to cry, but speculate you can't shed tears for a life you haven't lived."
Meleager got up and sat next to Ri, leaning her head on his shoulder as he held her. "I'm not confident where you were born, Ri. You could have belong to Acanthus, Potidaea, or Therma, if not Cirra, the place we found you. Krykus and his men was enslaving town villages after the Athenians subjugated the Chalcidice doing the Peloponnese Purge."
"Weren't they part of our Lord's army?" Ri asked.
"Yes. The Conqueror was with the Amazons in the Northern Steppes of Serbia. She kept a power base of soldiers here in Greece. The Delian League was in conflict with the Peloponnesian League and we were to lay low and recruit warriors to the Conqueror's cause while gathering any materials we could get our hands on from defeated Peloponnesian States only." Meleager explained.
"Why just them States and not the Delian League's?"
"The Peloponnesians were on the losing end. It was more manageable to rally them to our side. They'd rather be with us than stay with a beaten team." Meleager idly curled some of Ri's hair in his hand. "I'm not sure how much of the war effected you, but it's a blessing that you can't recall any of it. Danger was everywhere and you could suffer from both belligerents no matter who side you were on. The Conqueror was wise to that fact and understood a lot of people would become disillusioned with the Delian League as well as the Peloponnesians. She was right, all we had to do then was choose which League we didn't want to win outright. So we picked, Athens."
A question floated through Ri's brain. If the Conqueror decided to go against the Delian League, it made sense that she went to Corinth and joined with King Glaucus' army, but why did she betray him and take control of his castle, including all of Corinth after his demise?
She settled on a different query instead, knowing how the Conqueror have a disinclination for human bondage. "Why did Krykus try to enslave the towns people of Chalcidice? Did our Lord want slaves in the beginning?"
"By the gods, no." he said. "Krykus was a fool. With the Conqueror gone in Serbia for almost two years, he created his own agenda and broke away from the original plan. He paid for it though."
Ri cringed. "I've heard."
"You know what happened to him and his men, Ri?"
"Not his men, but Krykus. Minya told me that they were going to sell us to Persians in Cirra. They'd sold many males and females, before Milady appeared from nowhere, like Death herself. I was hurt terribly and once she saw that Krykus was the person who had injured me, she broke his jaw, then both his ribs. Finally she crucified him, personally." Ri recited the grisly tale.
"She crucified them all." Meleager clarified. "The Conqueror would've killed them regardless, but when she'd seen your blood soaked face, she went in a rage. Possessed by the Retribution goddess, Nemesis in her brutality. She remained by your side every day until you healed, did you know that?"
Ri shook her head. "She did?"
"Yes. When she travelled to Corinth, I could tell you pined for her." Meleager replied. "And there's your answer. The Conqueror is your home. I have no idea who your blood family are, however I do know that you have people who love and care about you very much. Your family is here with us, my precious Niece."
The petite woman hugged the Chancellor. "Thank you, Uncle. I needed to hear that."
"I'm here for you, always." he squeezed her small frame lightly. "You broke the rules of our game, but I'm willing to let all those questions pass and give you your remaining two if you answer my last inquiry, truthfully."
"Okay." Ri permitted.
"Are you in love with the Conqueror?"
Greenish blue irises gripped Meleager's as Ri nodded. "Yes, I am. When she comes back, I have no doubts that she'll court me."
'Poor Lyceus.' Meleager mused, listening to Ri's delighted tonality.
"How do you feel about this?" she asked shyly.
"Shocked, to be honest and gladden for both of you." he responded. "Let's eat, for the food gets cold."
"Hold on, my final question and it's equally important." Ri said while un-wrapping the scarf to broadcast the sparkling necklace. "This can't possibly be the price you claimed. Is it?"At the quizzical look on Ri's face, the Chancellor of the Realm guffaw in mirth.
To Be Continued
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