The Conqueror kept Darphus around for three reasons. First, fear is a powerful motivator, and Darphus' cruelty was well known and feared throughout the Realm. In the early days of her rule, Xena needed to give the newly conquered people a little extra incentive to just settle down and accept their new ruler. And if she got the credit for her second's wholesale terror tactics...well, at the time she could appreciate his methods even if she did despise the man. Giving her second free reign freed her from the chore of doing it herself.

Secondly, Xena was a firm believer in the doctrine, "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer." She had not forgotten the gauntlet, and Xena was not about to turn her back on him.

Finally,every order given to Darphus helped to cement his humiliation. His punishment started a seven-day after the gauntlet. When Xena walked confidently back into her camp, snickers spread throughout the camp, as one by one her men noticed the large dark stain spreading across the traitorous warlord's trousers. With a humorless grin, Xena challenged Darphus for the leadership of her army. Darphus, blustering, attempted to refuse.

However, just as the soldiers backed Darphus in his take-over attempt, so the men supported Xena's right to challenge. Cornered, the warlord drew his sword and attacked. The fight could have been over in heartbeats, but Xena had a lesson to teach, and proceeded to make a mockery of his sword fighting ability. She toyed with him for almost three candlemarks, until he could barely maintain his hold on the hilt. Blood slid down his arms, legs, and torso from literally hundreds of tiny cuts covering his body, slicking his hands and causing his feet to slip with every movement.

Finally throwing down his sword, Darphus prostrated himself before the dark haired essence of fury and begged for his life. With a cold smirk Xena told the weeping man, "Oh, you'll live Darphus. You'll live to serve me." Never taking her satisfied gaze off the beaten man, she ordered a small detail to prepare a strong brine solution to be poured on Darphus' wounds each morning and evening for a seven-day.

"After all Darphus, if you are to serve me for the rest of your pathetic life,we can't let those wounds become infected, now can we?" She sneered. "Ironic, isn't it? You led my army for a seven-day, and that is how long it will take to make sure your wounds are cleansed."

She waited, staring impassively at Darphus until the detail returned with the keg of brine. She ordered the men strip him and bind him with his back against a large tree at the center of the camp, arms stretched high overhead until his feet dangled an inch off the ground.

"Since I caused these wounds," Xena drawled, "It's only fitting that I should be the one to treat them." Darphus thrashed wildly, trying to jerk his hands from the bindings. Xena watched a few moments, that chill smirk never leaving her face. Finally, she ordered her two largest men to take the warlord's ankles and hold his body almost parallel to the ground, until his head was level with her chest. Icy blue met terrified brown for a moment longer, then a cup of brine was held to his line of sight. Slowly, ever so slowly, she began to pour.

As the last echoes of tortured screams faded into the night, Xena ordered the man's legs released, leaving Darphus dangling and unconscious. Finally, she turned to her army. She saw a sea of faces reflecting equal parts horror, terror, and perhaps a little awe. Xena took a long moment to make firm eye contact with each and every man.

"Is there anyone else who would like a shot at running my army?" Silence. "Then get back to work," She growled, watching as over 200 tough, brutal warriors scurried to find something to do.

So the punishment began, and continued to this day. The Conqueror never let an opportunity pass to remind the betrayer that he was property, living only to serve her whims. When the burden of ruling became oppressive, the Conqueror would amuse herself by relating to her second in gruesome (and inventive) detail precisely how she would provide a slow and torturous death to him when she finally grew bored with him. Ah, she often thought fondly, paybacks are a bitch, aren't they?

In the beginning, Xena went out of her way to find the most demeaning and humiliating tasks for her new slave to perform. Her personal favorite was to send him to the barracks to serve the soldiers, the men he used to command.

But it would be foolish to continue wasting valuable resources, and the Conqueror was no fool. So she built a special position for Darphus to assist her in securing and stabilizing her Realm. She never allowed him to leave the castle alone to perform his duties, of course. (It wouldn't do to have her slave join any rebellion, after all.) Darphus' "squad" consisted entirely of soldiers who were present at the aftermath of the gauntlet, but who did not participate in the destruction of the village earlier. Xena felt these men were loyal to her (at least as loyal as could be expected. Again, Xena was no fool.)

The squad's orders were to help maintain the illusion that Darphus was her second, assist him in his orders to maintain control over the conquered people, and most importantly, to keep him in sight at all times. Xena was not about to allow the possibility of another betrayal, especially by this toad.

The illusion created by the Conqueror was that of a second-in-command. As such, his main responsibility was to ensure a smooth reign, not allowing anyone to upset the applecart and to take care of the Conqueror's "dirty work". Only the men present at the gauntlet's aftermath and a select few trusted members of her staff knew the reality. Darphus was a slave, his manacles forged with his broken pride and tempered by his continual ongoing humiliation.

Xena grinned. Oh, how he hated her.