DISCLAIMER: Xena, Gabrielle, Argo, etc. are ©copyright MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. I don't own them, I just play with them for a while and, like the good girl I am, I put them back when I'm done…okay, they get a little worn, but hey…I play hard! Absolutely no Copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fiction. It's intended as flattery toward the creators, writers, and actors of the characters. All other characters that appear are ©copyright Devlin@xenafan.com. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies may be made for private use only and I'd appreciate if you included all copyright notices and this disclaimer.
VIOLENCE WARNING: There is violence (come on it's the Conqueror). The nature of the story is not nearly as dark as some Conqueror fiction, but it's essence is still the slave / master relationship that exists between Xena & Gabrielle.
TIMELINE: My own making. Xena is the Lord, Conqueror of Greece, but she is almost forty-five years old when she meets the slave, Gabrielle. Many of Xena's evil ways have been sedated, but not all. I call this Xena the "thinking woman's" Conqueror. She is a woman who wants to try to do the right thing, but doesn't always know how.
SEX: Yes, I'll have some, thank you. Ooops! I mean, yes there is. It is our favorite two Soulmates, after all. It's not gratuitous, but it is quite explicit when it gets going. This story shows consensual as well as non-consenting love (master/slave), sex and yes, even some light bdsm between two adult females.
HIGH ANGST WARNING: I was threatened within an inch of my life if I didn't start putting this disclaimer on some (all?) of my work. I will henceforth rate the angst content with sad faces, one being the lowest and four being the highest. This story earns: L L (2 sad faces for those without TT Fonts)
UNDERAGE WARNING: Hey, the Supreme Court said in Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union (1997) that laws against making available, online, certain "indecent" materials for those under 18 was unconstitutional…look it up! Besides, this is perfectly "decent." J
I only know how others feel about my stories from feedback. Let me know what you think...homophobes need not apply, however. I'm at: Devlin@xenafan.com
**Special thanks to Jim Kuntz for his permission in using any Lion of Amphipolis references.
The Conqueror Series
Tale One: Journey's End
By LJ Maas
"What did you spend your afternoon doing, little one?" I asked Gabrielle as we took our evening meal together.
It was a fortnight ago that my young slave turned a corner in her life. It was evident in the way Gabrielle talked, walked, and even held herself. I'm sure she didn't even notice the changes that were taking place, but my eyes took it all in. She smiled a lot more and sometimes, I think, she even forgot it was me she was chatting to. She told me of her day and I sat there, an elbow leaning on the table, my chin resting within the palm of my hand. Somehow fascinated, by every damn word the girl uttered.
Gabrielle's newfound confidence put many of my own fears at ease. I no longer worried quite as much when she was away from me, knowing that she now possessed enough attitude, to keep her slightly out of harm's way. Her days, it seems, were spent filling the scrolls I purchased for her, I know she spent time everyday with Delia, and once I even saw her laughing with my maid, Sylla, on their way to the market.
As ruler, my own time was not my own very often, but when I did take time away from the business of running the lands in my care, I spent that time with this young woman. Occasionally, I gave permission for Gabrielle to come down to the practice fields, to watch as I worked out. For some reason, unknown to me, she enjoyed sitting atop one of the low, stone walls that surrounded the sparring area, watching as I exchanged blows with a variety of weapons, against my soldiers. I rarely allowed the young woman to be there, yet she never pleaded to come. She simply smiled and nodded enthusiastically when I asked her if she would like to join me. I admit there were two reasons for my hesitation in bringing my slave down there. The obvious was my concern with a pretty girl being in sight of my men, especially my pretty girl. I've lived with or around soldiers nearly all my life and on the whole, they're a pretty loutish bunch. I didn't see the need to put Gabrielle through any undue humiliation, nor did I desire to put myself in the position where I would be compelled to kill a man for a leer or a whistle. I knew how jealous I could become and how unreasonable my temper could be. Why play with fire?
The second reason was more of a personal problem on my part. It was, very simply speaking, disconcerting to see Gabrielle, watching with rapt fascination, as I practiced and demonstrated my fighting skills against young men barely half my age. In the heart of this very large woman, this Conqueror, there resided a mass of insecurities, especially when it came to Gabrielle. The truth is, I was never quite certain as to whether the young woman wished to watch me, or the young men I pummeled.
"Wait…back up. Who is Anya?" I asked.
I had the unnerving ability, to some, to let my mind wander, but still hear everything going on around me. Gabrielle moved to the bed in the middle of our conversation, and when I looked up again she had her legs drawn up into a casual position against her chest, her back leaning against the carved wooden headboard. She was telling me of a woman she was becoming friends with, yet I knew no one in the castle by that name.
"She is Petra's mother, My Lord. Remember the boy you--"
"Oh, yes, yes. She's well then?" I asked, remembering how frail and ill she looked when Kuros led me to the rooms within the palace, that he appointed for the woman and her children.
"Very well, My Lord. She's teaching me how to sew and create the most amazing things with cloth. Do you know she was apprenticed to a famous seamstress in Athens before she married?"
"Indeed?" I answered seriously, indulging my slave. "And, who was this famous seamstress?"
"Messalina." Gabrielle said with some excitement.
I sat up in my chair a little straighter. "She studied this craft under Messalina?" I asked.
"Yes, My Lord. Do you know of this famous woman?"
"Yes." I answered distractedly, remembering a time when the woman known only as Messalina, designed all the silk robes I wore.
I looked up and Gabrielle was watching me patiently, perhaps waiting for me to explain. Since I already answered in the affirmative, how could I not explain myself?
"When I was a much younger woman, before you were even born, I first became known as the Xena the Conqueror. I conquered all of Greece, the Roman Empire, the Far East, Gaul, and set up my Palace here, in Corinth. Messalina was perhaps the age you are now, but even then," I shook my head and smiled, "she was truly gifted."
I paused and took a sip of water, remembering the young woman and the heavy brocades she created for me to wear in public, reminiscent of the flowing robes I became accustomed to wearing from my time in Chin. Back then; that land influenced everything in my life, too bad I didn't study their principles more. I had only to describe my preferences to her once, and soon after the girl literally created the style of clothing, I would wear for the next twenty seasons.
"She designed all the clothing I wore then. There wasn't much kindness in me then, but I remember being kind to her. I think I admired her talent. She was like Delia, though not quite as forward about it. She never thought twice about telling me when my clothing designs were outlandishly tasteless or downright ugly. The way she looked at me sometimes…it's the same way you look at me." I let a small bittersweet smile cross my lips at the memory.
"Did you love her?" Gabrielle's soft, questioning voice cut through my reminiscing.
I looked up at her and I saw something in her eye that wasn't there yesterday. It looked a bit like jealousy, but when I blinked, it was replaced with that same expression of compassion Gabrielle always held, when she gazed at me. Gabrielle was young; too young to know more about me than what legend told, but it was time she knew what I was. I rose from my chair and crossed the room to sit beside the young woman, seated on the large bed.
Taking one of her small hands in my own much larger one, I began to speak. "There was no love in me or for me, back then, Gabrielle. I killed and I raped, and I took, all for one reason, and that's because I could, because I was strong and others were weak. My life was about power and control, because I thought that whoever had that, had everything."
I lowered my head as I continued speaking and my dark hair surrounded me like the hood of a cloak, making it easier to share the awful truth of my existence, to the young woman before me.
"The things that I've done, Gabrielle…what I have been…it sickens me and I know now that there really is no amount of good that I can do, that can possibly atone for my acts. It's true what they say about me, you know. Perhaps you shouldn't be nice to me, Gabrielle…I am evil."
I wasn't looking for pity or even compassion, although I believe I received both from my young slave. I simply told her, in the fewest words possible, who I was. I wondered at my actions. In those long heartbeats between the time my voice ended and Gabrielle's next movement, a quick bit of introspection caused me to ask myself…why, just when I've drawn her closer, am I trying to push her away? Why am I trying to frighten her out of caring for me?
I could only hope that someday I would find the answers to those questions. I felt the smoothness of Gabrielle's fingertips under my chin, and as I've done with her a hundred times, I felt my face tilted up until I was looking into an expression that could surely melt, even the hardest of hearts.
"I have read many things, My Lord, about this woman, Xena the Conqueror. The scrolls are filled with her history, her stories of war, as well as her proclivities. I know I'm young, but I understand more than you think. I know of Xena the Conqueror, but I do not know her. That Xena is not the woman before me, and she is certainly not the Xena to whom I belong."
I'm not sure why I did it; only that it seemed natural to do. I lay my head down in her lap, stretching the length of my body out on the mattress, one arm wrapped tightly around her waist. Gabrielle rubbed my back, in small soothing circles, while caressing my temple with the fingertips of her free hand. It was that insecurity-ridden woman that spoke next.
"Do you belong to me, Gabrielle?"
My eyes were closed tight against the respectful silence I was sure I would hear. Why couldn't I leave well enough alone, why did I have to push the issue? I felt silky tresses surround me as Gabrielle placed a feather light kiss upon my ear. I tried to hold back, without success, the hot tears that leaked from the corners of my closed eyes.
"Yes, My Lord…only you." Gabrielle's warm breath responded in my ear.
I wrapped both arms around her waist and squeezed. My heart couldn't decide whether it should be grateful or terrified. It decided to choose both. It felt so right to be lying here with Gabrielle this way, not worrying about whether I should be in control of my emotions, not caring how it might look to anyone else. It also felt very natural allowing someone…no, not just someone. It felt very natural allowing Gabrielle, to care for me. As ruler and warrior, I was never allowed to look weak or foolish, but in Gabrielle's presence, I'm positive I looked both, but sure, to her anyway, that I appeared neither.
I felt a heavy comforter being pulled over me, and the soft warm presence of another, wrapping their arms tightly around my shoulders. I moaned and pushed into the embrace further. A loud rapping on the outer door to my chambers interrupted my pleasant state. I growled, knowing I would have to leave this comfortable sanctuary.
"Shall I, My Lord?" Gabrielle asked.
"Mmmm," I murmured. "Get rid of whoever it is, please, Gabrielle, I don't want to see anyone till morning."
I rolled on to my back, immediately missing the soft body that silently rose from the bed. If I had been more awake, I might not have thought it merely a pleasant dream, when smooth lips were pressed delicately against my forehead, before moving away.
A male voice in my outer room instantly brought me awake. Gods, I slept so soundly when I was beside Gabrielle, it frightened me. I suddenly remembered that only moments ago I asked Gabrielle to answer the door. I rolled to the end of the bed, standing and grumbling under my breath once I discovered the male voice belonged to the scum, Demetri. The exchange between Gabrielle and my headman was muffled, but suddenly their voices became clear as they moved directly in front of the door to my bedchamber. I sat back down on the mattress, listening to the more than surprising exchange.
"Move aside slave, or I'll move you myself." Demetri growled.
I silently swore to myself that if the man laid a single hand on her, a slow crucifixion would be too good an end for him.
"I cannot, Lord Demetri." Gabrielle's voice suddenly came closer and I realized she must have stepped in front of the door, to block the man's way.
"You little bitch. You know if I have to move you out of the way, you won't be happy about it." Demetri hissed.
I practically applauded Gabrielle's next words, even though every muscle in my body was poised to intervene should things get out of hand.
"Lord Demetri, the Lord Conqueror has given me orders that she not be disturbed. If her wishes are not obeyed, then I will be punished for certain, but I expect worse will befall the person who actually does the disturbing."
I almost laughed aloud. I could just imagine what Gabrielle looked like, delivering those words filled with caution and innuendo. Her brazenness surprised me more every day, and my mind's eye conjured up a vision of the tiniest smirk on her lips, along with the ever so slight arch to her eyebrow. Gods, this woman was no idiot!
I walked to the door and heard only silence as Demetri was obviously contemplating the words, Conqueror and disturbing, and weighing his chances. I grinned to myself, and then fixed a fierce scowl onto my face. I grabbed the door and pulled it open so swiftly that Gabrielle, who was leaning with her back upon the heavy wood, flew into my arms.
The small blonde was surprised and momentarily lost until she realized it was I behind her. The look on my face caused Demetri to take a full two steps, backward. I held Gabrielle's back against me snugly with one arm wrapped around her waist. Demetri looked rather relieved and opened his mouth to speak.
"Lord Conqueror, I--"
"Good night, Demetri!" I slammed the door in his face, leaving him still standing there, stammering, for a few heartbeats. Eventually his footsteps walked away and the outer door to my rooms slammed shut.
"Oh, that was worth the price of admission!" I laughed, falling back against the door and wrapping Gabrielle in my arms, kissing the top of her blonde head.
"Was that…was it all right to do that?" Gabrielle asked, her cheek pressed against my chest.
"That was very all right, little one, I'm very pleased." I replied and I could feel the tension leave the young woman's body.
I moved to open the door and peered out into the room before deeming it safe to enter. I crossed the room and grabbed up a flasco of wine, pouring a large cup. I stopped and lifted the container in Gabrielle's direction.
"Gabrielle, have you ever tasted wine?"
"No, My Lord."
She answered as I expected, for few masters would ever give good drink to a slave, it would be considered a waste.
"Would you like to…hmmm, try some?" I asked.
"I'm not sure, My Lord. If it would please you." She answered.
"The point is; would it please you?" I responded, and we seemed to be at an impasse. We both stood there, seemingly unable to release one another from the tender gaze.
I pulled away first and poured a small bit of the red liquid into a heavy metal cup, then added a good deal of water. I figured that never having tasted the brew before, along with her slight build, watering the drink down would be the best way to initiate my young slave to the grape.
I handed Gabrielle the cup and waited until she took a sip first. Her nose crinkled up and she smiled slightly. "Sweet." She commented. "It's like juice…in a way."
I lifted my own cup to my lips, but stopped short. I paused momentarily and raised the cup a bit further in salute. "I drink a toast to you, Gabrielle. You have pleased me greatly today."
Her blonde head lowered slightly. "Is it because of what I did with Lord, Demetri? Is that why you're pleased, My Lord?"
I took a large swallow of my wine, then another before answering. Setting my cup on the side bar, I leaned against, I pushed off and walked toward the open window, the stars shimmering and suspended in the black sky. I wanted to say so much, yet as always in my life, words deserted me when I needed them the most. I made an attempt to say what was in my heart, but I was still so far from being able to put a voice to all that I felt there.
"I guess I just like knowing that you can take care of yourself." I said with my back still facing her, realizing how very weak that sounded.
"I am a slave My Lord, I'm not sure everyone will accept aggression coming from me."
I turned to look at her and I noted her furrowed brow. "Gabrielle, there is a enormous difference between being aggressive and being assertive. I don't see you as becoming an aggressive woman, it just doesn't seem to be in you." I looked across the room and paused, but Gabrielle looked just as confused as before.
"Gabrielle, if I taught you to use a weapon, if you were able to become skilled with it, would you use it to kill?"
"I--I don't know if I could ever do that, My Lord." Gabrielle answered, disappointment evident in her voice.
"And, I wouldn't expect you to be able to. Like I said, it's not in you. But you might defend yourself with this weapon, mightn't you?"
"Yes, perhaps," she responded hesitantly. "Yes, I think I could protect myself, or someone I cared for."
"Then you have just learned the difference between aggression and assertion. If the first were true about you, you would be able to attack someone. If it is the latter…well, being assertive means defending one's self, little one. That's what I want you to learn to do. It will help me not to worry so much when you are away from me." I answered, but as the words slipped off my tongue, I realized what I'd said, and how easily I said it.
Did I actually just admit that I worried about her? Me…Xena the Conqueror? I could feel my ears growing hotter, and that's never a good thing for a warrior. I watched as the crease in my slave's brow eased and suddenly I saw something that could only be described as mirth; enter Gabrielle's forest green eyes. I folded my arms across my chest, shifting my weight to one foot, as I tried to appear casual. When Gabrielle took a few steps forward, her facial muscles quite obviously straining to hold back a smile, I turned slightly and began examining the hanging tapestry on the wall. Mind you, that tapestry has hung against this wall for nearly 12 seasons, but suddenly, it became the most fascinating object in the room.
"My Lord…you…worry? About me?" Gabrielle said, I must admit way too merrily for me. Gods, I think it may have been a colossal mistake, giving this woman power!
"Well…" I paused, still fingering the tapestry, knowing that if I made eye contact with the small blonde I was done for.
I knew that if I allowed myself to be caught in that gaze, filled with a combination of compassion and seduction, I would fall on my knees and promise her anything. I would end up flat on my back in some sort of submissive posture, allowing my young slave to take me as if our stations in life were reversed. I would do the one thing I swore to myself I would never do again…I would beg. Gabrielle would use her talented body and my own weakness to take control, and I would end up begging for her divine touch like a pup begs for dinner scraps, whining and whimpering my need until my master would take pity and satisfy me.
"Is it true? Do you worry for me…" Gabrielle paused momentarily.
All right, I won't look at her. I will not give in; I continued to think to myself, unconsciously pulling threads from the priceless piece of heavy fabric. I can be strong. I can be articulate. I'm the Conqueror of practically the whole Gods be damned world!
"…Xena?" Gabrielle finished.
Then I looked. Hades!
I fell into the eyes, which displayed a temperament and an attitude that I helped put there. My heart stopped as my libido soared, and I realized that I created this. Somewhere along the line, I took a small, frightened lamb, and turned her into a ravenous wolf.
"Do you, Xena?" Gabrielle repeated the question, tilting her head slightly in the most charming manner. She stopped in front of me, her body so close, we were almost pressed against one another.
"Um…I…sometimes." Gods, how pathetic!
I froze as I watched her capture my attention with no more than a commanding look. Gabrielle smiled at me. Not the feral grin I expected from such a capable huntress, but an innocent smile, laced with sweetness, the kind that can capture an old warrior's heart, and within a candlemark, have her begging for mercy.
My young slave raised herself up on her toes, sliding her body along my own. She reached up, and almost shyly, placed the most gentle of all kisses on my cheek. It was so light and delicate, it felt like the beat of a butterfly's wings against my flushed skin. I felt those ears that grew warm earlier, burning like flames now. I could do no more than look down on her, a sheepish expression on my face.
Gabrielle slipped one small hand within my own and began to walk toward the bedchamber. As she drew me through the door, I suddenly remembered a phrase I'd read. It said something to the effect of…
be careful what you wish for…