Disclaimer & Notices

Copyright: I do not own the Xena concept and certain characters but the plot is all mine.

Violence: There is violence.

Subtext: I really dislike this disclaimer.

Summary: The sequel to Stranger in a Strange Time. The Conqueror and Queen Gabrielle take their trip to Egypt to meet the powerful Queen Cleopatra. During the trip across the Mediterranean, Gabrielle learns from the Conqueror that her long lost sister, Lila, is still alive and well but a slave. Quickly Gabrielle becomes less concerned about her vacation in Egypt and more about rescuing her sister from Gurkhan. And the Conqueror for the fist time realizes she cannot simply take what she wants because so much is at stake. Can the Conqueror and Gabrielle safely rescue Lila, who may not even want to be freed?

Feedback: redhope@redhope.net

Homepage: http://www.redhope.net

Write a Review: http://www.redhope.net/xena/review/stranger-family-form.html

List: http://tv.groups.yahoo.com/group/redhope/


Started: March 5, 2007

One-Shot Fanfictions


A Stranger in my Family

by Red Hope

Chapter 6 – The Number One Wife

Gabrielle slowly strolled across the marble floor in her sheer dress. She was making her way to the communal bath. She spotted Sonata nearing her.

Sonata had a wide grin. "How bad is this? My entire village isn't worth what Gurkhan must have paid for a barrel of that perfume." She fell into step beside the blond slave.

The bard was busy scanning the inside of the room. "Yes... it was nice." She casually removed her dress and let it fall to the floor near the pool. She then descended the steps and eyed an usual woman, who reminded her a bit like Lao Ma. "Where are you from?"

The Asian wife bowed her head then replied, "A distant land you've never heard of – beyond Chin, so far to the east, it's called 'the land of the rising sun'."

Gabrielle hadn't heard of such a land and couldn't imagine anything further beyond Chin. She smiled though. "What's your name?"

"Yui," the Asian slave supplied.

Gabrielle didn't lose her smile then introduced herself. "I'm Alessa." She then shifted closer to Yui. "Do you know what the number one wife's name is?"

Yui lowered her eyes but lifted them again. "She goes by the name Coriander."

The Amazon Queen was remotely surprised, yet she hid it well. "Is there a wife that goes by the name Lila?"

Yui shifted back some and became somewhat defensive. "It's against the rules to talk of the other wives. I've said too much."

Gabrielle recalled Xena's warning not to draw too much attention to herself. "It's okay."

"Please, Gurkhan will punish us if we break the rules." Yui clearly showed worry and even fear in her eyes.

Sonata sat on the other side of the pool. She quietly but teasingly asked, "Will he spank us?"

Yui narrowed her eyes at the newer wife. "You'll be beaten, manacled, thrown in a dark dungeon, and left to die."

Sonata's face fell, and she held up her left hand. "Okay... that's all I need to know. Thanks." She dropped her hand in the water.

Gabrielle didn't much like the response either, but she pushed it aside. She noticed Lana down by the left end of the pool, and Lana seemed rather down. Gabrielle moved past Yui and Sonata then took a spot beside Lana. "Hey."

Lana lifted her chin off her arms and sadly smiled at the fellow slave. "Hey, Alessa."

Gabrielle lightly touched Lana's shoulder and asked, "Thinking about someone in particular?"

Lana sighed and lowered her chin back to her crossed arms. "Yeah, my fiancé – Leonardo."

The Amazon Queen squeezed the wife's shoulder and murmured, "Don't stop thinking about him. His memory is what'll get you through this."

Lana felt bittersweet at memories of her beloved. "I hope so... but sometimes, I think I'd rather be dead than in this place."

"Be careful of what you ask for."

Gabrielle slowly tilted her head back until she met a stone cold face. Without even thinking, she blurted out, "Who are you?"

The well dressed woman swiftly knelt down and grabbed Gabrielle by the back of her head. She jerked her head up close to hers. "You dare to question the number one wife?" she sneered loudly.

Gabrielle held her breath and froze as her eyes locked with steel blue eyes. She rasped, "I'm sorry. I didn't know."

The first wife threw Gabrielle's head back. "Well, that's a good little dog." She slowly rose up to her full, yet short, height. "You learn from your beating."

Gabrielle's dull ache from the back of her head faded out. She remained stiff but locked by the younger woman of same height, weight, and facial structure. She couldn't tear her stare away.

"New girls, listen up," the first wife announced, "I am Gurkhan's number one wife, and you are all dirt."

Sonata huffed but refrained from rolling her eyes.

"Eventually my son will rule over Gurkhan's kingdom. Anyone who comes between me and my lord will feel my wrath." The first wife paused and scanned the wives' faces then coldly continued. "Believe me, that is when you will truly wish you were dead."

The first wife lowered her eyes to the new, blond wife. She smirked then turned and left the room.

Gabrielle let out a breath.

Lana glanced at the Amazon. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine... thanks." The bard touched Lana's elbow lightly then withdrew. She sensed Sonata nearby.

"Now she'd make a Hades of an Amazon," Sonata joked.

Gabrielle mock glared at Sonata, but she agreed.

"You were really an Amazon?" Lana softly asked.

"I was... still am," Gabrielle argued.

"How can you be?" Sonata shook her head. "You're here now."

The Amazon turned her head to Sonata, on her left side. "If you have the spirit of an Amazon then you're forever an Amazon."

"Well," Lana started, "I think we could all use some of that Amazon Spirit here."

The bard solemnly smiled and nodded. "I think so too." She then moved away and headed for the steps.

Sonata and Lana decided to follow after the bard.

Gabrielle ascended the steps and desperately tried to keep her wits together. She just needed a moment alone so she could gather her thoughts. Xena constantly drilled into her that she had to remain unemotional as possible during the mission or else it'd cloud her judgments.

Sonata was wrapped in her sheer dress again just like Lana and Gabrielle. She came closer to Gabrielle. "How did you end up becoming a slave?"

Lana listened but led the group out of the bathing room.

Gabrielle mentally dug up her story she'd worked on with her partner. It was easy for her since she was a bard. "I was young when I was taken. My village was attacked, and I was taken into slavery."

"Let me guess," Sonata chided, "the Conqueror, right?" She sighed and shook her had. "I'll never understand how the gods can let a murdering bitch like that rule most of the known-world."

Gabrielle held her tongue – it was safer that way.

Lana gazed across the bard to Sonata. "Did you hear about that rebel leader?"

Sonata brightened. "Oh yeah, I did actually." She then lost her excitement when she recalled what'd happened to the rebel. "I heard she's dead though. The Conqueror put her on a cross." She peered up at the silent wife. "Have you heard anything, Alessa?"

Gabrielle's lips thinned, and she simply replied, "I haven't."

Sonata frowned. She turned her head away and brushed back her curly locks. She followed Lana and the Amazon into the sitting room. The three new wives gathered around the others and idly chitchatted about whatever they found interesting.

It was close to sunset, when the first wife entered the sitting room and stood at the top step. She scanned the lower wives then ordered, "Wives of Gurkhan, on your faces."

The wives quickly lowered to the floor on their stomachs.

The first wife, Coriander, held out her hand to the left. "Look up at your peril."

Gabrielle raised her head and briefly stared at the first wife, who had her brown, curly hair pinned behind her head. Gabrielle's eyes flickered over to the man that was Gurkhan. He looked nothing like the monster she'd perceived in her head.

Gurkhan pointed to one of his new wives, the blond that had emerald eyes. "That one – Alessa."

Coriander lifted her chin and harshly ordered, "Tonight you will dance... for the Conqueror."

It took all of Gabrielle's resolve not to go bug eyed and make demands. She held her breath and lowered her head. She listened to Gurkhan and his first wife leave the sitting room. The Conqueror's arrival was certainly not in the original plans that Gabrielle could recall.

Sonata sat up but remained on her knees. "Now could that be anymore ironic?"

The Amazon sat in the same position as Sonata and Lana. "Yeah... who would have thought?" She narrowed her eyes and became dark.

Sonata leaned over and muttered, "Wouldn't it be nice to have a dagger while you're giving her a lap dance?"

"Sonata," Lana warned. "Alessa is not that way."

Sonata raised an eyebrow then looked between the two wives.

Gabrielle expelled a deep breath and turned her head to Sonata. "She's right... revenge is never the answer." She touched Sonata's closest knee. "There's only one way to change the cycle of hatred and that's through love and forgiveness."

Sonata tried to remain serious, however she teased, "Is that what the Amazons teach you?"

The bard smirked and remarked, "Actually no. My mother taught me that." She wouldn't even begin to mention that her adopted mother was Cyrene, the Conqueror's mother. She got up just as Yui approached her.

"We should get you ready, Alessa." Yui's eyes followed the Amazon's length. "You must wear something more appropriate for the dance."

Gabrielle studied her plain dress then consented. "Do you have any ideas?"

The Asian wife slightly grinned. "Plenty." She took the new wife's hand. "Come with me." She guided her deeper into the sitting room.

Lana and Sonata decided to follow and assist the pair. Also Sonata truly wanted to see what other attire the wives could wear. It didn't take long for Gabrielle to have her clothes hand selected by the chatty wives. Gabrielle mostly stayed quiet because she was deep in thought about why the Conqueror hadn't mentioned this aspect of the plans. What could Xena be up to?

Gabrielle discovered her new attire left very little to the imagination. She wore a strapped top that lifted her breasts into ample cleavage. The top was a soft lavender with a golden spiderweb design then there were several gold beaded strings that trickled over her shoulders. Her stomach was left bare until her lower half was covered by a sheer skirt, which was matching to her top. Across her waist, she adorned a golden belt that dangled several golden strands. Then the golden sandals mimicked the the beaded strands. The only jewelry she put on were a pair of thick, gold bracelets that easily sparkled against the light. And Gabrielle decided to keep her hair braided back since it'd make it easier during her dance. 

Only a candlemark later, the wives were called into the dinning room where Gurkhan and his guests relaxed. The wives took their usual spot off to the side, and they become comfortable in the cushions. Next the servants flowed into the room and moved around the room.

There was no silence in the room as the wives softly chatted. The guests whispered amongst themselves. Gabrielle was the only silent wife as she scanned the guests' faces for her lover, but she didn't see Xena.

Two guards marched into the room and stopped beside the steps that went to the lower level where everybody lounged. The tapped their spears' ends onto the floor, then the right one spoke first.

"My lord, the Conqueror has arrived."

There was no verbal response from the group of guests.

The right guard nodded to a hidden command, and he disappeared back through the open doorway. He came back shortly and guided a tall, armor clad woman. Then behind her was a smaller man, who shined from his chest armor.

Gabrielle inhaled sharply and stared at her lover poised at the top of the steps. She hadn't seen the Conqueror in her finest armor, cape, and black leathers for some time. She was so use to the usual brown leathers and the Gaelic armor that reminded her of M'Lila.

"Hail, Gurkhan," the Conqueror spoke loudly, and she bowed.

Iolaus mimicked the Greek ruler's actions then straightened up after the Conqueror.

The Conqueror stayed at the top of the steps until she was allowed to join. She stood proud, and her powerful aura hummed around her. She seemed increasingly darker than normal except for the occasional flashes of gold from her armor.

The number one wife stood off to the side, and she briefly glanced at the clump of guests. She returned her focus to the Greek ruler. "Welcome to Mogador, Conqueror." She paused then declared, "Welcome to Gurkhan's palace. Gurkhan wishes for you to join him." She held out her hand to the guests.

The Conqueror briefly studied the first wife, who reminded her nothing of Gabrielle. She didn't bother to assess the wives off to her left, but she merely descended the steps.

Iolaus silently followed. He was unsure how this would work out.

As the Conqueror neared the male guests, there was a shuffle of movement from all the guests. She hesitated and watched as the guests parted like a sea then all that was left was one man in the center.

The man, who's head was bowed, lifted it and showed a smile. "It's been a long time, Xena."

The Conqueror recalled Gurkhan's face from so many Helical Risings ago. He had aged quite a bit since she'd briefly caught a glimpse of him last. "Perhaps too long."

Gurkhan chuckled then held out his hand to the open spot beside him on the large pillow. "Sit."

The Greek ruler easily sat beside the former warlord. She sat cross legged, back straight, and eyes on Gurkhan.

Iolaus took a standing post off to the left of the sitting powers. He linked his hands between his back and cape.

Gurkhan did a brief clap, which caused the music and chatter to continue in the room.

Gabrielle felt her heartbeat was strong. She pulled away from her stare and slightly hung her head.

Sonata moved past some of the wives and sat beside the bard. She had one foot on the floor while she propped her right leg up. She wrapped her right arm around her leg and leaned towards Gabrielle. "What you think they're talking about over there?" She signaled, with her chin, the Conqueror and Gurkhan.

Gabrielle glimpsed at the Greek ruler and her supposed husband. "I can't imagine, Sonata."

Sonata smirked and whispered, "They're probably talking about how to take over northern Africa." She rolled her eyes. "It's amazing how some of the darkest people in this world can be so beautiful outside. I think it's a joke from the Fates."

The Amazon clamped down on her initial retort and simply replied, "You can't judge a scroll by it's parchment, Sonata."

Sonata blinked and turned her focus from the Conqueror to Gabrielle. "But you can judge a scroll by it's author." She grew dim. "You can't tell me there's anything good about the Conqueror." She returned to observing the Greek ruler, who was whispering back and forth with Gurkhan. "If I could pretend she didn't slaughter so many people, I would find her fairly attractive."

Gabrielle was silent, then she decided on another topic. She quietly asked, "What would you do if you were free, Sonata?"

The wife lost her earlier smirk and became somewhat serious. "I would say that I'd go back to Greece." She turned her head away and brushed her dark hair back. "But with the way the Conqueror rules things... I don't know."

"I've heard she's changing," the bard murmured.

Sonata softly laughed and teased, "Where do you get your optimistic gossip?"

Gabrielle raised an eyebrow much like Xena would have done. She lowered it then seriously questioned, "What would you do back in Greece?"

The wife really considered it, and she wasn't quite sure. "I don't know. I suppose settle down."

"You don't sound too excited about that idea."

Sonata shrugged but commented, "When I was a young girl I use to think about being an Amazon."

Gabrielle lifted her head, and her eyes sparkled. She could relate to what Sonata just mentioned. "You should be an Amazon."

Sonata chuckled and shook her head. "I don't think they'd want me, Gabrielle."

"Trust me," the Amazon uttered, "they would take you."

Sonata had a perplexed face, yet she couldn't get her words out before the first wife spoke.

"Alessa," the number one wife called, "Gurkhan wishes for you to dance."

Sonata touched the Amazon's knee just before Gabrielle stood. "Good luck."

Gabrielle only gave an appreciative look, then she hurried to take her position. She had sweaty palms. She couldn't control her frantic heartbeat when she gazed upon Gurkhan and the Conqueror. She tried desperately not to look at Xena too much or else her focus would shatter.

The Conqueror slightly tilted her head when the distinct music began. She'd already ended her conversation with Gurkhan and now keenly watched the starting performance from Gabrielle. She'd already seen Gabrielle's dances when they'd traveled the Mediterranean, yet this was far different.

The Conqueror felt flushed by the eye-catching attire her lover had adorned. Then the jewelry reflected the light in accurate spots that drew Xena's attention to Gabrielle's stomach, breasts, or lower to muscular thighs. Xena tightly clenched her padded knees so that she'd have some resolve. She'd never been the wanted lover, but she couldn't deny her sharp-set want for Gabrielle right now.

Gurkhan must have picked up on the Greek ruler's feverish desire for the young wife. He leaned closer to the Conqueror and murmured, "Beautiful, isn't she?"

The Conqueror had yet to look away from the dancing wife. She had dark, hooded eyes and a feral smile. "Very, Gurkhan... you have excellent taste." Then Xena held her breath when Gabrielle lifted her arms, head bowed, and Gabrielle's hips swayed to the rhythmic music.

Gurkhan licked his lips in agreement to the ruler's appreciation. "Perhaps you'd like some... private time with my wife."

The Greek ruler's voice rumbled when she replied, "Yes." When Gabrielle continued her dance with the long, sheer veil, Xena leaned closer and murmured, "She'll help soften the deal."

Gurkhan deeply laughed and muttered, "Yes." He straightened up and continued to enjoy the erotic dance.

Gabrielle carefully moved across the floor and neared the two seated powers. She seemed to have dark eyes thanks to her black liner. She passed her husband a leering expression then twisted around so she had her back to them. Gradually Gabrielle came to her knees, and she leaned back. She moved her hands with the beat and slowly leaned further back. Her upper body moved with the music.

The Conqueror barely kept her eyebrow down as she received an ample view of Gabrielle's full breasts. She didn't recall teaching Gabrielle this trick, yet she fully appreciated the addition and view. She then slightly lowered her gaze and saw the bard's eyes closed. Yet what heated her was how Gabrielle's lips were parted in an inviting way.

Gabrielle opened her eyes, and she briefly locked eyes with her lover. She felt on fire when she saw Xena's passions heightened in those crystal blue eyes. She straightened up faster than earlier and continued her alluring dance. No longer did Gabrielle focus her dance on them both – she solely wanted this for Xena.

The Conqueror never felt her passions out of control like she did now. If she wasn't here before Gurkhan, she would have taken Gabrielle by now. Yet the fact that Gurkhan knew nothing of her true purpose here or that she and Gabrielle were lovers excited her greatly. She mapped out a plan for tonight to take Gabrielle, and Xena would make sure that Gurkhan heard how she could truly please a woman. Tonight the Conqueror would conquer Gurkhan's new wife.

Gabrielle had moved back across the floor and stood in front of Gurkhan and the Conqueror again. She had her long veil which she suddenly brought across her shoulders and arms. She closed the sheer veil over her body as she went to her knees. She then bowed and held the veil closed over her mostly bare body. She'd completed the dance.

Gurkhan had a hard time taking his eyes off his new wife, yet his dark eyes flickered to his first wife.

Coriander set her dangerous expression on Gabrielle. "Your dance has pleased Gurkhan."

The Amazon bowed her head deeper then carefully stood up. She kept the veil over her body, and she returned to the other wives.

Gurkhan then gave a brief clap, which signaled for the soft music to start again. He then turned to his possible ally and chatted with her more.

Sonata scooted closer to Gabrielle, who just sat down. "Where did you learn that?"

The bard chuckled and replied, "The Amazons."

Sonata flashed a grin. "I didn't know the Amazons could dance."

"Oh we're very good at it," the bard revealed, "we do a lot of ritual dances."

Sonata was fascinated.

Gabrielle touched Sonata's knee and softly said, "The Amazons are a family. You would like it."

"If I could join, I would," Sonata admitted.

The bard squeezed the woman's knee then released it. She wouldn't say anything since she wasn't sure what the plans were right now. She didn't even know that Xena would be here, but she was relieved for it too. She couldn't guess why her partner hadn't mentioned this part, and she hoped there was a damn good reason.

The Conqueror spoke with Gurkhan quietly. She then stopped when the servants came with food for them. She casually received the plate and lightly picked at the food. While Gurkhan busied with getting his plate, Xena stole a glance over at Gabrielle.

Gabrielle mentioned something to Sonata, yet she stopped when she felt that familiar and passionate gaze on her. She bit back her smirk, and locked eyes with her lover. She swallowed hard when the Conqueror flashed a dark, carnal grin then looked away. She exhaled deeply and wondered what that would mean later.

The dinner continued for almost two candlemarks before it started to break apart. The wives eventually made their way back to the common room, and they all gossiped about the Conqueror and Gurkhan. Some wives started questioning whether Gurkhan would bed the Greek ruler. It just seemed so strange that the enemies were here together, and something was in the air.

Gabrielle had listened to the gossip, and she almost prickled at the talk about Gurkhan bedding the Greek ruler. She managed to clamp her emotions before they started. She made a mental note not to mention that moment to her partner or else she'd never heard the end of it. She faintly grinned at the thought of her lover teasing her for any remote jealousy.

The wives went silent though when a guard entered the common room. He called for Alessa to follow him.

The Amazon was perplexed, but she did what she was told. She neared the guard, went up the steps, and slowly headed out of the room. She briefly looked over her shoulder and saw Sonata and Lana's worried faces.

The guard brought the new wife through several corridors and entered another part of the palace. He finally came to a door, which already had another guard. The guard that'd brought Gabrielle stepped forward and opened the door.

Gabrielle hesitated, however, she cautiously entered the dim room.

The guard closed the door and returned to his post beside the door. He briefly glanced at his comrade to his left.

The Amazon listened to the door close behind her, and she sought out who may be in the room. She centered on what undoubtedly was her lover's tall form in front of the window. She admired the black, silk robe that hid her lover's muscular body.

The Conqueror turned her head sidelong. She simply removed her hand from the windowsill and held it out in invite.

Gabrielle crossed the short distance and slipped her left hand into the larger one. She felt just how warm Xena was than normal. "I didn't know you were coming," she whispered.

The Conqueror appreciated the fact that Gabrielle kept her voice low. She turned her head to the bard. "I was unsure that I could arrange it. Nor did I want you dependent on my arrival."

"I'm glad you're here though." Gabrielle admired her partner's striking profile.

The ruler slowly turned and faced the petite blond. "So am I." She let her eyes trail over her lover's gorgeous body, and she huskily whispered, "I enjoyed your dance."

"Mmmm." The bard grinned and teased, "I noticed." She leaned in some and asked, "What was that look earlier?"

The Conqueror knew what Gabrielle was referring to, but she wouldn't give into the question just yet. "Have you spoken to your sister?"

Gabrielle let it go and seriously replied, "I need to catch her when she's alone." She placed her right hand on the ruler's burning chest. "How long will you stay?"

"For as long as I can stretch this out," the ruler promised. "Talk to your sister tomorrow... at first light." She moved closer and lifted her hand. She traced the bard's jaw line slowly. "I'll keep you here for tonight."

"The... guards," the distracted bard reminded.

"Don't worry," the Conqueror murmured. She brought her fingertips to Gabrielle's soft lips. "And speaking of guards, we have to continue our show tonight."

The bard was growing more distracted, although she desperately tried to focus on her partner's words. "How?" Her eyes grew heavy from passion, and she closed them. She then sensed Xena's hand on her stomach.

The Conqueror lowered her head some and brushed her lips over Gabrielle's. "You trust me?"

Gabrielle lazily opened her eyes, yet she sincerely replied, "More than anything."

Despite the heated moment, the Conqueror felt a sense of peace from those words. She brushed her lips Gabrielle's cheek and brought them close to the shell-like ear that was so soft. "Then tonight I'm only the Conqueror."

The bard understood the implications, and it excited her from her stomach and further down. "Yes... my liege." She slipped her arms around the ruler and tightly clung to her. "I'm yours tonight, Conqueror."

The Conqueror nipped the bard's ear and earned a sharp hiss of pleasure. "Don't be silent tonight." She withdrew some then captured Gabrielle's lips in a hungry kiss.

Gabrielle whimpered at the end of the kiss, but she was carefully guided through the room to the bed. She couldn't see that well since there were only a few candles lit. It didn't matter to her right now.

The Conqueror settled her partner into the foot of the bed, then she signaled Gabrielle to move back.

Gabrielle slowly crawled back. She never broke her eye contact with the commanding woman that trailed after her. She coaxed her lover down for another kiss.

The ruler pressed her body down against the bard's. Then she slipped her hand behind Gabrielle's back. She broke the kiss but began nipping at the bard's neck.

"Oh gods," Gabrielle whispered. She then hissed when Xena nipped harder. Gabrielle tangled her right hand in the ruler's hair while she used her other hand to hold her body up. She then slid her hand down to Xena's sash that held the robe closed.

The Conqueror was fast, and she caught the Amazon's hand. "No," she coldly stated. Then she quickly came up and kissed Gabrielle.

The bard was not at all upset by the harsh reaction from Xena. It was something she grew tolerant of because it went into the role playing. She knew her lover was up to something so Gabrielle would go along.

The ruler lightly nipped at Gabrielle's bottom lip after the kiss. "You won't touch me tonight," she informed. She was met by inquisitive green eyes. She simply explained, "Tonight is about you."

Gabrielle's curiosity almost got the best of her, but she just yielded. She freed her hand from Xena's then brushed the ruler's cheek. She leaned in for a softer kiss and expressed her longing for the ruler.

The Conqueror gradually escalated the kiss then started to remove the bard's clothes.

Gabrielle sat up better and assisted her lover. She continued the hungry kisses that caused her to moan louder. Then the cold air met her hardened nipples, and she pressed her body against the Conqueror's. The warm silk robe felt amazing against her burning skin. Gabrielle instantly dug her nails against the ruler's back.

The Conqueror remained on her knees, and she held her lover close to her. She lower her head and captured Gabrielle's moist lips for a long kiss. Then her hand made a snaking rise for one of Gabrielle's breasts.

Gabrielle's voice grew louder and deeper. She showed increasing need for her lover's quenching touch. She recalled Xena's earlier command that she should not at all be quiet. She often tried to keep a certain clamp over her pleasure, but she was free tonight.

The ruler gently placed the bard on her back in the middle of the large bed. She hovered over the prone woman, who only remained in her skirt. Xena traced her lips over Gabrielle's right breast and teased the nipple. She darted her tongue over the aching nipple.

Gabrielle became frustrated, and she clawed the ruler in demand. She only delayed Xena's lips from her desired spot. The bard arched her back slightly and begged.

The Conqueror had drawn it out enough. She covered the hard nipple with her moist lips. She let her tongue toy with Gabrielle even more before she closed her teeth over the nipple.

"Gods," the Amazons growled, "Conqueror." She pushed up higher and enjoyed the feeling of Xena's mouth taking more.

The Conqueror wanted her lover louder, and she knew Gabrielle was still holding back. She encouraged it further by tracing her fingertips over Gabrielle's inner thigh. She then grazed her fingers past Gabrielle's center then came up to her stomach.

"Please, Conqueror," the bard hotly tried.

The Conqueror took the bard's nipple between her teeth and gave a sharp bite. She enjoyed Gabrielle's brief cry. She moved her head up, kissed the bard's collar bone, and brought head next to Gabrielle's. "Please what?" Xena brought her right hand back to Gabrielle's moist center. She achingly push between the woman's folds.

"You know what," Gabrielle replied and brought her nails down the ruler's back.

"No," the Conqueror's voice rumbled, "tell me, Gabrielle." She lightly stroked Gabrielle's clit. "Tell me."

The bard growled and arched her back again. "Touch me, Conqueror."

The Conqueror shook from a deep laugh, and she huskily replied, "I will." She then pulled her hand away and brought it up to the skirt. She worked to remove it.

Gabrielle clenched her teeth from pure frustration, yet she assisted her lover in removing the skirt. She felt relieved when it was gone because her skin burned. She then pulled Xena in for a feverish kiss. She withdrew and opened her eyes to see her lover's passionate face. "Please touch me, Conqueror."

The ruler had felt how ready the bard was, and she hoped Gabrielle was just as mentally ready. She commanded, "Turn onto your stomach."

The bard didn't understand, yet she followed the order. She wasn't sure how to place her head so she turned it to the right. Then she mostly felt Xena move behind her and then over her. Briefly she sensed the silk robe pass over her back so she realized Xena had removed it.

Gabrielle could see less than earlier because the candles were dwindling. There seemed to be more moonlight from the window than anything. She then concentrated on Xena's legs brushing against the insides of hers.

The Conqueror slightly lowered but stopped and instructed, "Spread your legs for me, Gabrielle." She remained on her knees between the bard's slightly spread legs. She watched in full appreciation as her view of Gabrielle grew more detailed when Gabrielle opened her legs.

The Amazon Queen closed her eyes just as Xena's hand met her right thigh. She felt her pulse heighten each beat that Xena's hand slid higher up her thigh. She felt the ruler shift on the bed, and she didn't know what would happen, yet she was excited by the mystery.

The Conqueror had been nude under the silk robe, and now that the robe was gone her own nipples had hardened from the cool night. She was focused on her careful task. The Conqueror slowly lowered her body towards Gabrielle's and moved her body up closer.

Gabrielle's skin molded against Xena's as Xena became lower. Gabrielle then gasped when the Conqueror entered into her, but Xena felt different.

The Conqueror carefully pressed her hips deeper into her partner. She heard the bard's exhilarated inhale, but she kept pressing down. Once she was fully inside Gabrielle, she had her hips against Gabrielle. The Conqueror moved her arms freely and brought them above Gabrielle's head. She easily sought out the bard's hands.

Gabrielle felt her lover's longer fingers laced through hers. She tried to comprehend how the Conqueror was inside of her, but they held hands. For an instant, Cleopatra's words flashed through her mind. Gabrielle lost all rational thought when the Conqueror's hips pulled away from her then slowly came back down.

"Oh my gods," Gabrielle cried, and she closed her eyes harder. Then she shouted again when her lover repeated the process slowly.

The Conqueror had a wild grin at hearing the bard's voice. She could tell Gabrielle was confused earlier, but now it didn't matter. Gabrielle simply wanted Xena to keep going. The ruler obliged and repeatedly brought her hips up and down against the bard.

Gabrielle's cries followed the careful thrusts. She started to clenched her partner's large hands. Then her heart pounded against her chest.

The Conqueror felt how excited Gabrielle was; the Conqueror was becoming coated in a mix of her and Gabrielle's essences.

Gabrielle turned her head some and buried her face in the bed cover. She sensed the build in her body that ravaged her. She lifted her head and shouted when the Conqueror's hips went deeper than normal.

The ruler moved her head off the bard's shoulder, and she placed a kiss to the bard's temple. She then was rewarded when Gabrielle turned her head and met her for a kiss.

After the deep kiss, Gabrielle gasped for air but pleaded, "Go faster." Her plea was quickly met, and the Conqueror drove faster into her. Gabrielle shouted louder, and her voice surely echoed outside of the room.

The Conqueror gradually increased the tempo. She felt her front slightly move across Gabrielle's back from their heated bodies. The Conqueror didn't falter her thrusts.

"Conqueror!" Gabrielle yelled. She slightly lifted her back and pushed harder. "Don't stop," she loudly urged.

The Conqueror freed her hands from Gabrielle's. She lifted her body from Gabrielle's just as she came up. She planted her palms on the bed then was able to increase the drivers harder and faster.

Gabrielle's voice also grew louder. She clutched the bed sheets and went between gritting her teeth to shouting. She and Xena had never done this in the past, and the mystery thrilled her closer and closer to the edge.

The Conqueror continued the drivers and sensed Gabrielle near her limit. She lowered her head and placed a few kisses on the bard's sticky shoulder blade. She could taste the tension in the bard's muscles. Xena was further encouraged.

Gabrielle dug her fingers deep into the bedsheets, squeezed her eyes shut, and her breath held for a beat. Then Xena's hips pushed deep into her, and Gabrielle cried her lover's title in sweet ecstasy.

The Conqueror remained still and held herself off of the bard's shattering body. Then she watched the satisfaction release all the passion from Gabrielle. Xena felt the tension leave the bard, who became slumped on the bed finally. Xena gingerly lowered down, but she remained inside of the still tight bard.

The Amazon detected her lover's hot body against her back, and she faintly smiled. She turned her head to the right and tried to catch her breath. She had her eyes closed, and her cheeks were flushed. She did notice that Xena remained in her, yet she knew her muscles were starting to relax.

The ruler cautiously withdrew from Gabrielle then adjusted her body a certain way. She kept her weight mostly off her lover, however, she was able to place a kiss to Gabrielle's cheek.

Gabrielle moved her right hand and caught the ruler's into hers. "I wasn't too loud, was I?" She slyly grinned when Xena's chest vibrated from a chuckle.

"Not at all," the ruler murmured. She kissed Gabrielle's shoulder then added, "Perfect."

The Amazon Queen still couldn't figure out what Xena had done to please her, but she loved it. Her more curious, bard side wanted to know how this worked. Yet at the same time, Gabrielle found the mystery of it quite exciting, and she figured that was Xena's intention.

Xena rested her cheek against Gabrielle's shoulder so that her face was in the same direction as Gabrielle's. "This is far from finished."

Gabrielle's eyes quickly opened at those words. "Really?" she squeaked. She cleared her throat and took a deep breath. She felt somewhat more in control of her weak body.

"Mmmm." The ruler squeezed her lover's small hand. "I didn't hear you complaining."

The Amazon's cheeks became flushed again, but not from earlier. "Uh... well... this is different." She tried to keep away from asking questions.

Xena chuckled again and replied, "It seems to be a good difference."

Gabrielle suspected that her partner may have had some doubt about doing this earlier. In fact, she was pretty sure considering their conversation several days back about Cleopatra's comments. She wondered what'd changed Xena's mind to reveal this little secret. Whatever the cause, Gabrielle was happy Xena changed her mind and added the new dynamic to their relationship.

The Conqueror could tell Gabrielle's bard mind was in full gear. She decided to quickly bring the mood back before Gabrielle's thoughts deepened. "You seem to like this from behind."

The bard lost her thoughts and replayed the ruler's words in her head. She nervously laughed and replied, "I guess it's... a little exciting."

"Hmmmm." The Conqueror slowly started to shift. "I would have never guessed the rebel leader had such a.... kinky side in bed."

Gabrielle couldn't contain her laugh, and she smirked after. "And I'm so appreciative you can accommodate me, my liege."

Xena mirrored the bard's smirk, but hers was wilder. "My pleasure." And it truly was hers because she'd never performed this since her days with Cleopatra. Those times she'd done it for the purpose to claim Queen Cleopatra and the Egyptian navy for Greece. Xena had to compete against suiters like Marc Anthony, and she knew that Queen Cleopatra would never lay with another woman. So the Conqueror had devised another way to win Cleopatra's affections from Anthony and was award a navy and alliance.

Since then, Xena had repeated her actions one other time with Cleopatra during a visit to Egypt. The Conqueror never found any pleasure in doing it, which was strange for her. She hadn't expected tonight, with Gabrielle, to please her, but it did. Gabrielle's screams and satisfaction still filled the ruler, but what made her comfortable was Gabrielle's enjoyable acceptance to the new dynamic.

Gabrielle realized her partner was off the bed now. She slightly lifted her head and wondered what was next. She felt somewhat recovered.

"Come here, Gabrielle," the ruler softly ordered.

The bard turned onto her back, but she could only faintly make out Xena in the darkness. She realized the candles were dead except for one. The only true light source was the quarter moon. Gabrielle made out Xena's sculpted face and especially those mercury blue eyes she loved.

Xena carefully watched the Amazon move down the bed. And she placed her hands on Gabrielle's hips once she was close enough. She guided the bard to the position she wanted for now. She had Gabrielle seated upright on the foot of the high bed. She then spread Gabrielle's legs open by pushing Gabrielle's knees outward.

The bard kept her eyes up and locked on Xena's face. She followed every signal the Conqueror gave her. Then a grin swept over her lips when Xena stepped between her legs. She knew what her partner had in mind so she easily wrapped her legs across Xena's muscular stomach and slid her hands over the ruler's stomach.

The Conqueror moaned at the feel of Gabrielle's wet center against her stomach. She recalled her earlier fire to take and dominate her receptive lover. She lowered her head and captured Gabrielle's lips. After the kiss, she instructed, "Lay back." As the bard lowered, she followed and started another kiss.

Gabrielle moaned from the rekindled hunger in her stomach. She smiled in the kiss when Xena's midnight hair fell around them and tickled her breasts so that her nipples hardened again. She almost complained when the kiss ended all too soon, but Xena halted her with bites to her neck.

The ruler trailed down the bard's neck and made her way to the waiting breasts. Her teasing with Gabrielle's nipples caused the bard to become wetter. Xena felt Gabrielle's hips slide across her stomach in silent demand. Xena decided to further the teasing by slipping her right hand down.

Gabrielle gasped when long fingers slipped between her folds and rubbed her clit. She slightly eased her legs' grip around the ruler's waist and gave better access. She was rewarded by harder rubs, and her earlier moans returned. Briefly the bard questioned whether this passion she felt for Xena would ever calm. She prayed it wouldn't happen.

The Conqueror dipped her fingertips into Gabrielle's center. She hardly went inside yet enough to taunt her lover.

"Conqueror," Gabrielle pleaded. She opened her eyes and saw the dominance in her lover. She absolutely loved this aspect about their relationship, and she would never tell another about it since she was once the rebel leader. Yet few also knew how Gabrielle could easily command the Conqueror, if Gabrielle wanted.

The Conqueror lowered her head and fiercely kissed her partner. She didn't stop massaging the bard's clit and increased the tempo. She calculated that it wouldn't be but a few more beats before Gabrielle had a small climax from the rhythmic motions. She further coaxed the bard by sucking on a hard nipple, then she nipped at it.

Gabrielle arched her back when the climax hit her. She cried out, "Conqueror," then relaxed back on the bed. She gulped for some air and kept her eyes closed. She realized it wasn't over because the ruler started to move her back on the bed some.

The Amazon opened her eyes and noticed her lover was back on the bed too, but Xena was on her knees. Then she felt strong hands on her hips, and she was lifted up. Gabrielle instantly shut her eyes when the returned fullness came inside of her. She was aroused all over again at feeling Xena inside of her yet those strong hands carefully holding her.

The Conqueror started out slow, and she pushed Gabrielle off her hips then brought her back. She cautiously repeated the motions until she felt Gabrielle's muscles become accepting to the erotic sensations. Gabrielle further encouraged her when Gabrielle unlocked her legs from Xena's waist.

Gabrielle spread her legs wider, and she arched her back. She'd never felt this amazing with her lover. She couldn't stop the excitement at having Xena please her this way, and Xena's hands on her body and controlled her. She may have not fully understand the mystery, but to the bard's mind and imagination it was Xena and that's all that mattered to Gabrielle.

The guards posted at the Conqueror's doors exchanged wide-eyed expressions again when the Gurkhan's new wife repeated her earlier cries. The right guard look away first and cleared his throat. He swore if he had to hear anymore of this then he would have a hard time remaining at his post. He silently admitted that he'd never once heard any wife be this pleased, especially by Gurkhan himself. The Conqueror could truly conquer, the guards decided.

Late into the night, the guards listened to the Conqueror dominate Gurkhan's Amazon wife. Then it wasn't silent until a candlemark prior to dawn. The guards felt absolutely exhausted from it all.

Gabrielle was snuggled deep in her lover's arms, and her eyes were already closed. She was still awake and listened to the ruler's constant, soft breathing. It had a soothing affect on the bard. "I'm sure that made an impression."

The Conqueror smirked then adjusted the covers that were over them. "Most likely." She kissed her partner's bare shoulder.

The Amazon chuckled and pressed her back more into Xena's front. She couldn't feel anymore protected than she did in the Conqueror's arms. And yet here she was in the middle of a ruthless slaver's palace.

"Get some rest," Xena murmured, "I'll wake you when it's time to go."

Gabrielle ran her fingertips over the ruler's muscular arm. "We'll go to Lila?"

The Conqueror nuzzled the bard's head and breathed in the soft scent that was only Gabrielle. "Yes."


The Conqueror tightened her arms around the bard. "Don't worry... get some sleep."

The Amazon Queen couldn't argue anymore because exhaustion was catching up to her. She'd never stayed up this late and received this much pleasure.

Xena sensed her lover slipping into a dreamscape. She closed her eyes, but she wouldn't fall asleep tonight. She was too concerned about protecting them from any harm that could come if she slept. She didn't trust Gurkhan, just as he didn't trust her. She only needed him to trust her enough so that she had this temporary access to his palace. She didn't care if the negotiations worked out between her realm and Gurkhan. Soon those plausible negotiations would be worthless.

The Conqueror was glad she was able to convince Gurkhan that she was open to negotiations for trade between her realm and his slavery market. That was his true business while his business as a merchant was merely a cover for any overlooking eyes. The Greek realm already had a small flow of slaves coming in and out of Greece that dealt with Gurkhan, but it was minimal. The Conqueror promised that if they could work out their difference that she'd widen the trade for Gurkhan. It'd been that promise that'd pulled the wool over Gurkhan's eyes. Xena had pinpointed Gurkhan's weakness a long time ago – greed.

The Conqueror now prayed that she could accomplish her real mission without bringing harm to Gabrielle or Gabrielle's sister. Lila's safety and escape were highly important to the bard, and Xena would make sure they both left Gurkhan's palace without a mark. Xena felt that it was because of her past actions that Lila was now Gurkhan's wife. It was a heavy weight on the ruler's conscious, and she planned to correct it. Then she would begin the demolish of the slavery market by first taking out Gurkhan.

Xena eased out of her mental plans when she realized the sun was peaking through the open window. She slowly moved her hand over Gabrielle's stomach in a rhythmic motion that she knew the bard enjoyed.

Gabrielle stirred from the dreams, and she groaned. "Just a bit longer," she muttered.

The bemused ruler had a thin smile. She shifted her head until her lips were by the bard's small ear. "Come on, Gabrielle," she gently coaxed.

The bard nuzzled the pillow and tried to hide deeper in the sheets. "You... wore me... out." She lifted her hand from under the covers and wiped her exhaustion away.

"I'll be sure not to do that again," the ruler taunted.

"Not... funny," the bard grumbled. "I loved that."

The Conqueror smirked and tested the bard with a loaded question. "More so?"

Gabrielle's mind had to catch up to the question since she was still waking up. She turned in the ruler's arms and faced her now. She placed her hand on Xena's chest. "You're comparing apples and... bananas." She listened Xena's low chuckle, but she continued to speak. "I love both ways but for different reasons." She tilted her head back and softly kissed her lover. She withdrew and murmured, "Either way, it's you who's making me feel everything, and that's what matters to me."

"Hmmm." The Conqueror captured the bard's lips then replied, "Good answer."

The bard pulled her head back until she held the ruler's eyes with hers. "It's not a good answer... it's an honest answer."

Xena was silent, but she understood Gabrielle's meaning. She wasn't sure what to say back, and she said the only thing she could right now. "Thank you."

Gabrielle realized the ruler needed time to think it through. She didn't take it as a negative thing, but she appreciated that Xena wanted to consider it more carefully. "Come on. We better get moving."

The Conqueror silently agreed by releasing the bard. She and Gabrielle climbed out of bed then quickly moved about to get dressed. The Conqueror finished first then softly instructed Gabrielle to move away from the door's view.

The guards jumped when the door opened. They slightly turned their heads and note how the Greek ruler filled the doorway. They were tense at how the Conqueror's darkness filled the air around them.

"I will take Gurkhan's wife back to the common room."

The guards exchanged looks then the right guard grew the bravest. He nervously stated, "I must return her, Conqueror."

The Conqueror folded her arms over her chest, and she tilted her head. She displayed a smug and almost cocky expression. "I will return her." Then her expression was completely washed away by her anger. "When I'm finished with her."

The now nervous guard fidgeted and quietly answered, "Yes, Conqueror." He let out a huge breath when the Conqueror closed the door. He then glared at his comrade's amused face.

Gabrielle was almost finished dressing, but she felt warm hands start at her shoulder blades then snake up to her shoulders. She turned her head sidelong and smiled. Her eyes fluttered when the ruler's cool wire armor touched her mostly bare back.

"Are you ready for this?"

The bard closed her eyes and honestly replied, "I'm nervous, Xena."

"I know," came the ruler's husky voice.

"What if Lila won't go back to Greece?" Gabrielle opened her eyes and shook her head then whispered, "Or worse yet what if she tells Gurkhan why we're really here?"

"Don't worry about that," the ruler replied.

The Amazon peered up into determined blue eyes. She realized she was fairly safe from any harm, yet she was scared something would go far wrong. "What do I do if she refuses to come with us?"

"You have to accept her choice, Gabrielle."

The bard shook her head and murmured, "I don't know if I could."

"And if we force her to return to Greece then she'll most likely be unhappy."

Gabrielle frowned at this possibility because it sounded illogical. "Could she really be happy here... as his wife?"

"It isn't impossible," the ruler honestly stated. She didn't want to hide anything from the bard, who could already be facing a lost battle.

Gabrielle considered  Sonata, who acted rather content to be in Gurkhan's palace. She also knew that Sonata would take her freedom if she could be given it. That made her think about all the other wives that were here. "What about Gurkhan's wives?"

The Conqueror hadn't really considered them, and she realized what Gabrielle's question meant. "I hadn't planned on them, Gabrielle."

The bard now turned around and studied her stoic lover. "Xena, we have to help them too."

The Conqueror sighed, but she'd already lost this battle with her lover. She knew Gabrielle's deeply rooted heart wouldn't let either of them walk away without helping these women. So she could make a minor adjustment or two to her plans, and hopefully it wouldn't cause a large problem. "Alright." Then it all felt right when Gabrielle's bright smile showed.

"Thank you." Gabrielle was on her tiptoes and kissed her lover quickly.

Xena tried to remain stoic, but a faint smiled touched her. "Come on. Let's find your sister." She hoped Lila was still in her room that she'd discovered yesterday evening. The Conqueror headed for the door, and she yanked it open.

Gabrielle felt a chill pass through her at how the opening of the door seemed to release the true Conqueror. She lowered her head and passed the eying guards. She kept her pace behind the ruler and didn't speak as many people would expect of her as a wife.

The Conqueror trailed down the long hall – she listened to Gabrielle's gentle footfall behind her. She made a right turn then counted the nonstop doors on her right. She came to a stop at the sixteenth door then scanned the empty hallway.

Gabrielle didn't question and merely waited.

The ruler knocked on the door and prepared to handle the situation if it got ugly. She lifted her chin when the door cracked open, and she found a soft face, gray eyes, and dark hair before her.

The first wife, Coriander, gasped when she immediately recognized the Greek ruler. "What are you doing here?"

The Conqueror was not at all deterred by the cold tone. She politely replied, "I came to talk to you."

Coriander had angry filled eyes, and she started to close the door while hotly saying, "Leave."

The Conqueror's hand shot out and stop the door.

The first wife became frightened as she knew what the Conqueror could do. She prepared to cry out for help.

The Conqueror was faster, and she shoved the door open. She instantly had her hand over the wife's mouth just as the scream came. She narrowed her eyes dangerously whispered, "If you scream then we're all going to have problems."

Gabrielle entered the room, closed the door for safety, and sidestepped her lover. She stared at the first wife and absorbed her features.

The first wife had a scared face, but she glanced at the new wife that seemed relatively calm. She realized the first wife was most likely with the Conqueror or something. She also felt a sense of familiarity from the new wife. Those green eyes were so warm when they shouldn't be.

The Conqueror drew back Coriander's attention. "We're not here to harm you." Some tension left her when the wife's mercury eyes lost most of her fears. She felt it was safe so she slowly pulled her hand away and was relieved to find the first wife silent.

Coriander gazed between the Conqueror and the new wife. She swallowed and asked, "What do you want?"

The ruler stepped back and let her partner handle the sensitive chitchat. She stood aside, folded her arms, and waited for the pending results.

Gabrielle cautiously neared the first wife and asked, "You're name isn't really Coriander, is it?"

The first wife narrowed her eyes, and the tension built in her.

The bard stepped closer again then offered, "You're name is Lila... Lila of Potidaea."

The first wife's lips parted slightly, yet she had no words. Then those green eyes became so familiar from her past. The new wife's gentle features reminded her of an old life she refused to remember until now when it stood here before her. She stepped back again and furiously shook her head. "No," she whispered, "It can't be." Her hardened face was broken by buried emotions. "Gabrielle?"

Gabrielle's eyes instantly stung when her sister recalled her. She came closer but hesitated. "Yeah... it's me." She wanted badly to touch her sister and make sure this was all real.

Several emotions crashed over the first wife, and she began to cry. "Oh gods... no. This is impossible!"

Gabrielle couldn't control her natural instincts. She immediately pulled her younger sister into her body, but Lila tried to refuse her at first. "Lila, it's okay. It's really me."

Lila pushed away from Gabrielle, but she was pulled back by Gabrielle's strong arms. "No!"

The bard's face was stricken with hot tears, and she soothingly repeated, "It's okay, Lila." She wouldn't released her younger sister, and finally Lila's body slumped into hers.

Lila clung to her sister, and hid her face into the bard's warm neck. The burning tears passed over her cheeks and onto Gabrielle's shoulder.

Gabrielle held her last family member close, and she felt a broken piece of herself brought back. She closed her eyes and gently soothed her emotional sister.

The Conqueror remained away from the reunited sisters. She had a clenched jaw, and her throat was tight, but she kept her stoic expression. Only Gabrielle would have been able to tell that the Conqueror was emotionally moved by the reunion.

The sisters remained close and exchanged tears for longer than anybody could recall. They cried from the past pain of being separated all this time, and they cried at finally being together again. It was no longer a dream, or a faded and painful memory – it was achingly, beautifully real once more.

Xena slightly dipped her head when the sisters gradually separated. She now knew that everything she'd work against and for to bring Gabrielle and Lila together was worth it. The ruler raised her head and waited for part that would probably be harder than the reunion.

Lila truly took in Gabrielle's presence and shook her head. "How... I don't understand." She briefly glanced at the silent Conqueror, and she faintly pieced some of it together.

"We came to get you out of here," Gabrielle explained. She wiped her sister's tears away.

Lila took the matching hand into hers. "How did you get in here?"

The bard glimpsed at her partner then back at Lila. "It's a long story, but we have to get you out of here." She waited to see how her words sunk into Lila.

The first wife looked to the ruler, but asked Gabrielle, "You and the Conqueror?" She narrowed her eyes at her sister. "The woman that put me here is helping you?" She started to untangle her hand from Gabrielle's, yet Gabrielle wouldn't allowed her.

"Lila, a lot has changed and a lot is going on."

Lila's hardened face started to return. "That is quite obvious, Gabrielle." She shook her head and criticized, "You've joined the Conqueror."

The bard was ready for this verbal battle. She'd mentally prepared during her trip across the Mediterranean and worked out every angle. "It's actually the other way around, honestly." She bit back her grin when her sister had a confused face. "Like I said, it's a long story, and I can't explain it all to you. We have to get you out of here and back to Greece."

"So that I can be the Conqueror's slave instead? Or be controlled by the Conqueror like you, Gabrielle?" Lila then was surprised by the Conqueror's snort off to the right.

The bemused ruler casually argued, "Your sister being controlled by me?" She gradually inclined an arched eyebrow. "I have better luck controlling the weather than controlling Gabrielle."

Gabrielle turned her head and shot a glower at her lover for the smart remark, despite it was true. "Thank you for the help."

The Conqueror didn't exactly smirk at the bard, but her eyes were bright from mischief. She then seriously regarded the dumbfounded sister. "You're not going to be my slave, Lila or anybody's for that matter. You'll be a freewoman."

Lila blinked because she was still trying to get over the obvious banter between the ruler and her sister. Just what in the known-world was going on around here? She slowly turned to her sister. "I'd heard rumors about a rebel leader that was fighting the Conqueror... I had hoped it was you." She still had cold eyes, and her voice was sharp. "I guess I was wrong."

Gabrielle sighed because she didn't want it to be this difficult. "I was the rebel leader," she explained, "and-"

"You gave in," the first wife snapped. She then directed her cold eyes on the ruler.

The Amazon knew she needed to do this alone with Lila before her partner and sister started off on the wrong foot. She turned her head to Xena, and her apology showed in her eyes. Before Gabrielle could even explain, the Conqueror spoke first.

"I'll be near by if you need me," the ruler simply stated. She quickly went to the door and slipped out of it. When she left, the edge in the room seemed to leave and there was a lightness.

Gabrielle noted Lila's attitude wasn't quite as defensive as earlier. "Lila, I know this is really hard but-"

"No, you don't know." The first wife separated from Gabrielle and crossed the room. She kept her back to Gabrielle but threatened, "I could tell Gurkhan why the Conqueror is really here."

Gabrielle's defenses instantly came to life. She quickly came to her sister's back, grabbed her shoulder, and spun her around. "Don't you dare," she menacingly warned. "She is risking her life by being here." She lowered her head closer to the Lila's surprised face. "I'm risking my life." She clenched her teeth then angrily stated, "I may not have been a slave all my life, and I can't relate." She lifted her hand and pointed at the door the Conqueror walked through. "What I can relate to is only seeing the Conqueror as evil." She dropped her hand. "I've spent my life blaming that monster for my parents' death and my sister's enslavement."

Lila felt her tears burn behind her eyes, but she fought them.

Gabrielle took a steady breath. "Do you know who took me in after Potidaea was attacked?" She waited for her sister's negative head shake. "A woman in Amphipolis took me in and adopted me. Her name is Cyrene... she's the Conqueror's mother."

The first wife stared in horror, but she had no words.

"I devoted my life to stopping the Conqueror," the bard told. "I tried to undermined her rulership and give the people something to believe in. Then one day the Conqueror was facing death, and I was the only person willing to defend her." She hesitated and thought back on the memories in the Amazon village. "I never feared her. I stood up against her. And I hated her... I hated the monster."

Lila bowed her head, and the tears broke free.

"But I realized that even if I had some revenge over the Conqueror that I still would have no peace. I had to conqueror my hatred and anger or else I'd be no better than her. So I stopped her from being killed." Gabrielle touched Lila's cheek and that brought Lila's head back up. "It was the best thing I ever did, Lila. There's more to the Conqueror than this monster that's been created in her." She solemnly smiled and whispered, "There's a beautiful woman under all that armor, and she's trying to fix what's happened."

Lila closed her eyes and muttered, "I don't know if I can forgive her... like you, Gabrielle."

"Nobody can force you," the Amazon agreed. "But you should give her a chance. You may find out how easy it is to forgive once you see who she really is in there."

The first wife swallowed and slowly opened her eyes. She was met by concerned green eyes.

"She regrets what happened to Potidaea, Lila. She's trying to fix it... that's why she's here." Gabrielle stepped closer and lowered her hand to her sister's shoulder. "She never even ordered Potidaea to be attacked."

The young sister felt her burrow tightened, and she didn't understand.

"One of commanders at the time," Gabrielle explained, "disobeyed her. He attacked Potidaea and Cirra when he was suppose to offer alliances."

Lila shook her had and muttered, "That only softens the blow, Gabrielle."

"I know." The Amazon tilted her head. "Xena stills feels fully responsible for what happened."

Lila noticed how her sister called the ruler by her first name as if they were best friends. She felt her stomach slightly knotty, and she was unsure.

Gabrielle detected the apprehension, but she didn't think Lila was angry like earlier. She was about to say something, but a soft cry from her left stopped her. She became baffled because it sounded like a child.

Lila quickly broke away from her sister and followed her initial instincts. She hurried through the open doorway into the small room nearby. She had a soft voice and crooned.

Gabrielle slowly neared the room and stood in the doorway when her sister lifted a baby from a wood crib. She had wide eyes and stared in awe at the child in Lila's arms.

Lila slightly twisted her torso back and forth in a rhythmic motion and coaxed the baby. She kissed the baby's temple and murmured, "It's okay. Momma is here." She gradually turned until she faced her sister.

Gabrielle eased closer, and she couldn't stop staring at the baby. She felt her eyes sting, and a smile broke her stunned face. "Oh my gods." She peered up at her sister.

Lila was smiling at the baby then she lifted her head upon hearing her sister's words. She swallowed and peered down at her child. "Say hello to your Aunt Gabrielle, Sarah."

Gabrielle covered her mouth with her hand and started to cry. "Oh gods." She withdrew her hand from her face and gingerly touched her niece. "You're a mother?" She absorbed her sister's happy features, and she whispered, "I'm an aunt." She felt her tears come more freely.

"I had Sarah about four moons ago," Lila softly revealed. "I wasn't Gurkhan's number one wife when I became pregnant." She licked her chapped lips and continued to swing her body to comfort her daughter. She glanced at Gabrielle then mentioned, "Gurkhan isn't Sarah's father. Sarah's father was a Greek slave that Gurkhan had for awhile." She dipped her head at the thought of her former lover, who she now missed. "He's gone now... sold to another master."

Gabrielle was studying Sarah, but she peered over at her sister. She carefully listened and wondered what Lila would tell her.

"When I found out I was pregnant, I realized that my child would have a hard life." Lila's eyes fluttered, yet she held herself strong like she had all these moons. "I knew the only way for her to have any future was for me to be the number one wife. I did anything I had to, to become the number one wife. I wanted to ensure Sarah had a brighter future than the rest of Gurkhan's children."

"He doesn't know Sarah isn't his?"

"No," the first wife murmured, "I keep praying I'll be pregnant again but with a boy so that Gurkhan will overlook Sarah's lack of resemblance."

Gabrielle could see that it would be hard for Gurkhan to ignore it. Sarah's hair was growing out blond, and she had rich hazel eyes that she suspected was the father's. Gabrielle knew those were not Gurkhan's traits whatsoever. "Lila, I think Sarah is all the more reason you should come with Xena and I." She carefully touched her niece's head.

"Sarah is also another reason why I'm reluctant," the first wife admitted. "I have to think about my daughter, Gabrielle. I don't trust the Conqueror."

"I'm not asking you to do that," the bard urged. "I'm asking you to trust me." She studied her sister's clear apprehensions. "I didn't come all this way for you to refuse me, sister." She watched Lila's eyes drop from hers. "I won't leave here without you."

Lila nibbled on her bottom lip. She nervously questioned, "You trust the Conqueror, Gabrielle?"

"I trust Xena," Gabrielle emphasized, "with my life."

The younger sister now studied Gabrielle's confident attitude. "You care for her."

Gabrielle sensed that it wasn't a question, yet she nodded.

Lila braced herself then whispered, "Do you love her, Gabrielle?"

Gabrielle briefly closed her eyes, and she questioned her heart. She opened her eyes and met her sister's watchful gaze. "I'm not sure yet, Lila. I feel a lot for her." She slightly bowed her head and watched Sarah's curious face. "With everything that's been happening I haven't had a moment to stop and consider it." She again touched her niece's cheek, and Sarah lifted her small hand. Gabrielle smiled when Sarah captured her index finger. She lifted her head and seriously stated, "Xena means a lot to me, Lila. She says I've shown her so much, but she's helped me see a lot about life and myself." She paused then murmured, "I am so grateful that she's done all that she has to bring me to you."

Lila carefully thought out what may have had to be done for the Conqueror and Gabrielle to be here. Enough was obvious that it did require a lot of planning and foresight. She couldn't argue Gabrielle's point in the least, and Lila felt her resolve break apart. "How does she plan to get us out of here?"

Gabrielle raised her head up, and her sister's words made her smile. "I'm not sure yet... I still need to talk to her." She touched Lila's arm and promised, "She'll get us out of here."

Lila nodded then gazed upon her daughter. She then lifted her head and turned to her sister. "I think Sarah would like for you to hold her."

Gabrielle sensed her heart giving way to the new family member in her life. She stepped closer, lifted her arms, and gently took the baby. She situated Sarah in her arms and smiled at the baby's soft face. "Gods, Lila... she's so beautiful."

The proud mother couldn't hide her smile. "I think she has her aunt's blond hair."

The bard softly laughed, and tears came down her cheeks. "I'm really an aunt." She softly laughed and lifted her tear stained face to Lila.

Lila reached over and wiped Gabrielle's tears away. "You really are." She came to stand beside her sister. She slid her left arm around Gabrielle's bare waist. She dipped her head and studied Sarah's happy features. "Say hello to your auntie, Sarah."

Gabrielle chuckled and watched the happy baby.

Sarah smiled broadly at her mother and aunt. She lifted her right hand and tried to grab for something.

Lila lifted her hand and stuck out her index finger. Instantly her finger was gripped by the baby's small hand. "Come on. Say m-m-maaa." She wrinkled up her nose at Sarah and tried, "Auntie-auntie-auntie."

The Amazon softly laughed and shook her head. She'd hadn't smiled this much in a long while. She also couldn't halt her happy tears.

"M-m-ma," Lila coaxed a second time.

Gabrielle chuckled and teased, "You'll have this child talking in threes, Lila."

The mother instantly laughed and grinned at her tearful sister. "Well, we are a family of three now." She reached up and dried her sister's tears again.

Gabrielle closed her eyes, and she felt a sense of peace come over her. She never imagined her life coming to this beautiful moment as it had now. She couldn't believe she had her sister back in her life, and she was an aunt on top of it. She also felt an aching, deep gratitude because of Xena's unresting support to help her and Lila. Then Lila's earlier question about her feelings for Xena surfaced again, and for the first time she reflected on the question with some depth.

Lila dropped her head onto her sister's shoulder. Then her soft voice broke the peaceful silence, "I'll be happy to go home."

Gabrielle opened her eyes and studied her niece's beautiful face. She then turned her head and showed her smile to Lila. "We are home, sister."

Lila mirrored her older sister's gorgeous smile. She may have been away from Gabrielle for so long, but Gabrielle was always in her heart. Now Lila felt that same faith that was instilled in her sister. Just maybe her and Sarah's future had promise in it.

To be continued.

Back to the Academy