All named characters herein belong to Renaissance Pictures, Studios USA, and anyone else with an ownership interest in the television programs Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. This story was not written for profit and no copyright infringements are intended.
Violence: Yes. This is a Xena the Conqueror story. Lets see ... violence, rape, physical cruelty, torture, emotional abuse, foul language, slavery ... did I mention violence? I think that covers it.
Sex: Yes. Lots. From the very first sentence. This story contains graphic scenes of consensual and non-consensual sex involving women with women, women with men, and women with gods of war. There is a plot <G>. If you are under 18, or this is illegal where you live, move on.
Background: Story inspired by the Hercules ep, "Armageddon Now Part 2," in which Hercules was never born, so Xena stayed evil, and no one saved Gabrielle from the slave traders. In this Xenaverse, after she ran the gauntlet, Xena formed another army, conquered Greece, built her palace in Athens, and is poised to takeover the Roman Empire. Time-frame equals end of season five on Xena.
Spoilers: The Xena episodes "Remember Nothing," "A Fistful of Dinars," "Destiny," "The Debt 1 & 2," "Adventures in the Sin Trade 1 & 2," "Past Imperfect," "Orphan of War," "The Path Not Taken," "The Reckoning," "Locked Up and Tied Down," "Callisto," "Death Mask," "Sins of the Past," "Hooves and Harlots," and "Is There a Doctor in the House," and the Hercules episodes "Armageddon Now 1 & 2," and "The Gauntlet" were either watched or synopsis were reviewed in preparation for this story. There may be spoilers from some of those eps.
Questions/Comments Welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org
Note to Followers of My Regular Series: In an interview on MaryDs site, I boldly proclaimed that I had no plans to write a Conqueror story. Never say never. This story has absolutely nothing to do with my regular series. It was written for the ex-Guards challenge contest. The challenge was for the bards to write a story that is completely different from their usual subject matter. Thus, this piece was conceived (BTW, it won first place <G>) ...
By Texbard, originally submitted for the first ex-Guards bards challenge, June 21, 2000
The soft warm tongue separated her wet engorged folds again, and dipped deep into her opening, drawing out yet another flood of molten liquid. The woman shifted on the bed, grabbing handfuls of the smooth satin sheets into her clenched fists, wrinkling the material against damp palms, as she spread her legs wider to give the tongue greater access. A fine sheen of sweat covered both womens naked bodies, and the musky odor of sex permeated the cool marble chamber, along with soft grunts of pleasure.
"How is that? Is that what you want?" The probing muscle circled a swollen clit before full lips closed around it and the tip of the tongue flicked rapidly back and forth over the hardened nub, sending electric jolts through the womans taut muscular body.
"Mmmm. Nice." The woman shifted again, groaning almost inaudibly and releasing the sheets from her hands as she reached up to take a firm hold of the bars on the brass headboard, bracing herself for the pending climax. She could feel it, deep inside her groin, and suddenly it rose, exploding outward through her body in blinding flashes of light.
Her heels dug into the mattress as her body arched into the mouth that was still firmly attached to her heated center, and she moaned softly as the muscles in her body contracted over and over in powerful waves. Her knuckles turned white as she gripped the brass bar tighter, and she clenched her teeth while her lips parted as her breathing was released from her mouth in rapid silent hisses. Finally, as the orgasm subsided, her eyelids fluttered closed while she let out a long shaky breath and felt her body begin to relax. Relax being a relative term where she was concerned.
From years of self-discipline, the Conqueror had conditioned herself to make very little noise during sex. At first it had been a matter of self-preservation. Her early years as a warlord had been spent living out of tents, and noise in a large armed encampment carried for great distances. Privacy issues aside, when most of the known world hates you, you tend to make certain that no one knows when you are in a vulnerable position, and being naked in the throes of passion, she recognized, was at the top of the list of most vulnerable positions.
Later, after she had left the battle fields for the great imposing palace she now called home, she had continued to remain quiet, even at the ultimate heights of pleasure. It was partly force of habit, and partly a deep-seeded need to maintain control. To cry out, to let go completely, was a sign of weakness. A sign that you were willing to submit to another, and for the Conqueror, everything was about power and control. To lose control in her bed chamber was the first step toward losing it in other areas of her life, and she had worked far too hard to get where she was, to let her almost-choking hold on her well-ordered life slip even the slightest iota.
"Mistress." The handmaiden tentatively slid up the long tanned body. "What more can I do for you?" She had brought the Conqueror to climax five times during the candle mark that the session of pleasuring had filled. It wasnt like the hard-edged woman to want merely oral gratification. That was usually just a warm-up. Satrina knew from experience that the Conqueror liked it hard and raw, and with a lot of variety. The rougher the better. Yet this morning, each time she had attempted to take things further, her hands had been slapped aside with a firm command to "just eat me out again."
"Surely you want something more?" The dark-skinned woman carefully traced firm stomach muscles and then allowed her fingers to trail lower, raking through wiry black curls toward the still-moist labia. "Shall I penetrate you, mistress?" The long thin fingers poised at the Conquerors opening, waiting to do her bidding.
"No!" Without warning, the Conqueror sat up, grabbing Satrinas wandering hand in a vise-like grip, and bending her wrist backward.
Dark brown eyes grew wide in fear. "Mis ... Mistress. Please. Youre hurting me."
The Conquerors response was to bend the wrist back further, causing a strangled cry to escape the girls lips. "Tell me, Satrina ..." Pale blue eyes flashed silver with rage, and the Conquerors lips curled into a menacing snarl. "Did you enjoy our little session today?"
"Y ....yes. Mistress. Pl .... please." Tears sprang into the handmaidens eyes, as she felt the tendons in her wrist and forearm begin to tear.
"Remember it then." With a quick twist, the ulna and radius both snapped with a loud crack of splintering bone. "Its the last pleasure you will ever experience."
Satrina jerked, as a pitiful scream ripped from her throat, echoing off the high marble walls around them. Tears poured from her eyes, which were open and pleading with a silent question. Why? She struggled against her master, who still held firmly onto her throbbing hand.
"Why in the name of Ares do you think Id let the filthy fingers of a traitor inside of me?" The Conquerors voice rose exponentially with her rising fury, and she began to slowly squeeze Satrinas fingers together in her fist.
"Traitor?" The handmaiden winced with renewed agony. "I ... I dont understand."
"Does the name Dagnine ring a bell with you?" The large hand closed more tightly around fragile digits. "Does it?!" Finger bones began to crack.
"He ..." Satrina gasped at the searing pain, which was causing her stomach to heave with nausea. "He murdered Borias."
"No!" The former warlord snapped the fingers one, by one, until all five were bent and broken, drawing continual shrieks from Satrinas lungs. "Shut up!" The Conqueror back-handed the girl, sending her flying across the bed, as a splatter of blood spurted from her nose and soiled the shining cream-colored satin below her head.
The handmaiden curled up into a ball, instinctively protecting her internal organs, as she held onto her injured hand and arm, unconsciously rocking her body back and forth in a fruitless effort to soothe the throbbing in her wrist and fingers, while constant painful moans emanated from her lips. It had been a long time since she had suffered her masters wrath, but it only took one instance of being a victim of the Conquerors rage to imprint lasting effects on a slave or servant. That is, if they survived it at all. The force of her beatings and kicks were not easily forgotten. She braced herself for what she could only guess might be her death.
The blows never came. Instead, the Conqueror grabbed a handful of long curly hair, yanking Satrinas head back and forcing her to look into the enraged blue orbs. "You murdered Borias. You killed the father of my child!"
"No." The handmaiden cringed. "I didnt. I ..."
"Shut ... the fuck ... up!" The taller woman jerked Satrinas head harder, barely restraining herself from breaking the girls neck and ending it all. She took a deep breath to calm herself. She needed Satrina alive. At least for a little while longer.
The handmaiden whimpered softly, as the tears flowed freely down her cheeks.
"Dagnine came through the city late last night and asked to meet with me. To make peace. I went prepared to cut his heart out." The Conqueror released Satrinas head, which fell back down onto the bed with a soft thud. "By the time he was through talking, I knew everything. Everything. And then I cut his heart out." The former warlords face was inches from the handmaidens, so close that the younger girl could feel the hot angry breath on her face.
"Mis ... mistress." Satrina gasped out between quiet sobs as she slowly tried to inch away from her masters reach. "You believe him over me?"
"He knew too much." The Conqueror spat out the words as she swiftly rose up, stalking across the room and grabbing a harness from a bureau drawer, which she quickly strapped around her thighs and hips with expert motions. She attached a large phallus to the leather fittings and moved back toward the bed.
"Roll over. Onto your stomach." The command was low and even, with no question as to the consequences of disobedience. "I think you need to pay for your crimes, dont you?"
Satrina meekly complied, and cried out as she felt her wrists jerked roughly back behind her and bound tightly with a large leather strip. The broken bones ground against each other as they were further displaced by the tight knots that dug into her skin. Strong hands grasped her thighs and spread them wide. The Conqueror held the sweat-covered legs down, and with one swift motion, impaled the screaming girl to the hilt, the thick phallus tearing at her un-prepared tissues.
"He knew way too much about my plans for that last battle before Borias died." The Conqueror began pumping furiously into her whimpering handmaiden, the feeling of control causing her own passion to awaken with renewed stirrings. "He knew my battle plans. He knew about the poisoned grain, and the tunnels under the city. The only ones who knew about those things were you and Borias, and Borias would never have told him. He told me that he killed Borias when you told him that Borias was coming to kill me. He said that had confused him, because Borias had just told him earlier that he loved me and planned to take me and our son away to a safe place. You lied to Dagnine, didnt you?"
The question was met with tiny choked sobs.
"Answer me!" The former warlord ground her hips in a circular motion, driving the phallus deeper.
"Y ... yes. Mistress. Please." Satrina bit her own lip at the pain, until she tasted blood. "I was trying to help you. You were getting soft with Borias. I ..."
With one final thrust, the Conqueror slammed into Satrina, as her own body shuddered in silent orgasm. She left the phallus inside the girl and bent over, growling into her ear. "I ... am ... not ... soft. And I dont need a little tramp like you to try to run my life. You killed the man that could have made all the difference for me. And now I dont have him or my son. And its all your fault."
Satrina felt the phallus suddenly yanked out of her dry opening, and she screamed in agony. Rough hands pushed her off the bed onto the hard floor, and her master stood over her with her hands on her hips, her legs in a wide stance. "I cant believe I let that lying little tongue of yours touch me. I ought to cut it out of your head." The Conqueror eyed a dagger, which she always kept on her nightstand. "But I need for you to be able to scream." The blue eyes flashed in triumph. "Oh yeah. You will scream. Until your throat is so raw youll welcome your death."
"Pl ... please." The terrified voice was a bare whisper.
"Guards!" The Conqueror threw on a royal blue silk robe, securing it with thick corded ties as two armed men entered the room. "Take her to the receiving room and tie her to the whipping posts. Mezentius is sending me a contingent of new slaves, and I think shell serve as a fine example of what happens when a servant is disloyal to me.
The former warlord turned her back and padded over to the window, peering out as the city of Athens slowly came to life after the quiet night, oblivious as her servant of twelve summers was dragged pleading from the room. Time to find a new handmaiden, she mused impassively. Or a maiden with good hands. She laughed at her own little joke. In a way she would be relieved to be rid of the girl. She was the only other one who knew the Conquerors deepest secret.
The jasmine-scented bubbles rose to the surface in billows around the lean frame, as the Conqueror laid back, her head pillowed on the soft padded rim of the sunken marble tub. She could feel the bath water growing more tepid, and decided it was time to actually bathe instead of merely soaking. With sudden irritation, she realized that she had left her sea sponge and the flaky cake of soap out of reach on a low table across the bathing room, and in Satrinas absence, she was going to have to get out of her comfortable haven to retrieve them.
Thats what I get for poor planning. She grumbled internally as she rose up from the tub. She walked gingerly across the smooth tiled floor, leaving cooling puddles in her wake, and snatched up the sponge and soap before returning to the tub, blissfully lowering herself back into the fragrant water. Dammit. I knew how that was going to end. Shoulda taken my bath before I fucked her.
As she washed herself, she mentally ran through the next stage of her plans to advance the outer regiments of her army closer to Rome. She smiled. And Caesar will be mine. It had been a long time coming, but she was very close to adding the Roman Empire to Greece as part of her conquest, and the sweet taste of it was already on the tip of her tongue. Unbeknown to Caesar, she was working painstakingly to move part of her army to the hills west of Rome. Even now, the troops were marching west toward Patrai, where they would board her naval vessels and be transported around the southern tip of Caesars territories for an ambush the likes of which he had never seen. Her nemesis was in for a surprise of gargantuan proportions. And then Im gonna give him back tenfold what he gave to me.
It had been a long time coming. What had started out as an attempt to defend her home village against an attack by the warlord Cortese had eventually resulted in her being where she was today, supreme ruler of Greece and much of the surrounding territory. When her village had banished her and Ares had taken her under his wing, she had initially raised a small navy, and had taken to the sea, mostly in search of treasure, becoming a pirate of sorts. True, she had killed those who resisted her, but never had she killed someone just for fun or for spite. Not back then.
In so many ways, Julius Caesar was almost as responsible for making her who she was as Ares. She had met him early in the game, when one of her men had captured him and brought him to her. She had been so clueless, with no idea of who he was or what he was worth in terms of ransom. It had been Caesar himself who had convinced her that in order to be believable, she needed to up the ante. And so she had. While she waited for Rome to respond to her demands, she had talked to him for candle marks, and had been drawn to his magnetic personality and his self-confidence like a moth to a flame. In her mind, he had been the key to everything she desired. Together they would have been unstoppable.
They had made love, she thought, and he certainly seemed to enjoy their evenings together, even if he was a prisoner. She thought he loved her, and that he wanted to be partners with her. I was such a fool. When the ransom arrived and she released him, they had kissed with whispered promises to meet back together soon as a team. What followed was the most shameful period of her life, as he betrayed her trust, turning on her, capturing her boat and her crew, and had her crucified.
Her stowaway servant girl, MLila, who had also taught her many of her fighting skills, had rescued her and taken her to a mystic healer way up in the mountains. Caesars men had tracked them and had murdered MLila, who was the only friend she had, and who had blocked the Conquerors body with her own to protect her. The Conqueror had risen from her pallet on still-healing broken legs, and had managed to kill all of them. Finally she had simply held onto the body of her dead servant, and the rage had come boiling to the surface. Rage against anyone and everyone who had ever hurt her.
The Destroyer of Nations had been born that night, as something broke deep inside. She learned that it did no good to care about anyone. The only person that mattered was her. Her pleasure, her power, her possessions, her comfort. No one else would be considered anymore. It was pointless to love or trust, because to give up part of ones self in that way was to give up control and to leave ones self open and vulnerable. She had tried to protect her village and they had turned on her. She had fallen in love with Caesar, and he had betrayed her. She had come to care for MLila, and the girl had been killed because of her association with her.
She had gone on to spend time with Lao Ma, who had rescued her from Caesars henchmen and had tried to teach her a lifestyle of power through peace, but she left with Borias instead to form an army on land. No more navy for her. Her boat was gone and there was more treasure to be taken on land anyway. And more people to vent her rage on. Together, she and Borias had sacked and pillaged every berg from Crete to Thessaly, having mercy on only the women and children. The men were killed, the villages were burned, and anything of value was seized. After Borias had died, she had gone on, and her army had multiplied twenty times over. She had been close to capturing Corinth, the capitol of Greece at the time, when her army had turned on her, and forced her to run the gauntlet for sparing the life of a baby.
But she had survived. Just like she survived banishment by her village and crucifixion at the hands of Caesar and betrayal by the evil shamaness Alti. She started from scratch, and built another army, but this time her rage was all-consuming. She was relentless in taking back what had been hers before, and the discipline she instilled in her men was formidable. She ran her army by fear and intimidation, which was also her method of ruling the territories she conquered. In five short summers, she had once again risen to the top, and had moved the capitol to Athens and her palace was built by the sweat and toil of her slaves. This palace, the city of Athens, the country of Greece. It was all hers. It had been a hard uphill battle, making the victory all the sweeter.
During all the time she was working to capture Greece, she had kept close watch on Caesar, who was on a campaign of his own to conquer new lands. She remembered his talk of his destiny, that he would one day rule the world. Guess he didnt count on me. She smiled evilly. They had maintained an uncomfortable truce, each realizing that it was a toss-up as to who would win in an outright military confrontation.
So Caesar had gradually moved westward while the Conqueror had concentrated on the east. But in the back of her mind she had known the present day would come. She had been secretly building her army for quite some time, and it now numbered in the hundreds of thousands. The surprise attack on Rome had been planned with painstaking detail, and was an ongoing project. Revenge was at the tips of her fingers. Destiny. She smirked with contentment. Ill give him a lesson in destiny that he will never forget.
A loud rap at the bathing room door startled her momentarily, and she growled before regaining her composure. "Come!"
"If you insist. But I may need a hand. Or two." The door opened and Draco, the commander in charge of transporting troops, peered around the tall wooden frame. "Xena." He saw the blue eyes flash. "Dont worry. No one is out here to hear me."
The Conquerors shoulders relaxed just a bit, but the eyes remained slitted in anger. "Just see to it that you arent so familiar with me in front of anyone else."
"Oh. But we are familiar, are we not?" Draco smiled charmingly.
"Were." The smooth alto voice emphasized the tense. "Were familiar, Draco." The large dark-skinned man had not shared her bed in over three summers. "Now. What is so important that it couldnt wait until I finish my bath?"
"The troops have sent word. Theyve reached a large rock slide on the road to Patrai." A quirked eyebrow met his somewhat nervous gaze. "They cant move it because its encased in thick mud. And more rain is on the way, and from the looks of the range above it, more rocks and mud are ready to come down with even a slight shift of the ground beneath it. We could lose a lot of men if they try to dig through it and the rest of it goes."
Draco moved to the side of the tub, carrying rolled up parchments under his arm. "May I?" He gestured toward the wide rim of the tub. An irritated Conqueror merely nodded. He sat down and rolled out a large map, holding it at an angle so that the woman could see while he explained their dilemma. "They have two choices to get around. The easiest route is to cut through this pass here ..." He pointed toward the map.
"That goes through Centaur territory." The Conqueror studied the layout. "Not an option."
"But Xena." Draco appeared exasperated. "The other route will set us back by several weeks. It means going up and through the highest part of the mountain range over this way."
"Then we will be set back." The voice feigned a cool distance the Conqueror didnt feel beneath her mask.
"But ..." A strong hand grabbed the map, tearing it from his grip, as the Conqueror balled it up and threw it against the far wall.
"No buts. The Centaurs are now, and always will be, off limits. They are to be allowed to live their lives in complete freedom. I dont want any trace of my army or my kingdom to ever soil their lands. Do you understand me?" Xena rose from the tub, oblivious to her nakedness as she towered over the seated commander.
"Okay, okay." Draco handed her a towel. "What is it with you and Centaurs, anyway? Did you fuck one in the past or something?" The murderous gaze of the dripping wet woman told him he had touched a dangerous nerve. "Hey." He quickly changed the subject. "Wheres Satrina? What are you doing in here alone?"
"My former handmaiden is, at this very moment, being prepared to serve as an example to my new shipment of slaves. An example of how not to behave." The former warlord finished drying off and re-donned her silk robe. "Now get out of my private chambers, unless youd care to join her."
"As you wish, Xena." Draco stood and bowed slightly before beating a hasty retreat. Geez. Satrinas been with her for at least twelve summers. Cant believe she could throw her away just like that. He shivered. He had known the Conqueror for far less time than her handmaiden had. He made a mental note to deal with his former lover on a strictly-business level from then on.
With shoves and pokes, the bedraggled line of slaves were ushered into the Conquerors receiving room. "On your knees!" A guard walked behind them, knocking the slower ones to a kneeling position before they could drop to the floor of their own accord.
The young girl felt the hard floor pressing into her kneecaps through her thin skirt and stockings. She was bone-tired from the two-week forced march from Thessaly to Athens. She looked down at her dirt-stained skirt, the hem of which was ripped and frayed from the numerous times when her feet had caught in it or it had been dragged through tall grasses and brush. Her formerly blue blouse was faded to dingy grey, and she knew her face and hair were both caked in a fine layer of sweat-dried dust. She knew she could eventually wash. As for her clothes, they were the same ones she had been captured in, and the only ones she had owned for five long summers. Maybe her new owner would give her something new to wear.
"My Queen, how are you doing?" Ephiny, an Amazon companion, whispered from next to her.
"Dont call me that." The young girl hissed back through barely moving lips.
"But ... thats what you are now." The Amazon looked sideways at the small woman.
"Ephiny." Gabrielle sighed. "There is no more Amazon princess. Or queen. We are slaves. Dont you get it? And if the wrong people hear you calling me a queen, we could both be killed. So do me and you both a favor. Just call me Gabrielle."
"Yes my ... Gabrielle." Ephiny lowered her eyes to the ground.
Gabrielle had been a slave for five long summers, having been captured by slave traders near her home village of Potadeia, along with her sister Lila, a couple of cousins, and several other of her fellow villagers. Her parents had not been with them. The next stop after Potadeia had been Amazon territory, where the slavers had trapped a handful of Amazons, and had unknowingly captured both an Amazon princess and the queen herself. Gabrielle had made friends with Terreis, the princess, and they had spent many candle marks quietly talking as they served in Mezentius walled fortress in northern Greece.
Unfortunately for Terreis, she had displeased Mezentius. Gabrielle had pleaded with their master to spare the young princess, and had gotten a slap across the face and a kick in the stomach for her efforts. He had beaten Terreis so badly that the bleeding from her internal injuries had killed her. With her dying breath she had bestowed her rite of caste upon Gabrielle, making the young peasant girl an Amazon princess. It had bewildered the young girl, the sudden respect she had garnered from the other Amazons who were in captivity with her. She didnt see the point in continuing with such a foolish hierarchy when they were all hopelessly enslaved for life. And she didnt know the first thing about being an Amazon.
A few days before the march to Athens, the Amazon queen, Melosa, had been sent out with a group to work in Mezentius private gardens. One of their captors had dragged her into the bushes to take his pleasure with her, and when she fought him, he had executed her on the spot, and just like that, Gabrielle became an Amazon queen by default. Even now, the young girl shook her head and laughed silently at the irony of it all. As she knelt on the cold hard floor, waiting to meet her new master, she had never felt less royal in her whole entire life.
Without warning, two large ornate doors slammed open, and a tall woman strode proudly into the room. Gabrielle knew she should keep her eyes averted, but she couldnt help but look. The woman was wearing form-fitting black leather pants that were tucked into knee-high black leather boots. The boots had nickel-trimmed heels and toe caps, and silver-trimmed knee armor covered the tops of the boots. A sleeveless black leather vest buttoned up the front of the womans torso, hugging her curves and her trim waist, and showing off firm muscular biceps. At her wrists were wide black bracers, also trimmed in silver. Long shiny black hair flowed loosely, almost to the womans waist.
But the most outstanding feature was the womans eyes, which were as blue as any Gabrielle had ever seen, and were framed by a perfectly-chiseled face and tanned cheek-bones. She gasped silently as she realized those blue eyes were looking right at her, and she sighed with relief as they just as quickly flicked away from her in a dismissive gesture.
She hastily looked straight down at the floor. The last thing she had noted prior to the eye contact was a long braided-leather whip coiled over one of the womans hips. Gabrielle desperately hoped her brazen appraisal of the woman had not earned her a session with the whip. Her back already bore scars from such an encounter, and she was in no hurry to repeat the experience.
"Conqueror." One of the guards announced proudly. "May I present you with a gift from Mezentius, a dozen of his finest slaves for your use and service."
Gabrielles mind reeled at this new piece of information. By the gods. Thats the Conqueror? The Conqueror is our new owner? The gasp escaped the girls lips before she had time to think, and the Conqueror was in front of her, drawing her chin up in a painful pinch, angry blue eyes piercing into her green ones with an almost physical penetration. "Something wrong little girl?"
"No, Empress." Gabrielle lowered her eyes in a show of submission, despite the fact that her chin was still tilted firmly upward.
Empress. I like it. The title wasnt exactly correct, but the Conqueror decided shed let it slide. "Then learn the first rule of my palace." Much to Gabrielles relief, the former warlord let go of her chin and moved to a spot where she could address all twelve of her new servants. "None of you are to speak to me or the members of my command, unless you are spoken to first."
The Conqueror began to pace slowly in front of the terrified crew of slaves, occasionally using the butt of her whip or her hand to force one or the other of them to look her in the eye as she spoke. "I demand absolute loyalty. And obedience. Most of you, if youre lucky, will probably not have many opportunities to make actual contact with me, as you will be assigned to duties around my palace that will not require my direct supervision ..."
She paused in front of Ephiny to study the caramel colored eyes, the leathers, and a boars tooth necklace that hung at her throat, noting the defiance in the womans face. "You an Amazon?"
A powerful fist belted the Amazon regent in the stomach, causing the proud woman to double over and clutch her mid-section as she gasped for breath. "Second rule. If you are asked a direct question, you will answer it. One more time. You and Amazon?"
"Yes, Mistress." Ephiny whispered, refusing to make further eye contact. Or to cry.
"Wrong answer." Another punch to the stomach sent the Amazon to her hands and knees, as her eyes bulged out at the pain of what she was sure was a cracked rib. "You are a slave. The correct answer is, I used to be an Amazon. Lets try again. Are ... you ... an Amazon?"
Ephiny rose to her knees, her hands hanging firmly at her sides, her chin held up proudly. "I used to be an Amazon, Mistress."
"And what are you now?" The butt of a whip trailed across the regents bare upper chest.
"Im a slave, Mistress." Her voice was a bare whisper, and a single tear escaped from the corner of her eye before she could blink it away.
The Conqueror smiled evily and moved toward a thick paisley curtain that hung across the front of the room. She hated Amazons, and delighted in breaking them whenever she got the chance. She turned and addressed her new servants again. "I have many enemies, and very few friends. I have very little use for friends." She drew the curtain back to reveal a dark-skinned woman, naked from the waist up, who was tied upright between two posts with her back to the group of slaves. "I have even less use for enemies." She uncoiled the black whip.
"Until this morning, the piece of vermin that you see before you had been my personal handmaiden ..." She paused for emphasis, cracking the whip in the air with a resounding pop that caused all of the slaves to jump. "... for twelve summers. However ..." The Conqueror turned toward Satrina and drew the whip back before landing a precise stinging blow to the naked flesh between her shoulder blades, quickly drawing blood. "... she proved to be untrustworthy."
As Satrina screamed, the Conqueror drew the whip back again, making a perpendicular strike through the middle of the first wound she had inflicted, admiring her handiwork briefly before she lit into the shrieking handmaiden in earnest. Satrina was anchored tightly between the two whipping posts, and it was obvious from the angle of one of her arms that it had been broken before the whipping began.
Gabrielle silently counted the strikes, unwilling to actually watch the torture before her. She flinched at each blow, and the constant pained cries tore through her to her gut. She listened until she had counted the traditional thirty lashes, and realized that the abuse didnt appear to be letting up. She cringed and felt tears stinging her own eyes in sympathy. Oh gods. Mezentius had been a womanizer, always patting her on the butt or touching her face, or occasionally coping a feel of her breasts, and true, he had her whipped once, but only after she tried to run away. Other than that the only other time he had hit her was that whole incident with Terreis. But the Conqueror ... Gabrielle shuddered. Cruelty and rage seemed to seep from her every pore.
The Conqueror didnt let up on Satrina until her arm grew tired, and finally, she regretfully recoiled the whip and placed it back at her hip. She patted it with satisfaction. Many slavers used a cat-o-nine-tails to whip their servants, but she liked the single-tailed whip better. It took longer to kill a person with the single tail, thereby prolonging the torture. Although she had chosen not to kill Satrina. At least not by whipping. She shook her head to clear the almost sexual pleasure she got from wielding the whip, and nodded toward one of her guards. "Take her out and crucify her in the yard behind the slave quarters."
As they cut the woman down from the whipping post and began to drag her out the door, a trail of blood smeared on the floor behind her. "Make sure to break her legs." The Conqueror called after them before she turned to face the completely silent group of slaves. "See to it that none of you become my enemy."
Once again, she began to slowly pace up and down in front of the group, that was equally comprised of six men and six women. She needed to pick a new handmaiden, and she wondered if one might be found among the group that was kneeling before her. The Amazon was definitely out. Three of the women were much too old for her tastes, leaving the little blonde and a red-head, both of whom had their heads bowed in stillness. Hmmm. She walked over and forced the red-head to look up at her with a nudge of her hand. Nice hazel eyes. "Smile for me." She cringed, as a mouth full of broken and rotting teeth appeared.
Moving back to the little blonde, she once again used her fingers to prod the chin up. "Your turn. Smile." The green eyes crinkled at the edges, as full lips parted and perfect white teeth were revealed. A pink tongue poked out and nervously licked a dry upper lip before it disappeared behind the teeth. The curves of the girls breasts rose and fell as her increased breathing revealed her fear. Sexy. The Conqueror knew the smile was forced, and true, the girl was filthy and her clothing was absolutely repulsive, but she had a feeling that properly bathed and dressed, the girl would prove to be quite attractive. She was rarely wrong about these things. She grabbed the girls wrists, studying the soft smooth palms, which apparently had not done a lot of manual labor, bearing only a few minimal callouses. Those are gonna feel good. She grinned.
"Take them all to the servants quarters and get them settled in. See to it that Salmoneus gives them all assignments appropriate for their skills and abilities." Salmoneus was an annoying man she had captured five summers earlier, but she had also found him to be amusing at times, and he was gutless to the point of it being shameful. She had made him head of her slave quarters, knowing he didnt have spine enough to defy her or otherwise be devious behind her back.
The guards prodded the slaves to their feet and began to herd them through the door. As Gabrielle rose to her feet, she felt a firm hand on her shoulder. "Not this one." The Conquerors voice rumbled nearby in her ear. "Take this one and have her bathed and dressed, and send her to my private chambers." She pulled the blonde head around to study the girls face again, taking a long unemotional look at the terrified eyes. "Put her in something green, I think."
"Yes Mistress." The slaves disappeared through the door, and the Conqueror chuckled at the obvious trembling of the little blondes body as she was led in the opposite direction from the rest of the group. Yes. I think she will do just fine.
The Conqueror laid down her quill on her desk, as a light rapping at the door forced her to get up. "I hope to gods this girl works out, so I can quit acting as my own damned handmaiden." She muttered to herself as she crossed the room to open the door. "What?"
"Mistress." A nondescript older slave looked up apologetically. "Ive brought the new servant to you as you requested."
"Very well. Bring her in." The older woman bowed slightly and made her way into the outer room of the Conquerors private chambers, followed by the little blonde, who walked with a slight shuffle, her head down. "Leave us." The former warlord dismissed the older woman with a flick of her wrist. She waited until the door closed with a soft click.
Ahhh. The girl had not yet looked up to reveal her face, but the hair alone was vastly improved. Long honey-colored locks cascaded down and around the girls shoulders to her mid-back. From where she stood, the Conqueror could smell the sandalwood oil that had been applied to the now-clean body, and it looked like the girls finger nails and toe nails had been clipped and buffed. She was wearing an emerald-green kimono, and the expanse of lower legs that were showing were smooth and shaven.
The Conqueror padded over to a large leather chair and sat down, draping a long leg over one arm. She was still wearing the black leather pants and vest, along with the boots, although she had removed the arm bracers and knee armor. "Come here, girl."
Gabrielle slowly walked toward the chair until she stood about two meters from it.
"Disrobe for me."
The blonde swallowed audibly, before she looked up shyly and began to fumble with the ties around her waist. The Conqueror noted that despite the shyness, there was also a banked fire in the green eyes. This is a proud one. We can work on that. Blue eyes looked on in appreciation, as Gabrielle allowed the kimono to slide off her shoulders and drop to the ground in a pool around her feet. "Very nice." The Conqueror made a leisurely sweep of the girls body, taking in the muscular legs, the tiny patch of blonde curls at the apex of her thighs, the small hips, the tapered waist, the firm biceps, the washboard stomach, and the pinkish-brown nipples on firm breasts, which were not too small, but not too large either. She wondered what those nipples tasted like.
"Turn around for me. Slowly." The girl turned and the back view was just as pleasing as the front, revealing firm round buttocks and curvaceous calves, along with the silky blonde hair that begged to be touched. The Conqueror frowned, as she noticed some faint markings just below the ends of the girls hair. "Lift your hair up." Gabrielle complied, and the Conqueror made a growling noise. Several whip scars were criss-crossed about the girls shoulder blades, marring otherwise perfect creamy skin.
"Who whipped you?"
"What was your crime?"
"I tried to run away."
"Youre lucky he didnt kill you. I would have."
"Hes a fool. Turn back around." Two blonde eyebrows were furrowed in an unasked question. "He shouldnt have whipped you." Gabrielles hopes rose just a tinge, thinking perhaps this monster had a heart after all. "There are other ways to punish a slave that wouldnt have left permanent scars on such beautiful skin. He could have beaten you instead. Bruises will eventually go away." The young girls hopes fell as quickly as they had risen. "I have a salve that I want you to apply to those scars each night before you go to bed. You will more than likely share a room with one or more others over in the servants quarters. Get one of your room-mates to apply it if you cant reach."
"Yes, Empress." One blonde eyebrow quirked again.
"You have a question, girl?"
"Well what is it? Not that you have a right to question me."
"The salve, Empress." Gabrielles tongue was having a hard time functioning in her fear. "What is it for?"
"It will make the scars fade. Some of them will probably completely disappear. Put your clothes back on." The Conqueror watched while the girl bent over, grinning lasciviously at her view of the pendulous breasts. When Gabrielle had put the green silks back on, the Conqueror stood up and began to circle her while she spoke. "You will be my new handmaiden. You will attend me during my baths, help me dress, brush my hair each evening, do my nails, and basically be at my beck and call for whatever I need you to do. You will accompany me when I travel and you will test my food for me if I have any reason to believe it may be poisoned. You will make sure that I have a pitcher of water and a jug of port in my quarters at all times. You will collect my laundry and soiled linens, and see to it that the laundry maids clean them. You will also run small errands for me about the palace. You will report to me first thing each morning, and will stay with me until you are dismissed. You will come to me whenever I have you summoned. Any questions, girl?"
"Empress. My name is Gabrielle."
"What?" The Conqueror spun around and moved in front of the girl.
"My name. Its Gabrielle. Mezentius. He always called me by my name." The blow caught her off guard, as she felt her head snap back before she fell to the ground, holding one hand to her throbbing jaw and testing it to make sure it wasnt broken. And that all her teeth were still in place. A firm hand dragged her up and she found her face inches from that of a furious Conqueror.
"Listen to me, little girl." The voice shook in barely-controlled rage. "I ... am ... not ... Mezentius. And I will call you by any name, or no name at all, as I see fit. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, Empress." The green eyes dropped and then looked back up, blinking back tears. "Empress?"
"What?!" A strong arm reeled back, prepared to strike again.
"Please. Dont hit me again." The girls chin quivered. "I just wanted to know. What do I call you?" She lowered her head again.
The Conqueror let go of her, and her own jaw twitched. So brazen and so submissive at the same time. "Empress is fine." She sat back down in the padded chair, once again slinging a leg over one of the cushioned arms. "What were your duties with Mezentius?"
"I was mostly a table and kitchen servant. I served him his meals and his drink. And he sometimes sent me to market to buy food. He always had me serve whenever he had guests." Gabrielle barely smiled, remembering all the times she had spit in his wine goblet while he wasnt watching. The guest banquets had been the only times she was allowed to wear nice clothing, although she wasnt ever allowed to keep the clothes after the meals, always being forced to put back on her long brown skirt and her blue blouse. The tiny smile disappeared as she remembered a duty she chose not to verbalize. And I sucked his cock every time he wanted me to. Her face suddenly fell in shame, not lost on the Conqueror, who chose not to question it. Just yet.
"Well then." The blue eyes flicked over the smaller girl. "This is a promotion of sorts for you." The Conqueror stood up and moved until she was directly in front of the girl. "Remember, girl. I own you now. You are mine. Body and soul."
"Not my soul." Gabrielle mumbled under her breath, and then realized her mistake.
The Conquerors palm stung pleasantly as the sound of the slap reverberated across the room. She had mastered the technique of slapping a servant across the face so as to maximize pain while minimizing subsequent bruising. She allowed several more blows until the girl was crumpled on the floor, begging her to stop. Oh gods. Not tears. I cant take crying. "Get up."
"Please, Empress." Gabrielle looked up uncertainly until she was fairly sure the hitting had stopped. She stood up.
"Little girl." The Conqueror dragged her to the outer door of her chambers and pulled her to a halt. "You will learn not to defy me."
"Yes Empress." Gabrielle sniffled.
The former warlord yanked the door open and signaled for one of the household servants who was walking by. "You. Take her to the head seamstress and tell her to fit the girl with two changes of clothes for each day, and three evening dresses, and ..." She eyed the lithe body. "Several different sets of lingerie. Tell her on the daytime clothing, I want the skirts short and her midriff bare. As for the lingerie, tell her to be creative. She knows what I like. Tell the seamstress to co-ordinate with the cobbler to make sandals and boots to go with the clothing. Once the seamstress is done with her, take her to Salmoneus so he can ger her settled into her quarters." She noted the swelling lip where she had hit the girl. "And get her a cold rag for her lip."
"Yes Mistress." The older woman bowed and led Gabrielle away.
Gabrielle shuffled quietly into her new room and moved directly toward the empty cot, and slowly sunk down onto it, turning her face toward the wall before she allowed the tears to fall. She cried silently, so as not to wake her room-mate at the late candle mark. There would be time enough for introductions in the morning. Except that I have to get up before the gods to go attend that bacchae bitch. The sun had gone down two candle marks ago, and it had been a very long afternoon. Even the knowledge that she was wearing a new clean linen top and skirt for the first time in five summers didnt make her feel any better.
A soft hand on her back startled her. "Queen Gabrielle?"
"Ephiny?" Gabrielle rolled over and blinked into the darkness. "Are we room-mates?"
"Yes my queen. The fellow in charge of the slave quarters, Salmoneus, hes actually very nice, and when I asked to share with you, he arranged for it." The regent smiled.
"Thank you." The girl sighed. "But Ephiny. Please. You have got to stop calling me queen. I know youre trained to do that, but after what you went through this morning, its obvious she doesnt like Amazons. Can you imagine what shed do to me if she knew I was supposed to be your leader? So. No more addressing me as your queen. And thats an order. I am allowed to give you orders, arent I?" She smiled up at her friend, ruffling the curly brown hair.
"Yes ... Gabrielle." The regent was relieved to see some semblance of a sense of humor. She grew sober. "Although when it comes to giving orders, you better get in line. Things are a lot stricter around here than they were with Mezentius."
"Gods." Gabrielle sat up. I am such an idiot. I forgot all about the beating she took today. "Eph. Your stomach. Are you okay?" The young girl reached out and lightly touched a bandage that appeared to be bound tightly all the way around her friends mid-section.
"Yeah. Just a couple of cracked ribs. Theyll heal. What about you?" The regent lifted her hand, stopping just short of touching the swollen lip.
"Just a busted lip. Itll heal too." They looked at each other with grim understanding. They had both been slaves long enough to know that injuries came with the territory. These werent the first, and given their circumstances, they certainly wouldnt be the last. There was no use dwelling on it.
Gabrielle cleared her throat and looked into her friends caramel colored eyes, which she could barely make out in the dark room. In Mezentius compound, the feisty Amazon had been in charge of caring for the horses in the stables, taking care of their tack and cooling them down at the end of the day. Anything and everything to do with equine maintenance, a task she had warmed up to over time until she actually enjoyed it. "Whats your new assignment?"
"Back in the stables again." The Amazon grinned. "Although the stable here captain is a real behemoth." She wrinkled her nose, remembering a huge hairy man that hadnt bathed in days. "Gabrielle." She refocused on the queen, whom she had decided to take under her wing after Terreis died. "What did the she-demon want with you? Do you know what your assignment is yet?"
"Oh gods." The dam burst, and Gabrielle bent over, covering her face and weeping freely. "Ephiny. My life is over."
"Hey little one." Ephiny crawled up onto the cot, pulling the small girl down and across her lap, gently rubbing her back. "What did she do to you?"
"Where do I start?" The girl hiccuped and took a shaky breath. "Im her new handmaiden, Eph."
"Oh sweet Artemis. Wasnt that girl she whipped ..."
"Her former handmaiden, yes." Gabrielle began to cry again. "In the half candle mark I met with her today, I think she hit me at least eight times. Shes now officially hit me more times in one day than Mezentius did in five summers. And shes good. Damned good. My whole face hurts, but as far as I can tell, it isnt bruised, other than this damned busted lip. And shes scary, Eph. You dont ever see it coming. One minute shes almost friendly, and the next shes knocking you senseless."
"By the gods, Ill slit her throat. First chance I get." The regent hated not having weapons. It went against everything she knew as an Amazon.
"Youll do no such thing. And that is definitely an order. I wont have you doing something to get yourself killed. Youre the only friend I have left." Gabrielle sat up. "Eph, can I ask you something?"
"Yes. Of course." The regent rested a hand on her friends shoulder.
"I ... shes gonna expect me to ... Eph, she likes girls, if you know what I mean." The girls terrified face was apparent in what little moonlight shone through the door.
"Did she rape you?" The hand on Gabrielles shoulder tightened. Ephiny liked girls too. Loved girls as a matter of fact, but forced intimacy was an altogether different issue.
"No." Her voice grew very forlorn. "But from some of the stuff they were pulling out to dress me in, Im guessing its just a matter of time until she does."
"Gabrielle." The regent pulled her friend into her arms and rocked her gently. "Im so sorry." Ephiny knew Gabrielle had performed some private services for Mezentius, although they had never discussed details. She almost started to ask her friend what, if anything, the extent of her sexual experience was, but decided perhaps a change of subject might be in order instead.
"Hey." She tried to lighten the mood. "Theres a couple of people next door to us who want to meet you."
"Who?" Gabrielle sat back, running a hand through her long hair.
"About six moons before I was captured, two of our warriors disappeared while out hunting. Turns out they were also caught by slave traders, and theyve been serving the Conqueror for the last four summers. Prior to that they were with some warlord named Darphus. Apparently the Conqueror killed him and thats how they ended up in her charge. I told them what happened to Terreis and Melosa. And about you. Theyre real anxious to meet you." The regent emitted a series of low bird whistles, and suddenly two silhouettes appeared in the doorway. Ephiny lit a single candle, careful to shield it as much as possible from emitting light into the hallway, so as not to draw attention. Two tall lean muscular women strode into the room. "Eponin. Solari. Meet Gabrielle."
"You have got to be kidding me." The words escaped Eponins lips before she could stop herself. She took one look at the wisp of a peasant girl before her, and decided that what little hope the Amazons might have had to regroup as a nation had died with Melosa.
"My queen." Solari had the presence of mind to drop to one knee.
Two green eyes rolled. "Eph. Tell her."
"Dont call her the q word, okay? It could be a death sentence around here." Ephiny absently stroked her friends hair. "Shes the Conquerors new handmaiden."
"Gods." Solari bit her lower lip in sympathy.
"Well thats just grand, isnt it?" Eponin, ever the hot-headed one, began pacing the small room and muttering. "Its a sad day when the queen of the Amazons is reduced to earning her keep on her back with someone like that demon in the palace over there."
The words sunk in, and Gabrielle began to cry again. Ephiny folded her arms around the girl, trying to comfort her. "Now look what youve gone and done. I swear, Pony. Nothing has changed with you in five summers. Youve still got the sensitivity of a hedgehog."
"Yeah. Well being enslaved to a killing machine hasnt exactly helped to improve my outlook on life." The former weapons master left the room, deciding to get what little sleep she could before morning came much too early.
"Solari." Ephiny looked over the shoulder of her weeping queen. "Go on back to bed. Well catch up some more tomorrow." She watched the brown-haired Amazon leave and then managed to get the queen to lay down on the cot. The regent sat on the edge and rubbed the girls back until she fell into a fitful sleep.
"Gods Xena." The dark-skinned man was deeply into the Conqueror, so to speak. "You feel so good."
"Unngh." The Conqueror moaned softly and ground her pelvis upward, increasing the friction with the cock that was pumping inside of her. "So do you." She grabbed two firm butt cheeks with both hands, pulling the man deeper inside. "Mmmm. So fucking good. Gonna come. Oh gods." The Conquerors body began to spasm, as the climax shook her from the groin outward.
The clenching muscles around his penis were enough to drive the man over the edge as well, and with one last thrust, he emptied his seed inside of her with a loud groan and then collapsed on top of the sweaty body below him. "Xena. I swear. If it werent for feeling those nice tight muscles of yours pulling at me, Id never know if you were coming or not. I wish, just once, that youd cry out. Say my name or something." He leaned in for a kiss, and found himself pushed off of her instead.
The Conqueror sat up and swung her legs over the edge of the bed, and stood up, padding over to the table where the jug of port sat. "Aint gonna happen Marcus. You should know that by now." She filled two mugs and brought them back to the bed, handing one of them to her most steady bed mate, while she guzzled from the other.
She appraised the attractive man through hooded eyes. She and Marcus had been lovers on and off for over eight summers. Lovers. She snorted at the term. Love is for weaklings. Still, she probably cared for him more than she ever had anyone else. As much as she was capable of caring at all. Maybe its time to have him eliminated. She felt a large warm hand caressing her inner thigh. Then again the night is still young. It would be a shame to waste it ...
She growled, snatching his mug from his surprised hand and setting it aside with her own. In one quick move, she rolled him over onto his back, and straddled him, lowering herself down onto his cock, which was suddenly standing at full attention. He managed to pull her forward for a heated kiss. "I love it when you get on top. Its so hot."
Yep. Definitely time to consider having him eliminated. "Its sex, Marcus." She managed to gasp out as her own libido sprang back to life. "Top, bottom, sideways. Its two body parts coming together to give pleasure." She began to ride him, undulating her hips in a circular motion. "Dont make it into more than it is." Because I dont want to have to kill you.
It occurred to the dark man that he was indeed sleeping with someone who in so many ways had become a complete stranger to him. Xena had never been sweet, or even loving, by any stretch of the imagination. But she had, at one time, been human. Now ... he looked up at her, and the way she moved when they came together like this ... it was still one of the most beautiful things he had ever seen. Until she opens her damned mouth and reminds me that I mean nothing to her, other than a source of stud service. At least, as far as I know, Im still the head stud. He tried to console himself, as he pulled her down again for another kiss, deciding that at least there were ways to keep the evil mouth occupied. Very pleasurable ways.
Gabrielle knocked timidly on the door, and waited. After several minutes she knocked again, a little louder. She had almost decided to leave and come back later, when she heard a muffled voice through the thick wood. "Come."
She reached down with a sweaty palm and turned the shiny brass nob, and entered the room. Looking around, she didnt see anyone. "Empress?" Her voice cracked.
"Back here. In the bedroom." The Conquerors voice was thick with sleep.
Gabrielle felt a sick twist in the pit of her stomach. Oh gods. I hope shes not in the mood for that this morning. She walked slowly into the bed chamber, and almost turned around and bolted at what she saw. The Conqueror was in bed with a dark-skinned man, and they were both obviously naked. The air in the room was heavy with a musky odor she couldnt identify, although it wasnt necessarily an unpleasant scent.
"The seamstress did a good job." The Conquerors eyes showed obvious appreciation for her handmaidens attire, which consisted of a green short skirt that tied off at the waist and was slit almost to her hip on one side, and a matching cropped top that fit tightly around her bust-line and had one wide strap on one side while the other side was strapless. Tiny gold sandals were on Gabrielles feet, and her hair was held back from her face with two gold combs. "Go draw me a bath. Ill be in momentarily."
"Yes Empress." Gabrielle had to walk past the bed, and as she did, her eyes widened. The man, who was just waking up, chose that exact moment to nuzzle the Conquerors cleavage before he closed his lips around one of her nipples.
"Xena." He mumbled against the firm flesh. "One for the road? Please. After today, Ill be in the field until your little war with Caesar is over." Suddenly, he stopped and looked up, realizing they werent alone.
Gabrielle kept walking, quickly, until she was past the bed and headed into the bathing room, but not before she heard the Conqueror growl at the man with a primal sound that almost frightened the girl, and fascinated her at the same time.
"Marcus. Dont stop now." As they began to move together, she called out. "Girl. Go ahead and draw my bath. And stay in the bathing room until I call for you."
"Yes Empress." The girl began to fill the tub with buckets of hot water from the fireplace in the bathing room, desperately trying to block out the passionate noises emanating from the next room. The man was quite vocal, while the Conqueror ... Gabrielle realized that her new master was the one making the soft sighs that were mixed with the mans louder groans.
She finished filling the tub and then sat down on a vanity stool, and placed her face in her hands on her upraised elbows, which were resting on her knees. Before she realized it, she was crying again. Oh gods. What am I in for? Maybe she doesnt like girls after all. Or maybe she likes both. She continued to cry softly, and lost track of time, until a firm hand jerked her face up.
"I called for you to bring me my robe." Angry blue eyes peered down at her.
"Empress. Im sorry." Gabrielle stood up, averting her eyes from the tall naked body that towered over her. "I didnt hear you. I ... was trying not to listen. To give you privacy."
The Conquerors eyes softened for a split second. And then she snorted in laughter. "Girl, one of the things you will learn about me, is that I am many things, but modest is not one of them." She turned and stepped into the tub, nodding with a grunt of approval at the rose-scented bath oil Gabrielle had added to the water.
"Damn. Forgot." She stood back up and probed between her legs with her fingers, withdrawing a small sponge. "One of the disadvantages of sleeping with a man." She smiled at her handmaidens obvious discomfort and confusion. "Whats the matter little girl? Never heard of pregnancy prevention before?" The blonde head shook negatively in embarrassment. "Keeps me from getting knocked up." She sank back into the water, briefly wondering if the girl had born any brats for Mezentius, and if not, how she had avoided it after five years with no birth control. She shrugged and proceeded to wash most of her own body until all that was left was her back and hair. "Come scrub my back."
"Yes Empress." Gabrielle stooped down behind her master, and began to wash the smooth muscular back with a sea sponge, using firm strokes that caused the Conqueror to close her eyes and sigh.
"Wash my hair." Small hands lathered up soap, and then began to run through her long locks, taking time to massage her scalp in the process. "You have good hands."
"Thank you Empress." Gabrielle finished washing and dunked a pitcher of water into the tub. "Empress, lean your head back." The dark head complied, and the girl poured the warm water through the long hair to rinse the soap out. She held out a towel as the Conqueror stood and stepped out of the tub.
"Dry me off."
"Yes Empress." Gabrielle wrapped the towel around the long hair and then retrieved another to dry the tanned body off with.
"I suppose you heard Marcus call me by my name in there." The Conqueror reached up and used the towel on her head to blot the excess water out of her hair.
"Yes Empress." The girl started to dry off the broad shoulders and then moved down the willowy arms.
"Did you know my name prior to that?" The Conqueror ignored the tiny jolts of pleasure caused by her handmaidens attentions. Damn my sex drive. Its gonna be my downfall someday.
"When I was little, we began to hear stories about Xena, the Warrior Princess. And well, frankly Empress, your name is on all our coins, Xena the Conqueror." Gabrielle finished with her masters feet and held up a robe.
The Conqueror slid her arms into it and then tied it off at the waist. "You are never to call me by name, do you understand me?"
"Yes Empress." Gabrielle stood back and bowed her head. At just that moment, her stomach growled loudly.
"Hungry, girl?" The Conqueror cocked her head and just stopped herself from smiling.
"I didnt get dinner last night, Empress." The girl looked up slightly. "And breakfast is served to the other slaves and servants later in the morning than the time that you want me to report to you. They get the leftovers after your troops and the rest of your free subjects in the palace have eaten."
Black brows shot into dark bangs. No wonder Satrina was so thin. The Conqueror realized that her former handmaiden must not have eaten breakfast for at least five summers. She never told me she didnt get breakfast because of my schedule. "Well then." The former warlord moved to the vanity and picked up a comb. "From now on youll be eating breakfast with me here in my private chambers. Now, comb out my hair."
"Yes Empress." Gabrielle took the comb and began working at the tangles in the long locks, inhaling the scent of roses in the damp hair with guilty pleasure. There were so few pleasurable moments in the life of a slave.
Eat breakfast with me? Where in Hades did that come from? The Conqueror just realized that she had invited a common slave to dine with her. Every morning. She shrugged. Oh, well. I can do whatever I want to do. I am in charge here, after all.
Breakfast was mostly a silent affair, in which Gabrielle sat on a low stool at one side of the table while the Conqueror sat further down, munching on the muffins and eggs they were served, while she studied several different maps that were spread out in front of her. Occasionally the former warlord made markings on the map or scribbled notes on a piece of parchment, sometimes shaking her head with a low frustrated growl and angrily scratching through certain notes before furiously writing new ones. The younger girl stole glances at her new master every now and then, trying to read what was behind the bronzed face, which she had to admit to herself, was quite beautiful. How did someone so attractive become so ugly inside?
As for the Conqueror, she was doing some reading of her own, sometimes looking up from her work to enjoy the view at the other end of the table. Id really like to try her out but ... She sighed with regret as she realized that she had a very full morning of final strategy meetings with several of her army captains, Marcus included. The next phase of her plan to conquer Caesar was about to swing into action, and she was just anal enough to oversee every detail of it herself. The second wave of troops would be moving out at dusk to march by dark of night toward her next target area, the northern side of Rome.
Her eyes lingered on two round breasts. Tonight, I think. The Conqueror had a very healthy appetite for sex, and usually had someone in her bed almost every night, although Marcus was the only one who was ever allowed to stay afterward and sleep with her. He was her partner of choice, but there were several others she also took her pleasure from, including a few of her household servants, mostly women. Many mornings she woke up with ravenous desire, and because she didnt allow her partners to stay the night, Satrina had often satisfied that need for her, since she was the first person she saw each day. She had, however, also sent for Satrina on many, many nights as well. She had absolute authority in her palace, and it was her prerogative to call for anyone she had a yearning for.
Occasionally Ares, the god of war, came to her at night, and that was not by her choice. He angered her and at the same time took her places no one else could. He was the only one who could make her cry out, shriek like a banshee, as a matter of fact, and it was like being consumed by fire, almost literally, when he was with her. He was the one, the only one, who did indeed own her, body and soul, and could possess her as he saw fit. He was the source of her strength and her power, and it was his darkness that simmered in her veins. She had sold her soul to him long ago, in exchange for the promise of all that she now commanded. So if he wanted her, she was his to do with as he pleased. Without him she would be just another hack fighter, and probably dead by now.
Two servants entered the room to remove the now-empty plates and wipe down the table. One of them, a slightly overweight woman with longish dark brown hair, eyed Gabrielle with open surprise as she took the young girls plate and mug. The servants left the room and a heavy quiet descended upon them. Suddenly, the Conqueror crumpled up a piece of parchment and threw it and her quill across the floor with a loud groan before placing her head on her forearms on the table.
"Empress?" Gabrielle got up and retrieved the quill, and took a chance, waiting, half expecting to be thrown across the room or otherwise slapped silly. Two weary blue eyes looked up at her. "Is there anything I can do for you, Empress?"
The Conqueror allowed the brief lecherous grin, thinking of several things shed like her new handmaiden to do. Focus focus focus. She chanted internally. "No. I just ... Ive got a logistical problem with movement of my troops, and I cant seem to find a solution." She gestured toward the map.
"Would you like a pair of fresh eyes?" The young girl quickly looked down at her feet, almost certain she had overstepped her boundaries with the sincere offer.
The Conqueror laughed. She actually laughed, and then tossed up her hands. "Sure. Why not?" This should be entertaining, if nothing else. Like this little girl knows anything about strategic movement of troops.
"What seems to be the problem?" Gabrielle timidly made her way around the table and peered over her masters shoulder at the map.
"My troops will be moving fast, and over some really steep hills and through some tight passes." She pointed to the map. "They have to travel light, and some of the passes are too narrow to maneuver on horseback, so they will be on foot for the entire trip. Ive calculated and re-calculated distance and travel time, and there is no way they can carry enough food to last them the entire trip. Hunting is going to be poor in the upper parts of those hills, where a lot of the terrain is bare and rocky, with no wildlife worth eating, which unfortunately is going to be the last leg of the trip when their supplies will already be low. These are large muscular soldiers. I cant ask them to subsist on vegetation alone. Theyre going to need protein."
Gabrielle looked at the path the Conqueror had drawn on the map, studying the surrounding topography. "Empress." She pointed to a blue line on the map. "Is that a river?"
"Not exactly, but its a fairly healthy stream. Why?"
"If you re-route them a little bit north, this way ..." The young girl indicated what appeared to be a passage of sorts. "... they could probably fish out of that stream right before the last leg of the trip, and they could dry some of it out to replenish their supplies with."
Hmmmm. The Conqueror looked at the suggested route. "You know." She scribbled a few notes and re-drew her line on the map. "I think that might work. It would add maybe an extra day or two at most to the trip, but might be worth it to make sure they get adequate food in their bellies."
Gabrielle stood in place, waiting for her next assignment. Finally, the Conqueror looked up and over her shoulder. Without warning, she flew to her feet and grasped both of the younger girls wrists in her hands, squeezing them tightly enough to cause pain. Gabrielle whimpered slightly.
The taller woman leaned down and got in Gabrielles face, her lips curled into a fierce snarl. "Youve just been made privy to some very secret battle plans, little girl. And it wont be the last time you will see and hear things in my chambers that are not to leave these four walls. Am I to assume that I can trust you to keep your mouth closed?"
"Of course, Empress." The girls eyes briefly met those of her master and then she quickly assumed her most meek expression, eyes completely down and head bowed. But not before she saw the harsh light leave the Conquerors eyes to be replaced with something that almost resembled remorse.
The former warlord released her slaves hands. "Of course. Just so were clear on that. Ive got meetings all morning. Id like for someone to give you a tour of the palace and the surrounding area, so you can become familiar with it. Youll be running lots of errands for me and I dont want you to get lost. Go find Salmoneus and tell him to see that you are given a proper tour."
"Yes Empress." The young girl started to move toward the door, and stopped at the sound of her masters voice.
"Girl." The Conqueror cleared her throat. "Im having an early dinner tonight with the captains of my troops. Ill expect you to attend to me during the meal, so be back here a candle mark before dusk. You should wear one of the evening dresses. And have someone put your hair up. With a few loose tendrils, I think."
"Yes Empress." Gabrielles hand was on the door nob when the deep voice stopped her again.
"Good eye on the map. You have already made yourself quite useful to me. I am pleased."
"Thank you Empress."
Gabrielle made her way out of the palace and was halfway across the compound to the servants quarters, when the overweight servant who had cleared the table earlier fell in beside her. "So youre the new handmaiden."
"Yes." The young girl decided not to comment further, not knowing if she was dealing with a friend or an enemy.
"Im Minya." The woman offered her forearm, which Gabrielle grasped lightly.
"Gabrielle. Pleased to meet you."
"You must be Tartarus in bed." Minya chuckled knowingly.
"Excuse me?" The young girl almost swallowed her tongue.
"Ive been clearing her breakfast table for three summers, and no one has ever shared it with her, even Marcus." Minya elbowed the girl teasingly. "You sure must be doing something she likes."
"I ... we ..." Gabrielle stammered, trying to collect what was left of her blown mind, and then decided she didnt know Minya well enough to share the fact that other than scrubbing her back and hair, she had yet to touch the Conqueror.
"Gods. Thats okay. I wasnt asking for details." Minya sobered. "Listen, Gabrielle. Watch your back. Satrina didnt have many friends among the other servants. She was seen as privileged, and most of them resented her for it. Although a handful of us felt sorry for her, because serving her royal bitchiness for twelve summers couldnt have been much of a picnic."
"How ... how is Satrina?" Gabrielle hadnt been able to bring herself to go out behind the servants quarters. The mere thought of it turned her stomach. "Is she ...?"
"They cut her body down before dawn this morning and took it to be burned outside the palace grounds." Minya studied the slumped figure walking next to her. "Look on the bright side, Gabrielle. It took twelve summers for her to piss off the she-demon enough to get killed for it. I dont know what she did, but it musta been something else. The Conqueror usually prefers torture over death when it comes to slaves. I think its some sort of economic principle, you know. To not be wasting her investments."
"Great." Gabrielle muttered sarcastically. "That makes me feel so much better."
The leaders of the Greek army were gathered at the round thick wooden table, indulging in another round of drinks. The dinner itself was long over, as well as the business side of the event, and talk had now turned to the things that were near and dear to the hearts of warriors, namely, battle scars, war stories, weapons, horses, and women. Gabrielle stood in one corner of the intimate room, which was a smaller addition off to the side of the large main banquet hall. She had listened surreptitiously, and had dutifully memorized the names of the captains of the regiments of her masters army. At the table were the Conqueror, Krykus, Toxeus, Talmadeus, Petracles, and of course, Marcus, whom Gabrielle had already met, sort of. They mentioned someone named Draco often enough for her to assume that he was also a captain who was out in the field. That would make sense, since she had learned during her palace tour that there were six divisions to the Greek army. Six divisions, six captains.
Another servant stood in the opposite corner of the room, a tall thin blonde with large brown eyes. The woman had yet to speak to Gabrielle, although the young girl knew she had been studied intently throughout the course of the evening. The other woman, whoever she was, had been in charge of serving the captains, all five of them, while Gabrielle held sole responsibility to see that the Conquerors mug was never empty, and that she ate her fill of the roasted game hen breasts that had been served. She also noted that within the group of well-acquainted fighters, it was permissible for them all to call her master Xena. Interesting.
"So, Xena." Petracles took a long swig from his mug. He had just finished telling what apparently was a ribald joke, the punch line having been lost on Gabrielle, although all of the captains had erupted in uproarious laughter as he completed his story. "This was a great feast. The hen was delicious."
"Well ..." The Conqueror sat back and smiled. "You know me. Dark meat, white meat, hens, roosters, I just love chicken, no matter what variety it is. Tonight I just had a taste for chicken breast for some reason. I may have seconds later. Maybe a little midnight snack." The table broke out in another round of laughter, and Xena looked over at her little handmaiden and winked, just the barest hint of her eye closing, before she looked away. Suddenly, Gabrielle got the joke entirely, and felt very sick to her stomach.
"Girl. Come here." The Conqueror drained her mug and held it up. "Id like some more port." Gabrielle moved to retrieve the mug, and as she turned to go to the sidebar, she felt the Conquerors hand trail down her backside.
Cant wait to feel that without the dress. The Conqueror had ingested quite a bit of alcohol, and was in a rare relaxed state. She didnt often let her guard down this much, but she was among people she at least somewhat trusted. She had known most of the men at the table since her early warlord days, and had been intimate with all of them. She had almost married Petracles, and the others had been flings, Marcus being the longest-standing fling. This was her inner circle. The warlords who had remained loyal to her during her rise to the top, and they had all been rewarded with the prestigious positions they now held within her army.
Gabrielle took her time refilling the mug, and when she could delay no longer, she returned to the table. As she set the mug down, the Conqueror placed a hand on her shoulder and pulled her down until the older womans lips were whispering next to her ear. "Go to my chambers and take a bath. Use the sandlewood bath oil. Ive laid out something for you to wear. When youre through bathing, put it on and wait for me. Leave your hair up. Ill be there in a little while." She trailed her hand off Gabrielles shoulder, allowing her fingertips to brush against the edge of the younger girls breast, before she picked up her mug.
The young girl swallowed and stood up, smoothing down the soft white silk material of her evening dress, and walked silently out of the room.
"Xena. Thats one fine piece of ass." Krykus ribbed the Conqueror, who was sitting next to him. "Whered you find her?"
"In a peasant dress under several layers of dirt." The Conqueror looked very self-satisfied.
"Wow. Cant picture that now." The man looked toward the empty doorway with more than a little lust on his face.
"Many skills, Krykus." The Conqueror clapped him on the back. "And an eye for hidden treasure is one of them."
"Ill say. Id like to dig for some of her hidden treasures myself. Ouch ...!" His arm was twisted in a firm grasp, and he tore his eyes from the doorway to the face of his enraged leader.
"You so much as touch a hair of her head, and you will find yourself so far in the depths of my dungeons, that youll never see the light of day again." She released his arm and he rubbed it gingerly. "Mine."
"Okay, okay. Geez, Xena. I was just kidding you. And since when do you care so much about who fucks your slaves?" He laughed meagerly. "As long as we dont do it on your time." Krykus was puzzled, along with the others at the table. As the elite captains of her army, they had the freedom to take their liberties with almost anyone in the slave quarters of their choosing. More than one of them had stolen some rare moments with the lovely Satrina. A few had even paid off other slaves to send word on the nights that the Conqueror was otherwise engaged, leaving Satrina free for the evening.
The Conqueror mentally chastised herself, realizing she had just exhibited extreme weakness. People you appeared to care about could be used against you. "Hey. Give me a break here." She laughed, albeit fake mirth. "Shes my slave. I should at least get the first shot, and I havent even had a turn at her yet."
"Really?" Toxeus, who was out of his leaders reach, was safer to make comments. "I would have pounced on her the first night I got a chance."
"Last night was her first night here, and I was otherwise occupied." She studied her full mug of port intently.
"Well, then I woulda jumped her bones when she first reported to you this morning." Toxeus leaned back in his chair with a bemused look.
"Believe me, the thought occurred to me, but I was busy with someone else, who was jumping my bones this morning." The Conqueror looked smug, as all eyes on the table turned to Marcus. They all knew he was the only one besides Satrina that was ever with their leader in the morning.
"Um ..." Marcus felt his mood suddenly turn sour, and he decided it was time to leave. He knew that Xena shared her bed with others besides him, but it stung for her to admit that she thought of being with someone else while they were in the middle of screwing each other, especially in front of his peers. "Xena. If youll excuse me, I need to get to sleep early tonight. Im riding out at first light to catch up with the regiment that left on foot at dusk tonight."
"Youre dismissed." The Conqueror had observed his face at her comments, and was secretly glad that she had managed to put him back in his place. The last thing she needed was for him to fall in love with her, and from the things he had said lately, she knew he was starting to do just that. Pity the poor fool who ever has the bad judgment to think they can love me.
After he left, the Conqueror slowly panned the table. "Give me a while to break my little handmaiden in. Ill give the word when Ive grown tired of her, and then you can have at her. But until then ... hands off." A part of her knew deep down inside that it was going to be a long time before the word was ever given.
As Gabrielle left the room for what she was sure was going to be the longest and most dreadful evening of her life, she heard a melodic voice call out to her.
"Yoo-hoo. Little girl. Wait up a minute." The tall blonde servant followed after her, and the young girl stopped and turned. "Whats your name, sweetie?"
"Gabrielle." She looked down at the floor for a moment to gain her composure.
"Well, Gabrielle, it looks like youre going to be dessert tonight. Arent you the lucky girl." The lilting voice mocked her.
"I dont know what youre talking about." Gabrielle looked up at the dark brown eyes, wishing the woman would go away.
"Oh, come now, dear. Or in your case, I guess it will be come later." The woman laughed at her own little pun. "I have very good ears, sweetie, and besides, Ive been dessert before myself. Im very familiar with the looks she was giving you tonight."
"Its really none of your business." The young girls eyes belied her fear.
"Relax, dear. Itll be better that way. Our Conqueror is long on stamina, but her attentions are not entirely distasteful. It wont hurt ... much." The blonde laughed again, and Gabrielle was tempted to slap her.
"Callisto!" The Conquerors voice rang out from the banquet room. "Get your bony butt back in here and bring us another jug of port! Were running low."
"Oops. Gotta run. Duty calls." The tall blonde backed away with a flutter of her hand. "Bye bye. Its been so nice chatting with you Gabrielle. Well have to do it again real soon." As she turned to leave, Marcus hastily brushed by both of them in a huff.
Gabrielle watched the lithe woman until she was out of sight, committing her name to memory. Callisto. She shivered. Trouble.
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