DISCLAIMER: Studios USA and others own some of the characters in the following work. No copy write infringement is intended on the part of the author; this is simply an uncompensated work of fan fiction.
Warning: the following paragraphs may contain explicit descriptions of or references to m/f, f/f sex and violence, so mature readers only! If you are not of legal age please read something more appropriate. This is a very grim fairy tale. I'm not big on plot or character development-just good old-fashioned sex-and-violence entertainment.
I must apologize to you for taking so long to get out another installment. I really meant to get out one a month but since the beginning of the year, its been one thing after another in RL. And I did not want to rush something out that was not as good as I could have made it. J
Special thanks to Naynay.
1001 ARMEGEDDON NIGHTS
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She had had another fight with the Empress and feeling like she could no longer stand the sight of her another minute, Gabrielle had stormed out of the throne room.
Gods, will we ever get along?!
The Empress had started to follow, but Gabrielle had screamed at her; "Just leave me alone!"
Xandria had blissfully slept through it all on the big tiger rug in front of the fireplace.
When she announced that she was taking a walk, the Empress just looked up at her strangely with a barely perceptible tinge of mistrust in her eyes. Ever since their marriage, Gabrielle did quite a bit of wandering about the palace grounds and as long as she took along a sufficient number of guards, the Empress usually did not object.
"Dont be gone long."
Gabrielle was so mad she did not even answer. I may never come back.
But she knew she would.
She cut through the large kitchen area past guards and servants that quickly bowed to her as she passed. She did not stop until she ended up in the royal stables. It was where the personal riding and wagon horses of the Empress were kept, and it too was heavily guarded, both entrances, the isle between the stalls and even the hayloft. The guard in front of her own horses stall moved between Gabrielle and the stall gate.
He opened the gate and entered himself, walking all the way around the horse checking every corner and the straw with his spear. When he finished he stood aside for her to enter.
Brushing and talking to her horse was so relaxing to her, that she soon forgot about the guards that stood a few feet away like statues, to protect her.
To protect me and to make sure that I dont try to escape. She thought, she still doesnt trust me, at least not completely.
It was totally engrossing to brush the docile mares brown coat to a high sheen. She followed each stroke of the brush with a smoothing hand, the golden bracelet that marked her as the Empresss wife and Queen flashing before her eyes again and again. She could hear the Empresss voice berating her now, We have servants for that.
Gods, people are starving but my horse has its own guard and servant. Ive been here all this time and I havent changed a thing, I havent even tried; I'm too busy being spoiled and pampered. Whatever happened to my ideals? They just fly out the window when I look in her eyes. I could just end it right now, get on my horse and ride away from here, quit her for good. It wouldnt do me any good, I wouldnt get far and Xena might throw me into the dungeon; she just might be dirty enough to do that and then I might never see Xandria again. I cant leave my baby, no matter what; I could never run out on her, she needs me.
For a long time she cried with her face pressed against the mares shoulder, letting go of all the tensions of the day.
She heard footsteps and the sound of the livery doors being shut, slowly and quietly. Her heard was pounding as she carefully walked around her horse to see. All of the guards were gone and the livery was shut up and dark.
Oh gods, whats going on now? They arent supposed to leave me!
Gabrielle opened her mouth to call for the guards, but before she could make a sound, a hand covered it tightly. A strong arm encircled her waist, lifting her off of her feet. She kicked, struggled and tried to scream through the hand, feeling herself being dragged deeper into the spaces of the barn.
Her mind cried out to Xena to save her.
I'm going to die, I'm going to be killed, here and no one will know! Xandria!
The person holding her suddenly leaped and tumbled with her into a large pile of hay.
It was Xenas laughing face that leaned over her.
"You have to be ready for the attack, Gabrielle." She removed her hand and covered her wifes mouth with hers. Gabrielle still pushed and fought her, now with anger.
"Damn you Xena!" the Empress had her hands pinned down so she could not move. "Its not funny, I was scared to death!"
"Shhhhh calm down. You dont want your wife to find out you came to the barn to meet your lover, do you? We have to be careful, my sweet." She gently kissed the skin of Gabrielles throat and chest. "You know Id never let anything happen to you, I just wanted to have some fun with you."
"We need to work on your fighting skills. You should have been able to recognize me by my scent, just like I know yours. Its near your moon-time, isnt it?" She rolled Gabrielle half way over in the hay and clapped her on her ass more than once. She knew Gabrielle liked a little spanking every once and awhile, even though she would not admit it.
"I have no fighting skills and I dont want any."
"Sure you do, dont you want to learn to defend yourself?" The Empress sucked one of Gabrielles nipples through her gown, leaving a wet spot, "Just in case?" she sat up and spread Gabrielles legs, throwing them on either side of her hips, "You have good instincts but you need to focus, you were just flailing when I grabbed you, wasting energy."
"Whatever you say."
"I say; lets make love."
"In here, now? Im too mad at you."
"Well I happen to know of a great way of working off all that anger and aggression."
She put her hand over Xenas face when she leaned in to kiss her again. Xena took the hand and sucked on the middle fingers, running her tongue between them.
"Where is the baby?"
"Shell be fine, she is safe with Ki, stay here with me. Youre always mad at me, but that doesnt have to get in the way of us acting like wild animals. Nothing should ever get in our way." She threw off her cloak and Gabrielle could not help but notice that she was not wearing anything but her high boots. Her eyes traveled over the tawny warrior body, to the black thatch at the top of powerful legs.
"I'm hot." The Empress pushed the hem of her wifes gown up over her waist and straddled one of her naked thighs, squeezing it between her fevered ones. Her hands caressed Gabrielles tight breasts over the thin silk, noting how the nipples sharpened and her breathing deepened.
"I'm going to ravish you my Queen." the Empress easily tore the neckline of the gown in half, exposing pink-tipped flesh.
"Xena! I really like this gown."
"Do you want me to stop?"
"No." Gabrielle sighed. She had learned that her own pleasure was much more intense during the days just before her moon-time and she was craving that release now.
"Too late now anyway." The rest of the Queens gown soon lay discarded with the Empresss cloak as the two mated furiously in the hay. The difference in their size was an advantage as they interlaced their legs, riding the layer of slickness that flowed, moving their hips in a rhythm perfected in their experience of being together. Her anger pushed to the back of her mind; Gabrielle had no thoughts except for her want and need of Xena, no sensation of touch but that of her wifes smooth-skinned body in her arms. All she could taste, smell and hear was Xenas mouth, hair and husky voice. Everything else in the world ceased to exist.
Rolling together, first one then the other wrestled to the top before finally laying face-to-face where they could pleasure each other to simultaneous climax. When they finally rolled apart, Gabrielle lay with her head on Xenas shoulder transfixed by the droplets of sweat on Xenas body, tracing the lines they made over her stomach and ribcage with one finger.
"You still mad at me?"
"It wasnt that important."
"At least we make good love... and beautiful babies."
"How am I going to get back in without any clothes? You tore up my gown."
The Empress snickered a little. "Not the first time, wont be the last. They all know its strictly against the rules to look at you. We have our privacy even in the middle of a crowd." She sat up and pulled the billowy cloak around both of their shoulders, "here, well share."
"Put your fingers inside me again, harder and faster this time."
The Empress was only too happy to comply and in short time had Gabrielles body twisting and convulsing as though she were having a fit. She clasped her hands over her own mouth this time, lest the guard might think she was being murdered and come running in.
"Are you trying to turn me into a warrior Xena? I feel naked in these."
Xena tugged at the new leather trousers that Gabrielle had put on for the first time. She pulled the front lacing tight, almost lifting her small wife off her feet, till they fit like a second skin. They had been crafted by the same leather-smith that made all of the Empresss leathers and they emphasized the tiny Queens legs and hips fetchingly. The Empress leaned in close and whispered in her ear.
"Id much rather be undoing these. I 'm just trying to insure that you can defend yourself, or Xandria, if need be. Its important."
The Empress Xena grinned as her small Queen practiced the moves the master of arms taught her, and noted how very appealing Gabrielle looked in her leather chiton and leggings. Her golden hair was held back in a braid that swung behind her with her moves. She was learning the staff, which she seemed to show the most talent with. At first Gabrielle had been opposed to learning weapons and handto-hand, did not fancy herself a fighter or a warrior at all but the Empress had explained that with all the possible threats in the world to Xandria; her mother being trained in defense would provide one more barrier between their daughter and any danger. Xena knew that one did not have to be tall or especially strong to bring down an opponent; Ki was no bigger than the Queen but could easily render a much bigger person helpless. Those skills of gentle combat were also being taught to Gabrielle for her own protection. To this Gabrielle agreed, finally, and to the Empresss surprise she even seemed to be enjoying her training.
The baby, now a toddler, played with her toy sword, the Empress sitting on the mat with her, patiently enduring the little swipes the baby took at her with it. As soon as she was able to stand, the Empress had put the toy sword in her hand.
"Ah, you got me! Thats my girl!"
Xandria squealed, as Xena tickled her, holding up her hands so that her daughter could bang the toy against them.
Gabrielle came over to them during a break in her training.
ﾒDoes this have anything to do with Maven? Shes escaped hasnt she?"
The day Lila left you came rushing in to find us you were afraid Maven had come back to kill us, werent you? The thought of losing us frightens you, doesnt it?
"We will discuss this later."
"Or, did you release her?" the queen said a little sarcastically.
Maven woke with a start in the dark musty, space thinking with a new panic that she was still a prisoner of the Empresss dungeon. The root cellar that she had found to hide in was large and well hidden by the ruins of the village. It was one of many that had been leveled by the forces of the Empress and Maven figured that it had been thus deserted for some years. As a trainee in the army, she had gone on patrol and had discovered many caves and potential hiding places that she had no idea that she might need and she made note of them. It was full of vegetable gardens and fruit trees that were re-growing and plump rabbits attracted by that food.
Xenas troops made a mess of things where they went and this dead village was no exception. It did not take much effort to dig around and find discarded leathers, wineskins and even weapons. They needed a little work to get them back in decent shape, but she had plenty of time on her hands. She mended leathers, using the light that filtered in through a cracks in the cellar hatch, buried any garbage that she made and covered the fresh tracks she had made carefully. She cut her hair short with one of the knives she had found. She had stayed for a few days till the search parties the Empress had sent out had moved on to other areas. All the training she had received enabled her to escape and become invisible to the troops that searched for her.
The Queen was still very much on her mind and she could not believe that she had once been crazy enough to try to kill her. Queen Gabrielle had been a village girl for whom life and innocence had been taken away and replaced by a kind of slavery. Maven actually felt sorry for her and the new child who would be corrupted; the Empress was to blame, not them.
Maven bound her breasts with a long strip of cloth and donned the old billowing shirt and a coat that had hidden padding to build up her already muscular shoulders. Disguised as a man and with no plans in her head, she set out to get as far away as possible from Corinth.
Every day Gabrielle took Xandria to the harem with Ki and Em in attendance. Gabrielle often spent afternoons there with the dressmakers, taking a real enjoyment out of helping to make clothes for Xandria. They had several projects going that she wanted to check on. She liked to have nice things for her baby, new clean things. Xandria would never have to wear hand-me-downs. She and her sister had gone without a lot of things that other little girls had had, but they had never thought of their selves as poor. In a typical peasants life there was rarely more than one change of clothes and only one bath a week, since it took almost all day to prepare water for one. Now
Of course, being Xandrias slaves too, they too helped attend the baby and even play with her. There were far fewer girls, now than before they were married and the remaining were the musicians and dancers, so there was much more room for the baby to crawl around, always carefully watched by the guards and her mother. The other slaves were kept busy with embroidery and sewing garments for the royal family and several presented finished products to the Queen to inspect when she passed. On their knees, they held folded fabric with outstretched arms, their eyes always trained on the floor. Gabrielle could not help but run the silken creations through her fingers.
Fluffy white towels that had embroidered dragons and tigers on the bottom corners caught her attention. The slave that held them was a young girl from the East with long black hair, only a recent addition to the harem.
"These are so beautiful! They must have taken you weeks to make."
"She does not speak the language of Greece yet, my Queen." Ki said. "But she has made them especially for the Princess."
"She is from Nippon, isnt she?"
The girl shyly bowed to her. She could not miss the compassion in the Queens eyes. This must surely be the number one wife of the great woman warrior. She did not understand how they begat a child, but the sprit of the warrior must have been very strong that night. There was much fear of the woman warrior in her own country and she had been so invincible and cunning in battle that the elders feared she was a god.
Akemi watched the child of the warrior as she played; she did not look like her mother at all, but was the very image of the Conqueror, even her light eyes that seemed to look into your very soul. The ways of the Greek gods were strange indeed.
Gabrielle remembered the story of how the country of Nippon had fallen under the Conqueror, years ago; thousands had been slaughtered. The wood and paper houses had been burned to the ground. She had heard the story about it in her home village of Poteidaea and in more detail at one of the Empresss grand banquets. Xena had been proud of that victory and one of the storerooms were filled with the spoils, including the kimono that Xena had been wearing when they first met. She felt guilty and sorry for the girl and the horrors of her country, massive losses of life that would never be replaced.
"Thank you. Theyre exquisite. I'm very pleased. I know the Empress will be too."
The slaves talent for fine decorating would make her more valuable to the household than just an object for pleasuring visitors. Gabrielle had tried to find such a niche for them all in the harem, so they would be spared from being sold or used.
"Ki, I would like to have her trained to be one of our private chamber servants, can you see to her training? Of course, shell have to learn at least some Greek." As the Queen and harem keeper she could pick and assign the slaves wherever she wanted, unless the Empress objected.
Ki nodded. "Of course, my Queen, as you wish."
When she felt the need to think or get some fresh air, Gabrielle headed for the tower above the royal bedchambers. Thank the gods that the servants were forbidden to follow her there unless they were specifically ordered or called for. Sometimes she felt so closed in by all the guards and attendants that followed her around all the time. She had found a place to be alone and now the tower was a favorite spot for Gabrielle. She took the princess to the palaces highest point often to enjoy an afternoon of reading and feeding of the wild birds, that amused the baby.
It was a rounded structure, open on all sides, had a roof for shade and stone benches. She had a perfect view of the palace with identical guard towers spaced throughout, the nearby villages and the royal lands. The far away port cities of Corinth. The ships arriving daily loaded with slaves and goods from other countries, their payment for the protection of the Empress. She bounced Xandria in her arms and pointed out the people on foot and horseback that looked so small from their high place. This and the garden had been their sanctuary, her escape to a magical, peaceful world, where she could forget about all the misery that had bought and paid for their easy life.
The first time she had come up to the tower, Gabrielle had scanned the scenery for any signs of the crosses or X frames that the conqueror was famous for; she did not want to expose her baby to that sight. Thank the gods there were none of the Empresss examples of the punished in view. It almost made her sick to think how close she had come to dying that way. It was too much to hope for that the practice had ended altogether; crucifying her enemies had proven too effective for Xena. At least she cares enough to shield our daughter from that carnage-for now.
She felt a chill when she thought of what Xena would teach their daughter in the future. She was a sweet and affectionate child and at least Xena had not discouraged that in her. But Gabrielle knew that the day would come when Xandria would be expected to make her first kill. It would start with hunting but she prayed that Xandria would never have to kill in battle or ever be in one. If their daughter grew to become a highly skilled warrior like her sire-mother, then she would have the best chance of surviving if she was attacked. In that respect, Gabrielle knew that the Empress was right for training her up as soon as possible. She hugged Xandria closer to her, wishing she could stay this small and innocent forever. Remembering her vision of the future Xandria that had rode her away in the chariot that night, comforted her.
She was so lost in thought that she did not even hear the Empress steal up the tower stairs.
Xena stood there for some moments watching her wife with their baby in her arms; softly talking to her. They made such a lovely picture. Gabrielle wore a short summer chiton and her hair was swept up and trailed down her back. Xandria was wearing an almost identical dress-and she was getting so big! Almost too heavy to be carried by her mother, but she figured that Gabrielle wanted to savor every last minute of her rapidly dwindling babyhood. She turned and carefully placed the princess into the leather swing that Xena had fixed to the rafters of the tower herself. It was close enough to the stone benches so that Gabrielle could sit and push the baby away and back. The both of them were laughing and still did not notice, Xena still hidden by the stairway railings. It was good to see her so openly happy, becoming a mother had done that for Gabrielle.
Oh yes, I picked the right one.
She had settled down to be a good wife, as the Empress knew she would. It was plain to see how much she loved her child. Gabrielle knew how to give unconditional love. It was something that was a wonder to the Empress; love she had never known or cared about receiving. But now that she had it
Xena had had many lovers, both male and female, in every degree from highly skilled, to nervous virgin, to deathly boring. The daily dose of the Silphium plant extract, she had imported from North Africa, freed her up to experiment in as many ways as she wished without the worry of conceiving any children. It had given her the freedom that most men enjoyed. She had had Kings and warriors that visited her court and caught her fancy for an evening; harem girls that served her out of duty, fear and their own misplaced ambition of being the one to win her heart and share her empire as a wife. To the Empresss great amusement, they groveled, romanced, and demeaned themselves trying to please her the best. They ended up with nothing if they were lucky; if they were not so lucky, they ended up being put painfully in their place. Even the climaxes she achieved with assorted partners became nothing more than routine. The Empress sought enjoyment in ever increasingly demented forms, those she had learned of while in Rome.
How different then, when she was with someone who loved and truly wanted her, someone who knew her and was not afraid. It had filled a place in her that she did not even know was empty. The Empress had never made love to anyone before Gabrielle.
Thanks to you, my Queen, I know what the poets meant.
And she had a child that was more perfect than she had ever dared to dream of having. Xena wondered if Xandria would still love her if she knew everything about her, then she drove the thought to the back of her mind. Of course she would, after all Gabrielle did.
As if hearing her thoughts, Xandria looked over her mothers shoulder at the Empress with her upturned blue eyes and pointed.
ﾒWhat are my girls up to?"
ﾒShe loves her swing."
"We need to let her walk more, get her legs strong. Did you see how well she did with her tumbling the other day? Shes a natural-born warrior."
"I think its just as important that she learn philosophy, science, music and art."
"Of course, and as many languages as possible. You can teach her to read and write; my mother taught me."
"It will be like watching you grow up."
"Not exactly; my mother said I was very willful and stubborn even as a baby. I drove her crazy." Gabrielle could clearly see that the Empress was uncomfortable with how much of her self that she revealed, could see that small door closing.
"Xena, you never told me anything about your father and mother. Tell me about them."
The Empress turned her face away.
"Xena, Empress, I'm sorry I got so...out of line with you about Maven the other day."
"I dont care if you speak your mind to me; just avoid questioning my authority in front of the servants-and Xandria when she gets older."
She could sense that the queen was a little hurt by the mild scolding she had just received, so she put her hand on the back of Gabrielles head and kissed her mouth with great tenderness.
"It just looks bad, my darling."
"Please, I want to know more about your parents."
Xena stood up from the bench and stood at the tower railing, her back to Gabrielle. She knew Xena well enough to know that when she turned away she was trying to hide her feelings about something.
"This is just between us. My mother still lives in Amphibious, where I was born, and she will have nothing to do with me. I do see to it that she lives comfortably. I dont know who my father is, nor do I care. Anything else?"
"The legends say Ares is your father."
Xena turned back to her wife and looked down at her; the Empresss eyes were icy pale in the bright sunlight. The corner of her mouth turned up on one end.
"If it pleases everyone to think of me as a demi-god, why should I not let them?"
"I'm your wife; you can tell me. Youve been in countless battles, yet, Ive never found one scar on your body."
"You wonder how I can be so strong, why I can heal so fast from a wound or why people follow me blindly to their death? Some people find it impossible to believe that I could conqueror the world without a man behind me somewhere. If I am part god then Xandria is too. At least if people believe that to be the truth, it will add to her legend. I am the chosen one, as they say; you were chosen to be my human companion. Xandria will be the leader of a world of peace and prosperity, the world I created for her; that was promised to me."
"Peace? Through force?"
"As much as needed."
After spending a few precious moments with her family, Xena retreated to the Conquerors Library to for the days meeting with the royal scribe and several other advisors. It was a boring but necessary duty but she was excited by the prospects of new projects on the board. The library was filled with scrolls and maps and trophies from her conquests of war. They were there for a conference on opening up the prison on Shark Island that had been abandoned when she had come to power. When she entered, she saw that her new scribe and her man from Egypt were there. They all bowed, even Darphus.
The plans that had been drawn up with the royal architect were spread out in front of her. She had rarely ever kept prisoners for long, preferring to execute criminals in the most quick and brutal ways, but this refurbished compound would serve to instill more fear into any potential rebellions.
"Highness, construction on the fully equipped dungeon is about to commence, as you designed. We still have the matter of drawing up the rules and penalties."
"Should be fun."
"Of course, Highness. It will be a legend." Said Darphus, taking a goblet of port from a tray that was carried by a winsome slave. He took his attention from the Empress long enough to lift the slaves short gown. He was well known to her as one who worked hard to earn favorite status in the Empresss court, though he was quite ugly. Running the prison had gone to him. It was the position she had in mind for Maven, before she had ruined her own future by trying to kill them all.
"We will make it a place that all will fear as a fate worse than death. The keepers have allowed it to become so run-down; theyll have to be replaced if they cant do their job."
"May I ask why we are moving the dungeon and the crosses to the island?"
There was a knock at the door.
"Yes! What now..?"
A guard opened the door for Gabrielle, who entered no further than the doorway. Darphus was taken by surprise; wasnt this the same mouthy blond that he had seen crucified with his own eyes years ago before he had been reassigned to Egypt? Apparently she did not recognize him.
"Empress, sorry to interrupt, but I need to go the store rooms." She blushed when she realized that the way that Xena looked her over was not lost on the men she was meeting with. They bowed to her and she gave a slight nod back.
"Of course. You dont need to ask; take whatever you like."
"Thank you, my Lady." She gave a little bow on the way out, noticing that the new servant was present.
"Your Queen is lovely, obedient too."
"Of course she is." She answered knowing that it was mostly a show of formality Gabrielle put on when Xena was among her counsel or advisors.
"You let her have whatever she wants from the treasure stores, Highness?"
"You question me, Darphus?" her blue eyes were intense with the warning. "Whatever is mine is hers. She is not greedy; like other people. I fought hard to win that spoil, so I can see that my wife and child have the best of everything; besides I have no use for jewels and pretty frocks. The dungeon will remain here; well simply add the new one on Shark. The crosses will be set up in whatever town or city where they are needed-but never where they can be seen from the palace, is that understood?"
"Where the Queen cannot see them." Darphus stepped up behind the young oriental slave. "You dont mind her knowing about them as long as she cannot see them. Very considerate of the little woman, arent you?" he snickered.
"You talk out of turn, careful."
"Always." He raised the slaves skirts over her hips and the slave readied herself by leaning on the edge of the heavy table, as if she knew what was expected. First he administered several loud slaps to the slaves small behind, to the delight of the audience of Empress, guards and administers.
"I guess we wont be going to the brothel and getting drunk before I leave? Last time you drank me under the table and broke my nose."
"Youll have to settle for a trip to the hunting camp." The slave at her side refilled her cup with the wine.
"What is this ones name, highness?" he reached down for his cock, the slave glancing back at him, then at the Empress.
"How should I know?" Xena sat back in the great chair, feet propped up on the table watching them through the goblet of wine that colored the whole scene red. It gave her a chuckle. Darphus began a steady rhythm with his hips, the girl lurching forward with each thrust.
"Shes nothing special, but I thought you would like her."
"Akemi." The scribe added. "I think. She was payment for a debt owed."
"Tell who ever it is we do not accept a bag of bones in payment, and he still owes, double, and is to pay it immediately, in gold." The Empress said.
The girl looked up at her with huge brown eyes behind locks of black hair that had worked loose with the actions of her service. For a few long minutes the Empress returned her seductive stare with her own. The Empresss tongue traveled slowly over her top lip. A lightening fast twist of her wrist and the entire contents of the goblet soaked the girls face, the strong drink burning her eyes and taking her breath away. The Empresss strong hand grasped the girls face in a distorting pinch.
"Make cow-eyes at me once more and Ill put them out forever, slut, understand? Take this disgusting little pig with you when you go, Darphus. See that she waits on you hand-andfoot."
"My pleasure, highness."
"Should these be hidden as usual Highness?" the scribe said, indicating the newly written scrolls. He stood as far away from her as he could; she had an air of death about her that he never did get used to. He was well aware that he himself had been a replacement for the former scribe that had abruptly retired without a word or trace.
"Of course, they are for Xandrias eyes only-when she old enough to understand."
"Being married and having a child has softened you up a bit, my Empress." Darphus chuckled between thrusts.
It was not necessary for her to raise her voice or even speak; she merely glared at him. He was definitely getting to be too familiar with her now, thinking that he was her friend instead of a subject and servant, she could not allow that to go on. She could not allow herself to make friends with anyone.
"I, I meant no offence I meant that I come back after all this time to find out that you have taken one of the people you had in the dungeon, for rebelling against you, and gone and elevated her to your Queen; and a commoner at that."
"I'm the Empress, I can do anything or marry anyone that I choose. My beginnings are just as humble."
"Do you love this woman?"
"That is not your business; that is between my wife and I. What I deem to be worthy is not to be questioned by anyone else. But I will tell you this; as your Queen you will respect her or else youll find out just how soft, Ive become. Now finish up and get packed."
Her dagger appeared and pinned the scribes left hand to the top of the desk. He did not scream for fear of further enraging her. She never did like the looks of him; his meekness annoyed her.
"Dont move. I'm going to relate the history of how I took Rome." With deliberate slowness, she fetched a blank scroll and a quill. The way the man was trembling and sweating was not lost on her.
"And you, my scribe, will take down every word. Dont faint on me, like a woman."
The Conqueror had arrived in Rome with her fleet of pirate ships loaded with riches plundered from the Egypt and the Orient the likes of which even the Romans had never seen before; tons of gold, gems, spices and ivory. She had played along with Caesar when he proposed that they become an unstoppable team. In her mind she sensed he was plotting to murder her and steal her loot for himself. As if she needed him, or any, man to be unstoppable. It was her pre-ordained destiny to be the ruler of the world.
To celebrate their new partnership, the Conqueror had joined the Emperor of Rome at dinner in his private chambers. He had been easy enough to seduce with red lips and a revealing dress. Gods, men were so easy! She wrestled him in his bed till she ended up on top, and in control, where she preferred to be. Then it was just a matter of moving her hips. She bent down to nuzzle his neck and slip one hand under his pillow, just as she had figured, the Emperor had kept a dagger under there, just in case. The dagger she had quickly found as she had ridden him to near-climax and in the space of seconds had buried in his chest half a dozen times. His last vision was her beautiful snarling face above him, the dagger raised above her head. His last thought was amazement at her blinding speed, his last sensation the ultimate pleasure.
Xena; the Conqueror, barged in on the Senate of Rome, naked and covered in blood. Creasers laurels adorned one of her thighs. She opened her raised hand and the dripping Roman dagger clattered to the beautiful marbled floor.
"I am your new Emperor!" she announced to the speechless group of old men in white robes.
They were so stunned by the sight that they did nothing, shouting for the guards would do no good; the ones that had not joined her forces were already dead.
Already her plan was in motion; Roman slaves were hired to be soldiers in Xenas ever-
Expanding army; Roman noblemen and women were forced to be slaves and concubines. All of their lands and sumptuous homes were confiscated; anyone who resisted killed.
She explored the grand Coliseum of Rome and was instantly taken by the big cats kept for the gladiator games. They solved her problem of what to do with the Senate. Xena, her army, the freed slaves and gladiators, filled the seats of the huge arena and reveled as the noblemen of Rome faced the hungry beasts naked and without any weapons. It was the best fun watching them run screaming like women, they didnt get far before being brought down and torn to bloody shreds by the tigers and lions.
When she was done, she reached over and yanked the dagger from the scribes hand.
"Report to the healer." She sat back with her feet up on the desk and inspected the new scroll.
Gabrielle had taken Ki and Em with her to one of the store rooms that held hundreds of bolts of cloth and shelves from floor to ceiling that held wooden, ivory and golden boxes of jewelry. Em carried Xandria and the young child took in the sights of the room with wide-eyed wonderment. Gabrielle loved exploring the palace and was like a child herself when discovering new treasures. She longed to look into each one of the elaborately carved boxes, knowing that probably few had actually been given willingly. If she lived to be a hundred she realized that she could not see the contents of them all.
There were new, strange sculptures from the country of Egypt; masks of people long dead, and animals made of solid gold. A large ornate wooden chest she opened was full of toy animals rendered in everything from alabaster to wood, they were obviously from more than one culture by the designs and some even had been covered with actual hide. She liked the horses and selected a few to be taken up to the chambers; it would be a shame to leave them down here to just rot.
"This place needs to more organized. There is so much history in all this; it has to be cared for not just collecting dust."
Gabrielle picked up one of the wide golden collars that were meant to adorn the neck of a queen, and probably had before Xena came. It was fascinating but Gabrielle had no desire for showy jewelry, although she could have and wear the largest gems on earth, she preferred smaller pieces. She selected plain, unmarked gold rings and chains that no one would miss, and a slinky gold cuff that would look good on the Empress arm. Gabrielle doubted that even Xena was aware of everything her stores held; Gabrielle had rarely seen her take an interest in them. She let Xandria play with one of the glittering necklaces but the baby seemed intent on putting everything in her mouth.
"No, no, sweetheart!" Gabrielle snatched it from her little hands just in time. Xandria rubbed her eyes.
"I guess youre about ready for your bath and bed." She put the pieces in the false bottom of the box that Ki held open for her. Gabrielle picked up a large jar toped with the head of a jackal.
"What did they keep in this, oil?"
"Dont open that, my Queen! It contains the innards of a dead king or a pharaoh."
"By the gods, why would she want to save something like this?" Gabrielle carefully replaced the jar on the shelf, where there were other similar jars with different animal heads. "You were with her then, werent you? You can tell me."
"I dont know, perhaps because she believes it gives her power over her enemies or just for amusement. I speak out of turn, highness."
"Nonsense Ki, I asked you to tell me. Please tell me everything."
"I did not know any of your language but I could see that the Empress got a great deal of enjoyment out of conquering her enemies. She and her troops spent a lot of time raiding the tombs of the dead kings for the valuables, what she did not want to take was destroyed in huge fires, like the ones in Nippon. She freed the slaves that agreed to join her and they were all too eager for revenge on their masters. The Empresss army defaced as many statues that they could find with mallets, or by toppling them to the ground with ropes."
"Destroyer of Nations." Gabrielle said softly.
Ki moved to a large shrouded object on the floor of the room and pulled back the dusty covering. Underneath was a stuffed lizard the length o two men, with a long slender snout filled with sharp teeth; the surface of its body was rough like the stones at the bottom of a river.
"In the great Nile there are thousands of them and they will eat whatever falls in."
"Yes, and she has a plan to build a moat around the palace and fill it with these beasts. I do not know if her man there has brought back the baby ones she wanted to do that.
I stood by her side on the royal barge and watched as she and her men threw the leaders of that great country overboard to those beasts. They watched and laughed as the beasts devoured them in the water, they took great pleasure in it. All the remains of kings and queens that had been so carefully entombed were thrown to the water beasts too.
I was a slave and she was my master; what could I do but stand by and watch? I did not want to be next."
"I understand. No one can blame you for that."
"No matter what she did to others, she always treated me well, as long as I behaved. I liked belonging to her, dont you?"
After a long pause Gabrielle answered.
It was easy enough to leave the safety of the palace for a trip to the citys bazaar; Gabrielle had the freedom to go almost where ever she wanted as long as she did so with a contingent of guards and did not take Xandria with her. Xena had forbidden her to take Xandria out of the palace without her. And she was forbidden to go beyond the city limits without being accompanied by her Empress. She knew that the guards probably reported back to Xena everything she did but she did not really care; she had nothing to hide from the Empress. At least Xena was done with her business and could spend the afternoon playing with their daughter while she was gone.
When Gabrielle arrived at the main street of stalls, the servants helped her dismount so she could walk along the route of vendors. It felt good to stretch her legs and she was grateful that Ki was there with her. Even though she had dressed simply as she could she could still feel all eyes on her. It was impossible for her not to be noticed and sometimes the vendors would give her things for free, for a tribute. Gabrielle had learned that to refuse would be an insult to them so she just thanked them for their kindness. She had not come to buy anything and after looking for awhile slipped down a side street with her bodyguard.
The farmers young wife opened her door to two royal guards and two hooded figures. Immediately she imagined that they were in some kind of trouble and she figured just what they had come for. She had feared the moment when they would show up at her door for weeks. Of course, knowing it was best to be obedient to the Empresss guards, she stepped aside to allow them to enter. Only the two hooded figures entered; her husband greeted them.
"May I help you?"
The two women removed their hoods.
"My Queen." both the husband and wife bowed deeply. He began to sob.
"I know I have no right to ask anything of you "
"Its alright," Gabrielle said softly. "A friend informed me of your troubles."
"They say you are kind and have a heart."
"Please dont," she stopped him. She was still not used to people acting like she was somebody important, in her mind she did not deserve it.
"Can I see him?" As her personal servant and bodyguard, Ki followed her
She was shown to their modest bedroom to where the baby lay in his parents bed. Gabrielle hid her shock well enough when she saw what was wrong. He would never be able to earn his keep or even care for himself. When she caressed his cheek, he smiled up at her; she could feel her eyes burning.
"The gods have cursed us!" his mother said, "It would be better for him if we took him into the woods and left him. Let the gods take him. That is the best thing."
"No its not! Dont even think about doing such a thing. He wants to live. Cant you see that? He has sprit."
"We are not all lucky enough to have healthy children." The woman said angrily.
"My wife is afraid that if the Empress finds out, she will "
"She will what?" Gabrielle snapped back. "The Empress may be a lot of things but she is not a baby killer. Here," she took a small cloth bag from her cloak and emptied the contents onto the bed. The plain gold jewelry she had collected spilled out. It had to be worth hundreds of Dinars at least, more than the farmer would make in his lifetime. She had no actual money, no need of it when everything she needed was provided before she even asked for it. "This should be enough to find someone to help care for him while you are in the fields, or to bribe the check-point guards and move away from here, whatever you choose."
"We cannot possibly accept my Lady, if the Empress ever found out, we would be executed for stealing."
"Dont worry about the Empress. You didnt steal anything; I gave you some of my jewelry. I can get more. Just take care of your son; hes depending on you. Ill send someone to check on you, and if I ever hear of you abandoning this baby, you wont get away with it."
The Empress was in the large bath with their daughter when Gabrielle returned. She talked softly to the child as she gently bathed her. They looked so beautiful together; the Empress was so gentle and affectionate with her.
"Theres your mommy." When she was done, she took the baby out of the bath, wrapped her in a warm towel took her over to her mother for a kiss before taking her to her bed. The memory of the baby she had just seen on her mind, Gabrielle hugged her daughter close.
"Something wrong?" Xena asked her.
"Ill be right back." The Empress said with a wink.
Servants stood waiting with towels and other necessities, like statues they stood there with their eyes on the floor. They quickly attended to the Queen, pinning up her hair and helping to pull her chiton over her head. It did not even bother her anymore when she stood before them naked; she knew they were forbidden to look.
She descended the short marble steps into the pool, lowering her self onto the final step; letting the warm water envelope her nude body like a blanket. The room was dim but fragrant candles and blossoms floated on the surface of the bathing pool. One of the slave girls offered a tray of sliced fruits, but the Queen just waved it away, accepting a glass of wine instead. She leaned her head back onto a step-one of the servants had already anticipated and put a folded towel under it-and closed her eyes.
Dozing off she briefly dreamed that she was running through the woods, looking for the farmers baby. She had to find it before it was killed by wild animals! Trees, there were so many trees! She looked behind each one of them. Her heart was breaking for she could not find it and she called to Xena to help her. Xena was running through the trees, dressed in black, her two daughters with her. They looked just like her; long of limb with the same black hair and one was taller, older than the other.
When she woke, Xena was above her massaging her temples. The Empress leaned in to kiss her. "My sweet."
Gabrielle wrapped her arms around the Empress neck as they kissed deeply and slowly. Sometimes she got so lonely for Xena, just lonely to be with her and she was now. She undid Xenas long hair and let it fall. She smoothed her hands down Xenas throat and over her strong graceful shoulders, enjoying the feel of the damp skin. Xena often let her take the lead in their lovemaking; this was not one of those times. She took both of Gabrielles hands and held them behind her back in one of hers', with her free hand on the back of her much smaller wifes neck kissed, her with voracious, open-mouthed lust. The conquerors mouth traveled down a submissively exposed throat to an excited breast. In the Empresss powerful embrace, Gabrielle felt herself being gently lowered onto the steps of the pool; already her legs were quivering.
The servants had retreated to beyond the entrance; far enough away to respect privacy that they knew they must but close enough to be ready for any commands. Akemi waited along with the rest but she could not resist raising her eyes toward the sounds coming from the pool. She watched with envy the small blond queen on her back on the stairs, her knees up and her legs gracefully spread, the Empresss head buried between them. As the Empresss large hands roamed over the twisting form of the Queen, the new servants hands moved to her own breast. One of the others elbowed her a signal to stop watching, but she did look back long enough to see the Empress disappear into the royal chamber, the small Queen in her arms.
Hours later Gabrielle woke and got up from the bed and went over to where Xandria slept peacefully. She often checked her daughter in the middle of the night, every night since she was a baby; she knew that Xena did too. Maybe to make sure that she was for real, because she was so perfect and they could not believe their good fortune of having her. Gabrielle felt a real sense of contentment as she glanced back at the Empress, fast asleep facedown on the bed. It had been good tonight, warm and good. After they had both been satisfied, they had lain face-to-face, just kissing and touching each other for the longest time. Xena rested her head on Gabrielles stomach and gently stroked the shins of her legs where they had been broken once. It made them feel warm. Gabrielle realized that the more time she spent being married to and living with the Empress the closer she was becoming to her. The memory of her crucifixion and plans of escape were no longer that important to hold on to anymore.
Though they thought nothing of going naked in front of their child and routinely making love in the same room where she slept, Gabrielle realized that Xandria would soon be getting old enough to notice what they were doing. She hated the thought of moving her to another room, even with all of the guards around she still felt safer if Xandria was where they could see her.
"I love you so much, baby. You are worth everything to me; everything I had to go through and more."
Xena had planned an outing for them all to the hunting camp and had gone ahead to the stables to check on the preparations. The servants knew that, as on every other trip they had made, the Empress would insist on saddling Gabrielles horse herself, making sure that the cinches were very secure and that the leather was not drying and frayed. Not that the Queen rode enough to cause any wear on her custom made saddle. She still rode sidesaddle, for now. They had seen no reason to change that, but Xena had plans to teach her astride. For now they would enjoy an outing together with Xandria, who was big enough to ride with Xena at a gallop at least. When she had started to take her first steps, Xena had her on the horse holding her tightly, walking slowly around the courtyard. Xandria loved being high in the saddle looking down at her mother.
A young female warrior name Crow came into the royal stables and immediately bowed to her empress, keeping her head down waiting for permission to speak. The small brown-haired recruit clutched a handful of blond hair.
"You have news for me?"
"Highness; the one you call Maven has left her hiding place, shes heading further away from the palace."
"Youve done a good job for me Crow. I dont think she knows what you look like; follow her, and let me know from time to time what shes up to."
"My Lady, do you want me to kill her for you?"
"Just track her, for now."
Crow bowed deeply and went back to her own horse; visions of the compensation she would receive in her head; fancy quarters, fine linen, salt, maybe a slave or two and as much as a thousand a year. How she loved working for the Empress!
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