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 a little after noon while still in bed when the Conqueror was awoken by a less than gentle manner as she heard her wife state firmly, "My Lord… My shoes!?"
Disheveled, she stared with only one eye through a half-opened lid at her fully dressed Queen and smacked her lips. "I'm sure I have absolutely no clue as to…"
The Queen walked to stand over the bed where her Lord lay, folded her arms over her breasts and impatiently tapped her bare foot on the ground. “Yes, you do,” she said. It occurred to her what the rustling sounds the previous had been when her Lord had brought her a cup of water.
Lying on her stomach with half her naked body wrapped in a blanket, the Conqueror was the picture of sloth. Slowly she opened her other eye and revealed the bluest blue. “I'm not done being alone with you,” she emitted with the angle of her lips still pressed against the bed; then slowly, with a heavy grunt she rolled half a turn to lie on her side.
The Queen sent a quick hand under the covers. “So I see,” she smiled lasciviously when her fingers discovered her Lord's arousal pushing against them. “You are hard again, my Lord,” she stated the obvious.
“It is your fault for being so beautiful and pleasing,” the Conqueror argued as she felt her wife stroking her stiffness.
The Queen sat on the edge of the bed, her fingers never neglecting their toiling.
“Come back to bed,” the Conqueror demanded jauntily as she sent her own hand for a teasing exploration beneath her Queen's dress, which was greeted by her Queen's liquid reaction to her own erection.
“I'm already dressed," the Queen protested beneath a soft moan.
“You can be undressed,” the Conqueror retorted an enticing solicitation.
“Very true," the Queen remarked with a smile, "But should we delay here any longer our subjects might begin to wonder and speculate."
"Not after last night, they won't," the Conqueror murmured under her breath while her wife's stimulating attentions challenged her clarity of mind and hindered her resolve to rise and forgo an afternoon of pleasure.
The Queen's ears were burning with blush. She leaned down and placed a kiss on her Lord's lips.
"Very well," the Conqueror finally gave in and climbed out of the warm bed unenthusiastically just to oblige her wife.
As they stepped outside their hut, they were greeted by a cold yet bright day. The Queen couldn't help but be thankful for the cold weather, for it called for warm clothing, which effectively concealing the love bites that the Conqueror had left on her body the previous night.
"Have I told you how much I've missed you?" the Conqueror asked lovingly and regarded her Queen's fetching profile.
"I suspect you might have neglected to tell me all and kept a few things secret from me on that score, my Lord."
The Conqueror cast her glance ahead and with a shadow of a smile on her lips divulged nothing further.
On their way to dine, the Royals saw Amazon warriors along with their daughter practicing on the training field and the sight simultaneously awoke a desire in both of them: in the Queen, the desire to demonstrate to her Lord what she had been learning, and in the Conqueror, the desire to see it.
Hand in hand, the Royal couple stepped onto the training field and all around them bowed in their honor.
As the Conqueror signaled with a wave of her hand to one of the Amazon warriors holding a staff to hand over her weapon, she looked back at her wife and asked, "Are you in good form today, my Lady?"
"I am, my Lord," the Queen replied and beckoned Mysia , who was holding a staff as well, to give it to her.
"Show me what you've learnt,” the Conqueror challenged as she examined the balance of the weapon in her hands.
"With pleasure," the Queen was only too eager to accept it.
Princess Athena, who nearly salivated over the scene that was about to be displayed before her, along with the other women all formed a circle around the Conqueror and the Queen. Even bystanders who passed nearby quickly joined the circle in order to watch the best spectacle in the village.
The Conqueror extravagantly twirled the staff in her hands. “I'll go easy on you, my Lady,” she said, well aware of the fact that she was waging mental warfare by subtle intimidation, so to strike fear and tamper with her wife's focus.
“You'll do no such thing, my Lord” the Queen answered defiantly and a tad more confidently than she actually felt, eliciting amused "ooohs" and "huhs" from her subjects surrounding them.
The Conqueror's right eyebrow rose. "Do not hesitate to hit me as hard as you can," she exhorted.
Princess Athena couldn't curb a joyous smirk. It occurred to her that she would have been willing to pay any amount for the delight of seeing her parents spar.
As soon as the Royal couple were ready and stood facing one another at the center of the training field, the Queen bowed before the Conqueror.
The Conqueror took advantage of the fact that the Queen's eyes were downcast and she hit the Queen's calf with her staff as a warning.
"Never take your eyes away from your opponent, not when you bow, not even before me," the Conqueror instructed.
The Queen nodded her head to signal her understanding.
The Conqueror bowed her head but her eyes kept beholding her Queen as she did.
And the match began. The Conqueror had all the seeming of a predator as she landed the first fierce strike. As with the first one, the fast blows that followed from various directions overwhelmed the Queen by their forcefulness and speed and it was all she could do to deflect them or block them from reaching her body and maintain her balance as she did. In all her trainings with the Amazons, she hadn't come across any that could compare with her Lord's immense force and alacrity. It was like sparring with a different creature all together. The Conqueror's staff moved so quickly that at times the Queen failed to discern its distinct contours and all she could see were smears of brown wood flying in the air around her. Inwardly she delighted in experiencing her Lord's power in this new way.
She barely managed to hold her own and offered no offence but defense only. She was under no illusion that her Lord would indeed spare her.
As the Conqueror was delivering her strikes it seemed as if she knew exactly which would meet hard wood and which would meet soft flesh, for while the former were awesome in their forcefulness, the latter were quite endurable, merely firm taps against the Queen's limbs.
The Queen demonstrated an inferior ability than she actually possessed and subtly exaggerated with the amount of effort she applied by feigning weakened counterstrikes and by fending off her Lord's strikes too closely to her person. However, she soon realized her strength was dwindling fast and some form of action was needed, so she made a few attempts against the Conqueror but yielded no fruit.
"You are significantly shorter than I am. Use it to your advantage. Do not aim at my torso. Aim lower."
And then, between the frames of two fractions of a moment, with the Conqueror's advice in mind, the Queen recognized a breach and swiftly launched her staff and jostled its tip into the Conqueror's lower abdomen.
The hit momentarily knocked the air out of the Conqueror's lungs and she bent over. Her eyes remained fixed on her Queen and she noticed concern and regret on the features she admired. Taking advantage of her lower position, with agile movement of her left wrist the Conqueror twirled her staff quickly behind her back and landed a hit behind the Queen's ankle. She then leveraged her bodyweight forward till the Queen fell to the ground prone on her back and the Conqueror landed on top of her, lightly pressing her staff to the Queen's neck.
"You simply won't miss any opportunity to lie on top of me, will you, my Lord?" the Queen rasped with a seductive smile only the Conqueror was privy to on account of her black mane veiling their faces.
The Conqueror nodded assent and her face lit up in response. "Do you surrender, my Lady?" she whispered under labored breath.
"To you?" the Queen questioned as her breasts heaved. "Always, my Lord," she whispered back.
All spectators clapped their hands and were incredibly proud and impressed with their Queen who succeeded in delivering a blow to the almighty Conqueror, knowing full well it was no small achievement.
The Conqueror lifted herself up from the Queen's body and offered her Queen her hand and gallantly helped her back to her feet.
As the Queen dusted away the dirt that clung to her bodices, she could still feel her palms irritated and reddish from the vibrations of the wooden weapon she had held caused by her Lord's powerful strikes. It felt like countless worms swarming beneath the skin of her palms.
When the Amazons around them made their way to lunch, leaving the Royals to their privacy, the Conqueror turned to her wife. "You fought me admirably, my Lady," she complimented while rubbing the area that had been in contact with her wife's weapon.
"Thank you, my Lord," the Queen answered quite smugly.
"The Amazons indeed are capable tutors and you are a bright student, however…"
"There is no place for mercy on the battlefield. It is either kill or be killed. Your enemies will not show you mercy and neither should you."
The Queen knew immediately that the Conqueror was referring to the concern that came over her when she had delivered the only strike that had reached its mark.
"I understand," was her initial reaction and as they walked together with the Queen hanging on her Lord's arm, she went on to say, "I'm just glad that as long as you're here, there will be peace and the Amazons will be protected so that I would never have to shed blood."
On their way to their seats at the head of the council's table, the Conqueror and the Queen passed by Molpadia. The Queen's second in command looked terrible. Her eyes were bloodshot and it was obvious she struggled to keep them peeled. Her head occasionally nodded off sideways, her movements lethargic, and it was clear to all that she hadn't had a moment's sleep throughout the previous night.
The Queen threw a gloating glance at her after deciding to afford herself her vice however petty and ignoble.
After all were seated, the Queen stood at the head of her table and requested her subjects' attention.
"Sisters, it is my joy and pleasure to announce that last night my Lord asked me to join with her in a joining ceremony with accordance to our nation's tradition," the Queen said with bright eyes.
"Did you accept, my Queen?" the question came from the audience. It was the young, slightly soft-touched Amazon who had asked the Queen about the Conqueror's skills as a lover at the steam hut.
All in attendance laughed, as did the Conqueror and the Queen.
"Of course I did," the Queen replied still laughing.
At the other end of the council's table, the Shamaness rose to stand facing the Queen. "I'm happy for you, Majesties, as I'm sure all our sisters are," she said and all around them Amazons nodded in the positive. "Congratulations," she continued, "With your approval, I shall make all the preparations for the joining ceremony and if it pleases you, Majesties, I shall perform the ritual this time tomorrow."
The Queen locked her eyes with the Conqueror.
"It does, Shamaness Smyrna ," the Conqueror said and raised her goblet in show of honor and gratitude.
The Shamaness returned the gesture. Princess Athena and all present followed suit and raised their goblets as well; all but Molpadia, who now looked not just tired but miserable, too.
After the hearty meal, the Conqueror and the Queen returned to their hut and each wrote an invitation to their palace in Corinth . The Conqueror wrote to her brother along with another letter informing Lady Satrina of their return, and the Queen wrote to Lady Cyrene. After sealing all three parchments with their royal seal, the parchments were sent to be delivered to the addressees.
Once alone again, the Conqueror gathered her wife in her arms, leaned in and began pelting her face with soft kisses. "Shall we continue what you started this morning, Gabrielle?" she asked with that specific low tone of voice she knew would cause her wife's heartbeat to quicken.
"What I started!?" protested the Queen and purred when she felt the Conqueror's tongue sliding down her neck to the apex of her breasts.
A knock on the door crudely drew them out of their own world. "Enter," the Queen exclaimed, still in her Lord's engulfing arms.
The Shamaness and her apprentice stood at the threshold. "Majesty," the both bowed before the Conqueror. "My Queen," they greeted Queen Gabrielle. The young apprentice wore an expression of wonder still when she regarded her Queen secured in the Conqueror's embrace.
"Shamaness," the Royal couple tipped their heads in unison.
"It is tradition that an Amazon Queen and her chosen consort should spend the night before the joining ceremony apart for two reasons: the first, so that you may contemplate on the meaning of matrimony and the second…" the Shamaness arrested her speech and then opted to say, "Never mind."
With a puzzled look, the curious Queen asked, "What is the second reason?"
"Well…" the Shamaness seemed reluctant to have the answer dragged out of her, "So to kindle your carnal desire for one another on the wedding night… But, and I say it with utter respect," she paused so to prevent a smile from starching her lips, "Judging by what reached my ears last night you don't seem to suffer any shortage on that score, Majesties."
Hot blush broke onto the Queen and the Conqueror felt the urge to clear her throat in an ominously manner.
"Being married for as long as her Majesty and I have been, makes contemplating about it quite redundant. As for the second reason," the Conqueror tightened her hold around her Queen, "As you so eloquently argued, her Majesty and I have carnal desire between us in abundance."
"All true," the Queen agreed, "Nevertheless, you won't stand in the way of a sacred tradition, my Lord, surely," the Queen claimed in effort to persuade her Lord to consent to the temporary separation so to maintain tradition, which she believed was imperative.
Joylessly, the Conqueror released her Queen from her grasp and enabled her to be taken away by the Shamaness and her apprentice.
"Sleep well, my gracious Lord," the Queen whispered and curtsied before disappearing into the cold night.
"You too, my beloved Lady," the Conqueror replied tenderly and with a heart already heavy with longing, she bowed.
Sleep was illusive and unkind to both Royals, not because of any jitters before their second wedding but because they weren't sharing a bed that night.
The next day, Molpadia was summoned to the Shamaness' hut to attend to the Queen as her second in command and assist her into her wedding garments with accordance to Amazon custom, which both the Shamaness and the Queen were only too happy to keep.
When it was time, the Conqueror and the Queen stood before the Shamaness on the high podium in the Amazon village, with the Amazon nation and their daughter as their witnesses.
The Conqueror regarded her wife of many years. The Queen wasn't dressed in a marvelous white dress with gold embroidery as she had been during their first wedding in Corinth , nor did she wear extravagant jewelry or exquisite white shoes. In fact, the only regal white in sight was the light snow that floated down around them, yet she was more Queen than ever before. Her heart swelled with profound love and great pride.
The Queen's eyes sparkled like polished gems and were riveted on her Lord, for whom she would endure all things and forgive fully without reservations or stray remnants of the tiniest of grudges.
The Shamaness blessed their union and the Royals renewed their vows and this time, the Queen would remember every single moment of it vividly.
When the ceremony was over, the couple shared a tender kiss to the cheering of the crowd, and it seemed as if the enthusiastic cries pierced their intimate world and all of a sudden made them notice the fact that they weren't alone. The Conqueror and the Queen looked around at the happy faces and the waving and clapping hands in the air and smiled in kind for the adoration they generously received.
Hand in hand, they stepped down from the high podium and all around them their subjects bowed and showered them with congratulations. The Amazons shook the Queen's hand and some even hugged her, yet naturally, none dared to be as familiar with the Conqueror.
They were lead to the feast that had been prepared for them under a large canopy that was ornamented by colorful feathers at the center of the village. It wasn't as lavish, as fancy or as formal as the celebrations on their first wedding at Corinth all those years ago, but by far merrier and more authentic.
Under the canopy, over an improvised dais, stood three chairs for the Conqueror, the Queen and the Princess to sit on. The Royals were shown to their seats and were given copper goblets filled with sweet wine while festive ceremonial music befitting the occasion began to play.
Two dozen Amazons began to dance before their Queen and her Lord Consort.
The Conqueror leaned over to Princess Athena, who seemed engrossed by the dancing women. "You must not like winter in Amazon lands…" she muttered and tasted the wine, "Not as stimulating as in warmer climate, is it?" she teased. "In winter they cover their bodies completely… so as not to freeze off a nipple," she explained with a smirk.
"Or two," the Princess contested.
"Listen to the two of you," the Queen said, feigning a rebuke, "Like a couple of drunkard garrisons."
"I'm besotted only by you, my Lady," the Conqueror flattered to appease her Queen but she meant every word of it.
"Look at this one," Athena drew the Conqueror's attention to the Shamaness' apprentice who stood not far from them, "Isn't she the most beautiful woman you've ever seen?"
The Conqueror cast a quick inspecting look at the young woman with the petite stature, light brown hair and pointy nose with some indifference and dryly replied: "No, she's not."
Athena threw a glance at her mother, who sat to the other side of the Conqueror, and saw a small smile adorning her lips, suggesting that even though she was looking elsewhere she had been listening in on their conversation. "Oh… Of course…" the young Princess remarked, somewhat agitated although with a touch of mirth in her voice, "Mutual blindness."
Both the Conqueror and the Queen chuckled.
"I'm sure that by now you have mastered the mechanics of carnal pleasures," the Conqueror remarked, "But you are still too young and too inexperience to fully grasp the intricacy of marriage, the barter that is matrimony," she went on to say thoughtfully and emptied her goblet, slowly savoring the sweetness of the wine and the taste of her own words in her mouth. "And you cannot fathom how rare it is to harbor desire and preserve love after so many years of sharing your life with a single mate."
Impudent Athena scoffed at what she perceived as the Conqueror's condescension.
As if to penalize her daughter for her scoff, the Conqueror leaned to her left and said to her heir, "Now, watch what your parents can do."
The Conqueror took her Queen by the hand and they both rose to their feet. The Conqueror chivalrously guided her wife and Queen to the middle of the square as the dancing Amazons cleared a path for them.
"Music," the Conqueror voice commanded and the Amazons mastering the musical instruments began to play a tribal tune with drums and flutes and lyres.
"My Lady," the Conqueror bowed almost theatrically before her Queen.
"My Lord," the Queen curtsied with a graceful fluent motion of her body, while touching her dress.
They commenced to dance the most sensual of dances. Their steps were belligerent seduction. It looked like some ancient courting ritual executed before mating from times before language was even invented. The Queen's movements sang feisty defiance and spurn and her Lord's movements exuded demanding and conquest. The lovers displayed a dance of battle between overpowering and surrendering; between compelling and resisting.
Their audience, their daughter included, were mesmerized by the exhibition.
The Queen twirled in her Lord's arms and swayed her backside against her Lord's crotch with the rhythm of the music. From behind her, the Conqueror encompassed her wife's luscious frame and her persisting, coveting hands glided down the sides of the Queen's breasts, only to have them shoved away by the Queen as if their touch, unwanted, and when they possessively moved over the sides of the Queen's hips the Queen once again slapped them off her.
Yet, as the drums beat faster and music progressed both in pace and in volume, the Queen's movements indicated submission and no longer fought against the Conqueror's inexorable advances. Their bodies pressed together in want and passion and their hands slid over one another like the couple of many years that they were, knowing each other's movements perfectly and anticipating each other's every step and stroke.
At the end of the dance, the Queen leaped into her Lord's spread arms and wrapped her legs around her Lord's lean waist. Their gazes were locked and both were slightly panting, completely enthralled by one another.
The music ended with their dance and there was stillness and silence all around. The Amazons, it would appear, weren't expecting what had been shown to them, and neither was Princess Athena.
Mysia , who sat on one of the rugs surrounding the square, where the food had been arranged on low wooden tables, turned to Antiope who sat next to her and decisively said, "I'm going to the lake for a dip."
"It is nearly frozen solid!" Antiope did her best to discourage a fellow warrior sister.
"Good," was all Mysia could answer.
"Are you mad? It's just begun to snow again!"
"Has it?" Mysia looked around to find that Antiope was correct. "So why is it so hot?" she faintly mused and pulled at her blouse repeatedly so to vent out the heat.
Antiope exhaled and rolled up her eyes but on closer inspection at her fellow sisters, she could hardly believe what she saw. Some of her Amazon sisters were covertly picking up snow off the ground and rubbing the cold substance on their necks and on their faces so to cool down, as well.
The Conqueror gently lowered her wife down and when the Queen's feet touched the ground the Conqueror released her loving grasp from her wife and looked around only to catch sight of what Antiope was seeing.
"I think now might be a good time for your announcement, my Lady," she said quite amused.
"First, we eat, my Lord," the Queen replied and led her Lord back to their seats.
“Sisters, for the limitless generosity you have shown me and for embracing me into your nation I am forever indebted to you. You taught me so many things and I shall treasure them in my heart for the rest of my days. Alas it is time for me to go home. I shall not say goodbye to you, for I shall return here as often as I can for you have given me a second home. Know that you couldn't be any closer to me if you were my own flesh and blood, and when I return it won't be just as your Queen but as your true sister and friend. When I'm gone, it is my will that Mysia act as my regent.”
When the Queen delivered her speech, one could detect sorrow mixed with happiness: sorrow for the much loved Queen's imminent departure and happiness for her joining with her Lord whom all knew she loved beyond measure. None was surprise that the Queen appointed Mysia as her regent rather than her second in command, though, save perhaps Mysia herself.
When the Royals were packed and ready to leave, Antiope, Mysia and the Shamaness bade the Queen farewell in private as well. Antiope shook the Queen's arm and bowed respectfully before the Conqueror.
The Shamaness hugged the Queen tightly in her arm. “Please return to us soon,” she asked with tears clogging her throat.
“I'll be back here not before long, I promise,” the Queen replied, equally sobbing. She believed she would miss the Shamaness the most.
“Thank you for all that you've done for us, your Majesty,” the Shamaness said and bowed before the Conqueror.
“Thank you for the wonderful ceremony,” the Conqueror returned the favor, “And for being a good and loyal friend to her Majesty the Queen.”
“Befriending the Queen was a great privilege, Majesty,” the Shamaness replied.
Mysia seemed more affected by the Queen's impending departure than any of the others and was on the verge of tears. "In appointing me regent, you have given me a greater honor than I deserve," she told the Queen and offered her arm.
"Now I know I have made the right decision," the Queen replied and rather than shake the offered arm, she opened hers and embraced the tall and deeply moved Amazon warrior. "You are courageous, honorable and loyal, dear Maysia," she continued and released her.
"My Queen," Mysia sighed and her voice was laden with tender emotions, which the Conqueror, who stood closely by, didn't care for since she believed it held more than simple reverence of a subject towards a Queen. "There is none like you," Mysia complimented in the same tone of voice.
The Queen smiled in gratitude and caught a glimpse of her Lord's unconcealed glare. "So I've been told," she replied and disarmed the Conqueror completely.
Princess Athena helped the Queen to mount her horse and the Royal Family rode together to the border where the detachment of the Imperial Guard had been waiting to escort them and thus began their journey home to Corinth .
A few long, cold and arduous days later, the Royal family finally arrived to the heavy iron gates of the extravagant Corinthian palace. Half a dozen horns announced the return of the Sovereigns to their abode and festive banners with the Realm's color billowed from the palace's highest tower.
Upon entering through the iron gates, the Queen was surprised to see about two hundred of Corinth 's sons and daughters, who had gathered to welcome her back, approaching towards her. Rejoicing, they bowed and curtsied before her, scattering all sorts of flowers in her path, which weren't too easy to come by in that time of the season, and exclaimed "Majesty!" over and over again. Some even got close enough to touch the hem of her mauve dress. The Imperial guards around her became agitated and were about to remove the commoners away from the Queen's presence, but the Queen signaled them to stand down and take no such action. That was by no means a hollow demonstration of servility but genuine happiness and relief that the Queen had returned to them and all was well again in the Realm.
The Conqueror was overjoyed to see the great love that their subjects showered over the Queen and so, though anxious to enter the palace after the long voyage, she lingered outside, affording the Queen to absorb the much deserved adulations.
Princess Athena observed the Conqueror and studied her gesture, recognizing it for what it was.
The Queen's eyes twinkled and she waved her hand at her subjects, letting them know that their affection was being gladly received and welcomed.
As they dismounted their horses and handed the reins to the Imperial grooms, the large and high wooden doors to the palace were opened and Lady Satrina along with a few of the palace's servants and the Queen's ladies in waiting stood there, fidgeting with excitement.
"Your Majesties… Your Grace," the household staff bowed and curtsied before their Sovereigns and it seemed like Lady Satrina could barely contain herself. The changes in the Queen didn't escape her eyes.
When Queen Gabrielle's and Lady Satrina's eyes met, both their hearts nearly leaped out of their chests with delight. For a few moments, the major gap between their stations was set aside if not erased and forgotten along with any proper protocol, and both women dashed towards the other with arms wide open. They held each other in a tight embrace and shed tears of pure joy.
"How I've missed you, dear and sweet Satrina," the Queen said in between sniffles.
"Words cannot express how much you've been missed, Majesty," Lady Satrina sobbed against the Queen's trembling shoulders. "This great palace is not the same without you, Majesty."
“It seems as if I haven't seen you in ages,” the Queen said.
“You have changed so much, Majesty, and it suits you tremendously,” Lady Satrina complimented.
Following rules of etiquettes, as if on cue, the servants and the Queen's ladies in waiting took their leave and went about their business so as not to interlope.
Princess Athena, taken aback by the sentiments bestowed upon her mother, decided it was time to take her leave and retire to her own chambers so to rid herself of the dust of the roads. But before she turned to take her leave, from one of the corridors leading to the palace's entrance hall approached Lady Cyrene and her son, the Conqueror's brother.
Queen Gabrielle and Lady Satrina stepped away from one another and wiped away their tears.
Stuffing her soiled handkerchief back into her sleeve, Lady Satrina composed herself. “Pardon me, Majesties, but with the excitement of your Majesties' return I'm afraid I've neglected to mention that Lady Cyrene and Sir Toris arrived at the palace yesterday.”
Before the Queen had a chance to put her loyal servant and friend's mind at ease, Lady Cyrene covered the distance between the Royal family and herself.
The Conqueror and her mother held each other's stern and acrimonious gazes.
“I'm here to see my other daughter and my grandchild,” the older innkeeper stated matter-of-factly to the Conqueror.
The Queen made haste and took a step forward and enfolded her mother-in-law's wide plump frame. “ Cyrene , I am so happy to see you. You cannot imagine how much I've longed to see you.”
“I've missed you too, my child,” Cyrene chuckled with a special fondness she reserved only for her daughter-in-law. In many regards she looked upon Queen Gabrielle as the daughter she never had and she held a debt of gratitude to her for tying her destiny with that of the harsh dark Ruler that was her progeny.
“I would have apologized to you on behalf of my Lord, but her ill-treatment of you was so despicable that I don't believe my Lord deserves such a grace,” the Queen jested “I will, however, assume some of the responsibility for it, for I was away and left my Lord to her own devices and I'd venture to say that is why in part my Lord has made such a grand mess of things.”
The Conqueror became aloof and frowned but she wasn't really chagrinned or peeved.
“You should have seen the letter she sent me…” Lady Cyrene complained.
The Queen scoffed, “Count your blessings, dear Lady - at least you got a letter. I received none.”
Both women could contain their laughter no longer.
“Ladies,” the Conqueror engrossed their attention with more than a healthy measure of annoyance, “That is enough larking at my expense.”
The laughter died down eventually and when it did, the Conqueror addressed her mother and sincerely said, “I'm so sorry, mother.”
“All is forgiven, Majesty,” the elderly woman replied.
Queen Gabrielle took Lady Cyrene's hand in hers. “ Cyrene , you have worked hard all your life. It is high time you rested. My Lord and I wish to invite you to live with us here at the palace.”
“I've been waiting for years to receive this invitation,” Cyrene grumbled with a touch of glee in her eyes and the corner of her lips.
“I always assumed it was your own choice to stay in Amphipolis. It never occurred to me that my Lord has never proposed it,” the Queen threw her hands in resignation. “Conquerors…” she muttered with a smile and gazed adoringly at her Lord.
Lady Satrina left their presence to give instructions to the servants attending to Lady Cyrene and Princess Athena, and both Princess Athena and Lady Cyrene seized the opportunity to retire to their chambers. When alone, the Conqueror gathered the Queen in her arms with a sinister smile about her.
“What is it that makes you so happy, my Lord?” the Queen asked, touching her hands to the Conqueror's chest as was her habit.
“You'll live to regret it, my Lady,” the Conqueror replied cryptically.
“You don't know my mother quite as well as you might like to believe,” the Conqueror replied and planted a kiss on top of her wife's head.
Lady Satrina returned to escort the Royal couple to the Imperial chambers, inwardly thinking she wouldn't be able to have enough of the Queen for she truly had missed her terribly. Before opening the doors, Lady Satrina felt very pleased with herself for always keeping the Conqueror's and the Queen's chambers in constant readiness even in times when they were elsewhere.
“I took the liberty of having a warm bath drawn for your Majesties' pleasure,” she said as she walked into the antechamber with the Conqueror and the Queen behind her.
Next she entered their bedchamber to make sure everything was in order. The Royals' bedchamber was dark, so Lady Satrina first went to draw open the curtains to allow daylight in. However, before she reached them, still in the dark the Queen stumbled against something hard and massive and was startled, letting a sharp gasp escape her lips. Right when the curtains were drawn, sunlight invaded their bedchamber and the marble statue of her likeness was fully and unmistakably revealed before her astonished eyes.
Vexed, the Conqueror gave her steward a questioning and ill-omened scowl for not having the statue removed before the Queen's arrival.
It wasn't that Lady Satrina hadn't possessed the common sense to get rid of the statue beforehand, but rather her tiny rebellion against her Master was her welcome present to her Mistress. Keeping calmer than she actually was, Lady Satrina claimed innocently, " Your Majesty's order was not to touch the statue." She reminded then turned her gaze to the Queen, and went on to say, "I was merely following your Majesty's order to the letter." Lady Satrina smirked and winked her eye at the Queen.
But the Conqueror failed to be amused. "I wish to be alone with her Majesty," she said to Lady Satrina.
"Majesties," Lady Satrina curtsied before them and left their chambers.
"See what you've done?" the Conqueror directed her annoyance at the Queen.
"What have I done, my Lord?" the Queen teased and took the Conqueror's hands in hers, enjoying their roughness.
"Shhh… do you hear that sound?" the Conqueror cast glances all around as if searching for something yet her body remained perfectly still.
"What sound?" the Queen asked quietly as her eyes followed her Lord's.
"That quiet crumbling sound…" the Conqueror replied and a beginning of a smile formed at the angles of her lips, betraying her thoughts. "It is the sound of the twilight of an Empire."
The Conqueror and Queen Gabrielle spent the afternoon leisurely in their hot Roman style bath, allowing their muscles the rest.
"I must admit that I have missed the luxury and lavishing comfort of our Corinthian palace," the Queen said and rubbed some scented Persian bath oils into her Lord's shoulders.
"And the climate here in Corinth is a tad more agreeable than at the Amazon Lands," the Conqueror replied and closed her eyes in delight at the feel of her Queen's fingers moving lower and digging into her back.
"Indeed," the Queen muttered and moved in the water in order to sit in front of her Lord and enable her to wash her hair. "So, when were you going to tell me about the statue you've commissioned, my Lord?"
"Never, my Lady," the Conqueror chuckled as she delved her fingers into her wife's gilded hair and tenderly massaged the scalp.
The Queen snickered at the Conqueror's answer.
"The one in our bedchamber was in fact the second one that was sculpted. I destroyed the first one."
"Why, I wonder," the Queen said while resting her head backwards against the Conqueror's chest and caressing the strong vein-corded forearms that held her around her waist.
The Conqueror contemplated her reply and eventually said "I shall have the Imperial sculptor remake the first one and have it stand in the Imperial rose garden for you to look at and I suspect it ought to become apparent to you."
After exiting the bath, while drying one another, "Have your ladies in waiting dress you for a formal supper, my love," the Conqueror said.
"The Lord Conqueror and her Majesty the Queen," announced the ceremony master.
With their crowns on their heads and in full regalia, the Conqueror and the Queen entered the Great Hall hand in hand. Princess Athena and the nobility in attendance all bowed before the Sovereigns as they made their way to their thrones.
"I have missed our home in Corinth , my Lord, much more than I thought I would," the Queen whispered discretely to the Conqueror.
Nobleman Timaeus was invited as the Royals' honorary guest to sit and dine at their table along with Lady Cyrene and the Conqueror's brother.
The silver-haired governor to Athens was beside himself with mirth as soon the Queen addressed him and while he engaged her in a lively conversation, the Conqueror beckoned her brother to a secluded spot and conveyed to him her will and her Queen's to have another child in the same manner in which they had done in the past. He, of course, agreed.
When the Conqueror returned to her throne, she raised a gold goblet filled to the brim with wine. "Noblemen, Ladies, subjects of the Realm," she commanded their attention and all turned to behold the Conqueror and the Queen with their goblets raised in the air. "To my beloved, her Majesty the Queen!" the Conqueror exclaimed and downed half the goblet's content in one swig.
The word 'beloved' resonated in everyone's ears and none attributed the statement to the Conqueror's exceptionally good mood or any other such explanation and none misjudged it.
Three moons later, and after the Queen had developed an appetite for figs, an announcement swept throughout the Realm that the Queen was with child again.
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