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 story “Lord Conqueror of the Realm”. I strongly recommend you read it first because in this story there are references to events that took place in “Lord Conqueror of the Realm.” Here is where you can find it:
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!
It was close to dawn. The sky was about to don its dark blue robes. The Conqueror was sleeping in her armchair before the hearth, in which the fire in the last whispering embers was about to be extinguished, but her repose was nothing but restful. Abruptly, her eyes snapped wide open in a startle and she drew a sharp intake of breath. A horrifying, foreboding sensation gripped her heart and broke a sheen layer of cold sweat over her body, which was still warm from slumber.
Her predatory senses instantly honed and attuned to her surroundings. Her ears could hear a fire burning in the furthest torch in the corridor over two sets of heavy closed doors, along with the night watch guardsman standing beneath it biting his nails, and a swan dipping its head in the lily pond outside. Her eyes adjusted quickly to the darkness and her muscles tightened, primed for an attack.
Sober and focused, she quickly realized she was alone in the Imperial bedchamber. There was no eminent danger, and yet this agonizing feeling of dread hadn't abated.
"The Amazons," she whispered to the empty darkness. Had she not been so overwrought in bile and sorrow over her Queen, her mind would have been clear and incisive enough to realize what had been obvious all along.
Not being able to placate the raging acute fear that was swarming inside her, she brusquely tossed the covers off her body and lifted herself off the armchair in which she had been sleeping for the past couple of moons, for it felt less lonely to her than sleeping in the Imperial bed when the Queen wasn't lying there with her.
The distinct sensation that either peril had befallen her wife and Queen or was about to wouldn't liberate her but kept on pounding fiercely and constantly in her gut.
"Guard!" her voice thundered through the quiet corridor and nearly made the guardsman standing outside part with his spirit.
He rushed over to his Master.
The Conqueror didn't afford him a moment to bow before her. "Have the chief commander of the Imperial Guard report to me in the stables at once and be quick about it," she ordered him and he ran as fast as his legs could carry him to do his Sovereign's bidding.
The Conqueror disrobed of her night garments. She wore black leather trousers and a silk white shirt. She draped a heavy thick dark crimson robe, with fur lining the inside and fur lapels that framed her corded neck. She put on her leather boots with the golden studs and strode down to the armory. On her way, she accosted a servant, who upon seeing her bowed immediately. "Inform Lady Satrina of my impending departure to the Amazon lands."
"Yes, Majesty," he bowed and dashed to the steward's chamber.
Upon reaching the armory, the Conqueror made her presence known by pushing the doors open till they hit the wall as they flung open with an awesome thud.
Her groom jumped to his feet as if bitten by a snake and rubbed his eyes, still stupefied from sleep.
"Prepare me for battle," she ordered and took off her robe.
He fastened her gilded armor engraved with a lion's head and with muscle cuirasses against her torso. Next came the gauntlets, her sword, and her royal Corinthian style helm. Once he finished, she donned her robe again and left for the Imperial stables.
The chief commander greeted her there as ordered.
"Is the Imperial Guard ready to move out?" she asked as she mounted her stallion.
"Yes, Majesty," he replied.
"The closest legion to the Amazon lands is the eleventh, is it not?" she asked him while he climbed upon his horse.
"Yes, Majesty, it is stationed less than a day's ride away. The ninetieth is stationed not too far…”
But the Conqueror didn't let him finish. “I don't need an axe to kill a fly,” she asserted.
At that moment, Lady Satrina entered the Imperial stables holding a satchel with provisions in her hand. She wasn't sure what had happened, but seeing the commotion in such an early hour, and her Sovereign Lord in full battle regalia, she knew it wasn't simply the Conqueror at long last setting off to meet with her wife.
"Have an order sent to the eleventh legion's chief commander to move the forces and spread them all around Amazon lands. I want my order to reach him within a day at the most. Is that understood?" the Conqueror ordered and took the reins in her hands.
"With respect, Majesty, I don't think it can be done is such a brief period of time."
The Conqueror glowered at him. "Use the network of spies along the route and our best horsemen, have archers shoot my order attached to an arrow from one military post to the next, just have it done or I'll have you removed from command and make you clean up horse dumping for the rest of your life."
"By your will, Majesty. It will be done."
"We shall reach the Thracian border within three days. We ride night and day. Any soldier of the Imperial Guard who falls behind will be punished severely."
"By your will, Majesty," he said and left her presence to obey her orders.
"Lady Satrina," the Conqueror addressed her loyal steward and looked down upon her as she adjusted herself in her saddle.
"Majesty," she curtsied, "Please, save her," she barely managed to say as a decent crying clogged her throat. She handed the Conqueror the satchel and pleaded once more, "And be safe."
The Conqueror nodded her head in gratitude, kicked her stallion's ribs and joined her waiting soldiers.
Meanwhile, on Amazon lands, Queen Gabrielle composed herself soon after she had received the grim news about the calamity that had befallen the Amazon nation.
"Have Mysia pick four warriors of her choosing to guard Queen Melosa's hut and then have her report back to me here. No one is to get inside Queen Melosa's hut. Also, have the Amazon council gather in the main hut. Now leave us," Queen Gabrielle tersely rendered her first orders as the soon to be Queen of the Amazons.
"Right away, Majesty," they bowed and vacated the Queen's hut.
Flinging from her bed as soon as they were left alone, Queen Gabrielle hastily washed her face in the basin and said to her daughter: "Athena, word of Queen Melosa's murder must reach my Lord."
"Of course," Athena concurred. "What will you have me do?" she asked and washed her face in the basin as well as soon as her mother turned away from it and began to dress.
"You are the best rider and there is no time to lose," the Queen said.
"I cannot leave you here. Didn't you hear? Queen Melosa was murdered in her bed. This crime wasn't committed at the outskirts of the Amazon lands but within the village."
"I understand. I have considered that one of the sisters might have committed this heinous crime."
"We are not staying here," Athena was determined. "I'm putting you on a horse and taking you back to Corinth ," she said and buckled her trousers.
"I'm staying right where I am.” Queen Gabrielle sounded equally determined.
"You are not even their Queen yet." Athena was out of her mind worrying for the safety of her beloved mother.
“I'm their leader now and closest thing to a Queen they have. I shall be made Queen in three days' time according to Amazon law. A leader cannot leave his people, especially not in a time of crisis. It is not the Amazon's way and it is certainly not mine," the Queen responded and enveloped her body with her woolen cape.
“You are Queen of the Realm first and foremost,” Princess Athena persisted and fastened her armor over her shoulders and at her waist.
"Princess Xena Athena, you are to do as I command as your sovereign."
Athena had never heard such authority bursting out of her mother's mouth before and it gave her pause.
Eventually, the young Princess receded. "Yes, Majesty," she said, and inwardly, along with insurmountable concern for her mother's safety, she was also proud of her.
"Ride to the Imperial guards at the Thracian border. Have three of them report to me for protection detail, and then ride to Corinth and inform my Lord as to what has happened here." Being the highest authority on Amazon lands, Queen Gabrielle knew she had the right to allow soldiers of the Realm on Amazon soil.
Nevertheless, she had no intention of using the Imperial guards' protection and knew she would dismiss them as soon as they reported to her. Having Imperial guards protect her instead of Amazon warriors would demonstrate her lack of trust in them and as their future Queen she couldn't afford to do it. The only reason for instructing Princess Athena to send the Imperial guards to protect her was because she knew her daughter wouldn't leave Amazon lands otherwise.
"If anything happens to you, her Majesty will kill me, I know she will," Athena said half jesting and half seriously.
"Do not be foolish. My Lord loves you more than her own life," the Queen gave her daughter half a smile.
"I sincerely doubt that after my last visit to her," Athena mumbled, hoping to alleviate both their tension.
"Now come here, Athena, and give your mother a kiss," the Queen smiled and opened her arms.
Athena wrapped her arms tightly around her mother. "Be safe," she whispered and struggled to hold back tears.
"I will. Promise me the same."
"I swear on my life," Athena snickered.
"Your Sire was right. You are an ill-mannered brat . "
They finally released one another and just as Princess Athena opened the door and was about to vacate the Queen's hut, Mysia was standing at the threshold, with her fist in the air about to knock on the door. Princess Athena looked her over from head to toe and left without saying a word to her.
"Until the Imperial guards arrive here, you are not to leave my side,” she said to Mysia .
It seemed that Queen Gabrielle's authoritative tone of voice had the same effect on Mysia that it had had on Princess Athena.
“Yes, Majesty,” she simply said and both Queen and warrior made their way to Queen Melosa's hut.
Queen Gabrielle found Queen Melosa's hut guarded by four warrior Amazons as she had ordered. To her gladden she saw the Shamaness waiting outside and near the hut.
“Shamaness,” the Queen whispered with sorrow.
“Majesty,” the Shamaness greeted back and across her face ran fear and sadness. “What is the meaning of this madness?”
“I wish I knew.” Queen Gabrielle consolidated her mind and rigorously kept her wits about her. She would mourn the loss of Queen Melosa when time allowed, not before. “Who discovered Queen Melosa's body?” she asked.
“I did,” said Antiope and stepped forward. The Amazon appeared to be in shock.
“And what were you doing at such early hour at Queen Melosa's hut?” Queen Gabrielle questioned.
“Queen Melosa and I used to go out on rides almost every morning. It is her favorite time of the day.” Antiope's voice was strained, “It was…” she soon corrected. “I knocked on the door and when no answer came, I began to worry. I tried to open the door but it was latched from the inside…” Antiope composed herself and evened her breath before she continued. “I kicked the door down,” she took another deep breath, “and I found her lying in bed covered in blood.”
“Have you seen anyone or anything suspicious around?” Queen Gabrielle inquired.
“No, Majesty. There was no one around,” Antiope replied.
“Did you touch or moved anything inside?”
“Thank you, Antiope,” the Queen said, “That will be all.”
The Shamaness and Queen Gabrielle climbed up the wooden steps and stood on the small porch. They examined the broken door that was only just hanging on its hinges. Then the two women entered the hut.
She noticed the window was opened.
“That's how whoever did this stealthy found his way inside,” Queen Gabrielle said to the Shamaness and pointed at the window.
Both women, seasoned healers, approached Queen Melosa's bed and closely examined her lifeless body.
“Her killer must have removed the covers off her before stabbing her,” the Shamaness observed.
The Queen inserted her finger into Queen Melosa's mouth and poked under the tongue, “ Her body has some warmth in it still. She must have been murdered soon after midnight.”
The Shamaness took a piece of cloth, dipping it in water. Queen Gabrielle carefully removed Queen Melosa's night garments and the Shamaness wiped away some of the blood till the wound was revealed.
“A single stab wound to the heart,” the Shamaness pointed out.
“Indeed. There are no defensive marks on her arms or anywhere else. She was stabbed in her sleep. The perpetrator was handy with a dagger and took it with him,” the Queen remarked.
“That dagger can be anywhere by now… Our poor beloved queen… such a cowardly, undignified ending.” The Shamaness moved her fingertips over her Queen and sister's cheek.
“She was so kind and loyal to her people. She taught me so much,” the Queen fought her tears.
“I will take care of her now, Majesty. Your council awaits you in the main hut,” the Shamaness said.
When the Queen came out of Queen Melosa's hut, she could see the dramatic change in the Amazon village. Amazons looked at one another with suspicion in their eyes. Fear began to rule them, and irrational accusations and finger pointing were only a matter of time. There were whisperings in corners. Some closed themselves behind bolted doors and bolted windows. No one felt safe anymore. Uncertainty regarding future leadership added to the restlessness.
Accompanied by Mysia , the Queen made her way to the main hut. When she entered, they all bowed before her and greeted her by her title.
When the Queen reached her seat, she stood before the Amazon council and addressed them. “Sisters, I shall be made your Queen in three days' time. I ask of you, sisters, to look upon me as you looked upon Queen Melosa. I should very much like that you no longer bow before me nor address me as the Queen of the Realm.”
“Then we shall no longer do so, my Queen,” the eldest member of the council said.
Queen Gabrielle seated herself and they sat as well.
“Our sisters are starting to suspect one another,” said one of the council members.
“For good reason. Queen Melosa was murdered in her own bed at the center of our village. Who else could it have been?” said another.
“A mercenary sent by one of our neighboring provinces… or all,” answered someone else.
“They couldn't have gotten into our lands, not with the Realm's soldiers swarming around our borders.”
“A soldier or two every dozens of feet don't make our borders impenetrable. It had to be the governors.”
“If it had been one of the governors, my Lord would have surely brought them to justice by now. Placing blame at this point is futile, ” said the Queen. “It is vital that we first keep and maintain order and security.”
“I agree,” concurred the eldest of the council members, “That ought to be our first priority.”
“What do you suggest, my Queen?”
“I have sent her Grace to Corinth to inform my Lord of this latest travesty.”
“The throne in Corinth does not care about the Amazon nation,” said Antiope. “Five moons have passed and nothing has been done as of yet.”
“Antiope,” the Queen spoke firmly and decisively, “I assure you everything that can be done is being done. The Amazon lands are a province of the Realm as any other province, and my Lord will not tolerate an act of murder committed against a leader of a province under my Lord's rule.”
“What other course of action besides informing the Lord Conqueror should we consider?”
“I think in the meantime, no one should venture out of the village perimeters. When necessary, they must do so in groups only of no less than five sisters and only before dusk. We shall have warriors guard the village at all times,” said the Queen. “During nighttime, bolting all doors and windows is mandatory and burning bonfires will be built at each guard post.” The Queen looked around the hut. “Have you any further suggestion?”
The council members nodded their heads in agreement and approval. None had anything to add.
“The council will support you in any way possible, my Queen,” the elder sincerely offered.
“Thank you,” smiled the Queen. She had just passed her first trial. “Then if there is nothing else, we are adjourned. I shall address our sisters at the ceremony.”
When she left the main hut, the Imperial guards where already waiting for her. Knowing that having them protecting her instead of her sisters would blemish her show of trust in the Amazons, she relieved them of their duty and sent them back to their commanding officers at the Thracian border. She entrusted Mysia with the duty of protecting her, along with two other Amazon warriors Mysia trusted. She also felt more confident in her ability to protect herself if need be in light of all the combat training she had received for the past moons.
A day and a half later, on route to the Amazon lands, the Conqueror and five Imperial guards that rode alongside heard the hoof beats of a wild gallop ahead.
"Rider approaches!" exclaimed the Imperial guard to the Conqueror's right that held her banner with her colors, black and red, in his hand.
"Halt and make way for the Lord Conqueror!" shouted the one to the Conqueror's left.
As the sounds of the hooves drumming upon the moist ground grew louder and closer, the advancing rider in the opposite direction could be seen.
The Conqueror, who thought she recognized the rhythm of the peerless racer, raised her hand in the air signaling the Imperial Guard that rode with her to cease.
"Guard, hold your horses!" the Imperial guard to the Conqueror's right voiced his Master's silent order, and the order was repeated by others all the way to the last of the Conqueror's soldiers that rode with her, until the Imperial Guard stopped moving forward.
Astride her stallion, the Conqueror spurred on and galloped with great speed to intercept the rider up ahead. As the distance between them grew shorter, the Conqueror and Princess Athena recognized one another.
When the gap between them was closed, they each dismounted their mounts.
"Majesty," Princess Athena brusquely bowed.
"Is the Queen safe?" was the first and urgent inquiry out of the Conqueror's mouth.
"The Queen is safe," the young Royal replied and saw the immense relief upon the Conqueror's countenance. "Queen Melosa was murdered in her bed two nights ago."
"Where is the Queen? Is she riding behind you? Is she escorted by Imperial guards?" the Conqueror shot her questions.
Princess Athena swallowed hard and braced herself for the Conqueror's response.
"She elected to stay with the Amazons on their lands, and ordered me to send word to you, Majesty." Athena saw the dark beast rise in her Sire, so in order to appease her Sire she quickly added, "She is currently guarded by three Imperial guards, so you needn't worry."
"Needn't worry?!" the Conqueror's voice was hoarse with the effort of restraining her wrath, "She is their Queen now! Did you honestly think she would show them such lack of trust and disloyalty?! She probably dismissed them as soon as they reported to her. Where is your head?!” She hissed through gritting teeth and her hands turned into tight fists.
Princess Athena held her head down in shame. She understood why her mother had acted the way she had, but she was angry at herself for not recognizing her mother's deception.
"There's no time for self-pity, now. Her Majesty gave you an order and you had to obey. Her ruse was designed to make it easier on you to obey. Let us move out," the Conqueror said, yet she was angry still.
The Conqueror turned to face her soldiers, who stood in wait about thirty feet away from them, and beckoned them to resume their ride.
She mounted her horse and just before stabbing it with her heels, she turned to Athena once more. "Murdered in her bed in her own domain…" she voiced her stricture without a shred of compassion , "That's what happens when one rules without putting fear in one's subjects' hearts, when one governs without exacting hard discipline. Pray your mother is alive."
Mysia and Molpadia approached Queen Gabrielle as she was about to take her supper.
“My Queen,” said Mysia , “Our scouts just informed me that scores of soldiers of the Realm are surrounding all our borders.”
Queen Gabrielle was surprised. She knew that there was no possible way that Athena had already reached Corinth to tell her Lord that Queen Melosa had been murdered. She was perplexed by the news.
"The council awaits you, my Queen," said Molpadia, who after Queen Melosa's death became Queen Gabrielle's second in command.
This time, when Queen Gabrielle entered the main hut, all present remained seated.
"My Queen," one of the council members engrossed the Queen's attention, "We are completely surrounded by the Realm's forces. Some of us perceive it as an act of aggression. Our sisters are scared."
"Is this true?" the Queen asked and looked around at the council member. "Do some of you think it is an act of aggression?"
No one said a word. Their fear matched that of their sisters outside the main hut who were waiting anxiously for the council meeting to end and to learn what was to be their fate. The Amazons were sick with terror by the smell of cold death that emanated both from the dark threat lurking at their borders and the unknown threat from within.
"I can assure you that it is not," the Queen said.
"Has there been any word from Corinth ?" another one of the council members asked.
"Not as of yet," answered the Queen.
"Then how can we be sure?"
"My Lord will not start a war against the Amazon nation," the Queen responded, all the while aware of their examining gazes.
"With all due respect, we cannot just stand idly by and leave our people unprotected. It is my opinion, therefore, that we should prepare for battle."
"Better yet, land the first strike instead of waiting here to die," another suggested.
"Indeed, for all we know the Realm might be behind the recent misfortunate events that rendered us without Queen Melosa, her regent and princess Terreis to lead us, and hence weaker and divided amongst ourselves," proclaimed a third.
"Queen Melosa wouldn't have stood for this sort of traitorous rhetoric and neither will I," Queen Gabrielle stated. "My Lord has shown you nothing but benevolence, fairness and honor. As sure as I stand here before you, I have no doubt in my mind that my Lord's mobilizing her forces around our borders is an act of protection. We shall wait until word is received from Corinth ."
The Amazon council all regarded her in silence; all accepted her authority and all capitulate to her rule.
It was close to dusk, three days after Queen Melosa's body had been found slain by an unknown and callous hand. As the Conqueror arrived at the Thracian border, it began to snow.
"Your Majesty," the chief commander of the eleventh legion bowed before her, then turned to Princess Athena and bowed before her as well. "Your Grace," he muttered.
"Are the men ready, commander?" she asked.
"They are, Majesty," he replied.
At that point, the chief commander at the Imperial Guard joined them.
"Did you give the order for your men to disperse along the lines, commander?" the Conqueror asked him.
"I did, Majesty," he replied and stood at attention.
"I wish to commend you for your efficiency and arduous effort in arriving here in good time, commanders," she said.
"Thank you, your Majesty," both commanders responded in unison.
"I shall enter the Amazon lands alone," the Conqueror informed them. "When I give a signal, you are to lead the charge into Amazon lands," she said and took a bow and a quiver containing arrows from one of the archers who stood nearby. She then put the bow and the quiver over her shoulder and across her armored torso. "If I shoot a single burning arrow in the air, it means that the Realm still has a Queen and you are to charge in and kill every living thing around her. If I shoot two burning arrows in the air, it means the Realm has lost its Queen and you are to kill them all and not to leave a living soul. Otherwise you will not set foot on Amazon soil. Are my orders clear?"
"Yes, Majesty," they both said in unison.
"Your will be done, of course, Majesty, but may I ask…" the chief commander of the eleventh legion waited permission.
"You may," she granted.
"If her Majesty is the Amazon's Queen, why not move our forces into the Amazon lands now. Surely her Majesty would give her consent after the fact."
"I will not undermine her Majesty the Queen's authority in the eyes of her people," the Conqueror answered and mounted her stallion, then addressed Princess Athena. "Your Grace will remain here."
"By your will, Majesty," Princess Athena said.
Fresh, feathery, unsoiled snow fell peacefully down from the twilight skies and blanketed everything with its conciliating, white chill. The light flakes soundlessly grasped onto the branches of the bare trees, giving them back a regal beauty of smooth white. They glided in the air, allowing nothing but a lazy winter breeze to play between them.
Queen Gabrielle stood on the large high podium at the grand center of the Amazon village. Dozens of high torches wedged into the ground stood burning. She wore her Amazon garments of brown hides and furs, un-tanned rust leather long skirt and a matching sleeveless blouse with a fur cloak over her shoulders.
As the ceremony was nearing its end, the Shamaness was about to pass on to Queen Gabrielle the Queen's labrys, which had previously belonged to the recently deceased Queen Melosa.
At that moment, through the languidly descending pearly frozen flakes, from a distance, moving behind the audience of many Amazons who stood witness to the coronation of their new Queen facing the high podium, Queen Gabrielle caught the sight of a tall stalwart figure seeming like the God of war, walking in a sea of white. In Queen Gabrielle's eyes all stopped; Time stopped; movement stopped; the earth stopped, even the gentle descent of the snowflakes ceased and they appeared suspended in the still air.
My Lord has returned her heart pounded painfully inside her.
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