Disclaimers: The characters in this story are based on those belonging to Universal Pictures, Renaissance Pictures, and MCA. No infringement of their rights is intended. This is a Conqueror story, the characters taken from the Hercules episode, Armageddon Now.
This is intended for mature audiences and has quite a few dark scenes that are considered hurt/comfort, but also lean towards bdsm. The relationship depicted is one of a same sex/consensual adult nature. If you find this offensive, please read something else.
Many thanks to my Sue for continued support and understanding, even though she hates the Conqueror. Thanks to both she and Carla for helping me wade through my disjointed feelings and thoughts, helping to coalesce things into some semblance of order.
Any offerings, burnt or otherwise, can be directed to me at ArdentTly@yahoo.com
You're as tyrannous as you seem to be,
And your beauty makes you profoundly cruel,
For as you know just what you are to me,
The rarest and most desired of all jewels.
There are some that shall protest your soul's worth
That your ill fame has brought nothing but pain
Some will see vain attempts at truth, full mirth
And dark sorrow shall your relations gain.
To say they are wrong denies a bold truth
For brave rivers of Thebes shall not run dry
I shall know of desires held not aloof
And nightingales serenade as I cry.
The great doors of the palace swung shut and Gabrielle hobbled into the foyer. She glanced behind her, giving the two soldiers a baleful look. They smirked and slowly shook their heads. There was a bet going on as to just how long this slave would last. Taking a deep shaky breath, the two men checked their uniforms, and then followed the prisoner into the room.
Gabrielle had heard the rumours herself. She had no illusions as to her fate; it was really only a matter of time. It had taken all of her will to survive the long days and endless nights of pitiless barbarism, the cruel hands of her tormentors invading every inch of her body, stopping just short of taking her very soul. That she could not allow.
A day on the cross hadn't broken her, and neither had the months of brutality at the hands of cruel men and crueler prisoners whose only thoughts were to survive. But now she had come to the attention of the Conqueror herself. With this summons, her fate was sealed.
'Everything is just a matter of degree,' she reassured herself. Even death can be a beginning. And the journey to that end, while a certainty, can be one filled with hope and success.
Gabrielle quickly glanced about the large room, and then made her way over to an area covered with carpeting. She stopped to orient herself under the guise of admiring the tapestries. The pain in her legs had blossomed past the constant ache she normally had to bear. She gritted her teeth and took slow measured breaths, willing away the numbness that threatened to reduce her to tears. The coppery tang of blood spread across her tongue in an effort to keep her emotions at bay.
A quick view of the room gave the woman a few insights as to what she could expect. There were the two guards behind her, but that was all. The room, while finished in rather colourful and exotic finery, was rather austere, really. It lacked a human touch. There were no windows, and only three points of entry. At the very end of the rectangular shaped room was an area a bit brighter than the rest. At its center was a large throne of heavy wood. Bits of green sparkled as the torchlight seemed to dance across its surface.
Startled, Gabrielle looked down and found that she had picked up a piece of fine jade while observing her surroundings. The warmth of the stone surprised her, but it was the shade of it that held her spellbound. It was the colour of sea mist, and she immediately felt a kinship to it. Inhaling slowly, she could swear the faint scent of jasmine could be detected.
One of the soldiers watched as the prisoner admired a few of the Conqueror's knickknacks. He gave her a quick going over with his eyes, trying to see where a small thing like her could hide a bauble. He bit his lip nervously. It wouldn't do any good to have something stolen on his watch.
The prisoner was thin, but not sickly thin. And her hair, while dull and scraggly, was at least clean. The skin on her arms and legs were mottled with bruises, old and new, but other than the lumpy and misshapen legs, the woman seemed to be in remarkably good health. For this he was glad. It would reflect directly on he and the other royal guards if the prisoners weren't in an acceptable condition to be presented to the Conqueror.
A slight gesture from the other guard had his immediate attention, and they both began to herd the prisoner forward. The Conqueror was waiting.
The petite woman started with pain as she felt herself being prodded from behind, and stumbled forward as her splinted legs buckled under her.
"Oh!" Wincing briefly, she prepared herself for the inevitable pain associated with the stone floor impacting on the bridge of her nose. Gabrielle observed her surroundings, as they seemed to play out in slow motion, and wondered if she'd actually black out this time. Her left knee made agonizing contact as the ground rose up to meet her, and then she found herself seized in a vice-like grip, her face mere inches from stone.
The blonde blinked rapidly as she tried to regain her composure. It wouldn't do to present herself as being weak, not to someone as dispassionate and calculating as the Conqueror.
She found herself resettled roughly upon her feet where she swayed a little until the wobbling in her knees subsided. And just where was the infamous Lord Xena? The hall seemed barren, except for the two guards that seemed to shadow her every move. She resisted the urge to look in their direction, certain it would result in another assault on her already bruised kidneys. They seemed frightened under all their false bravado. Gabrielle couldn't imagine living their lives. To live under the constant threat of death must be horrible. She couldn't see that their misery paralleled her own. Up until her capture with a few others that had resulted when soldiers had raided their innocent gathering, the blonde truly believed that life was good, not great but not too horrible either. It never occurred to her that there could be anything other than Lord Xena's rule. It had been ten years since the bloody battle had placed the Conqueror on the Corinthian throne, freeing most of Greece from the tyranny of numerous warlords and their petty squabbles. As na‘ve as some of her friends considered her to be, Gabrielle was nothing if not a total pragmatist. Lord Xena was the better of two evils.
Of course, she'd heard stories of the Conqueror's brutality, but had never witnessed it herself. Until now of course, she corrected herself. Now a peaceful gathering of poets and would-be scholars had been seen as seditious, and its members labeled enemies of the state.
The blonde fingered her worn shift nervously and shuddered as she remembered the first time she'd been in Lord Xena's presence. Regardless of what she'd been told, she was not prepared for the cold elegance of the woman. She had been all but blinded by the woman's almost ethereal beauty, stunned by the brilliance behind piercing blue eyes, and almost hypnotized by the sensuality of her voice. At least her rags had been replaced.
Gabrielle blinked once as a quiver ran through her slight frame. There was something about the Conqueror, something that beckoned to her.
She was rudely startled from her daze with a push from behind. Nodding slowly, she moved closer to the carpeted area.
Finally reaching the first of the rugs Gabrielle glanced down at her filthy feet, and then hesitated before stepping forward. She felt a strong hand take hold of her neck, and then gasped as she was pushed slowly down onto her throbbing knees.
It took everything she had not to fall forward as her injured legs twisted, shooting shards of pain into her gut. Gabrielle swallowed deeply in her effort to quell her rebellious belly, but couldn't quite stifle the moan that escaped from between her clenched teeth.
Blinking deeply, she concentrated on slowing her heart and respiration to more manageable levels.
'Do not throw up, do not pass out, do not scream.' Sparkling lights danced behind her tightly closed eyes as she felt her head pushed down.
'The Conqueror.' Butterflies did frantic pirouettes as she realized she would soon be in the presence of Fate herself. It was this moment in time that would determine her future.or if she indeed had one.
Moments ticked by and the sweat began to run like rivers down her back. And still the hand maintained its steely grip. Gabrielle could feel the pulse in her neck pounding in rhythm inside her skull. She felt nauseous, light headed, and almost as if the eyes in her sockets would explode.
Finally, the presence behind her shifted and the grip was removed. She all but whimpered as the blood flow returned to normal.
The tips of Gabrielle's fingers were tingling, and it took a few seconds to realize someone had been speaking to her.
She had only a second to react as the presence behind her returned, and she was wrenched off the floor. Her legs screamed their relief as the bones all but clicked back into place, but it was a brief respite. It didn't takelong before Gabrielle realized she was a good two or three inches off the ground, dangling in space, as the pressure around her neck increased.
"I said 'I'm waiting,' girl."
Her mouth opened and closed, much like the cod she'd seen sold in the market place, and Gabrielle was certain that wasn't where the resemblance ended. Her head felt as if it were going to explode, causing a red curtain to slowly descend upon her vision.
"You've been my guest for some time now, dissident. I've fed and housed you, kept you entertained, and now silence is what I'm paid?"
Confusion rolled over the young woman as she tried to understand what was being said to her. 'Fed and housed? Entertained?' She opened her mouth to protest but only a slight gargling sound came out. Gabrielle wondered if this was just a hallucination, and she wasn't back in the dungeons below the castle. She flinched again as a finger was drawn across her clavicles and then along her jaw line.
A low chuckle was heard and Gabrielle cringed as she was lowered back to the ground. The pressure on her neck was slightly released, and she squeaked as she forced a cough from her still restricted throat.
"You wish to speak? To thank me, perhaps?" Purred a deep voice just behind her, causing goose flesh to appear on her arms.
Gabrielle sagged as the pressure was removed and the guard moved off to the side. She ran a shaking hand over her neck and face before finally opening her eyes.
The mind is a funny thing sometimes. Having prepared herself to see both guards on either side of her, Gabrielle was shocked to see that only one person was near by. She recoiled as her eyes focused and she realized there was someone only a few inches in front of her. A steady hand gripped her elbow as she began falling backwards, and Gabrielle recognized the chuckle. There hadn't been a guard gripping her...
Her eyes widened as the Conqueror stepped back.
Xena smirked as the young woman all but swallowed her tongue with an audible click. She ran a tongue over her front teeth as she appraised the young woman before her. Although young and undoubtedly quite terrified, the petite woman was doing a fair job at maintaining a fearless faŃade. Xena nodded approvingly as she watched the woman steady herself, nostrils flared at the obvious pain she was enduring.
The Conqueror had been observing the young woman ever since she'd entered the castle. While it was her custom to do so, there was something about this one that had her paying closer attention than usual. She was pleased with the woman's appearance, having no illusions as to what harsh confinement could do to a body. While exposure to the prisoners was a daily experience, one didn't have to be subjected to the realities of filth and running sores. A moderately thick dark eyebrow rose as her eyes slowly traversed over the fine bones of the woman's dainty features, across her narrow shoulders, and then settled at the apex of her modestly concealed cleavage. She pursed her lips. Perhaps that's all the attraction was, a bit of unexpressed desire?
Lord Xena sucked a tooth. Her reputation for finding and bedding any and all tasty morsels in the kingdom was well known. While there was something slightly familiar about this one, the woman was certainly not her usual fare.
She snorted with amusement as she lifted her gaze from the swell of flesh to lock briefly with the blonde's slightly defiant look. Her grin broadened as the blonde dropped her gaze, cheeks crimson with the knowledge she was being appraised, and perhaps found wanting.
'Hmmm.' Perhaps it was only the prisoner's slightly veiled defiance that drew her?
Lord Xena always made a point of knowing everything possible about those who would come before her. The small amount of information available on the woman before her had only entertained the Conquer for a few moments at best.
She snorted as she went over the list once more. Quiet no nothing past, secret meetings, insurgent plots, caught with four other dissidents, thrown in jail, end of story. Xena had been terribly bored by it all, which had entailed alternate forms of entertainment, much to the royal guards' chagrin. Xena smirked and flexed her large hands, enjoying the small nicks incurred during a few short impromptu bouts of hand to hand combat. Four of the six guards would have to be replaced. She detested ineptness. And boredom. A deeper wound began to seep again, and the Conqueror sucked on it noisily as she walked slowly around the prisoner.
"I'm still waiting. And I don't like to wait."
As the Conqueror was assessing the bard, the blonde was taking her own opportunities. The brunette stood just over six feet, had very well developed musculature, and was in truth one of the most beautifully striking women the bard had ever seen. The combination of black and purple leathers accented by silver buckles further enhanced the Conqueror's magnificence and strength. The Lord was both broad shouldered and narrow hipped, medium boned yet heavily muscled.
The leathers creaked and groaned as the brawny flesh moved beneath their tight confinement, and Gabrielle felt as if she were in the presence of some large jungle cat. The Lord's high cheekbones and almost jet-black hair indicated a mix somewhere in her ancestry, but it was the woman's saphirine eyes that dominated this vision of cruel power. She was also very intelligent, that was clear, but judging by her treatment of others was devoid of any depth of emotions.other than indifference and rage.
'How very sad.'
Gabrielle opened her mouth intent on clearing the air as to just how she felt about the Conqueror's hospitality but thought better of it as the front of her bodice was seized.
"No need to open that pretty mouth again, slave. I can tell by the insolent look on your face that your very next words would be your last. We can't have that, not when we've just so recently become acquainted."
Lord Xena scratched her chin thoughtfully. "I'm not quite sure what it is about you, but I've decided. You'll be my diversion for the day. It will undoubtedly be a short one, I'm sure, with that pouty expression on your face getting you into more trouble than you're worth. But I'm feeling magnanimous today. So...,"
She paused, fingers curled around the loose fabric of the younger woman's bodice, drawing her ever closer, her blue eyes blazing as cold as ice.
"Entertain me, slave."
Gabrielle all but sputtered as the Conqueror pronounced her fate. She didn't even know her name! Anger boiled up as she watched the woman smirking at her. Did her life have so little value as to be simply dismissed as 'entertainment'? Was she to be a mere plaything for this monstrous woman?
Was that the sum of her existence, her life reduced to nothing more than a dalliance, a momentary diversion?
The pain in the woman's twisted legs was forgotten as she seethed with indignation. Her mind filled with the cruel taunts the guards had thrown at her in their efforts to elicit more than the indifference she offered them.
Her repeated violation had only made her more determined to simply endure it silently, thus depriving them of any enjoyment whatsoever. A bit of pride bubbled up to join the righteousness infusing her heart as she remembered each kick, each round house blow, thinking of them as badges of honour as opposed to evidence of punishment. In the end they'd left her alone, bleeding and broken in body, but never in spirit. She would take that small victory to the grave gladly.
Xena watched as the green eyes sparked in response, denying her the pleasure of even a hint of fear. 'We'll see about that.'
She let a cold curtain fall over her face, the smirk dying on her suddenly cruel lips. A blank look came into the blonde's eyes, and Xena decided on a different tactic immediately.
'Well, if I can't get a nice quiver of dread from the fine slip, I'll bet I can get one of a different sort.'
She snorted softly, and brought both hands up to the nape of the woman's neck.
"You cannot deny me, slave. I always get what I want."
Gabrielle set her jaw, and slowly willed herself to that safe place that had become a haven; that alternate universe where life was good, people were decent to each other, and the greater good was the strong thread weaving everything together.
"Oh no, we can't have you disappear now, Gabrielle of Poteidaia."
Xena smiled as the green eyes focused and the young woman gasped.
"I know everything that happens in my realm, bard. Your secret little meetings may seem innocent to some, but we both know the truth. Knowledge can be a very dangerous thing. And in the hands of those who have no use for it? Positively life threatening."
"But, I'm not..."
"Not what, Gabrielle? Not too smart for your own good?" She pulled on the woman's bodice a little harder, a fiery glint entering her eyes as the fabric began to tear.
Flames began to spread from her lower belly upwards as Gabrielle felt the front of her bodice ripped open and the cold rush of air play against her heated skin. Her nostrils flared as her respiration became shallow. Her vision was filled with ocean blue as the Conqueror leaned in closer and closer still.
'What's happening to me?' she screamed silently. But she knew. She hadn't been strong in her resistance against the attempts to break her. She wasn't impervious to their pain, their taunts, and their horrors. They had simply been using the wrong bait.
Fear slowly spread, joining the self-hatred and unquenchable lust roiling beneath the surface, and Gabrielle knew her very soul was at stake.
And then she felt the soft dead lips of the Conqueror and was lost.
Dagnon watched from the corner as Lord Xena removed the knife from her belt. The dagger was very sharp, very pointed, and he smiled, baring the usual mouthful of rotting, neglected teeth his kind was known for.
The tip of his tongue protruded as he watched the blade move slowly over the young girls pale flesh. A red line appeared as it traveled up her torso, across her shoulders, and down between her heaving breasts. He swallowed convulsively as a few drops of crimson began to ooze along the trail.
Gabrielle panted, her face contorted with both pain and pleasure as her face was gripped and her mouth violated once again.
Xena reveled in the honeyed taste of the blonde, one eyebrow arching as she heard a rustling behind her. She sucked the young woman's lower lip into her mouth, feasting upon it, and then brought a hand up to cup a firm breast.
They were small but oh so inviting. She would know more of them this very night. But first...
Gabrielle gasped and opened her eyes wide as a yell was heard fifty paces away.
"Godsbedamnit, Xena! You bitch! Ah, my fucking hand!"
The dark lord dismissed the man's pain as undeserving of her attention, refusing to even turn her head. Why bother? She knew she'd hit her mark.
"A few things, Dagnon. Only trusted advisors get to call me Xena. You were not invited to share the enjoyment of my desires therefore you were denied them. Be thankful it was just your hand pinned to your thigh. Fix your trousers and get out. I'll deal with you later."
His nostrils flared as he backed slowly out of the room, clutching his dripping hand. His leather leggings had taken most of the brunt of the blade, but his hand had been totally pierced.
'Damn her to Hades! The rumours are right...she is a monster, with eyes in back of her head and the cunning of a serpent!'
He seethed with rage as he watched Xena continue to take her pleasures. It sickened him to think that a highly passionate woman such as the Conqueror would even consider spending a minute of her time with the likes of a slave rather than be with a real man like him. She had spurned all of his advances, taking every opportunity to belittle him and debase him in front of his own men.
Couldn't she see they'd be an unstoppable force together? Couldn't she see he was the only one for her? He had to make her understand. Somehow.
Gabrielle's swollen lower lip trembled as she felt the fabric being removed from her shoulders. She wanted to stop this woman...this monster...she wanted to push her away, to deny the lust which bubbled up, threatening to consume her.
She squeezed her eyes shut as two callused hands moved over her exposed flesh, and willed the threatening tear away.
She would not cry for this woman. She would not give in. She would not help.
The softness of the woman's lips surprised her. The warmth infused her, making her rethink everything she knew about the Conqueror.
'Perhaps there was hope after all?'
"Come, precious. I think it's time for a hot bath."
She felt herself leaning forward, anticipating the next kiss, wanting it, needing it. But she would not, could not...
"And then a little fresh air to blow the stench off you. While prison is the great equalizer, it does nothing for one's keen senses."
The blonde's face reddened with the remarks, and she tried to pull away.
Xena chuckled as she pinched the hardening flesh between her fingers.
"Yes, I like fire in a woman. But before I enjoy the blaze, I'll want the surface to be at least palatable."
She gave the young woman a shove. "Now go." The lord snapped her fingers and two nubile young women came rushing into the room, bowing deeply.
"Take her away for preparation."
Gabrielle made it to the door before the first tears began to fall. It would be the first of many things denied to the conqueror.
To Chapter 2
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