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


"Where is the captain of my fleet?" I asked the young sailor at the watch. "He is billeted on the Hybris, Lord Conqueror. Shall I send for him?"

"No, I'll make my way there." I answered.

Before I made my way to the far end of the wharf where the largest ship in the fleet, The Hybris, was tied, I called one of the palace guards to my side. It was Nicos, and I was glad. Not only was he an intelligent man, but loyal to me as well. With what I was about to do, that fact became imperative.

Nicos had only one arm, but he used a short sword in that one remaining hand better than most. It took quite a long period for him to recover, not from losing the arm, but when we returned from war, for him to realize he was going to live. A soldier with only one arm, well, he drank himself into a stupor to forget for a full season before I had him dragged into the palace before me. I hate the waste of talent and life that drink brings to so many lives, and especially so to this man, who fought with cunning and valor on the field of battle. He has been with the palace guard ever since.

"Find Atrius or his lieutenant and tell them to quietly bring two squads of men to the docks. Understand?"

"Aye, Lord Conqueror." Nicos was off in a flash and that made me smile. He wasn't a young man any more, but I'm sure my words told him we might see a little action today. Being the soldier he was, I'm certain he didn't want to miss a thing.

I made my way aboard the Hybris and stood on the deck briefly, feeling the breeze and practically tasting the salt in the air. I miss sailing, but I realize, as I grow older, there are many things I have begun saying that about. I have taken for granted so much over the years; it's been easy to forget the things that brought me real pleasure. I took one last deep breath and as the air escaped my lungs, I allowed myself to become a woman I abhor. I became the arrogant, smug Xena who was used to beating men at their own game, for the simple fact that I believed that I was better...smarter. I tossed the dark hair away from my face and moved toward the Captain's cabin.


"Who in Hades is pounding on my door like that?" I heard the man's bellowing rage from the other side of the heavy wooden door. I continued the pounding with the handle of my dagger.

"By the God's! Who's trying to get themselves killed, making that kind of racket on my ship!" He was shouting as he opened the door and froze in place at the sight of me, filling the doorway.

"Don't you mean my ship, Callius?" I drawled.

There was a certain satisfaction flowing through me as I looked at the surprised expression on the Captain's face. I strode into the large quarters and settled myself into a large wooden chair, leaning back and casually draping one leg over the chair's arm. It was obviously the Captain's chair, which is why it gave me a great deal of pleasure taking possession of it. It wasn't until I scanned the room that I saw the girl. When I looked up again and saw the untidy state the Captain's trousers were in, I guessed at what I interrupted.

The girl was young, maybe fourteen or fifteen summers. She had no scars on her, but she did sport a blackened eye, the bruises seeming rather fresh. Her hands were tied behind her back with a thin strip of worn leather and her naked body kneeled on the wooden flooring.

"Did I interrupt?" I leered.

I listened as he blustered for a moment, but the young woman on her knees, her wrists bound together in a completely submissive pose, held my attention. For a fleeting moment, I pictured Gabrielle serving me that way and I had to breathe deeply to dispel the sudden desire that overwhelmed me. Gods, I knew it would be hard to play this part, but I had no idea how easy it could be to slip back, to want to combine those feelings of control and power with sex.

"She's worth it, Lord Conqueror. Perhaps..." he paused, as if judging if he should continue or not. "Perhaps, you would care to try her out."

"She's that good?" I let my legs part a little further and I wondered if I slipped into this role any deeper, if I would be able to stop.

"She can do things with that tongue that can make a grown man cry." He answered.

He was drawing nearer to where I sat and I could smell the combination of alcohol and stale sweat that clung to him. I could tell that he wanted a good view should I decide to let her pleasure me. In seasons past, public displays of sex never bothered me; in fact, it aroused me all the more to have an audience. I glared up at him and he backed away a few steps without me saying a word.

I lowered my foot to the floor. "Come here, girl." I commanded, realizing this performance was coming dangerously close to becoming reality.

She crawled as best she could toward me and I grabbed her by the back of the neck and pulled her in closer until she knelt between my parted legs. Almost...I was so close to ripping open my trousers and pulling her to me that it frightened me. In an instant, one small heartbeat, I saw Gabrielle's face in this girl. Only, this time I envisioned, not my young slave about to be seduced by me, but Gabrielle, beaten and abused, about to be raped by someone like I used to be. Used to be...my hands went cold and I could feel my lips pulling back into a thin line. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Callius watching. He would think it odd if I didn't go through with it now. I reached out and grabbed the girl's hair, jerking her head back until I could see her face. I made the rough treatment look worse than it felt for the girl.

I leaned down closer to her. "Did you suck him before I got here?" I demanded to know.

The girl's face turned scarlet all the way down to the roots of her hair. She could only nod her head and anger ran through me in waves as I felt the young girl's humiliation. I pushed her away.

"Then the last place I want your tongue is in me." I responded gruffly. "Turn around." I ordered.

She turned with some difficulty until her back was facing me. I pulled my dagger once again from my belt. "Bend over." I drawled.

I bit the inside of my lip until I tasted blood in my mouth to still the call of the beast inside me. It was roaming loose, just underneath the surface, and I barely had enough will of my own left to contain it. Callius licked his lips and watched, preparing, I was sure, to see a good show. I caught his leering gaze and I swore that if he touched himself, I would hurl the dagger into his chest right now.

I leaned down until my lips were practically pressed to the young woman's ear. "If you want to live through today and get away from this scum you had best do exactly as I say, when I say. If you run, I swear I'll kill you myself. Nod your head if you understand." I whispered.

The terrified girl nodded her head up and down and I swiftly brought my dagger down, slicing smoothly through the leather bindings.

I pulled her up roughly and tossed her into a chair. She huddled there, wrapping her arms around herself. I rose and grabbed a blanket, tossing it her way. Turning back toward Callius, I winked.

"Much too distracting when she's naked." I grinned.

Callius grinned back, a tad nervously.

"Yes, I think she'll do nicely, Callius."

"Lord Conqueror?" he answered in complete confusion.

"Do for me. I was in the market for a young girl and I heard you were the man to see. I want one that hasn't been a slave before, but I do hate when they have too much fight left in them." I said, looking the girl up and down.

"But...I--" Callius stammered, unable to think of a reason to deny me, which wouldn't get him killed. "But...she's already broken in." he whined at last.

"Perfect, although I wanted a virgin, and one a bit younger. I must have heard wrong, I was told by Demetri that you could provide me with such a thing. You know...not a slave...perhaps...a nobleman's daughter." I hemmed, pretending to be inquiring about something highly illegal, even in my land.

"So, I guess I'll just take her," I made a move to rise from my seat.

"Wait!" He was thinking hard and this is just the spot I wanted him in. It was only good fortune that this girl was here, just waiting to be part of my plan. Callius was weighing the option of giving up a valuable, broken in body slave, against admitting his illegal slavery antics. He went with the odds and put his money on my libido.

"How young?" he asked.

I smiled as carnal a smile as I could muster up. "Young enough to get me arrested...if I didn't own the whole country." I added.

"In the plank house, on the dock. I've got just what you desire, Lord Conqueror."

His smile and his overconfident manner sickened me and I was torn between gutting him right now or throwing up all over his clean floor. I rose quickly, desperately needing some fresh air.

"This way, Lord Conqueror." He moved out of the way to let me walk in front of him, but I motioned him ahead. Callius was the last person I wanted at my unprotected back. I made sure my dagger was within easy grasp, tucked into my belt, and when I turned to close the door, I held a finger up to my lips in the girl's direction and she nodded her head.


Most of the girls displayed the after effects of being beaten, but some still had enough strength to cry. When one golden haired girl looked up at me, in a combination of innocence and fear, Gabrielle's face was again before me.

"This lot is all virgins, Lord Conqueror, untouched by a man...or a woman." He quickly added. "Although it takes quite a few extra dinars to the guards, to see they stay that way till I sell ‘em."

He went up close to the girl with the long golden hair. She trembled and silent tears ran down her face. I guessed her to be all of ten summers. This was Gabrielle once, ten summers old and sold on the block to serve in someone's bedchamber. I could feel my morning's meal rising insistently from my belly.

"Now, this one here," he laid a hand on the girl's shoulder. "She's the age you're looking for and she's all virgin."

"And she's going to stay that way for quite a while yet." I growled.

When I pulled my blade from it's scabbard, it made a metallic hissing noise, and I saw the six guards hesitate. They too seemed to be weighing their options of surrender or battle. Too slowly did they choose, as I plunged my sword into the closest man's belly, kicking out and crushing another's kneecap. I saw two more guards rush into the old wooden building, but my own palace guards had no clue yet that I was in danger, even with the wailing being done by the group of girls. I dispatched another, and then one more soldier, but I wanted Callius. He couldn't run; he knew he had to kill me now.

Three more soldiers fell under my blade as I saw some of my own guards rush into the building and into the fray. Finally, it was Callius and I, circling one another. I spit out the blood that collected in my mouth from a backhanded blow that he slipped in and I cursed myself for leaving him an easy head shot like that. We parried back and forth and the long building was filled with the sound of metal against metal. I tried to slip my blade in, but he saw it coming and I received a painful gash across my left bicep for my carelessness.

"You're getting old, Conqueror," Callius spat.

I could see that he thought victory was within his grasp. I may have grown slower after a fortnight without visiting the practice field, but I was far from done with this man. I took a deep breath and loosened what little remaining hold I had on the beast, leaving it free to control me. When I saw myself, reflected in his eyes, my normally blue irises were as colorless as the ice that covered the northern mountains. What Callius saw, was the inevitability of his own death.

Three more parries and I left an opening as big as the Aegean for him to see. He fell into the trap and lunged at the opening that closed so quickly, he never saw the sword that slipped into his belly and drove into him up to the hilt. I grasped his shoulder, gave a half turn to the blade, and watched as blood gurgled noisily from between his lips. I whispered to him then and with his dying breath, he told me all I wanted to know. I held on to the man, not allowing him to fall until I watched the last of his life's blood drain slowly away. I was conscious only of the dead weight that hung on the end of my blade, a warm, sticky wetness that covered my hands, and the pounding rush of adrenaline at my temple, but somewhere, I heard the crying of young girls and it seemed another voice that I recognized.

"Don't touch her!" I thought I heard someone say, finally realizing it was Atrius, and that he stood there repeating my name.

"Lord Conqueror...Lord Conqueror..."

It was a steady mantra and with what seemed like a great deal of effort I pulled my gaze from the dead man in my arms, and focused on the tall soldier at my side. I could see it in his face, even though we had known one another for twenty seasons, even Atrius feared the beast. Nevertheless, he was the bravest man I knew and a soldier, after all. He squared his shoulders, looked me full in the eye, calling my name until I could see relief slide across his features. In that weary, battle-hardened face, I thought I saw support and admiration, both emotions directed at me.

When at last I turned away from him, to see what I held in my grasp, I felt it. Like smoke crawling along the fringes of a wood fire, I felt the awful darkness dissipate somewhat and with a significant amount of effort; I was able to push the monster into a safe place again.

Atrius kicked Callius' body off my blade and tossed a dry rag at me. The first thing I did was wipe my blade clean and replace it within its scabbard. My hands were covered in red and the white silk of my shirt drenched in the stuff. It usually didn't take this long to put the beast back in its place, except for the times when I was involved in all out war. I could only assume that righteous indignation helped to increase the intensity of this dark episode. Atrius began examining my arm as I slowly became aware of everything happening around me.

"You do realize what an incredibly foolish thing that was to do," he admonished.

"Guess you had to be here to realize that it seemed like the thing to do at the time." I shot back.

We grinned at one another briefly; each realizing the other would never change. Some warrior ways were simply too ingrained over the passage of time, to alter.

It took a few more candlemarks to straighten everything else out, including returning the girls and helping the unfortunate young woman on the boat. With Delia's help, the girls were taken into the palace, under her watchful and caring eyes. I told Atrius about Demetri's part in the mess, but I also ordered him to hold back. I wanted to give my head man just a little more rope to hang himself with. If I could have known, at the time, what that decision almost cost me, I would have decided against it.


"Ow!" I cried out, as Kuros pulled the thin length of twine through my skin.

I glared at the small man, yet he paid little attention to me. Funny thing about my healer, he'd always been quite unimpressed with who I was. Even when my temper was a thing I lost on a routine basis, he generally told me exactly what he thought of me. I leaned against the edge of the heavy wooden table as the man worked over the injury I received from Callius' sword. The front of my leather trousers were caked in dried blood and I already tossed my white silk shirt to the floor. The shirt was soaked through with Callius' blood and even now, the skin of my chest was stained a light red. I was naked from the waist up, but Kuros didn't seem to mind and modesty had never been much of a priority with me.

"I said, Ow!" I complained again as the healer tugged again on the stitches he was creating along the long gash on my upper arm. I tried to pull away and see what he was doing, but I stopped at his exasperated sigh.

"It would help if the Lord Conqueror could manage to keep still for a few moments." Kuros said evenly.

"Well, it hurts, I tell you." I answered, realizing I was coming close to sounding like a petulant child. "You're doing something differently because it never used to hurt like this."

"Well, the Lord Conqueror is at a certain age..." My healer trailed off.

"Certain age?" My voice was getting louder and I think it may even have raised an octave.

"Shit!" The pain drew my attention back down to the neat row of tiny stitches Kuros was sewing. One thing I had to admit...his handiwork was good. The stitches were more painful with this method, but being so tiny, it would heal with barely a thin line left as a scar. The only reason my naked body still looked half as good as it did, was because of the skill in this foreign man's hands.

"Perhaps I could do what I do for the youngsters, Lord Conqueror. Generally, I tell them that if they behave until I am done, they will receive a piece of sweet candy." Kuros commented without cracking a smile.

I glared down at the smaller man. "Gods know you must have to bribe them with something if this is the best you can do."

It was then that I saw a trace of a smile cross his face.

The loud gasp caused both of us to look up and I saw Gabrielle's faced, frozen in fear, as she stared down at the blood soaked shirt I removed when I came into my chambers. The young women then looked at my skin, tinged red from the blood and she rushed toward me.

"My Lord!" she cried out and I stood there, rooted in place at the emotion my young slave was displaying. Her green eyes filled with tears as she rushed over to me.

"The blood is not mine." I stammered, feeling Gabrielle's arms wrap around my waist. I looked helplessly into Kuros' amused face.

She pressed her cheek against my chest and I could feel the slight body trembling all over. I held her tightly with my one good arm and kissed the top of her head.

"I'm all right, Gabrielle. I cut my arm, that's all, see?" I tried to pull my arm forward to show her, but the twine Kuros still held in his hand kept the limb prisoner. "Ow, shit!" I exclaimed.

"Just one more, Lord Conqueror." The healer pleaded.

Although Gabrielle stopped shivering she didn't say another word, nor did she loose her grasp from around my waist. I felt a warm wetness on my chest and realized they were Gabrielle's tears. Crying...for me, little one? I asked myself. I held her tightly around the shoulders, pressing her against me gently.

"Sssh, it's all right, little one." I murmured, kissing the top of her head.

Gabrielle felt so good pressed up against me and I felt my body begin to respond. Her head was turned, her cheek flattened against my skin, and I could feel her breath as she exhaled. The small puffs of air were falling across my breast and I could feel the skin there tightening in response to that innocent stimulation.

I saw Kuros grin out of the corner of my eye and I glared again at the skilled healer. "Are you done yet?" I prodded.

He sliced through the twine easily with a very tiny, very sharp miniature dagger.

"Keep it dry, I would suggest you see me later and I will wrap a bandage around it to keep it clean, Lord Conqueror."

"Gabrielle can do that...can't you?" I murmured against the golden crown of hair. I felt her nod, but there was no verbal answer.

"As you wish, Lord Conqueror." Kuros said with a slight bow. "My lady." He motioned his head to Gabrielle and he was gone before I could even comment on that last statement. How odd that he would show Gabrielle, a slave, the respect of that title. I'm not even sure if the young woman heard him.

"Gabrielle, I need to take a bath and clean this filth off of me. Will you help me?" I asked the woman.

Before I could say another word, she ran off through the door that opened into my private bathing room. I shook my head and simply followed the girl, stripping off my boots on the way. The staff sent up hot water earlier and the steam rose and weaved its way throughout the room. Gabrielle poured room temperature water into the tub to cool it down. She attempted to help me with the laces that tied my trousers, but they were encrusted with dried blood.

"Gabrielle, go to my chest and bring me my dagger." I requested.

She looked up at me in dismay at the request. No slave was ever allowed to touch a weapon, and surely not the Conqueror's own slave. Yet, here I was, requesting that she do this very thing. I turned from her and picked up a comb, trying to remove some bits of dried blood from my hair. I knew Gabrielle still stood there, I could hear her steady breathing. I was hoping that through this act, Gabrielle would come to know the amount of trust I placed in her.

Eventually she left and when she returned, the weapon lay across both her open palms. She raised her hands to me as if she were turning over some sort of sacrificial tool. Indeed, it could be construed as such, the act of me asking, and her retrieving meant much more than either of us realized. I took hold of the offered knife and began slicing through the leather laces, practically peeling the trousers from my body.

"Lets just burn these, they're beyond repair." I said to Gabrielle as I stepped into the tub and let my body slide under the surface of the water. I kept my arms draped along the rim of the large wooden tub, careful not to get my newly repaired arm wet.

Gabrielle bent down to retrieve the discarded clothing, but I held out a hand to stop her.

"Sylla can get that, Gabrielle. Right now I need you here with me." I said softly.

Need? Did I actually use that word? Gods, it's true though, isn't it? At this very moment, I wanted nothing more than to hold Gabrielle against me. To feel her. Not out of sex or lust, or I don't know what, but to simply feel her and know that there was one soul in this world who seemed to worry for me.

"Gabri--elle?" I had to clear my throat to cover the break in my voice. "Would you join me?" I asked, extending my hand in invitation.

I wondered if she thought I sounded weak when I spoke like that. I know it made me feel weak, but then again, I never told anyone how I felt before, never let anyone see so close into who I was. I watched as Gabrielle began to disrobe and in this circumstance, I suddenly felt as though it would be rude to continue watching her. I lowered my head and pretended to rub soap into a wet sponge, but not before, I took in the look of surprise and the small hint of a smile on Gabrielle's face.

I expected her to lean her back against me, but without any shame or preamble, Gabrielle kneeled in front of me in the steamy water and gently took the sponge from my grasp. Rubbing more soap into the sponge, she started at my neck and shoulders, setting about the task of bathing the dried blood from my body. She was careful as she scrubbed my injured arm, moving down and taking my much larger hands in her own, each one in turn, and working the soapy lather into the lines of my skin, and under the nails. When she continued on, below the surface of the water, I could have leaned back and simply accepted the pleasure, but that wasn't what this was about this time. I halted her hand's progress, trapping it under my palm, against the flat of my belly.

"You'd better let me do that," I said with a smirk, "otherwise I won't get my back scrubbed."

Gabrielle smiled and I think she enjoyed the small feeling of power she was beginning to understand that she had over me, and I...well, I simply enjoyed seeing that smile.

"Turn." She requested with a word and I did as she bid.

I handed her the sponge once again and turned around. After Gabrielle scrubbed my back, I felt her powerful, yet sensitive hands begin to attend to the muscles in my neck and back. My head fell forward and I was in a state of bliss, soft moans coming from the back of my throat at the pleasurable sensations.

"Let me wash your hair." I heard her say softly near my ear. Who was I to put an end to all these extremely satisfying feelings? I let her command me as I let her command the situation earlier that day.

Gabrielle washed my hair, rinsed it with a small pitcher, and then she repeated the action, this time scrubbing the bits of dried dirt and blood from the dark strands. I leaned back, tilting my head, one more time as she rinsed the soap away.

"Mmmm," I hummed, "I feel much better."

Gabrielle looked rather pleased with herself, but when she turned away, thinking we were leaving the tub, I caught her arm and pulled her back.

"Now it's your turn." I stated.

Her eyes went a little wide when she realized I was serious. I knew I was breaking every convention ever laid down between master and slave today, but that word kept repeating itself over and over again in my head...need. I needed to be close to Gabrielle in this way. I couldn't answer as to why, but something compelled me.

I treated Gabrielle's body to the same luxuries she bestowed upon mine and when I at last rinsed the soap away from the long golden hair, she looked as relaxed as I. It was then that I leaned back in the still warm water and pulled Gabrielle backward, to lean her back upon my chest. A sound of absolute contentment rumbled through my chest. My arm remained wrapped around the young woman's waist and Gabrielle's hand rested on my forearm. I closed my eyes and smiled, feeling a relaxed pleasure wash over me as Gabrielle began to lightly brush her fingers along the muscles in my arm and wrist. When I peeked open one eye I could see that Gabrielle's eyes were closed also, her head turned to the side, resting on my chest. Her fingers seemed to be stroking my skin absently, as if she were not aware of it. I didn't want to be the one to give her a reason to stop.

"Feels good, doesn't it?" I asked, closing my eyes again.

"Yes, My Lord, very good." Gabrielle sighed in reply.

My hidden smile grew larger at the sound of complete wonder in Gabrielle's voice.

Chapter 10: Devouring Time, Blunt Thou the Lion's Paws

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