By Texbard, originally submitted for the first ex-Guards bard’s challenge, June 21, 2000


The footsteps sounded evenly, purposefully, on the tile floor in the outer chamber, keeping pace with the thumping of her heart in her chest. Gabrielle was once again seated on the vanity stool in the bathing room, waiting for the Conqueror, but this time she was pretty clear on what her duties were going to be. She was wearing what was quite possibly the tiniest outfit she had ever donned in her life, a pair of white silk thong underwear and a lose white sheer spaghetti-strap camisole that left nothing to the imagination as to what was underneath it. She looked down, and her breasts and the darker nipples were clearly visible through the transparent material. Not to mention that the top fell to just above her navel, leaving her stomach completely exposed. She had never hated being a slave more than she did at this very moment. Even Mezentius had never subjected her to displaying her body in this manner. This is not how it was supposed to be ...

Her thoughts were abruptly cut off, as six feet of slightly buzzed Conqueror appeared, leaning against the door frame. The tall woman had a huge appreciative smile on her face. "By the gods. You are a vision. I knew you would be. If I were working for me, I’d have to give myself a reward for discovering you." She stepped through the door and leaned in over her handmaiden, bracing her hands on either side of the girl on top of the vanity at the girl’s back. "Of course, I guess I will be rewarded ... by discovering you."

She leaned in closer, and roughly kissed Gabrielle’s mouth, quickly parting her lips with her tongue to explore the warm dark cavern of the girl’s mouth. "So sweet." The Conqueror suddenly pulled back, when she realized that the girl wasn’t returning the kiss. "What’s wrong? Do you not find me attractive?"

The girl lowered her eyes. "No. You’re very beautiful."

"Then what’s the problem?" The Conqueror was feeling no pain, her head almost giddy with the alcohol, and she wanted to get back to ravishing her handmaiden as quickly as possible.

"I ... I’ve never done this to a woman before." She mumbled.

"Oh. Is that all?" The former warlord leaned back in, this time kissing her handmaiden on the neck, nibbling hungrily at the soft salty skin. "Just do to me what you enjoy having men do to you. Well, except for the obvious parts that you aren’t equipped for. That’s what fingers and tongues are for. That should be easy enough."

"I ... um ... never." Gabrielle fumbled with her words, realizing that on a certain level her body was reacting to the Conqueror’s attentions. Please. No. "No man has ever done ... things to me."

"What?" The Conqueror sat back on her heels. "I don’t understand. You just said you’d never been with a woman, leading me to believe that you have been with men. You speak in riddles, little girl."

"No. I said that I’ve never done this to a woman before. I’ve never been with a man or a woman." Gabrielle’s voice took on an irritated edge, as she almost allowed her anger and frustration to seep through, barely controlling it.

"Are you telling me that you’re a virgin?" The Conqueror snorted in disbelief.

"Yes." The girl’s voice was a trembling whisper.

The Conqueror studied the girl’s face, realizing even in her port-induced fog that her handmaiden was quite terrified. Oh, this is gonna be even more fun than I thought it would be. I can’t remember the last time I got to take someone’s cherry. Her eyes narrowed suddenly in suspicion. Wait a gods-be-damned minute. She’s been a slave for five summers. There is no fucking way she’s a virgin. "Little girl. I know Mezentius, and the last time I checked ..." She leaned in until her slitted eyes were mere inches from her handmaiden’s. "... and believe me, it was a very up close and personal inspection ... he was very much a red-blooded male. So you had better explain yourself to me real fast. Satrina was crucified for deceiving me, and I’ve known you for far less time than I did her."

"Please." Gabrielle began to cry. "Mezentius, he didn’t do anything to me, but he had me do things to him. A lot. Almost every day."

Two black brows furrowed as the Conqueror processed the information, trying to make sense of it. The truth suddenly dawned on her, and she burst out laughing. "You were Mezentius’ blow-job girl, weren’t you?" She continued to shake with mirth.

"Yes." The girl’s face reddened in shame and she dropped her eyes, quietly dabbing at her tears with the back of her hand. She hated crying in front of any free person.

"I’ve heard about you." The Conqueror sat back in a relaxed pose, crossing her legs on the rug that ran from the vanity to the edge of the tub. "We got a little drunk one night, and he told me he had a slave that, and I quote, ‘sucks cock like she’s trying to draw sustenance from it.’ He said he’d never gotten around to fucking her, because by the time she got through with him, it was all he could do to just walk." She laughed heartily. "He made a bigger sacrifice than I realized when he sent you to me. Of course he owed me big time for a few major screw-ups in his handling of my troops stationed in Thessaly."

Gabrielle kept her head down, as the blush darkened. Part of her was pleased, however. Not because she had pleasured Mezentius so well, but because her plans to stay untouched by him had apparently worked exactly like she hoped they would. She was a virgin, but she was no dummy. She had heard enough to know that men were usually only good for one round. The first time Mezentius had called for her, she had gone down on him like her life depended on it, even though she hadn’t know for sure if she was doing a good job at the time. Her main goal had been to divest him of all ability to get it back up sufficiently enough to rape her. She had done so well the first time, that after that, the blow jobs were all he had ever requested from her. After a while, she had quit throwing up after each session with him, and had managed to just shut her mind off and get it over with as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Now ... she looked up, as a strong hand tilted her chin up, forcing eye contact. The blue eyes were hungry, and this was no man like Mezentius, whose whole existence was centered on his dick. Definitely not a man. This one had the ability to go all night long, she was sure of it. My life is over. Her words to Ephiny echoed in her head.

A thumb brushed across her lips and she swallowed hard. "You apparently have a very talented mouth." The Conqueror purred. "And I’d like for you to use it on me. Now." The last word was a command.

"I ... don’t know what to do." Gabrielle tried to break some of the tension. "You don’t exactly have the same body parts as Mezentius."

This earned her another deep belly laugh from her master. "That is true. But I’ll show you what to do. And you just might find it a lot more pleasant than having a huge sausage poking at the back of your throat. I sure do." Oral sex was not one of the gifts she was willing to bestow upon her male partners, partly because it symbolized a level of submissiveness she wasn’t willing to assume, but mostly because frankly, she found it repulsive. But the women ... gods, the taste, the smell. She shivered with anticipation. This was going to be a stellar night. "Come here."

Gabrielle found herself lifted and carried into the bed chamber, where she was deposited on her back on top of satin sheets. She ran her hand nervously along the burgundy-tinted surface. She’d never felt satin sheets before. A warm hand caressed her face, and the Conqueror, who was still fully-clothed, leaned in and kissed her slowly, and surprisingly enough, gently. "Relax." The deep voice purred. "Open up to me. Mimic my actions."

The kissing continued until the girl was feeling quite warm. After a while, she did manage to relax, her tense muscles unwinding as she opened her mouth, excepting her master’s probing tongue. She whimpered softly against the incessant muscle as it twirled with her own, until finally the Conqueror broke contact so they could breathe. "See. That wasn’t so bad, was it?"

"N ... no." The girl felt something stir in her stomach, part of her welcoming it and part of her feeling shameful and dirty.

The Conqueror stood up and quickly divested herself of her clothing, which consisted of a long dark cape, a dark brown leather battle dress trimmed with lots of gold, and knee-high brown boots. She had taken her armor and chain mail off prior to entering the bathing room earlier. It was the uniform she usually wore when meeting with her captains, a reminder that she, too, had once ridden into battle fully armed, and wasn’t asking them to do anything she wasn’t willing to do herself and had done herself hundreds of times.

She lay back down on the bed and propped herself up on her side, resting her head in an upraised hand so she could watch her handmaiden’s face. She brushed the fingertips of her other hand across the girl’s jawline, which twitched at her touch. "Your skin is very soft." Slowly, she dragged her hand down the girl’s centerline, and then pushed it under the lose sheer top, coming to rest on a firm breast. "Oh. I knew I was going to like touching these." She caressed the pliant flesh and then grazed her finger tips across a hardened nipple, watching as the girl’s breath caught. "Does that feel good?"

Gabrielle nodded affirmatively, and the Conqueror chuckled. She bent down and lifted the top, and slowly licked her way around one of the creamy breasts before she clamped down on the nipple with her lips and began to suckle it hard and fast. She felt the girl’s body jerk underneath her at the pleasurable pain, but continued until she felt her relax again, and she smiled when she felt small hips involuntarily grind against her stomach. Oh yeah. Lots of fun. "You feeling something, little one?"

Gabrielle’s mind suddenly focused. Did she just call me ‘little one?’ Must be the alcohol talking. She gasped as the Conqueror pulled back, stretching her breast out taut and releasing her nipple with an audible smack of her lips.

The Conqueror rolled back to her side, trying to decide what to do next. I’m a little out of practice at de-flowering virgins. And this one is scared to death. In many situations, fear in her partner would serve to increase her arousal, but the alcohol had taken some of her normally tightly-wound edge off, leaving her in an atypical mellow and somewhat indulgent mood. "Um ... look. We can do this one of two ways." She ran her hand idly back and forth across the girl’s muscular stomach, enjoying the feel of the muscles jumping just under the surface, while she talked. "You are my slave. And you will learn to pleasure me. Is that clear?"

"Yes Empress." Gabrielle managed to focus on her master’s words and not her actions, and a sick sensation surfaced to mix with the flutter in her stomach.

"My first thought was to do everything to you that I want you to do to me, so that there is no mistaking what I like." She ran her hand between the girl’s legs for emphasis, pushing them apart and rubbing the warm heat in a circular motion before pressing up against the soaked crotch of her underwear. She smiled when the girl gasped softly at her touch. "But I know you’re terrified and you’ve never done this before, so if you’re a very fast learner ... and from what Mezentius said about you ... you are ... I can verbally coach you on what to do to me. Your choice. Either I take you right now, or I roll over on my back and give you the tour, so to speak."

The girl’s eyes grew wide. I get a choice? Mental note to self. Get this bitch drunk as often as possible. "I’m a fast leaner?" She said hopefully.

"Very well then. Sit up." Gabrielle complied. "Lift your arms." The girl slowly obeyed, and the Conqueror pulled the thin camisole over her head, tossing it to the floor. "I prefer my partners to be naked." She eyed the underwear. "But we’ll leave those on for a while longer." She reached across and pulled the pins out of the girl’s hair, allowing long honey-blonde locks to fall freely around her face and shoulders. "You are very beautiful. Mezentius was a fool. What a missed opportunity."

The former warlord stretched out on her back, pulling Gabrielle on top of her. She drew the girl down and kissed her thoroughly, just as they had done earlier. She smiled when the girl moved lower of her own accord, licking and kissing her throat. Fast learner. She frowned as she felt small teeth bite into the skin of her neck, and quickly jerked the blonde head up, pulling at a large handful of thick hair. "No hickeys. Ever. I can give them to you ... anytime I want to ... anywhere on your body I want to. I can brand you, because I own you. But if you ever try that again, I will knock those pretty white teeth out of your mouth. Understood?"

"Yes Empress." Gabrielle trembled. She hadn’t even realized what she was doing, having gotten lost in the taste of her master’s skin. "I’m sorry Empress. It won’t happen again."

"See that it doesn’t." The Conqueror released her head and pushed it roughly back down. "Continue." Deciding that maybe the neck wasn’t such safe territory, Gabrielle decided to move lower. She paused for a moment, trying to remember exactly what her master had done to her breasts, and then shrugged, and kissed and licked at one of the dark brown nipples. This action elicited a very soft moan from the Conqueror, so she repeated the action on the other breast and then enclosed the nipple in her mouth, trying to suck it exactly like her master had sucked hers a few minutes earlier.

"Oh gods. Yes. Just like that." The girl’s mouth sent white-hot electrical jolts directly from her nipple to her groin.

Gabrielle found that she actually enjoyed the sensation of the nipple in her mouth, and she tentatively flicked it with her tongue, rapidly, several times. She looked up and saw that her master’s eyes were closed. "Is this good Empress?"

"Very ... good. Keep going." The Conqueror wrapped her long hands across the back of Gabrielle’s neck to hold her in place, and after a while, pushed the blonde head lower. "Okay." She sat up on her elbows, trying to maintain some of her sanity. "This is the part where I coach, since I didn’t go this far with you. Just ... um ... kinda do what you were doing to my breasts, only a little lower." She lay back as a small tongue circled her navel and the lips kissed her lower abdomen. After several minutes of such treatment, Gabrielle realized it was time to move on, but wasn’t sure how to proceed.

"Um ... Empress?" The blue eyes opened.

"Oh. Yeah. Um ..." The Conqueror grabbed a pillow and placed it underneath her buttocks, elevating her hips so the visuals for the rest of the lesson could be more easily seen. "Lay down on your stomach between my legs."

The girl slowly obeyed, and realized that the scent she had smelled in the room the morning before had been the scent of her master’s arousal. Despite her fear, she inhaled deeply, and her mouth watered, just a little. Without further prompting, she tenderly kissed her master’s inner thighs, and sighed, wrapping her arms underneath the strong legs and cupping the Conqueror’s butt cheeks with her hands against the pillow they were resting on. Instinctively, she continued teasing the sensitive skin, getting closer and closer to her goal, drawn inexplicably by the musky sweet odor.

"You’re absolutely certain you’ve never done this before?" The deep voice managed to spit out between low groans of pleasure.

"Never." Gabrielle studied the heated center in front of her, and gave a tentative lick to the labia, causing her master’s hips to buck off the pillow. Hmmm. She did it again with the same results. The third time, she prodded between the swollen pink lips, and swirled her tongue through the copious wetness, wrinkling her nose slightly at the salty taste until she got used to it. She got completely lost in her task, even going so far as to poke the tip of her tongue into the opening, earning her a rather vocal "oh fuck" from her master.

The activity continued, and the Conqueror found herself floating away on the pleasurable sensations. It was sweet torture, plain and simple. It wasn’t just the attention she was receiving, because more servant girls than she could count had gone down on her, as well a most of her male partners. But none of them had ever been this gentle or this thorough with her. Maybe there’s something to be said for inexperience. The girl was slowly driving her insane, so close, yet so far. "Little one?"

"Yes Empress." Gabrielle paused and waited, while her master’s chest heaved with great effort.

"Have you ever touched yourself? Down there? Do you understand what I’m talking about? I mean to make yourself come."

"No Empress." Gabrielle had heard some of the older girls in her village talk about such things, but she wasn’t sure exactly what they meant, or how to go about it. "I ... um know it can be done. I just don’t know how."

"Look around down there." The girl quirked an eyebrow. "Use your fingers if you have to." Small fingers tentatively parted her nether lips, and the Conqueror moaned in spite of herself. "You see that little nob of flesh?"

"This one?" Gabrielle stroked the sensitive nub, and her master’s hips shot off the pillow.

"Oh gods." She gasped. "Yes. That would be the one." The Conqueror was fast losing control. "Think of it as Mezentius’ cock. Just a lot smaller ... oh ... yeah ... that’s it!" Full lips closed around her and sucked at her clit, and she knew she wasn’t going to last long. She reached down and took one of Gabrielle’s hands, drawing it toward her center. "Put two fingers inside and pump them in and out while you do that." She felt the fingers enter her, filling her up. "Oh ... fuck." The Conqueror gasped. "Your fingers feel so damned good." Gabrielle began to move her fingers, pumping them in and out and curling her fingertips into the soft velvety texture, reveling in the unfamiliar sensation. "Oh gods. Gonna come." With several more pumps of Gabrielle’s fingers, and the continued suction on her clit, the Conqueror was soon lost in a mind-shattering orgasm.

She slowly floated back down to earth, and reached down, gathering her handmaiden up and pulling her tightly against her chest on top of her. She ran her hands lightly up and down the small back and then lower, cupping the bare ass that was exposed due to the thong underwear. She ran one hand still lower, pressing against the now drenched underwear, and slid one finger underneath the silky material to stroke the outer skin of engorged wet lips. "You’re so wet." She growled "I want to release you."

"Empress?" The green eyes were wide with fear. "Please. I ... don’t want ..." She was silenced by a pair of hungry lips, and she felt the wisp of underwear ripped away from her hips. Before she knew what was happening, she was flipped on her back and covered by her master’s body. The Conqueror devoured her mouth with her own, while a strong hand snaked between them, and long fingers parted her nether lips, stroking at her clit with quick firm movements meant to bring on a fast hard climax. Her breath came in short whimpering gasps, and all of sudden she felt like she was imploding from the inside out, as her body was assaulted by wave after wave of pleasure. "Oh. Gods. Empress. I ..." Her cries were swallowed up in a deep kiss, as the relentless fingers milked her flesh until there were no more after shocks forthcoming.

A tiny part of her mind wrapped around the knowledge that the Conqueror had not attempted to penetrate her, and she sighed with relief as her body began to calm under soothing hands.

As the Conqueror felt the small body under her start to tremble, it had taken all her willpower not to plunge her fingers into the girl’s warm wet opening. She knew it would be tight and that she would be the first one to go inside the girl like that, and she knew that knowledge in and of itself would probably have sent her over the edge again as well. The sense of power would be intoxicating. And why, exactly did I not? I do own her don’t I? Her mind was still a little fuzzy from too much port. Is it because you don’t want to scare her the first time? So that she won’t be afraid to pleasure you the next time? Yeah. That must be it.

As reality sunk in, Gabrielle pulled away from her master and curled up into a ball on her side, her back away from the taller woman. I hate her. The girl was confused because she had enjoyed the physical pleasure, but she knew there was no love behind it. She started to cry quietly, the tears trickling down off the end of her nose onto the satin sheets. I always wanted the first time to be with someone who loved me. The monster bitch had given her her first orgasm. A sense of hopelessness engulfed her, as she realized there was very little chance as a slave, she could remain a virgin until she fell in love with someone. She began to shake with sobs that she desperately tried to control.

"Hey." The Conqueror placed a tentative hand on her shoulder. "What’s wrong? I know I didn’t hurt you." By the gods, that was the most restraint I’ve ever used. And now she’s crying. What’s up with that?

"Yes you did." The tiny voice whispered. "You took something I had been saving."

"Oh come on. You’re still technically a virgin. Still intact. I didn’t take your precious cherry, little girl, and believe me. I wanted to. Besides. I own you, so everything you have is mine." The girl continued crying, and the Conqueror could feel the first twinges of a headache at her temples. No no no. Not tears. Anything but that. Okay. Change tactics. "What I did to you. Didn’t it feel good?"

"That’s not the point." Gabrielle hiccupped. "Oh never mind. You wouldn’t understand even if I tried to explain it to you." How do you explain dreams of love to someone who is incapable of it?

"You have nothing to complain about, little girl. Don’t you realize you have the most enviable position of any slave in Greece?" The Conqueror felt her anger start to rise. "You have it so much better than most of them."

Gabrielle sat up and clenched her fists in her lap. She was beyond caring if she was killed for expressing her opinion. "Oh. That’s just rich coming from you!" She got up and began pacing furiously back and forth at the foot of the bed, and realizing she was naked, snatched the rumpled-up top sheet off of it and wrapped it around herself. "You haven’t a clue what it’s like. To spend every minute of every day, knowing that you have absolutely no control over your own destiny. Do you think I enjoyed sucking Mezentius’ cock every day for five summers? No! I did it because the alternative was to be raped or killed. And now I have to deal with you. Don’t you understand? Of course it felt good. You made sure of that. Congratulations. You have very skilled fingers. But you and I both know that I didn’t walk in here tonight of my own free will."

"I ... I ..." The Conqueror stammered. "You made me feel good. I wanted you to feel good too. None of the other servants have ever complained when I touched them."

"Of course they didn’t!" Gabrielle stamped her foot. "It was self-preservation. But none of them were with you because they wanted to be. It wasn’t about them for you, it was about you, and some sense of power you get from making them climax. What did you say to me? ‘I want to release you.’ You didn’t ask me if that’s what I wanted. You did it because you wanted it. You don’t understand do you? Unless they came to your bed of their own free will, it was rape. Every single time. Even if they didn’t struggle. They were slaves. Just like me. They had no choice. If that’s what it takes for you to feel good about yourself, to feel powerful, then I feel sorry for you. That’s some ‘power,’ to dominate people that have no choice but to submit."

The comments were like a hard slap to the face, and the Conqueror realized that she had lost all control of the situation. She came off the bed with a roaring growl, the dagger from the nightstand in her hand. She landed on top of her handmaiden, pinning her to the floor, and held the sharp blade against the smooth creamy throat, watching an artery pulse in fear just under the surface. Her hand trembled with rage, nicking the skin on the girl’s neck slightly. A neck she had recently enjoyed kissing. Gabrielle flinched at the tiny stinging sensation, but clamped her jaw shut, refusing to let any sound escape her lips. "I ought to take you right now, and then kill you."

"Go ahead. My life is over anyway, so what difference does it make?" The green eyes flashed. "You said you wanted to take it, so why didn’t you? Don’t you always take whatever you want, no matter who gets hurt in the process?"

The Conqueror blinked as something snapped inside, and the dagger slowly dropped to the floor with a clatter against the marble tiles. "Why is your life over?" The blue eyes actually looked sad. She studied her handmaiden, and knew this girl was different from the others. This one has a fire in her belly. No slave had ever been bold enough to talk to her in such a manner. Well, there was that one. She remembered a dark-haired girl that had dared to defy her. She had left her tied down on a cave floor near a pool of flesh-eaters. As far as she knew that one was dead. She licked her finger and then reached down, dabbing away the tiny drop of blood her knife had drawn. She felt something she hadn’t felt in a long time. Remorse. She had hurt someone else. An innocent. And I was never into hurting children. She’s not exactly a child, but nonetheless, she is innocent.

Gabrielle slowly sat up and backed away, out of her master’s reach. "My life is over because every single day, for the rest of my life, I will never be free. My destiny is sealed. Any dreams I ever had will never come true, no matter how hard I might wish for them to. You can have everything you want. I can never have anything I want, except in my dreams. You know why the slaves love the nights so much?"

"Why?" The Conqueror sat back and hugged her knees to her chest, pulling a blanket off the foot of the bed and drawing it around her suddenly chilled shoulders.

"Because sleep is the only way thy can ever escape, or forget the hopelessness of their waking lives. It’s the only time they can dream freely." She looked down at the floor.

"Little one." The deep voice was soft. "What are your dreams?"

"Please." Gabrielle started to cry again. "Don’t make me talk about those. I’ve worked really hard to forget them. What’s the use?"

"Because I own you, and I want to know." The voice was still soft, despite the attempt to force the issue.

Gabrielle sniffed. "Before I was captured, I was betrothed to be married to a boy from my village. His name was Perdicus."

"So you wanted to get married?" I think once, a long time ago, I wanted to get married too. Before Cortese changed my world forever. Before Caesar taught me that no man is to be trusted.

"Yes. No. I don’t know. I was doing what I was supposed to do, and Perdicus would have been good to me. We would have had attractive children. He would have been a good father. I guess I always thought he would be the first one to touch me the way you just did. Stupid dreams." She smiled at the memory of her simple, but devoted betrothed. "I ... wanted to travel. And see the world. I used to tell stories to the children in Potadeia. I wanted to be a bard. To go to the academy here in Athens. Funny. I always wanted to see Athens. Look at me now. Here I am." She wiped the back of her hand across her eyes. "How does that old saying go? Be careful what you wish for?" She chuckled sarcastically and lowered her head, shaking it at the irony.

"Look." The pale eyes briefly made contact with green before they flicked away. "Um ... it’s still several candle marks before dawn. Why don’t you go back to your room? Get some sleep. You don’t have to come back here until after the rest of the servants eat breakfast tomorrow. You can eat with your ... friends." Do slaves have friends?

A blonde brow rose sharply, but Gabrielle made no comment. O ... kay. She stood up and moved to the bathing room to put her clothes back on.

The Conqueror saw what she was doing and padded over to her bureau, rummaging around until she found what she was looking for. She went to the bathing room and held out a large over-sized shirt. "Here. No need to put all those fancy uncomfortable clothes back on just to walk across the compound. You can bring it back to me after you’ve washed it."

"Thank you Empress." Gabrielle pulled the shirt over her head and slipped her sandals onto her feet, tossing the long evening dress over her shoulder. "Um ... So ... I’ll be back in the morning after breakfast."

The Conqueror watched her handmaiden leave, and then moved over to the window, looking down at the courtyard, which was devoid of activity at the late hour. She looked up at the stars and for the first time in a long time, thought about her mother and her brothers. She felt a pang of regret over the death of Lyceus. I sure screwed that up royally. As for Toris and her mother, she assumed they were still alive. Even after she had conquered all of Greece, they had steadfastly refused to acknowledge her as a part of their family, turning down her offer to them to come live with her in the palace in Athens, choosing the lifestyle of simple innkeepers over the luxury she could afford them. She looked back down at the courtyard, and after a while she saw the girl emerge from the front of the palace, and she tracked her, following the girl’s movement across the compound until she disappeared into one of the buildings in the servant’s quarters.


A tall dark figure in a cape stood in the doorway, observing the two figures that reclined on the cots in the room. The quiet even breathing of sleep reached her sensitive ears, and she took a deep breath herself, inhaling the faint remnant of sandalwood oil, mixed with the scent of what she recognized as the smell of her own body co-mingled with the smell of her handmaiden’s body, the scent of their recent pleasuring still clinging to the sleeping girl’s skin. She tossed her hair back over her shoulders and stepped into the room, moving with cat-like grace until she stood over the girl. She knelt down and pulled the thin blanket up, tucking it around the small shoulders. She laid a trembling hand on the pale head. What do you dream about now, little one?

She heard a faint gasp and turned her head quickly to find caramel-colored eyes watching her. The Amazon. How’d they end up sharing a room? Realizing the woman was about to scream, she moved swiftly, just managing to cover the mouth before the cry could escape. "Shhh!" She shook her head slightly and whispered. "I’m not here to hurt anyone, okay?" The caramel eyes narrowed in doubt, and she clamped her hand more firmly over the mouth. "Don’t scream. You’ll wake her up. Okay?" And she might be having a really nice dream.

Finally the curly head nodded, and she slowly removed her hand. Ephiny watched as the Conqueror rose and slipped out of the room into the night. She looked over at the queen and back at the empty doorway. What in Tartarus just happened here?


She returned to her chambers and closed the door, leaning heavily against it. It was like drowning. Or what she thought it must be like to drown. The control she held onto so firmly was spinning, slipping through her fingers faster than she could make a grab for it, spiraling out of reach. She stood up tall and unclasped the cloak at her throat, tossing the long black garment over a chair. And then she felt it. Her nape hairs prickled, and the blood began to pump through her arteries with increased pressure, as the darkness rushed to rise to the surface to meet its mate. Ares ...

"I know you’re here. And I’ve had about all the surprises I can take for one night. So just do us both a favor and show yourself."

A flash of red light, and the strong aroma of brimstone filled the room, as the god of war appeared and stood before her with his arms crossed. "You’re pathetic, Xena."

"Tell me something I don’t know." She sat down, removing her leg armor and then her boots.

"Are you going to let that little slave girl ruin everything you’ve worked so hard for?" He moved in behind her, helping her with her body armor, unhooking it and setting it aside on the table.

"Is it so horrible to show a little mercy every now and then?" She stood up, setting her chakram on the table next to her armor and removing the scabbard from her back.

"Yes." He began to circle her. "You’re an obsessive personality, Xena, and you’re very focused. It’s one of the things I love about you. But look at you now. You’ve got a war to plan. One more big battle, and you will have everything you wanted. Everything. Rome. Caesar. But no, what are you doing? You’re taking all the focus in that lovely head of yours, and wasting it worrying about hurting a piece of your own property. What’s wrong with that picture?"

"She’s not property, she’s a person." It slipped out unbidden, and she sat down in defeat, dropping her head back against the high chair back as she covered her face with her hands before she raked her fingers through he hair, pushing it back from her face. "Oh gods. You’re right."

"I’m always right when it comes to you." He moved back in front of her and knelt down at her feet, pushing up the edge of the brown leathers and pushed her knees apart, running his hand up her inner thigh until his fingertips barely brushed her suddenly-heated center. He stroked her once. Twice, and a low growl sounded in the back of her throat. "You can’t afford to piss it all away now, Xena. You fight this one last battle, and win it. And then you can be kind to all of the little servants you want to. But until then, you have got to stay focused. And for you that means staying angry. You are so damned beautiful when you’re angry. You’ve got to take it back Xena."

"Take what back?" She gasped as he pulled her out of the chair and pushed her forcefully against the wall, with her back to him, her cheek pressed into the rough swirled marble.

"The control you gave her tonight." He leaned in and flicked her earlobe with his tongue, and nipped his way across her shoulders, before he unlaced the leather dress and peeled it off her body, throwing it across the room until it hit the far wall with a smack. He quickly slipped off her brown undergarments, leaving her naked and exposed. He watched with satisfaction as the tiny muscles between her shoulder blades twitched. Waiting. Wondering what his next move would be. "She filled your head with garbage, Xena, and you listened to her." He spun her around and pinned her hands above her head, as his mouth trailed hot hisses across her face and then branded her throat. She cried out as he moved lower, biting her nipple and grazing his teeth across the sensitive flesh.

"You own her, Xena. Just like I own you." He kept her wrists pinned and reached down with his other hand to unfasten his black leather pants. She licked her lips, feeling the dark energy rolling off of him, and she waited with breathless anticipation. He kicked her legs apart and released her wrists, as he lifted her up by the hips until just her toes were touching the ground. "And tomorrow morning, you’re going to remind her who’s in control. You’re going to take her, Xena. Just like I’m going to take you."

She howled with primal satisfaction, as he pulled her back down and impaled her, filling her dripping wet center up completely, stretching her to her limit. "Who owns you, Xena?" He pumped furiously, his actions causing her naked back to scrape against the cool wall, and he growled as she surrendered, wrapping her legs around his waist and digging her fingers into his thick corded shoulders.

"You do. Oh gods." She felt the climax building rapidly, knowing the explosion was going to be anything but quiet.

"Don’t mention the others when you’re with me. I am the only god in your life. You are mine. And you always will be. I’m here to remind you of that little fact."

The Conqueror became the conquered, and she shrieked as she felt the energy transfer from his body to hers, the dark side re-claiming her soul with a vengeance. With one last thrust, Ares jerked her body firmly down onto him, and she threw her head back, screaming as her release shook her body to the core in wave after powerful wave. Ares kissed her lips as he pulled out, and then watched with a sense of victory, as she slowly slid down the wall to the floor into a whimpering shaking puddle.

He fastened his pants and knelt down next to his sated protègè. "Now. Tomorrow Xena, what are you going to do?"

"Take her." The former warlord murmured weakly.

"Good girl." He patted her cheek and then disappeared in a flash of red swirling smoke.

The Conqueror drew her legs up, resting her forearms across her knees and dropping her head forward, framing her face with the dark sweaty tresses. She could still feel the residual dark energy simmering inside, and she knew there would be no more sleep for her this night. How can I feel so damned good when he does that, and so fucking empty when he leaves?


A gentle shake woke Gabrielle, and she rolled over to see a very concerned Ephiny standing above her cot. "Gabrielle. It’s after sunrise. You’d better get you butt over to the palace. It’s way past time for you to be there."

"No." The girl mumbled as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes. "She told me to eat here first today."

"Really?" The regent waged an internal war, and then nodded her head, a decision made. She sat down on the edge of the cot. "She was here last night."

"What?" Gabrielle sat up and looked down. She was still wearing her master’s shirt, and she realized Ephiny was staring at it.

"Where’d you get that? Isn’t it a little big for you?" She fingered the long sleeve, that had fallen way down past her friend’s hand.

"It’s hers." Gabrielle groaned and covered her face with her hands. She could still smell her master’s scent on the shirt. "Why was she here? You mean here, as in, here in our room?"

"Yes. Gabrielle." Ephiny’s voice was very gentle. "I ... there was something in her eyes. It was dark and all, but she looked ... sad or something. What happened last night? I didn’t even hear you come in, and I didn’t get to sleep until after midnight. I had to help birth a foal late yesterday evening."

"She ... um ... we .." The girl hung her head to hide her watering eyes.

"She raped you, didn’t she?" There was a hard edge to the regent’s voice, and she unconsciously tugged at the sleeve she had been stroking.

"Not exactly." Gabrielle sniffled. "But she might as well have. Look Eph. She owns me. I’m a slave. It’s going to happen eventually. I almost wish she’d just go ahead and get it over with. I spent five summers with Mezentius, and woke up every day with dread, wondering if that was going to be the day he ... well. It didn’t happen, but I still spent all that time with my stomach tied up in knots."

Ahhh. That answers that question. Ephiny wasn’t sure exactly what had gone on between Gabrielle and Mezentius, but she had heard rumors about the special services her friend had been forced to provide for him. "She did do ... something to you last night, didn’t she?"

"Yeah." The girl’s voice was almost inaudible. "She taught me how to ... um ... well kind of the same things I used to for Mezentius, but then afterward, I guess she was still all worked up. She ... touched me ... did stuff to me until I ... it felt good, but I didn’t want it. Not that way."

"Was that your first time?" The regent traced her fingers softly across her friend’s cheek.

"Yes." Gabrielle choked back a sob. The green eyes looked up and Ephiny’s heart broke at the utter despair she saw. "Eph. Is that all I’m ever going to be good for?"

"No. You are so beautiful Gabrielle. Inside and out. You are worth a lot more than that. Come here." Ephiny pulled the small body against her, and rocked it, as she allowed her friend to cry. "Baby. I’m so sorry. So, so sorry. I wish I could do something to stop her."

"You can’t, Eph. No one can." She sat up and wiped her eyes. "But something happened last night. I can’t explain it. I lost it. I started screaming at her. Telling her what it’s like to be a slave. Eph, she shoulda killed me. She came really close. She was so angry. But I saw it in her eyes. Something got through to her. All of a sudden she got really quiet and just sent me here and basically told me to sleep in."

"You know." The regent brushed a tear from her friend’s face. "When I woke up and saw her there, she was kneeling by your cot, and she had one hand on your head. I freaked out and was about to scream, and she practically jumped over here, and stopped me before I could. Told me she wasn’t going to hurt anybody, and not to scream because it might wake you up."

"Weird." Gabrielle processed this new information.

"Maybe she’s going to go easy on you." Ephiny patted the queen’s back. "Maybe you’ve found a chink in the ice bitch’s armor."

"Maybe." The girl’s eyes took on a faraway look for a moment. "Let’s go get breakfast. I’m starved. And I need a bath."


Gabrielle knocked on the door for the second morning in a row, and the voice inside that called to her sounded like it was directly on the other side of the door. She pushed it open to find her master curled up in a large chair, wrapped up in a black cloak. "Empress? Is everything alright?"

"Yeah." After Ares had left her, the Conqueror had crawled from the floor to the chair, and since her cloak was there, she had pulled it around her body and sat there for a long time, trembling and thinking about everything that had happened. She must have fallen asleep there, as her handmaiden’s knock had woken her up. "Go draw me a bath."

"Yes Empress." The girl walked away toward the bathing room, unaware that troubled blue eyes followed her, trying to decide what to do about her encounter with the god of war, and what he required of her.

"Empress, your bath is ready." The girl called to her after several long moments. She got up wearily and dropped the cloak, entering the room. She stopped for a minute and peered at her handmaiden through hooded eyes. Take her now? No. After the bath, I think. She lowered herself into the tub and then turned around, slowly leaning back against the padded rim. The warm water felt good, as she imagined it washing Ares’ essence off her body. Her eyes fluttered open as she felt a small hand on her shoulder.

"Do you want your sponge?" She held it out to her master, along with a cake of sweet-smelling almond soap.

"Yeah." The Conqueror turned slightly, and Gabrielle saw a large bruise on her master’s neck. She remembered the tongue-lashing she had received for using her teeth, but she didn’t remember lingering there long enough to make such a mark. Her eyes grew wide with fear. Oh gods. She must not know it’s there yet. She’s gonna kill me.

"What?" Blue eyes snapped. "Why are you staring at me?"

"Empress." The girl’s voice was shaking. She touched the mark with her fingers and then dropped to her knees by the tub, her forehead almost touching the floor. "I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do that. Please. Don’t kill me."

"What in Tartarus are you talking about?!" The Conqueror barked. "What did you do?"

The girl got up and retrieved a hand-held mirror from the vanity, and held it out before she backed away against the far wall, waiting for what she was sure would be a severe beating, at best. The Conqueror held it up and peered into it, and gasped at the large hickey on her neck. Ares. Her lips curled into a snarl and then she heard her handmaiden whimper. "Come here, girl."

Gabrielle felt her leaden feet obey. "Please. Empress. I swear it will never happen again. I promised you. Give me a chance. Please."

"Here. Put the mirror away." The Conqueror handed it over and then sunk back down into the tub with a weary sigh, closing her eyes.

Huh? Gabrielle took the silver instrument and set it aside. She watched in mute shock as her master calmly began to wash herself. Maybe she’s too hung over to punish me right now. She remembered Ephiny’s words about their nocturnal visit, and hoped their hypothesis was right.

"Come scrub my back." The girl moved over and took the sponge, and it was her turn to gasp at the minute scabbed-over hairline scratches that criss-crossed her master’s back from her shoulders down to her buttocks. "Empress. Your back. What happened?"

"My back?" She wrinkled her brow in confusion. "What’s wrong with my back?"

"You’ve got ... little cuts all over it." The girl gently touched one of them before she could stop herself.

Thought I felt some stinging back there. She growled suddenly, remembering Ares, inside, pushing her bare back into the rough-cut stone wall over and over again while he claimed her as only he could. "By the gods, I’ll kill him if I ever get the chance!" If only I could kill a god.

"Empress." Gabrielle backed away. "Kill who?"

Did I say that out loud? She shook her head to clear it. "Never mind. Just ... wash my back. But don’t scrub, okay?"

"Yes Empress." The girl moved back in close, and with infinite gentleness, cleaned the wounds with the warm soapy water, before moving on to wash her master’s hair. After the bath was over, she carefully blotted the broad muscular back dry, and drew her master over to the vanity and indicated the stool. "Empress. Please sit down. I need to put something on those cuts."

The Conqueror sat down, and sad blue eyes tracked the girl as she moved to a drawer and pulled out a tin of salve, the same kind she had given her handmaiden to put on her own scars. No one’s ever offered to do anything for me without me ordering them to do it first. She sighed heavily as she felt the small fingers begin to work the medicine into her wounds. "You’re not the only one who has a master, you know."

"What?" Gabrielle paused for a second before she continued her administrations.

"Nothing." After several more minutes, she felt the fingers still, as the cuts near her buttocks received the final attention. Then she felt a single small kiss to the small of her back before the girl silently stood up and put the salve away. Aw Hades. How can I rape her after she did that? Okay, Ares. You want me to take back some control. I will. You said to take her this morning. Well I’m not gonna do it. I’ll do it later, when I’m good and ready. How’s that for taking control? No one is gonna tell me what to do, including you.

"Empress?" The girl’s voice drew her attention back to the moment at hand. "Shall I help you dress?"

"Um ... no. Just hand me my robe." She stood and put on the soft blue silk, enjoying the smooth feel of it on her stinging back. "I’m going to be busy today. I have to meet with my remaining captains to plan phase three of my attack on Rome. I need for you to take care of a bunch of things for me while we meet."

She moved to her desk in the front room, and pulled out a piece of parchment an a quill, quickly making up a lot of false errands for her handmaiden to run, hoping she could keep the girl out of her sight for a while. "Here." She handed over the list. "Come back here after dinner."

Gabrielle swallowed, fairly certain that she was probably in for a repeat session of the night before. "Yes Empress."


The morning meetings went well, and the Conqueror returned to her quarters to eat lunch. She reviewed her maps, this time concentrating on the attack from the south of Rome. The troops for that phase would also be sent by boat, as had the ones for the western front. She sipped at a mug of port, when she felt the familiar tingling. Again.

"Back so soon?" Her throaty voice taunted the empty air. "Guess you just can’t get enough of me."

The god of war materialized directly across the table from her, and poured himself a mug of port before he sat down. "Why are you screwing around, Xena? What’s the hold-up?"

"You wanted control. You got it." She gave him a menacing stare as she propped one leather-clad leg up on the table. She gasped, as he knocked everything off the table with a swipe of his arm, and grabbed the booted leg, dragging her on top of the thick wooden surface, and straddling her on all fours as he leaned down, his face so close that his beard was tickling her chin and cheeks.

"I gave you an order." He closed one hand around her throat. "Now either you take her tonight, and you get that little tramp of a servant out of your system, or I will come to you every night and I will fuck your brains out until you do."

The Conqueror laughed and her eyes flashed. "That’s supposed to be a threat? Oooo. Punish me."

Ares snarled and tightened his grip on her throat until she was straining for air. "Oh. I will. That’s just the beginning. You disobey me, and I will take it all away. And you know I can. You just might find yourself back on that road outside Amphipolis where I found you, with nothing but the clothes on your back. Do it, Xena. No one owns you but me. Especially not her. So do it or lose everything."

With a flash, he was gone, and she reached up to rub her neck as she drew in deep gulps of blessed oxygen. Her body thrummed, like it always did when she had contact with him, the dark roiling energy almost palpable. She sat up and slid off the table and landed on shaky legs, straightening her black leather vest and running her sweating palms down the front of the thick leather pants. She knew what she had to do. Run, little one. Don’t come back here.


Gabrielle breezed through the list of tasks, receiving mixed looks everywhere she went, with the occasional comment that that particular errand had just been taken care of a few days before, and confusion that it needed to be done again so soon. She shrugged her shoulders, and methodically continued until every item had been checked off. She’d replenished the supply of soap and bath oil, taken several loads of laundry to the laundry maids, re-stocked the Conqueror’s personal supply of snacks that she kept stashed in her chambers, retrieved several jugs of port, and even gone all the way to the stables to inform Ephiny that the Conqueror’s personal horse needed new shoes and some repairs made to its saddle and bridle.

She ate dinner in the slave’s dining tent, sitting at a table with Ephiny, Solari, and Eponin, and listened mostly in silence as the three reminisced about their days of living together in the Amazon village. They all grew melancholy, informing her that as far as they knew, there were no more Amazon villages left in Greece. All of them had been depleted and burned down, most of the women sold into slavery or escaped into the high hills, where they suspected a few were hiding out in caves. They looked hopefully at their queen, and discretely discussed the possibility that someday they might be able to re-group. Gabrielle smiled sadly, not having any answers, or hope, to offer them. Some queen, she mused wryly to herself.

When she could no longer drag the meal out, she got up from the table and quietly excused herself, stating that she was wanted at the palace. Ephiny’s heart ached as she observed her friend’s dejected posture. "Gabrielle." The queen turned around. "Chin up."

"Yeah. Thanks, Eph. I’ll try to remember that." She turned back around and left them.

"She’s not gonna make it here, is she?" Eponin watched the young girl leave.

"Sure she will." Caramel eyes grew angry. "She’s a lot tougher than she looks."


When she reached her master’s chambers, she found the door slightly ajar. "Empress?" She poked her head in and looked around, finding the front room empty. She stepped into the room and closed the door softly, and slowly walked toward the bed chamber, her heart pounding double time. "Empress?"

She entered the room and her heart dropped to her stomach. The Conqueror sat in a large padded chair next to the bed, clad only in her robe, which hung open. On the night table were several leather ties, a large harness, and a very thick phallus. Her gaze moved up to meet the coldest blue eyes she had ever seen. Gabrielle swallowed hard and stopped. So this is it.

"Keep walking, little girl." She watched her trembling handmaiden cross the room until she stood before her. "On your knees in front of me." Gabrielle knelt down as she was told, and bowed her head. The Conqueror spread her knees and the girl whimpered as she felt herself dragged forward by the hair until she was between strong legs that clamped against her sides, holding her in place. "Pleasure me."

The girl placed one hand on a muscular thigh, and with the other, she parted her master’s wet folds, never looking up. She licked and kissed the outer labia and heard quiet sighs, and then she dipped her tongue further in, teasing the inner lips before she began to slowly flick the tip of her tongue over the swollen nub.

"Use your fingers on my clit and tongue-fuck me." She moaned with bliss as she felt the warm muscle probing inside her, and closed her eyes, not wanting to watch the girl, hoping to hold onto her resolve for what she had to do later. She frowned as after several minutes, she realized the girl was doing as she was told, but was dragging it out, not increasing her pressure or intensity any. "Get on with it girl. Make me come."

Gabrielle felt tears sting her eyes, as she realized her ploy was not going to work. She groaned internally. Guess I can’t put off the inevitable. She did as she was told, and increased the pressure of her fingers, along with the pace of her tongue, and soon felt her master’s inner muscles spasming in an almost silent climax, as only a very quiet groan escaped the dark woman’s lips.

The Conqueror sat still for a moment, until she felt her body calm, and then she stood up, shedding her robe in the process, as it fell onto the seat of the chair. Gabrielle started to get up. "Stay down." The former warlord retrieved the harness and held it out in front of the girl at eye level. "Fasten this around my hips."

The girl’s hands shook so hard she could barely get the buckles to function, and her sweating fingers slipped off the metal fastenings several times before she completed the task. The Conqueror handed her the phallus next. "Attach this to it."

"Please Empress." Gabrielle knew the instrument was way too large for her, and that it was going to hurt. "This is my first time. Please. I can’t ..." Her head spun as she was slapped soundly across the face.

"Shut up and do it!" The girl whimpered and began to work with the harness, dropping the phallus three times in the process, unable to make herself obey. On the third fumble, she felt several stinging blows to her face and head, and she was roughly shoved to the ground. "I’ll do it myself."

Gabrielle stayed where she had landed, half resting on her hip and half on her hands, as the Conqueror bent over and snatched the large toy from the floor. She quickly fastened it in place and then jerked Gabrielle up by one arm and with one smooth motion, ripped her clothes from her body. "This is going to happen, little girl, like it or not."

She threw the girl on the bed and pulled her hands sharply underneath her, so that Gabrielle’s own back was holding her arms in place. "You leave those there, or I’ll use the ties." The girl whimpered pathetically, as the Conqueror began to attack her lips, biting and sucking them roughly, and practically ramming her tongue down the girl’s throat until she was gagging. She moved lower, biting and sucking her neck until there were several hickeys on the smooth skin, a testament as to who the girl belonged to.

Gabrielle screamed in pain, as her nipples were sucked hard and the Conqueror bit into the sensitive skin around them, leaving deep puncture wounds. She began to cry uncontrollably as her master scraped her fingernails down her thighs, drawing blood in her wake as she pushed the firm legs apart as wide as they would go. She pinned the girl’s legs down with her knees, and paused for a moment, savoring her pending conquest.

Gabrielle looked up at her master through watery red eyes, and with a hoarse whisper asked a single question. "Why?" The blue eyes narrowed in response and she found the courage to keep talking. "I thought you were going to do this last night, but you were being so gentle. Why like this? What did I do to you? Why do you want to hurt me so much?"

"Because I have to." The Conqueror lowered herself, and reached down between their bodies to roughly rub the girl’s dry clit, eliciting another cry of pain. "You might as well try to relax. The wetter you are, the easier this is going to be for you."

The girl merely whimpered, like a wounded animal, as she felt the tip of the cock teasing her entrance. "Please ... Empress. It doesn’t have to be like this." Her throat was raw from screaming, and she had almost no tears left, but her green eyes did their best to communicate her final plea for mercy.

The Conqueror was about to ram the phallus home, but she looked up, and the eyes snared her. She tried to look away and she drew her hips back further, intending to get on with it, but at the last minute she merely collapsed instead. "I can’t do this." She whispered. She sat back and unstraped the harness, throwing it and the phallus savagely against the wall. "Gods damn you to Tartarus, I can’t do this." She sat back and crossed her legs, resting her elbows on her knees and her face in her hands.

Gabrielle took the opportunity to get off the bed. She picked up her torn clothing and realized that unless there were any more large shirts forthcoming, she was eventually going to leave half-naked. If she was allowed to leave. "Empress?"

Two angry confused blue eyes looked up at her. "Get out."

"Sh ... should I come back in the morning?"

"Just get out ... now!" The angry voice bellowed. Before I change my mind.

Gabrielle didn’t have to be told a third time. She fled from the room and paused in the hallway long enough to pull her torn clothes around her body as best she could, and then ran as fast as her legs would carry her, not stopping until she reached her room. She slowed down and hoped Ephiny was asleep. As she looked over at her room-mate’s cot, the curly head rose off the pillow and the former regent lit a candle. "What in the name of Artemis did she do to you?" One of the girl’s eyes was starting to swell closed, her nose was bleeding, several bruises were visible, and long bloody scrapes ran down the lengths of her thighs. Her top and skirt hung in shredded rags from her hips and shoulders.

"Ephiny. Just go to bed." Gabrielle moved to her cot and knelt down, pulling the basket out from underneath where she stored her clothes. She thumbed through the assortment and realized she hadn’t been given any sleeping shirts. She felt a tear trickle down her cheek as she lifted up her master’s shirt again. With her back turned, she stood and shrugged out of the torn top and skirt, and tugged the large shirt on, crying more at the sweet musky smell that clung to it. She curled up on her cot and pulled the blanket up under her arms, and cried silently. She flinched as a warm hand came to rest on her shoulder. "Don’t ... touch ... me."

Ephiny removed her hand and sat down on the floor, talking to the turned back. "Gabrielle, why did you fight her?"

"I didn’t." The young girl rolled over onto her back. "She’s insane, Ephiny. I’m sure someday she’s just going to kill me."

"You ... didn’t fight her?" The regent winced at the purplish eye. "Then how come ..."

"She hurt me for the fun of it, I guess. Seems to get off from it." The girl’s voice was a hollow monotone.

"Gabrielle, baby. Did she hurt you very badly ...?" Ephiny could only assume what damage might have been done in places she couldn’t see.

"I’ve got some bites on my breasts." The girl sighed. "But other than that, no, pretty much what you see is what she did."

"What about ...?"

"She didn’t rape me. Again. If that’s what you’re asking." Gabrielle’s eyes took on a faraway look. "And I have no idea why not."

Ephiny’s eyes grew wide, but she made no comment. She stood and started to pat her friend on the shoulder. She stopped when the girl cringed, and instead crawled back onto her own cot. It was a long time before the two silent women fell asleep.


For the second night in a row, the Conqueror found herself standing at the portal of her handmaiden’s room. She sighed and made her way inside, lighting the candle on the single table that sat against one wall between the ends of the cots. Suddenly she found an enraged Amazon at her back. "Get out. Haven’t you done enough damage?"

Before she knew what was happening, Ephiny was pinned against the wall with two strong hands at her throat. "Listen to me, ‘cause I’m only going to say this once. You. Her. I own both of you. And I can do whatever I gods-be-damned please to you, from killing you to setting you free. Now either you sit down on that cot over there like a good little Amazon, and keep your damned mouth closed, or I’ll just take this ..." She held up her chakram. "... and slit your throat. I didn’t come here to hurt her."

The regent felt herself lowered back to the floor, and she meekly took a seat, ready to spring to her queen’s aid if needed. She watched in fascination as the Conqueror emptied the contents of a pouch, which was apparently full of healer’s supplies.

"Little one?" The former warlord gently shook her handmaiden’s shoulder until two terrified eyes flew open. "Hey. It’s okay. I’m here to tend to your wounds. I’m not going to hit you." Anymore. Or rape you. Gabrielle sat up and let the blanket drop. "What are you doing in this shirt?" The Conqueror tried to smile.

"It’s ... all I have to sleep in." The girl looked down.

"Well. I’ll have to do something about that." She watched the face grow red. "I mean, get you something besides just that lingerie I keep in my chambers for you. I’ll have the seamstress get you something comfortable for your room."

She went to work with the healer’s supplies, placing some cooling salve on the bruises and cleaning the scrapes on her handmaiden’s legs. She dabbed at the bleeding nose and after a ginger examination, determined that it wasn’t broken. Finally all that was left were the bite marks. She started to pull the shirt over the girl’s head when she felt her go rigid. "I have to take this off, little one, okay?" Gabrielle relaxed as best she could as the shirt was removed.

"You have very beautiful breasts. I shouldn’t have done that." The former warlord dabbed at the bites with some liquid herbs on a swatch of linen. "This is going to sting just a little." The girl flinched slightly, but otherwise remained silent. Her master finished with the bite marks, and as a final treatment, applied salve to Mezentius’ whip scars on her back before she helped her put her shirt back on. "Get some sleep. I’ll send for you tomorrow when I’m ready for you."

She gathered up her supplies, and just like that, she was gone, leaving two perplexed women staring across the room at each other. "Like I said, Eph. She’s insane. It’s like there’s two of her, and I never know which one I’m dealing with."


The Conqueror was curled up in her chair again. Ares had just left her, and she was doing something she hadn’t done since Cortese attacked her village. She was crying. The god of war had come to her, furious at her disobedience. Snatches of conversation ran through her head.

"I’m poised to do what you wanted Ares. Attack Rome. Almost everything is in place." She had tried to be reasonable. "Why do I have to hurt my handmaiden as part of the deal?"

The god of war had argued with her, ranting about loss of control and ownership, but she’d steadfastly refused to bend to his will this time. The brutal rape that had followed left her doubled over in pain, as he had savagely violated both her vaginal and anal orifices. It had never been like that between them, and she realized that she had enjoyed the other times because he had allowed her to. This time he had taken away the pleasure, and made certain that all she felt was agony. I finally got a taste of what I’ve given out all these years.

It wasn’t the first time she had been taken against her will. She had been introduced to the ways of men when she was fourteen summers old, by three of Cortese’s soldiers in a cave outside Amphipolis. She had sworn that no one would ever have that kind of power over her again, and they hadn’t until now. She shuddered.

Ares had left her in a red cloud of anger, muttering that if she wouldn’t co-operate, he’d do things his own way. She wasn’t sure what he meant by that, and she stubbornly decided that she was a good warrior in her own right. She didn’t need the god of war to help her capture Rome. She didn’t need him because he had already taught her everything she knew. And she was a very good pupil.

As the sun rose, she moved from the chair to the bed, and fell into a fitful sleep. By mid-afternoon, she managed to crawl out of bed and she sent for her handmaiden. Gabrielle was all the way at the stables, watching Ephiny work with the horses. She had enjoyed the rare morning off, so when the runner came to get her, she was absolutely crestfallen. "Wish me luck."

She left the stables and wondered, probably for the thousandth time, which of the gods had hated her enough to place her in that clearing outside Potadeia when the slavers had taken them. She almost hadn’t gone that day. They were going to pick berries, and she didn’t normally enjoy such a task, toiling among the thorny brambles for the meager fruit. But Lila had begged her to go along, and so at the last minute she had.

The Conqueror heard the knock at the door. "Come." The pale head peeked in. Her master was sitting in the large leather chair at her desk, but she wasn’t writing. She was wrapped up in a blanket. "What took so long?"

"I was at the stables, Empress. I’m sorry." She blinked, and the bruise at her eye crinkled with the action. "Shall I draw your bath?"

"No." The thought of hot water at the moment made her wince. "Actually, I need for you to go to the kitchen and get me an ice bag. Not the common kitchen. The private palace kitchen. And bring back a bucket of ice with it. In fact, get two bags and two buckets."

"Yes Empress." The girl left, returning a quarter candle mark later with the requested ice. She handed it over and watched as her master filled the two bags. Ice was a rare commodity. It was cut in large blocks from frozen ponds in the winter, and stored in special ice cellars deep underground, packed in thick layers of sawdust and wrapped in burlap.

"Here. Put this one on your eye." Gabrielle accepted the bag, and sat down, placing it over her brow. She observed her master, as the tall woman lifted the edge of the blanket and pressed the other ice bag up between her legs, jumping a bit at the feel of the cold leather against her bruised nether lips. She tucked the blanket back around herself, but not before Gabrielle got a glimpse of several bruises and scratches on the Conqueror’s lower abdomen.

"Empress?" She couldn’t help but ask. "Who hurt you?"

The Conqueror snorted, a disgusted sort of laugh, and slowly made eye contact. "Reap what you sow, huh?" She shifted in the chair, trying to get comfortable, aware that there were also scratches and bruises on her buttocks and the backs of her legs. "So you wanted to be a bard?"

"Yeah." The girl decided she wasn’t going to get an answer to her question.

"So, bard. You want to hear a story?"

Gabrielle barely managed to keep her mouth from flying open. "Um ... sure."

"Come sit over here at my feet." The girl timidly complied, plopping down on a cushion her master tossed to the floor. "This, my bard, is a story about a girl named Xena, who tried to protect her home village from the warlord Cortese ..."

Gabrielle sat in rapt silence, as the Conqueror told her about everything. Well, almost everything. Cortese, and the defense she had raised, her village turning on her after so many died in the attack. Her early warlord days and her betrayal by Caesar. Her rescue by M’Lila, and her time spent with Lao Ma. Her decision to go with Borias and her betrayal by Alti. She left out all details about her son Solan and her murder of the northern Amazon leaders, and moved on to more stories about her warlord days, up until her army made her run the gauntlet for sparing the life of a baby.

As she talked, she began to absently run her fingers through Gabrielle’s hair, lightly massaging the girl’s scalp and enjoying the silky locks as she lifted them over and over again, letting them sift through her fingers. She told Gabrielle about re-building her army, and the loyalty of the men who were now her army captains. She’d tracked and killed both Cortese and Darphus, her former army captain who had instigated the whole gauntlet episode.

And finally, tentatively, she shared of her relationship with Ares, the god of war, and the days she had spent learning from him, the gift of the chakram, and the power she believed he gave her. After Cortese had attacked her village, and most of the village had fled to the hills, a few of them had stayed, bravely fighting an army that outnumbered their pathetic militia ten to one. She’d watched helplessly, fighting off her own attackers, as her brother Lyceus had fallen under the sword of Cortese himself.

She hadn’t had much time to feel sad, as the men she was fighting managed to disarm her, and dragged her, kicking and screaming to a cave up in the hills, where the three of them tied her down and took turns at her for several excruciating candle marks. She was only fourteen summers old, and up until then her only sexual experiences had consisted of experimental kissing and fumbling behind her mother’s barn with various village boys. And girls. The men had tired of her and after a while they each fell asleep. She had crawled her way over to a knife that lay by the fire and managed to cut her bonds. She used the same knife to slit the throats of her attackers before she walked back to Amphipolis.

By the time she arrived at the remains of her home village, Cortese’s army had plundered and burned most of the tiny establishment, and were long gone. Her neighbors and mother and brother Toris had come out of the hills to survey the damage. When they saw her, they turned on her. It had been her idea to try to fight Cortese rather than just giving in, and as a result, half the men in the village were dead. Her mother had begged the villagers to have mercy on Xena, but they had told her she had two choices, leave or be hanged. So reluctantly, she had just turned and walked away, wearing only her light home-made armor and her sword, carrying not a single bag or pouch.

Ares had found her, alone, lost, and forlorn, several miles outside the town. She had no idea where she was going or what she was going to do, and she was curled up in the dark on the ground beside a small fire trying to get warm, having no bedroll or even a blanket. The god of war had appeared to her as a man, and had been very kind, bringing her food and a warm thick fur to sleep on. He had talked to her for a long time that night, expressing all the potential he saw in her, and had finally revealed his true identity.

She suspected that he had somehow hypnotized her, as she had allowed him to touch her so soon after the attack by the soldiers. He had made love to her with compassion and tenderness that night, whispering glittering promises of all that he would give her if she would surrender to him in every way. His presence was overpowering and seductive, and that was the first night that she felt the dark side boiling in her blood, enticing her with visions of power and wealth. Her destiny was clear to her, and after that night she had belonged to Ares, totally and completely, body and soul.

"... and now, for some reason, he wants me to hurt you. It’s almost like he’s afraid of you. Which is absurd. I refused and he’s been pushing the issue with me, so to speak. The scratches you saw, the hickey, these bruises ... he inflicted them. He and I ... have had a physical relationship since the day we met. But last night was the first time he ever forced himself on me completely against my will. I guess maybe other times it was force, but it was welcome force. He and I have a ... complicated relationship."

"I see." It was the first time Gabrielle had spoken since she sat down. "Why is he after me? I’ve never even met him."

"He seems to think that you can take my control away from me. That you make me weak."

"How could I possibly make you weak?"

"Because you make me think twice about what I’m doing. And because I dared to show you some mercy."

That was mercy? The girl mused to herself. By the gods I hope I never see her idea of cruelty.

"But ... all those things you said the other night, about freedom and being a slave ... after you left, I thought about that. A lot. And you were wrong."

"How so?"

"I can’t have everything I want. And really, I don’t have control. Ares has all the control. His treatment of me is not so different from the way I treat my slaves. And I don’t want to treat you like that. Not anymore."



"Why me? And why now?"

"I’m ... not sure. Three days ago, when I walked in that receiving room, you looked me in the eye. No new slave has ever looked me in the eye. You had a fire that the others didn’t have. And in the last three days, you have, for the most part, shown great courage. And there’s a part of you that is very innocent and vulnerable. And something deep inside of me felt like it was wrong to touch that. To take it away. And you’ve been giving to me. Beyond what is expected of you as a slave. I ... can’t explain myself adequately. I do know that I don’t want Ares to be in charge any more ... and I want to quit feeling wound up so tight all the time, like I’m going to snap. He’s been promising for over ten summers that all I have to fight is one more battle, and then I can quit. But I keep winning and it’s never enough. And he convinces me it’s not enough for me either. He always comes up with another one and another one. I’m sick of fighting all the time. Especially for him. Hades, I don’t even have to actually ride into battle anymore. My army is big enough and my captains skilled enough for me to plan and direct them without having to fight myself. But I’ve just ... had enough of Ares running my life."

The girl said nothing, but instead rose to her feet. "Empress. You look very tired."

"Didn’t sleep much last night."

"Why don’t I turn down your bed and you take a nap?"

The Conqueror allowed herself to be pulled up from the chair, and led into the bed chamber. She sank down into the soft mattress and watched her handmaiden fluff the pillows. "Stay."

Gabrielle’s eyes grew frightened and she backed away a step.

"I ... don’t plan to ... rape you. I ... just don’t want to be alone right now. So please. Stay here while I sleep." The girl’s brows shot up at the word ‘please,’ and she nodded her head slightly, moving toward the chair. "No. Here." The Conqueror patted the empty space next to her. "With me."

The girl timidly crawled onto the bed and curled up, turning her back to her master. She knew she was trembling with fear, and she couldn’t still her shaking insides. A long arm pulled her backward, until she felt her master’s body wrapped around her from behind. "Relax, little one. I’m not going to hurt you." As she drifted off to sleep, Gabrielle swore she felt two lips brush across the back of her shoulder.


Gabrielle woke up and the room was dark. She blinked in confusion before she remembered where she was. She determined that she was alone in the bed, and sat up, looking around to see where the Conqueror had gone. She saw a light coming from the main room, so she got up and padded toward the door.

"Hey." Two blue eyes regarded her. "I sent for some dinner. I haven’t eaten all day and I assume you haven’t eaten since breakfast. We slept through the slaves’ dinner time, so I ordered up enough for you as well. Hope you like lamb chops."

"Lamb ... is fine. Thank you Empress." Who are you and what have you done with the Conqueror? "We don’t get meat very often over there. Didn’t with Mezentius either."

"Have a seat." The Conqueror pointed toward a chair across the table and pushed a plate full of food in front of it. Gabrielle sat down, smoothing the cream-colored lined top and skirt she was wearing. She carefully cut the lamb into pieces and started to tear the large fluffy roll in half, and almost jumped out of her seat when a plate of butter was shoved in front of her. "Here. It’ll taste better with this. Besides, I can almost see your ribs. A little fat will be good for you."

"Thank you Empress." She bit into the buttered roll and closed her eyes with pleasure. It was so different from the hard rolls she had been eating for five summers.

"Why do you spend so much time with that Amazon?" Gabrielle almost choked on the bread.

"I ... um ... we became friends working for Mezentius. She sort of took it upon herself to look after me. She’s my friend." And supposedly my regent. She hoped the explanation was satisfactory.

"Little one, you don’t strike me as someone the Amazons would normally take notice of." A dark head cocked to one side, obviously waiting for more details.

"I guess being slaves together caused us to bond." The girl looked down at her plate, stabbing a piece of lamb with her fork.

"Is she an Amazon queen?" The Conqueror watched the girl’s face twitch.

"No. Why do you ask that, Empress?" Gabrielle felt the adrenalin pumping in her system.

"That last time I came to your room, when I left, the two Amazons in the next room saw me pass by. I heard one of them ask what I was doing in the queen’s room." A black brow quirked. "You sure she’s not their queen?"

"Positive." The girl squirmed in her seat. "What if she were?"

"I don’t care much for Amazons. Had a run-in with some of the leaders of the northern tribes many summers ago. I’m not so sure I’d like having their queen in my charge. Although I might have a little fun putting her in her place."

"Empress. Please. Don’t hurt Ephiny." Gabrielle’s eyes watered.

"So she is their queen." The Conqueror felt the anger surface, thinking her handmaiden had lied to her.

"No. Empress. I am their queen." The girl’s chin began to quiver.

When she quit laughing, the Conqueror reached across the table, lifting her handmaiden’s chin. "That’s the funniest thing I’ve heard since dinner the other night with my captains. What are you? An Amazon disguised as a peasant? ‘Cause if you are, you’re about the most peaceful Amazon I’ve ever encountered."

"No Empress. I’m a peasant who became an Amazon. Although I’ve never set foot in an Amazon village in my whole entire life, nor have I ever wielded a weapon. I’ve never even been in a fist fight." Gabrielle felt herself relax, as she realized she wasn’t going to be hit for her admission. She told her master the whole story while she ate. "... so when Melosa was killed, all of a sudden I was their queen. A queen without a nation. Which is fine with me. I don’t know how to be an Amazon."

"Little one." The Conqueror changed the subject. "What would you do if you weren’t a slave?"

"Empress." Gabrielle looked very sad. "That’s the same thing as asking me about my dreams. What’s the point? It will only make me wish for things I can’t have."

"Yes. I suppose it is." The former warlord cleaned her plate and pushed it aside. "When you’re finished, I’d like for you to tell me a story."

"Excuse me?" The girl just managed to avoid snorting water through her nose.

"You said you wanted to be a bard. I’d like to hear a story. I’ll be in the bed chamber."

"Yes Empress."

A while later, the girl made her way into her master’s bedroom, and a large sleeping shirt hit her in the face. "Here. Put that on. I want you to stay here tonight." Gabrielle started to move into the bathing room to change. "No. Stay here. I want to watch." She saw the ears turn pink and found it quite charming. The girl turned her back and slowly took off her short skirt and cropped top, and quickly pulled the sleep shirt over her head. "Come here."

Gabrielle turned around and moved to sit on the edge of the bed. The Conqueror was stretched out on her side, her lazy pose reminding the girl of a sleek but contented panther, that looked harmless enough but might spring at any moment. She wasn’t sure what her master had in mind, but at least she hadn’t been told to put on any of the skimpy little numbers she knew were in the bureau across the room. "What kind of story would you like to hear?"

"Tell me something funny. And don’t sit so far away from me." She tugged at the hem of the long white shirt until the girl scooted closer. The girl launched into a story about she and her sister getting sprayed by a skunk and having to bathe in tomato juice, which had the Conqueror laughing until tears squeezed out of her eyes. "That was a good one." She said as the story concluded. "Tell me another one. Anything you’d like."

The girl grew thoughtful, and she hesitantly began to tell the story of a good queen who was loved by all of her subjects because she was so kind. As she spoke, the Conqueror reached over and slowly stroked her fingertips up and down the girl’s thigh, occasionally grazing her hand underneath the hem of the shirt. Gabrielle realized after a few moments that her master didn’t realize she was doing it, and after that she relaxed, and allowed herself to enjoy the attention, since it was apparently given without expectation of reciprocation. She finished the story and pursed her lips, unsure of what to do or say next.

"Lay down." The deep voice was husky, and the girl found herself pulled against the long body with her back to the Conqueror’s stomach, much as they had slept during their nap. Her master continued with the fingertip movements, this time running up and down her arm and occasionally trailing down the curve of her hip. "Where’s your sister now?"

"She’s with Mezentius." Gabrielle had tried really hard not to think about Lila since she’d come to Athens. "We were captured and sold together. It made life with Mezentius a lot more bearable to have Lila with me there. Although I felt really bad that she got captured too. I’m sure our parents are beside themselves. We were their only children and they lost both of us at the same time. Although for all I know my parents are slaves too now. Or maybe even dead. And now I guess I’ll never see Lila again either."

The Conqueror noted the tremor in her handmaiden’s voice. "Lila is her name?"


"Little one, that queen in your story. Was she happy?"

"Yes. Very much so." The light stroking motions continued until Gabrielle fell asleep. The Conqueror pulled the girl more tightly against her and joined her in Morpheus’ realm.


Callisto made her way across the compound after serving dinner to some of the officers in the Conqueror’s army. She was hot and she was weary, and she was really glad she’d managed to sneak away before any of the soldiers decided to make her their evening entertainment. As she rounded a corner, a dark bearded man materialized before her in a puff of red smoke. She started to turn and run.

"Whoa whoa whoa. Wait. I mean no harm." The girl stopped and turned, her brown eyes wide.

"Who are you?"

"I’m Ares, the god of war. And you’re Callisto, correct?"

"Y ... yes. How did you know that?"

"It’s a god thing." He stroked his beard. "Your beloved Conqueror, she killed your family when she raided Cirra, didn’t she?"


"And Satrina grew up with you in Cirra, didn’t she? She was your friend?"

"Yes." The blonde moved closer, fascinated by the dark-haired god.

"Bet it makes you angry that Xena, i.e., the Conqueror, killed your family and killed your friend, and captured you, and no one’s made her pay for that, have they?"

"Yes it does." She crossed her arms and tilted her head to one side.

"How would you like to get even?"

She moved in closer, until they were inches apart. "Keep talking. I’m all ears."


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