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 :: Now, this is the chapter you've all been waiting for. I spent a long time thinking about how to do this part, and it took me forever to decide, but I'm happy with how I did it. If you want to email me, my address jacklavigne13@hotmail .com
I pulled the thick cape tighter around my body; the large room chilling me despite the warmth of the sun outside. I hated this court room and all the nobles in it. They all looked at me, the hatred in their eyes only slightly out shadowed by the fear that shook their bodies. I hardly paid attention to the man standing before my throne, telling me of the good harvest in an unimportant village. Good for them, I thought as I rested my chin in my upturned hand. I'm glad someone is happy at the moment.
My mood contrasted with the beautiful Spring day and I felt unusually down after my meeting with the former slave the night before. She had confused me, coming to my chambers and yet asking for nothing. I hadn't been able to sleep after she left, or feel the pleasure of Alexandria's touch. I felt cold and empty and I hated the blonde haired woman for making me feel this way. Why couldn't she just stay away? Hadn't she tortured me enough?
I let my eyes wander around the room, catching the gazes of several noblemen, all of whom dropped their eyes when they met my cold stare. I smiled slightly as I leant back in my seat, feeling the warmth of the body standing beside my chair. I looked up and caught Alexandria's eye, a grin tugging at my lips as she raised an eyebrow, her eyes showing her boredom.
Over the past two weeks, Alexandria had started to relax more around me and I felt the beast retreat a little more each day as we got comfortable with each once again. She was the only one that ever had this effect on me, besides from the slave, Gabrielle. My grin widened as she rolled her eyes, her head dropping forward as she pretended to fall asleep. I turned my head back to the man talking excitedly before me, his enthusiasm growing, encouraged by my smile.
I nodded towards him when he finally finished, grateful that I didn't have to listen to him talk any longer. "Very good, Linos. I'm glad to hear of your success."
Linos bowed, a smile plastered on his face as his forehead almost touched the ground. I watched as he back away, his eyes never meeting mine as I signaled for the next peasant to be sent through the doors.
And so it went on and on and on.
Finally, when it seemed as if the session was coming to an end, I watched as Palaemon walked through the double doors, his hair disheveled and his gray eyes weary as he spoke to a guard. The soldier nodded and straightened as the Captain met my eye for a moment before taking a spot near the doors as they were pushed open.
"Honored nobles of Greece, and your Lord Conqueror, I give you the Amazon Queen and her Royal Guard."
A small smile played my lips as I leant forward in my chair, watching as a scantily clad group of women entered the room. I was impressed by the pride in their every step and they walked towards my throne, hands on weapons as they gazed around the room behind their ornate masks, searching for danger before the group parted to reveal two women standing between them. The one on the left, I recognized as an Amazon named Ephiny, the Regent. I had met with her several times over the years and I nodded towards her as she removed her mask, revealing hazel colored eyes and curly blonde hair that fell to her shoulders.
I let my eyes glance over to the other woman, obviously the Queen by the mask covering her face. It was more defined than any other I had ever seen and the detail was simply outstanding. I ignored a soft gasp from my second in command, though I frowned when I felt her body stiffen besides me, her hand coming to rest on my shoulder, gripping the robes covering my skin. I looked up at her in confusion, but her midnight blue eyes were on the Amazon Queen who was yet to remove her mask.
I returned my gaze to the woman, running my eyes over her exposed skin and I almost laughed out loud. She wore tan boots that covered her calves, but her muscular thighs were left bare and I swallowed as I let my eyes wander over the loincloth that covered her most private parts. My gaze took in the well-defined abdomen, the full breasts covered by a leather strip of cloth that covered less than it showed. My eyes finally fell on the mask and I looked deeply into the eyes that stared back at me. If I didn't know better, I would say that the Amazon Queen was smiling.
I now knew why Alexandria had gone so tense as she recognized the woman standing before us. I knew who it was even before the mask was removed. I would never be able to forget that body or the emerald green eyes that were gazing at me with such intensity.
So, Gabrielle was the Queen of the Amazons. Didn't see that one coming, Conqueror.
Gods, I should have known, I smirked to myself.
I never took my eyes off the former slave as the mask was removed, revealing the large smile on her face. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched as Alexandria's hand reach for her sword, along with several members of the Royal Guard that had journeyed with us to Egypt all those moons ago. I made a hand signal and watched silently as the men reluctantly let go of the weapons, though Alexandria did not. Not that I expected her to.
"We meet at last, Conqueror," Gabrielle spoke loudly, her voice echoing in the large room. I did actually laugh this time, half in amusement and half in disbelief.
"At last," I murmured softly, my fingers tapping the arm of my chair restlessly. Half of my body wanted to reach for my sword and tear the blonde to shreds while another half of me wanted to run down the steps and pull her into my arms. I smirked, wondering which reaction would be more welcome to the Amazon Queen.
She'd probably rather feel the bite of steel than the touch of my hand, I mused somewhat bitterly.
"I bring a gift to the Conqueror, for inviting the Amazon Nation to share the fruits of the Spring harvest," Gabrielle spoke, faint teasing in her tone as she motioned one of her guards forward.
The Amazon stepped cautiously towards the throne and dropped a small chest before me, opening it to reveal deep red bed sheets, from Egypt. I felt a smirk pull at my lips as I nodded, watching as Alexandria walked stiffly down the steps to retrieve the gift.
"I appreciate the thought. I'm sure my consort will enjoy them," I replied, resting my hand casually on Alexandria's arm as she returned to my side. I watched with amusement as Gabrielle's eyes widened, her emerald green gaze glancing between my second and I. "I hope you enjoy your stay in Corinth. One of my guards will escort you to your quarters."
Gabrielle's fiery gaze never left mine as several of the Royal guard stepped forward to escort the Amazon's. I returned her stare coolly, my face emotionless as she left the room, though not without throwing one last look over her shoulder, her eyes lingering on my hand that still rested on Alexandria's forearm.
"Have you grown bored of me so quickly, Conqueror?"
"Excuse me?" I spluttered, caught by surprise by the venom in my second in commands words. I paused in the removal of my robes to face Alexandria, whose midnight blue eyes were almost black with rage. Energy was pouring off her body in waves and I watched in fascination as her hands trembled.
"What the fuck was that?" The red head hissed, her eyes narrowing. "Why didn't you kill her?"
The pieces fell into place as I gazed at my consort, slowly removing my robe and exchanging it for a pair of black leather pants and a silk shirt as my lips twitched into a smile. "Are you jealous, Alex?"
"No," Alexandria growled. "I am no petty wife, Xena, do not mistake me for one. She betrayed you, she betrayed Greece and she deserves to be punished!"
"She spent years as a slave, hasn't she already been punished?" I asked, averting my eyes from my outraged second in command. I fiddled nervously with the dagger that I had sheathed at my hip, trying to ignore the trembling in my fingers.
"You did not enslave her," Alexandria replied as she started to pace in the center of the room, her hand resting on the hilt of her sword. "And plus, that doesn't give her the right to do what she did. Thousands of men died because of her lies."
"Thousands of men have died because I killed them," I said bluntly.
"Oh, don't start that," Alexandria spat as she whirled to face me. "This is not about you. This is about the fucking slave that almost destroyed everything you built your life trying to achieve."
I sighed as I walked towards the balcony and leant against the railing, looking out over the city with unseeing eyes. "You were on her side once, you know," I said softly.
"Yes," Alexandria replied, disgust tingeing the word as she moved to stand beside me. "But that was before I found out that the puppy was really a wolf in disguise."
"I won't have her killed," I said quietly, raising my hand as Alexandria opened her mouth to protest. "At least, not yet. She has information that I need, and when I have it, she's all yours."
I watched as Alexandria mouth snapped shut with an audible click, her eyes narrowing in suspicion as she held my gaze. After several silent moments, she nodded her head in reluctant agreement and sighed. I breathed my own silent sigh of relief as the red head returned her gaze to the city and I spent several moments watching her in silence as I thought about my decision.
I was lying to Alexandria and we both knew it.
"You want Rome and she has answers to our questions, right?" Alexandria whispered, though her shoulders were slumped in defeat as she refused to meet my gaze.
I smirked as I considered her words and realized that they were at least half true. "I knew I didn't choose you to be my consort just for your looks, Alexandria."
The red head snorted, dropping her head to study her boots before raising her midnight blue eyes to meet mine. She rested the palm of her hand against my cheek, gently caressing my skin with her thumb as she gazed at me thoughtfully.
“She's a snake, Xena,” Alexandria whispered to me softly. “She's a snake and she will bite you if she gets the chance. Don't let that happen again.”
I nodded slightly at her words, my throat too tight to speak as my second in command gave me a small smile before leaning up to brush her lips lightly against mine. I watched silently as she turned away and left the room and I made a silent promise to her.
I won't let her get me, Alex, because I'm going to get her first.
To Be Continued
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