DISCLAIMERS: I don't own any of the characters in this story that honor belongs to Rob Tapert and Renaissance Pictures. I'm not making any money from this.
Sex and Vilence: Yes, there will be blood and sex. It's a Conqueror tale what do you expect? The sex will be Female/Female, so if that's not your thing don't read.
Language: Yeah, there are a few bad words.
Timeline: This is based off the Armageddon Now II universe where Xena is a power crazed conqueror and Gabrielle got crucified. Might help to look up a summary if you have no idea what I'm talking about.
Last one, promise: This is my first fan fiction so please be gentle. Thanks.
The Death of Me: a Conqueror's Tale
The dream was always the same. She was lying on a soft bed roll under the stars, arguing with the person lying beside her about the pattern of a constellation. She was so sure that the stars formed a bear while her companion was adamant that they formed a dipper. As they fell into a comfortable silence Gabrielle felt a hand slip into hers and her companion whispered, "I love you Gabrielle."
Gabrielle smiled turning her head to look at her companion and found herself looking into the cold, blue orbs of the Conqueror. The hand holding Gabrielle's suddenly gripped her hand with inhuman strength keeping her from rolling away from the dangerous woman.
The Conqueror gave her a feral grin before snarling, "Break her legs!"
Gabrielle awoke from the nightmare with a scream, gripping her right leg as it throbbed. The guards outside her hut had long ago stopped rushing in when they heard the Amazon Queen's cries of pain this early in the morning, knowing that Gabrielle's legs were at their worst in the early hours. Throwing her legs over the side of the cot the young Queen began to massage her aching right leg, which had received the brunt of the force used to break her legs. It had been over two years since she had been condemned to death by The Conqueror of Greece, the Destroyer of Nations, the Lion of Amphipolis, Xena. She could still see the look in the Conqueror's eyes as her cross was dragged away from the agora to the main road to be planted as a warning to others who would dare speak out. Eyes filled with nothing but amusement at Gabrielle's pain.
It was only by the grace of Artemis that Ephiny and Eponin found her in time; returning the broken body of their Queen to Amazon lands. For the next five months Gabrielle was confined to the healers hut as her legs healed and she relearned how to walk. The healer's had been able to set the breaks but the right leg was damaged to the extent that the young woman would always walk with a slight limp. During those five months of Tartaros Gabrielle could only think of one thing, revenge. After her legs were relatively healed she left the Amazons and traveled for over a year and half, learning all she could about fighting and healing. She was a quick study and soon became a master with the staff as well as the sais, and had even learned how to use pressure points so that she could walk and run normally for a short time. By the time she returned to Amazon lands most of her Amazons didn't even recognize her. Gabrielle had ridden in on a dark brown mare dressed in black warlord leathers, her body toned from working hard with her staff and sais, and her golden hair cut short. The young idealistic bard was gone, now all that was left was a determined warrior.
Once she had massaged enough of the pain away Gabrielle stood and limped over to her leathers which lay on her desk. Gone were the scrolls and decorations which had once littered the Queen's hut now it was more Spartan in appearance. There was only a cot, a desk, chair, and a small table to hold her ceremonial mask and jewelry. Dawning her leathers the young Queen sheathed her sais in her boots and picked up the mask; as well as, the packed leather bag lying beneath the desk before exiting the hut. Outside, she dismissed the guards before heading over to her regent's hut. She barely acknowledged the Amazons who nodded to her, too focused on the argument she would be presenting to Ephiny. As she approached Ephiny's hut she nodded to the guards before knocking.
Gabrielle pushed the door to the hut open, softly closing it behind her as she took in the Regent's home. Ephiny's hut was much like her own, containing the same furniture but she had allowed for a few small Amazon paintings as well as a shelf for scrolls many of which were copies of Gabrielle's stories. The curly-haired warrior sat behind her desk and had been apparently going over the weapons inventory before Gabrielle had interrupted.
Ephiny stood, "My Queen."
Gabrielle's face softened as she took in the sight of her former lover, after her near death experience on the cross they had slowly grown apart. Mostly due to the young queen's bitterness, the loss of that relationship was something she regretted.
"Ephiny, please don't call me that. At least not when we're alone," said Gabrielle waving for the regent to take her seat.
Ephiny sat, "As you wish, Gabrielle."
For a moment there was only silence as the two Amazons stared at each other. Ephiny took in the leathers, the sheathed sais in Gabrielle's boots, and the packed bag; but she noticeably stiffened when her eyes found the mask.
"You're going through with it," she whispered.
Gabrielle merely nodded.
The regent stood up quickly, knocking over her chair, and began to pace behind the desk. She soon came to a stop slamming her fist into the desk.
"You can't do this!"
Gabrielle raised her chin and gave Ephiny her best regal look, "I'm Queen, Ephiny, and it's my decision to make. Not yours."
The regent rounded the desk and grasped the young Queen by the shoulders, "Let someone else go. Let me go. You don't need to do this."
Gabrielle pulled away from Ephiny and limped over to the cot; setting her things down she sat and looked up at her friend.
"You know I have to do this Eph, Melosa always told me that the best leaders never order their warriors to do something they are not willing to do themselves."
Ephiny kneeled before Gabrielle taking the Queen's hands in her own, "Gabrielle, you have never killed anyone before. And killing someone in cold blood, up close, is even hard for the most seasoned warriors. You'll see the light leave your victim's eyes, could you handle that Gabrielle?"
Gabrielle considered Ephiny's words, could she look into the Conqueror's eyes and watch as they became glazed and lifeless? She imagined for a moment sticking the blade of her sai into Xena's beating heart, seeing the blood cover her hand, and the shock in her victim's eyes. A part of her shied away from the image, killing had never been an option for her before, to be an agent of Celeste made her feel cold inside. But then the little voice in the back of her mind reminded her of all the pain this woman had put not only her, but all of Greece through. Someone had to try, and if that meant Gabrielle would have to become a murderer to free the known world of tyranny, then so be it. Too many people had suffered already from inaction, her family for one.
The short blonde glanced down at their joined hands before allowing her sea-green eyes to meet Ephiny's, "My sister was kidnapped by her slavers, my village starved and then was destroyed because of her laws, my parents lost everything, and she…"
Gabrielle glanced away unshed tears filled her eyes at the unpleasant memories.
Ephiny squeezed her hands, "And she broke your legs. I'm not saying she doesn't deserve what's coming to her. It's just that she has taken so much from you already, I don't want her to take your blood innocence as well."
Gabrielle returned her gaze to her friends, her eyes hardened with hate, "No, she won't take it Ephiny, I will gladly give it to her. I will be the one to end that monster. I will assassinate the Conqueror of Greece, I will kill Xena."
Ephiny tried another route, "What about us, Gabrielle? The Amazons need their Queen and we barely have a stable agreement with the Conqueror as it is. If she should find out that you are the Queen she will declare war. We were lucky that she didn't find out last time."
Ephiny knew that was the wrong argument to use when Gabrielle wrenched her hands out of the Regent's with a look of disgust on her face.
Standing the Queen looked down at the warrior at her feet, "Do you think I'm stupid or careless enough to do that Ephiny? I would never endanger our sisters like that. All of my tools and supplies are free of all Amazon markings."
Ephiny stood, "What about your shoulder?"
Gabrielle glanced at her right shoulder which bore the mark of Amazon royalty, the crescent moon. Queen Melosa had given her personally once Gabrielle had set up an alliance between the Amazons and the Centaurs without bloodshed.
"The clothes I'll be wearing into the palace will cover it. If for some reason I fail and I'm captured, I'll remove it by any means necessary before she sees it."
The Regent cringed at the idea of what the short blonde may have to do to remove the mark in a dark cell in the Conqueror's dungeon.
Leaning down Gabrielle picked up her mask, gently the young Queen took Ephiny's hand giving her the mask.
"I want you to have my rite of caste, Ephiny."
Ephiny began to refuse but Gabrielle reached up and cupped her face shushing her, "If I don't come back Eph our sisters will need someone to lead them. You're the only person I can trust to keep our sisters safe and to not come for me if I'm captured."
"I love you, Ephiny and I'm sorry that I let what we had die. Please, Eph, accept my apology and my right of caste."
The Regent's vision blurred with tears but she nodded her agreement.
The young Queen smiled, which to Ephiny was a gift in and of itself, then slung her bag over her shoulder before heading for the door.
Turning around Gabrielle found Ephiny holding out a small bottle to her, tears running down her face, "Take this with you. If you get into trouble and there looks like there's no way out just flip the top open and drink. It'll work fast, you shouldn't feel a thing, it even tastes sweet from what the healers tell me."
Gabrielle took the vial of poison solemnly and slipped it between her breasts for safe keeping. She hoped she wouldn't have to resort to using the potion but she saw the wisdom of Ephiny's gift. It would be better to die quickly and in her own way, rather than suffer the cross once again. Her dark thoughts were interrupted when she felt Ephiny's warm lips on hers, gracing her with a soft kiss.
"I love you too Gabrielle. Please come back safe," she whispered.
For once Gabrielle had no words, so she merely nodded then turned and left the hut beginning the journey that would lead her on a crash course with destiny.
It had taken Gabrielle seven days to reach Corinth, just in time for the Conqueror's birthday exactly as she had planned. The city was bustling about with everyone preparing for the night's festivities. From what Gabrielle heard from the merchants in the market, dignitaries from Rome, Egypt, Britannia, Chin, and more had arrived to celebrate the Conqueror's special day. Gabrielle was slightly sickened at the idea of everyone being excited by the monster's birthday. At least the dignitaries had excuses; after all, Xena had already conquered their lands they were only around because she required their services. But none of them were delusional enough to think they were irreplaceable, there was always someone else.
Gabrielle headed for the palace as darkness began to creep into the sky, passing through the gates easily. The guards were too busy with all of the wagons filled with last minute food, drink, and gifts that they barely noticed a single, cloaked rider on horseback. Drawing her dark cloak a little tighter around her, Gabrielle allowed a stable boy to take her horse after she removed her bag. Noticing some of the servants unloading a wagon filled with food she quickly applied the pressure points to her leg and ran over. Picking up a box filled with onions she followed the servants into the kitchens. The kitchens looked like a war zone, cooks and assistants ran back and forth between pots and pans. Cutting up vegetables and meat, stirring the stew, turning the roast boar on the spit, kneading bread, everyone in the very hot room was doing something and was paying little attention to their surroundings, which was perfect for Gabrielle. Setting the onions down Gabrielle found the nearest stairs heading up and ran up them. As she reached the top of the stairs she found herself in a small hallway with only a two doors; she could here laughter and talking coming from one door and suspected it was the banquet hall. Choosing the other door she walked into the large entry hall of the palace. Seeing the grand, marble staircase right in front of the main entry way she made a run for it taking the stairs two at a time. She wondered for a moment where all of the guards were but suspected that most of them were probably celebrating in the barracks or outside on sentry duty. She didn't think about it too hard not wanting to question a gift from the Gods.
After traveling up level upon level and getting lost a few times Gabrielle found herself outside what she suspected were the Conqueror's bed chambers judging by the single guard in front of the doors. She had stopped only once before to change out of her leathers and cloak into black, trousers, tunic, gloves, and mask which covered everything but her eyes. She had hidden her bag and leathers in a bedroom on the third floor which looked like it hadn't been lived in for some time. For a moment she pondered letting the guard see her when she made the attack so that she could have a little bit of a fight to warm her muscles up but rejected the idea. There was no need to draw attention at this time. So she quickly and quietly disabled the guard; throwing a dinar to distract him before dashing out and slamming the hilt of her sai against the back of his skull twice. With some effort she dragged the guard's limp body over to a small door down the hall from the Conqueror's bedroom. Opening it she found a linen closet, tossing the body in. Closing the door she headed back down the hall to the bedroom, gently she turned the handle and entered.
The lush surroundings of the Conqueror's bedroom were easily illuminated by the light from the setting sun coming through the floor to ceiling windows, which opened out onto a balcony. The gigantic room contained a sitting area with couches, chairs, and large pillows surrounding a fire place, a beautifully carved oak desk and winged back chair stood in one corner, a large cabinet stood against the opposite wall and then there was the huge four poster bed which dominated the room. Gabrielle didn't miss the chains attached to the head and foot boards or the chains which hung from one wall but she chose to ignore them. It didn't surprise her that the Conqueror probably enjoyed dominating her bedmates. Off to the right were two more doors; Gabrielle suspected that one led to a servant's quarters and the other to a closet.
Sensing no other presence in the room Gabrielle entered and closed the door behind her. Undoing the pressure points on her leg she limped over to the desk, figuring that she might as well read something while she waited for her target to arrive. Picking up one of the scrolls she found it was an account of a crime that had been committed by a young man only seventeen seasons of age. Apparently, he had spoken out against the Conqueror for closing down the Academy for Bards in Athens. Gabrielle read the report and felt her gut tighten, this boy who had committed the same crime as her two years ago would undoubtedly be put on the cross, but as she reached the end of the report something caught her eye. Scribbled at the bottom in handwriting that was obviously not the person's who had written the report were the words:
Three months as an indentured servant.
Gabrielle re-read the words, what was this? Was one of the Conqueror's advisors suggesting less lethal punishments to the ruler of the known world? If that was true then the advisor, whoever they were, had guts. She scanned the other scrolls and found similar notes written at the bottom. Then she came across a half written proclamation in the same hand and it came to her, the notes were written by the Conqueror. But why would she decide to be so lenient with her prisoners? What had caused the change?
"Who are you?" growled a voice that could only belong to one person.
The one person who had haunted Gabrielle's dreams for the past two years.
The short blonde didn't even think about her next movements she just acted. In a flash she had replaced the pressure points on her leg, dashed over the bed and headed out onto the balcony. Her plan to take the Conqueror unawares while bedding one of her guests had gone out the window (so to speak) and now she needed space to work if she was going to overpower this woman. The Conqueror didn't even bother calling the guards; she drew the ceremonial sword at her waist and followed. Gabrielle turned drawing her sais getting into a defensive stance to take on the Conqueror. The dark-haired fury flew at her in a blur of blue and gold as she attacked. Raising her sais Gabrielle caught the down ward strike of the blade and turned it away. Lunging forward she made to stab the Conqueror in the neck but the move was parried by the sword, locking the two weapons together. However, the move had brought the two warriors closer allowing Gabrielle her first real look at her target.
The Conqueror was dressed in black leather trousers, a blue tunic, and blue cape lined in gold; which brought out the dark-haired warrior's eyes. Xena's long dark locks flowed down her shoulders, her red lips were set in a thin line of concentration, but her eyes were filled with the dark hunger to defeat the opponent before her. The look only made Gabrielle re-double her efforts to win; pushing back harder forcing the sword back toward the Conqueror. All of a sudden Xena broke the stalemate and gave a fierce battle cry before doing a back flip over her assailant's head. It was exactly what Gabrielle had been waiting for; the Conqueror's move was designed to either cause her opponent to hesitate from the awe they felt at such a move or to move fast enough to attack her opponent from behind. Or both. Gabrielle had seen moves like this before in her travels and wasn't impressed; in fact, she knew just where to strike when Xena landed. Turning she raised the sai in her left hand she trapped the blade of the Conqueror's weapon in the hilt of the sai, forcing it away from her; while she brought the other up to the monster's heart. Preparing to plunge the blade into the Conqueror's dark heart Gabrielle glanced away from Xena's breast looking up into her eyes. And in that moment when sapphire met emerald something passed between them; something that Gabrielle had felt only once before when the Conqueror touched her before she was crucified. At the time she thought it was anger now she wasn't so sure. Unfortunately, her hesitation had cost her and before she knew it her legs were kicked out from under her. The wind rushed out of her as she hit the stone floor of the balcony; her vision was filled with a view of the first stars of the evening. She barely had time to think about the nightmare those stars invoked before her view was filled with ice blue eyes glaring down at her. The Conqueror straddled Gabrielle's waist, pinning her, while she brought the blade of her sword to the assassin's throat.
"Whatever you thought you were doing here, you've failed," snarled the Conqueror.
Gabrielle said nothing; glaring up into those eyes she dared her tormenter to end it. The Conqueror tensed her arm preparing to deliver the lethal blow, but stopped. Instead the blade was pulled away from Gabrielle's throat; the assassin breathed a sigh of relief before a fist slammed into her head sending her into the swirling darkness of unconsciousness.
The first thing Gabrielle became aware of as she regained consciousness was the mixed bouquet of urine and mold which assaulted her nostrils. Slowly opening her eyes Gabrielle cautiously moved into a sitting position so as not to aggravate any wounds she might have received in transit to the cell. Looking herself over, she found that she had no new wounds other than the tender flesh of her left cheek. She would probably have a black eye by tomorrow morning but that was the least over her worries. The young Queen had been stripped of her mask and weapons and was now chained to wall in a dark, dank cell in the bowls of the palace. Gabrielle carefully observed her surroundings, taking in the darkness coming from the small window above her head to mean it was still night, the cell door was made of iron bars instead of hard oak, her boots had not been removed, and the locks on her shackles had simple locking mechanisms. All in all Gabrielle's situation was looking better by the moment but first she had to get her tools. Shifting her body so that her restrained hands could get at her boot she removed the fake heel of the footwear and emptied its contents into her lap. She had been given the boots by a man named Autolycus, the so called King of Thieves, after she had successfully stolen a priceless diamond from the Governor of Athens. The boots allowed small tools such as lock picks to be kept near at hand without anyone knowing it.
Replacing the heel Gabrielle got to work on the manacles, swiftly opening them and getting to her feet. With a grimace the young assassin realized that the pressure points she had hit earlier were still in affect; removing them now would hurt and hinder her progress but not doing it could cause serious damage. Coming to her decision, Gabrielle ripped off a piece of her tunic and bit down as she removed the pinch on her leg. She groaned as pain flooded her senses, taking deep breaths it soon became manageable. Removing the cloth from her mouth she tossed it aside as she limped over to the cell door. Leaning against it she pressed her face as close to the bars and look from one side to the other only to find one sleeping guard. From the goblet that lay next to him on the floor she suspected he had passed out. Slipping her hands through the bars she made quick work of the lock; opening the door slowly Gabrielle walked out into the hallway of the dungeon.
Approaching the sleeping guard Gabrielle considered leaving him alone, but she was need of a weapon and with a few adjustments his uniform would fit her. She tapped him lightly on the shoulder; the guard jerked awake looking around groggily until he met Gabrielle's cold orbs and feral grin.
"Morning sunshine," she grinned as she hit him so hard his head snapped back.
Gabrielle was getting bored with dragging heavy, male bodies around but she promised herself that this would be the last one. She still had enough time to finish the job and kill the Conqueror; her hesitation before had been nothing but fear, she was sure of it. But now that she knew what to expect she couldn't fail. She left the guard in her cell after stripping him of his dark blue leathers and cape bearing the seal of the Conqueror. Adjusting the sword at her side one last time, Gabrielle put on the heavy helmet before locking the cell door and heading back up into the lion's den.
The Conqueror was bored and exhausted; a bad combination considering she had not one, but two lethal weapons at her side. She leaned back into the soft cushions of her throne, fingering the edge of her chakram, as the dignitaries around her talked nonstop. Xena was beginning to consider banning her birthday from ever being celebrated again as a drunken Borias made another suggestive comment about her breasts. The only reason she didn't kill him right then and there was that it was much more entertaining to torment him later when he was sober. Closing her eyes, Xena thought back to the one bit of true entertainment that had occurred only a few hours ago. Finding the assassin in her bedroom as she was coming back to collect her chakram had been both surprising and invigorating. The woman was talented, but that wasn't why she had stilled her blade from slicing her throat. It had been the assassin's eyes, those sea-green eyes which had filled her dreams ever since she had crucified that little agitator two years ago. Those eyes had been driving her insane, only leaving her in peace when she either worked herself to exhaustion or didn't kill someone. She more often than not opted for the former but she had made her judgments slightly less permanent of late and that had seemed to appease the eyes for awhile. But now here they were here in reality, staring at her from the masked face of an assassin.
Xena wondered what the woman would look like, the sounds of battle had brought the Royal Guards to her side and she had been too busy to stop and unmask the intruder. Right now, more than ever, she wanted to be down in the dungeon interrogating the prisoner, if for nothing else than, to see the woman's face. A smile teased at her lips, after she had a good look at the women then the real fun would begin; she would teach the little would-be assassin why it was a bad idea to take on the Conqueror.
Xena opened her eyes to find Cleopatra gazing at her with undisguised lust; despite her fatigue the Conqueror felt her libido immediately re-act to the Egyptian Queen's subtle hints. Cleopatra was very good in bed and Xena was beginning to feel the need to satisfy one of her more carnal hungers.
"You look tired, My Lord, perhaps we could retire to your rooms and I could give you a massage?" suggested the Egyptian Queen.
Smirking, the Conqueror nodded before standing causing the whole table to grow quite and stand as well. Glancing around the Conqueror looked into the eyes of each of her military leaders and rulers, paying particular attention to her Generals: Marcus, Palamon, Darfus, and Mavican. Alti had not appeared tonight, she had sent her apologies, but Xena made a note to address it later with the Shamaness. Of the leaders though Lao Ma was the only one to make eye-contact with the Conqueror, a right she had duly earned from the mercy she had had on Xena so many years ago.
The Conqueror smiled, "I would like to thank you all for the pleasure of your company this evening but I'm afraid that I must retire. It's been a long day and tomorrow promises to be very interesting what with your reports and the interrogation of my new prisoner. But please continue enjoying yourselves, I'll see you all bright and early tomorrow morning."
Marcus raised his goblet, "Long live the Conqueror!"
The call was taken up by the other leaders and with that the Conqueror and Cleopatra exited the banquet hall heading for what the Conqueror hoped was a long night of pleasure.
Gabrielle took deep calming breaths as she neared the hallway leading the Conqueror's suite. She had been cursing herself the entire time she had trekked up the unbelievable amount of stairs in the palace for not removing the pinch on her leg before she was knocked out. Her leg felt like it had been broken all over again making her limp more pronounced and slowing her down. The only thought keeping her going now was that her mission was almost over. She would enter the suite kill the bitch and leave or die as the fates commanded. As she turned another corner entering the correct hallway she was stopped by the sight opposite her on the far end.
There, walking side by side with the Egyptian Queen, was the Conqueror. Gabrielle froze, watching as the Conqueror headed for the door to her bedroom. The young Amazon's time was running out, soon Xena would be back in an environment she commanded. Finally, Gabrielle's body caught up with her brain, grabbing the dagger at her waist she prepared to throw it.
"XENA!" shouted Gabrielle.
The Conqueror and Cleopatra turned and at the moment Gabrielle saw the whites of the Conqueror's eyes she let loose the dagger. She watched in amazement as the iron flew through the air and with a sickening thunk planted itself in the Conqueror's chest. Xena's body jerked when the dagger entered it then fell back and lay still.
Gabrielle couldn't move; she just stared at the body of the Conqueror. She had expected that once she had finally killed the one person who had destroyed her life that it would all be over. That there would finally be peace, but all she felt was emptiness. She had killed another human being and what was there to show for it? Nothing.
The Amazon Queen was so numb that she didn't even hear Cleopatra call for the Royal Guards, nor did she feel it when they seized her. The only thing she noticed was when her world went dark for the second time that night.
The Conqueror felt the rage inside begin to reach the boiling point. In one night, an assassin had entered her palace, tried to assassinate her, got locked up in the dungeon, escaped, and had almost killed her with a military issue dagger. She swore she was going to find out who had allowed her security to get so lax and disembowel them.
"Xena, you must relax so that I can make sure the stitches are straight," said Darius, her healer.
Xena glared at him but relaxed into the cushions of her bed as best as possible as Darius sewed up the dagger wound. It had been close, a few inches to the right and the blade would have severed a major artery. As it was, the Conqueror was going to live to see another day. That was more than could be said for the would-be assassin, if she got her way.
"Can't you go any faster old man? I have somewhere I need to be," snarled the Conqueror.
The old healer tsked, "In the middle of the night? Surely not. Considering you have just had your chest ventilated, you would do better with bed rest than torturing some poor girl."
"That 'poor girl' tried to kill me."
Darius looked up at into the eyes of the Conqueror as he tied off the last suture, "Yes, well, do as you see fit, Xena. But I still recommend rest."
With that Darius backed up his supplies and left. For a moment Xena considered doing as her healer had instructed before getting up and pulling on a clean tunic and heading for the dungeon. As she slowly walked through the halls she considered why she was doing this. She had been informed that the assassin had been knocked unconscious yet again and would probably remain so for the rest of the night. But deep down she knew why she was going to see the girl, she had to know what she looked like.
Entering the dungeons, the guards saluted her before taking her to the prisoner. Glancing in the cell through the bars Xena could barely make out the figure lying on the stone slab in the middle of the cell. She motioned for the door to be open and entered. She looked back only once to tell the guard to return to his post. He didn't even hesitate.
Stepping up to stone table the Conqueror observed the small woman before her. Dressed now only in the wrappings that bound her breasts and a rag skirt; the Conqueror could easily admire the compact muscular body. Letting her eyes roam over the young woman's flesh she finally came to a stop at her face, and gasped. The pale moonlight coming into the cell gave the girl's face a radiant glow but there was no mistaking her, the woman lying before her was the agitator she had crucified two years ago.
Suddenly, Xena felt a prickling sensation all over her body. She turned her head an glared into the darkness waiting for the new arrival to show himself. Out of the shadows stepped Ares, God of War.
"Surprised Xena?" he asked grinning.
"Is this your doing, Ares? Because if it is, I don't find it funny," snarled the Conqueror.
"Don't get testy with me, Warrior Princess. This was all my sister's work. I had nothing to do with it, but it is interesting isn't it? You've been haunted by this little pip squeak for the past couple of years and now here she is at your feet. The question is what do you plan on doing with her?"
Xena continued looking at the agitator's face, running her hand through the short locks. She remembered the girl's hair being longer, but a lot can happen in two years. A minor annoyance could turn into a potential murderer for example.
As the Conqueror moved her hand lower to run over the girl's body she mumbled, "I don't know."
Ares laughed, "Come on Xena we both know better than that. You'll either kill her or fuck her. Or both. The only question is Xena, which one?"
The Conqueror's hand began to stroke the girl's breasts causing her to emit a low moan. Xena grinned.
"It's time," said the guard.
Gabrielle reached into the wrappings binding her breasts and held the vial of poison in her hand as the guards entered and chained her hands and feet. Throughout the beatings and the lashing she had been subjected to for the past couple of days she had been able to hide the vial. When they had interrogated her she had given only one answer. Silence. She hadn't even told them her name. As for the crescent moon on her shoulder it didn't matter anymore; the only person who could recognize it was dead by her hand. Gabrielle's sisters were safe and she would finally know peace in the next few minutes.
Gabrielle let herself go limp has she was dragged up the stairs from the dungeon to the judgment agora. She was then handed off to another set of guards as she pushed and shoved out into the sunlight and sandy ground of the arena. She glanced at the cross which had been prepared for her and did her best to hide the shudder which ran through her. The guards lead her to the steps leading to the throne and forced her to kneel. Gabrielle looked up expecting to see one of the Conqueror's General's sitting on the throne but instead met the cruel, blue eyes of Xena. The Conqueror was once again dressed in the robes from Chin and golden, winged headdress Gabrielle had last seen her in when she had knelt in this very same spot two years prior. The young Queen began to hyperventilate slightly in shock, she had done everything she could and had still failed.
Darfus stepped forward, "You are charged with conspiracy to and attempted assassination of the Empress of Greece our Lord Conqueror. How do you plead?"
Gabrielle stood and looked into the eyes of the Conqueror before snarling, "Guilty."
Xena stood, "You were here before me two years ago for speaking out against my rule and if I recall you were sentenced to die on the cross. Well, I think it's time we put you back up there. The prisoner is to be nailed to the cross with her legs broken. That should keep you up there for a while."
For a moment Gabrielle was sure she was going to be sick. She could feel the blood drain from her face but then she felt the vial in her hands. The guards moved towards her as the Conqueror resumed her seat.
Looking up she glared at the beautiful blue orbs, "You may break my body, Conqueror, but you will never break my spirit!"
With those final words Gabrielle flipped open the top of the vial and drained the contents before the guards could reach her. Her last sight before her body went limp was the amusement in Xena's eyes; her last thought was that Ephiny had been wrong the poison didn't taste sweet, it tasted bitter.
Gabrielle awoke to find herself lying on her stomach on a soft feather mattress and for a moment wondered if at last she had reached the Elysian Fields then she realized what had woken her. Her right leg felt like it was being sawn in half. Propelling herself up, she ignored the stinging coming from her back as she felt some of the lashes reopen; and threw her legs over the side of the bed. She began to furiously massage the muscles in her leg to try and ease the pain. After a few moments and a few tears the pain was back down to a throb. With the crisis over Gabrielle finally looked around her taking in her surroundings. She was in a hospice of some sort, beds were everywhere and there were shelves filled with herbs and bandages. The bed she was only was close to a window and she could see that sun just beginning to rise. What had happened?
The last thing she remembered was denying the Conqueror a gruesome death by drinking the poison and now here she was in a hospice. Looking down at herself she made a correction here she was naked in a hospice. Grabbing the sheet from her bed she wrapped it around herself and got up slowly. Walking through the hospice she spotted herself in a looking glass that someone had place on a wall as decoration. Gabrielle could see all of the cuts and bruises given to her by the guards but she could also see that they had been treated by a skilled healer. While she was grateful for all the help she had been given it was time to leave. Finding a white healer's tunic and trousers (clearly cut for a male twice her size) she put on the clothes and headed for the nearest door. Only to find two of the Conqueror's soldiers on the other side; for moment they stared at each other before Gabrielle let out a shriek and lunged at them. The guards easily caught the little spitfire and did their best to hold her, which proved a challenge as her knees and elbows continued to come in contact with sensitive body parts.
All three of the fighters looked up at the old man standing before them. Darius, unlike the Conqueror, disliked getting up early and to add insult to injury to find two guards man-handling his patient really made his blood boil.
"Put…her…down," he said through gritted teeth.
The guards quickly complied and remained motionless Gabrielle followed suit. She was slightly stunned that the guards would react this way to a little old man and decided to wait and see what his game was before challenging him.
Darius turned to Gabrielle, "You. Back inside. You're my patient and until I say otherwise you need bed rest."
Feeling like a chastised child Gabrielle slowly went back into the hospice and was followed by the old man who slammed and locked the door behind him. Grabbing Gabrielle's arm he dragged her over to a bed and lightly pushed her down on it before going to gather supplies. The young Amazon watched as he gathered salves, bandages, and needles before returning to her side.
"Well, don't just sit there, girl, take off your shirt I need to see what the damage is."
Eyeing him suspiciously Gabrielle removed her shirt and allowed him to take a look at her. The entire time he worked she could hear him mutter angrily reminding her of an angry badger she had written about in one of her stories long ago. The thought made her giggle.
"And what; may I ask, is so funny young lady?" the healer asked as he stitched some of the gashes on her back.
Gabrielle sobered up, "Nothing sir, it's just that you remind me of a character in a story I wrote long ago about an angry, old badger."
The healer paused for a moment, "Well, why don't you tell me the story while I fix you up?"
For a moment the young Queen was surprised by the request but then went full swing into telling the tale about the angry badger and the mischievous rabbit who ended up working together to tame the heart of a dangerous lion.
Wrapping the last bandage the healer chuckled, "I do sound a bit like an old badger don't I?"
Gabrielle grinned then held out her arm, "Thank you, for patching me up. My name is Gabrielle of Potidaea."
The healer clasped forearms with her, "It is a pleasure to meet you Gabrielle of Potidaea. I am Darius, the Conqueror's chief healer."
At the sound of the word Conqueror Gabrielle stiffened, she suddenly remembered the uniforms of the guards outside and snatched her hand back. Darius realized his mistake and looked sorry to have lost Gabrielle's trust so quickly.
"Why am I here?" demanded Gabrielle.
Darius sighed, "It is the Conqueror's will that you remain here in the palace until she has finished interrogating you."
Gabrielle looked confused, "But I took poison, how did I survive?"
Shame showed on the old man's face, "She visited you in your cell the night you tried to kill her and found the vial. The Conqueror then came to me and asked me to replace the poison with a fast acting sedative. I didn't know it was for you."
"So, the trial? The execution?"
"Faked, for your benefit. The Conqueror had no intention of letting an assassin off that easily much less an Amazon Queen."
Gabrielle went pale, "She knows."
The short blonde quickly stood up and headed for the door. Darius quickly followed behind her.
"Where do you think you're going?" he grabbed her arm pulling her to a stop.
Gabrielle wrenched her arm out of his grasp, "I'm going to get out of here and warn my Amazons. The Conqueror will have no doubt declared war on them by now."
Darius grabbed her again, "You can't leave. The Conqueror has told every guard outside these walls to kill you on sight. Go or stay you'll die, but if you stay you may buy your people some extra time to prepare."
Gabrielle looked up into Darius' warm grey eyes and nodded. He was right, better to stay and endure so that her people could prepare both for war and the death of their queen. With that the depth of her failure hit her like a punch to the stomach. Digging her hands into his robes she cried into his chest. The old healer held her making shushing noises as he tried to comfort the young girl in his arms.
Later that night, after having spent the day talking with the young rebel and hearing her tell stories; Darius was summoned to the Conqueror's chambers. Upon entering he found Xena lying back against the pillows of her bed with her eyes closed, apparently asleep. But Darius knew better and waited to be acknowledged.
"How is she?" asked Xena.
Darius frowned, "If you're asking about her physical health, she'll be fine in a couple of days. But that little stunt you pulled in the agora has harmed Gabrielle greatly."
"Gabrielle," repeated Xena sensuously seeming to almost taste the name.
"Yes, that's her name."
The Conqueror smirked, "Hmmm. I guess she's not as tough as I thought, that little scene in the agora was just a warm up."
"Do you need me to look at your stitches?" asked Darius curtly, letting his anger show.
The Conqueror tensed slightly, Darius had been with her since the beginning and to have the old man angry with her upset her. He was like a father to her, and the fact that he knew her better than anyone both inside and out meant he could cause the largest amount of discomfort. However, a little play for sympathy always seemed to win the old healer over.
Xena opened one eye, "No, I need the sleeping herbs again."
Darius moved closer to the bed, concern written on his face, and prepared the sleeping draft, "Have the eyes returned?"
The Conqueror said nothing and simply drained the potion in one gulp when it was ready. She then motioned for the healer to go and lay back. The eyes hadn't returned since Gabrielle had made the attempt on her life, instead they had been replaced by nightmares of the battlefield. As the Conqueror drifted off to Morpheus' realm she thought about the defiance she had seen in the girl's eyes at the mock execution and smiled. It was going to be fun breaking this one.
It had been over a week since Gabrielle had woken in the Palace hospice and the blonde bard was starting to become bored. While she enjoyed telling her old stories (and even one or two new ones) to Darius her body was becoming restless after being confined for such a long time. She would do anything to get out of the room, even take a walk to the dungeons if only to stretch her legs for a few minutes. Staring out the window into the courtyard below Gabrielle contemplated whether this some new form of torture; to be locked up like a bird in a gilded cage able to see the sky but not able to go soar amongst the clouds.
There was a soft knock at the door before Darius entered. Gabrielle gave the old healer a soft smile. In the past week they had come to enjoy each other's company and were fast on the way to becoming friends despite the fact that both knew her life expectancy was short. In fact, getting to know Darius had been almost a blessing to Gabrielle. Talking with the old healer had brought out her bard side yet again and it felt good to have it back.
The young Amazon's smile faded when she saw the look of sadness on Darius' face and the clothes he was carrying. In his arms were a grey peasants' blouse and skirt as well as soft shoes. Slowly the old man approached her and handed her the bundle.
Gabrielle took the clothes and gave him a wry smile, "Does this mean I can go home?"
Darius gave her a small smile and shook his head, "The Conqueror wishes to speak with you and feels you'll be more comfortable in these."
"What if I don't want to wear them?"
"She said it's either those or you walk the halls naked."
Gabrielle held up the pieces of clothing individually, what they lacked in style they made up for in practicality. If nothing else the clothes would keep her warm.
She nodded, "I guess I better put these on then."
After she had dressed, and manacles had been placed around her wrists, the guards and Darius escorted her through a maze of hallways until they finally stopped outside two large oak doors. One of her escorts spoke to the guards standing in front of the door. They nodded then retreated inside.
Gabrielle leaned close to Darius, "What should I expect?"
"Anything," he whispered back.
The guards came back out and nodded before slamming the butts of their spears down on the floor and opening the door for the little Queen. Gabrielle entered the room alone and found herself in an extremely large throne room. The floor, walls, pillars, and ceiling were made of marble and tapestries of the Conqueror's greatest battles lined the walls. Straight ahead on a raised dais was a barbaric throne made of bone which seemed out of place amongst the purple curtains and gold finery. This had hardly been what Gabrielle had been expecting when Darius told her she was going to speak with the Conqueror. She had been sure she would be dragged to the dungeons or taken out into the courtyard to be publicly humiliated. But now here she was in this beautiful room all alone. That's when it hit her, where was the Conqueror?
"Hello Gabrielle," whispered a voice at her ear.
The Conqueror did her best not to smirk at the small gasp her whisper had elicited from the prisoner, but she almost lost it when the little assassin's jaw dropped when she saw Xena. The Empress of Greece had dressed in nothing but a red, silk robe tied at the waist. Gabrielle's desire filled eyes flowed over her body from her red painted toes to Xena's piercing eyes. So far, the little Queen was meeting the Conqueror's expectations; she had purposely dressed in the robe to see if she could ignite the young Amazon's passions and had succeeded. She circled Gabrielle like a panther preparing to move in for the killing blow. She stopped in front of Gabrielle and leaned forward so that she towered over the shorter woman, forcing her to look up at the Conqueror.
"Now what should I do with you little Queen? Should I kill you? Torture you? Make you my slave? Or maybe I should just wipe the Amazons from the face of the Earth. What do you think?" Xena sneered.
That shocked Gabrielle out of her daze; as the Conqueror watched anger and defiance distort the short blonde's face.
"Don't you dare harm them!" growled Gabrielle.
Xena's hand flew out backhanding her, causing Gabrielle's body to fly back a bit before landing on the hard floor. While the Conqueror was impressed by girl's balls she needed to establish who controlled in this relationship. Xena placed her foot on Gabrielle's throat keeping her in place.
"For that little remark I should just burn your village to the ground and crucify ever last Amazon including your little girlfriend, Ephiny," Xena chuckled as the Amazon's eyes widened in shock, "Oh yeah, I know all about you Gabrielle of Potidaea. Everything from your dreams of being a bard to your dreams of killing me. Starting to regret coming here aren't ya?"
Those emerald eyes filled with fear, "Please."
The Conqueror leaned forward a little increasing her weight on the throat beneath her, "What was that?"
"Please, it was me. Don't punish them for my mistakes. I'll do anything," gasped Gabrielle.
The blue-eyed warrior gave her a feral grin she had broken the girl now the real fun could begin.
"Well, I'm willing to compromise. I'll spare your Amazons in exchange for your freedom. You'll be my slave till you draw your last breath. Sound reasonable to ya?"
Xena smiled, "Good. We'll get started tomorrow."
She removed her foot from Gabrielle's throat, turning towards her throne. The Conqueror was slightly disappointed by the little blonde's lack of fight in regards to being made into a slave, but it just meant she wouldn't have to worry about being murdered every day. Or would she? She heard the clanking of chains just before the little body rammed into her allowing Xena to turn just in time to wrap her arms around Gabrielle as they fell to the floor. Pinning the smaller body beneath her; the Conqueror jabbed her fingers into the pressure points on Gabrielle's right thigh, causing the young woman to scream in pain. Slamming her hand firmly over the blonde's mouth the dark woman stared into her eyes.
"This is just a taste of the agony I can inflict on you if I wish. There are pressure points like these all over your body and if you ever try something like this again I activate all of them and leave you to scream yourself hoarse. Understand?"
Tears fell from Gabrielle's eyes as she nodded.
"Good, slave. This is your first lesson in obedience. Remember it well cause it only gets worse from here," The Conqueror released the pressure points.
She felt the small body beneath her immediately relax as the pain vanished. Xena removed her hand from Gabrielle's mouth and in an acting of surprising compassion stroked the girl's tear stained cheek. What was even more surprising for the Conqueror was that the little Amazon leaned into the tender touch. What might have happened next only the fates know for at that moment the resounding sound of knocking filled the room.
Neither woman moved for a moment, simply staring at each other. But when the knock came again Xena snapped out of it. Grabbing Gabrielle by the front of her blouse the Conqueror pulled her up before swinging the small body towards the door. The little Blonde stumbled and fell to her knees before getting back up.
"Enter," said Xena.
A tall, fair haired man dressed in a General's uniform entered and saluted the Conqueror.
"You wished to see me, My Lord?" asked the General.
"Yes Palamon, wait here for a second," Xena strolled over to Gabrielle.
Grabbing the prisoner by the arm Xena opened the doors and tossed her into the waiting arms of Darius.
"Darius, you're in charge of watching over my new slave. When I don't require her she'll help you in the hospice. She is not to leave your sight. Is that understood, old man?" ordered Xena.
Darius wrapped his arms protectively around Gabrielle, "Perfectly, My Lord."
"Good," the Conqueror turned to re-enter the throne room but stopped, "Oh, and Darius, come to my chambers this evening."
"Yes, My Lord."
The words were barely out of his mouth before the door slammed shut. Helping Gabrielle limp down the hall back to the hospice Darius wondered what Xena had in store for the little bard.