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
For the first time in ten seasons, Sylla did not rouse me in the morning, and for the first time in as many seasons; I did not awaken before dawn. When I finally shook away the slumber that held me in its tenuous grasp, I lay, staring up at the high ceiling above. Even though the tapestries still covered the windows, I could see by the light peering in through the edges of the heavy drapery, that it was late in the morning. The next thing I felt was the heartbeat, which I could feel pulsing against my chest. It wasn't my own heartbeat, rather the small blonde, whose body was draped across my own. What a downright pleasurable way to wake up, I thought to myself.
I smiled, a broad, lazy kind of grin as I listened to the gentle snores coming from Gabrielle as she slept. Gods, whoever thought that I might possibly find something like that endearing? My young slave slept heavily, something she didn't normally do, but I'm sure the circumstances of last evening, and morning, were the cause. I gently extricated myself and rolled Gabrielle to her side, a soft murmur of protest escaping her as she slept. I rose and pushed the still warm pillow my head so recently rested on, into her arms. Again, a soft moan, but this time the words were audible and they stole my breath away.
"Mmmm, Xena," she whispered faintly.
I kissed her forehead and quickly pulled the same clothes on from yesterday. Running long fingers through my hair, I assumed I was at least presentable enough to wander down to the kitchens. I was actually hungry for once, but I was more concerned over why Sylla hadn't been there this morning to wake me.
I dodged a few scullery maids, their arms overloaded with dishes, and when I held the door open for the smallest of the three, she looked up at me as though I were an apparition. Hades, a look like that could really take the wind out of one's sails.
"It's all right, girl, go on." I forced myself to say gently.
"Many thanks, Lord Conqueror," she returned, rushing backwards through the door. Her eyes never left mine. I couldn't tell if she was in such a hurry because of the load in her arms or if she just wanted to be away from me.
I realized that although I hadn't assaulted a woman in almost five seasons, my reputation still went before me. It probably didn't help that I became such a monarch, that I not only never visited certain portions of the castle, but that I rarely recognized whether someone worked for me or not. I barely knew a soul in my own home. The thought made me determined to change that. I wasn't sure how, but I would try. I would ask Gabrielle. Now that's a thought that simply slipped out. Asking my slave for advice on how to rule? No, I answered my own question; ask her how to learn about people. Gabrielle seemed to know a lot about people, seemed to understand them, and the feelings that drove them.
Walking into the small, private kitchen that was Delia's domain, I was happy to see the older woman, hard at work kneading dough on a large stone slab.
"Well, well, good morning, Lord Conqueror, how are you today." She said to me, brushing a stray lock of hair away from her face with her forearm, her hands covered in flour.
"Is Sylla Ill?" I asked quickly.
She looked at me with a tired smile and shook her head back and forth.
"Good morning, Delia, I'm right as rain, and yourself?" The woman said, talking to the air.
I couldn't keep from grinning, like a child who'd been caught stealing an extra sweet cake from the tray. "Sorry. Good morning, Delia. I'm fine, thanks."
"Wonderful to hear." She continued on with her kneading, slapping the mixture with more flour. "I take it you've finally come down because you're hungry?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact. Why didn't Sylla wake me? Is she all right?"
"Sylla's fine, no need to worry." She answered.
"Gods, I didn't forget her birthday or something, did I?" I suddenly searched my brain and though Sylla celebrated something closer to the summer solstice.
"No, she is not ill, nor did you forget her birthday. I told her not to wake you this morning."
"You?" I replied in confusion. "I don't understand."
"Sylla came down as usual for your breakfast and said you were still asleep. She also said something about the cute picture you made--"
"Tell me my maid didn't call me cute." I simply glared.
"No," Delia laughed, "I threw that part in."
"That much is believable…go on, after the cute part." I admonished.
"Well, she thought it odd that you were still sound asleep after the sun was up, then one of the guards told her the candles were blazing in your rooms till the sun rose. I was the one that told her to leave you be. Figure you and your Gabrielle must have had a long night." She turned and winked at me.
The look on my face must have told her something, for she furrowed her brow in concern.
"Sit down, Xena, you look more than tired." She said, pushing me onto the high stool that always sat next to the fire. "Are you ill yourself? Is Gabrielle all right?"
"I'm not sure we are. I know for certain I'm not all right." I answered.
Delia rinsed her hands and poured me a cup of tea, wrapping my fingers around the mug, seating herself in front of me. "Drink this, it will make you feel better." Something about that gesture was very mother-like and I could feel myself responding to the affection.
I enjoyed the mint taste to the beverage and soon found myself relating everything that happened the previous evening. It all came tumbling out in such a jumbled mess, what actually happened, interspersed with the feelings I had for my young slave, that by the time I was finished, I was sure Delia wouldn't have a clue, as to what was going on.
When I looked up from my mug, I saw her smiling.
"Xena," she said softly, "there's no need to make so much of it. You're in love, that's all."
I just stared at her.
Was that the confirmation I was waiting for or the fact I was desperately trying to deny? I ran my fingers through my hair, rising and pacing in an agitated state.
"Delia, masters don't fall in love with their slaves." I said flatly.
"Well, you do have a point there. That is easily fixed however." She reasoned.
I refused to answer, even though I could literally feel the weight of her stare, waiting expectantly for an answer. I continued my pacing until I heard her sigh.
"You do plan on fixing that, don't you, Xena?"
To hear Delia use my given name, well it always seemed to level the sparring field a little bit more between us. Actually, it more than leveled it. The older woman only used it on occasion, but she seemed older than the ten summers she had over me. I suppose it was always her motherly manner that caused me to feel this way. Now, more than ever, I saw the elder in her come out. She was asking me if I planned to give Gabrielle her freedom. I could no more hide the truth from Delia than I could from myself.
"If I free her…she'll leave." I said hesitantly.
"Why would you think that?" She responded.
"Why?" I repeated, resuming my pacing again, a burning sensation building in the pit of my stomach. "Even you wouldn't stay with someone like me if you had a choice, no woman would." I shouted.
"I would if I was in love with you." She replied softly. "Gabrielle is just as in love with you, as you are with her."
I stopped all movement and kept asking myself the same thing. With my back to the older woman, I'm sure I sounded like a small, frightened child; Gods know I certainly felt like one.
"Do you really believe that, Delia?" I asked.
"Xena, sit down here." She motioned me back onto the stool. "Now look me in the eye and tell me you don't feel it. Blessed Athena, you sleep with the woman. When she touches you, doesn't it feel different than any other's touch that you've ever experienced?"
"For me, but how do I know Gabrielle feels the same?"
"I thought you said that you told her and she told you?" Delia threw back at me. I could see that I was confusing the woman.
"Well…we kind of did…in a way…"
Xena, did you or did you not, tell the girl you loved her?"
"I…well…not in those exact words…"
"In what words…exactly?" Delia asked, now crossing her arms across her chest.
"Well…I told her that I felt…more." I replied. I was beginning to feel like that idiotic schoolboy again.
"More of what?"
"Just…more." I finished without meeting her eyes.
"And what did she say to that?" Delia asked. I'm sure at this point; she was amazed that I'd been taking care of myself for forty-four seasons so far without incident.
"She said she felt more, too."
Delia put her head in her hands and I couldn't tell if she was laughing or crying. I jumped up from the stool to resume my agitated motion. I was embarrassed and aggravated at trying to make the woman understand.
"I can't do any better than that!" I nearly shouted. "I--" Stopping in mid sentence, I honestly thought I might start crying out of frustration. Oh sure, now the tears come! I lowered my head, my hands on my hips, and in a broken voice, tried to continue. "I can't…I don't know…"
"You don't know how…what to say to her?" Delia asked in an understanding voice.
I returned to my seat and sunk down heavily. All I could do was nod my head in response. "I should know." I eventually answered.
Delia did something I never expected from the older woman. She took my hands in her own small, plump ones and squeezed them gently until I lifted my face to meet her eyes.
"Xena, how could you be expected to know? You've never felt this way before, never had anyone to teach you, or tell you. You're too hard on yourself. It's understandable that when you have no one around to teach you how to love, you're not going to get the example and the education that most do." She finished.
"That's my own doing too. I spent my whole life--"
"Do not even go there, my friend." Delia chastised. "Do you really want to play the pity game? Okay, you spent your whole life what? Let's see, murdering, raping, beating, stealing…right?"
I looked up at her with a wry grin. I swear, that only Delia and Gabrielle have the ability to make me feel this way.
"Yes, thank you, I feel so much better." I answered.
Delia chuckled and squeezed my hands lightly. "Xena, telling Gabrielle that you love her can be the easiest thing in the world. All you have to do is quit analyzing everything so much and look inside your heart. Look there and tell her what you feel, what you see between the two of you."
"When I try to do that my brain freezes up and my tongue feels the size of a small boulder." I admitted. "I'll sound like an idiot."
"True, it may sound a little strange to your ears, and you may stammer a bit, but I assure you, when you pledge your love, it may sound like Xena the Conqueror speaking to you, but Gabrielle will hear only the lyric love poetry of Ibycus." Delia reassured me.
"And if she doesn't feel the same way as I?" I asked at last.
"Therein lies the question that has driven more lovers mad than all else. All I can tell you there, Xena, is that the truth of love can be a powerful weapon. You above all others should know the value in a good weapon. It has the power to save or destroy; it all depends upon how you wield it. Occasionally, a rare few of us get to a place in our lives where we find something worth risking everything for. You alone decide; whether loving Gabrielle will be the object, you roll the dice for.
"And if she asks that I free her?" I asked, already knowing, in my heart, Delia's answer.
"That, Lord Conqueror, will be a decision that you will have to make alone. I'll only add that you can't really start an equal relationship, based on an inequality. Can you?"
I smiled sadly, now thinking of all Gabrielle and I had to talk of. My thoughts of Gabrielle pulled me in another direction.
"Hades!" I stood up quickly. "I was supposed to bring breakfast back up for Gabrielle."
"Good Gods, with the way that girl eats and you haven't fed her yet? Better make it lunch." Delia replied, suddenly bustling around the small room, loading a tray with food.
As I was leaving the kitchen, my arms laden with a silver tray, stacked with food and drink, I paused and turned back.
"Thank you, my friend. I wonder if Galen ever knew how lucky of a man he was, to have found you." I said to Delia.
"You are quite welcome, Lord Conqueror." She said, turning her back on me to face the fire. "I miss that old soldier." She added softly as I left through the door.
I tried to get through the door to my outer chamber quietly, with little success, one of the silver plates crashing loudly to the floor.
Gabrielle jumped up from the cushions she sat upon by the open balcony door.
"Hi, I thought you might be as hungry as me, so I brought back lunch." I explained, grinning awkwardly at my own clumsiness.
"I thought…" Gabrielle trailed the thought off and I heard the note of apprehension in her voice, taking in the strained expression on her face.
"Oh, Gabrielle, no…I just went to get us some food." I clarified, setting the tray on the table.
I pulled her into an embrace and held her, resting my chin on the top of her head. I tilted her face until I could see the sparkling, emerald eyes, and reached down to kiss her. I tried to ease her fears and convince her I was sincere with that kiss.
"Believe me?" I asked, pulling away to look down on her.
Her flushed cheeks caused me to smile and she nodded her head.
She nodded her head even more enthusiastically and we pulled apart to sit at the table.
We ate in odd periods of silence. One of us would say something mindless, such as commenting on the weather, and then we would make a few remarks about said topic, eventually graduating to a awkward silence once again. I could only guess that we both had the same things on our minds. We finally finished our meal, and I could make no other excuses, could no longer put off the inevitable. It was time for me to do something that I avoided like swamp fever, for nearly forty-five seasons. I was about to open my heart and speak.
We each said in unison.
"Gabrielle, I would think, given our circumstances, that you might want to call me Xena, all of the time. I mean, at least while we're alone. It probably wouldn't look good outside…" I quickly added the last, not quite ready to be called that in front of my men.
"I didn't know if you…are you sure?" she asked.
"Yes, I'm sure." I answered with a nervous smile. "Did you have something you wanted to say?"
"Please, you go first." She replied.
"Huh?" I was caught a little off guard, thinking I might formulate my thoughts while Gabrielle spoke. Now, the lamplight was shining brightly on me.
"You said you had something to say?" Gabrielle gently prodded.
"Yes…yes I did." My palms began to sweat and I wondered why someone, somewhere, never came up with a plan to create an army of young women like this. They take your breath, your thoughts, and all physical movement, and make it nearly impossible for you to perform any of the aforementioned activities. They would be unstoppable, and I was making a mental note to ask someone about this plan, when Gabrielle brought me out of my nonsensical thoughts.
"Oh, yes…well I…Gabrielle I--" I was reprieved by a knock on the outer door. "I'll just see who that is," I said, rising quickly and crossing the room.
It turned out to be Sylla, come for the dirty dishes. The girl was faster than I thought she would be and moments later I was pacing the room, determined to at least give Gabrielle an inkling of what I felt for her.
"Gabrielle…" I started again, for perhaps the fifth time, slowly backing myself up until I felt the wall against my back.
Gabrielle sat, very patiently, I might add, a perplexed sort of expression on her face. I began nervously fingering that same tapestry, hanging on the wall. Gods, the thing was going to be threadbare before winter if I kept on like this. I nearly slapped my own hand to stop the fidgety gesture of pulling on the loose threads.
"Gabrielle…I have something to tell you. It's…well, it about the way I--" A louder pounding at the door this time.
"Hera's tits!" I exclaimed and Gabrielle released a small giggle.
"I'll get it this time." She said.
When Gabrielle returned, my guard, Nicos, was with her.
"Forgive the intrusion, Lord Conqueror, but you said that I should report to you immediately upon my return. I have the information you requested." Nicos said, standing at attention the entire time.
"Did you bring them with you?" I asked cryptically.
"Aye, Lord Conqueror." Nicos replied with a sly smile. "Captain Atrius is with them at this moment. He awaits your orders."
"Outstanding, Nicos, good man. Tell the Captain I'll be down directly, then go get yourself some food and rest." I clapped the soldier's one arm within my own warrior's embrace, and could feel the man stand a little taller, pride having been in short commodity for him the last few seasons.
After Nicos left, I entered my bedchamber. I flipped open the chest and drew my weapons from their customary place, fixing them in the appropriate places. Looking up, I suddenly saw Gabrielle, studying me in quiet contemplation. Hades, I forgot something, didn't I?
"Gabrielle, I do have something important to talk with you about, but this is something that must be handled immediately. Do you understand?"
She smiled and I felt instantaneous relief.
"Yes, Xena, I understand perfectly."
"I have no earthly idea when I'll be through. You don't have to stay here and wait, though." I put my arm about her shoulders, as she slipped her own around my waist, and we walked to the door. The gesture was completely involuntary and seemed so effortless.
"Perhaps I'll go to see Anya, then." She said.
I kissed her lips, and felt her smile against my skin, finding myself smiling the same way. When I, at last, left the room and walked down the lamp lit corridor, I found my fingers reaching up to brush across my lips. I knew I was grinning like an idiot, but it was such an odd physical feeling. My lips literally tingled after having kissed Gabrielle. I knew that no matter how long this next bit of nastiness lasted; I would find Gabrielle and tell her that I was truly in love with her.
"Well, well…Kassandros, I should have known." I said immediately upon entering the small room Atrius held the prisoners in.
Held in chains, the six men looked ragged and unkempt. If one didn't know better, they might think them peasants or simple travelers. I, however, knew much better. Callius, the Captain of my fleet gave me their names, each and every one of them, as his own blood drained from him, to spill across my hands. He gave them up with a dying whisper, not even bothering to take their names to Hades with him.
When I first learned of the treachery, I ordered Atrius not to arrest my headman, Demetri. I knew if he thought he wasn't implicated in the illegal slave trade fiasco, once I killed Callius, he would eventually take over the Captain's role of masterminding the scheme. I dispatched Nicos and two squads of men to quietly arrest the other players. I let Demetri continue to think that I was unaware of his activities, until I had all of his associates firmly within my grasp.
It never even surprised me when Kassandros' name was the first to escape the dying Captain's lips. He was one of my elected Governor's, set up in one of the provinces of upper Macedon. I think it was a nostalgic moment that caused me to select him in the first place, either that, or guilt. I killed the man's father, Antipater, a regent of Macedon also. Once I killed Alexander, his regent, Antipater was no problem. After that campaign, I seized control of Macedon, and began outwardly expanding the areas I conquered, until most of the foreign Empires surrounding the Aegean were under my control.
It seems that Kassandros had teams of mercenaries, kidnapping young girls and selling them to Amphipolis, Abdera, and Potidaea. The girls were daughters of free men, but that didn't matter to any of the slave traders. Much to my recent abhorrence, the majority of the slaves eventually made their way to Corinth, and the many auction blocks in the great city.
It took a great deal of patience, understanding, and time, for the story to be garnered; from the young girls I rescued that day on the docks. I asked Delia to help out, and the girls soon overcame their trauma enough to confide in the caring older woman. Now, the men responsible before me, I wanted nothing more than to see them beheaded or even crucified out in my palace courtyard. There weren't too many punishments my dark mind could dream up that would sufficiently make the men pay, however. What they have done over Gods know how many seasons as I ruled, could never be repaired, even with their deaths. For the girls, the women, and their families, at least it would be a start.
I walked around to face the condemned men. "Now, who would care to share their secrets with me?"
I smiled, an altogether unpleasant smile, the kind that I haven't used in quite some time. Three of the four men, seated and chained before me, began talking so fast; the beast within me was a bit disappointed that it would not be allowed its freedom. The fourth man, sitting there, silent and sneering, was Kassandros.
I finally heard all that I needed. Frankly, I was a bit surprised. I never took Demetri for having the jewels for this sort of scheme, but I could only assume that was why he surrounded himself with an exceedingly rough group of characters. It was evident, from this lot especially, Demetri was the brains, and they were the brawn. Kassandros never said a word, as he and I stared hard at one another. I silenced the others with a baleful glance, positioning myself in front of the former Governor. I suppose he didn't care much for my superior smile, because his lips pulled back in a sneer, and he proceeded to spit upon my boots.
"Oh, yea…that hurt." I responded in a mocking tone.
"Don't think I'll give you the satisfaction of hearing me spill my guts like these fools. Let me free of these chains and I'll show you what a real warrior is made of, you self-righteous bitch!" he shouted.
I simply smiled again. Looking up, I pointed out two guards. "Find Demetri and arrest him. Bring him here…better yet, bring them all to the jail. I think my former headman should start getting to know the rabble he associates with, on a more personal level."
I turned to go when Kassandros' voice met me once again.
"I knew you were getting too soft to take me up on my challenge." He shouted out, but I ignored him, making my way to the door.
"You always were all show with the big sword and all, bet you ain't much without weapons. It's all over Greece how the Conqueror bitch's bedmate is a dirty whore!"
I stopped all movement, feeling as though I was just hit between the shoulder blades with a brick. The feeling wasn't even one that I could consciously remember dredging up. The words he spoke about Gabrielle caused a faint stirring, somewhere deep inside, and within the depths of my very soul, I felt the beast claw to the surface.
"Lord Conqueror…" Atrius was by my side, but I stood staring at the door, unmoving.
"Get these others down to a cell, leave him here." I finished.
A few more guards hustled the rest of the prisoners down to the palace dungeons.
"The rest of you…out!" I commanded and men scurried from the room.
I went about removing my sword belt and the chakram that hung on the opposite hip. I carefully wrapped the package of weapons up and turned to hand them to Atrius.
"Remove his chains, then leave." I said flatly, realizing I was very close to losing control of the darkness that began to settle all through me.
"Lord Conqueror, this is foolishness. The man will die in the morning." My Captain tried to persuade me from this reckless path, but I was past having either the ability to hear or care.
"Now." I repeated.
I heard the door click as Atrius reluctantly closed it, then I turned to face the man who stood no taller than I. "Now," I began, "show me what a real warrior is made of." I growled.
I felt possessed, once I made the conscious decision to relinquish the last of my remaining control to the beast.
"Get a couple of men to drag him to a jail cell." I said to Atrius as I walked past him to a low barrel of water. I rinsed the blood from my hands and winced in pain when I bent my fingers. Gods, his jaw was hard. I rinsed my mouth of blood and fingered my jaw tentatively, checking for loose teeth. I gave a lot better than I got, but I didn't leave the room completely unscathed.
Atrius handed me a dry cloth, the expression on his face displaying his displeasure with my actions. I accepted my weapons and strapped them around my waist.
"Lord Conqueror, I can understand why you felt the desire to beat the Tartarus out of him, what I don't understand is why you actually put yourself in jeopardy that way, and went through with it." Atrius was in his mother hen mode and I couldn't blame him…much.
"I imagined you, of all people, would know why I had to." I answered, tossing the rag away.
That crooked smile and a grunt, of which I took to be agreement, was all that came from the Captain.
"Lord Conqueror…" A young lieutenant rushed up to the two of us. "Someone must have warned Lord Demetri…he's gone. I have two squads of men searching the palace, another four combing the city."
"Ares balls," I muttered under my breath, "can't anything ever go easy around here? All right, he's probably fled the city by now, but keep your men looking just in case."
"Aye, Lord Conqueror." He responded, rushing away just as quickly.
"Gods, they're making them younger every day. I'm starting to feel my age." I complained to Atrius.
The expression on my Captain's face fell. "Speaking of age, Lord Conqueror…you are rather promised to a certain group of officers in training."
"And just how in Hades did that happen?" I growled. Those training classes were always filled with a dozen young soldiers all looking to be the first to best me with a sword.
"Actually, Lord Conqueror, you promised you would meet with them this morning. I was told by your personal maid that you were rather…indisposed, this morning." Atrius said, that damned amusement sparkling in his eye.
"Since you think it's so entertaining, you can come along and protect my back." I grinned.
"Yes, Lord Conqueror." He muttered.
I paused before continuing on out of the palace. A feeling slid up my spine, that I could neither put my finger on, nor brush off. "You don't think Demetri's stupid enough to hide here, do you?"
"If he's smart, he'll be headed for Athens by now." Atrius answered.
"Well, I'd never accuse him of overt intelligence, but it's what most sane men would do." I responded with a sigh. "All right…to the training field."
My Captain and I walked off, headed outside, to show some of the young pups what kind of bite two old warriors still had. My last words about Demetri were meant as something of a jest, but one thing was true, fleeing the palace is what a sane man would do. Unfortunately, at this moment, my headman was currently doing a balancing act between sanity and madness.
As I strode to the training field, I never even thought that my Gabrielle might be somewhere, about to walk into harm's way.