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

Chapter 2: Testing the waters

I felt another's presence in the room before the heavy tapestry was moved away from the main window, early morning sunlight causing me to wince, even though my eyes were still closed. Sylla went about the room silently preparing for my morning. As my personal maid, she carried out her orders with a dutiful silence. Whether I slept all night or passed out on the floor in the pre-dawn light, Sylla woke me as the sun rose every morning. I was usually already awake, many times working at my writing table long before she entered my rooms.

Sylla usually let the early morning light into the room, and then set about lighting additional lamps or candles. She would pick up the clothes that I had scattered about when undressing the previous evening, have my bath prepared, and then bring up my morning meal. It was no different when I traveled, either. Her routine never varied and I know she was thankful my demeanor mellowed over the years. She used to take quite a bit of verbal abuse from me, but on mornings like this, when I was hung so far over I wanted to die, I did tend to revert back to that old Xena.

The funny thing was, Sylla never argued back, never left the room in tears, and even more astounding was the fact she didn't pack up and leave. She was a hired woman, not one of my slaves, which in itself, was odd enough. She came into the castle when her father died, a dedicated soldier in my army of some little battlefield reputation. On the day that Delia asked if the girl could work for me, I did what I always did back then, some ten seasons ago. I scowled and shrugged my shoulders as if I didn't care.

Now, Delia was another story. She asked me because she was the only one who could get away with it. I can honestly say that back then if anyone but my cook, Delia, would have asked me that same question, I would have grabbed the young girl and taken her, right there in front of my men, then allowed her to work for me. Why? Mostly, because I could I suppose.

Delia is the closest thing to a friend that I have in my life. She was the wife of the most trusted Captain I ever had. Galien was more than a soldier; he was a mentor and confidante, perhaps the only father figure I ever accepted. When he lay dying on a battlefield in Gaul, I held him and watched as he bled to death, knowing there was little I could do to save him. I told him that whatever wish he had, if it were within my power, I would grant it. He extracted a promise from me on that day, to see that his wife would always be cared for. When I returned from that campaign, Delia entered the castle.

She is the one and only person in all of Greece who doesn't seem to fear me. She argues with me, cusses me, and generally treats me like the spoiled child I act like much of the time, and I care for her because of it. She grew bored with nothing to do in the castle and when she began to cook for me, I tossed the old cook out on his ear. She was a culinary Goddess and the table I set, in the palace at Corinth, became the envy of my entire empire.

I leaned up on one elbow and slowly opened my eyes, which only increased the ache in my skull. I watched for a moment as Sylla went about her morning routine. I looked down at the slave sharing my bed. Her face looked less tense as she slept and I couldn't stop myself from reaching out and brushing my fingertips across her lips. Her eyelids shot open, revealing startled green orbs.

"My Lord." Gabrielle exclaimed as she practically threw herself from the bed, to her kneeling position on the floor.

Well, that's not exactly what I had in mind, but it was hard not to smile at the young slave. She was naked and didn't seem phased by the fact that Sylla moved around her.

"Good Morning, Lord Conqueror." My maid said. "The young men are here with water for your bath." Sylla's eyes indicated Gabrielle's nude body and I wasn't sure whether my maid's concern was for Gabrielle or for the young men from the kitchen.

A feeling passed through me quickly and I realized that I didn't want anyone seeing Gabrielle naked, but me.

"Gabrielle, get back in bed. Sylla thinks you're going to catch a cold down there." I chuckled.

Gabrielle eased herself back under the covers that I held open for her and I nodded to Sylla, who let several young men in with buckets of water for the large tub I used for my bath. They had to make a few trips, but kept their eyes in their head, all except for one youth. The temptation to see the Conqueror in bed together must have been too much and so he raised his eyes and fixed them, not on me, but on my slave. I had a flash of a previous time in my life and I could see myself rising from the bed and gutting the boy with my sword.

Instead, a low growl rumbled from my chest and I could see Gabrielle out of the corner of my eye. She quickly looked over at me; I'm sure wondering where the sound came from. When I was angry it could sound like the snarl of a dog, and when aroused, like the purr of a panther. Right now, it sounded anything but content or seductive.

ÎIf you want to live past today, boy, you'd better fix those eyes somewhere else." I snapped.

Sylla saw the impending trouble and quickly intervened before it escalated into anything more.

"All of you boys·be about your business. That's enough water, out of here with the lot of you." Sylla waved the boys from the room, down the back stairs.

I lay my head back down on the pillow just as someone began pounding on the main door in the outer room.

"Ares Balls! Does anyone know what time I went to sleep last night?" I bellowed, causing my head to pound even worse.

"It's your Captain, Lord Conqueror." Sylla informed me.

"All right, all right." I motioned for Sylla to let Atrius in.

"Lord Conqueror." Atrius said quietly, which earned him points considering the way my head felt. He lost them, however with the look of amusement on his face upon seeing Gabrielle still in my bed.

"Atrius is there a reason for disturbing me before I've even had a chance to bathe?"

"Forgive the early hour, Lord Conqueror, but you expressed a wish to be on your way back to Corinth as soon as the trouble here had ended. Is today soon enough?"

I thought about that for a moment. I was anxious to return home now and I wondered if it had anything to do with the young woman in my bed.

"Yes·today will be fine, looks like we'll have the weather for it. Can we be ready by midmorning?"

"Aye, Lord Conqueror." Atrius replied.

I nodded my head in a dismissive gesture and pushed the pillows up to the head of the bed. I sat there and watched as Gabrielle laid there, her hands folded across her stomach. I thought about indulging myself with the pretty slave, but thought better when I realized that in a few candlemarks my army would be ready to march back to Corinth.

"It looks as if we go home today, Sylla. I'm afraid Gabrielle here is not dressed for a journey. Take her to the market and purchase what she'll need until we get back to the palace. Do you have something you can lend her in the meantime? I don't want any of these soldiers seeing her in her robe."

"Yes, Lord Conqueror." Sylla answered.

"Gabrielle, go with Sylla and Gods on Olympus, open your mouth or she'll end of clothing you like a Hestian virgin."

I gave a wry smile to both of them, but only Sylla smiled back, shaking her head at my manners. Gabrielle looked a bit dazed and confused by all that transpired in the last twelve candlemarks. She followed along behind Sylla, dressed in the robe she wore last night. Her face as impassive and unreadable as ever. I wondered how long it had been since that girl smiled last.


By the time I was cleaned and dressed for traveling, Sylla led Gabrielle back into the room where my breakfast was laid out. My maid stood waiting for my attention as I used my signet ring to seal a message to be sent ahead to Corinth. For some reason I thought it important that the rooms across the hall from my own in the palace, be made ready for Gabrielle's arrival. I laughed at myself. Gods, you would think I was bringing my Queen to the palace. In some strange fashion, that's exactly how I felt.

As usual, Gabrielle kneeled down, head bowed, waiting patiently. When I looked up, I barely recognized her. She looked thinner with clothing draped over her slight frame and I thought our first task should be to feed the girl properly.

"Very good. You've done well, Sylla."

"Thank you, Lord Conqueror." My maid responded with a small smile.

My compliments were rare, but I was learning that better results were obtained, whether it was from hired help or my slaves, when I tossed in a little praise now and then. It didn't come naturally to me, treating people with compassion. I didn't understand why, but then again, I never really stopped to examine my life until recently. Why did sullenness and jealous anger seem such natural emotions to me? I look back on my life and I can see only a fog of darkness that surrounds me, unable to be penetrated by light. Some days I wonder if there is a light bright enough to dispel this kind of dark. I usually think that just about the same time I wonder if trying to become a more benevolent ruler at this stage of the game will mean anything when I meet up with Hades. Could anyone overcome a past such as mine?

"Sylla, we'll be leaving soon, I'll send one of my guards for you. I want you riding with Kuros, in the healer's wagon. Gabrielle will ride with me." I finished, dismissing the young woman. Sylla's eyes went round when I told her where my slave would be riding, but she held her tongue and left the room.

Gabrielle barely moved a muscle in all this time.

"Gabrielle, are you hungry?" I asked.

"I don't require much My Lord." She answered.

Every answer she gave was trained to be ambiguous in every way. It's one of the ways she stayed in her master's good graces. I now doubted she would be able to answer a question directly without a little prodding.

"Look at me, girl."

Gabrielle slowly raised her head, so as not to disobey, but I could see she had trouble looking me in the eye.

"Are you hungry?" I asked the question again, enunciating every word.

She nodded her head, lowering her eyes at the same time. "Yes, My Lord." She answered in a very uncertain voice.

"Then come up here and eat."

She looked up and then bowed her head again, but not before I saw more confusion in her eyes. I suppose she thought that I would hand her food or set a plate on the floor, I've even trained body slaves to eat only from my hand, reinforcing the idea that I alone owned them. I had no intention of keeping a slave like that again.

I rose from my chair and got down on one knee in front of her. I gently lifted her chin and could see by the way her eyes shrank back from me that she expected a blow from my hand. I used it instead to brush the blonde hair from her face. I stroked her cheek with my thumb for a few heartbeats, as if I were gentling a frightened colt, coaxing it from its mother's side for the first time.

"It's all right," I said and I stood, pulling her with me. "When I eat, it will be at the table, that's where I wish you to dine also. Sit down," I positioned her down into the chair opposite mine, and pushed two trays in front of her. "Eat your fill of anything here, Gabrielle. Do you understand me?"

"Yes, My Lord." She answered.

I turned and walked across the room to another small table, busying myself on the pretense of pouring a small cup of wine. I actually wanted to see if the girl would eat the food set before her. I poured a mug of water as well, brought both of them over, and set the water in front of her, keeping the wine for myself. It was a rare occasion when I allowed slaves alcohol.

Gabrielle timidly bit into a sliced fig and nibbled at the piece of fruit for long moments. I sat down across from her and pulled half a dozen scrolls from a case on the table beside me. I read the scrolls, mostly petitions and requests that were as boring as Tartaurus, but I pretended to be engrossed, paying little attention to the young woman across from me. My peripheral vision is excellent and as I read, I watched Gabrielle.

Once she realized I meant what I said about the food, she began to eat in earnest, and I thought the girl must have been starving. One tray of food disappeared and she was halfway through with the second when she apparently ran out of energy. She picked up the mug of water and downed it all in a few swallows.

"Gabrielle," I said distractedly, never raising my eyes from the scroll I read, "If you're still thirsty, you may pour some more water from the pitcher on the table."

I again pretended not to care what she was doing after having given her permission, but unobtrusively watched from within my field of vision. She looked over at the pitcher, and then looked to me again. It was obvious the girl wanted another mug of water, so why didn't she get up and get it? Her hands knotted around the mug and I could see her knuckles were white with what I could only assume was fear. She finally rose and poured the water, watching me the whole time. She poured three mugs and downed them all before returning to her seat. I would have laughed at her antics had they not saddened me so deeply.

Gabrielle was the epitome of the defeated slave. She didn't need to have scars on her back to know what punishment was, especially as a body slave. Imagine a slap across the face, not hard enough to bruise or cut the skin, or a kick to the shin, only enough for you to trip and skin your hands, even being denied food for days at a time. Those were the ways you punished a slave whose body needed to remain pristine. Had previous masters played the take away game with this girl to get her to act like such a whipped cur? Had they given her permission, only to punish her once she took it?

Of course, they did. It's what I used to do, if for no other reason than because it amused me.

Chapter 3: The Journey Home


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