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!
Go To Part 1
On the night of the great fire, while the Conqueror was sleeping soundly next to her wife in the Imperial bed, a vague odor of smoke tickled her nostrils and pulled her out of the land of dreams and into dire reality. Sounds of horrifying screams and frantic yelling followed before long, violently waking the Queen up. "Fire!" was the word that was shouted the loudest. Without passing a single word between them, the Conqueror and the Queen leaped out of bed, covered their nakedness with their robes, and dashed with tremendous haste out of the Imperial Chambers. They nearly trampling over the Lady Satrina accompanied by the Conqueror's grooms, who were running in.
"Majesties," the disheveled servants murmured and bowed before the Royals.
"What is happening, Satrina?" the Conqueror demanded to know with a severe tone of voice, as her eyes quickly surveyed the nebulous smoke hanging in the corridor, nearly obfuscating the complete and utter chaos that seemed to rule her domain.
"Fire broke out," Lady Satrina replied.
The new Chief Commander of the Imperial Guard approached the Conqueror and the Queen with wide gates, and greeted his Sovereigns.
"All your Majesty's guardsmen are toiling to extinguish the fire. We are not yet certain as to the source," he reported.
It appeared as though the entire palace's household was up on its feet – dozens of maids, cooks, stable boys, secretaries - all without exception running up and down the lengthy corridor carrying with them buckets of water, still in their nightly attire. Their sheer panic caused massive spills along the way and so by the time the buckets reached their destination, they were half empty. The air became stifling and black and soon enough loud dry coughs could be heard along with the frenzied shouts. The high ceiling could no longer be seen through the heavy clouds of thick smoke.
The first thing, the Conqueror thought, was to control the chaos and to regain her rule over her domain. "Have all the wives of the Imperial Guardsmen evacuate all the children residing under my roof to the palace grounds, immediately," the Conqueror ordered the Chief Commander. "When they are done, they are to return and drow out water from the wells nearest to the kitchen, for I wish them as far away from here as possible."
Gusts of hot air were coming in waves from the far end of the corridor and mercilessly stung the eyes of the corridor's occupants. Men and women covered their eyes and noses, but to no avail.
The Conqueror turned to her groom. "Tell the others they can use the water in the imperial bath and all other baths on this level and the levels closest to this one," she ordered him.
As the Conqueror was about to go and pound on Athena and Sieglinde's chamber door, which was further away down the corridor and further away from the fire, Athena and Sieglinde immerged from behind the other side of it. Athena's eyes searched for her mother and upon seeing her, sighed deeply in relief.
"Your Grace," the Conqueror said to her eldest, "take your wife and your mother downstairs and out of the palace, this instant!"
The Conqueror grabbed another one of her grooms, who was scurrying in the corridor with a bucket full of water in each of his hands by his nightshirt.
"Find Princess Terreis at once and bring her to me!" she ordered him.
"Yes, Majesty," he said and resumed his mad dash.
At that moment the Chief Commander came running back to his Master for further orders. "Instruct the men to form a row from the wells below to the source of the fire, and have the buckets pass between them from hand to hand," she said to him, all the while her eyes searching for her groom and her youngest.
"By your will, Majesty," he said and went to obey the order he was given.
"Subjects of the Realm," the Conqueror exclaimed, speaking over their screams, coughs and the sounds of wild crackling, "keep calm and conduct yourselves in an orderly fashion. Under no circumstances should you risk your lives for the sake of saving my property from the flames."
Not long after she'd finished voicing her command, her eyes caught sight of her groom, who was making his way back to her, alarmingly empty-handed. Her heart sank and despite the terrible heat, her blood ran cold. She looked at her wife, who was regarding the groom, and saw the same horror she felt in her.
Athena noticed the terror on her parents' features, clear as day, and although she was afraid for her young sister, she controlled her faculties and gripped her Mother firmly, preventing her from running towards Terreis' chambers, as she was sure was her Sire's will.
"Xena!" the Queen screamed with all the strength she possessed while struggling against Athena's vice-like grip, "Save Terreis!"
Those who heard the Queen utter their Master's name were stunned as though it was the first time they had ever heard it, and had it not been for the pressing matter of the fire blazing all over, they would have surely ceased all action.
"Take the Queen out of here!" Athena told her wife, but Sieglinde lingered for she, too, dreaded the worst.
The Conqueror snatched a bucket of water out of the hands of a passing servant, raised it over her head and emptied its entire contant all over herself. As she began to sprint towards Terreis' chambers, Athena ran after her in order to help.
"She is my child, and I will not have you risk your life, as well!" the Conqueror hissed at her eldest and her eyes narrowed with the sting of the heated smoke. "Besides, one of us has to survive for our reign to continue!"
Athena knew that her Sire's concern was not just about losing power, but the welfare of her subjects and above all - the protection of their family.
"Get your Mother and your wife out of the palace, now!" t he Conqueror ordered and vanished into the ominous grey and orange mist.
Athena did as her Sire ordered and carefully guided her Mother and her wife out of the palace and to safety.
Meanwhile, inside the inferno, the Conqueror made her way to Terreis' chambers. Droplets of water still streamed over her hair and face, but quickly evaporated due to the extreme heat surrounding her. Her heart thumped wildly in her chest. The life of her precious child was in grave danger and she was fighting a vicious and formidable enemy she could not fight off with a sword.
As always, she relied on her keen senses, her sharp mind and her extraordinary physical strength. Alas, the clamoring of her subjects made it impossible to discern any cries for help that her daughter might have produced.
"Silence!" the Conqueror shouted and abruptly all voices quieted down, as the buckets of water kept on moving with even rhythm from one hand to the next.
The Conqueror pricked up her ears but to her dismay, she could not hear Terreis' voice.
At the same time, the Queen and Princess Sieglinde wore masks of perfect serenity, not letting a hint of their anguish and distress show upon them so as not to upset the children, whom the Conqueror had ordered be rushed out of the burning palace. They knelt on the cold ground outside the palace, and prayed, each woman to her Gods, to keep the Conqueror, Terreis and all the men and women still in the palace safe and for rain to come down from the sky. Upon seeing their Sovereigns, their young subjescts dropped to their knees as well and prayed for the Conqueror to prevail.
Finally, the Conqueror reached the end of the corridor. So thick was the smoke that she could not see her own hand in front of her. She tore a piece of fabric from her robe, which was wet still, and tied it around her nose and mouth so that she'd be able to breath. At the corner, she turned and saw ten or so men throwing water at a wall of fire so tall that it reached all the way up to the high ceiling. It was like trying to quench the thirst of a monster that would not be sated.
The immense flames were raging and eating all that stood in their wake.
"Move aside and let me pass!" the Conqueror yelled from behind the men, and upon their instinct to obey their Master's command, they parted and created a passage for her to walk through.
"Majesty," one of them, a young stable boy no older than sixteen, called out to her, "it is most dangerous."
The Conqueror knew he spoke out of concern for her. "My daughter is in there! Empty your bucket over my person and move out of my way, now!"
He knew better than to argue with the world's Ruler and did as he was told.
To the men's astonished eyes, the Conqueror jumped into the flames and vanished behind the wall of fire. Their admiration for their supreme Ruler grew tenfold, not only for the Conqueror's great courage, for they had witnessed her commanding lions in battle of one against hundreds; but also for the fact that a lesser ruler would have ordered one or all of them into the flames in order to fetch his child rather than risk his own life, especially a daughter who was not the heir to the throne.
Harsh, scorching flames were fast enclosed on the Conqueror and upon reaching Terreis' chambers, relying solely on her knowledge of the structure of her palace because of the blinding smoke and bright flames, a gruesome foreboding sight greeted her. The wooden door leading into Terreis' chambers was burnt to a crisp and aside from its hinges nothing remained of it any longer. The Conqueror had to fight in order to maintain full possession over her faculties rather than give in to the fear that her beloved young daughter that was the living image of her beloved mother might be dead.
"Terreis!" the Conqueror shouted with all the strength she could muster over the deafening simmer of the fire.
Glowing, whispering, red-hot embers seared the leather off the Conqueror's boots as she advanced into the inferno that was her child's chambers, but her mind was so occupied with the wellbeing of her child that it did not register the pain when the heat singed the skin off her feet.
Her Sire came to her rescue and for no other purpose, Terreis knew as soon as she heard her Sire's voice.
"Sire!" she screamed a piercing scream, "I am here!"
The Conqueror's heart raced with excitement as soon as she heard her daughter crying out to her. As hard as the Conqueror tried, she could not open her eyes, for the heat stung them something fierce when she tried, but she had a decent idea as to where Terreis was from the cry's point of origin.
"Stay where you are, child. I will come to you," the Conqueror exclaimed as she covered her head with her soaked robes and mindfully worked her way through flames, wreckage of burnt furniture and other objects, ruined beyond recognition.
When the Conqueror covered the ground across the chamber, she was met with a slight brush of fresh nightly air. She opened her eyes and saw her daughter perched on the edge of the marble ledge on the outer side of the window, her bent knees trembling and her tiny toes white from the effort supporting the weight of her body for so long. Her body was pressed hard against the outer wall, for she knew that any shift of her weight no matter how small would send her plumeting down from a great height and to her death.
The Conqueror's heart expanded in her chest with immeasurable pride. "My brave, clever child," she said and tightly gripped Terreis' arm. Her youngest was resilient, she thought, her youngest was a strong survivor.
When Terreis moved towards the Conqueror, her legs, which were numb from the awkward position she was in, gave out from under her and she could feel nothing but wind beneath her.
But the Conqueror anticipated it, and as soon as she felt Terreis beginning to fall she tightened her grip around her so strongly that it would later leave a bruise around Terreis' arm.
Terreis did not feel any fear at all, not even when her legs were dangling in the air, for she trusted her Sire so completely.
Effortlessly, the Conqueror pulled Terreis back over the ledge and into her arms and cradled her tightly against her body.
The flames in the chamber soared higher and the floor could not be seen for the gleeds covering it entirely and it seemed like there was no longer a way out.
"Take a deep breath, sweetheart," the Conqueror told her daughter while they still were close to the window, "and shut your eyes as tightly as you can."
They filled their lungs with air for the dangerous journey out of harm's way. The Conqueror took a different path than the one she had used coming in. She covered both of them with her wet robes as she made her way out. However, along the way she made two disturbing discoveries. The first, Terreis' governess was dead. She saw her charred corpse lying on the ground. The second, Terreis' antechamber was burnt far worse than any of the other chambers she had seen, leading her to the forgone conclusion that the fire had originated there.
A large, heavy wooden beam supporting the ceiling came tumbling down and broke against the Conqueror's back, hitting her left knee on the way to the ground. The Sovereign hardened her muscles and shielded her daughter with her body. Nevertheless, the force of the blow nearly knocked the Conqueror down, as did the immense weight of it. She quickened her pace and soon enough she was down a flight of stairs leading to the level below.
"You can breathe freely now, sweetheart," she told Terreis as she pulled down the robes away from Terreis' face. She closely examined Terreis, trying to ascertain whether she had sustained any major injuries. However, there were none to find, except for a few burnt strands of hair and a small burn on her right thigh. The Ruler let out a long breath of her own. Her daughter was safe and unharmed.
Terreis breathed deeply and in-between coughs she muttered, "I knew you would save me, my Sire."
Servants nearby were still passing buckets of water upstairs, but under the unique circumstances the Conqueror and Terreis ignored their presence.
"I am so very proud of you, little Princess," the Conqueror stated lovingly and placed a lingering kiss on Terreis' forehead.
"Are Mother, Athena and Sieglinde safe?" Terreis queried.
"They are," the Conqueror replied and embraced her daughter hard against her body.
From the corner of her eye Terreis caught sight of a nearby window. "Look, Sire," she exclaimed, "It's raining!"
The Conqueror averted her gaze from her child and out the window and saw blessed rain pouring down outside. She proceeded down the stairs and out to the palace grounds.
As soon as the Conqueror was out the palace's gates, she placed Terreis in Athena's arms.
"Have the healer attend to her," was all that the Conqueror said to her eldest before her eyes found her Queen.
Upon hearing the children murmuring 'Your Majesty' from a distance, the Queen knew that her Lord was near. She rose to her feet and saw her Lord - her blue eyes bloodshot and features covered with soot and dark as the night, giving her the appearance of a beast that dwelled in Tartarus. She began to run towards her Lord.
"Her Grace is safe, my Lady," the Conqueror assured the Queen with a voice hoarse from the smoke she'd inhaled as they fell into each other's arms. The Queen was beside herself with peerless happiness and relief that her Lord and her daughter were alive.
The children in the vicinity could not help but stare at their Sovereigns passionately embracing with amazed eyes and slack jaws. So completely astounding and extraordinary was the sight before them that they could not look away.
Princess Sieglinde cleared her throat in a deliberate manner, wordlessly signaling the children to be respectful of the Conqueror and the Queen's privacy, and they heeded her, quietly dispersing.
"I wish to see her," the Queen requested as her hands stroked the Conqueror's features and her lips hungrily caressing the strong neck that tasted like salted ash.
"You will see me first," the Conqueror's voice was a low growl and the Queen recognised her Lord's blood-lust.
"Yes, my Lord," the Queen's voice did not register above a whisper.
The Conqueror took the Queen's hand and briskly led her away from prying eyes and to the Imperial gardens, where they could be alone. As they walked side by side, the Queen noticed a slight limp in her Lord's strides.
"You've sustained an injury in your left knee, my Lord," she said with a small voice laden with concern.
But the Conqueror's blood was gushing in her veins and her terrible, copious dark desire drowned all the pains, aches and throbs in her body except for the ones that tormented her in her groin.
"Never mind that, now," she simply muttered as her glare was searching for a decent support for her wife's back.
There, on a patch of wet grass, amidst the flowers, which were closed as though dreading to bare witness to the darkness, the Conqueror took her Queen and ravaged her body. An incapacitating hand held down the willing woman beneath her by her throat while the other coaxed her thighs to part wider.
The feel of gasping for air while her Lord was slowly grinding into her sex made the Queen shiver and shudder with lust. The sharp odor of smoke, sweat and arousal emanated from her mate and it drove the Queen wild. She cupped the Conqueror's naked buttocks and encouraged her penetrations as deep as her opening allowed to glut their need.
As the Conqueror was raising a firestorm with her thrusts inside her Gabrielle's core, making them both climb to numinous heights, the fire in the palace was dying down.
Close to dawn the Conqueror and the Queen rejoined the others. The fire was extinguished at long last. The Chief Commander of the Imperial Guard reported that the fire took but one life, that of Princess Terreis' governess.
While accommodations were made for the housing of all those under the Conqueror's roof in the lower levels of the palace where the fire had not reached, the Queen attended to Terreis in the infirmary.
The Queen applied a salve to her daughter's thigh while the Conqueror presented her with a few questions.
"Did you see how the fire started?"
"I did not, my Sire," Terreis replied.
"Tell me everything that you remember, little Princess," the Conqueror requested with a gentle tone of voice so as not to give her daughter the impression that she was crossed with her in any way.
"I was sleeping when the cries of my governess woke me. I saw fire everywhere. The governess tried to reach me, but she couldn't because of the flames. Then she disappeared from my sight. I couldn't breathe because of the smoke and I couldn't leave my chambers on account of the flames, so I ran to the window and waited for you, my Sire, to come."
"I see," said the Conqueror.
"Any thoughts as to how the fire broke out, my Lord?" the Queen asked.
"Not yet, my Lady," the Conqueror replied.
Terries was saved that night, but another child had perished, for not moments after the Conqueror had finished uttering her words, Athena burst into the infirmary carrying Sieglinde in her arms.
"Take her Grace outside!" the Conqueror ordered one of the Imperial Healer's apprentices as she pointed her finger at Terreis. The young woman took Terreis with her as she vacated the infirmary.
Horror distorted Athena's face and tears ran down her cheeks as she deposited her wife atop one of the beds.
A large stain of blood was evident on Sieglinde's nightgown from her hips and all the way down to her feet. At first, the Conqueror assumed that Athena had expelled her own blood-lust and had inadvertently inflicted injury to her wife, and so fumed - she was on the verge of letting her eldest have it, but Sieglinde's voice halted her intention before it came to fruition.
"It is my fault," the Princess Sieglinde wept, "I've let fright get the better of me."
"Find the midwife and bring her here," the Queen told Athena, then turned to the Chief Healer. "Master Healer, you are to escort my Lord to the bed at the far end of the infirmary and place a partition in front of it. Your apprentices are to attend to the wounded outside the palace walls in open air," she ordered as she placed a kettle over the fire burning in the hearth .
There was no time to waste on grief, the Queen knew, as she felt her Lord's hand touch her shoulder, as if to comfort her and give her strength, before the Chief Healer – a corpulent, short man from the Province of Egypt – led the bruised Ruler to bed.
Athena wiped the tears off her face as she ran out of the infirmary to fetch the midwife as her Mother had instructed. Despite the chaos, she assumed that the midwife would not have ventured too far away from the infirmary, and she was correct in her assumption.
The Queen seated herself beside Sieglinde's bed, cleaned her face with a moist linen cloth and whispered calming words to her. As she was about to remove the cap from her head for her comfort, curious at the fact that Sieglinde had had the presence of mind to wear it to begin with what with all that had happened, Sieglinde placed a trembling hand over the Queen's to halt its motion.
"I promised Min Herre that none shall clap eyes on my hair but her," she explained with a weak voice.
The door to the infirmary was opened and the midwife entered. As she closed the door behind her, the Queen caught a glimpse of her eldest waiting outside, rabid with disquiet and concern.
The Queen returned her attention back to the young woman lying on the bed. "Daughter," she spoke gently to Sieglinde and caressed her blushed cheek ; "My Lord cannot see you from behind the partition. There is no one here but us."
Sieglinde removed her hand from the Queen's and allowed her to free her lush blonde hair.
While the Queen and the midwife attended to Princess Sieglinde, the Chief Healer carefully removed the Conqueror's boots from her feet, dragging off with them burnt skin. Although it caused the Conqueror great pain, she barred her lips and did not issue a single sound of discomfort. Her ears were attuned to Sieglinde, as was her mind. Her daughter-in-law's cries of agony were far worse than the burns all over her feet and the horrific gash on her left knee.
As the Chief Healer dressed the Conqueror's wounds, Sieglinde's gut-wrenching cries intensified and the Conqueror knew that the child she had been carrying within her womb was gone.
The Chief Healer was done. He offered the Conqueror a walking cane to support her weight for when she would need to walk on account of her injuries. The Conqueror took it from him but they both remained sitting behind the partition, just sitting and doing nothing but staring at no particular points, each in different directions. Neither wished to intrude on Princess Sieglinde in her darkest hour.
Some time had passed and Sieglinde's cries gradually waned into sniffles until they died down entirely. The Chief Healer bowed before his Master and left.
A few moments later, the Conqueror rose to her aching feet and moved from behind the partition. A dull pain throbbed all over her back where the burning beam had collapsed on her.
If it hadn't been for Sieglinde lying in the infirmary, the Conqueror would have sent for one of her grooms to fetch her clean pair of boots and some clean clothes. With a heavy heart the Ruler hobbled towards where the Queen was sitting.
The Ruler looked down at the frail young woman, who was now sleeping with her hair covered under her traditional Nordic cap, and emitted a deep sigh.
"I gave her… to ease her sleep…" was all that the Queen's sorrow allowed her to say as silent tears ran down her face and her eyes were fixed still on the slumbering Princess. She could not meet her Lord's gaze.
The Conqueror leaned down and pressed her lips to her wife's nape. She felt her wife's shoulders trembling and knew in heart that she was sobbing.
"I am so sorry, Love," she whispered into her wife's hair.
The Queen delved her fingers into the Conqueror's sticky and unkempt hair to which the odor of smoke still clung. "Athena will be devastated."
"We shall console them," the Conqueror murmured.
"And each other," the Queen nodded her head.
After a few moments had passed between them in silence, the Queen emitted: "Poor Sieglinde."
"They are so young…" the Conqueror offered, "Younger than we were when we first conceived Athena."
"Of course you are right, my Lord," the Queen took in a deep breath and nuzzled the back of her head against the Conqueror's cheek, "I see no reason as to why they should not be with child again, soon. The strain of tonight's daunting events dislodged the child from her womb, nothing more."
"That is good," the Conqueror straightened upwards to her full stature and shifted her weight from her injured leg to the other.
"You are hurt, my Lion," the Queen whimpered and sent her hand to pull a little at the dressing around the Conqueror's knee and took a peek beneath it to examine the wound.
"It is very mild, my Love. There is nothing for you to worry about." The Conqueror tried her best to appease her wife's concern, but when she adjusted the moist robes over her shoulders a sharp pain made her wince for a fraction of a moment and the Queen saw it.
The Queen frowned as she walked over to stand behind the Conqueror and stripped her of her robes. A large discolored bruise covered over half of the Conqueror's back. The look of it was horrifying.
"Did you not show this to the Healer!?" the Queen admonished her Lord.
"It did not hurt as much as the other injuries," the Conqueror replied, defensively.
"What sort of an argument is that!?" the Queen went on with her scolding.
"First things first – I wish to put my hand on the culprits who caused the fire," the Conqueror said, determined.
"In all humility, my Lord – the first thing is to put you in a warm bath with special herbs and dress your wounds while you're clean," the Queen sounded as adamant as her Lord had.
She opened the infirmary door and signaled her ladies in waiting who had been standing there to instruct the Conqueror's grooms to prepare a warm bath in one of the baths on the entrance level which the fire hadn't eaten away at.
She then turned to her Lord and said, "I will deliver Athena the sad news."
The Queen noticed the profound gratitude in the Conqueror's eyes.
In an empty chamber not far from the Great Hall, the Queen regarded her eldest. "Sit down, my child," she said softly.
Athena's eyes were bloodshot and sorrow was written over her features. The Queen's soft speech told her all she needed to know.
"I wish to see her now, Mother," Athena said and remaind standing.
"She is sleeping now and will be sleeping for quite awhile," the Queen said.
Sorrow turned quickly into rage. "I demand the heads of the ones who started the fire!"
"My Lord will…" the Queen began to say but Athena interrupted her.
"It was my child that was lost! Mine! My Sire will not…" she raised her voice. However, the Queen cut through Athena's angry words.
"This is my Lord's home and these are my Lord's subjects," the Queen spoke gently yet firmly. "My Lord's justice will be done."
Athena began anxiously pacing from one end of the chamber to another. To say she was distraught was a gross understatement. Worse yet, the Queen sensed a deeper disturbance in her firstborn that caused the Queen an eerie disquiet.
"Give me your word that you will wait for my Lord's justice and refrain from doing anything rash and foolish." It was not a request but a demand.
Athena stopped in her tracks and hesitated. It looked as if the Queen's demand thwarted her plans.
"Your word!" the Queen repeated.
"You have it!" Athena nearly spat her words, letting her reluctance known.
"Your wife will need you. You must be strong for her," the Queen pressed.
"I know," Athena muttered with a hint of resentment.
Like her Lord, the Queen understood, rage was a comfortable, familiar sanctuary for Athena. When she exited the chamber, she instructed one of her ladies in waiting to keep a close watch over Athena and keep her informed. Then, she went to the bath where her Lord had been soaking to redress her wounds.
Once all was settled and the first rays of sunshine adorned the sky, the Conqueror ordered all her subjects to gather in the courtyard.
The Queen insisted that her Lord should wear sandals rather than boots so that the burns in her feet might receive the fresh air necessary for them to heal properly and the Conqueror's protests on that score were rejected. Nevertheless, before stepping outside the palace, the Conqueror discarded her walking cane so to conceal her infirmity from her subjects. She hid her limp as well, as she wrapped her arm around the Queen's waist for support as much as affection.
"Subjects of the Realm," the Ruler addressed the hundreds of people awaiting her address, applying taciturnity to every syllable that left her mouth, "I command you all for performing your duties so courageously and so assiduously."
They all smiled and tapped on each other's shoulders and relief was across all their face.
"However," the Conqueror's voice turned somewhat foreboding and restlessness began to plague her audience, "I must now demand those who are responsible for this calamity to step forward and claim responsibility."
Silence was so severe that one could here the soft morning breeze rolling over the grass. The crowd was ensnared by stillness. No one moved.
When the Conqueror saw that no one was stepping forward, she continued. "It is my solemn oath to you that if by your silence I am forced to conduct a thorough inquiry…" but before the Conqueror concluded her sentence with some colorful threat, a small boy, not older than seven summers, made his way through the crowd and stepped forward.
A few gasps were let loose into the morning air and one woman went as far as trying to pull the boy back into the crowd, but the boy shrugged her hand off his shoulder.
"Your Majesty," a tremor could be detected in his voice when he bowed before her.
The Conqueror's gaze slowly descended until it reached the boy's face. His red hair told her that in all likelihood he hailed from the Province of Britannia . She left the Queen's side and approached him. The sight of her loomimg over him was almost ridiculous for the boy's head barely reached her thigh.
The Sovereign hid her surprise well.
Stoic, perhaps too stoic, she reached down and grabbed the boy by his sullied, shabby looking shirt and lifted him up from the ground as if his weight was the weight of air.
"Who put you up to this?" she demanded to know.
His parents, a laundress and a blacksmith, pushed through the crowd until they both stood in the first line. On their faces there was a mixture of dread and shock.
The boy was scared mute.
"Who told you to set fire to Princess Terreis' chambers?"
The boy still wouldn't give an answer.
"Do you understand my questions?" the Conqueror was enraged by what she perceived as defiance.
A nod of his head was all the boy was capable of.
The powerful arm that held up the boy began to shake. The audience was not sure whether it was the Conqueror's wrath that made it shake or it was her intention to shake an answer out of him.
The Ruler was at the end of her tether and her patience was about to come to its limits.
"Who wants my daughter dead?" she shouted at him.
The boy's nerves betrayed him and urine began to trickle down his legs and because he was hanging in the air, all could see it dripping down and forming a puddle in the sand.
The Conqueror put the boy back down onto the ground in a less than a gentle manner.
"You will answer my questions, boy!"
The boy burst into tears and cried to his mother, but his mother could not save him, not from the hands of the Conqueror. For the life of her, she could not fathom what had possessed her son to come forward and claim responsibility for the fire to begin with. She looked at the Queen, as if begging her to empathize with her – mother to mother.
But the Queen put her faith and her trust in her Lord and besides, she had lost a grandchild and but for her Lord's deliverance would have lost a daughter, too. Her face remained sealed.
With no one to intervene on her behalf, the mother called out to her child: "Answer the Lord Conqueror."
"Majesty," he began to say when his whaling subsided, "I just wanted to see the Princess. Nothing more."
"I do not understand," said the Conqueror.
"I heard of her great beauty. I only wished to see her. I waited for all to go to sleep and I went into her Grace's chambers just to look at her. On my way out, I accidentally knocked over a burning candlestick and the tablecloth caught fire," he said and sniffled.
"Go on," the Conqueror ordered.
The boy stretched out his hands and showed his palms to his Master. His little palms were covered with burn marks. "I tried to put out the fire, but it spread so fast. My hands were burning and I ran."
"And throughout the ordeal never did it cross you mind to call for help?" the Conqueror asked, livid.
His green eyes welled up with fresh tears again. "I was scared, your Majesty. I wasn't supposed to be in her Grace's chambers."
"So out of fear of punishment you left her Grace to be burnt to death – caused her Grace Princess Sieglinde to lose her child – and caused the death of the governess?"
"I so sorry, your Majesty," he began to cry again, which only made the Conqueror madder. At his young age he could not have understood the ramification of his actions. He was crying solely out of fear of her retribution, the Conqueror understood.
She lifted him upwards by his shirt again and tore it.
"Mercy, Majesty" rose a murmur from the crowd. All eyes looked at the Queen, not the Conqueror, pleading with her to stop her Lord, but the Queen did not waver.
"What made you think you were worthy of clapping your eyes on my daughter!?" the Conqueror shouted and he knew better than to produce any excuse. He knew his Sovereign was correct. "She is your Princess and far, so far superior to you, boy!"
The boy held his head down and sobbed.
"My daughter had to stand crumpled on the narrow edge of a window dozens of feet off the ground fearing for her life!"
The Conqueror drew out her sword, yet despite the gasps from their subjects, the Queen remained rooted in her place and did not move a muscle. So awesome was her trust in her Lord.
"A future Ruler to this great Realm was lost in the damn fire!"
The Conqueror put down the boy till his back was pressed against the cold hard ground in the puddle of his urine and wielded her sword as she towered over him.
"Knave! Have you any idea what you've cost me!?" she yelled as she swung her sword downwards with immense force and speed, seeing the blood rushing from the boy's face, leaving it as white as milk, and pierced the ground merely a tenth of a hair from his right ear.
The Conqueror's ire was not sated. Her wild dark eyes were pinned into the boy, who remained lying on the ground paralyzed with fear.
The Conqueror averted her eyes to his parents, who were as petrified as their son. "It is your fault!" she accused them with a harsh tone of voice and pointed at them. "You should have taught your little mongrel his proper place! You've neglected your obligation to discipline him! If it weren't for your incompetence the bastard would have been obedient and none of this would have happened!"
The Conqueror backed away from the boy and returned to stand next to the Queen.
As the parents hung their heads down between their shoulders, the Conqueror continued. "I promise you this," she told them, "The boy will never again be wandering at night, entering chambers he has no natural right to enter." She paused for a few long moments before she resumed her speech. Now, the Ruler was ready to render her punishment. "Each of you will be imprisoned in the dungeons for one turn of the seasons. The father will be imprisoned first and when he is released the mother will be imprisoned. That way, the boy will have one of you looking after him."
The Conqueror and the Queen began walking back into the palace as their subjects bowed before them.Later on that day, the Conqueror found the guard that had been posted to keep watch over the corridor leading to Princess Terreis' chambers and sentenced him to be incarcerated for two full turns of the seasons in the dungeons.
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