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!
Go To Part 1
During the first year of Princess Terreis' life, the more she grew the more beautiful she became and the striking resemblance between her and her mother the Queen became even more apparent.
The child was the apple of the Conqueror's eye. Her nurses and her governesses could tell stories of how the Lord Conqueror would often visit the Princess' chambers during nighttime just for the chance to pick her up and play with her should the child awake.
The Lord Conqueror coddled and cosseted Princess Terreis beyond any measure of reason, to the point of cutting meetings short just to spend time with her. She acquired many elaborate toys created from the finest materials from all corners of the world for her; more than the young Princess knew what to do with. The Conqueror didn't stop at toys, but commissioned various garments for her daughter as well. However, what perhaps signified her spending and spoiling to the excessive was the fact that she hired musicians and women singers to play and sing music almost throughout all the waking moments of the child.
One evening, when the Conqueror was sitting in her armchair by the fire holding the child in her arms, tickling her chin and belly, and eliciting a conquering laughter out of the infant, the Queen, who was lying in their bed reading, said to her mate: "She brings unblemished softness out of you, my Lord," and the Conqueror found herself unable to deny her wife's assertion.
"I dote on her, don't I?!" she finally admitted.
The Queen smiled. "Take pleasure in the knowledge that she adores you above anyone else. You are the sun, the moon and the stars in her world as you are in mine."
"And as you are in mine, Gabrielle," the Conqueror replied, lifted herself from her seat and walked over to the bed to recline next to the Queen.
The Queen took the child from the Conqueror and began to nurse her. The Conqueror watched the infant latch her mouth around the Queen's nipple and rest a tiny pale hand against her mother's breast and instinctively try to clasp the smooth ample flesh. The Conqueror positioned herself between her wife's thighs and began to rain kisses over the Queen's bare shoulder and neck.
"Looking at the two of you…" the Conqueror rasped between kisses, "It frightens me to think what I am capable of doing to protect you," she went on to say, enjoying the Queen's fingers that rifled through her hair, "Now I think that was the point to it all… my conquering and building this great Empire… For our daughters to enjoy and my only regret is that I prevented us from having more children."
"It is not too late to have more, my Lord," the Queen's voice carried a subtle plea as she spoke.
The Conqueror did not respond. The fear of losing her wife and Queen was still too fresh in her mind and wouldn't release its firm grip just yet.
"When they rule the Realm…" the Queen began to say but the Conqueror cut through her speech.
" They won't. There can only be one Ruler. An Empire cannot have two heads. My reign will be passed on to Princess Athena."
"Of course, my Lord," the Queen replied.
Very much like her older sister, Princess Terreis learned to walk at a very early stage. The Conqueror spent a significant amount of time with her youngest in order to teach her to say the word "Sire," but regardless of her efforts, Princess Terreis' first word was "Mama" as is all infants' simply because it is easier to pronounce. However, not long afterwards, and the Queen could have sworn it was only for the reason of pleasing the Conqueror, Princess Terreis uttered the word "Sire." It earned the young Princess a pony of her own.
By the age of two, she was already speaking fluently.
"She is very bright," the Queen once pointed out to the Conqueror.
To which the Conqueror responded, "Of course she is. She's ours."
One afternoon, when the Queen was in her own chambers with her ladies in waiting, along with Princess Terreis and the governess, teaching her daughter to read and write at her black alder desk with the marble surface, the doors swung open.
"The Lord Conqueror," announced a servant as the Conqueror, who had adjourned her meetings earlier than expected that day, strode in.
The Queen's ladies in waiting and the governess curtsied, and muttered "Your Majesty." The Queen stood and stepped away from behind her desk and curtsied before the Conqueror, as well. "My Lord," she delightedly greeted.
"My Lady," the Conqueror bowed before the Queen.
All present curtsied -- All but one. Princess Terreis hobbled as quickly as her little legs allowed her towards the Conqueror and cried out with her characteristic enthusiasm, "My Sire, my Sire!" eager to be lifted up high in the air and into the Conqueror's secure and engulfing arms.
But the Queen thought the child was old enough to be taught the correct protocol.
"Princess Terreis!" the Queen called out to her.
But the toddler went on ahead, determined to reach the Conqueror like nothing else existed.
The Conqueror stood unmoving. "Your Grace," she spoke firmly, "Her Majesty is speaking to you." Her tone of voice gave the Princess pause for she had never heard it aimed at her before. Nevertheless, she knew well enough not to disobey the Conqueror, for she had never seen anyone disobey the Conqueror. She stopped her advancement towards the Conqueror, turned around and approached her mother.
"We do not address the Lord Conqueror by anything other than 'Your Majesty' ," the Queen instructed her.
"But you call my Sire, 'My Lord' " argued the Princess.
"Mind her Majesty the Queen, child," the Conqueror castigated her and the Princess was on the verge of tears for obviously displeasing the Conqueror.
"I am Queen and it is my prerogative," the Queen explained then went on to educate her daughter. "When in the Lord Conqueror's presence and when we leave the Lord Conqueror's presence, we curtsy, like so," she said, demonstrating the gesture while further explaining, "To show our respect and humility before our Sovereign Lord."
The Princess imitated the gesture, trying desperately to succeed.
"Then we wait for the Lord Conqueror to address us," the Queen concluded instructing her daughter, "Now go and greet the Lord Conqueror properly."
The Princess walked over to stand before the Conqueror. She curtsied before her and said "Your Majesty."
The Conqueror couldn't curb a faint smile from appearing briefly across her lips. "Your Grace," she greeted back then opened her arms. "Now come here," she invited her with a broad smile.
Princess Terreis mirrored the Conqueror's smile and resumed her running towards the Conqueror, who knelt on one knee to enable her daughter, till she fell into her arms with gleeful eyes and a rolling laughter.
"You may leave us," the Conqueror said to the Queen's servants and the governess and they all curtsied and said, "Majesties," as they vacated the Queen's chambers.
At the doors, they met with Princess Athena who was about to enter the Queen's chambers. "Your Grace," they curtsied before her as well before leaving.
"Ladies," Princess Athena greeted back as she went in.
"Majesties," she bowed before her parents.
"Your Grace," they replied in unison.
Princess Terreis paid closer attention to protocol this time and studied it.
When the Royal family was alone, the Conqueror kissed Princess Terreis on her blushed cheek. "When outside the company of others other than our family, you may call me ' My Sire' little one," she softly said.
Princess Terreis looked around to make sure there were no others save for her family. "Thank you, my Sire," she giggled and wrapped her wee arms around the Conqueror's neck.
Princess Athena saw the exchange between the Conqueror and her sister with some interest. "How are you, your Grace?" she asked.
"Well, thank you, your Grace," the toddler replied then buried her face in the hollow between the Conqueror's neck and shoulder.
"Come here, little sister," Princess Athena said, stretching out her arms and wagging her fingers in an invitation.
Princess Terreis leaned her body towards her older sister, signaling her to pick her up. So to amuse her sister and make her laugh, Princess Athena threw Terreis in the air and caught her back several times, but Terreis wasn't amused but terrified. Her tiny hands tried to grab a hold on Athena's shirt and her chin quivered as it always had just before she began to cry.
Seeing her little Princess' distress, the Conqueror intervened and grabbed hold of her again, taking her away from her eldest.
"What are you doing?!" she admonished Princess Athena.
"I thought she would enjoy it. When I was her age I used to when you did it to me."
"She is not like you. She is smaller and more fragile than you were. You must always treat her like a delicate flower, do you understand me?" Austerity was very much evident in the Conqueror's voice as she gently rocked little Terreis in her arms to calm and sooth her.
"My apologies, Majesty," Princess Athena said then turned to address the Queen . "You wished to see me, mother?"
"I did," the Queen replied then turned her attention to her sister.
"Then we shall go and visit little Terreis' new pony," the Conqueror said.
Princess Terreis clapped her hands with exuberance. She was always excited taking little trips to the stables with the Conqueror, who patiently explained to her all there was to know about the different breeds.
The Conqueror tightened her embrace around Princess Terreis. "I love you so very much, little one," she said.
"I love you, too, my Sire," the toddler replied.
The Conqueror put the toddler back on the ground to stand on her own feet. "My Lady," the Ruler said to the Queen, lodged her forefinger under her chin to guide the Queen's features to hers and kissed her lips.
"My Lord," the Queen replied in kind and curtsied.
"Majesty," Princess Athena bowed as well.
"Sire, I want a kiss, too," Princess Terreis protested and repeatedly pulled at the Conqueror's leather trousers about her knee, which was as high as the toddler could reach.
"Haven't you been kissed enough, my little Princess?" The Conqueror chaffed her youngest.
"I want a kiss on the lips, like mother received," Terreis insisted.
The Conqueror leaned down and took the Princess' hand in hers as her laughter roared while exiting the Queen's chambers.
"Come and sit with me, Athena," the Queen invited her eldest and tapped atop the upholstery of the armchair next to hers.
Athena seated herself and leaned backwards into the armchair, stretching out her extremities.
"It's been awhile since last we've had a private conversation," the Queen remarked.
"The Lord Conqueror occupies a substantial portion of my days with matters of the Empire."
"And what available time you do have you spend in the Amazon Lands," the Queen teased.
"I've only visited the Amazon Lands four times this passing year, for lack of time."
"Any particular lass you visit?" the Queen asked knowingly.
"What has the Lord Conqueror been telling you?" Athena raised her left eyebrow.
"I'd rather hear it from your own mouth."
"Cynna, the Shamaness' apprentice," Athena answered and studied her mother's features for her reaction.
The Queen smiled, because she had already known and Princess Athena gathered as much.
"Are you courting her?"
"And does she reciprocate your sentiments?"
Princess Athena paused to consider her reply. She rubbed her chin, thinking for some time then answered, "She hasn't yielded her body to me, yet."
"That's not what I asked," the Queen commented.
"Well," Athena cleared her throat, "It would seem that she's quite taken with me."
"I see," the Queen muttered pondering. "How long have you been courting her?"
"For over two years now."
"And in all this time you haven't taken her to your bed…"
"That is correct."
"Does it not bother her that you… visit her Amazon sisters' beds?" the Queen asked as delicately as possible.
"I made her a promise I wouldn't."
"Have you kept your word to her?"
"In action if not in spirit," Princess Athena admitted. She had always gotten the impression that she could tell her mother anything. "Since I made her the promise I've refrained from taking her sisters, but I have attended to my needs elsewhere. I cannot be expected to go without for so long."
The Queen suspected as much. Princess Athena's little confession didn't come as a shock to her. Very much like her Sire, she thought, her appetites were great and couldn't be expected to be contained for such long periods of time. "Does she know?"
"We don't speak of such matters. She's either wise enough or naïve enough not to ask and I certainly wouldn't tell her."
Hearing her daughter's reply, the Queen thought to herself that had the Lord Conqueror heard those words she would have considered it odd, if not disturbing, that her daughter didn't seem to know which. "What is keeping her from becoming one in flesh with you?" the Queen inquired.
"She is adamant about surrendering her maidenhood to the one who conquers her heart."
"And haven't you?"
"She claims that in light of my… reputation, she cannot trust me with her heart. She persists that once I would have my way with her, I would no longer desire her and move on to the next. I'm hard pressed to say I can blame her."
The Queen contemplated her daughter's answer. "Is she correct in her assumption?"
"What you meant to ask me was whether I loved her or not," Athena smiled, appearing a tad embarrassed.
"My brilliant child…" the Queen sighed and smiled back.
"I crave her. I enjoy her company and I miss her when I'm away from her. I care deeply for her. That is all I know. Does that mean that I love her?"
The Queen chuckled softly. She looked at Athena with loving and adoring eyes and said, "Alas, my sweet child, I cannot answer that for you. No one can."
Then there were a few moments shared in silence.
"If I tell you something, will you promise not to tell the Lord Conqueror?" Athena asked and before the Queen managed a protest Athena raised her hands in the air and went on to say, "I know you won't keep secrets from the Lord Conqueror, but I'm in need of an advice from someone I trust, and I trust no one more than I trust you, mother. Please," the Heir pleaded, rendering the Queen unable to refuse her.
"You have my word," the Queen gave in and hoped it wouldn't be a too big a secret to keep from her Lord.
"Cynna hinted about marriage," Athena stated with a heavy heart.
The Queen took a deep breath. "What were her exact words to you?" she asked nearly out of breath.
Princess Athena was taken aback by the Queen's reaction to the notion of marriage. "She said that marriage was a way of demonstrating honest and earnest intensions. I took it to mean that if I proposed marriage to her she would give her heart and body to me."
"Marriage is a very serious matter to consider, Athena. It is serious for ordinary people but for you… You are to rule the Realm one day."
"I am well aware of it, mother." Athena's heart sank even deeper and she realized that never before had she felt the burden of the Realm so heavy upon her.
"Do you even incline towards marriage?"
"I am not entirely sure. I cherish and prize my freedom dearly. How inclined towards marriage were you before you consented to marry?"
The Queen wasn't sure why but her daughter's question made her laugh. She gracefully covered her mouth until her laughter ceased. "It was very different for me than it is for you, I ought to imagine. As you know, I was my Lord's slave back then, not a freewoman. I hadn't even contemplated marriage until my Lord's proposal. Marrying a body slave was unheard of."
Princess Athena listened carefully to her mother's reply without interruptions, though she had many questions she wanted to ask.
"At the time, Princess Lao-Ling obtained audience with my Lord and suggested marriage between the house of Lao and the Realm, but my Lord declined her offer. I never expected my Lord to ask my hand in marriage instead, for I knew I was not worthy of such a match." The Queen's expression took one of pensiveness. "One does not refuse my Lord anything or rejects my Lord's graces, but that is not why I accepted my Lord's proposal of marriage." The Queen closed her eyes, momentarily picturing in her mind the events of that fateful night. "I accepted it because I yearned for my Lord. Do you understand what the word 'yearning' means?"
"To want, to crave," Athena answered.
"No. It means to want till it hurts. It has to hurt to be worthy of the word. I was sold at a young age. I had no mother to explain the ways of the world to me. I didn't know what love was. All I knew was that I ached for my Lord and couldn't suffer life without her. I accepted my Lord's proposal of marriage without a moment's hesitation, because I needed more than anything to insure my place in my Lord's life."
Another question stood on the tip of Princess Athena's tongue and she contemplated whether it would be appropriate to ask her mother or not.
"What is it?" the Queen affably prompted her.
"Do you think that the Conqueror's treatment of you when you were her… servant… well… trained you or rather conditioned you to have these sentiments toward her?"
"I know for a fact that it did not. I began to suffer the pain of wanting when I'd first seen my Lord in a parade some years before she acquired me."
Princess Athena did not expect her mother's answer.
A fortnight had gone by, and at the Amazon Lands, the Shamaness and her apprentice took tea in the Shamaness' hut. Cynna was scheduled to travel to Corinth the very next day and stay in the palace as Princess Athena's guest.
"I think that you are overreaching yourself, Cynna," the Shamaness made yet another effort to prevent her apprentice from pursuing a romantic connection with the Realm's future Ruler. She had genially yet incessantly tried to dishearten Cynna's ambition to couple with Princess Athena, but to no avail.
"Do you not consider me as worthy of her Grace?" Cynna sounded offended and laid down her cup.
"Of course you are. That is not what stands in the basis of my reservation," the Shamaness claimed.
"Do you not view me as eligible to becoming Queen of the Realm one day, then?" the apprentice inquired further, persistent in getting to the root of the Shamaness' reluctance to grant her blessing.
That was not what stood at the basis of the Shamaness' reservations but since Cynna had brought it up, she asked, "Do you not see the substantial difference in your stations?"
"What of it? The current Queen sitting on the throne began her ascendance from an even lower and more disadvantaged starting point than mine," Cynna argued.
"You misunderstand. It is your soul I worry about. There's darkness in her Grace."
Cynna scoffed at the elderly woman with youthful ill-founded overconfidence and certainty. "I can handle her Grace well enough," she sipped her tea and went on to offer her proof for her latest assertion, "I have yet to succumb to her desires, which is more than I can say about many of my sisters."
"Then you know nothing of her darkness, you silly girl," the Shamaness was on the verge of losing her patience. "Her Grace's darkness is the same as the Lord Conqueror's darkness. You have yet to witness it, but trust me when I tell you it is there just as sure as the mint in your murky tea before you."
By the disbelieving expression across the young apprentice's features, the Shamaness realized she was far from reaching reason.
"Remember my next words to you," the Shamaness went on to say, a tad overdramatically, Cynna thought. "Her Grace will… demand things of you; Things that you might not be able to provide her with. She will consume your soul with her darkness just as the Lord Conqueror consumes the Queen's."
The apprentice traced the rim of the ceramic cup as casually as she could so as not to betray her true feelings to her mentor and stated, "More than anything in the world I want to be her Grace's wife."
The Shamaness leaned in over the table between them, her eyes piercing her apprentice's. "The Queen lives entirely for the Lord Conqueror. Are you capable of living entirely for another?" she challenged, confronting her pupil with what she considered a sobering truth.
Cynna leaned backwards till she was pressed against the back of her seat and downed what remained of her tea into her mouth without answering the Shamaness.
Several days came and went. Princess Athena and Princess Terreis both sat in the Queen's chambers and watched the Queen preening herself at her toilet table. As the Queen applied rouge to her lips, Princess Terreis observed her mother with great interest and when curiosity got the better of her, she asked:
"What are you doing, mother?"
The Queen refrained from smiling so as not to spoil her careful labor of coloring and beautifying her lips. "I am making myself pretty," she answered.
"But you are already pretty," argued the toddler.
"Then I am making myself prettier," replied the Queen and in her heart she cherished the sweet compliment that her daughter paid her.
But Princess Terreis was still not satisfied. "Why?"
"It is my desire and duty to please my Lord," the Queen averted her gaze from her own reflection to her young daughter.
Princess Terreis moved to stand on the chair on which she sat and when on level with the Queen, she reached for the rouge. "Please color my lips, mother, for I wish to please my Sire as well."
Upon hearing her sister's words, Princess Athena folded her arms over her chest and shook her head, sullenly.
From the corner of her eye, the Queen saw Princess Athena's countenance, but she elected not to comment on it.
"I have invited Cynna to the palace as my guest," Princess Athena informed the Queen.
"When is she expected to arrive?" the Queen asked as she added some faint blush to her cheeks with a small brush pinched between her fingertips.
"Later on today… Tomorrow, at the latest," Princess Athena answered and with inquiring fingers touched the dark substance her mother used to adorn her eyelashes with.
"Did you ask for my Lord's permission?"
"I wasn't aware that I needed permission," Athena said.
"This is my Lord's house…" the Queen began to say, but the doors to her chambers were opened and one of her ladies in waiting announced the Conqueror's arrival.
The Queen and her two daughters rose to their feet and greeted the Conqueror with accordance to proper protocol.
"Just in time, my Lord," the Queen's features shone with delight at the sight of the Conqueror, who covered the distance between them. The Queen handed the Conqueror a necklace encrusted with rubies, which the Conqueror took as the Queen turned her back to her and lifted up her fair hair to expose her nape.
The Conqueror glided her fingers against the soft skin then planted a lingering, caressing kiss there before fastening the necklace around her wife's neck as she had always done.
"That is how I want you before I pounce on you…" the Conqueror whispered in the Queen's ear so that their audience would not hear her playful words. Her mind was riddled with images from the previous night.
She was sitting in her armchair, reading various reports, when the Queen, who was tyrannized by her lust for her Lord, unbuckled the Conqueror's belt, reached inside and took out the Conqueror's shaft, then lodged each of her feet to each side of the Conqueror on the upholstery next to each armrest and lifted up her nightgown, exposing her clandestine treasure to the Lord's hungry eyes. She squatted over her Lord and lowered her body till her womanhood swallowed the Conqueror's phallus whole. The Queen grounded herself against the Conqueror's loins, riding her to satisfy her lust, but not before long her Lord lifted them both off the armchair and deposited her Queen into the armchair while still connected together. Grateful for the delicious distraction, the Conqueror grabbed hold of the armrests and patiently stirred herself repeatedly inside the Queen's wet slit.
"How is that, my Lord?" the Queen whispered in reply and sent her hand backwards to cup the back of the Conqueror's head and press it harder against her.
"Calm and relaxed before the kill, otherwise it spoils the meat," the Conqueror chuckled with a low voice and her warm breath bristled the Queen's skin.
The Queen turned around in her Lord's engulfing arms with laughter upon her lips.
Princess Terreis pulled at the Conqueror's trousers to draw her attention, but the Conqueror ignored her effort.
"Have our guests arrived yet?" the Queen asked.
"They have, my Lady," the Conqueror answered with a nod of her head, "We shall afford them time to recover from their long journey and grant them audience tomorrow . "
"Very good, my Lord," the Queen replied and returned back to her seat.
Only then was the Conqueror's attention free to be turned onto little Terreis. She picked her up in her arms. "When I speak to her Majesty the Queen you are never to interrupt me, is that understood, little one?" she asked in authoritative tone of voice that left no room for misconstruing her meaning.
"Pardon me, my Sire," the toddler replied with sad eyes for displeasing the Conqueror.
"Would you like to visit the lions today?" the Conqueror asked with a smile to let her youngest know she had been forgiven.
"Very much. Thank you, Sire," Terreis made no effort to hide her excitement.
"You are to join us, your Grace," the Conqueror informed Princess Athena with some measure of sternness.
"Of course, Majesty," Princess Athena confirmed the Conqueror's command.
"My Lady," the Conqueror bowed before the Queen.
"Majesty," Princess Athena bowed before her as well before leaving.
"My Lord," the Queen curtsied in return.
The Conqueror and her daughters left the Queen's chambers and went to the menagerie . Upon arrival, the Conqueror ordered the groundskeeper to open the gates of the area that was inhabitant by the new cubs. With confidant strides she entered it and went to the lion's cubs. She seated herself atop a tree trunk and seated Terreis on her knee with a protective arm around the tiny frame. With her free hand she petted the cubs.
The cubs rubbed the length of their bodies and groomed their heads against the Conqueror's legs.
"May I play with them as well, my Sire?" Terreis asked exuberantly and reached downwards trying to touch one of the cubs.
On an instinct, Princess Athena nearly darted towards her sister to stop her from reaching the animals.
"These are dangerous beasts, little one," the Conqueror said and tightened her hold around Princess Terreis' body, rendering her unable to reach her intended goal. She then picked up a cub and brought it to stand on her other knee so that Terreis could have better view of it. She pry opened the cub's jaw, "Observe its canines," she instructed while exposing the cub's canines for her daughter to see.
Princess Terreis inquisitively looked at the sharp canines.
"Notice how its eyes are in the front of its head. Do you remember where your pony's eyes are located?" asked the Conqueror.
Princess Terreis made her best effort to recall so to impress her Sire and envisioned her pony in her mind's eye. "To the sides of its head," she answered only after being sure she was correct.
"Very good, little one. Do you know why?"
Princess Terreis shook her head in the negative. "No, my Sire."
"Predators such as lions and wolves need their eyes in the front of their heads for when they hunt so to keep track of their prey , where as the prey's eyes' location affords them wider range of sight so that when they eat and drink they can see a predator approaching," the Conqueror explained then gripped the cub's nape, paralyzing its motion.
"Now, you may pet it," the Conqueror said to her youngest, and as the young Princess weaved her little fingers through the cub's soft fur, the Conqueror proceeded to educate her daughter. "There are neither mistakes nor flaws in nature's design. For everything that comes before you, you must ask yourself; what is its nature? What are its motives? What does it seeks? What is it capable of doing?"
As the Conqueror spoke, Princess Athena got the distinct feeling that the Conqueror was aiming her words at her as much as she was aiming them at her sister, and she was correct, for not long afterwards the Conqueror averted her gaze from Princess Terreis to her and said, "It was brought to my attention that a guest of yours is expected to arrive here soon." It was Lady Satrina who had informed the Conqueror soon after Princess Athena had asked her to make the necessary arrangements.
" I informed her Majesty the Queen a short while ago," Princess Athena said. "Her Majesty told me that I should have obtained your Majesty's permission beforehand. I pray you to accept my sincere apology for not doing so. It was an honest mistake."
The Conqueror nodded her head to signal Athena that the apologies were accepted. "I was told the guest in question was a young Amazon woman. Is it the Shamaness' apprentice?"
"I see," the Conqueror said, lowering the cub back to the ground and releasing her grasp form its nape. She rose to her feet with young Princess Terreis in her arms. "Tomorrow, her Majesty and I will receive our own guests in the Great Hall. Your presence is required. Make sure your guest is not in the way of it."
"By your will, Majesty," Princess Athena confirmed.
Come evening, as the Conqueror and the Queen were taking supper in the privacy of the Imperial chambers. The Queen loaded her Lord's plate with slices of red meat perfectly grilled and asked, "Do you know what the purpose of King Olof's emissaries' visit is?"
King Olof ruled over lands further north to the far end of the Realm's province of Northern Gaul , beyond Germania and Britannia, known as the Nordic Lands.
"I have my suspicions but I am not entirely sure," the Conqueror answered and poured sweet red wine into the Queen's goblet.
"Your suspicions have a habit of coming to past, my Lord," the Queen commented, "and so I view your suspicions as nearing certainty."
"My spies in his kingdom have been reporting to me for the past year or so that King Olof is in poor health and is surely to die soon. His rule over the Nordic Lands is hanging by a thread."
"Has he no heirs to continue his line?" the Queen asked.
"A son and a daughter," the Conqueror replied. "The son, so I'm told, is a bit of a weakling and perhaps too young and inexperienced for the throne and his daughter is nothing like ours."
"So what might he want from you?"
"My help, to keep his kingdom in one piece after his imminent death, I would imagine."
"And will you help him?"
"Of course not," the Conqueror scoffed at the notion. "There is no gain in it for me," she said and sank her teeth into the juicy meat. "He is a wounded deer who comes asking for help from a lion. What do you think the lion will do?"
"It will devour," the Queen answered and already the dread and the longing that always followed the Conqueror's going off to war began to nestle in her heart.
"Then, why grant his emissaries an audience?"
"For information, of course. I can learn more about the seriousness of his predicament by looking in his men's eyes and by observing their mannerisms, than by listening to anything they have to say," the Conqueror replied.
The Queen laid down her goblet. She rested her elbows atop the table, interlaced her fingers and regarded her Lord. "You are keeping something from me," she finally stated.
The Conqueror wiped her mouth and held her wife's gaze. "Like what?"
"I know you. You never take a meeting without meticulously examining all the options. It must have crossed your mind that King Olof means to suggest marriage between his daughter and Athena. The domestic opponents to his rule wouldn't dare undermine his line when it is so closely and directly connected to the Realm's Throne. Such marriage would make the Nordic Lands a de facto province of the Realm."
"Clever you," the Conqueror sighed, inwardly wishing it wouldn't have occurred to the Queen.
"What I do not understand is why you didn't deem it noteworthy enough to mention to me."
"I deemed conversing about it premature at this point. An offer hasn't been made yet."The Conqueror's tone of voice had an overt shade of finality to it, which disheartened the Queen. They both spent the remainder of their supper in silence.
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