Disclaimers: The characters of Xena: The Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, are owned by MCA/Universal & Renpics. No copyright infringement is intended in the making of this epic.
Warning: This story contains strong language and violence on every level; whether mentioned, implied, or acted out. It also contains graphic sexual themes between hetero/homosexual men and women. If you are not of legal age, or if this tale is not your cup of tea, nor allowed in your country/state, you should go now. I'm positive there are other bards in the Xenaverse whom will appease you, so leave this tale to the mature audiences.
Additional Note (Please Read): This story's a companion with my other tale, Xena & Gabrielle: A Turn of Fate. It's highly imperative you read it, too, that way the bigger plot won't become confusing later down the line. I know this interlacing of plots probably has never been done before in such fashion, but I promise your time will be well invested.
The Conqueror & Ri
A Twist of Destiny
The sky was clear. No stars or even clouds filled it, as Aurora, the goddess of the dawn, renewed herself to make way for Helios' lighting rays; signaling daybreak.
Cerulean orbs gazed outside her balcony from inside the Corinthian castle to stare at a sumptuous garden. Spring was in the air, and its atmospheric breeze felt calm. She viewed the garden's exotic flowers, whilst they gently swayed with the wind; a mixture of lilacs, viceroy tulips, hyacinths, and an assortment of others, danced together.
She kept vigil, watching.
A dream, if not a nightmare, awoken her earlier than she would had preferred. Hypnos, the god of sleep, decided to remind the elder leader of the past trials she endured for the last twenty-eight winters of her life. Every feeling from the emotional spectrum collided within her; from joy to laughter, lust to love, sadness to pain. Purely to give way to havoc and death.
The Oneiros wanted to show all of it in dreams; how she picked up the sword to become a hero, nearly got destroyed for succoring a foreign ruler, tenaciously surviving to cause the destruction of her enemies and greatest nemesis after conquering faraway lands.
Henceforth, she became renowned as the Lord Conqueror of the Realm.
Very few called her by the birth name Cyrene and Atrius, her parents of Amphipolis, had given her. Even less people actually knew her real compellation. Ever since she became a master with omnifarious weapons, an expert at utilizing strategies, and a tactician in battle, she'd gone by one title or another. Three years removed from when she was essential in the defeat of the warlord, Cortese, the villagers in their backwater hometown bestowed upon her the first honorific; Lion of Amphipolis, for the eighteen-year-old's courage, and extraordinary aptitude.
Notwithstanding, the contention with Cortese brought forth tragedy. Losing not only dear comrades from her village, but a beloved brother also. Agony didn't cease there, though. It became worse...
Her fateful day on a vessel sailing for Greece from Egypt had landed her in the wrathful path of a young Roman General; a severe, powerful man whom damn near killed her. Betrayal, lost lovers, and ruination became all she knew...
All she know.
A year ago, she'd finally procured vengeance against the vile bastard. It merely cost her morals, and honor as a respectable warrior, albeit sacrifices were easy to make when a person's spirit was vitiated by vendettas. The Conqueror could hear her deceased, oriental lover's melodic utterance in her head.
['Revenge is a double-edged sword. So, after you lay your enemy's body in the ground, be prepared to lay your soul down as well.']
'You tried to save me from this path, didn't you, Lao Ma?' The Conqueror cogitated, keeping her tears in check.
It was far too late for self-pity. On the brightside, at least the Realm was in peace, and remained that way for the recent few years. Taxes were low, howbeit it was hard to do so, especially following the Peloponnese Purge the Delian League of Athens waged against Sparta, Corinth, and their allied city-states. The Purge affected the whole of Greece. If it weren't for careful scheming, including extreme patience from the Conqueror, the country was potentially easy prey for all her enemies, and the biggest threat most likely would had been Rome.
By the Lord Conqueror uniting every major city-state under a sole banner, it easily disrupted whatever plots the Romans had. Once Rome lost their opportunity with Greece, its Senate passed powers onto their favorite General, appointing him Dictator in perpetuity, and sent him off to conquer the so-called barbaric Britons.
Before the Conqueror came along, Britannia was unlike her newly unified Grecian provinces. Kingdoms that were divided in opposition to each other allowed them all to plausibly become subjugated by Rome's powerful might. It was a wondrous thing the Greek Overlord had her sight on the region, too. Making contact with the Queen of the Iceni, Boadicea, subsequent to her puppet-king husband, Prasutagus, passing away, evoked the turnabout of the war. Britannia's victory became Greece's, while majority of its land was annexed, becoming absorbed into the Realm.
It was a devastating blow to the Dictator, Julius Caesar, whom returned home for the first Cronus without acquiring new territory for Rome.
Afterwards, Greece gained more areas on Terra, each with some amount of bloodshed. She dominated Macedonia, Mesopotamia, compact terrain in Turkey, and Gaul, for her General of the Fourth Army, Vercinix. He was a great chief of the Gauls, defending it from Caesar in the Gallic Wars. However, he was routed in a skirmish, and scheduled for public execution in Rome. The intervention of the Conqueror saved him en route to his ghastly fate. Therefore, he joined her army to help fight for Britannia.
A huge smile broke out on the Ruler's face. Upon Gaul's annexation, it was gratifying to seize another prize from the Roman Dictator. Thus, the expression of the Conqueror's turned a bit melancholy when she thought about her latest conquest...
The majestic Chin.
'I've kept my promise, Lao Ma.' She regarded bitterly. 'Your son remains alive.'
Again, the Lord Conqueror contemplated the immaculate garden of Corinth, comparing it to her Realm. Soon, numerous flowers would bloom akin to her citizens, but it would also demand greater efforts to keep the plants healthy and strong. If she was not up to the task, the gorgeous display could decay, and fall apart; an atrophied Empire.
'I'll never let that happen.' The Autarch swore, clenching her hands into fists. 'Never.'
The Conqueror would cease the overflow of conquered territories in advance of it getting oversized, and overreaching herself. Besides, to her, the Realm was flourishing; from trade, to diverse job employment, the economy was picking up. With the recent extraction of platinum orbs she discovered in Laconia, on the outskirts of Tegea, money, as well as the construction of buildings, and weapon crafting, would become lavishly superior to steel.
What more could she want?
She was contented with everything, other than her love life, whereas that was another subject altogether. The Conqueror already tolerated the icy cold appendages of love, twice. Brushing it aside, her Realm was what she concentrated on mostly, immensely jubilant for all she'd obtained.
"Why can't Rome be satisfied?" She questioned aloud.
Whilst the rumination occurred, the Conqueror registered Helios shining down on her. She been profoundly consumed by troubling and clarifying dwellings that Cronus inexplicably bypassed her. When the Lord of Greece awoke from sleep, she gave herself a bath, preceding standing in the threshold of her bedchamber's balcony in solely an aqua robe, which was reminiscent of the beautiful irises belonging to a young girl she'd rescued eleven years prior. Wettish hair was tangled uncomfortably on her covered shoulders and back, causing the greenish-blue garment to dampen.
Deciding to begin the day, she terminated her musings, and summoned the maid, "Akemi!"
"Yes, my Conqueror." The almond-eyed woman answered, entering from the room that was connected to her Lord's.
The Conqueror secretly appraised her Chambermaid's looks. The younger female, who'd originated from Japa, donned a navy blue-colored shift that was sleeveless and strapless, but it concealed her small breasts, accentuating them. She also wore a dark, sheer cloth encircling her neck, and it dangled in the front.
'If only I wasn't in love with another.' The Conqueror started sifting through her licentious thoughts.
Getting closer to the captivated Ruler, Akemi bowed. "My Lord Conqueror, how may I be of service to you?"
The youthful voice jolted the older woman into action.
"My hair..." She tugged on it. "In my old age, I totally let Cronus slip by me. I need a quick comb through it."
"As you wish, my Lord." Akemi inclined her head to accede, before retrieving the comb.
The Conqueror left out of her bedroom, strolling into the outer antechamber that served as a workstation for personal and public affairs. Frequently it was used for a lounging area, yielding relaxation and eating, too. Just those who were staunchly trusted was granted permission to enter.
She slowly sat down on one of the long, soft, black sofas. Promptly, Akemi's silent footsteps traipsed behind her to work on combing the entwined raven and silver-streaked tresses. The Conqueror relaxed, while the servant gently, but thoroughly, combed her mane.
"My Lord?" Akemi's query shattered the silence.
"If I'm forgiven for being bold, you may be old in age, yet you remain truly magnificent." Akemi asserted, maintaining her method on the damp strands.
The Conqueror wished someone else would say those exact words to her. Although she'd accepted Akemi's extol, even cherished it, there was another person she yearned to hear sweet nothings from.
"Thank you, Akemi, but flattery will get you nowhere." She jested, making the Chambermaid chuckle.
"No, my Lord. It's not blandishment... Simply truth." Akemi hesitated briefly, then went on professing, "You've such an alluring aura that surrounds you. Your energy is so vast, it draws others to you. When you were visiting my country, and liberated me from my father, Yodoshi, I would've been your slave if you'd desired it... I still would."
The Conqueror's cognition traversed back a year previously, post completing her utmost important mission, and successful assassination ever. Departing Rome, she had chosen to take a detour, voyaging past Chin, farther east to the Land of the Rising Sun.
On the island, the Lord of the Realm met a Shogun named Harukata who had leadership over a set of Samurai warriors she'd never encountered. He taught her their unique Bushido code, and she studied a wide range of weaponry. Familiarizing herself with the yumi, wakizashi, tachi, tanto, naginata, kusarigama, and various staffs, a singular sword stood out that really interested her; the katana.
The dexterous Samurais broadcasted how efficient the blade was in swiftness and grace, trumping a lot of other swords in the world. Staying in Japa for nearly three moons, she felt she'd spent enough Cronus there, and had to return to her Realm. Prior to leaving, Harukata presented the Conqueror with a custom katana of her own. It was forged in the heart of the snowcapped mountain, Hayachine. She thanked the Shogun, and went on her way.
Whilst proceeding onto her ship, the intrigued Greek saw a man throw somebody onto a wall and slice her down, employing the same blade she admired to terminate the shrieking woman's life. Thereupon grabbing a crying teenager to enact the same treatment on her, the Conqueror literally flipped.
"You're not a slave, Akemi, nor would I ever want you to be ensnared in bondage." She replied, dispelling her wonders. "As you should know, I abhor slavery. It is abolished here in Corinth and Athens. With the gods' aid, perchance a day will come when I'll make it vanish throughout the entire Empire."
"I perceive that, but-"
"Akemi. We won't speak on this again." The Conqueror said sternly, sensing the conversation was going somewhere she didn't care to indulge in further. "I have to get myself ready. Are you done?"
"Yes, my Lord." Akemi acquiesced sadly, grudgingly stopping her movements.
"I'm really in a rush. My Chancellor will be here shortly. Will you linger to receive him, while I change?"
"Surely I'll do what you command." She coyly agreed.
"Thank you, Akemi." The Ruler bestowed her gratitude.
The Chambermaid curtsied submissively, and the Conqueror trudged to her bedchamber to get dressed. The Lord of Greece knew she had to attend an imperative meeting, ergo the Agora cases would be delegated to her Chancellor.
She quickly slid the robe off, and slipped on matching undergarments, recalling a happier moment in her life. 'Seems some habits from Chin will always be ingrained in me.'
Next, she put on black, leather trousers that were lined with gray on the sides, adding a silver-colored tunic to compliment it as well.
Tucking the garment in the leather's waistband, she'd begun lacing her dark boots when she heard the Chambermaid's vocals through the closed, double doors, "Lord Conqueror, the Chancellor of the Realm has arrived."
'I am curious of what he'll have to say for himself.' The Conqueror grinned, responding, "Relay to him I'm on my way."
"Yes, my Lord." Akemi's muffled tonality predicated.
Checking her image in the mirror, the aged Lord inferred she looked fitting for forty-three winters. Moving the lengthy salt and pepper fringe off of her visage, she exited the bedchamber to find Akemi gone. Instead, in her place was a man whom had far more silver hair than herself.
"Alright, Old man, what have you done to my Chambermaid?"
"You're persisting on calling me that? You know, you're getting up there, too, in age." He prolonged for effect, smirking. "Young lady."
The Conqueror strode up to the Chancellor in haste, hugging him warmly. "Meleager."
He reciprocated the gesture. "Xena."
Meleager was one of the scarce people who knew the Conqueror by that appellation, or privately addressed her by it, having earned the right since he taught Xena the way of the sword when she was fourteen, and he...a much youthful male. Withal she coined proclaiming him as Old man way back then also. It'd become a term of endearment between them.
"I have news, my-"
"That can wait." She interrupted him. "Tell me how was your vacation for the passing fortnight?"
Meleager fumbled a bit.
"Oh, Xena, it was swell. I mean it. I...I didn't want to come back..." The Chancellor laughed nervously. "Notably here in this castle."
Xena joined in Meleager's spurious merriment, ascertaining enjoyment from how short he tried to sell his story.
"Well, Meleager, you can retire." Her laughter ebbed away to avouch seriously, "You've earned it."
Meleager became adamant as well. "No, no. My place is by your side. Always."
An overwhelming emotion of satisfaction raced through Xena's frame, and she embraced him once more. "I love you, Old man."
"And I you." He concurred.
Thereafter several moments, they had disengaged, and Xena offered him a seat on the divan. Accepting her proffer, and sitting down, she settled on its twin that was aslant from him.
"Now, apprise me anent to your trip alone." She beamed, knowing what he'd done, and not letting him off the hook easily.
Meleager looked a tad bit uncomfortable.
Xena inquired softly, "Meleager?"
"I didn't vacation fully... I never left the service of the Realm."
"What? I told you to take a break at my expense. To breathe, to live, to leave this Realm and its dealings. But what do you do..." Xena feigned confusion to goad him on. "What did you do?"
"I ken you aren't penurious. You will share every and anything with those you care for. And I'm sorry..." Noticing the simper on Xena's countenance, Meleager realized he was being duped. "You was cognizant of that."
"Gods, you should see your face." Xena burst in mirth.
"Glad to amuse you, Conqueror." He responded tersely.
"Stop being grumpy." She enunciated, as Akemi stepped back in with a couple of trays filled with dishes of egg whites, smoked meats, bread, a variety of fruit, and two ornate cups of milk.
The Chambermaid laid the platters on the table, and bowing to her betters, she announced, "Morning breakfast, my Lord Conqueror, and, Chancellor. Will there be anything else?"
"Thanks, I'm okay." Meleager affirmed, preparing to partake in the presented edibles.
"No, we'll be fine, thank you." The Conqueror averred. "Akemi, why don't you go get yourself something to eat also. You've assisted me long enough."
"My Lord." Genuflecting, Akemi departed the chambers.
Following her departure, Xena eyed Meleager digging into his food.
"What? I was hungry. I figured you were, too, so I asked your Chambermaid to bring us a meal."
Xena smiled, picturing how antsy Meleager must had been, while he conveyed the task to Akemi. Abruptly, her happy demeanor was gone, and she focused on the matter at hand. The Chancellor noted Xena's alteration to the Conqueror, and was aware they had to discourse real business. Setting his utensil down, he gave the Lord of the Realm his attention.
"We will forgo the fact you tried to lie about taking vacation, and in lieu of that, you went seeking knowledge in Rome." The Conqueror spoke with authority. "Tell me, Chancellor Meleager, what have you learned?"
Meleager wasn't surprised the Conqueror uncovered where he traveled to.
"As the Realm already knows, Octavian, Marcus Antonius, and Markus Lepidus, formed another Triumvirate a couple of moons after Julius Caesar's death." He took a moment to drink his milk, clearing a parched throat to continue speaking, "Well, like the first coalition, this one is dissipating faster than Mercury's speed. With Caesar dead, Brutus surmised he could sway his fellow Senators to damn the Dictator. It didn't work, and Julius was deified."
'Better for him to pretend being a god in Pluto's realm.' The Lord Conqueror blissfully mused.
"When that happened, he at least felt he'd be permitted to join the Triumvirate amongst Octavian and Antonius. He was wrong again. They placated Brutus until they could move full force against him, coercing the Senate to declare he was the prime conspirator apropos to the death of Caesar. Now the Roman is on the run, hiding in Crete, whilst creating noise relating to you helping him make Rome a republic again." The Chancellor elucidated.
"Stupid, silly Brutus. I should have killed him, too." The Conqueror imparted her frustration. "Continue."
The Chancellor of the Realm avowed, "Lepidus has been forced out of the office as Triumvir, and into exile. Marcus Antonius is in Egypt with Cleopatra VII."
His mentioning of the Land of Pharaohs surged forth terrible memories for the Lord Conqueror. She'd forever memorize the many features of dead friends, hear the dying screams of her fiancé, and feel the explosion she deduced should had taken her life.
"My apologies. It wasn't my intention to cause you discomfort." Meleager was deeply concerned for her, acknowledging what befell his Liege.
The Conqueror composed herself. "I've read reports Marcus Antonius went to Egypt. I know he is in the palace playing house with that Grecian whore for a queen. She has sired children with him as well."
Meleager intimately discerned his Lord's ire and animosity towards Cleopatra. She'd used the Lion of Amphipolis for her own gain, and threw the nineteen-year-old to the sharks in the end.
"They have two now, and rumors are, another is on the way."
"Mm-hmm. Not only did she sire a child by Caesar, delivering Caesarean, but now twins; Alexander Helios and Selene Cleopatra the Younger, by Marcus." The Conqueror sneered. "She has delusions their children descended from gods, hence educing they are celestials. The Egyptian citizenry deserve better."
"Is there anything that doesn't creep beyond your notice?" Meleager probed rhetorically.
The smug Conqueror slightly shrugged her shoulders. "What's happening in Rome now?"
"Octavian covets power." Meleager stated. "He is requesting the Senate demand Antonius' return. I have no doubts Caesar's heir will oust him, and try to attain control over Rome."
"I understand you have sources for obtaining information, Meleager. Nevertheless, how did you come across these details?"
"Marcus Tullius Cicero." He confessed proudly.
"That's funny. He sent me this intel also." The Conqueror confirmed.
"I told you to take a getaway. What was I presumed to do without my strong right-hand? Imagine my astonishment when I read in his missive you were in Italia with him."
"Still a step ahead of me." The Chancellor's gratified mien turned somber. "I fear for Cicero. I failed to persuade him into coming here to safety in case his political adversaries tries something. He outright refused me."
"He is intelligent. I trust Cicero can take care of himself well enough." The Conqueror refuted.
"Perhaps you are right." The Chancellor assented, and prodded, "Do you think Rome's civil war will spread to us?"
"I'm prepared for this, and so are our Generals. Vercinix will be returning to Corinth now that the Fourth Army has safeguarded Gaul. Darnelle, along with Glaphyra, is out drilling with the Fifth and Sixth armies, keeping them from becoming lazy during the Realm's pacific Cronus."
"Draco and Palaemon?" Meleager quizzed.
The Conqueror simpered. "And here I assumed you were knowledgeable of everything."
"Well, I am not, and you'll discover, as you get older, some things will skid pass you." He breezily confided.
"Believe me, I'm sure." She remembered losing a candlemark earlier in her mental wanderings, preceding replying to Meleager's inquiry, "They're in Egypt. How'd you presume I got the scoop on Cleopatra and Antonius?"
"Keep your friends close..." Meleager began.
"And your enemies far away from you." The Conqueror finished the phrase, and they both shared knowing smiles together. "As long as we're ahead of the curs, we can handle them as they come. Rome will fight each other, and if they stay out of our way, we won't have to crush them. General Draco and General Palaemon will express my commands to Egypt. They'll concede to it, and hopefully everyone will learn their place."
"Brutus will contact you sooner or later." Meleager evinced.
"I have a conference with his two subordinates when Helios is high."
"That was quick." Meleager rejoined, but was thoughtful. "Do you suspect a trap this afternoon?"
"Romans or not, they wouldn't be dumb to try anything here. Nonetheless, if they are, they'll suffer gravely for it." The Conqueror recollected a salient issue she wanted him to undertake. "You will manage the Agora's affairs today."
"Come on, Xena. I had a protracted voyage and was hoping to rest." The Chancellor complained. "Can't you have the Prince take care of it?"
"You should have ratiocinated on that 'fore jilting your furlough, Old man. Consider this the commencement of your punishment." Overlooking her Chancellor's frown, she ruminated on the individual he suggested, 'Where is Prince Lyceus?'
To Be Continued...