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 7: To See A World In A Grain Of Sand


"Good Morning, Gabrielle." I addressed my young slave as she entered my bedchamber.

"Good Morning, My Lord," she replied in that soft voice of hers.

I just finished dressing, pulling my boots on when Gabrielle entered the room. She and I sat down to the wooden table where I took my meals. Sylla already set the table with a variety of fruits and baked breads, along with some thinly sliced, smoked fish. As usual, Gabrielle sat at the table across from me with her head bowed and her hands in her lap.

Taking our meals together was always an adventure. It was obvious my young slave was denied food, somewhere along the way, as a form of punishment. She seemed very accustomed to not eating for long periods of time, then consuming all she could get her hands on later, to carry her through. I occasionally watched her out of the corner of my eye and I always seemed to catch her placing something in the pocket of her skirt for later. I sighed to myself on this morning, as I watched her slip and apple into that pocket. I could only bite my tongue and continually reiterate the fact that her food hording was unnecessary.

When I rose from the table, I crossed the room to where my sword lay, atop a chest at the foot of my bed. I strapped it to my hip and felt an oddness to the gesture. Funny, but for all these years that I have ruled and lived in this palace, I have worn one sword, but it still feels strange not to have two swords at my waist, as I do when in battle. I spent so many seasons as a warrior, two blades in my hand, that it truly became a part of me.

I shook off the memory and returned to the table. Gabrielle watched as I stopped and dropped to one knee before her. My height was intimidating and I had no desire to press my superiority over my slave. I took her hands in my own and enjoyed the smoothness against my own skin.

"Gabrielle?" I paused and she looked up, never completely looking me in the eye. I wasn't sure where to start since I didn't want to frighten her. "Gabrielle, remember what I told you about food in my home?"

"Yes, My Lord·forgive me, I--"

"Ssh, it's all right, I'm not angry." I reached into her skirt pocket and produced the apple she tucked there. She guiltily lowered her eyes.

"I want you to try to remember something·look at me, Gabrielle," I added gently. She raised her head again and I realized I was growing accustomed to the way her eyes avoided looking directly into mine.

"As long as I have food on my table, little one, you will not go hungry." The term of endearment just seemed to spill easily off my tongue and I made no attempt to get it back as it seemed fitting for my small, lovely slave. "Gabrielle, have I lied to you yet, since you have been in my service?"

"No, My Lord."

"And, I will not, especially about this. Now," I returned the apple back to its hiding spot in her skirt. "If you want this because you may grow hungry for a snack, or even if you want to pay the stable a visit and treat Tenorio, that is fine. Only, never fear that I will deny you food as punishment. Do you believe me?" I asked at last, knowing it would be difficult for her to answer that.

"I--" She didn't know how to answer truthfully. "I will try, My Lord."

"Then that is all we can ask, is it not?" I smiled at her and although it was not something I usually did, it seemed to ease her discomfort a small bit. I found that smiling in Gabrielle's presence was becoming easier and wondered if it would ever feel so natural that I wouldn't be aware I was doing it.

"I have business on the docks today and wish to walk, Gabrielle. Do you wish to join me? It will give you an opportunity to visit the city." I asked, rising from the floor.

"Yes, very much, My Lord."


We walked from the palace, my slave and I, and I should have held no fear that Gabrielle would find anyone here to trade affections with. The gossip spread like wildfire and everyone in the palace already knew, not only who this small blonde was, but also what she meant to me. No one even raised an eye to the girl, at least while I was beside her, and certainly no one spoke to her. Hades, the people of Corinth barely acknowledged me, with the exception of lowering their heads and bowing in respectful submission.

It made me feel rather sorry for Gabrielle, though, to think this was what her life had long consisted of. As I overheard her tell Delia, a body slave lived a lonely life in her master's household. She was cursed for the master's bad temper and even in good times, no one took a chance at being caught speaking with her. Even in friendship, a casual glance could ignite the jealousy of an angry and possessive master, such as myself. I do not say, used to be, for when it comes to Gabrielle, I fear I could fall back into those same fits of fierce suspicion and controlling behavior that consumed me in my younger days.

I felt compelled to reassure Gabrielle in some small way, to assure her that I would not be lopping her head off if I saw her speaking to someone on the street. Did I really mean that, however? I had not miraculously grown the heart of a mystic because of my developing feelings toward my small slave. I was still at a loss as to what to say to the woman, but there was a need in me, that was as accurately as I could describe it. It was a need to express certain emotions I was having concerning Gabrielle. I grew quickly frustrated as we walked out of the palace gates. I wanted to say so much to her, but I was completely unaware of how to say it. I wondered if Delia would laugh at my predicament if I were to go to her for help. I wasn't completely inarticulate, however, so I decided to wade right in.

"You·uh, you look very nice today, Gabrielle·very lovely." I commented and caught the surprise in her eyes.

"Thank you, My Lord. I'm only happy that I please you." She answered predictably.

It certainly wasn't a lie, nor an exaggeration. Gabrielle, with golden hair falling across her slight shoulders, and the early morning sun filtering through the strands of hair blowing around her face. She looked absolutely beautiful. I didn't even realize I stopped moving until Gabrielle's eyes lifted and briefly caught mine.

"Very lovely, indeed." I gently tapped two fingers under her chin and was rewarded with something that was damn close to being a smile. "Wait," I tilted my head to see into her eyes, grinning myself. "Is that a smile I see·from my Gabrielle?" Which made her sort-of smile grow. I couldn't help chuckling as I turned and we continued on.

The palace guard followed in our wake and Gods only know what they thought of our exchange. I remembered a time when the guard walked out ahead of me, terrorizing anyone foolish enough to stray into my oncoming path. Now I felt, rather than saw, their understated presence.

Gabrielle seemed quite unaccustomed to the people and bustle of a city like Corinth. I noticed that she began to follow rather closely on my heels as we strolled along the city streets, toward the docks. I had business today with the Captain of my fleet. According to two of my closest advisors, the man was running slaves as one of his little extracurricular activities. I wanted more than hearsay and gossip, and the truth was, if this man was kidnapping young girls here in Corinth to sell them in the North as slaves, I wanted to personally show him how I felt about that.

As we walked by the prisoners on their way to trial or judgment, many called out to me for mercy. I can barely remember the time when I would stride past them, truly unable to hear their cries for leniency. In the last few seasons, it grew especially hard to ignore their pleas. Now, when I look into their faces, I am able to see something that touches a part of me that has laid dormant for much of my life.

We passed by and I looked at them, chained, or bound, waiting for my wagons to take them to the large palace dungeons. A small boy, no more than eight or nine summers, stood watching me rather impassively as I walked by. He looked also at Gabrielle and I saw the light of compassion burn brightly in her intelligent emerald gaze. The boy had his hands in front of him, his wrists fastened together with manacles that were ludicrously large on his small hands. Yet, he stood there, calmly accepting the fate he could easily have escaped from. I'd known assassins that young, so it didn't completely surprise me, a boy that age, headed for the prison.

We passed by and I easily caught the movement of Gabrielle's hand as she slipped the apple from her pocket and pressed it into the surprised boy's small grasp. At first, I was going to shrug it off and ignore my slave's actions, but what Gabrielle just did was so unlike her. For her to risk punishment, her reason for slipping the boy food, an offense any way you looked at it, must mean a great deal to her. I wanted, no I needed, to learn more about this world in which my slave existed. Because of that, I stopped, and when I halted, Gabrielle did the same.

"Gabrielle?" I asked, not turning to look at her, simply knowing she would be there.

"Yes, My Lord?" she replied softly. I think she knew the moment I stopped that she was caught.

"What was that you just did, Gabrielle?" I asked evenly.

"Please forgive me, My Lord, I--" she began and I turned and placed two fingers over her lips to silence her.

"Gabrielle, I haven't yet placed blame or even accused you of anything. I only inquired about your actions."

She lowered her head. "I gave the boy the apple I had in my pocket." She answered dutifully.

"I see. Why did you do that, Gabrielle?"

"He·he looked as if he was hungry, My Lord."

"Do you realize, little one, that it is a crime to give prisoners anything, even food?"

"Yes, My Lord." She again answered and I barely heard her response this time.

"So, knowing that you would be punished, you gave the food to the boy anyway?" I asked.

When Gabrielle nodded and answered with a soft affirmative reply, I questioned her as to why she would perform such a sacrifice. Her answer made me feel completely oblivious to all that went on around me, in my palace, in my city, in the whole of my country. It was as if there was a grain of sand at my feet, and on it existed another world, such as our own. Subsisting, right there at my feet, all this time.

"He is only a child, My Lord. No child deserves to be hungry." She answered.

Anyone who ever thought Gabrielle a stupid woman, evidently never spent any time with her at all. I found her insights into the world to be profound, thought provoking, and tempered with a compassion, I had to admit, I didn't fully understand. This last statement was no exception.

I turned and walked back to where the prisoners stood huddled together. I towered over the boy and when I asked him his name, he looked up at me in terror. I was now about to learn my second lesson of the day, when it came to how others perceived me. I felt a hand on my forearm and turned to see my small slave waiting for permission to speak. I arched an eyebrow at her and she understood my unspoken communication. She leaned up on her tiptoes and I leaned down, closer to her. She spoke softly into my ear.

"My Lord, I think·I think maybe you are a great deal like your stallion, Tenorio." She hurried on when I looked at her in complete confusion. "To people of a much smaller stature, you can be somewhat·imposing, thereby·well, intimidating."

Always amazed at the young woman, she was quickly becoming one of my best, and most trusted, advisors. I took the hint and turned back to the boy, easing myself down to one knee until my head was even with his.

"Do you have a name, boy?" I asked again.

"P--Petra, Lord Conqueror." The boy answered my question.

"Why do you wear the chains of a prisoner, Petra?"

"I was caught stealing food, Lord Conqueror."

"Food does seem to be the topic today," I looked back at Gabrielle in amusement and she bowed her head. "So, Petra·why does a boy your age need to steal food? Don't your mother and father feed you well enough?"

"It wasn't for me, Lord Conqueror, it was for my mother and two sisters. My father was a soldier in the Lord Conqueror's army, but he was killed in the battle of Chaeronea. My mother is sick and can't work, and my baby sisters need food to eat. I'm sorry, Lord Conqueror," the boy said, valiantly holding back his tears. "I didn't know what else to do. I tried to join the Lord Conqueror's army, to earn money for food, but the soldiers laughed at me."

I tried to show no emotion as the boy told his tale. It seemed so melodramatic I wasn't sure if I was being set up or not. "Where do you live, boy?"

When the small boy pointed back into the palace gates, I was taken back.

"You live within the walls of the palace? Who is your mother a hired woman for?" I asked, and then proceeded to look even more confused.

"Why·she works for you, Lord Conqueror." He replied, looking at me as if I just told him sheep could fly.

Now I was not only confused, but angry too. With my country enjoying such prosperity, were there really children within the very walls of my own palace, going hungry?

"Jailer!" I shouted and the man was at my side in an instant. "Remove this boy's chains." I ordered.

Once free, I motioned to the boy with my hand. "Show me where you live, boy." I said and suddenly we were all following Petra back through the palace gates.


I knew the small village style houses that existed in cramped rows at the south end of the palace gates, were small and overcrowded. I was in no way, however, prepared for the intolerable conditions when I entered the boy's home. It was obvious that someone made the attempt to create a living space within the confines of the small room. What few furnishings were there, had been scrubbed clean, but the rats that ran within the walls, went from house to house, carrying their filth and disease wherever they went.

I felt precariously out of my element, standing in the middle of the small room. My height was a definite hazard as my head nearly grazed the ceiling. Petra led me to a small pallet where a slender woman lay, in obvious pain and fever. I kneeled down to look at the woman, and although she probably only had a touch of the chills, it could be fatal without proper care and nutrition. I fancied myself rather knowledgeable when it came to healing, but that was a great many seasons ago. I became more adept at treating battle wounds than illness, so I did the only I could think to do, when feeling this helpless. I called on Gabrielle.

"Gabrielle?" I turned, and it seemed that the helpless tone of my voice and the look in my eye, conveyed all that my young slave needed to know.

Spurred into action, Gabrielle gave Petra instructions to fetch a pail of fresh drinking water, not from the well the other houses used, but from the one nearer the gates. By the time the boy rushed back, I merely stood in the corner and watched as Gabrielle requested items she would need. She took a quill and parchment from one of my messengers and made a list in a careful and precise handwriting. The messenger looked on in awe at my young slave. I doubt he'd ever seen one that could write before.

Gabrielle looked up at me. "My Lord, we will need dinars for some herbs and fresh food."

I nodded and walked out of the house, noticing the small crowd of attention we were drawing. I'm sure the inhabitants of the neighboring houses thought something miraculous was happening, given that I was there. I grabbed one of my guards and dragged him into the house, pushing him in front of Gabrielle.

I must say it was amazing to watch, and had I been less redeemed, I would have taken the girl's head off for her forward behavior and presumptuous manner. Gabrielle was ordering people about like·well, like she was me! She looked up at the guard before her.

"Can you read?" she asked.

If any other slave had asked that question, she would have been scoffed at, or beaten to the ground. My palace guards were a snobby bunch given their station in the palace, so they would be just the men to do it, too. On this day, however, we were all too astounded at the small slave's behavior to question her. The tone of authority in Gabrielle's voice as she took charge of the scenario simply confounded them all, myself included.

The guard nodded dumbly, then added, "Yes, Miss."

"Take this list to the market and the apothecary and return straightaway with the supplies." She ordered.

The guard took the list and was about to hurry out the door to do her bidding when he realized, with horror, who he was taking orders from. He quickly turned to me and I saw the blood had nearly drained from the young man's face.

"Yes, go, go!" I waved him off with my hand, trying to make it appear like I agreed with everything Gabrielle was doing. In truth, I hadn't an inkling.

Gabrielle put two large kettles on the fire to heat water and I now realized it was my turn. I was feeling a little useless, so why not heap a little humiliation on top of it, right?

"Um·Gabrielle·what·" I lowered my voice so no one outside could hear me. "What do you want me to do?" I could only pray to Athena that I didn't sound as pathetic to her as I did to my own ears.

"Would you·" she paused as if she were reconsidering the request. "Would you take the children outside?" she asked timidly, waiting for my roar, I'm sure.

I arched one eyebrow just about as high as it would go. I looked at my feet and two young girls stood there, appearing as if they were looking up a mountain. Neither of them came past my knees and one smiled broadly up at me. She wrapped her arms around my leg and laid her cheek against the trouser clad limb. I froze.

"Me?" I said weakly. If I didn't know better, I would have sworn that Gabrielle smiled just before she turned back to the fire.

When she turned back my way, she came closer and whispered under her breath. "I need to bathe her and remove the soiled linen and clothes, My Lord. The children shouldn't see that."

She calmly waited for my decision and I even thought about grabbing one of the palace guards, and forcing them to play babysitter. Two things stopped me. One, I have never, in my entire life, asked a soldier to do something that I myself was unwilling or unable to do. Secondly, there was the tiny girl with her arms still wrapped tightly around my leg. I was amazed that something so small could frighten me so completely. She looked at me in a way I have never been gazed upon before. She had no idea, no preconceived notions of who I was or what I was capable of, no knowledge of what horrible things made up my past. I was looking upon that grain of sand again and seeing a completely new world.

I sighed and gave my best smirk to Gabrielle. I bent down and scooped the larger girl up into my arms. I didn't have to reach down for the other one. She wrapped herself around my leg and when I tried to walk, it was as if my leg was immobilized. I limped toward the door with my charges.

"Come on, Boy," I called to Petra, as I limped through the doorway.

I could only hope that one of my officers didn't pass by. If anyone like Atrius saw me in this position, I would have to run him through. I hate to lose good soldiers that way.

Chapter 8: Conqueror·Warrior·Babysitter?

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