DISCLAIMER : The characters of Xena and Gabrielle and some others belong in their entirety to Universal/MCA, Renaissance Pictures, and all the other powers that be. No copyright infringement is intended. I wrote this story at the urging of my muse; it should never be used for profit.
This story is a sequel to the stories “Lord Conqueror of the Realm” and "Queen of the Realm." I strongly recommend you read them first because in this story there are references to events that took place in them. Here is where you can find them:
LOVE/SEX WARNING/DISCLAIMER : This story involves both love and sex (at times some rough/raw play with very mild BDSM elements – all consensual - nothing severe) between two adult women. If you’re under 18 or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it.
SPECIAL THANKS : My humble most ardent gratitude to the excellent, most brilliant Beta readers Nancyjean and Alexandriaruth whom I can't thank enough.
Comments, thoughts, questions & feedback : MOST WELCOMED – The more you write me, the quicker I post – I mean it!
Princess of the Realm
Written by WarriorJudge
It was at the beginning of autumn when a convoy consisting of thirty warriors of the Imperial Guard, the Queen's ladies in waiting, a dozen of the Conqueror's servants along with her groom, the healers and Princess Athena, began their journey to the Amazon Lands.
The Conqueror rode on her favorite horse in the middle of the convoy. Two Imperial guards holding the Conqueror's banners in their hands rode before her and two at the back of it. The rest of them rode in two straight rows to each side of the convoy. Princess Athena rode to the right of her Sire. The Queen's wagon slowly advanced behind the Conqueror. The wagons loaded with previsions for the road and the servants traveled behind the Queen's wagon. Also in one of those wagons were the chief healer, a healer that had been sent from the Realm's province of Chin by its governor, the former ambassador and advisor to the Queen, Sing-Xian, and a midwife.
A rain of dried leaves accompanied the Imperial procession. A light lukewarm breeze rustled the ones still attached to the trees and played the music of the season. The moderated clucking sound of hooves beats, the rolling of the heavy wagons' wheels against the paved road, and the gentle rocking soothed the Queen and lulled her into light slumber for most of the ride.
Suddenly, the left front wheel of the Queen's wagon rose above a large rock on the road, causing the left side of the heavy wagon to be lifted off the ground. As the horses pulled the wagon onwards, the left front side of the wagon crashed back down to the ground with a loud noise, rattling the entire wagon with a startled, short-breathed Queen in it.
The Conqueror tugged hard at the reins, bringing her horse to a full stop. The entire convoy halted its advance, as well. The Conqueror then pulled the reins to the left and rode back to where the Queen's wagon stood.
The groom riding the wagon knew in his heart what was coming. As he watched the Conqueror covering the small distance between them with a wild gallop, he cringed where he sat and braced himself, knowing nothing could save him.
When the Conqueror passed him by, the groom was surprised and relieved and the tension that gripped his shoulders abated.
The Conqueror halted when she reached the back of the wagon. Still astride her horse, she pushed the veil draped over the entrance to the side and peered inside.
She saw the Queen lying inside surrounded by soft furs and cushions like a jam inside an extravagant jewelry box, one hand covering her heaving chest and the other secured above her belly.
"All is well, my Lord. I was not harmed in any way, I assure you," the Queen hurried to inform the Conqueror of her current state.
However, there was no assuring the Conqueror.
"Healers!" She called at the direction of their wagon down the convoy and the two elderly men stepped out of the wagon, carrying leather satchels with tools of their trade, and approached her.
The Queen thought it entirely unnecessary but she didn’t argue with her Lord. As her belly had grown for the past moons, out of care, concern and devotion, the Conqueror had restricted her movements and allowed her less and less as the days had gone by. The Conqueror had delicately yet resolutely prevented her from receiving audience so not to exhaust her and to keep odds of the Queen being infected by others' illnesses to a minimum; her meals had been brought to the Imperial chambers by her ladies in waiting; scrolls from the Imperial library had also been brought to the Imperial chambers for the Queen's pleasure; the palace household had been ordered to report to the Conqueror about any event in the Queen's day, no matter how small or insignificant. In effect, the Queen of the Realm along with her ladies in waiting had gradually become sequestered. Knowing how great her Lord's fear of losing her had been, the Queen had refrained from complaining or arguing.
Above all, the Queen had rued the dwindling of her Lord's attentions, which her pregnancy relegated into gentle, lambent, fluttering touches to her bodily tokens, and the fact that her Lord had refused the Queen's intimate offerings. She knew it wasn't just her sacrifice, for she had sensed the heat emanating from her Lord's skin and her Lord's tongue running over her teeth whenever her Lord would catch a glimpse of her bare swollen belly and ample breasts.
Both healers bowed before the Conqueror.
"Attend to the Queen's Majesty," the Conqueror ordered them.
"Yes, Majesty," they said while a wooden crate was placed at the foot of the Queen's wagon beneath the entrance by one of the Conqueror's diligent servants so as to enable them an easy climb.
Once inside, the veil was pulled shut and the entire convoy waited for the healers to reemerge. After awhile, the Chief healer's head loomed out.
"Well?!" the Conqueror asked impatiently and it seemed as though she passed on her restlessness to the animal beneath her.
"Her Majesty is well. There are not indications of any injuries, Majesty," the Chief healer said as he noticed the subtle change in the Conqueror's demeanor from one of anxiousness to one of relief. "With your Majesty's permission, my foreign colleague and I request to be allowed to remain with her Majesty for a while, only as a precaution.”
“So be it,” the Ruler obliged the healer, then looked over his shoulder and caught sight of her wife. “It won't be long before we make camp, my Lady," she promised with a tender voice.
"Thank you, my Lord," the Queen replied and inwardly she was glad that the healers would travel with her because she welcomed some company more than anything else. The journey reminded her of the times during the Conqueror's campaign to Persia when, still a slave, she had been stowed away in a plain wagon loaded with supplies for the Conqueror's pleasure to use. The Conqueror's appetites during wartime had been unquenchable and the Queen remembered her Master's visits to the wagon fondly.
The Conqueror led her horse to where the groom was sitting at the front of the Queen's wagon.
"Knave!" the Conqueror shouted at him so loudly that her voice could have been heard along the entire convoy and it caused a few birds nesting in the treetops above them to flit.
But shouting at the frightened quaking man wasn't enough, and a powerful blow to the back of the groom's neck sent his head flying forward and shook the teeth in his mouth and the vertebrae of his spine. It took a few short moments for the world to stop spinning around him and when the initial shock passed, along came a lancing, pulsating pain that began to creep down his shoulders and back.
He was in the Conqueror's presence. His mind didn't become too addled by the blow as to forget that fact. He lowered his eyes and bridled an urge to rub the back of his neck to assuage the incapacitating pain.
"A wineskin and a goblet!" the Conqueror ordered to no one in particular, merely stating her demand while still glaring and the cowering groom knowing it would be obeyed momentarily.
There were those who wondered at the somewhat odd demand, especially at that particular time, but none, of course, raised any questions.
A slim-built young servant leaped out of one of the wagons carrying provisions with a full sealed wineskin made of goatskin and a silver goblet. He approached his Master and bowed.
"Majesty," he muttered to engross the Conqueror's attention, as he lifted up the wineskin and goblet high above his head so that the Conqueror, who was still on horseback wouldn't have to lean down in order to reach them.
The Conqueror grabbed the items off the servant's hand with a crass movement, as her scowling eyes were still fixated on the groom. She uncorked the wineskin and poured the goblet almost to the brim.
The groom imagined either the Conqueror drinking the wine or throwing it in his face to shame him.
But the Conqueror did neither. She placed the goblet atop the Queen's wagon's wooden roof, knowing full well that if spilt, the wine would sully the wooden surface with a red stain.
"If I should see a single drop of wine over the goblet's rim or anywhere upon the wagon, I would have you walk with gravel in your boots for a moon. Do you understand me?" the Ruler yelled.
"Yes, Majesty," he frantically nodded his head.
"You will not be remiss or neglectful of your duties again. You will keep your mind from wandering elsewhere and your eyes constantly on the road. Lick the pavement with your tongue if you have to but keep the wagon leveled. Is that clear?"
"Yes, Majesty," he nodded his head again and felt the reigns in his hands slide against his sweaty palms.
Before ordering the convoy to move on, the Conqueror left the groom with this horrifying threat. "Should anything happen to her Majesty the Queen… should she not survive childbirth, I shall view you as yet another amongst those responsible."
The groom swallowed hard and fought to sustain control over his bladder. When the Conqueror ordered the convoy to resume the ride, the groom pinned his eyes on the road, all the while sensing the presence of the wine goblet behind his back atop the wagon's roof like a phantom blade to his neck. He prayed the Gods to keep the Queen safe and the wine inside the goblet.
Riding back alongside the Conqueror, Princess Athena thought it a good opportunity to engage her in conversation.
"Perhaps it wasn't such a good idea for mother to be traveling in her condition, Majesty?!" the Heir muttered.
"It is your mother's wish to give birth on Amazon lands. It is important to her," the Conqueror replied and kept her gaze straightforward.
"And whatever mother wants, mother gets," Princess Athena snickered.
"You seem to be in good spirit. Your mother tells me that you've been hopping from one bed to the other during your recent visits to the Amazons."
"She tells you everything…" the young Princess protested.
"That's what married couples do, your Grace. They talk," the Conqueror replied with half a grin on her lips, then added, "Occasionally."
"Do they?!" Princess Athena challenged with faked disbelief. She was well aware of the fact that her parents' bond was one of an extremely physical nature.
The Conqueror ignored her daughter's jab. "Why did you not tell me of your doings in the Amazon village?"
The Princess turned her head to regard her Sire. "I didn't think you harbored any interest to know, Majesty," she answered. "When in Corinth you talk with me about nothing aside from matters of state."
The Conqueror didn't offer a reply. She considered her daughter's words and wondered whether they were accurate or not.
The Imperial convoy's advancement towards the Amazon Lands was slow. Each day at nightfall, the servants built a tent to shield the Queen from nature's perils, while the Conqueror fastidiously checked the Queen's wagon's roof for wine stains. The Queen's ladies waited on their Mistress hand and foot. She was never out of the Conqueror's presence. Even when the Queen needed to relieve herself, she wasn't out of the Conqueror's sight. The Conqueror herself escorted the Queen to the private locations for that purpose, both to protect and to assist the Queen because the Conqueror didn't perceive the Queen's ladies in waiting strong enough and placing such a delicate task in the hands of a male subordinate was out of the question.
A fortnight had passed before they reached the borders of the Amazon Lands. Standing at the edges of the Amazon territory brought back memories both for the Conqueror and the Queen, who could hardly wait to meet again with her loyal subjects and dear friends.
The Conqueror ordered the groom and her servants to return back to Corinth and her soldiers to remain posted at the border. She took the groom's position at the Queen's wagon. The healers joined the Queen's ladies in waiting' wagon and Princess Athena drove it. The wagons advanced through the Amazon forest and not before long they reached their destination.
The Queen couldn't be happier when the Conqueror drew open the veil and helped her to climb down the wagon. She was ill-contented to be cooped up in the wagon for days on end and have others fuss over her and be inconvenienced by her. She wouldn't have embarked on a journey to the Amazon Lands in her condition if she hadn't considered it a way to pay her Amazon subjects great honor and give birth on Amazon soil.
"Thank you, my gracious Lord, for indulging me and bringing me here despite all the trouble it cost you," she said as she straightened the creases of her dress and brushed her fingers through her slightly disheveled hair.
"I would have carried you here on my back if you had asked me to, love," the Conqueror replied fondly and watched the wagon driven by Princess Athena come to a halt next to them.
The Shamaness, her apprentice Cynna, Mysia and Antiope approached the Royal Company to greet their returning Queen and the Lord Conqueror with accordance to Amazon and the Realm's protocol.
The Queen's ladies in waiting climbed out of the wagon, as did the healers and the midwife.
"How glad I am to see you all again, my sisters," the Queen shone with happiness.
"You have been missed, my Queen," Mysia was first to reply and both Antiope and the Shamaness nodded their heads enthusiastically in support of Mysia's warm welcome.
The Queen's ladies in waiting, as well as the healers and the midwife, launched their exploring gazes and examined the Amazons with a great amount of fascination at the way they conversed and interacted with their Sovereign Queen.
"You look so beautiful, my Queen," Mysia went on to say.
From the corner of her eye, the Queen registered the Conqueror maintaining her regal, stoic expression.
"Absolutely radiant," the Shamaness concurred.
The Conqueror caught the Shamaness apprentice and Princess Athena exchanging what she considered some meaningful glances between them, only she wasn't entirely sure as to their exact meaning or quality.
"How far along are you, my Queen?" asked Mysia while her eyes rested on the swell of the Queen's belly as if trying to assess by the looks of it.
"Seven moons now," the Queen replied and mindlessly placed her hand over her belly.
"Two more moons to go, then," the Shamaness commented with evident excitement in her timbre.
"Indeed," the Queen confirmed, "my Lord wouldn't chance a long voyage at a later date closer to birth, and as soon as preparations were concluded we set out to travel."
Antiope stepped forward and addressed the Queen. "Your lodging awaits you, my Queen," she informed her. "I'm sure you might wish to settle in and wash the road off you before supper."
"Thank you, Antiope," the Queen replied, "I trust my entourage's accommodations are equally prepared."
"Of course, my Queen," Mysia replied.
As the Conqueror and the Queen, along with their entourage, were shown to their lodgings, young Princess Athena elected to stay behind and exchange a few words in private with the Shamaness' apprentice. She grabbed the young Amazon's wrist just as she was about to turn and join the others and stopped her from following the others.
"Your Grace?!" questioned Cynna and there was something playful in her tone and mannerism as if she anticipated it.
Princess Athena released the apprentice from her grasp, "Did you miss me?" she asked with an equal measure of playfulness as she towered over the smaller Amazon. Of all the women she had wooed during her visits to the Amazon Lands, the Shamaness' apprentice seemed the most elusive. She spurned Princess Athena's numerous advances and all Princess Athena's attempts to bed the Amazon were met with unwavering rejection.
Young Cynna rested her fists on her waist and with a touch of defiance she answered, "Less than you think and more than you know, your Grace," and got the distinct sense that her words pleased the Realm's future Ruler.
"So you admit it," Princess Athena stated somewhat triumphantly and narrowed the gap between them, almost imposingly.
"In all humility, your Grace, I believe that a lot of my sisters have missed you after having left their beds," she said with more than a hint of protest.
Princess Athena leaned in and caught a light-brown lock of Cynna's long hair, inwardly relishing the fact that the young apprentice was far feistier than her deceiving looks had others around her believe.
"Jealous, are you?!" challenged the Heir with her inherent bravado.
"Hardly, your Grace. Merely glad I had the good sense to refuse your persistent and aggressive courting and keep my maidenhood intact," she answered.
"Keeping your maidenhood…" the words were drowned out with a scoff. "For what purpose, I wonder," Princess Athena inquired and leaned in even closer till her warm breath tickled the Amazon's pale skin.
"To grant the privilege of deflowering it to the one I'd surrender my heart to, your Grace," answered Cynna, who struggled to maintain her resolve with the charming and handsome future Ruler standing so close to her creating within her a whirlpool of emotions she wasn't sure she cared for.
"Why not surrender it to me, sweet Cynna?" Athena's voice caressed the Amazon's ears.
"With respect, your Grace, I know of your reputation. It is the same as the Lord Conqueror's reputation. My heart will not be safe in your Grace's keeping," Cynna answered and lowered her hazel-colored eyes. She found it near impossible to ignore the stunning resemblance between the Lord Conqueror and her Heir.
Athena frowned and the twirling of the ensnared lock of hair between her fingers stopped at once. "You shouldn't speak of matters of which you know nothing about. The Lord Conqueror worships the ground her Majesty the Queen walks on."
"Please forgive me, your Grace… I meant before her Majesty's and the Lord Conqueror's union…" Cynna quickly replied so to mend the ill-impression she had made. "Of course, I wasn't even born then…but the rumors…"
"And what about pleasure?" insisted the Heir to the Throne, who opted to change the subject with a husky voice and pierced the Amazon with her smoldering sapphire eyes.
Cynna wore a crafty smile and took a small step backwards, distancing herself from the Sovereign's intrusive and overbearing presence, and levelheadedly as possible she replied, "I'm a patient lass, your Grace. It'll keep."
The Sovereign docked her finger under the Amazon's chin and tilted her head upwards, forcing their eyes to meet. "How about a kiss, then?" Her voice dropped even lower, "I want to know what your lips taste like."
Although she thought better of it, Cynna's limbs seemed to have a mind of their own. They were drawn to the imposing future Ruler and wrapped around the stalwart, strapping body. Cynna's lips parted like a flower's petal to sunlight and as the Royal' sizzling lips moved against hers, Cynna thought to herself that this probably was what a first kiss ought to feel like. Of course, she had never told Princess Athena that she had never even been kissed before, so to not admit to being a complete and utter novice and to not give yet another advantage to the Royal. A tongue intruded into her mouth and awakened a sort of a consuming hunger in her body she had never known before. Strong arms kept her from a sure swoon. Her breath came out in short, shallow rasps and her heartbeats thumped rowdily in her chest.
When the Royal separated her mouth from the Amazon's, she discerned the blush laced with virgin excitement on Cynna's cheeks and the vain in her neck pulsing rapidly.
Leering at Cynna's still closed eyes and slightly parted lips, "Like cherries," the Royal emitted. She savored the sweetness in her mouth, then added smugly when her arms finally released the young lass, "Pleasure might keep…" Bluntly staring at two firm young breasts rising and falling, she continued with a raise of her left eyebrow, "Question is, for how long."
When the hazel eyes snapped open at Athena's boasting remark, Cynna's could see the Shamaness standing and watching them from a distance. Cynna couldn't read her mentor's expression for she stood too far away, but her instincts suggested to her that her mentor wouldn't approve.
Nearly two moons had gone by and while the Queen sat in the Shamaness' hut and took tea with her ladies in waiting, conversing about the hardships of bearing children and raising them, the Conqueror observed Princess Athena sparring with a few Amazons on the drilling field. However, what she found by far more fascinating was the Shamaness' apprentice' gaze, which was stalking her daughter’s every move and every gesture of her weapon. There was no mistaking the meaning of such admiring interest. The Conqueror knew it was neither the look of a warrior evaluating his opponent, nor the look of a student studying a master, but that of a woman appraising the quality of a potential mate.
Resting her hand over the pommel of her sword, the Conqueror recalled that her daughter had pointed the Amazon lass out to her at the joining ceremony and had requested her opinion about her looks. What gave the Conqueror pause was that, knowing Princess Athena, surely she must have approached the lass by now; and if that had been the case, then the young Amazon should already have been aware of Princess Athena's qualities as a mate and shouldn't have to deduce them from a combat training. After all, the young Amazon had to be wise, for an Amazon Shamaness wouldn't have wasted her time training a fool.
Cynna felt the Conqueror's stare on her and it had the same effect as being dipped in icy water. It unnerved the apprentice, and so as soon as Princess Athena knocked out her opponents on the practice field, Cynna covered the ground between them.
"Your Grace," she curtsied before the haughty Princess, who didn't seem to even break sweat.
Cynna felt giddy exchanging banters with the future Ruler. Perhaps it was false hope or an unfortunate misapprehension that these mordant exchanges were some form of a safe terrain for her to venture into without any real peril to her emotional wholesomeness. "Changed your mind, have you?!" the Princess asked and discarded her staff.
"About allowing your Grace into my bed? Of course not," chortled the Amazon, trying to shirk the Conqueror's glaring at her through slanted eyes. "In spite of the kiss we shared, your Grace keeps others' company still." If nothing else, the fact that Princess Athena's liaisons with her sisters bothered her should have been an obtrusive indication that she was far from being safe.
"Still keeping account of my conquests, I see. Which is odd, considering how little you claim to care," Princess Athena scoffed.
"Alas, there is only so much one can avoid hearing during communal bathing, your Grace," retorted the Amazon, not realizing how much danger she was in.
"Huh, Communal bathing…" the Princess breathed out. "My favorite time of the day," she stated wickedly, a mannerism which Cynna found most charming.
"I would imagine so, your Grace," she responded.
Thinking she taunted the lass long enough, Princess Athena presented the Amazon with her arm, "Would you care to join me for a walk?"
"I'd be delighted," the Amazon sounded more eager than she planned. So as not to give the wrong impression to the arrogant Royal, she quickly explained, "The Lord Conqueror has been gazing at me so intently since I first set foot on the training filed. Truly, I am confident that I haven't given any justified cause."
Princess Athena began to laugh as she escorted the apprentice off the training field, deliberately avoiding the Conqueror's fixated gaze. "The Lord Conqueror is assessing you."
"What possible reason could I have given to attract such esteemed attention?" the Amazon asked and secretly enjoyed being guided by the future Ruler of the Realm.
"The Lord Conqueror has taken an interest in you, believing that you have taken an interest in me," stated the Royal.
"I did no such thing, your Grace," the Amazon protested and halted her steps.
"The Lord Conqueror is never wrong," Princess Athena proclaimed.
The apprentice afforded herself a few moments to conjure up a fitting reply that would challenge her supercilious companion and take out at least some of the hot air blowing her sails. "Surely, the Lord Conqueror wouldn't trouble herself with someone as insignificant as I am lest the Lord Conqueror suspected there was some measure of interest on your part as well, your Grace."
The Princess had to nod her head and smile at the Amazon's words, for there was more than a modicum of truth in them. She was intrigued by the Shamaness' apprentice, on top of clearly being physically drawn to her. The fact that Cynna wouldn't surrender to her stoked the fire in her even further.
"As I've said, the Lord Conqueror is never wrong," Princess Athena reiterated.
Cynna mirrored the Royal' smile and decided not the press on the matter any further. A few moments passed between them in comfortable silence.
"Growing up with someone that is never wrong can be quite a hardship, I ought to imagine," Cynna said.
Princess Athena understood what her companion meant. It was by no means any sort of criticism against the Lord Conqueror but an astute observation about her upbringing.
"I know no other way of living," replied the Royal.
Enjoying the heat emanating from the Realm's princess, Cynna went on to say, "Your Grace is one day to rule the greatest empire that ever existed. What an awesome responsibility."
"One which I must never forget and if I do, I will be reminded of it soon enough."
"It sounds almost too much to bear," Cynna spoke softly.
"I was born to rule. My entire life was designed to prepare me for it."
"It must be so lonely, if you don't mind me saying, your Grace," concluded the young Amazon with a touch of compassion.
"I don't mind you saying so," the Princess dismissed. She thought for a few moments about Cynna's statement. She had been taught to be self-reliant and keep her own counsel. When in the Military Academy in Rome, she managed to befriend a couple of fellow pupils. They hadn't been her friends, really. They had been just one level above acquaintances, more like. The gap in their stations had always been present. Now she wondered whether interactions amongst themselves had been different than with her. Had they spoken among themselves about private matters? About chasing after lasses? Or had they gone to their parents and asked as she had done? Regardless, she never thought she'd paid a too big a price, and if she had, then she had been amply compensated by her supreme station. "I was raised and educated to place Realm before self always," she eventually stated flatly.
"Because the lives of so many depend upon your succeeding the Lord Conqueror…" Cynna's voice trailed off with a quality of profound understanding in it.
Entering the Amazon forest, Cynna leaned her agile body against a tree trunk and beckoned Princess Athena to stand closer to her. The Princess hugged the tree trunk, trapping Cynna's body between the rugged surface and her own. Cynna rested her palms against Athena's chest, conflicted between enjoying the connection and keeping a safe distance between them.
"You are to be the Amazon Nation's spiritual leader one day. As such, you yourself must be familiar with the weight of responsibility such a position entails," the Royal said with her features but a hair away from her alluring companion.
"There is no comparison between the burden which lies on my shoulders and the one which lays upon yours, your Grace," Cynna replied.
That statement of fact endeared the Amazon to the Realm's future Ruler. "Will you grant me leave to court you, Cynna?" she asked with a low tone of voice and traced Cynna's lips with her forefinger.
Cynna lowered her gaze to avoid the Royal' penetrating eyes. "With respect, your Grace, I cannot open my heart to you while you share intimacies with my sisters."
"These dalliances are nothing more than merely taking care of needs, like eating and drinking," Athena explained.
"Perhaps your Grace and I don't view carnal intimacies quite in the same way. My heart and body are one."
Princess Athena pondered over the Amazon's words. She deliberated with herself what concessions she was ready and willing to make in order to pursue the Shamaness' apprentice, who captivated her interest. "And what if I promised you I would cease?"
"Then I would be grateful to your Grace and with all my heart I would gladly permit your Grace to court me," she smiled with great joy and her eyes shimmered.
Princess Athena mirrored Cynna's smile, but before long her countenance wore a serious expression. "May I kiss you, little cherry?" her low voice dripping liquid sensuality.
"Please, your Grace," the Amazon sighed, overwhelmed by the anticipation, and as soon as their lips locked, Cynna couldn't but wonder how she would be able to resist not submitting her maidenhood to the great Lord Conqueror's Heir to the Throne.
On the training field the Lord Conqueror stood, arms folded over her chest and her eyes closely watching the tutoring of the Amazons’ next generation of hunters, when Mysia came running as if Cerberus, the three-headed hound guarding the gates of the underworld, was after her.
The Conqueror turned her head sharply to the direction from which the hastened footfalls were coming from. As soon as she saw Mysia's mad rush, the Conqueror neither waited for the regent to bow and speak nor did she wait for her to even reach her. She commenced a wild sprint of her own towards Mysia.
When the Conqueror met Mysia half way, it dawned on all those on the training field what had already dawned on the Conqueror – that the Queen had gone into labor.
"How long ago?" was the Conqueror's first question to Mysia.
As both were running towards the Shamaness' hut, Mysia replied under heavy rasping, "A few moments ago, Majesty."
The Conqueror's wide gaits carried her further and faster than the Amazon’s. Without so much as throwing a glance backwards, she asked her next question louder than before. "Who is with my Queen?"
"The Shamaness, the midwife and the healers only, Majesty," answered Mysia.
"My Queen's ladies in waiting?"
"Waiting outside the Shamaness' hut, Majesty." At that point, Mysia had to shout in order for the much too advanced Ruler to hear.
Finally, upon reaching the Shamaness' hut, the Queen's ladies in waiting curtsied before her, murmuring "Majesty."
At the closed door, the Conqueror didn't linger to catch her breath. Ignoring the Queen's servants, she sent a determined hand to the door in order to push it open.
"Please, your Majesty," beseeched Lady Astraea and dangerously positioned herself between the Conqueror and the doorway which led to her Queen.
"Are you not in full possession of your faculties?" the Conqueror growled at her, "Step aside for I do not wish to kill on the day of the birth of my child," she hissed.
The Queen had probably prepared Lady Astraea beforehand, for her loyal lady in waiting admirably stood her ground and wouldn't budge from the door, death threats notwithstanding. "Your Majesty, I beg you to grant her Queen's Majesty's request and wait outside. It is safer this way."
The Conqueror finally conceded and not without a powerful urge to launch her fist through something and thus to discharge some of her rage coursing rampantly in her body from head to toe.
A sharp scream hampered by pain drew worried eyes to the door. As the strained screams intensified, more and more Amazons amassed at the Shamaness' hut.
The Conqueror sealed her countenance with a cold, detached and solemn expression. She felt some of the pairs of eyes on her, especially those belonging to the older Amazons studying her for any reaction to the Queen's anguish. She gave them nothing, not a spec of emotion to satisfy their curiosity. She had half a mind to order everyone this side of the shut door to get out of her sight, for she wished to be alone and not have to save face for their sake. The Queen's cries of anguish and labored bursts of sharp gasps filled the Conqueror with dread as if the pit of her stomach was forcefully stuffed with piles of snow and then tied up tightly.
The Conqueror wasn't sure how much time had gone by before the Queen's cries stopped and the crying of a newborn egress from the other side of the door, but to her it felt like an eternity. She mustered every ounce of patience she had not to push the door open.
A few nerve wrecking long moments had elapsed before the door cracked ajar as if on its own. The Conqueror stepped in, leaving the door opened behind her. Her hands were cold. She saw the Chief healer and his Chinese colleague standing still along with the midwife and the Shamaness, who was carrying the newborn in her arms, rooted motionless in their place. It was quiet. Too quiet, the Conqueror thought. None in the Shamaness' hut uttered a single syllable. It seemed as if the infant appreciated that something terrible had happened and perceived the threat of a dark presence at the vicinity and upon instinct akin to that of an animal in the wild had the good sense to keep quiet.
The Queen lay stagnant, palsied under a large thick dark brown blanket, in all likelihood to conceal blood, the Conqueror surmised.
With torpid steps, the Conqueror neared the bed on which the Queen was laid as if sleeping so very peacefully, not caring whether she had a boy or a girl.
"How did she…?" she asked with a low voice barely registering above a whisper. She couldn't bring herself to speak the word "Die" as if by saying it, it would make it real.
None present volunteered to answer. The Shamaness was perhaps more paralyzed by fear than any of the others, for she foresaw the grave danger and devastation and their full potential scale better than the rest of them.
"Her Majesty bled out extensively," the Chinese healer eventually replied.
"We did everything we could but there was no stopping it," the Imperial healer was quick to add.
"Did she say something before…?" the Conqueror's voice sounded corroded and a mist of boiling unshed tears fogged her vision as she rested her gaze on her Queen. Bangs of her golden hair stuck to her forehead by sweat and her eyes were still open. The Conqueror thought that now they truly looked like emeralds – Green, glazed, cold and lifeless.
"It was too sudden, Majesty," the Shamaness answered. "When we finally managed to pull the child out of her, she was no longer with us."
The Conqueror pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes. She leaned down over her wife, placed her fingers over her eyelids and closed the vacant orbs forever. She then placed the most tender of all kisses upon her wife's lips and tasted salt in her mouth; A final act of loving kindness.
The Conqueror didn't remember how her sword came to be gripped in her right hand or how her dagger ended up in her left. As she beheld the polished blades almost mesmerized, she realized she couldn't even recall the familiar metallic sound of the unsheathing of the weapons. Her Queen was dead and along with her died the promise she had made to her. Besides, had she known how impossible it would be to keep it, she would never have made it in the first place.
The Chief Imperial healer didn't even try to flee. He dropped to his knees and craned his neck, offering it to his Master, exposed. He knew that he had been a dead man the moment the Queen drew out her last breath.
The Conqueror accepted his offering and her well-whetted blade sliced through his flesh like through butter. Spurts of blood flew out of the gash in his neck as high as the ceiling, spraying the Conqueror with crimson rain.
In what seemed like a fraction of a moment, both the Chinese healer and the midwife laid dead in a pool of their own blood and with their throats slashed from ear to ear, as well. It happened so fast that the Conqueror rued not deriving all the pleasure out of the kills that could have been had.
The Shamaness snapped out of her shock. She took a few steps backwards and placed the infant in bed next to the dead Queen, assuming that the Conqueror wouldn’t bring a blade to her Queen's bed. "Run for your lives!" she shouted wide-eyed at the top of her lungs to all those who waited outside her hut and struck chilling horror in them.
"This is all your fault!" the Conqueror accused and pointed the tip of her sword to the elderly Amazon's chest. "If it weren't for your false prophecy, I would never have allowed my Gabrielle to conceive another child!" she bawled out. It was a lie, of course, but only the Conqueror knew it, so it didn't matter to her. In her inconsolable rage, she wanted the miserable old Amazon woman to feel guiltier than she should have been before snuffing her out, so she assigned greater blame on her than she actually deserved.
"Majesty," was all the Shamaness was able to mumble.
A curve made by the most skillful killer in the entire civilization to the Shamaness's lower abdomen made her bowels splatter at her feet while still alive and standing. As easy as gutting an old goat the Conqueror thought as her booted foot stomped repeatedly over the pink fleshy stain hanging out of the Shamaness, mashing it beyond recognition.
When she was done, the Conqueror plunged her sword through the Shamaness' chest till its tip loomed from the Shamaness' back.
The Conqueror was far from being satisfied. She thought that there wasn't enough blood in the world to quench her thirst for it and not enough victims to feed the beast clawing inside her.
Covered in blood, she averted her eyes from the dead Shamaness and cast a glance to the doorway. A pair of blue, dancing, cold flames peered through a red chiseled mask of death and glared at the terrified women outside. They looked to her like a herd of antelopes stampeding, frantically scattering in all directions at the first sighting of a predator on the prowl in their midst.
"Do you know what runs?" she shouted after them mockingly, not expecting any of them to stop their flight and answer her. "Food runs!" she provided the answer herself as she strode out of the hut, still clutching her blood-dripping sword and dagger in her hands.
The Amazon village was in chaos. With blood pumping in her veins and beating like war drums in her ears, she heard a muffled voice she supposed belonged to Mysia ordering the Amazons to attack.
The Conqueror burst into laughter. What good were weapons against the Ruler of the world, against the Destroyer of Nations? She couldn't comprehend.
She moved among them as if floating above the blood-soaked ground, stabbing and slashing through flesh and bone. Fountains of blood shot jets in the air like hot geysers for her to bathe in. The pungent odor and the metallic taste of it flooded her senses. She saw nothing but red, neither faces, nor people, nor even weapons, for the Amazons disobeyed Mysia's order, apparently believing they stood better chances surviving by escaping rather than staying and fighting. It was a massacre, not a combat.
Her body knew the moves. As her blades tore through the frailty of human tissue she thought about the dagger in her hand and how she had come by it. It had been a gift that had been presented to her by Cleopatra before she had conquered Egypt many years ago. Her mind took her back to that time. She had spent seven days and nights in the Queen of the Nile's bedchamber, alone save a few slave girls attending to them. The Conqueror had engaged in fevered fornications with her and had committed unspeakable depraved sexual acts on her till her domination over the wanton Queen had been complete and Cleopatra hadn't been able to even remember her own name.
After reemerging from Cleopatra's bedchamber, all Egypt's ministers and generals had been assembled along with several of the Realm's nobility and generals as well. The Lord Conqueror had taken Cleopatra to that council. She had had the Egyptian Queen walk naked on all fours and on a leash. The assembly hadn't been able to believe their own eyes. In their presence, the Lord Conqueror had ordered Cleopatra to bark and roll over and the latter had done exactly as she had been ordered. While the Realm's entourage had laughed their hearts out, the Egyptians had realized that Egypt had fallen. Since that day, Cleopatra had been known as 'The Lord Conqueror's bitch' and the world had learnt that the young ambitious Greek Conqueror was driven by lust, not just bloodlust.
To the Conqueror, there was a calming effect to slaughter. It was nearly quiet in her head; nothing but random thoughts that had no earthly reason to arise at that moment, like the latest steep rise of the prices of iron, or that her mother, the lady Cyrene, had gained some weight lately, and that she really ought to say something to her about not overstepping her bounds with the Imperial cook and cease bickering with her, for after all the palace kitchen was the cook's domain. Killing was familiar, was organized and methodical, and when committed with such abandonment and without any real resistance, was a great contributor to the clearness of mind.
Through idle thoughts about nothing, and unswerving acts of butchery the Lord Conqueror felt her sword-arm begin to shake.
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