Disclaimer: See Part 1
Summary: Summary: Xena was tired of her Seneschals who were all trying to kill her, Elusia the last one is dead and Palimon, the captain of her Imperial guard and her right hand man was tired of hiring Seneschals after seneschals. He was allowed to hire one, but with a strict order... MALE Seneschal or none at all.
[The Agora later]
I had my hair covered in hat and hood, and then I found myself standing in front of a receiving desk. On the other sidewas a petite young woman who was bowed down, writing on a half-filled scroll. "Ah-hrm," I made a coughing sound which did its trick. The petite woman looked up and straightened herself.
"Good afternoon," she said in a tired voice, "I hope you know that's it is quite late now?" she told me with a fake smile.
"I...," another cough, "I thought the registration would be until this evening?" I asked, deepening my voice. She looked at me with a frown and then sighed, "My friend informed me," I added.
The receiver rested her back on the chair and relaxed her posture, "Sorry, I'm just tired, you have no idea how long the line goes when there's skill pool going on." she shook her head, "Slave auction sure beats the hiring strategy."
I frowned this time. Doesn't everyone in the realm wanted this? The Conqueror had finally made a decent law regarding slavery, though it hadn't been totally eradicated, at least, people who weren't born slaves could have the chance to fight if some slavers come and take them. The idea itself was worth being crucified for , I thought. My sister Lila and I were taken once to be slaves, and I was the lucky one who got away, and that's thanks to the rebels back then.
The Dissidents , I shook my head as I reminisce time back when, when the rebels of the realm were not as aggressive or as thoughtless as the ones she know now. They loved peace, they propagated love and equality through peaceful speeches, and that's what attracted me to them, especially to their leader, Eli. After Eli died from a terrible sickness, the other leaders decided to spread out to different lands, those who stayed were the young ones who had never really seen bloodshed in their lives, who had never gone hungry or afraid, who had never feared captivity.
"So are you leaving a prospectus here?" she asked taking my mind off my musing.
"Yes," I said and handed her the prospectus I took from my satchel. I watched her unfold the scroll and read through them.
"Gabriel, you are from Potadeia?" she asked and I nodded my head. "I'm sorry about your town. It was a terrible thing, what happened there." she said looking really remorseful.
"Yes, I know."
"Well," she looked at me smiling, "Your prospectus is very well written. I'm not saying this in pity for what happened to your town, but I have been sitting here for two days reading prospectus after another, and all I get was headache, from the lack of efforts put into them, but this?" she said raising my work, "I won't be surprise if a lot of noblemen fought for you or better, the palace."
"Yes," she said nodding and smiling. "The palace' had expressed their intent on hiring a Seneschal," she frowned, "Do you have any experience in household caring?"
"Seneschal? I thought the palace hired female Seneschal only?"
"It seemed the Empress was tired of them women touch, trying a male one this time."
I nodded my head, "I am an only child," I lied, "Taking care of our little house back then was imperative. My mother was strict, twice as strict as my father."
She winced, "I can't fathom how that would be, my mother is already a monster at home, you mean double that?" we both laughed at the image.
I'm sorry mother, I don't mean to make an image of you like that... I prayed to my mother's soul.
"Very well Gabriel," she smiled, "I'll have your prospectus on priority,"
"No need to thank me, as I've said, it's very well written and if you can really do even just half of what's written in this scroll, I'd be a fulfilled recruiter."
I grinned, I do all of those and more, but you don't need to know all that, "Still, a thank you is in order." I said winking. I saw her face flushed, she nodded and then I turned and walked away.
[The Palace, three days later]
"Won't you at least look at this?" Again, my right hand asked, this time while I'm dining alone in my anteroom. Palimon once again barged in with a scowl and holding another scroll.
"What does it matter what I say?" I asked with one brow raised.
"Your say matters because you're the Empress and ruler of this realm!" Palimon said as he sat on the chair in front of my small personal dining table. I usually eat at the main palace's dining area, but when I am soaked to the bones with work, I take my break in here. "I'm buried with scrolls of possible candidates for the Seneschal position, but you seemed to want it 'male' this time, I think it's just right you share the burden of scrutinizing each and every possible candidate."
Now my two brows rose, "I didn't asked you to share the burden of running the entire realm did I?"
"No, you never ask, you command." Palimon always got the guts to throw something like that on me. I watched as he lean and help his self with the sauced chicken. He put a piece in his mouth and then licked his sauced finger , "Hm, I should ask the cook for one of this, how come you always got the best first?" he asked without minding my raised brows.
"No I don't, my taster does." I frowned, "Now, can we go back to what you want me to do so I can go back to eating in peace?'
He made a fist towards his chest where his heart lies, "You wound me Xena," he said grinning this time. "Anyway, I have reviewed along with your other advisers, scrolls after scrolls of prospectus,"
"Yes, you forgot that you actually decreed this skill pooling thing for hiring workers?"
"I hadn't forgotten it's just... there's one again already? I thought the last skill pooling was done three months ago? And again?"
"Well, decrease in number of servants increases demands for paid workers. Though most of the nobles had hired their servants who were freed for a very minimum wage," I took a deep breath.
"I've been deep in scrolls all day, every day and I didn't see that?"
"Actually, Vidalis was the one who came to you to have it signed."
"Vidalis? Why him?"
"He said being your personal advisor, he needed an assistant with very wide imagination," he said smiling. "I agreed at once, I need him out of my tail all the time." I saw his smile turn into a grin, "He seemed to have succeeded in getting your signature without you reading."
I rolled my eyes. "I hope the palace was in shape after... you know we don't have a Seneschal who'd arrange everything in order,"
Palimon shook his head, I felt dread, "It wasn't done in the palace. Elkton told Vidalis that it would be easier for all if the pool will be made outside. Vidalis thought it was a good idea and held it at the Agora." I nodded my head as I sigh of relief. Even during my warlord days, I always want my camp in order. "Anyway, because of what you've just said,"
"What did I say?"
"About being deep in scrolls, I thought of hiring this one." My right hand had put the scroll he was holding on my table. I took it, opened it and browse.
"Are you sure this is a male candidate?" I asked in bewilderment.
"Yes why, should I doubt it?"
"That's exactly why," I said before leaning forward to show the written scroll to Palimon once again, "First, this writing is too clear and pretty for a guy to write. Second, the content is stated in a very objective way which I know for a fact isn't true for male candidates...,"
I waved my hand in dismissal, "And three, this one is too good to be male, if what this one wrote here is true."
"You're in doubt?"
"Yes I am,"
"I don't see why he should fake his gender, that's deception and could be punishable by eternal grief." He said shaking his blonde head.
"Don't ask me, but this prospectus is impressive and if he could really write like this and this good with his brain, I might have the need of him," I looked ahead on the large table that serves as my working area, "I do need to go out from time to time, and I'm sick of being faced with these walls all day, every day."
"And the Seneschal?"
I frowned, "Why the hell are you so affected by having no Seneschal? Do you have Seneschal fetish?"
I heard Palimon growl, "We need one!"
"Well if he is really this good, he can double being Seneschal and personal scribe. It's not as if a Seneschal had much to do in this palace anyway."
Palimon frowned, "Oh they don't, especially if they have a ruler as pickle as you." He turned around, left through the door with a bang.
"Oh yeah and you're dismiss," I said as I wave my hand on no one.
I was pacing in front of Petricles who was watching me tiredly, "By the gods," I mumbled.
"By the gods it is," He said frowning, I stopped and looked at him,
"An Interview and in the palace? Already?!"
"Yeah, now we have a problem,"
"What problem?" I asked.
"You just cut your hair short Gabrielle, deepened the voice a little and you thought you're Gabriel already." he took the scroll he was reading just earlier, "And then you go writing like this?! Who would have believed that you're a guy?!"
"Hey that woman in the Agora believed! Rosi thought I was handsome too!"
"Rosi's our friend!"
"She'd lie of course!"
I huffed, "I could pull this one of,"
"What if they figure you out?"
"No one would, aside from the executioner who had a mask over his head, the Empress and that soldier, Joxer knew what I really looked like, besides, that was five years ago! I doubt they'll remember me!"
"You're still an escapee!"
"They all thought I was dead, I died on that cross! Your father stole my body for proper burial and that's it!"
I felt Petricles calmed down a little. "You'll still be staying in the Palace, near the empress and probably near that Joxer, they could figure you out."
"First, I doubt I'd be in the Empress presence longer than needed, I will be the new Seneschal and my duty would be to harass all the servants to do things my way, second, even if that soldier bumped into me, I don't think he'd make the connection, he's too shallow to, and third, I'm not even sure if they'll like me and hire me after the interview."
I watched Petricles nod his head, "Okay, I see your point, but... we need to do something about you... he said pointing at my body.
"What about me?"
"Your hair is growing long,"
"I like it long,"
"Not too masculine now is it?" He said rolling his eyes, "Well your body is perfect, those abs could kill,"
"Well, we'll be hiding it perfectly well anyway, and I had told Rosi we'll need her help for the disguise, she said something about making you look like a handsome, dashing, intellectual, bachelor." he grinned. "But we need to trim your hair again."
"Okay, you are beginning to convince me, keep up the good work,"
"I'm trying here Gabriel," Petricles called me in my masculine name
Petricles shove a chair my way, pushed my shoulder so I would sit and sit I did, then he stood and walked around me, "I'll trim your hair, and make you look handsome." he said grinning, before he stepped away and to his cabinet, he took out his own trimming scissor and comb, "Now, what would you have tell them if they asked about your limp?"
My face flushed, my being limp had been my weakness this last five years, it was a sore topic for me but for now, I'll give Petricles a breather, I do need to answer that."
"I got my leg broken during the attack at Potadeia that almost left me dead and orphaned."
He stopped working, "You know if you say something about being orphan, they'll ask more, like how did you survive with broken leg and all? You suck at lying remember that."
I took a deep breath, "Twisting the truth a little won't hurt,"
"So what truth?"
"A friend of my family took me in, clothed me and I repaid by working for them free."
"I see," The effeminate man said as he looked at me dashingly and smiled. I looked at myself and I too smiled. I was wearing a nice blue colored formal top that Rosi probably bargained somewhere that sells noblemen's wear, my shoes were clean and shiny, my eyes went to the small budge in front of my blue, knee high pants with white stripes on the side. I was wearing a white sock that goes to my shin. "And how did you afford to educate yourself?" he asked, that took my eyes from the said bulge.
"I studied on my own, Uncle Sentecles is a very educated man, and he loves to teach me. When he is gone for work I learn by myself." I said. I found him actually looking down at my pants and I blushed.
"You are well taken cared of then," He looked up to my eyes and smiled. "You are quite..." there was a twitch in his right eye, "...a big man," he said grinning or leering?
"Err...," Big man? I am a lilliputian compared to men surrounding this palace! What the... then I get what he meant. "Oh, heh!"
"You're hired," he said and my eyes bore surprise, so that's it, he thought I'm a big man and I'm hired? "Anyway you would have to meet with the Empress as soon as she is able, you will be doubling as her personal scribe aside from being the Seneschal of the palace." he took a deep breath, "I am in need of an assistant too but too bad the Empress had got more edge than this," he said touching his fat arms and chest before letting his hand rest on his chin, "Fruitful yet gorgeous self of mine." He took a deep breath again and stood.
"I was responsible for hiring this time, and it is my pleasure to have interviewed you." He stood and lean to whisper in my ears, "My room is exactly opposite the dressing station," and then he stood straight and said in a loud voice for everyone to hear, "Elkton, the civil advisor will meet with you for the palace tour."
By the gods... the Empress' personal scribe? I'm doomed!
To be continued...
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