DISCLAIMER: See Part 1
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!
I wish to dedicate this story to my beloved wife, Irina and our unborn daughter.
The following day, bright and early, master builders and master craftsmen were summoned to Corinth for the reconstruction and restoration of the palace.
The Imperial Chambers remained intact but required a thorough scrubbing and cleaning in order to get rid of the soot that seemed to be everywhere.
At dusk, Athena and Sieglinde sat in the antechamber looking away from one another, each in their own thoughts. Sieglinde waited for Athena to speak but Athena remained distant, somber and aloof.
Athena's silence was unbearable. Sieglinde's heart ached and the sensation of emptiness was so potent that she could physically feel it. As hard as she tried, her grey eyes welled up with tears, just when she thought she could cry no more. When she could no longer bear it, she mustered up some courage and asked Athena, dreading her response, "Are you angry with me, Min Herre, for losing our child?"
"Of course not," Athena said, yet she did not meet her wife's gaze.
There was no denying the distance that Athena had placed between them. "I am so sorry for not being strong enough, Min Herre," Sieglinde whispered. If only Athena would wrap her arms around her, all would be better. She would have the fortitude to try and conceive again and she would be better equipped to bear the loss.
Athena did not comment. After some time had passed between them in silence, Athena stood up and muttered, "It is stifling in here," and without looking at Sieglinde, she simply left the antechamber without even telling her wife where she was going.
In the wee hours of the night, Athena returned to their chambers, heavily intoxicated. She was happy to find that Sieglinde was sound asleep - or so it appeared - and so she did not have to face her. She dropped into bed, too intoxicated to even remove her clothes, and fell asleep.
Come morning, around the dining table, the Conqueror and the Queen noticed that Sieglinde's eyes were red from crying and Athena's eyes were red from drinking.
After breakfast, the Conqueror and the Queen conversed between them and decided it would be best if the Queen approached Athena and gently broach the subject of the loss and her subsequent drinking.
Princess Athena was announced by one of the Queen's ladies in waiting.
"Your Majesty," Athena bowed before her Mother.
"Your Grace," the Queen greeted back.
"You may leave us," the Queen dismissed her servants.
The Queen's ladies in waiting curtsied before the Queen and the Heir and vacated the Queen's chambers.
"You asked to see me, Mother," Athena stated.
"I did. Come sit with me," the Queen offered the settee next to hers and added, "You will find no better sign for a disturbance in a marriage than when a wife is in tears and her lord is drinking."
Athena did not even bother denying her Mother's assertion.
"With respect, Mother, I think I am entitled to grieve," Athena replied, as she sat down. She looked around at the spacious, luxurious antechamber, where the Queen of the Realm had been receiving audiences throughout her reign. She wondered whether it was her Mother's intention to throw on her the weight of her station or if it was a mere private conversation between mother and child.
"You are, which is why my Lord has exempted you from your duties for the time being," the Queen said.
"Is the life of my child worth so little!? One turn of the seasons in the dungeons – you call that justice?" Athena asked in anger.
"My Lord called it justice," the Queen retorted.
"I should have expected your defending my Sire," Athena scoffed.
"It was an accident caused by the recklessness of a young boy, not yet of age. My Lord found no malice in the boy. And what would you have my Lord do? Behead the boy!? Execute his parents!?"
Despite the Queen's persuasion, Athena remained intransigent. "If any of us had died in that fire, I am hard pressed to think that my Sire would have missed the boy's head, is all I am saying."
"Then you do not know my Lord as well as you think you do."
"It is of no consequence. You cannot understand how I feel."
"Maybe so, but this I do know – you will find greater comfort in your wife's bosom than in a jug full of ale."
After awhile without further words between them, Athena stood up. "Is that all, Mother?" she asked.
"Be a comfort to your wife and take comfort in her," the Queen concluded.
That night, when Athena had chosen yet again the company of ale to that of her wife, the Conqueror and the Queen decided that what their Heir needed was a firmer hand.
Lady Satrina had informed the Conqueror as to Athena's whereabouts and, in a rare step, rather than summon Athena to appear before her, the Conqueror went to seek her. There, in a dimly lit chamber not far from the Great Hall, the Conqueror found Athena sitting at a table with her back to the door, engaging in substantial libation.
"Athena," the Conqueror announced her presence.
"My Sire," Athena greeted back, slurring her words and not turning her head around.
The Conqueror seated herself next to her Heir.
"Drinking is the weak man's way of dealing with misery, not to mention selfish, for you are condemning your wife to suffer alone."
Athena emptied her cup and poured herself another.
"I cannot contain her grief as well," Athena somberly replied, and brought the cup to her lips.
The Conqueror placed her hand over Athena's forearm and prevented the cup from reaching its destination. Athena was forced to lower the cup back down onto the table.
"You will have to. You are married now."
Athena did not answer. It irked her to hear her Sire preaching to her about deserting her wife when she herself had done so more than once.
"Besides, I will not have you totter about inebriated in public for all to see," the Conqueror added.
So that's what this was all about, Athena thought: keeping up appearances. "To be conducted to the dungeons for a short while, there to abide during the Lord Conqueror's pleasure… The punishments you've rendered, Sire, were an insult!" Athena remarked, knowing full well it would provoke her Sire.
And not unexpectedly, the Conqueror became angry. "I will not argue with an angry drunk about my law and my justice. I would not explain myself to you even if you were sober. If you do not consider my ruling just, then I hope you will never shame my name and my legacy by rendering punishments that do not fit either the offence or the circumstances."
"I lost a child and future Heir!" Athena exclaimed.
"Oh!" The Conqueror emoted, "Now I see… So you think the fire only happened to you, do you? Do you think you were the only one affected by it?" Her voice was laced with ire and sarcasm as she landed her fist atop the table. "Do you think you were the only one who lost something? The fire happened to all of us. Your mother and I lost a grandchild and Sieglinde lost a child, too. Your mother and I have been grieving for the loss of our grandchild, constantly." The Conqueror paused in order to calm herself then added somewhat reserved, "I am still shaking from nearly losing Terreis in the fire."
"The great conqueror prevails yet again! You managed to save your child!" Athena retorted. "It seems as thought nothing horrible, no real tragedy ever touches you! There was nothing I could have done to save my child – Nothing. I just stood there… useless… as I watched Sieglinde miscarry and I could not help her!"
It was all the Conqueror could do not to lose her temper, but she understood perfectly well.
"I nearly lost your mother having you. I know the awful feeling of being helpless. I know the sentiment of not possessing any control whatsoever over events that might change my world completely. I know how it feels to be at the mercy of the Fates. You must not feel guilty for having no power over events you have no control over." The Conqueror paused and ran a soothing hand over Athena's forearm. "A sickness on the way back home from battle, childbirth that has gone awry, a silly boy knocking off a burning candlestick, and the Ruler of the world is rendered as powerless as the last of the peasants. This is the harsh reality of life."
A shadow came over the Conqueror as her mind raced back to the snow covered ground where she had been lying ravaged by disease. "I never told your Mother this, because I did not wish to upset her, but as I drew what I thought were my last dying breaths on route back to Corinth … I am not sure whether my mind was playing tricks on me due to the fever… but I think I saw Celesta. She was holding a burning candle in one hand and reached out her other for me to take… Little did she know that Death or not… I was not going anywhere without your Mother."
The Conqueror's words left Athena speechless.
"It might not have been within your power to save your child, but it is well within your power to have other children. So quit wallowing in self-pity. It is unattractive and incredibly unbecoming a future Lord Conqueror of the Realm. "
"Yes, Sire," Athena responded and pushed the ale away from her. "It is not mainly the loss of the child itself that hurts the most, for I never knew him. I never even saw him and never held him in my arms. It is the loss of the notion of parenthood that cuts the deepest. I've so longed for Sieglinde and me to become parents already and have a child who will share in our great love."
The Conqueror understood Athena's meaning. "Your Mother and I have always cherished our roles as parents," she said. "You will go to your chambers and face your wife," was the Conqueror's last order for the day.
Athena bid the Conqueror goodnight and went upstairs to be with her wife. Slowly she pushed open their bedchamber door and noticed no movement on their bed.
Silver rays of a full moon shone brightly through the window as Athena stepped into their bedchamber and watched the woman lying in bed, with her long hair covering the pillow beneath her head completely. "Sieglinde," she whispered, "Are you asleep?"
"I haven't been sleeping since I've lost our child, Min Herre," came Sieglinde's faint reply, her voice hoarse from crying.
"I am to blame for it. I haven't been a mate to you, have I!?"
"Min Herre," Sieglinde sighed and rose to sit on the bed.
"I have been a selfish, heartless fool… leaving you all alone… Could you ever forgive me?" Athena asked with genuine concern.
Sieglinde's face lit up with a smile that illuminated the entire bedchamber, or so Athena thought. "I have already forgiven you," she said as she stretched out her arms, inviting her spouse to an embrace.
Athena covered the distance between them and held Sieglinde tightly in her arms. "I do not deserve you," she muttered as she felt her wife's heart beating next to hers.
"Of course you do, Min Herre," Sieglinde said softly as she basked in the much-needed warmth emanating from Athena's strong body.
"I am so very sorry that I could not save… what was lost," the Heir said and planted gentle, loving kisses all over Sieglinde's face.
"Her Majesty the Queen told me that we can try to concieve again," Sieglinde said with hope in her voice.
"So soon!?" the Heir asked. "Are you ready for it?"
"I am if you are," Sieglinde giggled and her kisses sucked the flesh of Athena's neck.
A deep guttural groan escaped Athena's throat and her hands began to roam over Sieglinde's body, touching waist and breasts over the thin, fine fabric of Sieglinde's night garment.
"Min Herre," Sieglinde gasped as desire blazed through her body, and her nipples hardened under Athena's fingertips. "You and I must be united always," she breathed heavily in her mate's ear. "I wish to be all to you, as you are all to me."
Athena's fingers traveled over Sieglinde's stomach and further down till they reached the hem of the nightdress. With insurmountable urgency, she slipped her fingers beneath it until she reached the hot, wet spot she craved to delve into more than anything in the world at that moment.
"You are all to me as I am to you, Min Damme," Athena growled and meant every word she uttered.
Sieglinde pressed her back against the pillows as Athena moved to lie on top of her.
"I have missed you," the younger woman moaned into Athena's mouth.
With the pregnancy and all that had happened preventing them from sharing carnal intimacies, Athena yearned for Sieglinde's sweetness. "I have missed you more, my precious." She captured an earlobe between her teeth and merged with her beloved.
In the following moons, Athena and Sieglinde spared no effort to conceive again, but were unsuccessful. After the third try they sought the Queen's counsel. When the Queen could find no physical impediment, she sent for the Amazon Shamaness.
Not seven days had passed, and Shamaness Smirna arived at Corinth and appeared before the Queen, in the Queen's chambers.
The Queen dismissed her ladies in waiting and after they had left, she invited the Shamaness to join her and Athena and Sieglinde for tea and the finest dates from Syria .
"I have received your message, my Queen, and first I wish to convey my sincere condolences to you and your Graces for the great loss suffered," the elderly Shamaness offered, wholeheartedly.
"Thank you, my friend," the Queen replied.
"I suspect I already know the reason for my being summoned to appear before you, my Queen," the Shamaness said and sipped from her cup.
Her almost presumptuous statements caused all around the table to raise their brows.
The Shamaness cleared her throat. "You wish to know if I can see whether there are future heirs to the Throne."
"Are there!?" the Queen could not curb her curiosity.
The Shamaness features turned somewhat grave. "Unfortunately, my Queen, it has not yet revealed to me. The future is obfuscated."
The Queen was profoundly disappointed, as were Athena and Sieglinde.
"I did not come empty-handed," the Shamaness continued and gave the Royals a sliver of hope. She reached for her leather pouch and retrieved a small wooden box and placed it on the table.
"What is it?" the Queen inquired.
"Cynna gave it to me to give to you, your Grace," the Shamaness said to Athena and carefully opened the box. She took a small vial out of it and held it between two fingers with noticeable reverence like it was the most prized thing in the world. She then averted her gaze to Princess Sieglinde and further explained, "The concoction must be spread over your Grace's food twice a day, once with breakfast and once with supper."
"The wench is trying to poison my wife, is she!?" Athena said sarcastically and scoffed.
"Min Herre," Sieglinde said and placed a caressing palm over Athena's thigh. "With all humility - you cared for the woman once, and I know in my heart that you can be merciful and kind," she whispered in Athena's ear so that the older women would not hear what might be construed as criticism.
"I apologize to you for my outburst," the Heir said to the women around the table. "It was uncalled for."
"Cynna is a much changed woman now, and is no longer the selfish woman you might remember," the Shamaness told Athena. "Have a little faith, your Grace," she said lightly and her eyes smiled.
"You have my trust, Shamaness, because you have her Majesty's," Athena said and kept a serious air about her.
"Cynna's late mother had an aunt who was a renowned midwife. This here is a recipe she used to swear by. Cynna said she used to give it to women who experienced… difficulties conceiving, and it failed them not even once." The Shamaness returned the vial into the box and handed it over to Princess Sieglinde.
"Please thank Cynna for her kindness and generosity," Sieglinde said and the Shamaness could see the light of goodness shining from her as she took the box. "And if we were indeed to be blessed with children, I would thank you to invite Cynna to court for the celebration as my guest of honor."
Athena looked into her wife's silver-grey eyes and her heart ached from loving her.
"I will, your Grace," the Shamaness smiled.
Princess Sieglinde consumed Cynna's potion twice a day as recommended under the watchful eye of her Lord and not too moons had gone by before she was revisited again by fatigue, nausea and the craving for herring.
Hope was once more a denizen in the Royals' hearts, as was concern. Princess Athena, it seemed, hovered over her wife like a hawk every moment of the day she could spare, and Sieglinde relished her Lord's attentiveness and wished it could be this way always.
By the time the master builders and craftsmen had finished reconstructing the part of the palace that had been damaged by the fire, adding to it new murals, tapestries and frescos, Princess Sieglinde went into labor.
The whole of Corinth stood on its feet as soon as the Realm's heralds announced it throughout the city's streets, agoras and markets. Many visited the Gods' temples to offer prayers and sacrifices for their Princess' preservation and for her progeny - the continuation of their Lord Conqueror's bloodline. Some even stood outside the Corinthian Palace 's massive gates, waiting anxiously for the news.
Princess Sieglinde's confinement was hard. In her bedchamber, the Queen, the Imperial Healer and another Healer from the Province of Chin , along with two midwives helped the Princess' labor.
At that time, Princess Athena stood outside pacing back and forth in the empty antechamber, which she had the good sense to clear beforehand of all of her wife's ladies in waiting. The sounds of her dear wife's cries of pain and grunts of effort and anguish laid tormenting siege to her very soul. She wanted to place her hands over her ears so as not to hear her wife struggling and hurting, but she could not bring herself to do so. She had to listen. She had to know what was happening to her beloved.
The Conqueror sat at her Throne and received audience as if that day was like any other day. As she was governing her Realm and dictating her orders to her secretaries, she governed her faculties as well. She donned the mask of stoicism over her countenance and ignored the fact, much to her subjects' surprise, that at the same time the Princess was giving birth to a future ruler.
Close to dusk an infant's cry immerged from their bedchamber. Athena fought the urge to bring the door down and storm in. Nervously she pressed her ear hard against the door and searched for Sieglinde's voice under the newborn's cries but she heard nothing and her heart skipped a beat. Unconsciously, and uncontrollably, she began to scratch the door, till her fingernails were worn to the nubs. When she heard her wife screaming again Athena became equally terrified and baffled - for the cries of the infant meant that the labor was over, that much she was certain of.
Inside the bedchamber, which was too humid, too sweltering and too stifling, the Queen, the midwives and healers realized as soon as they saw that the Princess was still in labor despite the fact that she had already given birth that it was not over yet.
"I see the head of another one," the Queen exclaimed, excited as she placed her hand beneath the tiny moist head for support.
One midwife was cleaning the infant already born, one healer examined the infant making sure it had all fingers and toes, the other midwife wiped the Princess' brow with a wet linen cloth while encouraging her to push, and the other healer helped the Queen to deliver the second child.
The sun was setting outside and the other child was out of its mother's womb.
The door was opened and the Queen, holding both infants, one in each arm, approached Athena absolutely beaming with mirth and happiness.
Athena could not believe her eyes when she saw her mother holding not one, but two infants in her arms. Her jaw nearly dropped and her eyes were wide with astonishment. The notion that she was now a parent, and to two children, no less, was very far from dawning on her, yet.
"Sieglinde?" she asked, nearly fainting. The grand event made her forgo proper protocol despite the fact that they were not alone.
"She is well, my beloved child. Now come meet my grandchildren," the Queen said and the wide smile on her face did not fade.
"A daughter and a son," the Queen announced with pride etched all over her face, like nothing Athena had ever heard before.
Athena closed the gap between them as the Queen instructed the midwife to convey the news to the Conqueror's groom, who had been standing in wait in the corridor outside the suite.
When the Queen and Athena entered the bedchamber, the other midwife opened the window to allow some fresh air in. Both the Queen and Athena thanked their servants for their service.
When the Royals were left alone, Athena seated herself on the bed and planted a lingering kiss on her wife's lips.
"Min Herre," Sieglinde smiled.
"I am so very proud of you, Sieglinde," Athena said and smiled back. "I love you so much," she continued and tenderly stroked her wife's flushed cheek with the back of her fingers. "Are you in pain?"
"Nothing for you to worry about," Sieglinde replied.
"That is not what I asked," Athena refused to accept her wife's reply.
"There are some aches, but they will pass soon enough," Sieglinde answered then averted her eyes to the Queen.
"Majesty, may I see them now?" she asked.
"Of course," the Queen replied and sat on the bed to the other side of Sieglinde and presented her with the twins.
"May I hold them, please, Majesty?" Sieglinde asked.
"Are you strong enough?" The Queen wanted to make sure, but she also found it difficult to part with them.
"Yes, I am," Sieglinde replied.
And with that, the Queen gently placed the twins in Sieglinde's cradling arms.
Meanwhile, the Conqueror's groom reached the Great Hall. As soon as the Conqueror laid eyes on him as he came hastily through the doors and nearly ran towards the dais, she became alert and felt her insides turning into knots, but her exterior remained as calm as the surface of a small pond on a windless, summer day.
"Your Majesty," he greeted and bowed before her.
The commotion of secretaries, advisors and other courtiers at the Great Hall was at once suspended. All waited for the Conqueror's groom's message.
"Well!?" the Conqueror inquired.
"Her Grace Princess Sieglinde has given birth to a boy and a girl, your Majesty," he said.
A hint of a half smile brushed the Conqueror's lips for a short moment, and her eyebrows rose briefly at the unexpected news that her daughter-in-law had given birth to twins, but she remained seated. "And her Grace?" she asked.
"Her Grace is well, your Majesty," he answered.
All in attendance regarded the Conqueror.
After some time had gone by, the Conqueror rose to her feet. "We shall adjourn for today," she informed her subjects. She then turned to her groom and said, "Inform Lady Satrina of the news and have the heralds bring the good news to my subjects," she said. No longer able to rein in her elation, the Conqueror's features lit up with a smile. "I shall now go and make acquaintance with my grandchildren."
And with that, she strode out of the Great Hall as her audience bowed before her and enthusiastically clapped their hands with joy and merriment.
The muffled "Majesty" murmurs that came from the other side of the door spoken by the Queen and Princess Sieglinde's ladies in waiting, who assembled at the antechamber waiting to catch a glimpse of the newborns, informed the Queen that her Lord was about to enter.
The door was opened and sure enough the Conqueror walked in and closed the door behind her, much to the ladies in waiting's disappointment.
"My Lord." The Queen climbed out of the bed and her legs carried her quickly to the Conqueror, who spread her arms widely for her.
"Gabrielle," the Conqueror exclaimed as the Queen fell into her arms and pressed her head hard against the strong chest.
They embraced for a considerable amount of time with tears welding up in their eyes.
"My heart is overflowing with joy and with awesome love for the newest additions to our family," the Conqueror spoke and her voice was trembling with unbridled excitement.
They remained clinging to one another for a few more long moments. The Conqueror's long fingers were tangled into the Queen's gold hair and her lips were pressed to the top of the Queen's head.
"Come and meet your grandchildren, my Lion," the Queen finally said and wiped the tears from her shimmering green eyes.
They walked together hand in hand towards the bed, where Sieglinde was lying.
It never ceased to amaze Athena how, no matter how great the occasion or who else was around them, her parents always sought each other first when they were present in the same place.
"Majesty," Sieglinde emitted when the Conqueror towered over her.
"Daughter," the Conqueror gently said, "You must be feeling exhausted and overwhelmed."
"A little, your Majesty, but I am also very happy," Sieglinde smiled back.
"And you!?" the Conqueror asked her eldest, as if she was an afterthought.
"Oh, Sire," Athena emoted, "I did nothing but lose my wits worrying. Nothing more."
The Conqueror chuckled. She extended her lengthy torso over Sieglinde, moored her hand behind Athena's neck and pulled her closer so to place a solid kiss on her forehead, which made the Queen laugh out loud.
"So which is the girl and which is the boy?" the Conqueror asked when she straightened back up to her full stature.
"The one to my right is the girl and the one to my left is the boy, your Majesty," Sieglinde replied.
The Conqueror ran examining looks over her grandchildren. The boy had a golden down covering his tiny head and his half opened eyelids covered sky-blue eyes. The Conqueror thought she recognized both Athena and Sieglinde in his features. The girl, however was the living image of Athena, there was no mistaking it. The fine down on her head was as dark as a moonless night and her silver-grey eyes, however, were the only feature she took from her mother.
"She looks just like the two of you," the Queen said to the Conqueror and her eldest as if she was reading the Conqueror's mind, "very much in the way of her Sire and Grandsire."
"She does, does she not!?" the Conqueror answered her Lady, looking very pleased and contented. "Which one was the first to come out of their mother's womb?" the Conqueror asked.
"What difference does it make, Sire?" Athena asked . "They were born merely moments apart . "
"The first to come out is the first in line for the succession," the Queen replied, knowingly.
"Indeed," the Conqueror confirmed her wife's words, "The firstborn is the one to rule the Empire."
"The girl was the first one to be born, my Lion," the Queen answered the Conqueror's pending question.
The Conqueror would never admit it to anyone other than to her Queen later on that day, but she was pleased beyond measure that the girl was the firstborn.
"And have you thought of names, yet?" the high-spirited Conqueror further inquired and placed a single finger in her granddaughter's hand. The newborn closed her tiny fingers around her Grandsire's finger and the latter was impressed by her strength.
"We have, Majesty," Sieglinde answered.
"Of course we did not foresee the possibility of having to use both the name we thought for a girl and the one we thought for a boy," Athena added, amused.
"Let us have it, then," the Conqueror spurred them on.
"The girl shall be named Xena Athena Alexia," Sieglinde told the Conqueror and the Queen, all the while looking adoringly at her daughter, then averted her loving gaze to her son and continued, "And the boy shall be named Lyceus… in honor of your Majesty's late brother."
The Conqueror was moved to her very core by the gesture, not just by the naming of her grandson after her beloved, dead brother, but also for the naming of her granddaughter and future Sovereign Lord of the Realm she had conquered after her. When she felt her wife's hand being gently placed on the small of her back, the Conqueror could not hold back her tears any longer.
"Thank you," was all she managed to say, as a pair of silent tears rolled down over each of her high cheekbones.
Inwardly the Ruler admonished herself for exhibiting what she considered sentimentality. She wiped her tears with a determined hand, collected herself and steadied her voice.
"Alexia is a fine name," she said eventually.
"A 'Defender' is indeed a suitable name for the future Ruler of the Empire," the Queen concurred.
At that moment the door was opened and Princess Terreis entered the bedchamber and joined her family.
"Little Princess," the Conqueror's spirit was immediately uplifted even higher, "Come and meet your new niece and nephew, Alexia and Lyceus," she beckoned her youngest to come closer.
Terreis approached the bed. "I wish to congratulate you, Athena and Sieglinde," she said.
Athena picked up her sister and seated her on her lap. "Thank you, Terreis," she said and squeezed her tightly till Terreis began to giggle.
"Thank you, little sister," Sieglinde smiled and leaned towards Terreis so that she could better see the infants. "This is Xena Athena Alexia," she signaled with her right shoulder, "and this is Lyceus," she continued and tipped her left shoulder.
Terreis carefully observed the newborn. "Alexia looks just like my Sire and Athena except for the color of her eyes," she remarked.
"Indeed she does," the Queen said.
"May I hold one, Sieglinde?" Terreis asked.
"Of course," Sieglinde said.
The Conqueror, who was pining for the opportunity herself, took Alexia from her mother's arms and held her for a bit, eagerly inhaling her newborn scent before carefully placing her in Terreis' arms.
"Mind her head, little Princess," the Conqueror issued a gentle warning.
"I will, Sire." Terreis touched her lips to the infant's forehead. "I'm your aunt Terreis, and I will always love you and Lyceus," she said.
The Conqueror wrapped a loving arm around the Queen's shoulders and regarded her family with tremendous love.
"You've done me proud, child," she said to her eldest.
Athena's eyes met the Conqueror's. In all her life, she thought, she had never seen her Sire exhibiting such tender emotions as she had that day.
"We must leave now," the Queen said to Terreis.
"Please, Mother, can we not stay a while longer?" Terreis said and instinctively tightened her hold around her niece.
"You heard your Mother," the Conqueror intervened and took Alexia from Terreis' arms. "It is past your bedtime and Sieglinde needs her rest," she said.
"Yes, my Sire," Terreis resigned to her Sire's will.
The Queen opened the door and instructed her ladies in waiting to fetch the wet-nurses. Sieglinde's ladies in waiting ceased the opportunity to peek inside the bedchamber and catch an eyeful of their Mistress' children.
The servants curtsied before the Conqueror and the Queen, who bid them good night. The Conqueror picked Terreis up and carried her in her arms as she walked with her Queen to put her youngest to bed.
"I miss Alexia and Lyceus already," Terries protested.
"You will see them again tomorrow," the Queen chuckled and sent a sideway glance to her Lord. She always enjoyed seeing her Lord cradling their children in her arms.
"One day I shall marry too and have children, like Athena," Terreis stated. "Will it please you, Sire?" she asked as her fingers mindlessly played with a strand of the Conqueror's hair.
"Of course it will. I can hardly wait. How many children do you wish to have, little Princess?" the Conqueror asked, amused.
Terreis thought for while, then after some contemplation answered unequivocally, "Twenty, my Sire."
"Twenty, no less," the Conqueror burst into laughter which infected both her wife and her youngest.
"And who do you wish to marry, sweetheart?" the Queen asked.
Terreis put a thoughtful finger over her chin as she seriously considered her Mother's question.
"Well," she began to say, "I wish to marry someone like my Sire," she said, very confident with her answer.
"But of course," the Queen sighed, far from being surprised, though she rued the fact that her daughter might be in for a future disappointment, for there was no other like her Lord.
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