Gabrielle lay curled up on the bed, trying to concentrate enough on settling her nerves before the Conqueror made her entrance. It seemed like hours since she'd been bathed and cleaned, dried and powdered, and then finally left to lie naked in the huge bed that dominated the ruler's bedroom.
She had to center herself, and reach that point where nothing could touch her. If she could do it for months in the prison where there were no niceties of life, then she could do so here where satin sheets, deep pools of cleansing hot water and fresh cool air were commonplace. She had to.
Her fingers absently smoothed the shiny material beneath her as she focused on nothing. She rolled onto her back, and slowly unfurled her tired and broken body. As her mind began to clear itself of fear, Gabrielle felt more settled, more at ease with the path she would have to walk. There could be no hope for a future, no desire in her life; she had to remember who she was dealing with, and that someone was devoid of human emotions. The Conqueror was cold and distant, and incapable of understanding love let alone ever returning it.
The Conqueror stood by the door and watched as the torchlight played across the slave's skin, all but igniting the sheets beneath her. The woman's head seemed to be crowned with a cap of burnished gold accented with coppery strands. Xena decided she looked quite angelic laid out like an offering against the crimson altar of her bed. Part of her despised that and wanted to destroy it, while another more base part felt humbled in its presence. Either way, it made the Conqueror very unsettled.
Her lip curled with distaste at the bruises and scars that dotted the fine if somewhat wasted flesh of her slave. She slowly made her way to the bed so as not to disturb the blonde. Xena wanted to see the woman in a somewhat relaxed state, free of fear, bitterness and deceit. She wanted to slowly bring those and other negative qualities out herself, concentrating on the last to her best advantage.
Xena narrowed her eyes as the woman's breath evened out and a feeling of tranquility seemed to radiate from where the blonde lay. That would never do. No one was that perfect, that pure, that decent.
She watched intently as her keen eyes picked up the faint pulse of blood flowing through the veins running just under the surface. Gabrielle's skin was so pale as to be all but translucent. Xena supposed it must have been the girl's confinement below floors. She tried to remember just how long the young woman had spent in the cold and very effective hands of her jailers. Judging by the sallow complexion, it must have been awhile.
Xena wondered at the silkiness of the woman's skin, despite the telltale marks of confinement. She took a slow measured breath and smiled, satisfied that the unpleasant odor was removed from the slave's body, and then lowered her lips to confirm it.
Gabrielle stiffened and her thoughts began to cloud over once more as she felt the surface of her calf kissed. Her fingers clenched the bed sheets as the flesh of her torso was nipped and licked. Her heart hammered painfully as every inch of her fevered skin was consumed.
And still she resisted.
Xena straddled the slave's hips, writhing against the heat she found there. Taking both marbled globes into her large hands, Xena massage them to hard points, pressing them together before taking the rosy tips into her hot mouth.
Gabrielle gritted her teeth as she fought back the urge to arch up into the assault upon her breasts. The sweat ran from her as she valiantly tried to maintain control of herself. Oh, how easy it would be to give in and be carried along by the river of fire consuming her.
The Conqueror sensed the turmoil in the woman beneath her, and tried to press her advantage.
"You know you want it. You know I have what you need. Ask for it, Gabrielle."
The bard pressed her tongue tightly against the roof of her mouth, forcing herself to just look beyond it all, and find that place, that haven.
But the velvety voice got in the way. The length of the woman took her form away, molding her perfectly into parts she never believed would fit, and never knew were missing from her own soul. Every time those cold blue eyes looked at her, it was like her very skin was being stripped away, allowing the woman complete control over her.
It was both wildly exhilarating and tremendously frightening.
A shudder ran through the small frame as the Conqueror's total weight eased down upon the slave, and Xena knew she almost had the woman. She grinned as the shaking continued, and then took a dainty earlobe between her teeth, moaning softly.
"Give yourself to me."
The bard gasped as a jolt pierced her will.
"Get up." Xena whispered as she danced the tip of her tongue along the ridge of the bard's ear.
Gabrielle blinked with surprise as the Conqueror rolled off the bed and walked over to the large table in the middle of the room. Xena snapped her fingers and the two young women returned with trays of food and drink. The bard felt a wave of jealousy hit her as the Conqueror fondled one of the women before dismissing them both.
"Don't make me ask again, slave. Now move!"
Gabrielle's hands trembled as she tried to cover herself. Xena merely chuckled as she stuffed another piece of meat into her mouth.
"Why are you treating me like this? Do you have so little respect for me and yourself that you'll just take what you want, even knowing you could have it for the asking?"
"But Gabrielle, why should I ask when I can take? Over to the wall, there."
The Conqueror said between mouthfuls. Then burping loudly, she quaffed down a large goblet of wine and came towards her.
The blonde found herself being herded backwards, and lost her balance once before finding herself against a cold slab of oak.
Tears of shame came dangerously close to falling as the young woman was shackled into place. She felt violated, and totally stripped of her humanity as she lay spread-eagled. Her heart felt numb, and she wanted to scream her outrage as her body was examined.
Xena watched with interest as one tear slowly made its way down the side of the slave's cheek.
"This isn't exactly the type of moisture I'm expecting from you, Gabrielle."
Xena leaned in and took the slave's face roughly in her hands, and then kissed her hungrily, greedily, leaving the young woman breathless and totally out of sorts. She was barely coherent enough to realize a hand was being pushed between her legs.
"Your body betrays you, Gabrielle. For all your purity and sanctimonious words, the evidence lies here upon my fingertips."
Gabrielle's chin quivered as she fought the angry tears back. If she willed it hard enough, believed it long enough, even the evidence would mean nothing, nothing at all. It was like the act of breathing, done unconsciously without its owner's permission. She could no sooner deny her passion than she could stop a breath. To deny it would be to deny her self.
"Yes, you own my passion, Conqueror, for the evidence is clear to see."
"Why do I hear a 'but'?"
Gabrielle pulled gently on the restraints and then lifted her chin a little.
"You have my passion but you shall never have me."
Xena's chin jut forward, and she removed her long silk gown, affording the blonde a view most in her kingdom would kill for. Never one for modesty, the Conqueror was known for displaying her many attributes on occasion. However, complete nudity was reserved for a chosen few; those deemed worthy of the gift and other times as a means to an end.
It was strange, really. While dressed, she was the epitome of danger, malevolence and pure, undiluted power. One had only to look within her eyes to see Death's child. Whereas while she was naked, things shifted and all that remained was raw sensuality in its most dangerous guise.
Fingering her only bodily adornment, the warrior grinned in pleasure as she saw the raw desire dancing like firelight in the slave's open and greedy eyes as her breast ring twinkled with each step taken.
"We shall see, slave."
Gabrielle found she could hardly take a breath, so painfully beautiful was the woman before her. It was almost to hard for her to bear, and she closed her eyes in shame as her body began to respond.
She was at a loss as to why she felt as she did. Why was her head filled with thoughts of loving this woman, this heartless creature whose form would certainly rival that of Venus, but would only ever see such a gift as a weapon? What would possess her to believe that in the giving would be absolution?
Hours of endless torment had transpired as the battle of wills continued. Each different position tried left the Conqueror more frustrated than before. Her jaw was set as she lay on a few more stinging blows to the slave's buttocks and back of thighs. Thin white stripes were evidence the woman had endured much the same before. A new tactic was in order. Xena smiled with rancor and then walked to the table, exchanging the flogger for a goblet of wine.
A fine sheen of moisture adorned the blonde's reddened flesh, the droplets dangling like fine jewels from the tip of each breast, the point of her chin, and the delicate end of her well-defined nose. The Conqueror watched as a shudder ran through the slave, feeling both frustration and a grudging respect for the woman.
Lord Xena sipped absently, her thoughts filled with ways to break this insolent slave. What had seemed a mildly amusing way to spend the day was becoming slightly more than she had bargained for. Why didn't she just have the guards take the brat away? She fingered the jeweled dagger on the table. What's more, why didn't she just kill the bitch herself and be done with it?
She poured more wine and tried to wrap her mind around things. Why was it so important to break this girl? And why was she feeling guilty for trying to do just that? She was the Conqueror; everyone was there to do her bidding, not to refuse her!
Xena's head snapped up and she found herself caught by the sorrowful and forgiving eyes of her slave.
"Why do you look at me with pity, girl? I could pluck those damning eyes from your pretty face and then where would you be? How dare you feel anything but gratitude for your ruler? You live to serve me in whatever fashion I deem fit. You've only lived this long because."
She paused, a look of confusion tempering the anger welling up inside.
"Why am I still alive? You must know that I am no threat to anyone."
Gabrielle lay her head back on the oak boards and caught her breath.
"Once you conquer me, my lord, then what? Shall you become bored and require a new plaything? I'm a human being, not a toy."
Xena glared at the young woman, and then began removing the restraints.
"You're a slave, and nothing more."
Her hands moved slowly over the reddened flesh of the slave's back, and then she ground her hips against Gabrielle's heated buttocks, enjoying the responding whimper.
The bard sagged painfully against the oak as the tension in her arms and legs was released. Then she yelped in surprise and pain as the Conqueror turned her over and shackled her back into place.
"There is no reprieve, slave. You have been judged guilty of a crime against the state and the punishment is mine to mete out. And judging by the light in the sky, we are far from done. Before this night is over, you will be mine."
Gabrielle closed her eyes tightly as she thought of her future. Her time in the prison was over. Certain death was all she could look forward to. Releasing a small sigh, she began to relax. There was something to be said for that, after all.
She had been taken, but had not given in. Her control, although wavering, was still her own. Closing her eyes, Gabrielle settled herself against the wood in preparation for more brutality.
Xena stood admiring the flesh before her. There was something about this woman, something that beckoned to her. Her instincts to succor and protect this young waif kept bubbling up as she continued to take her pleasures. It was not an unpleasant feeling, but it was confusing nonetheless.
She sighed with frustration, pushing the uneasiness away, and drank deeply from the goblet.
The bard swallowed painfully as a few crimson rivulets coursed down either side of the Conqueror's mouth and splashed against her proud bosom. Xena lifted an eyebrow quizzically knowing full well the slave would refuse the Burgundy, and smiled wickedly.
"Do you disdain the liquid or merely the vessel, Gabrielle?" The blonde moaned piteously as Lord Xena offered up a full breast, tantalizingly close to her lips.
Her eyes rolled back before closing as one dusky nipple caressed her lip, and again Gabrielle's body defied her. Xena's nostrils flared as a combination of the woman's desire and the creaking of straining eather hit her hard. She all but moaned herself as the blonde finally succumbed and opened her mouth to suckle.
The goblet clattered to the floor and the warrior's two callused hands wove their way into the golden tresses as she pressed her flesh deeper into the woman's eager mouth.
"Yes, Gabrielle." Xena's breath caught in her throat as she tilted her head back in response to the deep pull.
A deep moan issued from the lord's mouth as teeth surrounded the ring. It felt so right having this woman giving her such sweet attention. She wanted to feel the bard moving against her, bestowing her love. Images of her sweet infant son filled her mind, and the Conqueror breathed in the warmth of its purity.
The scent of the Conqueror's skin was a mixture of jasmine and gingiber, andeach breath seemed to make Gabrielle more light headed than before. A trembling had begun in her battered knees, and soon the bard was shaking as with fever.
Xena felt the slave's body collapse against her, and pulled away carefully, easing the blonde's damp face to the side. She noted the pale complexion and fluttering eyelids, and correctly deduced the young woman was in some sort of swoon.
Stepping back, the Conqueror went to the table and sipped her wine, lost in thought. Strange feelings were becoming mixed up with her carnal emotions, and she was at a loss as to how to proceed. Pulling her long fingers through her tangled mane, Xena pondered the word she'd just used. Love? That was for fools, and she was no fool.
Steeling herself from examining her turbulent emotions any closer, the Conqueror glanced at the limp form chained to the wall. She looked to be reasonably healthy and strong. Had the woman been below floors in the dungeon, her treatment would have been much harsher. Perhaps she was being too lenient, holding herself back for some reason?
Her skin pebbled as her body began to cool down. Sweeping her long hair out of her face, Xena stood and put on her gown. Pouring more wine, she quaffed the contents of the goblet and then began to prepare the fireplace. As the flames started to flicker, the Conqueror thought back to another time, another place.
She remembered sitting in a very large room, surrounded by silken pillows and fancy screens. The air had been warm and sweet with the scent of jasmine wafting over everything. Xena found herself smiling as she relived the softly tapered, long and eloquent fingers of the concubine on her skin. No one before or since had been able to bring her to such ecstasy. Time with the oriental woman had been well spent, with lessons well learned.
As she closed her eyes, Xena could still see the pale jade of Lao Ma's eyes. The woman had been a living contradiction: a powerful student of the martial arts, she had resorted to the use of force only sparingly, preferring the mental challenge of intellectual sparring. Xena had found the spiritual aspects of the courtesan tedious at best, immersing herself completely in the soft and giving nature of the woman instead.
Lao Ma had been a gift to her by the Emperor of Ch'in. Ming Tsu had been a very autocratic man, comparing his worth with that of the gods. Such a large obstacle became hard to ignore, and even harder to deal with, but a task ultimately enjoyed as she set about his removal. Such detestable posturing was to be reviled, not applauded; even her fealty to Ares was forced. Xena had taken much pleasure in seeing the Emperor's last moments on earth filled with searing pain as she reminded him of his mortality. Her brutal treatment of the man had caused a rift between she and the concubine, who had insisted that all life was sacred and that blood was not to be spilled needlessly.
Xena remembered many scenes where the Emperor had publicly humiliated the woman, and yet Lao Ma had remained silent and serene. The warrior had taken that as a sign of weakness, that she had been afraid to defend herself against such disgrace. It had taken Xena many months to fully appreciate the patience and fortitude required ignoring the emperor's impudent ways, and dealing with more important things underlying at the core.
Xena rubbed her chin as she remembered her own treatment of the woman. A small twinge of guilt niggled at her belly, and for the first time in three years, Xena wondered what had become of the porcelain beauty. After dismissing her in shame, the other royal houses had shunned her as well. It became well known that Lao Ma, ex-mistress of the slain Emperor, dismissed because of dissatisfaction, could not keep a foreign barbarian woman happy either. This had undoubtedly caused the woman a great loss of face, and yet Xena hadn't even thought twice about it. Until now.
She rubbed her hands together briskly, and then went back to the table for more wine. Her belly rumbled as she spied the food tray. Popping bits of succulent venison and lamb into her mouth had her growling with pleasure. She ate a few more mouthfuls before returning to the slave.
The blonde's head moved almost imperceptibly, and the Conqueror took hold of the woman's chin. The bard's mouth was slack and the pupils moved sluggishly beneath the lids. The woman's skin was slightly blue, and very cool to the touch. Xena thought it best to just leave the slave where she was, the servants dealing with her in the morning.
Dismissing the woman from her mind, she turned away, her thoughts already on more important issues, such as whether she should partake of more food and wine before, during, or after a hot bath.
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