DISCLAIMER: Gabrielle and Xena and all the others mentioned herein belong to RenPics and probably a whole lot more folks besides, and certainly not to me. Although a girl can dream.
This is a conquerorfic, and contains homosexuality (of course, this is me after all), violence and adult situations, in other words it might not be for the young or sensitive. Also, this story is still unfinished.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
By Carola "Ryûchan" Eriksson
Chapter 5: Distractions Most Deadly
Gabrielle was in the luxurious bath, thoroughly enjoying herself, and finding it quite a challenge to determine what the various bottles and condiments were that was stocked in the cupboards, as most of them had labels written in languages she did not understand.
The meeting with the palace Chief Chamberlain had been unpleasant in a difficult to define sort of way. There was just something cold in the old man's eyes that scared her, she supposed. That he had completely ignored her was something she didn't care about much, after all, she was a slave and he the highest ranking servant in the palace, so of course he wouldn't bother to acknowledge her. But one thing he said did rankle Gabrielle somewhat.
Xena had given him a number of instructions regarding her day, while Gabrielle was quietly munching on a piece of fruit, and the man had not acknowledged Gabrielle's existance with as much as a glance. Xena had turned and grinning leaned over to steal Gabrielle's fruit from her lips with Xena's own, taking a brief moment to exchange a few small kisses in the process. That had sparked a reaction from the old man, although Gabrielle doubted that Xena had truly noticed just how cold and angry his eyes had gotten.
With a surprisingly haughty air, Chamberlain Viceron had informed Xena that he had not known she would have entertainment that morning, and if she wished he could return later, when the 'entertainment' had gone. The words had stung surprisingly much.
Xena however had corrected him on his mistake, and with a gleam in her eye informed him that Gabrielle's presence in the castle was a permanent fixture, then proceeded to inform him of the changes Xena desired to be made to accommodate her new companion. The statement had been ended with a very sensuous kiss to Gabrielle's hand, Xena's entire posture challenging.
To his credit, Viceron had not taken the bait.
Nonetheless, Gabrielle had the unnerving feeling that she would have some trouble with that man eventually, but then again surely he wouldn't have any reason to be around a mere slave like her, and it could all just be Gabrielle's nerves. Couldn't it?
After her invigorating bath, and a rather giddy discovery of a diversity of 'mementos' from previous night, Gabrielle enjoyed an exploration of the space that apparently would be her home from now on.
Xena sure owned many beautiful and fascinating things. It saddened her to think that she, Gabrielle, was really supposed to be no more than Xena's possession now, too, much like the embroidered pillows or the stuffed chair in the corner.
But did it matter so much really? It didn't seem to be such a bad life, to be Xena's woman, as Xena herself had put it. Wasn't she already treated better than she had any reason to expect from life?
The answer was yes, of course, as she realized she had never really been free in the first place. But losing her little sister was harsh on Gabrielle, far too harsh to bear.
The guard knocking on the inner doors distrupted her brooding before she got too far. It was the seamstress that had arrived.
Xena decided that sometimes, sometimes being the Ruler of the Known World really sucked.
In fact, it could be a real hamper on one's personal life. Like now for example.
This was the third meeting in a row - or was that fourth? - and she had no idea what any of these fools was bothering her for. She had no patience for any of this today, and her concentration was elsewhere.
Xena smiled as she let her thoughts spin away, remembering the night they spent together. Gods, but that girl was alluring! So sweet, so beautiful and oh so responsive And even the sound of her voice awoke Xena's arousal, that had never happened before.
And more, Xena genuinely liked her, liked her company, liked holding her, liked spending time with her, liked Hades, she even liked talking to her. Liked everything.
And everything was easy, if it was with Gabrielle. Almost too easy. Because Xena was never allowed to be really happy about anything, if she was something disastrous would soon occur.
Chief Chamberlain Viceron watched the proceedings with mounting irritation. She was doing it again!
This time Xena wasn't even bothering to look in the Roman emissary's general direction, she was quite busily staring at the canopy above her seat, while her half lidded gaze and sensual smile betrayed where her thoughts were at. He could throttle the woman!
The last three petitions had been disastrous, Xena had all but slept through them all. The first one she kept asking the petitioner, an emissary from egypth, to repeat himself over and over, until she suddenly dismissed him mid-sentence, saying he would have to reschedule an appointment with her Chamberlain. Viceron was appalled.
Then she had looked at the Lord Menos and the Lord Lycost and asked them what in Tartarus they had come to her for. Faced with her irritated gaze both the lords had quickly agreed to settle matters privately, and peacefully, which to Viceron's knowledge would be a first for both families. The Chamberlain had regretted the outcome, since both lords were easy to manipulate in various ways when he dangled the faint hope that he might be persuaded to see things from their perspective, or mention this and that to their preoccupied ruler. But now that particular tool would be no more, thanks to a a hormonal Lord Conqueror!
The third meeting had ended with Xena yelling at the top of her lungs at the briton emissary, who in fear did wet himself as he was ordered out of Xena's sight. True, the man was an imbecile, pompous ass with delusions of religious superiority, but all the same he was a favoured cousin of the briton satrap Boadicea!
And now she was apparently finding much pleasure staring at the blue canopy above her seat. Fortunately, the otherwise so politically savvy merchant from Chin were so unnerved by the Lord Conqueror's behavior that he retracted his long-winded speech and meekly agreed to the terms as Viceron had previously written him.
This could not go on!
True, none of these petitioners were of a nature that required the Lord Conqueror's time, but they were a part of a long-term plan that Viceron deviced in order to convince his Lord to leave all such proceedings to him. By being the Conqueror's voice in all trade and civil dispute, he would be one more step closer to what Viceron truly desired. But not by running roughshod over all his glorious schemes first!
The list continued, and Xena bullied her way through one petition after another. Finally she came to the end of her fuse by the time the Chamberlain announced the three generals with allegedly beautiful women that Xena had told Gabrielle about earlier.
Lost for a moment in thoughts of Gabrielle, Xena did not pay attention to the generals as they shouted at one another. It wasn't until all three was standing facing each other, reaching for and drawing their weapons right there in front of her that Xena came back to her senses.
"ENOUGH!" The angry roar and the dull boom from Xena's fist as she slammed it into the sturdy oak table on her dais made all three men freeze.
Like lightning Xena was on her feet and looming over them as Hades himself on their day of judgement. She was deathly quiet for long agonizing moments, letting her ice cold gaze tear into the men and make them tremble in fear.
The voice was quiet, but it's intensity made it sound like a shout.
She stepped forward.
"draw your weapons"
The generals shrank back.
"in front of ME?!! "
Eyes as cold as ice narrowed as she faced them with the contempt apparent on her face. "You know what that will cost you, now don't you."
The generals paled.
"Now BOYS let me clarify something for you. Your small provinces are but squalid pebbles in the vast greatness of the Realm. And I I AM the Realm!"
"Your petty squabbles mean nothing to me, yet you insist on wasting my time. Then let me tell you this. I do not need either of you. And perhaps I will now choose to have you replaced."
"You were fools to keep bringing yourselves to my attention, I would have let you be if you did not give me reason to focus my attention upon you. In other words, boys since you cannot play nice, I will take your toys away."
She smiled slightly as she said this, further terrifying the three men in front of her.
"But I suppose I may yet choose to give you another chance if I feel lenient enough We shall see."
"Now let's see The matter you brought to my attention today was based upon whose woman was the more attractive, was it not? Fools!" They cringed as one at her harsh tone. "Very well, I shall give you my judgement."
"MY woman is far more beautiful than any of yours!" She leaned towards them with an evil gleam in her eyes. "Do you care to challenge that? No? Wise choice."
"Bottom line, boys don't get me involved in a measuring contest, because I will always win."
She turned and gestured towards one of the soldiers standing at the doors. "Send in Meleager now." Meleager, the captain of the Royal Guard, entered flanked by four of the black and silver clad guards. The four drew their weapons and surrounded the three generals at once.
"Have these three served the traditional punishment for bringing weapons into an audience with me, then held in custody until I decide what to do with them next. Then find out how it was that they all managed to get past the Castle guard with weapons on them." Xena gave Viceron an evil glare, she had no doubt who was responsible for this oversight. Meleager would find out as much and they all knew it, nonetheless the Castle guard should know their orders better than that.
"Send the Junior Chamberlain to my quarters when I leave, and make certain all my appointments for today are cancelled." Viceron looked as if he was about to protest. Xena merely lifted one eyebrow maliciously, and he said nothing. She turned to leave.
"Oh, and Meleager? Make certain they know how good their fortunes are that I am so lenient." Spoken with dangerous casualness over her shoulder as she left the room.
"Leniency!" The General of Parnassus spat in disgust. "Why that unnatural "
The back of Meleager's hand sent the man crashing to the floor. One of the soldiers hoisted him up roughly, preparing to drag him off by his arms.
Meleager spoke. "Our Lord showed you great mercy. The punishment for bringing a weapon within the presence of our Lord in an audience is thirty lashes."
"The punishment for baring a weapon in her presence is death by dismemberment."
Chapter 6: Learning To Dress The Part
Even without getting the information from Jace, the Junior Chamberlain, Xena would have realized where Gabrielle was rather quickly. The two Royal Guardsmen standing at the door was a fair indication, given that they previously only guarded Xena herself.
Xena noticed as she approached that both of the two men in question, Talus and Artus, were barely fighting back their smiles as they stood, apparently listening in on something spoken inside the seamstress working quarters. Intrigued, Xena motioned to them to remain quiet as she herself crept up to the door.
After listening a moment, she, too, was smiling, though probably for other reasons than her soldiers did. Or so she assumed.
Deftly she eased through the door without the occupants in the room noticing her presence. She casually leaned in the doorway and watched the proceedings, idly wondering how long it would take, and which of the women in front of her would notice her first.
The delighted smile that had sneaked its way to her lips she had expected, but the strong blast of emotion that coursed through her at the sight of her young lover, that Xena had not expected. It was strong, undeniable and completely foreign, giving Xena the sense of drowning in what? She did not know. A fierce sense of longing was the closest she could come to define it, but still there was more.
It was strange. And almost frightening, though she would never admit to as much.
" are you sure? I still don't think I'm fit to wear something so, so well fancy looking." Gabrielle's voice was soft and uncertain, as she stood in front of the large gilded mirror wearing nothing but a small set of forest green underclothes and fingering tentatively on the expanse of deep green silk that the seamstress was holding up against Gabrielle's body. The aged seamstress was clearly trying to impress upon the young woman how lovely the fabric would look on her, which appeared to conflict with Gabrielle's sense of modesty.
"Tsk child, I know me work. This here would make the most fetching evening gown, nicely matching them eyes." She made Gabrielle look at herself in the mirror, to prove her point. "Our Lord specifically told to use the latest and the finest, and that there Chin silk is it, dearie. Ye do want to look pretty for Our Lord, don't ye me dear?"
Gabrielle smiled shyly and nodded gently, blushing ever so slightly as she did so, and Xena could wait no more to hold her close.
"Now, me thought is that we do one like that red one ye tried on, but cut this part shorter like "
"Do as many in as many styles as you wish, Myra, her wardrobe should be made to match mine." Xena interrupted from the door. "Be sure to use only the finest and the most complimentary to Gabrielle's beauty."
Gabrielle's head snapped around, and when she spotted Xena the delighted look in her eyes and brilliant smile made Xena swallow hard to get rid of a sudden lump in her throat. Xena pushed off from the doorframe and sauntered over to finally indulge herself in what she had thought of all day.
Gabrielle barely had time to register Xena's presence before she found herself tightly wrapped in a pair of strong arms and held closely against the taller form, with Xena's face buried in her hair. She closed her eyes and leaned back, enjoying the sensation.
After long moments of remaining that way, Xena finally lifted her head to look upon their reflection in the mirror. "Use this one, for certain." She let one hand caress where Gabrielle was wrapped in the material. "And something in cream, I think."
The aged seamstress snapped out of her indulgent reverie, and brought a roll of thick cream colored silk up for Xena's perusal. Xena nodded her approval of the choice, indeed she trusted Myra's sense of fashion implicitly, and the old woman had been in Xena's service for so long she was more than well acquainted with Xena's tastes and quirks.
Myra took the fabrics from Xena's hands to fold an put away, and Xena raked her eyes lustfully over the near-naked body revealed in the mirror at the act.
Pretending to lick her lips as she met Gabrielle's eyes in the mirror, Xena was thrilled to feel a shudder go through the small form. She smirked wickedly. "And Myra? Make sure there will be a steady supply of enticing undergarments for Gabrielle, will you?" She had to bite her lip not to laugh when Gabrielle turned bright red and unnable to look at the old seamstress.
"Aye, ye naughty imp, I figured as much." Myra made a show of scoffing at her ruler. "Really, ruining perfectly good leggings like that, ye should be ashamed. And not a stitch of shift for the poor child to wear either. I would think ye'd have called to get some clothes that fit the child to wear for now, not let her go gallivanting around the castle and catch a cold like that."
"You're not ill, are you?" Xena murmured into Gabrielle's ear while Myra unfaltering continued her reproach. Gabrielle shook her head, or tried to, as she was shaking with silent giggles.
"Well, I got a set for the child to wear for now, and by morning I'll have something better sown up. Til then there's this set that'll fit, though hardly the kind I know ye to have in mind for the wee bit of a thing."
Xena stepped back as Myra helped Gabrielle back into the clothes that had been hung on a holder next to the mirror. It was not the pants and tunic that she had given Gabrielle to wear that morning, but rather a skirt and blouse set in muted greens and purple.
"The fabric is inferior of course, but the cut is nice Myra. Do a few in that sort of style too, won't you?" Xena said with appreciation, noticing how nice the snug wide girdle and low cut blouse looked on Gabrielle, making her look much older than the outfit Xena ruined the night before had.
"I have all the measurements needed for now, and we tried enough different styles to know about where to start. I will come tell ye when I need ye for fitting, dear." Myra told Gabrielle in her friendly fashion. "I'll have me assistants working hard to get ye some proper attire come morning."
"I'll make sure you get some new assistants soon, allright? Will I be forgiven then?" Xena teased goodnaturedly. Myra pretended to huff some more and shoo them to the door, but just as they were about to leave she halted Xena with a hand on her arm.
"It does this old heart good to see ye finally find someone to make ye happy. And this is a good child, too."
Xena looked quite surprised at that, and barely remembered to nod her acceptance of the well-wishes. Happy?
She glanced at Gabrielle at her side. Yes, happy. But she was surprised it was so obvious.
"Have you eaten yet?" She asked Gabrielle.
The answering howl from Gabrielle's midsection caused the entire hallway to go deafeningly quiet. Xena's eyebrow dissappeared beneath her bangs in surprise. "I'll take that as a 'no' then." She murmured slowly.
"Artus! Send word to my private kitchen that I want dinner for the both of us delivered to my chambers shortly. Whatever Ella comes up with is fine, just tell her to bring plenty of it. Also, I want a list drawn up on my schedule for the next fortnight, in details, within the candlemark." She spared a glance at Artus. "Have Jace do it and bring it to me. I think he won't mind that, will he?"
Artus, Jace's lover of some time, smiled at the prospect of telling his lover he was currently more in favour than his superior, the arrogant Viceron. He shared a knowing look with the Lord Conqueror before turning to carry out her orders.
Xena smiled at the lovely woman by her side. Quite uncaring that they were far from alone in the hallway, Xena pulled Gabrielle into her arms, dipped her down, and proceeded to kiss her senseless.
When she finally let the younger woman up for air, Xena was smiling contentedly and Gabrielle was clinging weakly to her for support. "Well well. Did you meet Jace earlier today Gabrielle? No? No, I suppose Myra was so appalled by what you wore that she dragged you here to get you dressed right away."
"I'll introduce you to him when he arrives. But first let's get my woman fed!"
Grinning outrageously Xena steered Gabrielle through the hallways heading for the Royal private chambers.
Gabrielle silently took in the appearance of the Junior Chamberlain as she was busily feeding the noisy beast in her belly, while Xena ate at a more sedate pace, still able to hold a conversation with the man over dinner.
The sight of all the delicious food had nearly brought tears to Gabrielle's eyes, so she would have been hard pressed to tear her concentration away from stuffing herself even if it was asked of her. Fortunately enough, it was not. Xena merely smiled indulgently.
The Junior Chamberlain seemed in no manner similar to his superior Viceron, Gabrielle decided. There was nothing cold about this young man, for starters. Gabrielle tilted her head and considered.
Xena said he was a 'true sodomite', so she would trust him to behave around Gabrielle. Well, aside from the fact that Gabrielle wasn't at all comfortable with the underlying meaning in that consideration, she felt Jace would probably be a good friend to have. He was a pleasant fellow, not good looking by any stretch, rather looking slightly like a sad puppy with his sorrowful brown eyes. And quite effeminated, with newly coiffed brown curls and crisply pressed frills decorating his dark blue velvet vest.
From what she could tell he seemed a calm, gentle person, with a pleasant voice and a serious mindset. And, something which made Gabrielle relax considerably, he was not at all offended that Xena told him he was to spend time educating a person who, after all, was only a slave, in the ways of the palace.
At the present he was diligently scribbling down Xena's changes of the schedule for the next week, and Gabrielle smiled a little to see that despite the seriousness of his face, his hands kept fluttering about his face in tiny but rather feminine gestures as he spoke.
Suddenly he was looking right at Gabrielle. "Oh I'll be glad to show Lady Gabrielle the Royal Library." Gabrielle realised they were talking about her now. "Do you enjoy reading, Lady Gabrielle?" Jace inquired politely.
Gabrielle nearly choked on a mouthful of tea, and Xena's eyebrows lifted high in surprise. "W-what? I'm not a lady, I'm just plain Gabrielle." Gabrielle managed to squeeze out.
Xena turned to growl in a quiet voice. "There's nothing plain about you Gabrielle, and don't you forget it." She turned expectant eyes on Jace.
"Begging your pardon My Lord, but since My Lord has made it clear that Lady Gabrielle is My Lord's permanent companion for an unforeseeable amount of time, it seems prudent that she is addressed with the title Lady even though Lady Gabrielle is not truly of noble birth or even a free woman. It is a sign of respect for My Lord's position and choice, if not for Lady Gabrielle herself. In some courts it has been the custom to address the ruler's paramour with at least the honorific title of Lady or perchance Lord, as showing a small degree of respect for the person sharing the ruler's life is showing respect for the ruler itself."
"I know of these practises, Jace, and where they are still in use. And the thought is commendable. However, you are well aware, I should think, that Gabrielle is a slave. What prompted this deduction on your part?" Xena's voice was turning slightly harsh, and her face was expressionless.
"My Lord, permission to speak quite boldly?" Jace was a careful politician, but not one to speak what he thought his ruler wanted to hear only. He received a curt nod to go on.
"My Lord has given orders regarding Lady Gabrielle that would indicate a far more elevated status than that of a mere body slave. It is a fair assumption by that act that Lady Gabrielle would either be My Lord's paramour or perhaps concubine. A body slave would not receive a royal wardrobe, be accompanied by members of the Royal Guard, be tutored in court etiquette, or provided entertainment." Jace was threading dangerous grounds and he knew it. "And may I remind My Lord that the biannual meeting of the satraps is approaching?"
Gabrielle looked disheartened down at her plate, her appetite had vanished all of a sudden.
In the silence that followed, Xena's face lightened slowly.
"Paramour, huh? Now why didn't I think of that?" Xena gave a wry half-smile. "Very well Jace, what you say makes good sense. Although usually no-one would ask their ruler to announce someone as their paramour within a day of the ruler meeting that person." She grinned at Jace, who ducked his head slightly in acknowledgment.
"I will not object to the usage of the honorific title of Lady for Gabrielle, and I wish it to be the rule for official occasions, however I cannot actually give her a title as she is not a free woman. Make certain all involved parties knows what they need."
"And as for the satraps They will have enough to bicker about even without speculating about Gabrielle's position in my life, I'm sure."
There was silence for a moment.
"So, Gabrielle Why don't you answer Jace's question then?" Xena grinned at Gabrielle's blank look. "Do you enjoy reading, Gabrielle?"
Gabrielle blinked slowly, then turned to Jace and tried to muster some kind of enthusiasm. "I l-love to read, sir, I always have."
The comical way Jace's eyes got big and round, and the way he waved his hands as if warding off something, made Gabrielle feel slightly more at ease. "No no no! I am simply Jace, My Lady!"
Before too long Jace had Gabrielle in a lively discussion about favorite bards and poets, and they passionatedly spoke of the skills of Sappho, discussed who had the finest rendition of the legends of Xena's great achievements, and got into a debate of the pros and cons of Eastern poetry. Jace even drew his chair up to Gabrielle's.
Xena was stunned.
What had just happened? She had assumed that Gabrielle was literate, but to find out that she was fluent in both Latin and Arabic in addition to her native Greek was more than she would ever have guessed. Had Gabrielle not said there were no schools in Poteidaia? And how had she come across all those stories in a place where travellers, and thus scrolls, were scarce?
Looking at them both Xena felt a sharp pang of jealousy. They were both deeply involved in their animated discussion, both using hand gestures in a similar fashion when they spoke, and wearing smiles. Gabrielle was smiling.
Xena wanted to be the one to make Gabrielle smile.
She coughed pointedly, and Jace snapped back from the conversation. He seemed surprised that he had gotten so lost in a conversation that he completely forgot the presence of his ruler. Xena indicated with a slight tilt of her head and a raised eyebrow that it was time for him to depart.
"Alas it must be time for me to continue my duties, Lady Gabrielle. I will be looking forward to debating court customs with you, and escorting you to the Royal Library when it is convenient." He smiled and bowed to them both, taking his papers with him as he left.
An awkward silence filled the room.
Xena watched Gabrielle looking forlornly at her plate, pushing things around but no longer eating. She cursed herself thinking she must have frightened the young woman, because mere moments ago Gabrielle had been relaxed in her company.
"Don't you like the food?" Xena asked with some difficulty.
Gabrielle looked surprised. "Oh no, the food is delicious! I can't remember when I ate anything this good, really." Xena nodded, of course it was, Ella was the best cook Xena had. And the most reliable.
"So What do you think of Jace?" A pointed quiestion, although Xena was careful not to let it show how much the answer meant to her right now.
Gabrielle smiled, and for a moment Xena wanted to stand up and scream at the top of her lungs 'NO!'.
"He seems very nice. And he is very fun to talk to. He didn't seem to mind it so much."
"Mind what?" Xena edged closer.
"Well Having to spend time with a mere slave." Gabrielle's smile died.
For a second Xena just sat there with large eyes, looking almost dumbstruck, then she exploded. Standing up she slammed her fists so hard into the tabletop that everything on it jumped into the air. Gabrielle yelped and stared anxiously at the angry woman in front of her.
"I. Gave. Him. An. Order!" She ground out between clenched teeth. "It is not up to his whim, his likes or dislikes is of no consequence, if I say he will spend time with you then he will without question, or he will suffer the consequences!"
Gabrielle did not just look frightened now, she looked downright depressed. Her posture was very much that of a scolded child who was fighting to hold back tears, and Xena's heart clenched at the sight. No no no no, this wasn't what she had meant to do!
Xena sighed and moved closer to Gabrielle. Since Gabrielle wouldn't lift her head to face her, Xena reached out and gently urged her until their eyes met.
"You do not understand, Gabrielle." She said gently. "It is not a matter of them minding to spend time with you " She sat back down and pulled Gabrielle over into her lap, facing her. " it is them being graced with a moment of your company"
"I rule the world, Gabrielle. Therefore I am above everyone else in it, and everyone else's position and rank is up to my whim. And I " Xena pulled Gabrielle closer still and ardently breathed her words almost upon Gabrielle's lips.
"I desire you, I want you, I _hunger_ for you. Not only for the maddening feel of your skin against mine, the sweetness of your lips, your body moving under my touch. No, I have experienced a hunger also for your presence, with me, by my side, all the time today."
Xena could feel the rapid hot bursts of Gabrielle's breath agains her lips, and she would almost have sworn she could feel Gabrielle's heart beating in her own flesh as well, there could be nothing between them right now.
"So the time spent in your presence is a great gift I have bestowed upon Jace and the others you will meet, when there is nothing in this palace as precious to me as you are." She kissed Gabrielle with all the passion she could muster.
They continued their heated exchange until Xena, with both of them panting heavily, managed to regain some self control.
"Because you are precious to me Gabrielle, you are also above them. Do you understand?"
Gabrielle hid her face into Xena and mumbled faintly. "I just don't want to be an embarrassment to you."
"Never!" Xena swore fervently and kissed Gabrielle again. "I will be the envy of all " Another ardent kiss " to be the one that gets to wake with you in my arms."
A handfull of passionate kisses later, Xena drew back a little to meet Gabrielle's gaze. "How do you feel now, Gabrielle?" She asked somewhat out of breath.
Gabrielle looked strangely incredulous at first, then seemed to gather her courage, shyly bit her lip and leaned in to whisper in Xena's ear. Xena's eyes got huge, and she swallowed once, hard.
"That wasn't quite what I meant " She husked, and let one hand slip under Gabrielle's skirt to find evidence of one of Gabrielle's statements, causing Gabrielle to whimper. " but that works for me!" Xena gasped out.
No more words were exchanged as Xena stood and unsteadily carried Gabrielle with her into their bedroom.
Chapter 7: A Passionate Interlude
For several days the Lord Conqueror gave only scant appearances outside her private chambers. Audiences were cancelled or postponed, and smaller tasks were given to the Chamberlain and Junior Chamberlain to perform.
Viceron, of course, was livid. Not only did the Lord Conqueror so blatantly shirk all duties simply to indulge her baser self with a common body slave, but she had given the main responsibility for handling the day-to-day chores to that upstart Jace!
Unlike himself, who had worked his way up to his position by long hard years in service at one court or another, Jace had merely caught the Lord Conqueror's eye one day, and gotten the position handed to him. He was a direct threat to everything Viceron had built, and no matter how many times Viceron put him in his place, Jace bounced back undaunted. His favour with their ruler unwavering.
Oh, service to the ruler of the Known World had always had it's moments of frustration, but there were great rewards as well. Even should his long tedious planning to in all silence grasp the power behind the throne for himself fail in the end, to serve her would still be his choice.
Because the woman was his mad obsession.
But this latest affront! To dally around with some peasant harlot with no regard for their life's work A slavewoman no less! It was totally unacceptible. Not even when parleying with the promiscuous Egyptian satrap, Cleopatra, had the Lord Conqueror ever let the Realm suffer, and she, at least, had been a dignitary!
Whatever dark and twisted sorcery this unworthy creature had cast over his Lord, he, Viceron would see it ended. No matter the cost.
Indeed Xena was spending her time enjoying her young lover, and forgoing matters of state in the process. She did, however, feel she had matters well in hand, and did not fear that a score of days putting the woman before the ruler would do any permanent harm to her Realm. After all, that was what all those bureaucrats and administrators were for.
Not that she trusted the lot further than she could throw them, but even so She fully intended to enjoy a short vacation. And the young woman in her arms was a sweet intoxication she would not give up.
Chamberlain Viceron finally found a reason to enter the Royal chambers. Oh, as the Chief Chamberlain he was the only individual who could enter the Royal chambers at will, unannounced and unescorted, but for his own safety he had better have a good reason for doing so. Especially now.
He desperately wanted to speak with his Lord about certain changes she had made, and if he could not make her see the error in withdrawing from her duties like this, then at least make certain it was he, not that young pup Jace, that held the reins in her absence.
But it would not do to so openly come to her private chambers to suggest she change her orders, he had served her too long to make that mistake. No. But the seamstress had, without intending to, given him the excuse needed.
An entire cart filled with all manner of fancy clothing for the peasant harlot was ready, but since the Lord Conqueror had ordered them not to be disturbed, the seamstress had complained that she did not wish to intrude. And yet Lady Gabrielle needed the clothing.
'Lady' Gabrielle, as if she was some highborn woman his Lord had taken more than a mere passing fancy to. Regardless, bringing the clothing would suffice.
Naturally the guards at the doors let him in without question. But one of them, that upstart Jace's lover if Viceron was not mistaken, insisted upon pulling the pushcart to the slavegirl's door for him. He was forced to enter there lest his motives be questioned, much to his annoyance.
Very well, it was of no matter to him.
The room had been made up since the last time Viceron had seen it. A large intricately carved bed took up much of the free space of the room, easily as large and ornate as the one Viceron himself had in his private quarters. A large chest stood by the foot of the bed, waiting to be filled with a woman's unmentionables, and the large closets covered one wall completely. Under the only window there stood a large desk, filled with scrolls and ink, and a shelf by it on the wall awaited writings to fill it.
The peasant probably thought she was literate because she had managed to learn how to scribble her own name, Viceron thought with envious contempt. What bothered him more than the fancy furnishings was that not a single item looked as though it had ever been used. It was merely sitting there collecting dust.
Well. Let the hussy hang her own garments, he most certainly was not going to do it - although that was the finest silk from Chin, dresses made to be worn by a Queen, not a temporary bedwarmer - so the cart might remain where it was.
He was just about to open the door to the adjoining bathroom when he heard the sounds. His hand was in fact already turning the doorknob, and the door had tilted ajar ever so slightly.
A woman giggling, and the sound of splashing water. The unmistakable sound of his Lord's voice speaking, although he could not make out the words. More splashing.
He was just about to push the door open further, as his Lord had never been shy about her nudity before, when another sound stopped him.
A woman moaning. And again.
Viceron grew quite pale and trembling.
Another moan, and this time a deeper voice joined in. Then "Oh Xena!" cut into his ears.
Viceron hurried in almost blind panic towards the other door. He wasn't sure whether he was going to faint or throw up the way he was feeling, but he needed out, quick! He reached the door and slammed it shut behind him, with the sounds of the women's release still ringing in his ears.
As he stood there, struggling to put a proper mask in place, what was previously strong resentment grew and hardened into pure solid hate.
Xena did eventually return to at least partial duty, although those that were to petition her during this time did not particularly feel thankful for her time away from her blonde companion. Their time was limited, Xena's temper short and patience nonexistent, and she simply did not allow for any frivolus use of her time with petty concerns. Dealing with either of the Chamberlains was prefferred, as they at least were cordial, and somewhat less inclined to flat out deny requests, or worse, threaten petitioners with bodily harm.
Upon this particular day, Gabrielle would be visiting the Royal Library with Jace, and Xena's mood swung between feeling pleased that Gabrielle would be doing something she enjoyed, namely reading, while on the other hand Xena felt terribly agitated that her woman would be spending so much time alone with Jace. The fact that her fears were irrational did not improve Xena's mood much.
Finally she could take no more, and cut off the meeting she was in to go find Gabrielle.
She sneaked into the Lirbrary to surprise Gabrielle, motioning to the guards not to give her away. But it was Xena who would be the most surprised.
Giggling. Why was it that whenever Xena found Gabrielle and Jace together, there would always be much giggling going on? They sounded like a pair of schoolchildren.
Xena eased around the corner, with a perfect view of the large table and window seat that Gabrielle and Jace had chosen to occupy, yet still hidden from view herself. An eyebrow went up at the sight of the table, the librarians would not be thankful of this mess.
Among the piles of books and scrolls covering the table, Xena could make out her prized Sappho collection laying to one side together with a volume of romantic poetry from Japa.
Excellent choices in Xena's opinion, and smirking to herself she decided that she would try some choice recitals for Gabrielle sometime.
She could also spot a surprising ammount of renditions of the stories of her own exploits lying there. Perhaps her idea for the day was even better than she would have thought? She privately admitted that she was quite charmed that Gabrielle showed interest in things Xena had done in the past like this.
Her eyes tracked away from the table, to the source of the giggling.
There she was. The light from the large window turned Gabrielle's redblond hair to a burning white-gold, making her look almost ethereal in the light. The dark crème-colored dress she wore enhanced the visual, making Xena's heart ache. Jace's redbrown curls shone even more red than usual as he was caught by cast-off rays from Gabrielle, and he was making a big show out of pointing at something in the huge book they were reading together, and fanning himself with a lacy sleeve.
Xena's eyes narrowed. Gabrielle was blushing slightly and giggled again. She seemed to whisper something to Jace, to which he giggled even more before answering in that same almost-audible tone.
Then Xena recognised the book. It was the Kama Sutra!
"Oh my Artus!" Jace was saying, laying both hands crossed over his heart in a hopelessly smitten doe-eyed look. Playfully Gabrielle chucked his arm. "You make such a cute couple." She enthused, smiling benignly.
Jace smiled, charmed. "So do you two, Gabrielle, so do you." Gabrielle smiled shyly, her pleasure at the words adorably evident. "Really?" She breathed, then made a squealing little noise and threw herself back, further into the heart of the light.
"Really." Jace put his head in his hands in for him typically feminine-appearing gesture. "I've never seen her this happy. I really am glad you have one another, Gabrielle."
"So." A shrewd look."Are you going to show her the poems that you wrote?" The man was actually bouncing and clapping his hands. "Please? You just have to."
Gabrielle ducked her head. "Don't you think she'll think that they're silly? She's got all these " a hand indicating the piles on the table "writing grand poetry about her. Real bards and poets, not a naive girl like me."
"It's _not_silly! And I think she'll love your poems Gabrielle. Because it's you." Jace tried to convince. Gabrielle smiled and hugged him. "Thanks Jace, you are such a good friend."
The man beamed at her in response, and hugged her back.
"You too Gabrielle, you are a very good friend to have."
Leaning back agains the backrest again Gabrielle sighed softly. "Do you know what's even sillier though?"
"I get these feelings sometimes Like right now. It feels like, almost like she's right here with me." Gazing dreamily into the high ceiling.
"Surprise." Xena said warmly, stepping into full view.
The expression on Gabrielles face was even more radiant than the rays of sunlight pouring through the window. When Xena opened her arms beckoning her, Gabrielle gave off a happy little shriek and rushed into her embrace.
Momentarily pulling back from their kiss, Xena spoke with just a tinge of embarrassment to the widely grinning Jace. "Why don't you, umm, go and tell Artus that he is relieved of duty for the rest of the day."
That's all she got out as a very amorous young woman could wait no more for the kisses she had been longing for. Jace grinned even more, and hummed a tune to himself as he happily bounced his way out of the library.
"So my sweet, why don't you show me what you found so interesting in the Kama Sutra?" Xena asked with a husky voice and pulled Gabrielle with her to the chaise longue underneath the window.
Chapter 8: A Roomful Of Legends
Gabrielle was patiently standing in front of a set of huge iron doors, waiting for Xena to tell her she could open her eyes again. With her was of course Xena, two of the Royal Guard, and two Castle Guards dressed in red that was always stationed outside these particular doors.
Xena fumbled for a moment with the large set of keys she was holding, until the doors were finally unlocked and opened. She dragged Gabrielle into the room before telling her to open her eyes.
Gabrielle blinked, once, before her eyes grew wide and she spun around open-mouthed and staring.
"Welcome to the Throphy Room, Gabrielle." Xena grinned, extremely pleased with herself.
"Wooow Is it really Jace talked about this place. You really keep all those things in here?" Gabrielle tried to peek at everything at once, causing Xena to chuckle and the guards to struggle not to do the same.
Xena gestured to the guards, who immideately took up positions around the door, then put an arm around Gabrielle, stearing her way through the room. "Yep. This is where I keep a lot of old mementos from the past. Mostly past battles, but not all these things were gotten in combat."
"The horn of Achelos? The head of the hydra? The horns of Minotaurus? What about the Golden Apples?" Gabrielle could not stand still for her enthusiasm. Xena shook her head amusedly.
"Calm down, my sweet, they aren't going anywhere. The horn of Achelos is to your right, there, and the others are further into the room. The Golden Apples, however, I gave back to Hera."
"Weren't you, you know, ever tempted to eat one and become immortal?" Gabrielle was curious.
"Not really " Xena sounded wistful, then lovered her voice so that the guards might not overhear them. "Ever since after killing the Nemeian lion I have known who my real father is, Gabrielle." She casually pointed out a glass casing that held the long horns of the Minotaur.
"Ares appeared before me as I took the pelt from the lion, and told me the truth. It's not a pretty story, since my mother never knew that she had been visited by the God of War at the night of my conception." Xena looked sad at the mention of her mother. "I'll admit that I don't have much to do with him, thanks to Aphrodite and Hera, but he is proud of me. He likes me."
She was silent as they continued on, clearly searching for the right words. She pointed out the great head of the Hydra, encased forever in solid steel from the forge of the gods themselves. Gabrielle was thrilled at the sight of the ugly thing.
"He likes me a bit too much, if you know what I mean?" Xena looked embarrassed, and Gabrielle was so shocked her eyes threatened to pop right out of their sockets it seemed. "Well, like I said, grandmother and Aphrodite made certain that Ares would not continue to pursue me. Oh I still hear from him from time to time, but it's not often, and we're not particularly close."
"Umm, yes. My grandmother, Hera, Queen of the Gods." Xena could see the realisation dawning in Gabrielle's eyes. "Yeah, it's true. I am a halfgod Gabrielle. That's why I was never tempted to eat from the Golden Apples or find ambrosia."
"If I ever wanted it, all I have to do is ask. And they won't give me just immortality, they would make me a god."
Xena and Gabrielle stood merely looking at each other for a long time. Xena had been afraid to tell Gabrielle of all these things, afraid to see the change in Gabrielle's eyes, but knew it would have to come out eventually.
Neither of them spoke.
"I see." Gabrielle said slowly. Then she smiled gently. "Hey, that's pretty cool. And it explains a lot about the things you can do, doesn't it?" She took Xena's hand.
Xena was as near tears as she had ever been in her adult life. Roughly she pulled Gabrielle to her, kissed her forehead, and just held her for a long moment. "Thank you." She whispered into Gabrielle's hair.
"So." Gabrielle inquired cheerfully. "Tell me more about them?" Xena smiled.
"I've never been much for worshipping gods, even before I knew about my father, but if really really pushed, I suppose I could worship grandmother. Hera is an honorable goddess, and she likes me a lot Which feels kind of nice, having at least some relatives that does like me."
Gabrielle wondered at that, but didn't want to interrupt Xena now that she had gotten started. Xena pointed out the stem that the Golden Apples had once grown on, caught in an eternal golden bloom inside a sparkling crystal, as they passed it by.
"Zeus on the other hand, really doesn't like me. And Athena, well, she downright hates me." Looking earnestly at Gabrielle. "I would have spared Athens you know, it was never my intention of rasing it to the ground and nearly annihilating the Athenian army. But she wouldn't let them surrender to my army because Zeus was angry at me, and in the end there was nothing left. I really tried Gabrielle."
"It turned really ugly after that. Poseidon is another that really dislikes me, but on the other hand I get along quite well with Hades and Aphrodite."
"Xena? You mean you slept with your... aunt?" Gabrielle was quite horrified.
"Please don't remind me! I try really hard not to think about that bit." Xena said, wincing. "But they don't see it as immoral, although Hera finally drew the line at Ares' many attempts at getting into bed with me." Shuddering. "Thank Goddess for that!"
They walked down another pathway.
"Oh, see that?" Pointing at a giant silver chalice standing nearly half the height of a person. "That is the Chalice of Blood, the one that belonged to Bacchus. I kept it after I killed him, though it's clean now."
"According to the legend you killed Bacchus because you wanted to free all the maidens he had enslaved, is that true?"
"Ah, no." Xena looked regretful. "I only wish it had been a more noble thought that caused all that."
"No, I, uh, I kind of had a lover back then, a woman called Eurydike. It was never anything serious, she just kept hanging around my army." Shrugging. "Only, she had neglected to tell me that she was married, and one day the husband, Orfeus, showed up. I suppose I was a bit callous when I told her I didn't care one way or another what she did, but that she was not to be seen anywhere near my camp ever again."
Xena looked seriously at Gabrielle. "Do you see? I could not take the betrayal, that she had lied to me."
"Orfeus came back the next day, telling me that Eurydike had been taken by Bacchus, and that I was responsible so I should help him get her back." Xena smiled wryly. "So you see, I was guilted into it."
They wandered around, Xena pointing out one strange artefact after another. "See that ugly rock that has a sword sticking out of it? It belonged to these really weird warriors, Order of the Pierced something or other. Well, they were talking really big about how the man who would be their leader would one day come and draw the sword from the stone, and lead them. So I pulled the sword out to take a closer look, and Hades did they get livid. In the end I beat them silly and took their precious sword with me. Silly thing that it is "
"And that over there isn't strictly speaking a trophy, it's here more for safekeeping." Pointing at an odd shaped stone altar. Walking closer Gabrielle could see what was hidden underneath the glass and iron casing.
"Xena! Is that another chakram?"
"Yes it is, only that one can only be touched by someone who is completely pure. A lot of people have been killed trying to take it, so I had it moved here and put into one of Hephaistos' sealing casings."
"And I bet you can tell what that is."
"Is that the Golden Fleece? Wow."
Xena smiled indulgently. "Just don't try to touch it Gabrielle. It does evil things to people, making them slaves to their ambitions." Gabrielle looked questiongly at Xena. "Yes, I know - why didn't it affect me? But it did, it's just that I have plenty of ambition all by myself, so it couldn't control me. Besides, when I got it I was well on my way of becoming the Ruler of the Known World already, so there really wasn't much left to pursue."
They wandered off to the casings on the other side of the huge room.
"See that white robe with the strange sword hanging over it? That's from a part of the Realm that's even further east than Chin, called Japa."
"I though Chin was as far east as one could get?"
"Mmm, many think so, as Japa isn't very well known. Usually when someone mentions the 'east of Chin' though, that's what they mean. They wanted it that way, the satrap I left in charge and the native gods of the land. I saw no reason not to let them have their way, it is a very small island."
"And I experienced something rather unpleasant there."
"The robe you see belonged to a woman, sort of a princess of that land though not quite, her name was Akemi. I am ashamed to say that she played me like a lyre, used and betrayed me. And in the end she even tried to devour my soul." Xena wrapped her arms around Gabrielle. "I was very young then, I had barely begun my conquest of the world. And she was the only woman to have said that she loved me."
Gabrielle stiffened noticeably in Xena's arms. Xena smiled a little and nuzzled Gabrielle's hair.
"She lied of course, but at that point in time I was a bit naïve I guess. In the end it turned out that not only was she a great deciever who only used me, she was not even human. A kind of snow monster in the shape of a woman, as near as I could tell. The katana, the sword hanging above the robe, is a soul-slaying blade that I got there, and that I used to kill her."
"A gruesome tale to be true, but since most of the things in here has a dark past, it seemed appropriate to put that here. A reminder, if you will."
They continued on, Xena wondering to herself whatever possessed her to tell that particular tale to Gabrielle, since it had obviously bothered the young woman. 'Well Xena, you did just tell her that you callously killed a former lover, a young woman that said she loved you, and then had the audacity to put her only remains on display as a trophy. Of course that has to bother her!'
They passed by knick-knacks from Egypth, the Norse lands and even the Africaans as they moved about, one obviously male wooden sculpture from the Africaans in particular catching Gabrielle's eye. And had her breaking down in laughter.
That lightened the mood somewhat, and Xena steered Gabrielle towards the end of the room, and her own favorite part.
"What is that?" Gabrielle walked around the hig table curiously.
It was slightly taller than an ordinary table, and ornately made in black marble. The surface was divided into a multitude of even squares of white and black marble, and upon that surface stood a group of marble figurines, some black and some white.
"This" Xena said, lifting one of the larger figurines into her hand "is a joke."
She laughed a little at Gabrielle's incredulous look, and showed her the figurine that was once again as tall as one of Xena's hands. "This is Hera, you might recognise the symbols around her." She pointed at the other black figurines. "That is Ares, Hades, Aphrodite, Hephaistos, Celesta and so on." Pointing at the white figures. "Those are Zeus, Athena, Poseidon and their lot."
"It kind of came to be after I had complained a bit too much about the gods using us all as playthings in their games, and that is what this symbolizes. All the struggles in my life that has had divine involvement, so to speak. The white figurines are those that I usually end up fighting against, like Zeus and Athena, while the black figurines are the gods that I sort of like and that don't usually go out of their way to fight me."
"Why black? Usually black is associated to evil, and white to good."
Xena looked incredulous. "But Gabrielle black is my color! Surely you knew that? My coat-of-arms is a silver lion's head with blue eyes on a black shield, making my colors black, silver and blue. Kind of like the Royal Guard, that wears my colors black and silver."
"Although I guess a lot of people would say that black is a good metaphor for me in that case " She teased Gabrielle, who scowled playfully at her.
Gabrielle walked around the table, intently looking at each of the figurines to see if she could name them. She noticed that the details on each was very rich, but that one figure in particular was done slightly different than the others. She smiled.
"You really do favor Hera, don't you?" While all the other figurines were made solidly out of one piece of black or white marble each, the one that represented Hera had one deviation. Someone had given the sculpture green tinted mother-of-pearl eyes, resembling the famous eyes of the Queen of the Olympian gods.
Xena shrugged sheepishly.
"Hey, since we are heading towards where I keep my trophy from the Nemeian Lion, did you ever find out the whole story about how all that happened?" Putting an arm around Gabrielle's waist.
"Well, I know you were very young then, and it was long before you started conquering the world. The stories say that the villagers of Amphipolis came to you for help when the monstrous lion showed up outside of their village, because they had heard rumours of your great strenght. And that you wanted a challenge like the lion, so you accepted."
Xena shook her head wryly. "That is such good propaganda. It's much better than all those horror stories that are in circulation, where I burn down villages, ravish the women and molest the livestock." She sighed.
"I guess it depends on where in the Realm you are." Gabrielle smiled. "In Poteidaia the legendary Warrior Princess is held in high regard, because Poteidaia is in the same area as Amphipolis. The Ruler of the Known World is rarely ever spoken of, though."
"I can imagine. Very well, but did you know that the story you have been told is not quite true? Not many do, but you at least I can tell." She held Gabrielle a little closer.
"I was almost sixteen, and I had not yet gotten the name Warrior Princess, that would come later. I was a warlord at the time, leading a small army of the young and angry. Earlier that year a warlord had attacked my home and my beloved younger brother got killed, and that's when I took up the sword for real. My home village was Amphipolis."
Gabrielle looked quite surprised.
"My mother is the innkeeper there, and she blamed me for my brother's death." Xena looked at Gabrielle with pained eyes, despite all the years that had passed. "He died saving my life, you see."
"She told me to leave and never return, and to this day I never have. But I used my little wannabee army to keep the area around Amphipolis as safe as I could manage. So when the news came in that the Nemeian Lion for some reason had appeared in the countryside outside Amphipolis, I had to do something about it."
Quietly. "Even if she hates me, she is still my mother."
"I didn't know back then that the beast was the child of the titans Echidna and Typhon, and that it was there as a part of some plan of Zeus'. He was probably going to force himself on yet another mindless young woman, knowing him. Anyway, I got my weapons together, but I added something that the stories doesn't tell you about. A pair of big steel gauntlets, with madly big spikes that I had dipped in the venom of a poisonous snake."
"The poison slowly paralyzed the lion rather than killing it, but that was allright because I managed to crush it's neck, and it ended up just as dead. Of course that raised some questions, since no ordinary person is strong enough to snap the neck of a titan, even this way. I got convinced by the men in my army that I should keep the pelt as a trophy, and it was while I was trying to cut off the pelt that Ares appeared before me."
"He told me the truth. And in a bout of supposedly fatherly pride, he made this for me." They stopped in front of the back wall of the room, and a strange construct.
It was a throne, Gabrielle decided after some consideration, although it could of course also be a divan of some kind, it was that big. It was made entirely of a gold hued pelt, with the armrests - or if they were headrests, she couldn't tell - were made to look like giant lion's paws, claws and all. The pelt continued from the paws and back going upwards into a large covering, a canopy of sorts, that ended in a huge
"Yeah. I know it's garish, but that's his style. And I think he wanted me to use this awful thing as my throne one day, so that everyone would look at it and be intimidated." Xena smiled and shook her head.
"B-but Xena Isn't that" Gabrielle strained her neck to get a closer look "a lion's head?"
Xena looked surprised. "Well yes Gabrielle, of course it's the head. You've got all four paws down here, and that thick cord that winds around the seat is actually the tail, so the only thing left was the head. As you can see it never did have much of a mane."
"You mean that's the real thing? The Nemeian Lion?" Gabrielle gasped.
Xena laughed. "It sure is. Ares got so proud that he made me a throne out of it, although I've never used it as such." Gabrielle nearly fainted when she realised just how big the beast had been in life. As if sensing where Gabrielle's thought were going, Xena held up her arms and formed a large circle with them, indicating the size of the beast's neck. Gabrielle shook her head vigorously.
"I can understand why he would feel so proud of you, I feel proud of you too even though it was so long ago. And absolutely terrified. What in the world made you even think you could kill it? You didn't know you were a half god then."
Xena smiled radiantly at Gabrielle and pulled her in for a kiss. "Thank you my sweet."
"Actually, I think I was just too stubborn to let it kill me. Anyway, here, let's try it out shall we?"
Reclining in the lion throne Gabrielle discovered that the pelt was very soft to the touch, and that they sank into it slightly, forming a curious cocoon together with the covering. It was quite nice all around, actually.
Xena gave her a sultry look and leaned down to whisper in Gabrielle's ear.
"W-what was that?" Gabrielle gasped slightly.
"A poem from Japa. This is what it means." Xena proceeded to whisper some more into Gabrielle's ear, kissing the earlobe while she did so. Gabrielle moaned in response.
"Or maybe " Xena said teasingly, withdrawing slightly "you prefer Sappho?" Winking at Gabrielle.
Xena pushed up on her elbows for a moment, and called out loudly across the room to her guards. "I suggest you lot guard the room from outside for now. And close those doors!"
The guards snickered as they complied, and Gabrielle groaned. "You are so bad."
"Really?" Xena smirked.
"But I am quite good at reciting poetry though." Xena husked as she leaned back down into Gabrielle's neck "Oh yeah " was Gabrielle's breathless reply.
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