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


Princess of the Realm

Written by WarriorJudge

Part 6


Part 6

"She seems pleasant enough, does she not?" the Conqueror asked Athena as she was standing in the antechamber in the Princess' suite opposite her.

"I do not care for her. I love someone else," Athena proclaimed.

"Cynna. Your little Amazon guest," the Conqueror stated knowingly and folded her arms over her chest.

"Yes, Majesty."

"What do you know about her?" the Conqueror asked.

It was a question that Princess Athena did not expect. In it of itself, the question suggested that the issue was actually open for a discussion, but it couldn't be, Athena thought, for the Conqueror never discussed but ordered. "She is my age," she began to say slowly as one would when being caught off guard. "Her mother died in childbirth. The Shamaness took her under her wing and cared for her as a mother. She was born and raised Amazon. She has no…"

The Conqueror did not afford her daughter a chance to finish. "Then you know nothing about her – Nothing of real importance."

"How do you mean?" Athena was irked by the fact that the Conqueror clearly didn't place much value on her judgment and held in low esteem her power of perception.

"I knew more about your mother before I married her than you know after courting Cynna for over two years now."

"What could you have possibly known about a body slave?" came Athena's angered outburst.

"I knew she had a pure and kind heart and that she'd sacrifice herself for me. I knew that she had seen the very worst of me and had accepted it with astounding equanimity. That was all I needed to know."

"And what do you know about the Norsewoman?" Athena challenged.

"She's a king's daughter," the Conqueror stated. "She was born into royalty. Like you, she was brought up a Ruler's progeny. She already knows the taste of power and wealth and so is not dazzled or swayed by them. She knows her place and her duties and what's expected of her."

"With respect, Majesty, you took one look at her, asked her a total of three questions and already you know who she is?"

"I'm surprised and troubled by the fact that you do not. You should be able to do it as well if you're ever going to be a successful ruler."

"I ought to be free to choose my own wife," Athena firmly contended. "As free as you were to choose yours, Majesty."

"You are not me or there wouldn't be a need for us to have this conversation," the Conqueror replied. "You are bound by your duty and by responsibility to your station and our subjects."

"I don't fancy the Norsewoman," Athena repeated again what was abundantly evident at that point.

"So when our subjects ask me why did I allow their blood spilled - what would you have me tell them? That you didn't fancy the Norsewoman?!"

"You refused Princess Lao-Ling!" Athena answered as if she was landing a winning blow.

The comparison angered the Conqueror, but she maintained control of her temper. "Chin posed no threat to the Realm and Princess Lao-Ling would never have waged war against the Realm. The only thing to be gained by the marriage was the fattening of my purse and the Realm's nobility's purses, nothing more."

"She doesn't even speak our tongue! Like you, Majesty, I speak five languages and I have neither the will nor the inclination to learn another," Athena protested, not trying to hide her disdain.

"She will learn yours. Besides," the Conqueror was slowly yet steadily becoming angrier, "best you put her tongue to better uses than talking."

"Since your Majesty has brought the subject up…" Athena pointed out, "What if she refuses to cater to my cursed darkness?"

The Conqueror's response to her Heir's question shot out of her mouth, seemingly without a moment's thought, as though either she had anticipated the question or she had been firm in her convictions. "Then you take your need elsewhere and she will bear it in silence, as I'm sure she must have seen her mother bears it in silence countless of times, for no king has ever been faithful to his queen."

Then there was silence. It took Athena quite some time to contemplate her Sire's blatant if not crass answer. She wondered just how sure the Conqueror truly was in her belief. She knew enough to suspect that the Conqueror had never been unfaithful to the Queen, but what of the Conqueror's darkness, she wondered. She remembered the marks she had seen on her mother's body the day she had learnt of her parents' great love, so she knew that the Queen had had an occasion of being on the receiving end of it, indeed. Did her mother suffer?

"Her Majesty the Queen…?" she spoke hesitantly.

The Conqueror understood the unspoken. "What is between your mother and me is none of your concern, but to put your mind at ease, I am prepared to tell you only this - your mother doesn't suffer it, but welcomes it. The darkness is willingly shared."

"Cynna promised she would tolerate it," Athena said. Inwardly, insecurity pinched her along with genuine envy towards the profound bond her parents shared between them and how perfectly suited they were for one another.

"And you believed her? She has no concept of what she consented to."

"She has. Our darkness has amassed all the notoriety it so richly deserves over the years." As she spoke, Athena knew full well that the answer she was giving was complete and utter drivel. The expression on the Conqueror's face told her that her Sire thought as much as well. Both knew that hearing the stories was one thing, but that actually facing the dark, vicious, growling beast of the Destroyer of Nations and her progeny struck harrowing terror in professionals, and Cynna was no professional. "Cynna is willing to receive my darkness. How many women do you know that are willing to receive it that don't charge a fee for it?"

The Conqueror didn't reply for she knew all too well that the answer to her Heir's question was: 'very few'. "Keep Cynna as your mistress," she finally spoke. "It is acceptable, expected even."

"Would you subject my mother to being your mistress while you shared a bed with your lawful wife and queen?" Athena inveighed with passion. She would later realize that the Conqueror's suggestion enraged her, mainly because she herself had suggested it to Cynna before.

The question, which to the Conqueror sounded more like a provoking insult, ignited her ire anew. "Let me tell you something about your mother," she hissed, ominously taking a step closer to her daughter. "When princess Lao-Ling offered her hand in marriage to me, that very night, your mother asked me if her service to me would be required still and when she spoke I heard her voice barely noticeably tremble with sadness and I saw death in her eyes. And I'll tell you this, as sure as I'm standing here before you, if I had told her she was free to leave, she would have stayed... as my mistress… nay, lower than that - as my slave and endured! That's how much your mother loved me."

"Cynna is too proud to become my mistress."

Athena's reply nearly sent the Conqueror's hand flying to strike a slap to her face, for it suggested that the Queen of the Realm lacked the pride to reject such a position and it galled the Conqueror beyond measure. "Mark my words," she hissed with hazardous glare, "If Cynna thinks herself too good to be your mistress then she is not good enough to be your wife."

“With respect, Majesty, I will not marry the Norsewoman. I refuse to marry her. I cannot!” Princess Athena spat, blazing with anger and determination.

"You speak as though you have a choice," the Conqueror retorted. "Yes, you can and you will do as I command. I will remind you that I have another daughter whom I shall have no qualms naming as my successor instead of you, whereas you'll be imprisoned for treason."

That was all the Conqueror had to say.

The Conqueror returned back to the Imperial chambers, only to find her wife and Queen still sitting, still gazing at the flames in the same position she had been in before the Conqueror had left, on the settee in front of the hearth, deep in her own grave thoughts.

The Conqueror disrobed of her regalia, down to her breeches and undershirt.

"She didn't take a liking to Princess Sieglinde, did she?" the Queen asked and turned her head backwards to look at her Lord.

The Conqueror didn't answer right away. Her silence confirmed the Queen's assumption, not surprisingly.

"Athena loves another," the Queen went on to say and returned her gaze back to the flames.

A quick frown flushed the Conqueror's rigid features. "The Shamaness' apprentice. I know. Well, I wouldn't have approved her as wife to her Grace in any event."

"Why? Because she's presumably from a lower breeding?" the Queen sounded resentful. Inwardly she carried more anger towards her Lord than she was willing to admit even to herself.

The Conqueror found her wife's accusation offensive. She had half a mind to remind her wife of where she had found her, but decided against it. She wouldn't hurt the woman she loved, whose reservations she understood, simply to make a point. "You know me better than this," the Conqueror finally said.

"Why then?"

"Because, I don't like her."

"You don't like her," the Queen repeated her Lord's words, emulating the manner in which they had been uttered. "May I ask, my Lord, what it is about her that you do not like?" she asked.

"I cannot really say, and it doesn't matter. Marriage to Princess Sieglinde would benefit the Realm far better."

"The Realm?! And what of our firstborn's happiness?" The Queen stood up and faced the Conqueror who sat in her armchair, holding her sword and a whetstone in her hands.

"My responsibility is to my subjects. I leave the responsibility for the happiness of our firstborn to you, my Lady," the Conqueror stated and began steadily sharpening the blade with long even strokes. The monotonic motion coupled with the sounds of stone against metal calmed her.

"Her happiness should concern you as well, my Lord."

"And it does," the Conqueror muttered sharply, yet her hand’s movements against the long blade remained perfectly steady and even. "Very well, tell me, did you know that Cynna hasn't granted Athena her consent to have carnal knowledge of her yet?"

"Athena told me. Yes," the Queen replied, making an effort to sound as unconcerned by it, as if it was of insignificant importance.

"Why do you think she hasn’t?"

The Queen didn't answer. She first wanted to hear her Lord's explanation for Cynna's refusal.

"You seem to think you know…"

The Conqueror raised the blade to eye level then looked down the length of the blade’s thin edge, inspecting it. "Has it not occurred to you that the Amazon merely withholds so to manipulate Athena into marriage?"

"It has crossed my mind, but I do not think it is the reason. She told Athena that she withholds because of Athena's reputation."

The Conqueror scoffed and resumed the manual task.

"Do you not think it is a reasonable and quite a plausible explanation, my Lord?"

"Then answer me this – Would you have been able to resist me for so long?"

The Queen wasn't sure what answer she should give.

However, the Conqueror interpreted her wife's silence as a 'No.' "I didn't think so," she said triumphantly.

"Have you spoken to Athena about your concern?" the Queen asked.

"I haven't," the Conqueror replied, "And before you ask me why, I'll tell you. Because she ought to obey me unquestionably."

"Well, regardless, Athena loves her, and it is my wish that my child knows and experiences the happiness of love as we do."

The Conqueror momentarily stopped honing her blade again as if she needed to better concentrate in order to compose a good response.

The Queen knelt at the Conqueror's feet and rested her chin atop the hard knee.

"Please, my Lion, I beseech you to reconsider. You can order armed forces to protect the northern borders instead, as you did in Chin."

The Conqueror recommenced sharpening her sword. "Then, if civil war were to break out and if it were to seep into the Realm, it would still mean the loss of my soldiers' lives."

The Queen understood the Conqueror's logic but it still irked her that her beloved daughter should be the only one to make sacrifices to prevent civil war from occurring far, far away that had nothing to with them and might not even happen. It irked her even more that the Conqueror wouldn't reveal to her what she believed was an even weightier motive. She lifted herself up from the ground.

"That's not the only reason, is it?!" she argued, demanding her Lord to speak the truth.

"Very well, I'll admit it." the Conqueror raised her voice and stood up as well, letting the sword fall between them to the ground. "I mean to have these lands, and this is an excellent way to conquer them without spilling a single drop of blood. Do you understand?"

"And the love Athena carries in her heart for another woman doesn’t figure into your cold calculations?"

"Princess Sieglinde is a proper match to her Grace and the wedding will take place as planned."

"Then you leave me with no choice, my beloved Lord," the Queen sighed in resignation.

"Oh?!" the Conqueror emoted, anxious to hear further about what sounded to her like a threat.

"I owe you fealty, my Lord, and so I give you my word that I shan't speak my disagreement with you on this matter in public, not even with Athena, but I will no longer share a bed with you."

"Won't you?! Why?" A simmer of rage began thudding under the Conqueror's skin and deep in her veins.

"If there should be no pleasure, bliss or joy in my daughter’s marital bed, then there shouldn’t be any in mine," the Queen stated simply and oddly enough quite calmly, perhaps even too calmly.

"I don't believe you. You're doing it to spite me, to punish me for my decision."

"You know me better than that, my Lord," the Queen replied, then walked over to the door and ordered a servant to fetch the Lady Satrina to her.

A few short moments later Lady Satrina appeared before the Queen.

"Have my private bedchamber prepared. I shall be sleeping there till further notice," the Queen informed her matter-of-factly.

Lady Satrina received the instruction as one would receive news of a death in the family. Too fearful to rest a glance upon the Conqueror, "Yes, your Majesty," she said with a heavy and worried heart.

The Conqueror donned her robe over her shoulders.

"You are making a grave mistake, my Lady," she jeered on her way out of the Imperial chambers.

She walked down the long corridor, reviewing over and over again the exchanges she had had with her wife and with her daughter and found no flaw in her conduct. Distracted, she opened the door leading into a chamber that her legs had mindlessly carried her to.

"Majesty," Princess Terreis' governess curtsied as soon as she caught sight of the Conqueror.

"Governess," the Conqueror muttered, and strode towards her daughter's bed straight away, "How is my little Princess?" she asked.

Hearing the Conqueror's voice in her chamber, Princess Terreis, who was somnolent on the brink of falling asleep, awoke into complete sobriety and stood up excited and alert in her crib.

"I've just put her Grace to bed, Majesty," the governess answered, inwardly thinking about all the trouble she had had to go through putting her charge to sleep the first time and all the trouble it would take her to put the child back to sleep later on for the second time, especially in an exceptionally high state of stimulation that the child had always gotten after a visit from her Sire.

"Majesty," still in her crib, little Terreis curtsied and made the Conqueror smile.

The toddler stretched out her arms, wordlessly requesting the Conqueror to pick her up.

"I shall take care of her tonight. You may retire," the Conqueror told the governess as she lifted up her giggling daughter in her arms.

"Thank you, Majesty, and goodnight," she curtsied again before leaving the Sovereign's presence, thinking that the Conqueror was spoiling the apple of her eye far too much and instilling bad habits in her that would later be difficult to discourage and get rid of.

"Did you miss me, little one?" the Conqueror asked and touched her lips to Terreis' forehead.

"Yes, my Sire. I've been wanting to see you all day long but the governess told me you were indisposed."

"I'm here now," the Conqueror whispered and carried the Princess back to the Imperial chambers.

The Imperial bedchamber was empty.

"Where is mother?" Princess Terreis asked, turning her head at all directions in search of the Queen.

"She's sleeping in her own bed tonight, little one," the Conqueror said, fighting to keep her sadness from pouring out of her through her words.

"Why? She always sleeps with you, my Sire."

The innocent question of a beloved daughter not old enough to understand was almost the Conqueror's undoing. To protect her daughter and the wholesomeness of her carefree world, she conceived of a little white lie. "Because I snore at night when I sleep and her Majesty needs her rest."

"You snore?!" Terreis asked.

"Don't you know?! All Conquerors snore," the Conqueror smirked.

Realizing that her Sire was jesting, Terreis burst into a rolling laughter. "You are the only Conqueror!" she admonished the Conqueror for teasing her.

To further humor her daughter, the Conqueror began to produce snoring sounds and tickled her daughter's belly with the tip of her nose. "You are too clever for me," the Conqueror conceded.

"No, I'm not. No one is more clever than you, Sire," the Princess replied and inadvertently caused the Conqueror's heart to shrink in pain.

"Will you keep me company tonight?"

The Princess enthusiastically nodded assent. If she could have her way, she would keep her Sire company every moment of every day.

"Will you tell me a story?" the Princess asked as the Conqueror gently deposited her tiny frame onto the Imperial bed.

"I'm not much of a storyteller."

"Mother tells me about the golden lass and the lion."

"Does she? Well, tell me a little about it and I will try my best to continue the story," the Conqueror suggested and laid her tired body down next to her daughter, while the latter was busy chattering away about the lass and her lion, till both fell asleep.

The very next morning, Princess Athena nearly stormed into the Queen's chambers.

"Ladies, you may leave us," the Queen instructed her ladies in waiting, and after the doors to the entrance closed behind the Queen's servants, Athena addressed her mother.

"The Lord Conqueror is making me marry the Norsewoman," she charged.

"Keep you voice down, your Grace," the Queen requested.

"I am too upset to mind the servants, Majesty," Athena replied, then took a deep breath to compose herself for her mother's sake. "I don't want to marry the Norsewoman. I want to marry Cynna."

"You must obey my Lord's will," the Queen said and in spite of the raging tempest in her very soul she maintained cool and determined exterior.

"Have you no opinion in this matter? Do you not care at all what I want?"

"Of course I care, but the matter of your marriage is solely for my Lord to decide. I can only tell you this, my beloved Athena - I have done all that is in my power to do."

During the following fortnight, all could feel a major shift in the Corinthian palace. The Queen slept each and every night in her own bedchamber, which the Conqueror had had built for her before their wedding, and the Conqueror slept in the Imperial bedchamber, most nights with her daughter, Princess Terreis. It appeared as if the Sovereign and her youngest were inseparable. The air in Corinth and beyond it became rife with rumors.

Breakfast in the Dining Hall was eaten in almost complete silence, safe for the clinking of silverware and the clanking of dishes. The Conqueror seemed reluctant to talk and dispensed no more than a few short words, despite the Queen's several attempts to engage her Lord in conversation.

Princess Athena didn't care at all about the wedding preparations. She was not interested in the ceremony, the feast, her attire or the entertainment for that matter. In her mind, the wedding was yet another one of many banquets which demanded her presence and nothing more. When not preoccupied by her duties, she spent every available moment she had with Cynna, exploring the Imperial Gardens, riding through the streets and markets of Corinth, and sharing kisses and passionate embraces within the palace walls and outside of it for all to see. She lavished Cynna with expensive jewels and garments to wear as tokens of her love for her. In all that time she spoke not a single word to her betrothed.

Princess Sieglinde, on the other hand, was immersed in her studies. After her tutors and instructors finished stuffing her head with enormous amounts of knowledge each and every day, the Nordic Princess kept herself up every night to learn and exercise everything she had been taught during the day to the point of exhaustion. After consulting with Lady Satrina, Princess Sieglinde picked three of the ladies suggested by the household steward to serve her as her ladies in waiting so to show good faith and trust in the Realm's noble women. She sent for three more of her own, who had accompanied her from the Nordic Lands and been waiting for her in Athens, and ordered the rest to return to her homeland.

Everything around her was unfamiliar, strange and new to her and so very different from everything she had ever known. The feeling of being an alien in a place where she had the good sense of knowing she wasn't really wanted lay heavily upon her, but she took it all in stride with dignity.

The Nordic Princess was no fool. She had occasion to see her betrothed and Cynna taking intimate strolls in the Imperial Gardens, and understood the nature of the relationship between them. The fact that Princess Athena made no effort to be discreet in her dalliances or show the smallest of interest in her future wife made it easy enough to identify it for what it was.

The construction of Princess Sieglinde's chambers next to those of Princess Athena, which the Conqueror had commissioned, was progressing in good time.

One morning, closer to the date of the wedding, the Conqueror returned unexpectedly to the Imperial chambers to retrieve her seal ring, which she had forgotten by the nightstand. Through the partly opened doors she heard two feminine voices emanating from within, one belonging to an older chambermaid and the other belonging to a younger chambermaid, unfamiliar to the Conqueror.

"Her Majesty the Queen has always had a soft spot for her Grace, Princess Athena, ever since she was a child, yay tall," the older voice claimed. "It is plain as day that her Grace loves the Amazon, Cynna. I've seen them with my own eyes going at it in the corridor leading to her Grace's chambers. She doesn't care for the Nordic Princess, I tell you. The poor foreign child... I think she is a bit of a simpleton, or else she wouldn't stand to be the mockery of the Realm. Worse yet, since the announcement of her Grace's marriage to the Nordic Princess, the Queen has been sleeping in her own bedchamber. I reckon she disapproves of the Conqueror's decision regarding this sham of a wedding, too. This wedding is nothing but trouble, nothing but…"

"I will hear no more of it!" the younger voice cut through the older chambermaid's speech. "The Lord Conqueror is our just and honorable Sovereign, as well as our benevolent employer and benefactor. Obviously, the wedding has caused some conflict, which troubles the Lord Conqueror," the younger voice paused then went on to say in loud anger, "And it offends me," another pause for the purpose of reigning in the anger, "that you and other members in the household staff gossip about the Lord Conqueror's private affairs for your amusement!"

"I didn't mean…" the older voice was heard again.

"I know what you meant. We are most fortunate to serve the great Lord Conqueror and we ought to repay the Lord Conqueror's generosity with our loyalty and discretion rather than with the spreading of vicious tittle-tattles. In the future, I bid you kindly to refrain from sharing these rumors with me."

Then there was silence followed by the noises of the hearth being scrubbed and the carpets being brushed.

Only a few long moments later, the Conqueror entered the Imperial chambers. Both chambermaids halted their chores and curtsied before the Conqueror, unaware that their Master had listened in on their earlier conversation. The Conqueror dismissed the older chambermaid and ordered the younger one to stay.

The chambermaid that stood before the Conqueror wiping her hands against her soot stained apron was no more than twenty years of age. Her appearance was uncommon. She was of small stature, with lush red wavy hair, red eyebrows and eyelashes surrounding greenish-brown eyes that looked like the depth of a moor. Her skin was as white as milk.

"You're new here." The Conqueror's question sounded more like a statement of fact.

"I am, your Majesty," the maid relied, "I've been in your Majesty's service for a moon, now."

"What is your name?"

"Thetis, your Majesty."

"I know that name," the Conqueror said thoughtfully while trying to recall where from.

"I'm Nobleman Timaeus's niece's daughter, your Majesty. My father, Pestimus is from Britania and is a captain in your Majesty's fifth legion."

"Now, I remember. Last I saw you, was when good Nobleman Timaeus brought you to Court when you were a child. You barely reached my knees. How you've grown."

A somewhat frivolous laughter was released from Thetis mouth.

"You are of noble blood. What are you doing here scrubbing my floor? You could be a lady in waiting to the Queen's Majesty," said the Conqueror to Nobleman Timaeus's kin, thinking it'd been awhile since last she'd seen her governor to Athens and the closest thing to a friend she had ever had.

"I came here with a letter of recommendation from my great uncle but Lady Satrina told me that noble women serve only the Queen as ladies in waiting and that noble men served your Majesty only as grooms. But I wanted to serve your Majesty like my great uncle and my father, so I chose to be a chambermaid instead of being a lady in waiting."

The Conqueror clasped her hands behind her back. "I owe Lord Timaeus better than to have you cleaning and dusting like a commoner. Tell Lady Satrina that you've been reassigned to serve as my personal attendant, then bring her Grace, Princess Terreis to me."

"Yes, Majesty," Thetis sounded most pleased, "Thank you, your gracious Majesty." Thetis curtsied and left to do her Master's biddings.

When Thetis returned to the Imperial chambers with Princess Terreis, the Conqueror said to her, "Tell her Majesty the Queen, her Grace Princess Athena and her Grace Princess Sieglinde that they are to join me for supper in the Dining Hall at dusk and also inform the cook."

"Yes, Majesty," Thetis said and curtsied. When she turned to leave, from the corner of her eye she caught sight of the Conqueror playing with little Terreis and felt privileged indeed to be privy to the redoubtable Lord Conqueror in an informal capacity.

Thetis went first to the Queen's chambers. One of the Queen's ladies in waiting welcomed her in.

"Majesty," Thetis curtsied before Queen Gabrielle.

The Queen acknowledged her greeting by a slight nod of her head. Unlike her Lord, the Queen recognized the young woman as a chambermaid of the Imperial chambers. She was surprised and curious to see her appear before her.

"The Lord Conqueror wishes that your Majesty would join her for supper in the Dining Hall at dusk," Thetis said.

The Queen didn't care for it, not one bit. With the thought that the servant looked too pretty and in an exotic manner with her red hair picking mercilessly in her head, she rose from her seat and approached the young woman who did her best to avoid the Queen's gaze.

"You are a chambermaid, are you not?"

"I was until a short while ago, Majesty. The Lord Conqueror made me her personal attendant."

Oh, the Queen didn’t care for it at all.

"Who are you?" she asked, uncharacteristically.

"Thetis, Majesty. Nobleman Timaeus's niece's daughter," Thetis answered.

The Queen cared for it even less, exactly because she liked old Nobleman Timaeus and she knew that her Lord did, as well.

"You may leave," the Queen dismissed her.

From the Queen's chambers, Thetis went next to Princess Athena's chambers to find Princess Athena and Cynna, appearing quite blushed, panting and disheveled.

"Your Grace," Thetis curtsied, "The Lord Conqueror wishes that you would join her for supper in the Dining Hall at dusk."

Cynna appeared very excited. "Did you hear?! We are invited to dine with the Conqueror," she said to Princess Athena.

"The invitation is extended to her Grace only," Thetis corrected Cynna's misunderstanding.

Princess Athena took one step forward. Her eyebrows nearly met above her nose when she slanted her eyes in anger. "How dare you offend my guest!" she scolded the servant.

Thetis, like the entire household staff, knew exactly who Cynna was and just what sort of a 'guest' she was. Most of the household staff either showed kindness to her or at the very least indifference, because most sided with the Queen and Princess Athena. Thetis was one of the very few who held the belief that Princess Athena ought to respectfully obey the Conqueror and accept her judgment without reservations.

 "I meant no offence. I merely delivered the Lord Conqueror's message."

"I ought to appoint you as servant to my Lady Cynna," Princess Athena refused to be appeased.

"With respect, your Grace. I am the Lord Conqueror's personal attendant." It was Thetis' intention to convey to Princess Athena that she had no authority to interfere with her duties, for she was the Conqueror's servant and as such only the Conqueror could either dismiss or reassign her.

"Personal attendant?! Did the Conqueror invent a position just to employ you?!"

Princess Athena's response was rude and implied something sinister, Thetis thought. It spoke volumes of Princess Athena's resentment towards the Conqueror and her decision.

"It was the Lord Conqueror's show of favor to Nobleman Timaeus. I am his niece's daughter."

Princess Athena scoffed as Thetis left her chambers.

As she made her way to Princess Sieglinde's chamber, Thetis thought about how much she pitied her. Some of her fellow servants gave her unkind looks. Others went as far as speaking ill of her, sometimes even in her presence thinking she couldn't understand them. They all blamed her as if she was the root of the division within the Royal family. When she invited her to the Conqueror's table for supper, she thought how wretched it was to be held responsible for something one had absolutely no control over.

Soon after dusk, in the Dining Hall an eerie and awkward silence was present amongst the Royals like a fifth person sitting around the table with them.

"I was sorry to hear about your father's health taking a turn for the worse, your Grace," the Conqueror spoke softly and slowly so that Princess Sieglinde would comprehend.

"Thank you, Majesty," Princess Sieglinde replied.

The Queen looked at her Lord, curbing a displeased expression. She wasn't aware of King Olof's deteriorating condition due to the lack of communication between herself and her Lord that the latter had imposed on them. It pained her to be so distant from her Lord.

"I understand that your brother will not be attending the wedding so to keep your father company during his last days."

Princess Athena's expression was lukewarm at best.

"Yes, Majesty."

And then it was quiet again.

"How are your studies coming along?" the Queen inquired.

Princess Sieglinde smiled, “Well, I think, Majesty.”

The more of the Nordic accent Princess Athena heard, the more she detested it.

“Majesty,” Princess Sieglinde addressed the Conqueror, “I wanted to thank you for putting Nordic furniture…” She struggled with the words.

The Queen shot a questioning look at the Conqueror.

“You wish to thank me for decorating the chambers I’ve had built for you with furniture I’ve imported from your homeland. You are most welcome, your Grace,” the Conqueror replied.

The Queen melted for her Lord inside. She thought it was a considerate and generous gesture.

“Yes, Majesty. I saw the furniture this morning. It makes me… miss home… less,” she finally managed as best she could to express herself.

“I am pleased,” the Conqueror said and poured a second goblet of wine.

“Are you being treated well, your Grace?” the Conqueror asked.

“I am well, Majesty,” Princess Sieglinde answered. It wasn’t that she didn’t understand the Conqueror’s question, but she couldn’t and wouldn’t admit to the Conqueror about some of the servants’ behavior and about the way that Princess Athena had been carrying on, but she wouldn’t lie to the Conqueror either, so she gave the only answer she could.

After they finished eating, Princess Athena went back to Cynna’s arms and Princess Sieglinde retired to her own chamber to continue with her studies. The Queen lingered behind so to speak to the Conqueror still at the table.

“Will you visit my chambers tonight, my Lord?” She asked, her voice smothered with longing.

The Conqueror wiped her mouth with a cloth and rose from behind the table.

“What for?” The Conqueror’s voice sounded almost practical.

“I miss you, terribly. We don’t speak like we used to.”

“Are you willing to return to my bed?” the Conqueror asked.

The Queen let out a deep sigh. “Princess Sieglinde is a wonderful and virtuous lass, but Athena loves another. Will you reconsider the marriage, my Lord?”

“I will not, my Lady.”

“Then forgive me, my Lord, but I cannot return to your bed, though I ache for you every night,” Queen Gabrielle’s voice quivered and her eyes shone with unshed tears.

“Good night, my Lady,” the Conqueror concluded and left the Dining Hall.


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