DISCLAIMER: Xena, Gabrielle, Argo, etc. are ©copyright MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. I dont own them, I just play with them for a while and, like the good girl I am, I put them back when Im done okay, they get a little worn, but hey I play hard! Absolutely no Copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fiction. Its 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 Id appreciate if you included all copyright notices and this disclaimer.
VIOLENCE WARNING: There is violence (come on its the Conqueror). The nature of the story is not nearly as dark as some Conqueror fiction, but its 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 Xenas evil ways have been sedated, but not all. I call this Xena the thinking womans Conqueror. She is a woman who wants to try to do the right thing, but doesnt always know how.
SEX: Yes, Ill have some, thank you. Ooops! I mean, yes there is. It is our favorite two Soulmates, after all. Its 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 didnt 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. Im at: Devlin@xenafan.com
**Special thanks to Jim Kuntz for his permission in using any Lion of Amphipolis references.
The Conqueror Series
Tale One: Journeys End
By LJ Maas
I heard her soft steps before I felt my long hair pulled to one side and her lips tickle the back of my neck. Quicker than she anticipated, I reached around and grabbed her waist, pulling the small figure into my lap.
No fair! Gabrielle cried out between her laughter.
Oh, and it was fair, you stealing a kiss? I asked with mock sternness.
It didnt feel like I had to steal it, Gabrielle replied, seems to me you gave it up awfully fast, Conqueror. She said, reaching in to place a quick kiss on my cheek.
Yesterdays pain and hurts all but disappeared between us, replaced by an almost giddy feeling of first love. Gabrielle even looked like a changed woman; she most certainly acted differently, and not from when I first met her, but since yesterday. She appeared self assured and strong and I could feel myself falling in love with her all over again. She teased me with the title, Conqueror, and I felt the bond between us was solidified, for both of us to accept such a thing.
You realize youll have to pay for stealing that kiss. I said, standing and lifting her easily into my arms. I walked into the outer room, our bedchamber on my mind.
Oh, Gabrielle purred seductively, and what will my punishment be?
I stopped in the middle of the outer room, the sound of Gabrielles voice arousing my smoldering libido into a full-fledged blaze. I arched an eyebrow and gave her a wicked smile.
Youll have to give it back, I whispered.
Our lips met in a kiss unlike any other we ever shared. The only way, in which to describe it, with mere words, is to say that it was powerful. That one kiss soon led to another and another, until my knees began to literally shake from something that had little to do with the weight of the slight figure I held in my arms. Unfortunately, that was exactly when the door opened. I dont know who was more surprised, Sylla, or the two of us. Id completely forgotten that my maid correction, our maid, came in to the rooms like this every morning to wake me. Shed taken to not walking into our bedroom at all, but I suppose she thought the outer rooms were still safe.
I uh forgive me, Lord Conqueror. Sylla stammered.
Its all right, Sylla I chuckled, still holding Gabrielle in my arms.
Suddenly my lover must have felt slightly foolish, which I was surprised about, but I attributed it to Gabrielles new sense of herself. She was a free woman and I was going to have to start remembering that fact.
Xena, put me down, Gabrielle ordered and I immediately complied, much to Syllas amazement.
The young maid straightened the room and brought the trays in with our early morning meal. I noticed both young women, their heads close together, speaking in low tones. Sylla looked at me with a distrustful eye a few times as I walked in and out of my study. That, I marked up to the quickly fading bruise left on Gabrielles cheek. Finally, I watched as Sylla hugged Gabrielle tight and I was sure my young lover told her friend her important news.
Xena are you going to sit and eat something? Gabrielle asked.
I walked over and popped a small piece of sweetbread into my mouth. I need to bathe and get ready, the verdict and the sentencing are to be today. Besides, I placed a small kiss on top of the golden hair, you need to get ready too.
Me? Gabrielle asked in surprise.
Yes, dont you want to be present at such an event?
Yes, but I--
It will be your first time in the Great Hall as a free woman and I intend to have you by my side. I responded before waiting for her answer.
Gabrielle smiled and as I entered the bathing chamber, I could hear the two women begin a lively discussion as to what the Conquerors future bride should be seen wearing to a day in court.
Im not sure how to describe how I felt walking into the Hall. I usually just strode in as Antillius, the youngest advisor on my staff, announced me. I liked Antillius. He was an honest young man, like his father before him, who served me well as an advisor for many seasons. I search back over the summers that have passed in this palace and realize, through all my debaucheries, I always seemed to have a soft side. It simply didnt rear its head often. Antillius father was an advisor on my staff until one winter a fever took more out of him than he could recover from. I could look around the palace now and see that nearly half my staff was comprised of people I rewarded for some reason or another. Either that, or I felt I owed their parents something, although thats how I ended up in this mess with Kassandros, isnt it?
It was customary for all those in the Hall to stand until I seated myself. On this day I led Gabrielle into the room, my hand placed strategically under her elbow. I wanted to make it clear; in the way that Gabrielle walked by my side and not behind me, her status within the palace, as well as my life, had changed. Id made arrangements with Antillius earlier to scribe the necessary documents regarding Gabrielles freedom, and also to make plans for a chair to be situated next to mine. I stopped and motioned for Gabrielle to sit before me, another indication of her status change. It sent a very clear message to those within the Hall. It told them that I placed Gabrielles welfare above my own; thereby signifying that only one here had as much power as I within the Empire.
Her Royal Highness, the Lord Conqueror of the Greek Empire, Antillius called out in a clear voice, and the Lady Gabrielle, he added per my request.
Antillius grinned slightly as we passed and I winked at the young man. As Gabrielle and I took our seats, I heard the murmurs coming from those in the audience. Part of it was due to confusion over hearing the title affixed to Gabrielles name, the other, anger because she was there in the first place. I plucked a few scrolls off the table beside my chair, I went about the pretence of scanning the information in the parchments, while one of the men appointed to argue this case before me, stood up, clearing his throat.
You have a question, Terillus? I asked, without looking up.
Uh, Lord Conqueror
I looked up as he was nervously glancing over at Gabrielle. I knew he didnt want to be the one to say it. Terillus was a decent enough man, but I was breaking the law, having a slave seated in the Hall.
Oh, yes. I said as if it just occurred to me. I was rather enjoying this. Antillius, dont you have some sort of proclamation to read?
Yes, Lord Conqueror, he stepped up and cleared his throat, unrolling the scroll as he did so.
By order of her Royal Highness, the Lord Conqueror of the Greek Empire, I rolled my eyes in embarrassment at Gabrielle as Antillius read off my title and she used her hand to cover her smile.
This morning, her Royal Highness declares that the slave known only as Gabrielle, receive her freedom from servitude. According to law, the Lady Gabrielle will present herself to this court seven days hence, for the official decree. Until that moment, the Lady Gabrielle is presented temporary status as a Greek citizen with all the rights that privilege contains.
Gabrielle looked at me and the smile on her face warmed my heart. I saw only love, mixed with a tiny bit of surprise. I leaned over to whisper in her ear.
You asked if I would tell people is this what you had in mind? I questioned innocently.
Not exactly, she whispered back. I envisioned something a tad more intimate, but thank you, Xena.
Those green eyes sparkled in my direction and I knew in my heart, this wouldnt be the first time I would attempt to move a mountain for my lover.
I looked out into the sea of faces looking back at us. Some smiled and nodding their approval, other looked a bit taken back, and some, of course, appeared angry, frightened that the way of life they knew was about to change. Against the far wall, I caught the eyes of a familiar face and the large smile that graced the older womans features. Delias eyes shone with unshed tears and I bowed my head in her direction, in deference to the woman who showed me the most about being a friend, with the possible exception of the young woman seated beside me.
Terillus bowed and backed away. Lord Conqueror Lady Gabrielle. He said respectfully.
Has the council considered a verdict, Terillus? I asked, getting back to the matter at hand.
They have, Lord Conqueror. He answered.
Have the prisoners brought before me to hear their judgment, I commanded to no one in particular.
The six of them were led in, bound in chains. They filed in, at least four guards surrounding them, Kassandros brought up the rear. Finally, they all looked up and a surprised gasp escaped from Gabrielles throat. Looking quickly over to her, the small blondes hand reached out and she clutched at my forearm, digging her nails into my skin.
Gabrielle? I leaned toward her.
Her face was contorted in pain, her breathing increased by the telltale rapid rise and fall of her chest. Her eyes took on a glazed over cast as she stared down at the men, more particularly, Kassandros.
All I could do was reach out and call her name, which she seemed suddenly oblivious to. Gabrielle stood up, all the while staring daggers at the man. Suddenly, her balance seemed compromised and she clutched at my arm again. I jumped from my seat just in time to keep her from hitting the floor. I scooped her into my arms as Atrius opened the door into a side chamber. I moved through the open doorway, already calling out for my healer.
How beautiful. Gabrielle dreamily commented as she moved toward consciousness.
I was worried now; the girl wasnt making any sense as she looked up, past me, and into thin air. I was standing over the low couch Id laid Gabrielles limp body on, upon first entering the room. Kuros, my healer kneeled at her side, proclaiming that she simply passed out and he couldnt find anything physically wrong with her beyond that.
Gabrielle, are you all right? I asked nervously.
I see stars, Gabrielle tried to focus, pointing toward me.
I told you she wasnt all right, Kuros, I chided my healer. Gods, its amazing that the man still puts up with me, I turn into such a child around him.
He turned to look up at me and opened his mouth to speak. Suddenly he broke out into a smile and pointed above me. Lord Conqueror she does see stars.
I looked over my head, since Gabrielle and Kuros were both pointing toward the ceiling. I had to smile, sweet Aphrodite, the girl would be the death of me someday, I just know it. I stood looking at a painting of the night sky over Amphipolis, one that I commissioned an artisan to paint on the ceiling when I was in one of my more melancholy moods a few seasons back.
Atrius walked into the room and closed the door. He stopped when he saw all three of us looking up at the ceiling. His head inclined, then he took stock of the three of us once more.
Lord Conqueror? he asked uneasily.
Oh, Its nothing, I said quickly, realizing we must look like a pack of fools. Gabrielle?
I kneeled beside her when Kuros relinquished the spot, brushing the hair that fell into her eyes. I kissed her lips, watching as the color came creeping back into her cheeks. Her face quickly lost the dreamy quality of sleep and she tried to jump up into a sitting position.
Oh, Xena! she exclaimed.
Gabrielle clung to me and I could feel her body trembling. It didnt feel like fear, it felt as if anger were coursing through her.
Easy, easy, I said, helping her to sit up on the edge of the couch. Please, Gabrielle, tell me whats wrong. I asked.
I Xena, that man! Gabrielle cried out. I looked up rather helplessly and Atrius shrugged his shoulders, not understanding any better than I to whom Gabrielle referred.
Gabrielle, I dont understand. What man? Has someone hurt you? I asked slowly.
The man the one that stood before me in chains he was the one. Gabrielle stammered.
Kassandros? The burly man on the end?
Yes! It was him, Xena, Ill never forget his face. Tears formed in her eyes and I felt myself growing angry over whatever Kassandros had done to Gabrielle to terrify her so.
What did he do? I asked in a low voice, my teeth clenched together, trying to control myself.
He was the one, Gabrielle seemed as if she were trying to explain, but couldnt put the thoughts together in an understandable way. Xena, he was the one who kidnapped the girls from my village outside of Potidaea. He took us and sold us in Amphipolis the next day.
Gabrielles tears overflowed and streamed down her lightly freckled cheeks. I looked up and every man in the room simply stood there with an open mouth. Id never asked Gabrielle how she came to be a slave. Id asked her how long she served and where she was from, and a hundred other questions, but I never thought to ask her that one. There were only three legal ways to become a slave in my realm. You could be destined for a life of servitude if you were captured as part of the spoils of war, if you had debts you couldnt pay, or if you sold yourself into the position. On the very borderline of the law were the people who would sell their own children as slaves, in my opinion, the worst kind of humanity. Id outlawed illegal slave traders, but old habits were hard to break for some. My prisons were full of men arrested for the same crimes Kassandros and his bunch committed. All these thoughts went through my head, but I found myself unable to speak.
Then, youre not a slave? Antillius commented on the obvious.
Shes never been a slave, I said, as if to convince myself as well. I stared straight into those sad green eyes. Gabrielle, why didnt you ever tell anyone?
I tried, at first, her tears spilled harder as she related the memory. I was beaten for trying to tell people, I was so young and the men had ways of making you she visibly shuddered and I pulled her against my chest, stroking her hair as she spoke. They made it so you didnt tell anymore.
I admit to feeling so many emotions at once, I couldnt rest on just one alone. It came upon me in a swirling rush, the notion that this was my past come to haunt me. All the old nightmares, the sleepless nights, the people who came in and out of my life, for a good many seasons, I tortured myself for my past. When I wanted to try to begin to atone for the slightest bit of my past crimes, I found it hard to know where to start. I had no focus or goal, but that was different now.
Gabrielle sat before me as a living memory of my past. Id not caused all the ills of the world, but I certainly didnt do much as ruler of Greece to combat the evil and cruelty that existed here. I had the power to do so much good and I thoughtlessly squandered it all. Now I had a goal and even though it may appear small to some, I knew it was a start. I would work the rest of my life to repair the destruction of Gabrielles young life. There would be no amount of love too great to give, no time too much to spend with her. I only prayed to Athena that it would be enough. In my heart, I knew it wouldnt come close, but I would try all the same.
Gabrielle why didnt you ever try to tell me? I asked.
The small blonde looked up at me. Wiping her eyes, she then looked at the open mouthed men standing around her. Because I was a slave, she said.
My lover used those very words once before and they made just as big of an impact on me as they did now. In a world where one person could own another, where one human beings life was thought to be worth so much less simply because of the direction the fates spun their life thread, Gabrielles words completed the picture. Injustice and inhumanity allowed to flourish, for one simple reason; slavery. It brought about an even greater commitment to the event I would make happen on this day.
Then we wont need the proclamation Gabrielle is a free woman, right? Antillius said enthusiastically.
Atrius and I looked at one another, knowing it was never that easy.
Gabrielle, Atrius acknowledged her for the first time. Where did this happen?
My father had a farm quite a distance from Potidaea. I was very young, but I remember that it used to take a full day to get to the harbor in Potidaea. Gabrielle answered.
This farm would your parents still be living? Atrius asked again.
I saw where he was headed, but Gabrielle shrugged her shoulders. Ive never been able to get back to the Macedon area to find out. She replied tearfully. I was bought in Abdera by Persian traders and it was another three seasons before I was sold to a Greek Master.
It suddenly became clear why Gabrielle was so well educated for a slave. Being sent to Persia as a slave had its advantages and its horrors. The unfortunate aspect for a ten-year-old girl was that of the Persians propensity for children as sex slaves. The odd part was that they neither beat nor berated the slaves, but taught through kindness and gifts, an odd form of abuse. They also believed in educating slave children right alongside the noblemans children. Boys and girls all learned to read, write, and play an instrument, usually the lyre. It was good fortune for Gabrielle, that once a girl reaches the age of twelve, she must be Persian born to share a citizens bed. Gabrielle was probably sold to a Greek buyer, bringing her back to her homeland, for that very reason.
Gabrielle, its only that well not that any of us dont believe you, of course we do, love, I said, kissing her forehead, but the court would have to have proof that you were born a free woman, your parents word, or a midwife present at your birth.
I understand. Im sorry I interrupted the proceedings, My Lord, Gabrielle answered and I grinned at her ever so slightly. All that she suffered through and she was still trying to present the proper amount of decorum in front of the other men present in the room.
This isnt over yet, I stood up and ran my hands through my hair.
Something was nagging at me about all of this. Gabrielles story rang true for more reasons than because she was my lover, and I wanted it to be true. My mind sped through the many conversations Gabrielle and I had over the last few moons. Ten the number ten stuck in my brain.
Gabrielle, you were kidnapped when you were ten summers old? I asked.
Yes, she responded slowly. That was ten, almost eleven, seasons ago.
I turned to Atrius and Antillius. When I spoke with my chief builder, Sagoris, that day I told him to tear down the hired servants housing and rebuild, he said something interesting. He explained that Demetri was in charge of building the shacks were left with now. At the time, I simply assumed Demetri purchased inferior supplies and pocketed the money. Now I know where that money went. Sagoris said that all this happened about ten seasons ago.
So, you think Demetri provided the funds for Kassandros illegal slave trade. Atrius caught on.
It makes more than perfect sense when you look at it. I began my customary pacing as I spoke. Ten seasons ago Demetri stole enough money from the palace coffers to fund such an operation. Ten seasons ago Kassandros was made a Governor of Macedon. Ten seasons ago Gabrielle was abducted in the same manner as the girls we so recently rescued from Callius clutches.
It does seem more than enough to be presented as a case for dismissal, Antillius offered.
But, where is your proof? I hadnt even noticed Terillus come into the room. The older man folded his arms across his chest.
Terillus is right. Its all conjecture unless we have testimony, someone who knew or saw something. I agreed sadly.
He would know. Gabrielles voice came from the couch she still sat upon.
Wed all but forgotten the young woman was still there and all of us turned at once.
You mean Kassandros? I asked her and she nodded her head.
Gabrielle, he a man condemned to die, he would spit in our faces rather than give information that would help your cause. Atrius responded.
Not necessarily. I added. I might be able to make him a deal. Atrius, can you have a couple of guards bring him in here?
Aye, Lord Conqueror. He replied and left the room.
I pulled Gabrielle to one side and spoke softly. Gabrielle, you may not want to be in the same room with him.
Please, Xena, dont do what I think you might do not just for me. Gabrielle responded. I can tell by that look in your eye. These men deserve to die for their crimes. Think of all the woman like me, the girls like the ones you saved on the ship that day. Dont allow this man leniency simply for me. I wouldnt want that.
I pressed my fingers to her lips to quiet and reassure her. There is no fear that I will not see that these men are punished accordingly, Gabrielle. They will wish for death before their punishment is through. Trust me? I whispered at last.
She looked up at me, nodding and mustering a tiny smile for my benefit, the expression on her face, the look in her eye, spoke of an all-embracing and utter trust. I knew what it would come across resembling, but I simply didnt care. I reached down and kissed her lips lightly.
I wont let you down. I whispered.
Kassandros, I stood in front of the chained man, I need information from you. I said simply.
Ill suffer in Tartarus first! he growled.
I can arrange that. I hissed. Do you remember Antipater? Remember how your father died?
I moved closer to him until I was practically whispering in his ear. I could see that he blanched a little at the memory. Id had the General and all his officers disemboweled while they still breathed. Sometimes I still heard those screams in my nightmares.
What do I get in return? he asked, knowing that I would offer a reward of sorts.
Your life. I answered.
I had to admit, I was proud of Gabrielle. When I asked her to trust me, I was asking for a great deal. I could see her in the corner of the room, her hands formed into small fists.
Youll be put into a prison for the rest of your life. Your alternative is death, and I wont make it a pleasant way to die, trust me. I raised an eyebrow for effect.
What do you want to know? he asked gruffly.
When you started the kidnappings, where did you begin?
Hades, it was seasons ago!
Where did you get the money to hire men, then? I asked.
Demetri sent silver. He started the whole thing off.
Think hard, Kassandros, your life depends on it literally. Where did you begin?
Ah, its no big a mystery. We started in Macedon, the Chalcidice region. In those days, Id hire some men and do the job myself. We started there; the little farm villages usually had plenty of girls to grab. We raided the outskirts where we could get whole villages sometimes. Adult males sold good for heavy labor, women, and brats for domestic stuff. The really pretty girls all went for pleasure.
Do you remember where exactly? I asked between clenched teeth. It was only my promise to Gabrielle that kept me from splitting his skull.
Course. Potidaea, Amphipolis, but then it got sos you couldnt sell them there once you and your laws came around, he added snidely. We started sending them to Abdera, that way they could be shipped straight to Persia.
I listened to his tale and realized that Id done precious little over the seasons to combat the illegal trade in slaves. Amphipolis, Potidaea, and Abdera, were all well-known ports of trade for slaves. Abdera got away with the most, I guessed, simply because they had a daily auction block for slaves, legally taken as war captives in neighboring Thracian tribal wars. Their proximity to Persia meant that a good deal of the slaves went there.
Where else did you send them to be sold?
Hades, all over! Most went to the big slave markets in Ephesus and Chios, then on to Corinth and Athens. Some went to Delos, but not usually ours. He finally finished, as calmly as if he were telling us there would be rain tomorrow.
Delos would be the hardest port to shut down. Only recently, it became the notorious center of the Greek slave trade, legal and otherwise. I remembered the beautiful island well from the last time I was there. Funny thinking this now, but I got a notion in my head, that Gabrielle would probably enjoy the spectacular lake, inhabited by thousands of eye-catching swans. I would love to see the look on her face when she saw the breathtaking Lions Terrace, built in my honor. The carved marble lions were indeed a remarkable sight.
I finally shook my head to bring me out of my thoughts and into the situation before me.
Well, gentleman? I looked at Antillius and Terillus, who nodded their heads.
I will speak to the other advisors on the Lady Gabrielles behalf, Lord Conqueror. Terillus spoke up.
I motioned with my hand and the guards stepped forward to bring Kassandros back out to the Great Hall.
Dont forget what you promised, Conqueror! The prisoner shouted back at me.
I stood there watching Gabrielles eyes follow the man from the room; a haunted look of pain and a life lost burning in those emerald orbs.
Oh, I wont forget, I muttered under my breath.
I left the room to speak with Antillius and Terillus, along with my four other advisors. I wanted to handle things in the right order to prevent any chaos that might come of the situation. First things first and I had a verdict to pronounce.
Once again, the men were brought before me, Gabrielle too, seated by my side.
Lord Terillus, will you announce your verdict to the court? I directed the older man.
Yes, Lord Conqueror. Terillus opened a scroll and read the short, but predictable message. In the court of her Royal Highness, the Lord Conqueror of the Greek Empire, we six advisors to the palace have conferred and found each of the accused guilty of the crime of illegal slave activity.
Terillus then turned to me and bowed slightly before returning to his seat.
So be it, I said, sealing the fate of the silent men before me. You will be brought before the court this afternoon for your sentencing. I recommend you say a few words to Hades. I smirked, as they were lead away.
Once they were gone from the Hall, I nodded to Antillius. The young man cleared his throat and opened the first scroll. I held my breath without realizing it, anxious to see the look on Gabrielles face. I dont know why, but the usual preamble always caused me to want to roll my eyes.
By order of her Royal Highness, the Lord Conqueror of the Greek Empire, the proclamation to free the slave known as Gabrielle is immediately rescinded.
If Gabrielles eyes had been brands of fire, I would have been seared through. She looked at me with a combination of anger and incomprehension.
Antillius! I called out sharply, interrupting the young man. I crooked a finger when he looked up and he walked close to my chair, so close that I grabbed him by the neck and pulled him down to ear level.
Antillius, do you see the look on Gabrielles face? I asked. I didnt have to glance again; I knew what she looked like.
The young man nodded nervously once he saw the death wish written in my lovers eyes.
Do you know what happens if Gabrielle gets mad at me?
Antillius gave a red-faced grin. May I hazard a guess and say I would get beat up or something like that?
Youre such a bright boy, Antillius. I grinned right back at him. Why dont we read those proclamations in a different order? Hhmm?
Of course, Lord Conqueror. He answered.
Um by proclamation of the--
Antillius, just get on with it! my patience was sadly at an end.
Yes, Lord Conqueror. After conference among the Conquerors palace advisors and satisfying testimony, the advisors have reached an understanding; the slave known only as Gabrielle will no longer be known as a former slave. Due to kidnapping and illegal slave trade, the lady Gabrielle is not now, nor has she ever been a slave. She is a free woman born and raised until the kidnapping ten seasons ago. According to law, the Lady Gabrielle will present herself to this court seven days hence, for the official decree.
I looked over to find Gabrielle smiling proudly. We left the Great Hall for a break until the afternoon session, where I would be expected to pronounce sentence. I needed to be somewhere quiet for a bit. I wanted Gabrielle with me, so I asked one of the kitchen maids to prepare a light lunch for us to take into the gardens. I took Gabrielles hand as we left the Great Hall, she with tears in her eyes that, for the first time in a long time, meant pure joy and happiness, and I with a smile that was so uncharacteristic, I saw a few old women laugh at my lovesick expression.
The girl amazed me as I watched her eat the last half dozen figs, followed by one more, thick slice of manośri, a sweet cheese.
You sure youre not eating for two already? I teased.
Not yet, but look out when I do. She smiled over at me and we both enjoyed the relaxed laughter that followed.
It feels so different being with you now, Xena, she commented.
Im sure Im much changed, love, but I think it is mostly because of the changes in you.
Me? she answered, the tone sounding as if she believed that to be highly unlikely.
Yes, you, I reached over and touched my index finger to the tip of her nose. Ive watched you, Gabrielle, occasionally when you think Im not, I smiled. I remember the girl who stood before me with a dirty face and bare feet, not even able to look me in the eye. She was so terrified of the thought of spending one night in the Conquerors bed, that she tried to hide herself from my eyes.
I looked so pathetic then I hadnt had a bath in days and days, Gabrielle said self-consciously.
I think I started to fall in love with you on that very day, at that very minute, I answered her, and she blushed deeply, bowing her head.
Ive never heard you talk like this, she responded, unable or unwilling to raise her head and meet my eyes.
Im sorry I didnt know how to tell you sooner, I said, taking her hand in my own, looking down at it and feeling the smoothness against my own much rougher hand. Im sorry that I ever led you to doubt how very much I love you, Gabrielle. Im not always proud of who I am, much less who Ive been, but having you in my life makes me believe that I can be a much better person; having you in my heart, makes me know that I am.
I was mightily rewarded with the sweetest kiss in the world for that little speech. Gods, who would have known? If Id have recognized that the simple truth of revealing my feelings could do this, I might have tried it long ago.
Xena, youre an incredible woman, Gabrielle said, surprising me. Youre different from every person Ive ever known in my life, and I love you because of it. I knew there was something different about you after the first evening we were together, but I never knew it could cause me to feel this way; never realized it would instill this feeling of absolute love and trust for you, and I do you know.
I didnt want to cry, not again, and not in front of Gabrielle, but I was fighting a losing battle. All I could do was bring the hand in my own up to my lips and kiss it.
I never thought, Xena never dared to hope that something this beautiful would ever happen to me. That someone like you would ever want a girl like me, Gabrielle added.
I looked up, and through my tears, I smiled.
Did I say something amusing? Gabrielle asked.
No, something mystical, I replied. You just read my mind. Those were the very thoughts running through my mind. Gabrielle, are you sure, I mean, sure that Im the one?
Would you rather I not be? she asked in concern.
No! I answered quickly, no, love its not that. I only think about the fact that well, Gabrielle, Im quite a bit older than you, Ive earned my share of enemies over the seasons. I worry that youll be committing to a lifetime of loneliness or have your heart broken should Celesta come looking for me one day soon.
I searched her eyes, the green irises turning darker, misting over with tears. Just as suddenly they brightened, then she smiled and shook her head.
No, Athena would never have fulfilled our destinies this way to set us up for pain. Its not like her to dangle a golden carrot before someone without at least giving them the chance to jump at it. I will make special offerings to her in hopes that she can persuade her uncle not to call your name for a very long time, the young woman answered optimistically.
Gabrielle, do you know what an enigma is? I asked. My tears forgotten, a smile now graced my features.
Something that is difficult to understand? she answered, uncertainly.
In a way, yes, but its more. Its something or someone that is puzzling, thats simply inexplicable. You are that for me. I responded. You are the most loving, generous woman I have ever known, yet living the life you have, that you are that way, completely baffles me. You can be shy and timid, but in the time it takes an eagle to strike down its prey, you can be forceful and commanding. I cant explain it. You are a riddle, my love, that I want to spend the rest of my time in this mortal realm solving.
I reached over to kiss the look of shock from her face. We need to get back, but I want to ask you something.
I pulled the small signet ring from my little finger. I kept a large, heavy ring in a box on my desk, which would someday go to my heir. I only wore it at official functions and kept it locked at my desk to use as a seal. For Greek royalty, the ring that bears our crest carries no greater sign of commitment. To give the ring to my heir or the next in line for the throne, displayed an open and willing commitment to the bearer of the ring. It showed great faith, trust, and belief in the recipient of the gift. No ruler ever gave their signet up lightly.
I took hold of Gabrielles hand once more and pulled it toward me, easily slipping the trinket on her ring finger. Once in place, I kissed the tops of her fingers, then turned her hand and gently kissed her palm.
This is my promise, Gabrielle. All that I have I share with you, except my heart, and that I give to you completely, I said softly.
I dont think I deserve to be a Queen, Xena, she replied in a tearful voice.
You do, my love, and I plan on spending the rest of my life showing you just how much I believe that. I smiled. Are you ready? I rose and held out a hand to her.
When I felt her hand slip into my mine, I thought of the eve before I took Athens, the night I pledged my allegiance to Athena. Suddenly I was there, in that old tent I set up as a shrine for her, remembering the Goddess words to me.
With Ares power, Xena, you would have become the mightiest warrior in the Known World. With mine, youll become the greatest ruler Greece has ever known.
She slipped her hand into mine and I felt a tingling sensation travel up my arm and into my chest, followed by a feeling of confidence, that what she was saying would indeed come to pass.
And what will I owe you? I questioned in a low dulcet tone. My naturally suspicious nature knew the Gods didnt give anything away for free.
Your heart, Athena answered.
I thought you were the Pallas, I drawled, the use of the old title, indicating the Goddess renowned virginity. I also stared hungrily, greedy for a chance at being the first. It seems conquering was in my blood.
Athena smiled seductively. Ive seen the way you go at it, Xena. I think if I were to take a lover, Id want it a little less rough.
Dont knock it till ya tried it, I grinned, turning on the charm.
This time she laughed. Xena, you have a long journey ahead of you, and I fear what Ares has molded you into, may make it difficult, if not impossible, for you to recover.
I didnt understand one damn word she was babbling on about, but the ample breasts, threatening to spill out from their armored hideaway, werent helping me keep track of her words any.
I looked into her face and she was shaking her head in amused disapproval. Xena, Im going to keep your heart for you until you need it.
Trust me, that I wont need, I responded, still ogling her chest.
Quickly she reached out and grabbed my chin, holding it firmly within her fingers. I saw a previously hidden fire in her eyes and I realized her patience had come to an end.
You will need it someday. Trust me, there will come a time when you will want it back, she said strongly.
Yea, when? I sneered.
Her gaze softened again. When you want to give it away, she replied. Were you even listening to me before?
Yea, yea Im going on a journey, I answered, rubbing my sore chin.
Of a sort, yes. She smiled again, only this time the smile seemed sad. She turned to leave and I couldnt help asking.
Athena . I called out and she turned back. When will I want to give my heart away? I asked quietly.
I thought that would have been apparent, again, the bittersweet smile, at your journeys end, of course.
She was gone in a multicolored flash, but I looked down at the hand that still tingled with warmth.
Xena Xena, are you all right? Gabrielle asked.
I had to literally shake my head and look around to realize where I was. I remembered the incident with amazing clarity, but up to a few heartbeats ago, it had been lost to my memories. It was as if it never happened, but I knew that it had.
Athena and I both kept our promises after all. She made me the greatest ruler in all of Greece and I gave her my heart. Thank the Gods there was at least one benevolent deity on Olympus. Athena safeguarded my heart all these seasons, her words coming back to me as I felt the warmth of Gabrielles hand in mine.
Until I want to give it away, I whispered in amazement.
What? Gabrielle asked with a worried frown.
I smiled brightly and squeezed her hand. Nothing, love, just remembering something that happened a long time ago.
We walked through the garden, and I swore the olive wood statue of Athena Polias, which we passed before entering the palace, winked at me.
Are you sure you want to be in there? I asked Gabrielle before we entered the Great Hall. Gabrielle nodded her head silently and I watched as she twisted my ring on her finger. Gabrielle? I asked.
Xena, I just dont want you to back off of punishing that man because he gave us the information we needed. Gabrielle responded, indicating Kassandros testimony.
Id never interfere with your decisions, its only he needs tears formed in her eyes and I took her in my arms and held her.
To suffer? I finished for her.
Again, the silent nod.
And, you think I might let him off the hook, for the testimony that freed you? I asked.
I dont ever want to be the cause for so many feeling that justice wasnt served in your court. She responded.
I understand, love, but sometimes the law and justice are leagues apart from one another. I promise you one thing, though, justice will be served today. I answered.
Moreover, Kassandros will suffer, I thought to myself, as Gabrielle and I entered the Hall.
I stood and paced before the men brought for sentencing. I was speaking of the inhumanity of the slavers, their ways, detailing in graphic examples, exactly what the kidnapped children could expect as slaves. Ever since I could first remember, I had a knack for speaking in front of people. The rush that I received from my battle speeches was something akin to being pleasured, and I used to ride that wave of pleasure, squeezing every last drop of emotion from it. I did the same right now and I could see it in their faces. Some realizing, for the first time, what the life of a slave must be like, so I continued to speak.
I was setting them up for my victory, and the majority of them never even knew it.
You have all been condemned and convicted of the crime of illegal slave trade, I directed my comments to the prisoners. By Greek law I have the right to condemn each of you to death.
Wait a minute, I heard Kassandros growl under his breath.
I held up my hand for silence. But, is death really appropriate for this crime? I turned to the people once more. Would their deaths bring those children back? Can it bring the stolen lives back? I asked, pausing to look up at Gabrielle. Do the victims even care if these men die? Of course, not, they can only think of one thing vengeance. Many of the victims will never be known, but for them, this court exacts that vengeance for them.
I moved back to my chair, touching Gabrielles shoulder lightly as I walked past her. That small connection was enough for me to feel energized, committed to my goal.
In this case, death is actually too good for you. I said seriously. Because of that, I sentence you to life imprisonment.
Murmurs and grumbles arose from the audience before I was even finished. In the mines at Pella, I added.
The grumbling stopped immediately and only murmured whispers could be heard.
Pella was in upper Macedon, Kassandros homeland, so he knew what I had in mind.
The city of Corinth produced silver coins, my face stamped on some, the symbol of a lion on others. Silver was used because it was plentiful in mines all over the Empire. Gold coins were something a bit more rare. They were minted in few cities, but the most profitable was in Pella, due to the supplies of gold ore. The deposits were deep underground, the labor nearly death defying to mine the precious metal, which was why prisoners were used in the mines. In the mines at Pella, even slaves were considered too valuable to send in.
You said the rest of my life Id be sent to a prison for the rest of my life, Kassandros yelled as they pulled him away.
I figure that should be in about one season, I returned calmly.
Once the astonished onlookers were calmed a bit, I motioned to Antillius. The young man opened a scroll and cleared his throat.
By order of her Royal Highness, the Lord Conqueror of the Greek Empire, the following proclamation is issued as law. To begin on this day at this very moment, the Lord Conqueror has commanded that slavery be banished from within the boundaries of the Greek Empire. The throne will be willing to provide a modest compensation to slave owners, as recompense, or to be used as wages, if the slaves of a household or within an industry choose to stay in their position, as hired servants. The army of the throne will see to it that said law is met with compliance, however the Lord Conqueror and her advisors shall be available on a daily basis, to see to it that the law is made a reality. Effective immediately, slavery is at an end in the realm.
Antillius looked over at me for approval and I smiled at the young man. So be it. I said, thereby putting the law into effect.
He then brought the scroll to me and handed me a quill, wet with ink. I signed my name to the document, and another, exactly like the first. Terillus insisted we have a duplicate copy. A remarkable thing happened after I signed my name. Almost the entire Hall cheered. I certainly wasnt expecting that, which made Gabrielle brighten and lean towards me to whisper in my ear.
And now you are an enigma to me, my future Queen smiled
Not a soul bothered us again for the rest of the night. We ate a leisurely dinner that Delia outdid herself creating, followed by an even more relaxing bath, with more touching and caressing going on than actual bathing. We ended up in front of the game table, each of us enjoying a goblet of wine. I think Gabrielle humored me in drinking hers, I know she didnt care for the taste very much.
The game of Kings Men went about like all our games; I got my butt kicked.
How do you do that? I raised my voice slightly, staring down at the marble playing field.
Because you do the same thing over and over, Gabrielle countered.
Ill have you know that I won every campaign I ever waged, from Sparta to Troy, with the exception of one. I shot back.
Hhmm, Gabrielle said, rising and turning her back on me, Funny, but you havent won any in Corinth.
I stared at her retreating back, open-mouthed. Now it was a well-known fact that I hadnt won the first Campaign I waged to take Corinth, well, actually, I didnt lose, but I called a retreat. Long story. What amazed me is that Gabrielle managed to cut me down to size in a rather amusing jibe equating that battle and my ability at Kings men.
So quickly, I bet she never heard it; I jumped from my chair. I had her in my arms and up in the air, tossed over one shoulder before she knew what was happening. The combination of Gabrielles screams and her laughter as I tickled her, brought a much too enthusiastic Aristes, charging in through our door.
We all just stopped and stared at one another. I repositioned Gabrielle in my arms and the guard was wondering, Im sure, which it would be, Tartarus or Elysium.
I forgive me I I heard well, then I thought maybe I thought the lady um, that she could be in trouble the guard desperately tried to stammer out.
Gabrielle and I never said a word.
Ill just um Aristes pointed toward the door and he left the way he came, only a lot quieter.
Once the door closed, Gabrielle and I took one look at one another and burst into laughter.
That poor boy, Gabrielle said.
Poor boy, my ass, I said while crossing the room and pushing the bolt on the door, while holding on to Gabrielle with one arm. Hes lucky Im in a good mood.
Are you going to put me down now? she asked.
So, what are you going to do with me? she asked with a gleam of expectation in her eye.
What do you think? I asked, crossing the threshold of our bedroom.
Why are you laughing? I think I could, I said, sure if I pouted a little Gabrielle would give in and agree.
Oh, Xena, Im sorry, love but you as a body slave? I just cant picture it. She continued to chuckle.
Well, I didnt say Id be great at it, just that I could, if I had to. I replied.
Uh huh. Gabrielle arched her eyebrow.
I could! Quit looking at me that way.
What way, love? she asked.
That way. That condescending way that says, you dont think I can do it.
Xena, dear were talking about forgoing your own pleasure to see to your masters, not thinking of taking one bit of satisfaction for yourself. Do you remember the first evening we met, when you eventually passed out? Gabrielle asked.
I fell asleep, I did not pass out. Besides, I fought in a battle that morning. I whined rather pathetically.
All right, Gabrielle rose from the couch wed been reclining on. She let her robe slide from her shoulders, her beautiful, naked body standing there before me. She turned on her heel and walked to the bed. Pulling back the comforter and sheets, she sat down and leaned back, reclining on one elbow.
Well? she looked at me.
Now? Right now?
Its now or never, Conqueror. Gabrielle answered firmly.
She held an amused look in her eyes that told me she thought I was far from capable of pulling off such a feat. I wondered why I was even trying, when I knew damn well that making love to Gabrielle, denying my own release, would damn near kill me.
I can do this, I kept whispering in my head. I stood up and walked to the bed.
Take off your robe. She commanded and I felt myself getting wet.
Just like that I was aroused. Hades, this wasnt going to be much of a seduction if the slave came before her master. Why am I even considering this? Gabrielle doesnt expect me to prove anything. I let the robe fall from my body, becoming increasingly aroused at the hungry stare Gabrielle used to look me over. She abruptly rolled into the middle of the bed, on her stomach.
A backrub, Xena. Thats what I need, she mumbled, practically into her pillow.
Oh Gods, I knew what she was recreating, now. It was the first night we spent together. I realized I might be in a tad over my head here, but never being one to back away from a challenge, I blindly pressed on. I stood there wondering how a submissive person acts, how do they think? I watched as she spread those legs apart and I knew it was up to me to take the silent command to kneel there. I found myself frozen in place, literally unable to move. Something like fear kept me grounded in place, unable to obey the unspoken order. I was suddenly afraid that I wouldnt be able to please my lover, couldnt be what she needed. Was I too old, too weary, did I have enough in me to be in love? Children she wanted children, Gods!
My thoughts raced through my brain like a speeding chariot. I pulled my mind to an abrupt halt and realization crept up on me. This is what a slave feels like; insecure, unworthy, always wondering if you are good enough, pleasing enough. For all my bluster about being unable to know what a slave truly feels, I actually did know. Deep down, the only thing different between Gabrielle and I had always been her fear. Now, that she was ridding herself of that cumbersome emotion, she stood on an equal footing with me. That fact terrified me. It also elated me. I had a chance to give Gabrielle something that no man or woman ever gave her; the chance to be in command. To feel with abandon, understanding that any pleasure you desired was within your reach. I was smiling at that prospect when Gabrielle spoke.
Not up to the challenge, Conqueror? she smirked into her pillow.
I decided to take the challenge. I kneeled between her open legs, my own pressing up against her. I touched her, kneading the muscles in the small of her back. I slowly began to feel her muscles become warm and pliant under my touch. Her skin felt smooth, but I could feel the strength the porcelain skin disguised.
Where did you learn how to do this? Gabrielle asked in a breathy voice. I just knew she was holding back a groan of pleasure.
I decided to play along with her little recreation. One of my masters had a healer who was from the land of Chin. He was very happy to teach me the ways of his art, Mistress. I tried to remember the few words Gabrielle spoke to me that evening.
I leaned into her slight body and rubbed small circles into her lower back with the heel of one hand. Strong thighs parted slightly and I pressed against the insides of those gorgeous legs, leaning my weight in, to place more pressure on my hand. She moaned softly as the curls covering my mound pressed into her shapely backside, and my own wetness betrayed me, just as it had when our positions were reversed. Gods! How does she do it? I was about ready to hold her down and ravish her right then. I paused momentarily upon reaching her hips, acting as if I didnt know in which direction to continue. Thank the Gods this whole thing seemed to be exciting her as much as me.
Lower, she ordered.
I watched as the muscles in her arms tensed in anticipation. She held the pillow in her arms tighter as I kneaded the flesh of her backside, wondering if she had any idea how insane she was making me with the small whimpers that Im sure she wasnt even aware she was making. I ran my hands along the silky skin there, first strongly massaging, then softly teasing with only my fingertips. I held my hands close together, letting the thumbs run along the division, moving lower until they just grazed her wetness. I took a deep breath, struggling to stay focused. In time, I moved down each thigh and along the backs of her legs, allowing my hands to caress her calves, working the arch of her foot, before letting my hands make the return journey.
By the time I slowly worked my way up to her backside again; the sounds coming from her throat were torturing me. She could no more hide her desire, than I could stop. It was easy to see her excitement, the folds of her sex, open and exposed to my eyes, glistened with her own brand of ambrosia. I was beginning to wonder if Gabrielle would want me in the exact way I wanted her, but I continued on. I was the slave and she the master. It was up to her to tell me what she desired. I dont know what it was about the open way she lay before me, the submissive position that belied who was in control, and who was merely being pleased, but I watched, mesmerized, as she pulled one knee up, spreading herself open, issuing the one command I held my breath for.
Touch me, she said hoarsely.
I knew exactly what she wanted now and I clenched my abdominal muscles, to contain the surge of pleasure and keep it from taking over my belly. I left one hand to continue rubbing the flesh of that gorgeous backside, allowing my fingers to slip into the wet flesh between her legs. Gods, oh Gods, I kept thinking to myself, as Gabrielle arched her back, leaning up on her elbows a bit more to open herself fully to me.
I was whimpering, but I believe the soft sounds were drowned out by Gabrielles moans and pleas for me not to stop. She ground her hips into the mattress to try to force my hand harder against her clit. I remembered the frustrating feeling when that contact wasnt enough, and she growled in frustration, just as I had.
Inside Gods, get your hand inside me! she commanded, crying out in ecstasy when I slipped my fingers inside of her.
She pushed back hard, impaling herself further, nearly on her hands and knees by now. I couldnt believe how excited I was by it all. It felt just as incredible as when Gabrielle took me in the same manner.
I kept in perfect sync with her thrusting back against me, matching the exact speed her hips dictated. My free hand was splayed, the fingers across her backside, moving my thumb along the crack toward her center. I continued that way, back and forth, spreading Gabrielles own juices up until she could feel where I was headed. I paused and began to gently rub the puckered flesh, pressing lightly, but not penetrating. Gabrielles hips began a swirling motion, pushing back, silently pleading for more.
I kept up the thrusting of my fingers inside her, feeling the trembling of her limbs indicating her approaching release. I continued to run my thumb back down to pick up more lubrication, returning and pressing a little harder each time.
Mistress? I asked, requesting permission exactly as she had.
Gabrielle groaned. I knew that feeling. You wanted to say no, but it was as if someone else was controlling your body.
Gods, yes! she cried out.
Finally, I paused and pushed against the reluctant opening, my thumb covered in Gabrielles silky wetness and in one smooth motion, I penetrated that tight opening with my thumb. I could feel my digit slide in, easily penetrating that wet warmth. I proceeded to do what Gabrielle did to me, fucked me until I thought I couldnt possibly hold back my own release any longer. She began pushing back hard against both of my hands moving inside her, and when her own screams ripped through her, she fell into the pillows, breathing hard.
I slowly eased my thumb out, my hand stilled inside her and before the last tremors of her powerful orgasm eased, I was moving my fingers inside her again. I twisted them up high and deep, rubbing the velvety spot inside and she was groaning aloud again. I brought her to another quick release after that, until her body fell forward onto the bed, her lungs needy for air.
Mercy, she sighed in defeat and I smiled inside, not allowing the emotion to be displayed on my face.
I rose from the bed, cleaned myself, and gulped down half a dozen swallows of ouzo. I was hoping the spirits would send me into Morpheus realm quickly, because now I had to go back to bed and prove that I could be a good slave; that I could abstain from my own pleasure. Gods, this was not funny. I had an ache between my legs that I just knew wasnt going to allow me to simply roll over and fall asleep.
I moved to the bed and wrapped myself around Gabrielle. Everything okay? I asked.
Mmm hmm, she murmured.
She pressed the length of her body back against me and my skin burned where it made contact with hers. Gods, I whispered as low as I could.
Feel good? she teased.
Ssh, go to sleep, love, I said hoarsely, trying to remember all the points of battlefield strategy I learned when younger. I was willing to try anything to get my mind off the pain between my legs.
Gabrielle pushed back into me, grinding her backside into my mound, which left a damp trail along her skin.
Xena youre so wet, she purred.
I broke out into a cold sweat. That kind of talk was doing nothing to douse my flaming libido. She swirled her hips, backing them into me a little harder this time. I could hear the growl rumbling in my chest before it even voiced itself.
Gabrielle, I leaned closer, practically lying over her, enjoying the contact of practically lying on top of her back, are you doing that on purpose?
Yes, she whispered back to me.
Then I did growl. Gabrielle
Yes, love? Again the grind.
Im sorry, I admit it I suck at being a slave. I relinquished at last.
Why do you say that? she asked as I pressed against her further.
Because all I want to do right now is feel you moving under me. Gods, woman, I want you to make me come.
I spread my legs, lying nearly completely on top of her, reaching my hand down between our bodies. I was incredibly wet, and couldnt resist swirling my fingers against my need. I spread myself open and pressed down hard against the firm ass under me, Gabrielle tilting her hips up to increase the pressure. She grabbed my hand and brought it to her lips, and I could only watch and groan as she licked my juices from each finger.
Gods, woman! I cried out.
I pressed down hard again while sliding myself along her backside. Sparks of pure fire were igniting against my clit as I continued to rub against the soft skin, while Gabrielle continued to press up against me at the same time.
Ohhh, I moaned, Im Gods Im sorry, baby this is going to be so fast Oh Gods! I screamed.
The convulsions wracked my body and I couldnt control the way I pressed against Gabrielles body, in pain, but unwilling to end the powerful orgasm. When at last the tremors eased, I fell against her, sated and amazed. It was true, I thought to myself, just before sleep claimed me after we whispered our words of love, I was a slave, but to only one thing my passion for Gabrielle.
Xena are you all right love?
Gabrielle found me in the outer room, peering out the window, down into the garden.
Yes, love, I answered distractedly.
She slipped her arm around my waist and I realized my head was elsewhere. Im sorry, my brain is fixed on something else this morning.
I can see that by the frown, Gabrielle answered, reaching up on her toes to place a kiss on my cheek.
I admit, that did make me feel better and my smile told her so.
Why are you frowning and why so early?
It has nothing to do with us, my love. I kissed her forehead and pulled her against me tighter. We have a visitor. I pulled back the tapestry to reveal a young man pacing in the garden below.
He walked back and forth, sat on a bench for a few heartbeats, then bounced up again as if too much energy could not be contained by sitting. He was tall, with a slim waist, and broad shoulders. His long dark hair fell down into his eyes and when he tossed his head back, he revealed sparkling blue eyes. Most would guess him to be nineteen or twenty, but I knew that he was twenty-three summers, in fact, I remembered the day he was born with startling clarity.
Gabrielle looked at the man, then back at me, and I knew she was wondering.
Xena do you know that young man? she finally asked.
I smiled down at her, letting the tapestry fall to cover the window once again.
Yes, I answered. Hes my son.
to be continued in Tale Two: The Petal of the Rose