DISCLAIMER: Xena, Gabrielle, Argo, etc. are ©copyright MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. I don't own them, I just play with them for a while and, like the good girl I am, I put them back when I'm done…okay, they get a little worn, but hey…I play hard! Absolutely no Copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fiction. It's intended as flattery toward the creators, writers, and actors of the characters. All other characters that appear are ©copyright Devlin@xenafan.com. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies may be made for private use only and I'd appreciate if you included all copyright notices and this disclaimer.

VIOLENCE WARNING: There is violence (come on it's the Conqueror). The nature of the story is not nearly as dark as some Conqueror fiction, but it's essence is still the slave / master relationship that exists between Xena & Gabrielle.

TIMELINE: My own making. Xena is the Lord, Conqueror of Greece, but she is almost forty-five years old when she meets the slave, Gabrielle. Many of Xena's evil ways have been sedated, but not all. I call this Xena the "thinking woman's" Conqueror. She is a woman who wants to try to do the right thing, but doesn't always know how.

SEX: Yes, I'll have some, thank you. Ooops! I mean, yes there is. It is our favorite two Soulmates, after all. It's not gratuitous, but it is quite explicit when it gets going. This story shows consensual as well as non-consenting love (master/slave), sex and yes, even some light bdsm between two adult females.

HIGH ANGST WARNING: I was threatened within an inch of my life if I didn't start putting this disclaimer on some (all?) of my work. I will henceforth rate the angst content with sad faces, one being the lowest and four being the highest. This story earns: L L (2 sad faces for those without TT Fonts)

UNDERAGE WARNING: Hey, the Supreme Court said in Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union (1997) that laws against making available, online, certain "indecent" materials for those under 18 was unconstitutional…look it up! Besides, this is perfectly "decent." J

I only know how others feel about my stories from feedback. Let me know what you think...homophobes need not apply, however. I'm at: Devlin@xenafan.com

**Special thanks to Jim Kuntz for his permission in using any Lion of Amphipolis references.

The Conqueror Series

Tale One: Journey's End

By LJ Maas

Chapter 8: Conqueror…Warrior…Babysitter?


I knew that I was coming extremely close to senility, when the ramblings of a girl, not yet five summers old, was entertaining me. I sat on a bench as the two girls jumped in and out of my lap, finally wrestling with one another over who would sit in the cherished position. I lifted them both at once and placed each one on the top of my thighs. They seemed satisfied with the decision and the older girl began to talk.

That's when I began looking around, impatiently I admit, for Gabrielle. The younger girl, maybe three summers of age, took that moment to lean herself against my chest. I felt something akin to panic coming on as she snuggled against me, yawned, and promptly fell asleep. Now I was stuck. The older girl went on about the blue of the sky, the small rag doll she held in her grasp, and my long dark hair. As I said, I knew I was losing my mind because at some point, I leaned back against the outside wall of the house and listened in rapt fascination to her ramblings.

"I--I can take them, Lord Conqueror." Petra stammered nervously, seeing the way his sisters sprawled across me.

I knew what the boy felt. It was fear, of me and who I was. His sisters were too young to know, and I received an unconditional adoration from them. This boy, however, knew me and the very thought made some part of me want to hang my head in shame. I think he was mostly afraid that I would lose my temper with the small girls. No telling, if he lived around the palace, when he saw me lose my temper. How could I tell him that I was more terrified of these small, gentle bundles, than they ever could be of me?

"Leave them be, Petra." I responded and motioned for him to sit beside my on the bench. "I want you to tell me a few things about living here, boy."

I intended to learn what really happened around here and why there were such intolerable living conditions within my palace walls. I knew I would get no better answers than from one who lived here, and also from someone who appeared to be rather honest. True, he stole the food, but I believe the end justified the means. He attempted to work to provide wages for his family, but was scoffed at by the soldiers. I knew that a young boy like Petra would know a great deal about the area he lived in. The young tend to have big ears, yet some pay them little attention. I wanted names and I had a feeling Petra knew them all.

I watched the boy as he spoke and repeatedly throughout the conversation, his eyes made their way back to the hilt of my sword. The silver lion's head with its two sapphire eyes, cast rays of light around as the sun caught the metal. I'd had the hilt fashioned when I made a pledge to change my ways. That was five seasons ago, okay, I was progressing slowly, but the lion's head on the hilt of my sword was my silent reminder.

It was a remembrance of a time when I thought I could be both warrior and purveyor of justice. It started when Cortese attacked my village, when I ran from my home with the guilt that I'd been responsible for my beloved brother's death. I became a warrior with one ideal, to defend my country from anyone who sought to steal it. Persians, Romans, the Gaul's, they all regretted the attempt. I made them sorry they ever landed on Greek soil. It was then, that I earned the title from the people…Lion of Amphipolis.

I'm not sure why they chose that title. My fierce pride, the courage I displayed, the relentless drive as a warrior? Those were days before I took to the seas, before Caesar, before Chin, before I became a woman filled with a lust for power and revenge. Caesar, I laughed inwardly. He was dead and gone, killed by his own senate some ten seasons ago. So, I took the icon of the lion, to remind me of what I had been…and what I aspired to be again.

It was sometime later when I felt I'd heard enough from the young boy. I had my suspicions already about who was at the root of stealing money that belonged here within this poor workers community. When Petra innocently confirmed those thoughts I felt a bit of the old Xena creep back into my blood.

"Guard!" I shouted at one of the palace guard who remained with earshot. "Go to the palace and bring me my healer, Kuros, Captain Atrius, and the chief builder. Bring them immediately." I hissed to the guard.

I took a couple deep breaths to try and still the beast that I kept locked inside nowadays. It worried, and even frightened me a small bit, that the monster could rise so easily, after all the effort I put into keeping the demon at bay. I squeezed my eyes closed and felt the heat of my own blood beginning to rise. It wasn't battle lust, but righteous indignation that spurred the beast on this time. I sat there, my eyes shut, knowing that stealing money in my house could get a man killed. Stealing my money…could get him crucified.


"My Lord?"

Gabrielle's soft voice caused my head to turn and my eyes to snap open. When I focused my attention upon her, I watched as my small slave flinched in fear. I knew exactly what my expression looked like, when the beast tread so close to the surface, as I now allowed. I knew because I saw it thousands of times, mirrored in the faces of men, just before I took their lives from them. In that instant, that small tick of a heartbeat, before my gaze softened, and my irises changed from icy cold to warm blue, Gabrielle was able to see the beast that lurked below the surface.

"It's all right." I said as I held out my hand to her.

I never meant for Gabrielle to see the monster. It was enough that she knew what I did in those days past. I never wanted her to see it in me now. That seemed very important to me and I still wasn't certain why. I believe that in some ways, Gabrielle was rather innocent. That sounds foolish, doesn't it? A woman who has spent half her life as a slave, who provides pleasure to her master alone; an innocent. She may have been knowledgeable in the area of her expertise, but there existed an unspecified vulnerability about the girl and I didn't want to be the one to shatter that.

Gabrielle laid her hand in mine and I enjoyed the feeling of it for a few heartbeats. The commotion coming down the side street alerted me that the men I sent for were arriving.

"Gabrielle, take the children inside." I said, rising and placing the smallest child in my slave's arms. The older girl woke with a start and Gabrielle took her hand to lead her away.

"Petra," Gabrielle called.

"No. Leave the boy." I said; my attention focused on the men coming toward us.

"My Lord?"

I heard the frightened tone in Gabrielle's questioning voice and I turned and gave her a very quick smile. "It's all right, little one, go on now." I said, touching the backs of my fingers to her cheek.

She disappeared into the small shack and I stood there for a few moments watching the door she'd walked through. I needed to do something for this lovely slave of mine, something to show her how much she was beginning to mean to me.

"Lord Conqueror." Atrius said, pulling from my musing.

"Captain…we have a problem here I want resolved." I needed to say it no other way. Atrius has been with me long enough to know the inflection of my voice that went along with this order.

"Kuros, there is a woman inside," I pointed into the small shack. "She needs medical attention. Gab-- my slave, has been attending to her, but she needs to be moved somewhere within the palace where she can receive proper care."

"Of course, Lord Conqueror," the small man said and rushed into the house. Kuros was dedicated to his healing arts and I knew the woman would thrive under his care.

"Sagoris," I motioned my chief builder forward, "I want you to walk along this entire row of houses, if you can call them that, and then return. In that time I want you to have an idea in your head how we're going to repair or rebuild this mess." I ordered.

"Y-Yes, Lord Conqueror." The older man stammered, pulling a quill and small parchment from the pouch, at his side. He walked along, peering into doorways and marking on his parchment.

Atrius looked amused, but I never felt compelled to challenge my battlefield companion regarding those looks. He didn't look at me that way to appear smug; rather I felt the looks were meant to applaud the way in which I changed over the seasons. Atrius was a terror as a warrior and I felt comfort having him at my side in a battle, but he had a gentle demeanor that was a complete turnaround once he walked from the field of battle. I often wondered how he did it, but it always explained the amused looks he cast my way.

"The boy needs a job." I stated simply. "Could we use one more in the message house?"

"Aye, Lord Conqueror. I will personally see to it." Atrius looked down at the boy with one of those amused grins.

The message house was really just a small room within the confines of the palace where pages and messengers spent their day. Their only task was to deliver messages back and forth between anyone from the cook to myself. We used young boys for the task because they were speedy and small, running between peoples legs, if need be, to get to their destination quickly. It left soldiers and guards free for what they were trained for, which was not to be errand boys.

"Will you work hard in the service of the Conqueror, boy?" Atrius asked Petra.

Aye, Captain." Petra answered and I could barely contain myself at the expression on Atrius' face. The boy heard the manner in which Atrius addressed me and was emulating the soldier.

I asked Petra who his father was and given the name, I looked over at Atrius. My Captain shrugged ever so slightly at the name and I had to admit to myself that I rarely took the time to learn the names of any of the soldiers that went to battle with or for me. I came up behind the young boy, who seemed hopeful that we would recognize his father's name.

"Petra's father fell at Chaeronea." I stated.

Atrius' eyes clouded over and he nodded. That one had been a hard fought battle, much more so than many I fought in over the years. I heard just recently they were putting up a marble statue of a lion on the site, overlooking the burial mound of the Macedonian dead.

"Then your father was indeed a brave soldier." Atrius acknowledged to the boy. "You stay with me, boy, I'll show you were you're to go."

I then cast an amused glance at my Captain, the same type of expression that he graced me with for the last few seasons. The look that said, ‘we must be mellowing'. A boy needs a father, to be sure, and I could think of no better mentor for Petra than Atrius.

"Petra, I'm going to have your mother and sisters moved into the palace. Atrius will show you where they are after he has shown you to your duties. Do you understand?"

"Aye, Lord Conqueror," the boy answered and I bit my cheek to keep from smiling.

"Make it so then, Atrius." I commanded. My Captain bowed slightly and turned, Petra imitating his actions, following close on the Captain's heels.

They were some distance away when Petra came racing back to me. "Did you forget something, boy?"

"This, Lord Conqueror." Petra replied. He handed me the apple Gabrielle gave him, placing it in my open palm.

"Please, Lord Conqueror. Tell your Queen thank you."

The boy ran off just as quickly and left me staring at the piece of fruit lying in my hand. My thoughts were really on his words, however. My Queen, he said of Gabrielle. I wondered if it would destroy his illusions if he were to know she was merely my slave. Just my slave! It was not to be long at all until I discovered how completely ludicrous that thought was.

Sagoris finally walked back to me, shaking his head. I had the funny feeling this wasn't going to be good news.

"Lord Conqueror, these structures are not only unsafe, but, by the Gods, I can't believe humans are living in them! The conditions are appalling. There is only one way to handle this, but I fear you will not like my answer." The old man told me.

"We need to tear them down and start over." I answered, hands on my hips, looking around me.

Sagoris stared at me, I could see the surprise in his face from the corner of my eye, and then I heard the disbelief in his voice.

"Y-Yes, Lord Conqueror, that is correct."

"Who was responsible for the monies out of the treasury when these buildings were first erected?" I asked, fairly certain of the answer.

"It's been almost ten seasons ago, Lord Conqueror…I believe, yes, it would be your man, Demetri."

Another nail in your coffin, Demetri.

"Sagoris, what do you foresee as a problem in rebuilding here?" I asked the builder.

"Well, the people would have to be housed elsewhere. I suppose for the five or six moons it would take to accomplish the task, they could live in tents on the practice fields. There are plenty of young men willing to earn some dinars by working at construction, so I do not believe the task will be insurmountable in any way."

"I'm glad to hear you say that, Sagoris. We need to tear this abomination down and rebuild. I don't want it rebuilt with the same shoddy materials and I want each home to have two rooms. I will reward you with one hundred talantons of silver upon its completion." I said to the surprised man.

"Thank you, Lord Conqueror," the man answered enthusiastically.

"One other thing, Sagoris." I called out to the gray haired man. "Have Captain Atrius house the soldiers in the tents. The barracks can be cleaned and used by the villagers. I don't want women and children living in tents. Besides, my soldiers get paid to rough it." I said with a smirk and the old man and I shared a small chuckle. I surprised him today. I was beginning to get a wry feeling of satisfaction from being able to do that to people.

Just then, both Kuros and Gabrielle walked from the small house and Kuros quickly explained that, while the woman was not deathly ill, the conditions here would only prevent her from growing stronger. I told him I wished her to be moved to the palace and left my healer in charge of arranging some rooms. I asked him to have Delia assist with anything else.

The small man moved off to make the necessary arrangements and Gabrielle stood silently at my side. "I was told to give this to you." I placed the apple within her small hand. "Gabrielle," I began hesitantly, "I want you to know that I am very pleased with you. The way you acted today tells me there is more to you, my little one, than meets the eye. I like that." I praised the young woman.

Gabrielle lowered her head, but not before I saw a hint of that quirky smile again. Suddenly, I remembered what I was going to do when the day began; only now, I suspected that my Fleet Commander might not be in his little scheme alone. To find that out, I would have to become the old Conqueror. I would need to act as if I was still a woman whose sexual appetites were filled with violence and lustful perversions. I had no desire for Gabrielle to see me that way. I could tell her it was a ruse and I'm sure she would understand, but something deep inside me, a small tiny voice, begged me not to have the girl see that in me. Acting that way, with my Gabrielle so near; so available, let's just say I wasn't that redeemed just yet, and that's what frightened me the most.

"Gabrielle, I'm going to continue on to the docks alone. I don't think it would be safe for you to be with me. I have to deal with someone and, well, there might be trouble."

At the word trouble, Gabrielle's head snapped up and her brow furrowed in concern. "Will you be safe, My Lord?"

That small question shocked me into silence. Gabrielle has certainly shown me any number of kindnesses since she entered my service. They were the small things that were rare for a slave to be thoughtful about, but this display of worry and concern seemed spontaneous and absolutely genuine.

"Worried, about me, little one?" I teased the young woman.

"I--I just…My Lord, It's…" Gabrielle lowered her head and stammered.

This was uncharacteristic of my slave's customary responses. Gabrielle usually had an answer for everything, a patient, thoughtful, and, sometimes, profound response. Now she blushed, not like the seasoned body slave she was, but rather a virginal schoolgirl. I couldn't stop the laughter that bubbled up.

When she looked up again, her expression was one of relief, I assume brought on by my laughter. I leaned close to her, towering over her slight frame.

"Gabrielle, do you honestly believe that I might not be able to take care of myself?" I whispered to her.

"No. Of course not, My Lord." She answered immediately.

I chuckled again and thought I was doing a lot of that lately. "Where would you like to go, Gabrielle?" I motioned to one of the guards, the one who fetched the supplies Gabrielle needed earlier. "You may go anywhere you desire, but the guard stays with you. Understand?"

"Yes, My Lord. I think…I think I would like to go to the stables and give Tenorio a treat." She said, holding the apple up to me, that lopsided, semi-smile returning.

I grinned right back at her and I'm sure my guard thought I looked like an idiot. Of course, wishing all of his limbs to remain firmly fastened to his body, he said nothing.

I quickly plucked the ripe apple from the surprised girl's hand and tossed it in the air a couple of times. Gabrielle then did something that halted my actions, if not my very thought process. She laughed. It wasn't very long or very loud, but it was like music to my ears and a balm laid across my soul. It was the most refreshing thing I ever heard and we both stopped and looked at one another. Well, I looked at Gabrielle and she responded with that nervous behavior where she tries, but she can't exactly look me square in the eye. We both knew, in some small way, we crossed lines drawn in the sand today. Actually, it felt more like we rubbed them out and drew new ones.

Gabrielle bowed her head again and by the strange look in her eye, I think that perhaps she was wondering why she was feeling this way herself. I gave instructions to the guard who would go with Gabrielle and he turned and stepped a few paces away. Smart boy, I thought, because it looked as though he was purposefully giving us our privacy. I placed the apple back into my slave's hands and leaned closer to her, lowering my voice for only her to hear.

"Tenorio will enjoy the treat. He has the same affinities as his master." I said.

Gabrielle answered in what could only be described as a coquettish manner. Gods, if I didn't know better, I would say that my young slave was flirting with me!

"And, those would be, My Lord?"

She tilted her head to one side and I took care to whisper my response into her ear. "Ripe apples…and small blondes."

She lowered her head even further, but not before I saw the smile, she was trying to hide.

"Another smile for me, Gabrielle?" I asked as I began to walk away from her. "I am indeed a fortunate Conqueror."

Chapter 9: They That Take the Bribe, Shall Perish by the Bribe

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