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
I lowered myself in to the steaming bath water, wincing at the stinging sensation the hot water caused on the tender flesh between my legs. I squirmed a bit, trying to find a comfortable position, since the scratches raked across my backside were smarting from the heated water, too.
"Gods, this girl is simply going to be the death of me."
It was indeed a pleasurable pain as the indelible grin on my face indicated. I lay there in the warm water replaying the previous evening's events in my mind and a small shiver took my body. There was no mistaking that tremble; it was caused by the mere memory of our lovemaking last night. The grin became wider.
I cracked open one eye at the sound of movement from the other room. Sylla entered the bathing chamber, bending down repeatedly to pick up the path of discarded clothes from the tiled floor.
I see that your Gabrielle is still asleep." Sylla commented.
I raised an eyebrow, yet my eyes remained shut. "And, how do you know that?"
"Because that girl is neat as a pin. I always suspected she was trailing after you. Leave you to your own devices and it looks like a barracks full of soldiers live here." My maid grumbled good-naturedly.
I opened my eyes and couldn't stop the deep laughter that issued forth. "Sylla, if I wasn't such a slob, what ever would you do for a living?"
"Very true, Lord Conqueror, very true." She admitted, continuing to collect my laundry, placing it into a basket.
I settled back into the water, closing my eyes once more. I could sense that my maid stopped and stood, waiting at the entrance to the room. I cracked that one eye open again in question, only to see Sylla silently chuckling at me.
"What?" I asked as innocently as I could muster.
"Forgive me, Lord Conqueror, but might I suggest that people would know less about what you do in the privacy of your bedchambers, if you tried taming that smile down a bit?" Sylla said, a mischievous grin falling across her own features.
I grabbed a sponge and feigned throwing it at the younger woman. "Out!" I bellowed; chuckling as she slipped through the double doors, pulling them closed behind her.
She was right, though and I realized that I must look like that clumsy schoolboy again, grinning like an idiot. I tried, but all I could force it down to was a maddening smirk. My eyes drifted closed once more and it was a few moments before I heard the doors open again.
"Gods, woman! Did you come back to hear it from my own lips? Yes, I got laid last night!" I said in exasperation to my maid.
"Actually, I do somewhat already know that…My Lord" Gabrielle's soft, teasing voice came at me.
I jerked forward to a sitting position and turned my head to see Gabrielle standing at the head of the tub. She wore only her robe, but her hair was already brushed and pulled back from her face. I have never blushed in embarrassment, shame, or modesty, but at this very moment, I could feel my skin turning absolutely scarlet.
"I…um…I--I thought you were Sylla." I responded weakly.
"I see. I came in to see if you would care for me to scrub your back…perhaps wash your hair?"
"Yes, please," I answered, thankful that she wasn't rubbing salt in the wound of my humiliation. "I'd like that."
My beautiful young slave proceeded to wash my hair, and then she carefully lathered a sponge, preparing to scrub my back. When Gabrielle tenderly brushed my hair over one shoulder, I heard a small gasp.
"I'm sorry, forgive me, My Lord." She said with some concern.
I turned my head and followed her eyes to my shoulders and the light scratches there. Then I looked up to witness the expression of fear; no, it looked literally like terror, in Gabrielle's eyes.
"Gabrielle…little one, it's all right." I turned around and took the sponge from her grasp, grabbing her hand, and stroking the top of it with my thumb.
It took a few heartbeats for her to look into my eyes with her own hesitant gaze.
"I wear my battle scars with pride…especially these." I winked, returning the sponge to her hands, and turning my back to her once more. I knew my jest put her at ease, once I felt her hands on my skin.
We chatted about nothing in particular for a spell until I was finally able to entice Gabrielle into the bath. By the time I gave her the same treatment, she just graced me with, she turned and began to massage my neck and shoulders, carefully avoiding the scratches. It felt incredible and muscles that I hadn't used in seasons, screamed out in relief.
"Remember when I spoke to you about Petra's mother…Anya? I was wondering, My Lord…"
My senses were now on alert, but I willed the rest of my body not to betray me. I had the oddest feeling that I was being set up for something. Now, being the target of feminine wiles was not necessarily a new thing to me, but being on the receiving end, with Gabrielle as the conniver, well, that was certainly different. I smiled to myself and silently cheered the girl on. Come on, little one…let's see what you've got.
"Yes…what were you wondering Gabrielle?"
"Well…she still isn't completely healed from her recent illness and she has three small children. Petra would help more, but he is a palace messenger, and--"
"How is the boy doing, by the way?" I interrupted. I could see where this was going now. Gabrielle became friends with the boy's mother and was making a petition to keep them in the castle. Rather transparent, but Gabrielle probably didn't have much experience in strategy and subterfuge.
"Oh, Petra, he is fine and healthy, My Lord. He is a good worker and has become a favorite messenger of all in the castle. Captain Atrius says Petra has the makings of a fine soldier, perhaps even an officer."
Gabrielle continued my massage as she spoke, but one of her tidbits caught my attention, more so than the others.
"When did Atrius say this?" I questioned innocently. When in Hades had Gabrielle been speaking with the Captain of my army?
"Yesterday, My Lord, I spoke with him when he came to Anya's roo--" Gabrielle's voice froze in mid syllable.
I felt her entire body freeze, and when I turned to look at the girl's face, her hand went up to the mouth that still hung open in surprise. She immediately lowered her eyes from my gaze, a heavy silence hanging in the air between us.
"Gabrielle…" I paused, but my slave refused to raise her head. "Gabrielle, are you hiding something from me?"
"Yes, My Lord," she answered in defeat. "I've done nothing wrong, I swear, My Lord, but I promised that I--"
Again, she clamped her mouth shut, but by this time, I figured it out. One of the reasons why slaves, especially the master's body slave, had few if any friends was for this simple reason. Slaves are not allowed to keep secrets. Any person, indentured or not, knew that if they confided in the master's slave, their secret would soon be made known.
As whenever I thought back on the life my young slave has endured, my heart opened up and I felt an agonizing pain envelope my chest. I reached over and tilted the chin, watching the muscles in her jaw clench as she willed herself not to shed the tears that brimmed her eyes.
"Little one, have you made a promise to someone, to keep a confidence?" I asked knowingly.
She uncharacteristically nodded her head, seemingly unable to answer. I couldn't help but smile gently.
"Then we can't have you breaking your promises, can we? After all, how would that look…the woman that belongs to me, breaking her word? I think it might reflect poorly on me. Don't you agree?" I responded tenderly, always prudent enough not to say, my slave.
When Gabrielle finally raised her eyes to meet my own, I saw her brighten as she noticed what I'd hope she'd see there. Gods, I wonder if she knows it yet, that I would refuse her nothing.
"Thank you, My Lord," Gabrielle threw her arms around my neck, pressing our bodies together.
My own arms found their way easily around her. Eyes closing in soft delight at the way she felt against me. My eyes snapped open when I felt her lips on my neck, tongue and teeth suddenly nibbling on a sensitive earlobe.
"Oh, no you don't," I laughed, pushing her an arm's length from my body. That intensity of an inferno was once again blazing in those emerald eyes and I realized the small blonde was in a mode to thank me, as only she could do. She looked at me with a coy expression and I laughed even harder. Pulling her against me once more, I whispered into her ear.
"If I let you take me like you did last night, I won't be able to sit a saddle for a week." Then I kissed the edge of the small ear, only to feel a strong embrace from the slight woman.
When I reached in to tease the ear with another delicate kiss, Gabrielle's lilting laughter rang out, completely filling my senses. I'm not yet sure why, but her laughter acted as more of an aphrodisiac on my body, then her teasing kisses. For a brief moment, I almost said, to Hades with riding. Nothing seemed more important to me than being with Gabrielle. It was at an extremely great sacrifice, and with some incredible effort, that I pushed the girl away, all the while screaming in my head, by the Gods, take me woman!
"Out, now," I laughed again at what looked like a pout, situated on Gabrielle's face.
It was definitely true…this girl was going to be the death of me.
I finished dressing, at last pulling on my boots, while Gabrielle sat in her robe at our dining table, pouring a hot mug of tea for the both of us. We conversed a little over our morning meal. I told Gabrielle what my day held, and she explained that Anya would be giving her another sewing lesson. I completely forgot about the beginnings of our earlier conversation.
I was gulping down the rest of my tea, preparing to strap my sword into place on my hip, when Gabrielle's words filtered through.
"This will probably be the last time Anya will be able to instruct me, for a while at least. The work she does is hard, and with her still recovering from her illness…I don't want to take up her time."
"What work does she do here?" I asked, falling right into the trap without even realizing it was set for me.
"She works in the Palace laundry, My Lord." Gabrielle answered. Her face never even hinted at the fact that I was being manipulated.
"What?" I turned around to face Gabrielle. "Do you mean to tell me that the woman who apprenticed under Messalina, is working in my laundry? That's insane!" I shouted.
"Perhaps you know of something she would be better suited to, My Lord?" Gabrielle innocently asked.
"I should say so. She'd be a lot better use as my seamstress, than my laundress." I replied.
"Excellent suggestion, My Lord." Gabrielle smiled up at me.
I froze. What else could I do once I realized that I'd just been played like Terpsichore's lyre? Hera's tits, this girl is good.
I turned my back on her and walked across the room, stopping in front of a heavy marble table that I used to play King's Men on. It only came up to my knees and wasn't very large, it was square with a geometric pattern inlaid on the top. It took three men to carry the thing in here, but I rarely had anyone to play against anymore.
"Gabrielle, come here." I ordered, and the young girl was instantly at my side. Without even looking at her I gave a little defeated sigh and continued.
"Gabrielle, have you ever played King's Men before?" I asked, picking up one of the playing pieces. They were all carved from pieces of Jade, in a variety of shapes. Warriors, centaurs, and horses, they were divided into two equal sets, one in green jade, and another in lavender.
I casually examined the piece in my hand, at last looking down into my slave's confused face.
"No, My Lord." She answered.
"Tonight I will begin teaching you the moves, then we will advance to the nuances of the game. I have the oddest feeling, little one, that you will excel at it." I returned the piece to the table and stared down at the young woman, a smirk situated on my face.
"Why do you have that feeling, My Lord?"
"Because," I lowered my voice, leaning down until our noses were nearly touching, "it involves cunning and strategy, both skills I believe you possess in abundance." Saying that, I covered the remaining distance and kissed the tip of the girl's nose. I grinned down and her and Gabrielle lowered her head to hide her smile.
I tilted her head back up with the assistance of two fingers under her chin. We gazed into one another's eyes, and I wanted Gabrielle to know that she may have beaten me this time, but I knew I'd been played. Even as I searched those lush, green eyes, I believe Gabrielle understood that I knew also.
I reached over and kissed the top of that blonde head. "Gabrielle…you have indeed become a worthy adversary."
Thank the Gods; the girl at least had the decency to look up at me with an expression of chagrin.
I leaned upon the stone wall of the corridor, listening to the sounds of their laughter behind the wooden door across from me. I could have let it go, but I easily figured out the secret Gabrielle was keeping, and even though it involved a trusted friend, I didn't want anyone in my palace thinking they could be entirely free of my eyes. So, I waited patiently outside of Anya's rooms, waiting for the right moment.
Anya's daughters were becoming the darlings of the palace, to be sure. I think children have always been my weakness…well that and small blondes, I thought with a smile. Over the years, I have allowed children a liberty around me that few others have ever been granted. I chuckled softly under my breath as I remembered what happened earlier this morning.
After having left Gabrielle in my rooms, I made my way to the great public chamber within the palace. I have come to detest this place and vow that I will make more of an effort this season to change the way things look. It is the large hall, where the public gathers to see me preside over matters of the realm. The only real reason I detest the place is that it was fashioned at a time when I was rather full of myself. Everything was set up to give me the air of a mighty ruler. After twenty some seasons as Conqueror, I have learned that looks are the last thing to make a ruler powerful. Ah, why does it take age to learn these lessons?
The hall was created with a raised platform, upon which an ornately carved throne sat. In previous seasons, I enjoyed the image this created. However, on my fortieth birthday, I had the monstrosity of a chair hauled out and burned. I ordered one of the more comfortable chairs from my private chambers to be installed, nowhere near the dais, I might add, and I held court from there. It was more informal and less intimidating to the uneducated villagers who often traveled great distances to bring a petition to my attention. Nowadays, it wasn't unusual to see children racing about or hiding behind their mother's skirts. Perhaps that's why Anya's two girls slipped past the guards so easily.
Demetri, my headman, who I was watching carefully these days, was droning on and on in regards to some petition regarding a group of slaves who mutinied, aboard a vessel bound from Amphipolis to Corinth. There was an outcry from some, that the slaves were free citizens captured illegally. Knowing of Demetri's involvement here in Corinth with the unlawful traders, it didn't surprise me, when he was the one to speak for the ship owners from my home city.
My headman's eyes suddenly went wide and I was pulled from my current musing as to why I made it illegal to kill idiots like this in the first place. It seemed like it would solve so many problems. I looked down in surprise to see both of Anya's girls at my knee, smiling broadly, each tugging on a pants leg.
Silence reigned for long moments throughout the great hall and I could see that some waited in fear over what I would do next. My temper still preceded me and in all fairness, most of the public had no chance to see how I have changed in the last few seasons. Looking down at these beautiful children, however, it never even entered my head to scold them. Their trusting smiles were as much a balm to this old warrior's soul as the ones I received from Gabrielle.
"We know you." The oldest girl said, beaming up at me.
I motioned the guard away, who ran up to intervene, and scooped both girls into my lap. Poor Demetri. The look on his face, when I told him to continue, was priceless. He became so distracted by the girls who squirmed, giggled, and pointed at him, that he started to babble. As for myself, I must admit that I was surprised at my own reaction. I remember distinctly, how absolutely terrified I was at the prospect of being near these small bundles of delight the first time. Now, there was not only no fear, but I actually paid little attention as one girl tugged gently on strands of my hair, the other playing with the laces of my shirt, all the while, I was listening attentively to Demetri's monotonous diatribe regarding slavery and Greek law.
One of the girls began poking me in the ribs and hit a particularly ticklish spot, causing a burst of laughter from me, which I covered by pretending to clear my throat. I grabbed the offending hands, but now it became a game to the youngster. Quickly realizing that I was beginning to look less than regal in my current state, I brought the morning's session to a close.
"Free the slaves and send the vessel back to its owners," I interrupted.
"Lord Conqueror, surely you--"
"What part of my command aren't you clear with?" I asked Demetri, rising from my chair and silently motioning to the two girls to stay put. They both quieted instantly and sat obediently in the chair I just vacated.
"But, they're slaves, Lord Conqueror…and the ship's owners--"
"The question of their slavery appears to be in some dispute." I said abruptly, walking to stand in front of the man. I admit; I always enjoy doing this. I stood nearly a head taller than any man in my court and occasionally, physical intimidation was the only thing men like this understood. "Free each and every slave and give them ten talantons of silver from the palace coffers. Return the ship to its owners and be done with it."
"But, Lord Conqueror, surely the ship's owners deserve some recompense also." Demetri whined.
I'd already turned to go, but I moved back in front of him, to tower over the man and hissed in a low tone. "Their compensation is the fact that I am giving them their ship back and not impounding it. Plus, the fact that am not dispatching a unit of men to arrest them all as illegal slave traders."
"We are finished. I will hear more petitions this afternoon." I said, turning my back.
I walked back to the girls and quickly scooped them into my arms, carrying them from the great hall. Their giggles could be heard throughout the halls and I thoroughly enjoyed the looks of amazement that greeted me.
"Hello, Atrius," I smiled at my Captain's expression of complete surprise as he closed the door to Anya's rooms.
"Lord Conqueror," he bowed his head, a worried smile crossing his features. "So, your Gabrielle told you after all?"
"Gabrielle?" I asked in surprise, to cover for my young slave. "No, actually. You see, I always wondered why you were the first one there that night I beat that young lieutenant to a pulp. A few things began to add up and I realized that you would have had to be here for a purpose. It's not like you to wander the halls of the palace for no reason. Then it dawned on me that you certainly may have had a purpose…here in the rooms below my own."
"I certainly didn't mean to bring dishonor, to the lady Anya, or you, Lord Conqueror." Atrius said stiffly. I could see that he was wondering if he were actually in trouble or not.
I pushed myself from the wall I'd been leaning against. Slapping the soldier on the back, I laughed. "Come on, my friend. Let's have a drink, shall we?" I said, leading Atrius up the stairs, to my own study.
"So, when did all this start?" I asked Atrius, pouring the both of us a strong cup of port.
Atrius shook his head and I could sympathize completely with the look. His expression told me that he was wondering that same thing.
"I went to take Petra there after I showed him around the messenger's area that first day. I saw her there, all small and weak and…well, I don't even know how to explain what I felt."
I crossed the room and handed the Captain one of the heavy silver goblets, continuing to stand there as I thought about his answer. Yes, I understood his feelings completely. It seems the same affliction struck me down while in a castle in Ambracia, when I stood there, looking down at a small slave in her bare feet. I physically shook my head to bring myself into the present.
"So, dear Captain," I began. "Seeing as how Anya is living here under my protection, I rather consider it my duty to see that her reputation is not sullied. What are your intentions toward the woman?" I asked, but when I saw Atrius begin to bristle, I realized he didn't recognize the jest for what it was.
"I have done nothing to dishonor the woman, Lord Conqueror." He said through clenched teeth, rising out of his chair.
"Relax, my friend," I laid a hand on one shoulder and pushed him back to his seat. "I was only joking, Atrius." I grinned down at the man.
The Captain smiled at that, shaking his head back and forth. Finally, a silence hung between us and when I looked over at him, he was concentrating his gaze on me.
"You have changed much, Lord Conqueror."
"For good or ill?" I chuckled in response.
"It is good…it is very good. When I first came to know you, it was your skill as a warrior that drew me to fight by your side. After nearly twenty seasons, I have witnessed your very best, and your very worst, yet I have always been willing to die with a sword in my hand for your ideals. I was there in the days when the people called you, Lion, and I always believed in you and the reasons that you fought to keep Greece ours. I'm not a man that's above asking for a little help and I prayed to Athena, on more than one occasion, that you would one day return to the ideals of the Lion. It's good to know the Gods still listen to an old soldier's prayers." He finished and I turned toward the window to blink away sudden tears.
"I am not proud of most of my life, Atrius." I answered.
"I won't try to tell you that standing before Hades will be easy for you, when that time comes. I would like you to know that through it all, you have earned my respect as a warrior. In the last few seasons, I have seen a self awareness come over you, that is welcomed by all. I have always been proud to call you, Lord Conqueror, but it has been only recently, that I am pleased to also call you friend."
"Thank you, Atrius. That title honors me more than any other." I answered, my back still facing him.
"Tell me then, friend," I asked, changing the subject. "How do you feel about this young woman, Anya?"
"I…well, I suppose I love her." Atrius responded with some embarrassment. I understood, but who else was I to ask such a thing of?
"And, does she feel the same as you?"
"I believe so, Lord Conqueror. We've never actually said the words, but…well, you know how it is…you sort of get a feeling."
I wanted to tell Atrius that I didn't know how it was, that's why I was standing here, surely looking like an idiot, asking a soldier about love. The last thing I needed or wanted was to look a fool. I wondered if it was worth it, trying to ascertain what my feelings were for my young slave. There was no way a beautiful young girl was going to fall in love with the Conqueror of the Known World, was there? Besides, what I was feeling for Gabrielle wasn't love, was it? There would be only one way of finding out. I had to decide whether a relationship with Gabrielle, as ludicrous as that sounds, was worth a little humiliation.
I turned around and pulled a small chair in front of the seated man. I turned it around and straddled the seat, resting my arms on the chair's back, in front of me. I opened my mouth to speak, before I could turn tail and run.
"Atrius, how do you know?"
"Know, Lord Conqueror?"
"If what you're feeling…if what she's feeling…I mean, if it's really love?" It was too late to back down now, the question was out there already, and so, I looked at him with grim determination, hoping he was smart enough not to make me explain.
Finally, the light of understanding burned in his brown eyes and he nodded his head, a small smile of realization crossing his lips. "I see." He said at last. The import of the players involved, eventually getting through to him.
"It's not very easy to explain, it's the way I feel when I'm around her, but more than that, the way I feel when she's not by my side. If she's away from me, I worry for her and when she's with me, I worry I'll do something stupid in front of her. It's feeling something like pain waiting all day to see her, and then the minute I'm with her, the pain continues because I know shortly, I'll have to leave her. It's knowing, that everything she says or does, simply fascinates me. It's in the way I have to remind myself to keep breathing when she smiles at me. Most of all," Atrius finally took a breath and I noticed how his eyes took on a gentle expression as he spoke of Anya. "It's knowing that I'll probably make a complete jackass out of myself, in front of her, but that she won't notice, and if she does notice, you can rest assured she'll overlook it. I know none of this is very concrete, but the only way I know to say it, is that she completes me."
Just as he finished speaking the words that were highly uncharacteristic for the battle-hardened soldier, I heard screams followed by peals of laughter coming from outside. Rising and walking to the balcony that overlooked my gardens, I watched as Gabrielle tucked a small lap quilt around Anya's legs, the slightly older woman sitting on one of the stone benches. The young slave then turned and pounced on one of the small girls, lifting her up and twirling her own body around to giggles of delight from the tiny child.
This was the one, the smallest, that always seemed to find me, as she did yet again. Pointing a chubby finger upward to the open balcony, Gabrielle raised her eyes to meet mine. She smiled and I found myself, just as Atrius predicted, reminding myself to keep breathing. The little girl waved happily up at me and I couldn't help waving a few fingers back, freezing in mid motion to look around, self-consciously, to see who might be watching. I cleared my throat and tried to appear stern once more, but I think the females below understood that it was all bluster.
Gabrielle kissed a chubby cheek and the girl squirmed from her grasp, running off through the maze of stone paths that wound through the beautiful garden. I'm not sure if those flowers ever heard laughter before this, let alone a child's laughter. No one was ever allowed in my private gardens, but since Gabrielle had run of the area, the guards knew better than to deny her, and her new friends.
Once the small blonde released the laughing girl, Gabrielle lifted her head to look up at me again. With that one glance, everything Atrius just said made complete sense.
Is that what this feeling is, little one? Is that why I worry when you're not with me and sit, captivated, by your innocent and unintentional charm? Is it true? Am I feeling something that Xena the Conqueror thought was never meant for her?
The moment of our eye contact lasted no more than a dozen heartbeats, but it felt like an eternity to me. As I looked down into those eyes, that always seemed to hold something more than what the rest of the world saw, I realized the truth of it. Gabrielle, you complete me.
By late afternoon, my schedule of petitions for the day was exhausted, as was I. I searched for Gabrielle and when I couldn't find a trace of her, I asked one of the guards, who was stationed on this floor of the palace.
"She's helping in the school, Lord Conqueror." He answered.
"I didn't even know we had a school." I responded with some confusion.
"Well, the lady Delia started it up, Lord Conqueror, and she asked your Gabrielle to assist her."
I chuckled aloud at that bit. Gods, that's all I need, for Gabrielle to spend more time around Delia. Figures the two of them would come up with a plan like this.
Unsure as to when my young slave would find her way to me, I decided to leave her a note, and take Tenorio out for a relaxing run. I look back at my actions now and wonder. What if I decided not to leave Gabrielle a note? What would have transpired between us, if I hadn't made my way to her rooms, discovering the scroll, lying outside its case on her writing table? I ask myself that same thing over and over some days, for on this day, it became official. On this day, I lost my heart.
My name is Gabrielle. I am a slave and I belong to Xena the Conqueror…
So, the scroll started out, but I was long past that portion now. I was more than halfway through. It was a horrible thing I was doing, destroying my young slave's privacy by reading the scroll. It was rolled up tight, but was lying outside its case, as if waiting to be finished. I wanted to stop; I chided and berated myself, yet still, I could not stop reading. It was as if, Gabrielle were finally speaking to me. She was telling me her most private and intimate thoughts, and I, like the criminal I am, gave in to temptation's call.
What is it about her that causes my many fears to melt away, as the winter's ice under the heat of the midday sun? Why do I feel so much more than a mere slave when in her presence? A more apt question might be; why does she insist on me being more than a slave?
Even when I can't see her, I feel her powerful blue gaze upon me, trying to extract my secrets from their hidden recesses within my heart. She does not know what it means to be a slave, but I will not say she does not know what fear is. I, myself, thought of her as the most fearless woman I have ever known of, but on the evening she taught me to stand up for myself, I learned that not only does she know fear, but it is often her closest companion.
I could not, nor can I still, explain what it did to me that night. She gave me permission to defend myself. Has she saved me or cursed me? She has only called me her slave but once, while I was in her presence. Now she uses the words, you belong to me. I could take this admission as simply my master asserting her ownership, but I feel there is more to it. She asks me if I belong to her and I feel that she is asking me so much more than that. Often, when she asks that question, it is with a certain degree of sadness, even trepidation in her voice.
She has caused me to do something that I vowed would never happen. I promised myself, every heartbeat of every day, for nearly eleven summers, that I would not do this, yet it has happened. The unthinkable has occurred and I don't know how to undo the damage, worst of all, I do not know if I want to. She is called Xena the Conqueror, and the name is appropriate, isn't it? She's conquered me, hasn't she? She has breached the barriers I spent half my life creating, and of all the things I swore would never happen, she alone has been able to bring forth. She has caused me to feel.
My problem is, that I don't know what I feel. Is it friendship, compassion…Gods, Love? How does one recognize the difference, without ever having experienced the emotions before? Pain and humiliation have been my constant companions since I was first placed on the auction block. What does this woman know of these things, she who has never suffered the degradation of being owned like chattel? How is it then that she knows just the right thing to say to ease my constant fears? How does she know how to touch me, so that I do not simply feel her caress on my skin, rather deep in my soul?
I cannot say why or how she knows me so well at times. We are so very different, are we not? There are so many questions and so few answers. I am better educated than over half the population of this castle, yet there are so many things that I have yet to experience. I have been instructed well and my own knowledge is vast, yet I have been kept sheltered from so much. Why do I feel entirely safe in her arms? Do I fool myself when I think there may be a bond…dare I use the word affection, growing between us?
Does she know the turmoil this causes me? She who seems all knowing to me, does this woman know that I wake up in the night, to hear her whispering my name in her dreams? Does she realize when she's not looking; I gaze at her and am amazed at her beauty? Does she understand that hers is the first pleasurable touch I've ever encountered?
Last night I pleasured her for the second time, in no way that any man or woman has ever taught me. It was all instinct and something rather primal I felt locked up deep inside. It was forceful and commanding, and although I know my master's arousal was great, mine was as well. That surprised and frightened me. I touched her this way, not only because it pleased her, but also because it thrilled me. In almost eleven seasons, I have never experienced any form of release from the acts that I performed or that were committed on me. This woman, however, can whisper in my ear and I feel warmth, swirling in my belly. When she touches me, I am instantly wet and awaiting the contact that always promises that she will not stop, until I experience that release.
Last night, I was caught up in that pleasure, not only hers, but my own pleasure as well. I straddled her body, my wet center pressed against her muscled abdomen and suddenly; I felt the rocking of my own hips as they ground into her belly. I was mortified, knowing punishment would be swift, but it never came. Her large hands took hold of my hips and she actually encouraged my movements. She pulled me down, pressing my need harder against her skin, my own increasing wetness making it easier to slide myself across the hard muscles, covered with silky skin. In my head, I knew that my actions were not those of a slave, and when she began to moan and persuade me with her words, I knew those were not the actions of a master.
I leaned forward, bracing my hands on the bed and continued my body's movements, only focused on my own mounting need. Her sounds sent jolts of pleasure through me, then I felt her hands slide up my body to each enclose a breast. She pinched and pulled on the sensitive tips, causing me to begin to pound myself against her. I had absolutely no control over these actions and the feelings terrified and gratified at the same time. When I, at last, leaned back, silently screaming in release, I felt those long fingers slip inside me. Before my body could recover, she was producing the sensations again and again. Her voice…Gods, that voice. She sat up and wrapped one arm around me, the other continuing to fill me, repeatedly. She spoke to me, in that low, seductive tone, telling me all she would do to me, all she wanted of me. They were sweet, sensual, sometimes vulgar words, but the sound, combined with the idea that she might make them a reality, propelled me over a cliff that I thought I would surely, never come back from. All I could think of, as we lay together much later, was that these were not the actions of a master and her slave, rather, two lovers.
One night I woke up, terrified and screaming, from a nightmare that I hadn't suffered from for many seasons. The large woman took me in her arms and looked genuinely distressed; thinking something she'd done, triggered the unsettling vision. She held me close and whispered tender words until I felt my heart resume its normal cadence. It was at that moment I knew. Again, it is not something I can explain logically, only a feeling that I have. I knew on that evening, that she would do anything for me. She would go hungry, to see that I was fed, suffer any cold, to keep me warm. It struck me also, that she would feel the sting of a blade, before she would ever let harm come to me. The other feeling that I endure is that she doesn't know why she feels the same things. I wonder however, does she feel it too? Does she know?
Yet still, knowing is not understanding. What will come of me if I am wrong?
When I realized I was having trouble reading because of the lack of light, I looked up in alarm at the setting sun. Quickly replacing the scroll on the desk, in exactly the same order as I found it, I quietly made my way to my own chambers. All the while, my hands nearly shaking at the discoveries I made.
If I hadn't been quite so preoccupied with my own thoughts, I might not have missed the small blonde who sat tucked into an alcove on the stone staircase. Nor would I have missed, what I was only to discover much later in our relationship. Had I been a small fly on the wall, I could have watched as Gabrielle silently entered her own rooms, lit a candle, and then walked directly to her writing table. A gentle smiled graced her features as she lifted the scroll up to the candlelight. Returning the parchment to her desk, she plucked a long golden hair from her own head. Carefully the young woman wrapped it around the scroll once more. Right before she blew out the candle, a look that seemed a combination of fear, tinged with excited expectation, crossed her face. Taking a determined sigh, the young woman left the room, to gently tap on the door across the hall.
To be continued in