Summary: The Conqueror leaves Greece to visit Cleopatra and meets a slave/gladiator named Gabrielle but all is not what it seems.
Disclaimer: See Part 1
Authors Note: If you want to email me about this chapter, my email is jacklavigne13@hotmail .com
I woke up in darkness, unsure as to when I had fallen asleep but assuming that it was several candlemarks ago. Looking out the open window from my bed, I guessed that it was around a candlemark until dawn and I smiled as images of last nights conversation with the slave flittered through my mind. After her little stunt in the bathroom and my own shortly after, we had started talking. It had been slow to begin with but eventually the words flowed much more easily. I had surprised myself by talking to her more in one night than I had to anyone in over a year and was pleased when she admitted the same.
She told me so many things about herself; things that warmed my soul and things that chilled my heart to the core. I learned that she was taken by slavers almost ten years ago, in a village called Potediea. I had rightly assumed she was indeed from Greece but she wasn't there for much longer after being enslaved. She had been sold almost immediately as a body slave to a Persian man, along with her sister who was only eight years old. The Persian's were known to purchase body slaves at a young age and the man they had been sold to was quite violent. My heart broke for Gabrielle when she told me that her sister died a year later after a particularly severe beating from their master. I had wanted so badly to hold her as she spoke to me in a broken whisper, silent tears streaming down her face. I contented myself with holding her hand instead.
Two years later, she was sent to Gaul and another year after that, she was taken to Rome. She'd been lost in a bet to a wealthy lanista that owned a large ludis in Rome where she was trained to be a gladiator at the young age of fourteen. The lanista had not expected her to win her first fight but after she did so well in the arena, had trained her with an array of weapons for over a year before sending her back to fight in the arena once more. She quickly became popular with the crowd and was undefeated for almost three years before she was sold to Marc Antony. He also entered her in the arena but prefered her in his bed much more. He quickly became bored with her though and another year later, she had been sent as a gift to Cleopatra where she had now lived for almost two years.
She told me many other things too, like how she loved to spend her free time reading and writing. She fancied herself quite the storyteller which surprised me. She had spent her childhood before being enslaved, dreaming of becoming a travelling bard. I had asked her to tell me a story and she wasn't lying when she said she was good. I had hung on every word as she told me a tale of a warrior and her sidekick that had travelled the world, fighting for the Greater Good. Along the way, the warrior and her partner fell in love, and I wondered to myself if things had been different, could that have been us? I felt such a connection to this slave, like the warrior in the story felt with her sidekick who turned out to be her soulmate. Maybe in another life, I had mused to myself wistfully.
I must have fallen asleep sometime after that. I remembered with a smile that we had been lying on our sides, facing each other as we talked quietly late into the night. With a small sigh, I rolled onto my side and laid my hand where the slave had been lying earlier.
And almost bolted from the bed when my hand came into contact with warm flesh.
"By the Gods," I whispered as I stared at the face of the sleeping slave. She was lying on her back, her face peaceful as she slept. My hand was resting on her stomach and I could feel the heat of her skin through the tunic she wore. I wanted so badly to push my hand under her clothes and touch the skin underneath. To caress her and with hands and my mouth. I wanted to feel her body writhing under mine as I buried my f-
Gabrielle's voice was soft and thick with sleep and I pulled my hand from her as if I'd been burned. I waited silently, hoping that she'd drift back to sleep, but of course she didn't. I swallowed as she rolled on her side to face me, her face illuminated by the soft moonlight shining through the window while my own was hidden in shadows.
"I know you're awake," she mumbled with a sleepy smile. "I can't see you but I can hear your heavy breathing."
"Fuck," I whispered under my breath and she giggled. It was the most adorable sound that I have ever heard and I found myself smiling despite my embaressment.
"Come here," she said softly, reaching for my hip and pulling me closer until I was bathed in moonlight as well. "That's better."
"Is it now?" I said with a lop sided smile as I gazed into her eyes. She was so beautiful and it took everything I had not to lean in and kiss her.
"Yes, much better," she smiled, letting her eyes flutter closed as she continued to rest her hand on my hip, caressing it through my robe. "You are quite beautiful, you know."
"Am I?" I whispered breathlessly, feeling as though my heart was going to pound out of my chest.
"Yes," she replied as she opened her eyes to stare back into mine. "You're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen, in fact."
I felt like I could cry as I looked into her emerald eyes, something I hadn't done in almost fifteen years. I had never met someone who could touch my soul so deeply as she did with only a few softly spoken words. She was the one to break our stare and I felt my heart drop as she turned away from me, only to have it fly when she pushed her body back against mine. I couldn't resist burying my face in her hair as she pulled my arm around her, entwining our fingers and holding them against her chest.
"You're the one that's beautiful, Gabrielle," I whispered into her ear, smiling as I felt her shiver. "Inside and out, you are beautiful."
I felt my heart leap as she brought my hand to her mouth, brushing her lips against my fingers before she spoke. "Sleep, Conqueror. I'm still tired and I have to get up to serve Cleopatra soon."
I did as she asked, closing my eyes as I pulled her closer to me, feeling like I'd just conquerored the world.
I woke several hours later when the sun was high in the sky. I was disappointed to find my bed empty but I had expected Gabrielle to be gone when I woke up. I didn't make me wish I had woken up with her in my arms any less though. I realised quickly that I had slept through almost the entire morning and I quickly dressed and made my way down the practice field, intent on finding Alexandria to ask why she had not woken me earlier.
I found her sparring against the General of my Royal Guard, Niko. I called her name and waited until she had disarmed her sparring partner, giving him a few tips before making her way towards me. She seemed unusually cheery this morning, which matched my mood perfectly.
"Conqueror," she nodded towards me with a bright smile, raising her hand over her chest in salute.
"Alexandria," I returned her nod before crossing my arms over my chest. "Why didn't you wake me when I wasn't at breakfast this morning?"
I raised an eyebrow as Alexandria blushed, turning her head away to avoid looking into my eyes. I smiled in amusement, having not seen her blush since we were children growing up together in Amphipolis.
"Well, I had planned on waking you up," she started slowly, still not meeting my eyes.
"What stopped you?"
"Well, when I got to your room this morning, the slave, uh, Gabrielle was leaving, my Lord," Alexandria finished with a small grin tugging at her lips. She finally turned back to look at me and relaxed completely when she saw the smile on my own face.
"I see," I replied as I turned my head to watch my soliders sparring. I felt a grin tug at my lips as Alexandria continued to stare at me with curiousity until she finally asked the question I had been waiting for.
"So, why was she leaving your room a candlemark after dawn, Xena?"
"No reason," I smiled, laughing when I saw the disbelieving expression on Alexandria's face. "We talked, that's all. We both must have fallen asleep sometime during the night."
"Uh huh," Alexandria muttered and I could tell she still didn't completely believe me, but I didn't care. I felt too good this morning to let anything bother me and I felt even better when I saw Gabrielle walk out of the palace and onto the practice field, a bright smile on her face as she gave me a little wave.
Gods, this trip was getting better and better.
To Be Continued
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