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,” "Queen of the Realm," and "Princess 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:

The third story of the Realm series "Princess of the Realm" can now be found on an Ebook format as well – for free. (epub, MOBI, PDF) on the Xena Library web site. It is listed under the LORD CONQUEROR OF THE REALM SERIES, so scroll down to the L's.

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 reader Nancyjean, whom I can't thank enough.

Comments, thoughts, questions & feedback: MOST WELCOMED – The more you write me, the quicker I post – I mean it!


The Realm - Epilogue

Written by WarriorJudge

Part 1

Upon the Queen's suggestion, the Conqueror appointed the Imperial Guard's Chief Commander Periander as the Realm's new Governor to Epirius, and the Chief Commander of the Spartan Legion Amyntas as the Realm's Governor to the province of Rome. Both men viewed their elevation to nobilty as the Conqueror's show of appreciation for their loyalty and excellent military service. Naturally, their second in command rose to their predecessors' posts as commanders of the two legions.

That year, the Conqueror and the Queen could not wait for summer to arrive and with it their much-anticipated annual trip to Thira with its white lazy windmills and dormant volcano. When it finally arrived, they were very light on their feet as they made their way to the Imperial seaport; so much so that Athena, Sieglinde and little Terreis barely managed to keep up with them as they rushed to the docks. When it was time to say goodbye, Terreis resumed her fearful protest, which had began earlier that morning against her parents' refusal to take her along with them. She willfully clung to her Sire's leg and simply refused to let go. The Conqueror would have none of that. With the Queen's advice in mind regarding a firmer hand with Terreis, she lowered herself to release her leg from her youngest's grip and said to her unequivocally, "You will cease this unacceptable behavior as a spoiled brat and conduct yourself henceforth as your station as my second in line dictates, is that clear?"

The child stifled her cries and wiped her tears away. "I am sorry, my Sire," she whimpered.

A half smile appeared on the Conqueror's lips. She tapped her cheek with her forefinger and little Terreis - mirroring the half smile - placed a kiss on the spot where her Sire was tapping.

That year in Thira, the Queen started her herb garden, where she began planting various seeds that had been sent to her upon her request from all over the Realm, suitable to the climate of the isle and its rich soil. Her garden of medicinal herbs and plants would become renowned in later years and the produce of her industry would be shipped to the hospices and apothecary throughout the Realm. During the time that she couldn't be present at Thira, a few locals attended her ever-growing garden with great care and with accordance to her specific instructions.

Cynna's return to the Amazon Lands was difficult, to say the least. She did not expect to be greeted back with open arms and she was not disappointed. It wasn't her deeds in Corinth that her Amazon sisters frowned upon, but rather the fact that she had left them in the first place to become the Realm's mistress. Cynna, they all believed, should have been better content with being the wolf's head rather than the lion's tail.

Facing the Shamaness, however, proved to be far harder than facing any of her sisters as she had thought. After all, the Shamaness had foreseen her humiliation in Corinth and had received conceited rejection for her ample warnings. Far from being petty and better than holding a grudge, the shamaness welcomed her home. Now that Cynna had been given a hard lesson in humility, the old woman thought, she was finally ready to fulfill her true destiny as the Amazon's shamaness and she would be proven correct.

When the Conqueror and the Queen returned back to Corinth when summer ended, feeling very much relaxed and invigorated, Princess Athena and her consort were free to travel as planned to the Nordic Lands. As a new province of the Realm, the region had been under military regime since the Realm's forces under Princess Athena's leadership had conquered it.

The sea was kind to them in their journey, as were the winds, and Sieglinde took advantage of the long voyage to teach Athena to speak in her native tongue. Sieglinde made a game of it. She would reward Athena with a kiss whenever the Heir had done well, which made Athena remarkably diligent and eager to succeed.

By the time Princess Athena and her Nordic wife, Princess Sieglinde, arrived at the Nordic Lands, winter had already spread its pure white blankets all over the cold earth and frozen lakes, covering all traces of the carnage that had taken place there not too long ago. The Realm's Heir was grateful for the abundant snow for erasing all evidence of the bloodshed, leaving the beautiful landscapes of her wife's homeland unblemished in her memory.

Princess Sieglinde took in a lungful of her homeland's chilly air and her spirit was uplifted.

A wedding ceremony was arranged to take place at the central hall of the former late king and Sieglinde's father's palace. While preparations were made, Princess Sieglinde proceeded to show her Lord the most breathtaking landscapes and mighty Fjords during the days and during the nights new ventures were explored in their bed. It almost seemed as thought the colder it got outside, the hotter in got between their sheets.

A fortnight into their visit, Princess Athena and Princess Sieglinde stood before the Nordic high priest and once again they affirmed their vows before the Nordic Gods and the Nordic people, Princess Sieglinde in her native tongue and Princess Athena in hers. The kiss they shared before the cheering masses lasted for a long time, and when it ended Princess Athena knelt before her wife and kissed her feet for all their subjects to see, just as she had done in Corinth and with the same intention – to show her wife's people the profound respect and deep humility she truly bore her.

When she rose to stand on her feet again, Princess Athena noticed a blush coloring her wife's cheeks.

"Min Herre," Sieglinde addressed Athena with a bashful smile and beaming eyes, "Pray, tell me – How may I return your grand display of honor you've paid me?"

"Min Dame," Athena replied with a light of her own shining in her eyes as she beheld her beloved, "It is I," she spoke slowly, deliberately in Sieglinde's native tongue so that their subjects would understand her, "who is still indebted to you. However, it would please me immensily if you would be kind enough to sing for me."

Princess Sieglinde's complexion turned even redder but she was only too happy to indulge her Lord's request. She opened her mouth and began to sing and out came the same songs she had sung for the Royal family back in the dark days before the Conqueror and the Queen's reconciliation. Her singing voice was gentle and clear as Athena remembered and chests pressed into backs at the specious hall, for all in attendance wanted to hear their adored Princess singing. Sieglinde sang like a muse, Athena thought as she fought against shedding tears in public. Those who were present that day in the Nordic wedding would later grow to believe that Princess Sieglinde's singing blessed them, for those who had heard her that day would never know sorrow throughout their lives.

Nominating Jarl Albrich, who was the Royals' guest of honor at the wedding and sat at their table, as the Realm's governor to the Nordic Lands, was the last thing Princess Athena did before heading back to Corinth. The high position of governor was the Lord Conqueror's decree as a show of respect to her Nordic subjescts, nominating one of their own - and a show of gratitude for Jarl Albrich's loyalty.

Come spring Athena and Sieglinde were back in Corinth. They were publically welcomed back in the Great Hall with the customary bows and curtsies, but in the privacy of the Imperial Chambers they were welcomed back with tight embraces and warm kisses by the Conqueror and the Queen. On the first evening of their homecoming, while they took supper in the Dining Hall as servants placed delicacies before them, Athena and Sieglinde regaled the Conqueror, the Queen and Terreis with a colorful account of their journey.

As soon as the servants left the Royals alone in the Dining Hall, the Conqueror laid down her knife, turned her attention to her eldest and with her usual bluntness asked:

"And what of children!?"

Understanding the Conqueror's meaning exactly, Athena shot a look at her mother in an attempt to voicelessly bridle her Sire. The Queen, however, suspiciously enough seemed not the least bit disconcerted, and she immediately knew that her parents had been discussing the issue between them rather extensively.

It galled her, but she would give none of it away. She would not give her Sire the satisfaction, not if she could help it. She raised a curious eyebrow and answered the enticing question which had been thrown as if from a catapult with a question of her own: "What children, Majesty!?"

The Conqueror washed her throat with wine and lowered her goblet onto the table in an unnervingly calm manner. "You know perfectly well what children."

Terreis became quiet and Sieglinde moved uncomfortably in her seat.

"My mind is clean amazed!" Athena exclaimed. "We've been away in a distant land for moons…" she protested. "Have we exhausted all other subjects of conversation, already!?"

The conversation around the table stopped when Terreis' governess entered the Dining Hall and took the child upstairs, for it was way past her bedtime. The Queen seized the respite and placed a gentle hand over the Conqueror's, wordlessly soothing her. Princess Sieglinde observed the Queen's gesture and rested her hand over Athena's hand, as well.

"Our line must be secure," the Conqueror stated, feeling irritated that she had to bother herself with explaining the obvious.

"I know that, Sire," Athena replied.

"What is the impediment, then?" the Conqueror inquired.

"I am not equal to it just yet," Athena answered with a small voice.

"I will ask you again…" the Conqueror grew impatient.

But Athena cut through her speech, "Well, Sire… Obviously I cannot do the deed myself and I am not ready to have my wife be touched by another," she raised her voice as she stood up abruptly. Her insides were burning with rage for not being able to plant a seed of her own in her wife's belly. At that moment she wondered whether her Sire had ever entertained such thoughts, for after all her Sire was the sort to view it as a flaw, as a weakness. "I don't think I'll ever be! Just the thought of it makes me want to crush the skull of whoever…"

The Conqueror did not let her finish. She understood perfectly well her Heir's reservations, for she had had them herself. With the images of what she herself had done to men who had tried to lay their hands on her wife over the years freshly in mind, she grabbed Athena by her forearm more firmly than she intended.

"Sit down, Athena," she said almost softly and exhaled a shallow breath.

Athena was taken aback by her Sire's surprising demeanor but slumped back onto her seat without another word.

"How do you think you and your sister were conceived?" the Conqueror asked.

"I knew I was of your blood, so I have always assumed your Majesty's brother Toris…" Athena's voice trailed off. She couldn't fathom a way to utter her thoughts in a manner that wouldn't be disrespectful to either her Sire or her Mother.

"Go on," The Conqueror encouraged her.

"Well, it was my understanding that Toris was my father," Athena continued.

"Toris is not your father - I am!" The Conqueror did her very best to rein in her anger.

Athena recognized her error immediately. "My deepest apologies, Sire. I misspoke. I am your child and have no other father but you," she offered most sincerely.

The Sovereign accepted the apology with a nod of her head and leaned backwards into her seat. "How were you and your sister conceived?" she repeated the question. "You have leave to speak freely."

"I reckoned Toris had knowledge of mother…" Athena whispered and could not meet her parents' eyes.

The Conqueror chuckled at the absurd notion her firstborn suggested. "I wonder…" the Conqueror emitted, ruminating, "Over the years, have you heard nothing regarding this matter either from servants, or from teachers, fellow students… the nobilty…?"

The fact that the Conqueror never mentioned friends was not lost on Athena. She was appreciative enough though that the Conqueror never mentioned past bedmates.

"When I was thirteen and attended the Academy in Rome, I once had occasion to overhear four students debating the matter amongst themselves. They came to the conclusion that since your Majesty was clearly touched by the Gods and therefore must be a semi-God that your Majesty must have impregnated the Queen herself," Athena said.

The Conqueror could not curb a hearty laughter but inwardly felt a pang deep within her for she rued the fact that it wasn't so. "I'm rather quite fond of this theory," she said when her laughter subsided.

"From what little I've gathered, they are not alone in that belief," Athena continued. "No one dared to speak about such matters in my presence, just as none dared mention Mother's past to me."

"My Lord's God-like traits notwithstanding - that is not how my Lord has impregnated me," the Queen intervened with bright eyes. "You should know, Athena, that my Lord had harbored the same… grave, agonizing sentiments and had dallied for many moons before bringing the subject of children to me."

Athena listened to her Mother with a good measure of relief.

"What my Lord did not know was that I'd devised a way that did not require the presence of a man at the moment of conception," the Queen continued, sounding very proud of herself.

The puzzlement across both Sieglinde and Athena's features when the Queen spoke of her method amused the Conqueror to no end.

"Do you mean to tell me that there is a way for Sieglinde and me to concieve without…" Athena couldn't help but letting her voice trail off again.

"Have you spoken about concieving a child?" the Queen asked Sieglinde.

"We have, Majesty," Sieglinde bashfully admitted. "I should love to have as many children as I can, but due to the basic requirements needed to procreate, Min Herre and I were at a loss."

"Then if you are equal to the notion of having children," the Queen said, but the Conqueror interrupted her.

"Of course they are equal to it!" the Sovereign stated impatiently and a lark escaped her daughter-in-law's mouth.

Athena took her wife's hand in hers and brought it her lips. Their eyes met in silent understanding and newfound happiness.

"We would gladly give you grandchildren, Mother," Athena's smile widened then her gaze averted to the Conqueror, "and continue your line, Sire," she said and her smile turned wicked.

"Very good then," the Conqueror stressed on, inwardly pardoning her firstborn's attempt at getting a rise out of her, "for my brother isn't getting any younger," she paused, then added after a moment's thought, "and neither your mother nor I for that matter. I want grandchildren while I'm young enough to spar with them."

The Queen shot a sideway glance at her Lord signaling her not to place unwarranted pressure on their Heir and her wife. "Then when it is time, I shall instruct Sieglinde and my Lord shall instruct Athena," the Queen concluded.

"As appropriate," the Conqueror muttered then after a few moments added, "I shall summon Toris, for your children ought to be of our blood."

After supper, the Conqueror and the Queen retired to their bedchamber. After the Queen's ladies in waiting finished attending to their Mistress and the Conqueror's grooms finished filling up the luxurious, Roman style marble bath, the Sovereigns were left alone for the night.

The Conqueror, enjoying the looks of the white and red rose pettals floating in the steaming water, put her feet first into the masive marble bath making sure the water was not too hot.  She ran adoring eyes over the naked beauty as she extended her arm for the Queen to lean on and gently helpped her into the bath.

When the Queen crouched into the water, the Conqueror noticed a thin red trickle slowly dripping down the Queen's thigh. The sight of her wife's menstrual blood excited her.

"Are you feeling some discomfort, my love?" the Conqueror gently inquired as she sent her finger to collect a drop of her wife's blood and brought it eagerly into her mouth.

The Queen, tracing the movement of her spouse's finger with loving eyes from the inner side of her bare thigh to its final destination, smiled a soft smile. "Some…" she answered, then slyly added, "But you will grant me relief with your ravenous tongue later, will you not!?"

The Conqueror raised her left eyebrow and drew a half smile on her lips. "Tell me, have I ever refused you my carnal services?"

The Queen's heart skipped a beat at the thought of the salacious delights that she would receive later on that night and she forgot all about the slight pain she was feeling in her lower abdomen.

"Can you imagine it!?" the Conqueror spoke with great wonder as they both settled into the scented water. "You and I are soon to be grandparents."

The Queen's face was one of utter exultation. She swam towards the Conqueror's open arms and nestled between them, straddling the strong, wet figure. She rued the fact that before Athena and Sieglinde's marriage, her disagreement with the Conqueror had deprived them of sharing their excitement over their firstborn's grand day.

"I wake up sometimes in the wee hours of the night still, my Lion, and I feel your warm breath against my neck and your arm around me gripping tightly enough to make me wonder whether you are sleeping or awake, and I need to remind myself that I am your wife and Queen and haven't fallen asleep after service and need not return to my chamber," the Queen said as her hands were busy washing the Conqueror's hair.

The Conqueror's heart expanded in her chest and her slick, wet arms engulfed the Queen's waist and embraced her closely against her body. "Even as a slave, my precious Lioness, you had the heart of a queen. You were absolutely and thoroughly a queen through and through and in my mind, I believe, I've always maintained so."

A fortnight after Princess Sieglinde had gotten her blood, the Conqueror's brother, Toris, was summoned to Corinth to appear before the Throne, and regardless of the manner in which the Conqueror had presented the matter to him, Toris did not mistake it for anything other than the order that it really was. Nevertheless, he did not mind it one way or the other. Fact was that he had predicted that that particular subject might be presented to him within time even before the Imperial summons arrived at his doorstep. He was long resigned to the fact that raising his own progeny was never meant to be.

In Athena and Sieglinde's bedchambers, the Queen instructed her daughter in law, and in the antechamber the Conqueror handed the device that the Queen had designed years ago wrapped in clean cloth and explained to her eldest in great details as to how the seed ought to be delivered into her wife's womb.

"Above all, child, you must be gentle and careful not to cause any injury to your wife. Be as gentle with her as you would shaving a single hair off a rodent's belly with the blade of a spearhead. Your wife's constitution and wellbeing should be constant in your mind. You can have heirs by other women, but there will be no other Sieglinde for you to have should anything go awry, do you understand me?"

"I understand, Sire," Athena replied, feeling a cold shiver running down her spine. A grim thought passed through her mind that they haven't even begun yet and already she was in the clutches of tremendous dread, which she had never felt before. She cleared her throat as if trying to rid herself of the suffocating sensation that was wringing her neck.

The Conqueror got up, went to the urn that stood atop a nearby table and poured a cup of fresh water and handed it over to Athena.

"You look appallingly pale," the Conqueror pointed out with some concern, for she recognized the mask of fear on Athena's features.

Athena emptied the cup and nodded her head.

"Ghastly isn't it!?" the Conqueror queried almost casually.

Athena knew that her Sire was referring to the fear she was experiencing. "It is, Sire."

"Do not worry yourself without cause. Sieglinde has the best healers including your mother at her disposal. All will be well," the Ruler assured.

A knock on the door urged them to hasten their conversation towards a conclusion.

"I will try my best," Athena said and rose to stand and face her Sire. "Have you any other words of advice for me?"

"Your wife needs to be calm, wide and ready, do you understand?"

"I believe I do, Sire," Athena replied as the color slowly crept back to her cheeks.

"Before you administer the device as I've instructed you, you ought to service her. Do you take my meaning?" the Conqueror demanded assurance.

Athena swallowed hard. The Conqueror's question took her by complete surprise to put it mildly and for a fraction of a moment she was not entirely convinced that she understood what she thought she did. "You mean pleasure her, do you not, Sire?" she asked and the skepticism was noticeable in her voice. If she weren't in the presence of the Conqueror she would have surely looked for a hole in the ground to bury herself in - then again, she thought, if she weren’t in the presence of the Conqueror, then there would have been no need.

"I do. Pleasure her as best you can and as best as she desires it. Do not spare your affections."

"Majesty!" came a cry from the other side of the door along with another three somewhat urgent knocks. It was the voice of Toris.

Athena wore a sinister grin on her face. "Is it your intention to educate me as to how I should pleasure my wife? Have you any special methods I should apply…"

But the Conqueror cut through her firstborn’s insolent speech. "That's enough witticisms and quips from you." The Conqueror did her best to mask her amusement. "Conceiving children or not… You're not too old to be put over my knee and receive a solid spanking."

"Pardon me, Sire," Athena murmured but the Conqueror was not fooled into thinking the apology was sincere.

"Keep your wife wanting until you have delivered the seed then leave her wanting for nothing once the seed has been planted," the Conqueror said her final words in the matter.

"I will, Sire. Thank you."

At that moment, the door connecting the antechamber and the bedchamber was opened and the Queen and Princess Sieglinde walked into the antechamber.

"Come in, Toris," the Conqueror called out to her brother, who was still standing in the corridor, inviting him to enter.

Toris opened the door and bowed before the Royals and greeted them with accordance to custom.

"Uncle Toris," Athena was the first to greet him back. She closed the gap between them and for the first time in her life she embraced him. The Conqueror and the Queen observed their firstborn's actions and understood that what may seem to be an inappropriate outburst of emotions was actually a show of profound gratitude.

The Conqueror and the Queen bid their family a goodnight and retired to the Imperial chambers, leaving the three to their own devices.

When Toris completed his function in the antechamber, he left a cup with his deposit on a table and knocked on the bedchamber door to let Athena and Sieglinde know that he was done. After he left, Athena walked into the antechamber and collected the cup, then returned back to bed, where her wife was anxiously awaiting her. A night of profound and tender love, patient and reticent desire and high expectations passed between Athena and Sieglinde as they were creating new life. It was the bond between them above all that sparked hope in the notion of a new era.     

A couple of moons came and went and the Conqueror was sauntering in the menagerie soon after daybreak with Princess Athena, holding in one hand a bucket full of freshly cut meat submerged in blood that had been delivered by the butcher, and with her free hand she tossed the cutlets to the growling lions, occasionally leaving the bucket on the ground so she could brush her fingers through the animals’ manes.

Athena watched the lions' immense canines sink into the succulent meat, tearing it off the bones, and massive tongues licking the excess blood dripping from the sides of their jaws. It always amazed her how serene her Sire appeared amidst the giant predators.

"Well!?" the Conqueror pressed.

"Well what, Sire?" Athena answered.

The alpha lioness groomed her head against the Conqueror's thigh, demanding her attention. The Conqueror leaned down and petted the animal, then refocused her attention back on her Successor. "Why must I always have to labor in order to extract information out of you!?"

"Do you wish to know whether there is good news, Sire?" Athena grinned, and by the radiant happiness on Athena's features and the unmistakable shimmer in her eyes, the Conqueror already knew the answer.

"Congratulations, my dear child," the Conqueror warmly offered and wrapped the arm that wasn't covered in blood tightly around Athena's shoulders. With her heart pounding hard in her chest, it was all the Conqueror could do not to dash back to the Imperial bedchamber where her wife was still sleeping the sleep of the righteous and deliver the wonderful news to her. "And how is Sieglinde?"

Athena let out a sigh. "She is feeling as well as can be expected save for her constant fatigue and stomach upsets."

"Then you should have come to your mother sooner, for she can alleviate some of Sieglinde's irritations."

Athena ignored the Conqueror's carping, petulant faultfinding and went on to say: "And she has developed some… unwholesome cravings..."

The Conqueror was in high spirits and burst into laughter. "Your mother had cravings, too."

"Fortunately for you, Mother craved figs, whereas Sieglinde craves herring and I can hardly stand the revolting stench of it."

When Athena saw how hard her Sire was laughing, it occurred to her that what amused her Sire more was not the bizarre nature of Sieglinde's craving in itself, but the fact that it'd annoyed her so much.

The Conqueror scattered the remaining cutlets for the lions to feast on and proceeded to the iron gates of the menagerie, where a servant rushed to her with a basin full of water and a clean towel to wash her hands with. When the Conqueror finished drying her hands, he bowed before her and left.

The Conqueror and Princess Athena made their way back to the pallace through the Imperial Gardens as the sun made its presence felt more potently.

"You should not deny Sieglinde anything, regardless of your revulsion. Your mother will instruct her as to the best comestibles she ought to consume in order to maintain her health and strength."

"We greatly appreciate it, Sire."

"Sieglinde must refrain from any exertion and excitement for the duration of her parturiency."

"I will make sure she is well rested, Sire," Athena promised.

"As for your… conjugal rights…" the Conqueror felt behooved to bring the delicate matter up despite her disinclination, for there was too much at stake.

Princess Athena let out a deep sigh and exhibited an irritated reluctance to listen, but the Conqueror halted her strides and rested a firm hand over Athena's shoulder.

"While I am not unsympathetic towards your current embarrassment, I am far less sympathetic towards the idea of jeopardizing the wellbeing of your wife and the child inside her – so you will abandon your grievances – heed my words and do as I command!" The Conqueror made clear to her Heir that she was not making mere suggestions but rather giving orders that she expected to be obeyed to the letter without deviations or reservations.

Athena held her tongue and listened.

"Hence forth, you will not intrude on her flesh with your instrument." The Conqueror bore her eyes into Athena's in search of a definitive sign of comprehension.

"At all!?" Athena exclaimed.

The Conqueror nodded assent.

"Mind her belly always. Do not apply any form or measure of pressure on it, do you understand?"

"I do, Sire," Athena replied.

"Should your dark needs arise - avoid your wife's bed altogether," the Conqueror continued and her mind raced back to the time when she had returned back from quelling the insurgence in Cyrra and the Queen had been with child and how excruciating it had been arresting her darkness even with the help of her Queen, who was far better expeianced than Sieglinde.

"Do you not think me capable of restraining myself?" Athena was offended.

"Is proving me wrong worth risking it!?" the Conqueror retorted. "If you take after me -  then the sight of your wife carrying your child inside her along with the form her body takes will aggravate your lust for her tenfold. Trust me when I tell you it is best you avoid her bed entirely."

Athena absentmindedly bit down her lower lip, for the Conqueror's words painted a picture in her mind of her wife with a small swell in her belly and heftier breasts, which made her mouth water and her loins throb.

"If you are not utterly convinced that you can trust yourself in your wife's bed then you ought to take your needs elsewhere."

Athena shook her head in protest. "I have made her a promise to be ever constant to her, unswerving in love and devotion. Besides, I desire none but her."

The Conqueror was pleased. She touched her lips to Athena's forehead. "Be cautious and fortify your resolve, for in two moons or so her carnal appetites might grow and she will be tenacious with her seduction. Your will must be stronger than hers and steadfast. Prepare yourself to resist her salacious temptations by any means necessary."

Athena wore a mischievous look about her and folded her arms over her chest. "I cannot even imagine you resisting Mother's salacious temptations, Sire," she remarked.

The Conqueror mirrored her eldest' posture and with equal tone replied, "One must be grateful for small mercies."

And with that, the massive wooden doors of the palace were opened and the Conqueror scurried upstairs to the Imperial chambers to deliver the merry news to her wife and then to her mother, Cyrene.

Cyrene was beside herself with joy. Alas a fortnight later she left Corinth with Toris in order to help with his wife, who had fallen ill.


Another moon had gone by and the fact that Princess Sieglinde was with child could be hidden no longer. A healthy glow was about her and her belly began to swell. All around her lavished her with warm congratulations. With accordance to the Queen's suggestion, Sieglinde was sequestered along with her unwedded ladies in waiting while her wedded ones were temporarily dismissed from her service, in order to reduce the chance of any ailment.

It was then that the great fire in the Corinthian palace broke out, leaving great destruction and devastation in its wake.


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