Sex: There is no sex, graphic or otherwise depicted in this first part. However, as the story unfolds there will possibly be depictions of two women in love. If this bothers you, please do not read any further.
Violence: Yes, there are some scenes depicting the aftermath
Feedback is greatly appreciated. We would really like to know
what you think so far.
You can send comments to either Taiko or Ambrosia.
I'd like to thank Ambrosia for collaborating with me on this story. A simple conversation in a chat room about how I'd love to write a conqueror story, turned into a late night of major brain storming. I asked if she would like to write it with me and she didn't hesitate. Amb, you are a wonderful bard, and I enjoy working with you. Thank you. :) ---Taiko
A special thank you to CAS for taking time out of her busy schedule
to edit this story. You're the best! --- Taiko & Amb
by Ambrosia and Taiko
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Cover by Calli
As Prince Kyros and his men headed to the dock to catch the boat to the island, the prince spied a form lying on the side of the road up head. It was too far for him to see what it was, but he had the feeling that it was a person. He told the man named Gallus, who was maneuvering the two horses in front of them to stop when they reached what he was pointing to.
Coming beside the still form, the prince and his men could see that it was a young woman. Getting down from the carriage and approaching the woman, the Prince figured that the young woman could be no more than seventeen or eighteen years old. He grimaced as he studied her. She was covered in bruises and there was blood covering her ragged and dirty skirt and shirt. An unusual rage built up in the prince as he wondered who could do such a thing to a young girl.
Prince Kyros picked up the woman as gently as he could and placed her in the carriage. When he and the other men who had gotten out of the carriage took their seats once again, Prince Kyros ordered for Gallus to continue on to the dock. He had decided that he would take the brutalized young woman back to his island where she could recuperate.
She tried to stop it, but she couldn't. They were much too strong and she could not protect her mother and sister. They held her and made her watch the vile murders of the other two women. They said they were trying to teach her a lesson for her disobedience. She tried to tell them that she would never try anything again, but they would not give her another chance. She cried as she tried to claw at the strong man holding her. The next thing she knew, there was complete darkness as a fist slammed into her face.
"Mother! Lila! No…please don't hurt them. Please-"
He lightly pushed her shoulder to get her to wake up from the horrible dream she was obviously experiencing. The young woman's bright green eyes suddenly opened as she sat up in the bed. Sweat was rolling down her face, so he picked up a cool damp rag to wipe it away. She glanced at him and then moved to the other side of the bed as quickly as possible. She winced at the pain that shot through her body because of the hurried movement. In response, he raised his hands to indicate that he meant no harm.
"Shhh," he said spoke calmly and softly to reassure her. "I won't hurt you. I promise. You're safe here and no one will hurt you," he exclaimed in a soft voice.
In a gentle manner, he motioned for her to return to the place in the bed that she had previously occupied. At first she did not move, but then she gave in, making her way back to the spot that was still warm from her body lying there. The man gave her the rag and she took it to wipe her face. She looked around her surroundings and then back at the man sitting beside the bed in a chair.
"Where am I?" she asked so quietly that he almost did not hear her.
"You're on Phantasia."
She frowned. "What is Phantasia?"
"It's an island. I brought you here after I found you beaten on the side of the road. Thank the gods I did find you for you were nearly dead. I was frightened." Prince Kyros did not understand why he felt the way he did, but he realized that he not only felt anger for the brutal beating that this young woman endured but also an unusually heightened concern over her well-being in general.
"What is your name?" the prince asked.
"Gabrielle. I'm from Poteidaia."
The prince smiled warmly. "I've heard of Poteidaia. Is that where your family is? I would like for you to rest a few more days here, but after that I can make arrangements for you to be taken back to your family."
Gabrielle's expression grew pained. She glanced down at the cover on her legs. "There is no reason for me to go back there. My family is dead."
Prince Kyros paused, trying to think of a comforting word to offer. He simply said, "I'm sorry, Gabrielle." Again, he paused. "Is Lila your sister?"
She peered at him suspiciously. "How did you know that?"
"I heard you call out to your mother and to someone named Lila in your dreams."
The suspicious look drained away and was replaced by a solemn expression. Gabrielle nodded. "She was my little sister. Both she and my mother were killed after we were taken into slavery. It was all my fault."
"Why would you say that?"
Gabrielle began to tell him of how she had devised a plan for she, her mother and sister to escape slavery. The plan fell through and the guards had found them trying to get away. Once captured, Gabrielle began to verbally attack their subjugators and Mezentius, in turn, ordered his guards to restrain her and force her to witness the murders of her mother, Hecuba, and her sister, Lila. The young woman blamed herself for their murders because she felt that if she had just kept her mouth shut then Mezentious may have only beaten them to teach them a lesson. Instead, he chose the final punishment for her family and a life-long prison of guilt for Gabrielle.
After the killings, Gabrielle had been so taken over with grief that she did not care if she lived or died, so she defied them every chance that she got. At first, Mezentius thought that he could break the stubborn young woman's spirit, but soon found out that she would not turn meek. A couple of weeks after the death of Hecuba and Lila, the slave owner ordered for Gabrielle to be killed. His men took her out to a field in the middle of the night when it was pitch black, and started to beat her with their fists. She had not even tried to fight back, although if she had it would not have done much good. There were five very strong men beating her, one after the other, and she was no match for them. She explained to the prince that she had quickly blacked out and she had no memories from that moment until she woke up here on Phantasia a short while ago.
The young prince shook his head, feeling sorry for what this young woman had gone through. She had lost both her family and her freedom, and he could only imagine what she felt now. Kyros decided at that moment that he would make it his personal duty to see that Gabrielle would be well taken care of and nursed back to health both physically and emotionally. He could see that she had givin up hope, and that her will to live had faltered. He wanted to help her reclaim her life and bring back the hope that life of freedom promises.
"I'm sorry, Gabrielle," the prince said solemnly. He then had a thought. "Where is your father?"
It was then that he saw the tears falling down Gabrielle's bruised cheeks. "My father was killed too."
When the slaver-traders had come to Poteidaia to gather the people of the village, Herodotus, Gabrielle's father had tried to protect his family. The men had warned him to get out of the way, but the man stood his ground. His wife had even told him to stay out of it, but Herodotus would not be deterred. He would not let someone come into this village and steal his family away from him. Unfortunately, the men had stopped trying to get him to stand aside and they killed him right there in broad daylight. Hecuba had screamed, almost falling to the ground, but Gabrielle and Lila were there to hold her up.
The prince handed the young woman a cloth to wipe her face. She took it and wiped gently at her still swollen and bruised face. Even with her face badly beaten, Kyros could tell that she was a beautiful young woman. He shook his head, knowing that his heart was beginning to get involved. The last thing that Gabrielle needed right now was a suiter. What she needed was a friend. He resolved to be her friend first but he also knew that this young woman had already claimed a place in his heart. The prince took in a deep breath. The king was not going to like this.
"So you have nowhere to go?" Prince Kyros inquired.
Gabrielle nodded. "But I'll be okay. When is the next ship leaving from here?"
The prince shook his head. "You're not going anywhere. You are in no condition to leave." He thought to himself that he did not want her to leave, but he would not hold her prisoner. If she chose to leave, he would have to let her go, but he already realized that he would miss her greatly. Well that was that. He was hooked on a girl that he hardly knew.
"I'm fine." Gabrielle tried to get out of the bed, but the prince blocked her. She scowled at him. "Look. Thank you for saving my life, but just because you did it, do you think you own me?"
The prince shook his head profusely. "No. I'm sorry if I gave you that impression. I just don't think it is wise for you to be traveling just yet. Please stay here for at least a week more," he pleaded. "Your body needs rest."
Her body did indeed need rest. After having the healer check her out when they had arrived three days ago, the prince had found out that the young woman had two fractured ribs, a broken nose and her right forearm was broken. Gabrielle also needed sixteen stitches in her right lower back and three stitches above her left eyebrow, which probably got there from one of the attackers hitting her with a ring on their finger. She had a busted lip and she looked suspiciously like a raccoon because of the darkened bruises and swelling around her eyes. All over her body, the young woman had multiple contusions that varied from shades of purple, black, blue and green. The prince was grateful to hear that Gabrielle's maidenhood was still intact as she had not been molested.
Gabrielle thought about what the prince had said. She admitted to herself that she did not feel up to traveling. And it was not as if she had somewhere to go or even someone to go home to. She faced the fact that she was all alone in the world and it saddened her greatly. She glanced at the man and then grudgingly nodded. He smiled slightly as he motioned for her to lie down again. He got up to leave, informing her that he would get the healer to come check on her, now that she was awake. Just before he walked out of the door, Gabrielle remembered that she had not asked him who he was. She stopped the man, asking him his name.
The young man turned around and answered, "Kyros. My name is Kyros." He began to walk out of the door and then turned around again. "Welcome to Phantasia, Gabrielle."
One week later the prince knocked on Gabrielle's door with a surprise that he could not wait to tell her. After hearing a voice grant him access into her chambers, he opened the door and stepped in. The young woman was sitting at a table by a large window. The prince said hello to her and remarked that she was looking better. Indeed, the bruises were clearing up and the swelling was gone from her eyes. The bruised area still showed hues of green and yellow, but he could clearly see the beautiful emerald green eyes that greeted him.
She smiled at him and he thought his heart would melt. Over the days the prince had come to the realization that he was in love with this young woman. He wanted to marry her and make her his princess. His father would not be happy with the news, and that was unfortunate, but even if the king chose to banish him from the island, it was a small price to pay for being with the woman of his dreams. He would gladly give up being a prince for her. She was all that mattered to him. Kyros wished that he mattered to her as well.
"How are you feeling today?" the prince asked while standing in front of Gabrielle.
She smiled again. "Actually I'm feeling much better." She cocked her head to the side, and Kyros found it to be most endearing. "Do you know when the next ship leaves?"
The prince tried not to show the disappointment that he felt. She still wanted to leave the island. Well maybe he could fix that, because that was his main reason for being here. "No, I'm afraid I don't." He sat down in the other chair at the table, clasping his hands loosely together on the wooden surface. "Look, Gabrielle I have a proposition for you."
She looked at him suspiciously and narrowed her eyes. He could see the anger growing in those gorgeous emerald greens. The prince put up a hand. "No. I don't mean that kind of a proposition." He watched as the tenseness left her shoulders and her anger dissipated. "What if you stay here…oh indefinitely?"
Gabrielle shook her head. "I've imposed on you enough already. I can't stay any longer. Thank you for your kindness but no thank you."
The prince glanced down at his clasped hands. "But I don't want you to leave," he whispered. The young woman did not say anything, so he peered across at her. She was staring at him silently, and he had no idea what she was thinking. Her face was expressionless. "It gets lonely here," he explained.
"Then leave. You're old enough to be on your own, aren't you?"
Kyros nodded. "But I can't leave. I have duties here, and I do love Phantasia. This is my home."
"What kind of duties do you have?" Gabrielle inquired.
The young man took a deep breath. "I'm a prince," he stated.
Gabrielle's eyes grew wide with evident surprise. "You're a prince?" she asked loudly with her voice rising an octave.
The prince chuckled. "Louder. I don't think they heard you in Chin."
"That's not funny! Look. I am not going to be your personal servant or whatever just because you're bored. Am I supposed to feel sorry for you? Poor Prince Kyros is lonely here on Phantasia."
Kyros held up a hand. "Wait a minute. What are you getting so upset for? It doesn't matter that I'm a prince. So what? I want you as a friend. Not my servant. I did not bring you back here just to make you a slave again. I'm not that kind of a person." Kyros tried to get a hold of his growing anger. He had not imagined that it would be so difficult for her to accept.
Gabrielle looked out the window as she replied, "I'm sorry, Prince Kyros."
The prince hesitated for only a brief moment before he reached out a hand and put it on top one of the young woman's smaller one's. He gave the hand beneath his own a light squeeze. "Please. Call me Kyros. And there is no need to apologize."
Gabrielle looked at him. "There was no reason for my outburst."
The prince grinned. "Well, no there wasn't. But it's okay."
The young woman could not help herself. She grinned back at him, finding that she rather enjoyed his strong warm hand on hers. Over the days he had come to visit her often, and she had come to realize that he was a good decent man. Gabrielle wondered if his father was anything like him.
"So your father is the king?" the young woman asked.
Kyros nodded. "Yes. His name is King Alcon."
"What is your mother's name?"
The prince glanced down at his lap. "My mother died during childbirth." He smiled grimly. "I made it, but she didn't."
Gabrielle took her other hand and placed it over Kyros' hand, which sandwiched it between her own. "Well your father did a great job raising you."
Kyros smiled at her warmly. "Well he had help. He paid other people to take care of me. I hardly saw him when I was a child."
The young woman put on a sympathetic expression. "Oh, Kyros I'm so sorry."
He shrugged. "It's no big deal." He glanced at their hands, not wanting to ever move his away. He peered into Gabrielle's eyes and asked, "So will you stay for at least another week? I still don't think that you should be traveling."
"Don't you have friends all ready?"
The prince replied honestly, "I want to make friends with you."
Gabrielle took a deep breath. "I don't want nor do I need charity. I'm a big girl, and I can take care of myself."
"I know you can. And this isn't charity. I want you here. Please stay for at least another week? I want to get to know you better, and then maybe after you leave we can correspond with one another. You look like someone I could really get along with."
How could she say no to that? Kyros looked so adorable while he pleaded with her to stay a while longer. If the young woman were honest with herself, she would admit that she would miss the prince's company. She had grown to enjoy his daily visits. He would bring fresh flowers with him each day that he came, and each day it would be a different bouquet of flowers. The two of them sort of made a game out of it. Each day Gabrielle would write down what kind of flower's she thought he would bring that day. Out of the whole week she got one day correct.
Gabrielle informed the prince that she would stay on the island another week, but after that she would have to go. She explained that she did not feel right imposing on him, but Kyros insisted that it was not an imposition. He told her somewhat shyly that he was glad she was there. The young woman blushed slightly, but did not make any comment. Next, the prince informed her that he had a surprise for her, since she was staying on the island.
"What would that be?" Gabrielle asked. "Kyros, you don't have to give me any surprises."
He grinned boyishly, and Gabrielle had the urge to run a hand through his hair. "I want to give you surprises. Nothing would make me happier."
He arose from the chair and walked over to Gabrielle to pick her up out of her chair. Her eyes widened, not knowing that he was that strong. She demanded softly that he put her down, because she was too heavy, but he shook his head stubbornly, saying that he did not want her on her feet. The young woman argued that she had walked over to the table by herself, but Kyros would not relent. Gabrielle finely gave up and wrapped her arms around his neck securely.
The prince made his way over to the door and began walking down the candle-lit hall. The young woman marveled at all the pottery that they passed. She had not been out of her room since her arrival and now that she was seeing more of the castle she realized how beautiful the place was. They approached another door and the guard on duty rushed to open it for the prince and his friend to pass through. Kyros nodded to the guard as they walked outside into the courtyard. It was so bright and sunny that Gabrielle squinted. She then gazed around from her position in the prince's arms and gasped at the beauty. Gabrielle now knew just where Kyros had found all the gorgeous flowers that he brought her as gifts. There were flowers of every color that she could think of and the air was sweet with the aroma of them. Glancing up she saw a perfectly blue sky with not one cloud to be seen. Kyros placed her gently in a padded chair next to a table and another chair. She could hear the birds chirping and to her left she could make out the crystal blue sea. Kyros took the seat across from her and smiled.
"Beautiful, isn't it?"
"Absolutely gorgeous," Gabrielle replied in a breathy voice.
The prince smiled at her. "I've never seen anything like it," he said looking straight at her.
The young woman blushed. "If you're talking about me, you must be blind," she exclaimed silently.
"Because I know I look bad."
"Have you seen yourself?" Kyros inquired.
Gabrielle shook her head. "Not lately. And I don't want to."
"Then you don't know how you look."
"I know I have bandages on my nose, stitches near my forehead and my eyes feel all tender, so they must be black."
"Regardless of all that, I still think you are beautiful." The prince captured one of her hands. "Inside and out."
Gabrielle did not have a chance to reply, because a woman came out then. She was carrying a tray that she lowered to put plates in front the prince and his companion. She then put down two mugs, a pitcher and a basket of bread. Both thanked her as she nodded and took her leave.
Kyros grinned. "Lunch is served." He took a small square cloth that had been on the table previous to their arrival, along with utensils and placed the cloth in his lap. Gabrielle did the same, as her mouth watered at the food. She had always been a big fan of just about anything edible. She knew that this food most likely would be delicious, because all the other meals she had been served this week were that way. She had inquired as to whom the cook was a couple days ago and had been told that it was a man named Gallus.
"This looks delicious," Gabrielle stated, taking in the heavenly aromas. If for no other reason she had to get off this island before she grew big as a house. She had been served five meals a day, and discovered that she could not possibly finish all that was given to her.
Gabrielle took a piece of warm bread from the basket and bit into it. She closed her eyes as the slightly sweet bread and melted butter assaulted her taste buds. She licked her lips clean of any crumbs. Kyros watched this, wishing that he could have been that piece of bread. He shook his head, chuckling softly at his own foolishness. Gabrielle inquired of him what he found amusing, but the prince only smiled as he shook his head. He picked up the pitcher and filled both of their mugs with an amber colored liquid. He told the young woman that it was only apple cider. She in turn told him that she loved apple cider.
Before Gabrielle could pick up her utensil to sample the food, Kyros did it for her. He acquired some of her food and offered it up to her. Gabrielle looked at him strangely. She tried to get the food-laden utensil back from him, but he moved it out of the way. She frowned slightly as her stomach growled from the teasing. The prince chuckled and offered her the food again.
"Come on. Open up," he stated.
Gabrielle put on a stubborn look. "Kyros, I can feed myself. I've been doing it all week."
"I know you can, but I want to feed you. You should really rest that arm of yours. Now open."
The young woman shook her head. "I'm not a baby. Plus it's not my hand that is broken. I'm perfectly capable of doing this myself. It's something I've done for years."
"I understand that," Kyros said. "But indulge me." He smiled charmingly, and Gabrielle got the feeling that probably every time, or nearly every time he put on that smile he most likely got what he wanted. Well this time was no different. She opened her mouth obligingly and he fed her. She thought she heard him say good girl, but she was too focused on the wonderful taste to really comprehend.
They finished up the rest of their meals with Kyros taking turns feeding Gabrielle and then feeding himself. He asked her if she wanted dessert afterwards but the young woman declined. As they sipped their cider, Gabrielle took the time to study the prince. By all accounts he was a handsome man. She figured that he must have been over six feet tall, with a spectacular body that could only be acheived by hard work and exercise. He had short sandy colored hair, a prominent dimple in his chin, and piercing gray eyes that somehow were always filled with warmth when she saw him. His lips were full and soft looking, and Gabrielle wondered how it would feel to kiss them. She shook her head, shocked with her thoughts. This prince could never want her. She was just an ex-slave and a farm girl.
Kyros examined Gabrielle's face, noticing her thoughtful gaze. He waved his hand in front of her and she blinked before focusing on him. She gave him a nervous smile as she blushed. He asked her if she was feeling all right and she nodded, saying that maybe she should just lie down for a while. A look of disappointment briefly appeared on the prince's face, but he quickly got up to comply.
The young woman informed him that she could walk back to her room on her own, so he let her, while taking ahold of her elbow. They slowly made their way back and Kyros helped Gabrielle into the bed. He pulled the covers up while fighting the urge to bend down and kiss her at least on the forehead.
"Thank you for the lunch, Kyros," said Gabrielle. "I really enjoyed it."
The prince smiled down at her. "So did I, Gabrielle. It was really nice to spend some time with you," he continued shyly.
The prince began to walk out of the room and then snapped his fingers while turning around abruptly. He had his right hand behind his back with a mischievous smile playing on his lips. After pondering it for a moment, Gabrielle knew what he was up to. She smiled at him, thinking hard.
Kyros shook his head, chuckling. He removed his hand from behind his back and showed it to her. The young woman mock growled at him and he chuckled again.
"A tulip," Gabrielle stated as he handed the flower to her. "Just how many flowers do you have on this island? You haven't repeated yourself yet." She smirked.
It was true. Every bouquet of flowers that the prince had given her had been different. Everyday he brought a different type of flower. She never even knew what color or colors he would bring next.
Gabrielle smelled the tulip, enjoying the scent. She looked up to find that the prince was gone. She glanced around the room to notice that it was empty of anyone but herself. She frowned, wondering why he had left so suddenly. Finally, she shrugged, pulled the covers up a bit more and closed her eyes to take a much needed nap. When Morpheus took her, she still had the tulip cradled in her hand.
The next couple of days Gabrielle and Kyros spent getting to know each other. She told him some of the stories of how she and her sister Lila used to get in trouble when they were children. He laughed merrily throughout all of them. Sometimes he added comments and asked certain questions. The prince, after being asked by the young woman, had even shared some of his own childhood stories. He informed her that most of his childhood was lonely and boring, because he did not have any brothers or sisters. When she inquired of any friends he may have had, Kyros shook his head answering that his father did not allow him to go out much. He spent most of his time around adults, being groomed and educated to become a great king.
Not having met King Alcon yet, Gabrielle asked Kyros about him. The young man sighed exclaiming that he and his father did not have a strong father-son relationship. The young woman could hear the sadness in his voice as he spoke of his father. This was the first time that he was not upbeat when Gabrielle saw him.
"Do you think that maybe he was too depressed to become attached to you after losing his wife in childbirth?" the young woman asked softly.
Kyros laughed humorlessly. "He never loved my mother. He only used her to get an heir." He ran a hand through his hair. "You want to know something?"
Gabrielle nodded mutely.
"Rumor has it that I have an older sister somewhere. That my father slept with a woman because he was so desperate to have a son. Well when he found out that the baby was a girl he left. I don't know if it's true but that's what I hear."
The young woman's eyes widened. "Did you ask your father about this?"
The prince nodded. "Yes, I did. I thought he was going to kill me he looked so angry. He banished me from his sight. I didn't get to talk to him for three days after that," he paused. "I never brought it up again."
There was silence for a few minutes before Gabrielle asked, "What kind of a king is he?"
Kyros peered at her replying, "Can you keep a secret?"
Gabrielle smiled. "I won't even so much as tell my shadow."
The prince smiled back a little. "He's the worst. He's manipulative, strict and cold-hearted. He has taken risks that have put this island and the inhabitants in jeopardy. Frankly, I can't wait to take over. I used to not want to be king, but now my philosophy is that I cannot do any worse than he is doing."
His new friend did not know what to say. She had not been expecting anything remotely like what the prince had just told her. Gabrielle had wanted to meet King Alcon, but now she wasn't so sure. Maybe it would better if she just kept her distance from the man. On second thought, maybe it would be better if she just left the island. She told Kyros this.
"No," he stated. "You're not leaving because of him. I mean you can leave, but don't let my father be the cause. He's no threat to you."
Gabrielle was finding it harder and harder to oppose this handsome young man. "Are you sure?" she asked.
"No. I want this woman off of my island this instant. Do you hear me, Kyros?"
The prince took a deep breath. This was not going well at all. Though he was not surprised by that revelation. "Father what has she done?"
King Alcon came face to face with his son. His eyes were the same color of gray as Kyros' but they were like cold steel. He had a white beard and mustache. His hair was gray but still thick, and he towered over his son by four inches. King Alcon was a handsome older man, but he desperately needed a personality adjustment.
"I do not want a peasant living in my home."
Kyros balled his hands up into fists and squeezed them tightly. "Don't talk about her like that. She is a wonderful human being." He murmured, "It wouldn't kill you to pick up a few pointers from her."
"What?" the king asked in a dangerous tone of voice.
The prince shook his head, backing up slightly. "Nothing. I don't want her to leave," he stated earnestly.
King Alcon stared at his son without speaking for a moment. Kyros squirmed, but he was determined to stand up against this man. "By the gods, you've fallen in love with this slave girl. Haven't you?" he said fully disgusted. The king was a wealthy man, despite all his horrible business dealings, and anyone who did not remotely match his wealth was an obvious object of scorn by him.
"She is not a slave girl," Kyros announced through clenched teeth. "Her name is Gabrielle, and I would like for you to treat her with some respect."
His father glared at him. "Don't you ever tell me what to do. I want her off this island immediately."
"You haven't even seen her yet. Why are you always so judgmental?"
"I don't need to answer to you. You just do what I tell you to do."
Kyros let out a ragged breath and then marched out of the room. There was no way that he was going to tell Gabrielle that she had to leave. Damn what his father wanted. The man had never once put his son first, or had even cared about what he truly wanted. So why should the prince acquiesce to him?
After making sure that his hair was neat in the hall mirror, Kyros knocked on Gabrielle's door. It had been three days since the argument with his father, and he and the man had not spoken to one another since. King Alcon knew that Gabrielle was still on the island and in his home, but he had yet to do anything about it.
The door opened fully to reveal the young woman standing there. When she laid eyes on Kyros she smiled warmly. She bid him welcome and made a gesture with her hand for him to come in. The prince came in carrying a rectangular box. Gabrielle had the feeling that the prince was nervous about something, but she could not put her finger on what it was. He handed her the box and the young woman looked at him questioningly. He asked her to open the box so Gabrielle did. She gasped when she saw what was inside. She set the box on the table and lifted out what had to have been the most beautiful dress that she had ever seen. It was a shade of green that happened to match her eyes perfectly. The prince was overjoyed that it did. He had been searching for the perfect dress for Gabrielle to wear and for some reason he desperately wanted it to match the color of her gorgeous emerald green eyes.
"Kyros, this is beautiful." She looked up at him with tears in her eyes. "But what is it for? I can't accept such an extravagant present." She put the dress back in the box and tried to hand it to the prince but he stepped back putting his hands up. Gabrielle groaned, knowing that he was not about to take it back.
"I can't take this," She argued.
"I want you to have it." He again took the dress out of the box and led Gabrielle over to a full-length mirror that a maid had brought in the day before. He threw the box on the floor and then stood behind Gabrielle placing the dress in front of her. He glanced at her reflection, noticing that the bruises were diminishing more and more. Her face was nearly back to normal except for the bandages on her nose. The healer had informed Kyros that it would take a few weeks for her nose to heal completely. Even with the bandages he thought she looked radiant. Oh, how he yearned to have this young woman for his own. Taking advantage of the situation, Kyros leaned forward and smelled Gabrielle's hair. He closed his eyes savoring the smell. The young woman saw what he had done, and was trying to keep the blush from rising to her face. She was unable to succeed. The prince opened his eyes and smiled at Gabrielle, looking at her through the mirror. She smiled back shyly.
"This dress was made for you," the prince stated. "It belongs on you." He made her take the dress in her hands, before he took a step back. He could not trust himself to be that close for too long. "Put it on." The prince began heading for the door quickly, mischievously wishing that he could stay to watch her undress. He mentally kicked himself for his indecent thoughts. Gabrielle was a sweet young woman and he should not have been thinking that way about her.
The prince turned around. "Why what?" he countered.
"Why do you want me to put it on now?"
"Oh. I wish to have dinner with you tonight."
Thirty or so minutes later, after Gabrielle had bathed and been fussed over by a couple of maids, who she deemed were two of the sweetest women that she had ever met, she and Kyros were on their way to the dining room. The prince linked his arm with Gabrielle's, feeling like the luckiest man in the world. He had the most beautiful, warm and sweet woman that he had ever seen on his arm. Who could ask for anything more? Kyros felt like he was on top of the world.
Entering the dining room, which was quite large, Kyros held out a chair for the young woman to take a seat in. He sat in a seat to her immediate left. Gabrielle studied her surroundings, coming to the conclusion that they could hold a ball in this room. She envisioned herself being the hostess, and chastised herself for thinking such foolish thoughts. She told herself that it could never happen.
Kyros took one of Gabrielle's hands in his own and squeezed it. "You look beautiful," he exclaimed.
She blushed. "Thank you. Well you look quite dashing yourself."
The prince chuckled as their meal was set in front of them. Gabrielle's eyes widened considerably as the trail of servants repeatedly deposited tray after tray of food on the table. She surmised there was enough food to feed all of King Alcon's army. The prince chuckled at the look on her face. This young woman was so adorable.
They ate their meal while making small talk with each other. Gabrielle admitted to herself that she had strong feelings for this wonderful man who seemed to take such an interest in her. Over the last few days she had begun to confide in him things that she had never been able to talk about with anyone else.
Sipping her drink, Gabrielle remembered that tomorrow was the day. "Kyros?"
"Hmmm." He took a hold of her hand again. She liked it when he did that.
"Would you escort me to the dock tomorrow?" the young woman asked.
Kyros blinked. "What for?"
"The week is up, and I feel well enough to travel." Gabrielle absurdly wished that she had broken her legs, but her ribs and nose were not reason enough to stay.
The prince's expression turned dour. "You're still planning on leaving?" He had remembered that she was supposed to leave tomorrow, but he was not planning on mentioning it if she didn't. He had hoped that she would forget, but he should have known better.
"Well of course I am." The young woman extracted her hand from his own. It was time for her to head back to her room to get sufficient rest for the trip tomorrow. She had made inquiries of her own, and had learned that a ship was leaving for land when the sun came up. "There is no reason for me to stay here," she continued, avoiding making full eye contact with Kyros.
The prince decided to test how far his luck would go. "I'm not reason enough?" he inquired shyly. He gazed down at the table as if he had found something interesting there all of the sudden.
Tears welled up in Gabrielle's eyes. The prince had flirted with her, but maybe he felt deeply for her as well. She swallowed difficultly. "Do you want me to stay?"
Kyros glanced up at her. "Well that's a silly question." He grinned. "I would love for you to stay here on Phantasia." He might as well take the plunge. The prince got down on his right knee in front of the young woman and took a ring out of a pouch hanging on the side of his hip. "And I would love for you to be my wife. I love you Gabrielle, and I don't want to lose you. If I did, I would also lose a part of myself."
It sounded corny to his ears, but it was all true. He peered up at the young woman and noticed that she was silently crying. He hoped that that was a good sign. Finally, she nodded as she touched his smooth cheek.
"You'll marry me?" He wanted to confirm that that nod was indeed a yes.
"Yes," Gabrielle took a deep breath. "I'll marry you. I love you too Kyros." Oh, how she loved this man.
The prince smiled brightly as he jumped in the air, hollering. Gabrielle chuckled as he put the ring on her finger and then picked her up to swing her around in a circle a few times before she begged him to stop because she was getting dizzy. Apologizing, Kyros put Gabrielle down and smiled at her. He placed both hands on either side of her face and gazed at her with love apparent in his eyes. He felt like this was all a wonderful dream that he would awaken from at any moment. He felt like running all over the island, screaming that he was the luckiest man alive. It would be true.
"Are you going to kiss me or not?" Gabrielle asked brazenly.
The prince chuckled as he leaned down. When his lips met hers, the young man thought that he would faint from the absolute pleasure of it. She allowed him to deepen the kiss, as he wound his arms around her waist, bringing the blonde woman as close to him as he could. Gabrielle wrapped her arms around his neck, thinking that being in love and being loved was the most phenomenal feeling in the world. She vowed to herself that she would do all she could to make this man happy.
When the prince gathered up the nerve to tell his father the next day that he and Gabrielle were going to be married, the king exploded with fury. He paced back and forth in front of his son who was sitting down. His fiancee had wanted to come with him to tell King Alcon the news, but he would not let her. He knew in his heart that the king was not going to like his announcement, and he did not want to subject his future wife to the man's hostility. There was no telling what King Alcon would say to Gabrielle if they were to meet face to face. Kyros had been listening to his father's argument against he and Gabrielle getting married for the past half-hour, and he was growing tired of it. No matter what the king said, Kyros would not change his mind. No one or nothing could make him break his engagement to this wonderful woman who had come into his life so unexpectedly.
"I will not allow you to marry that harlot!" King Alcon screamed, with his face completely red.
The prince shot out of his seat. He could not take anymore of this. "She is not a harlot, Father. We want to get married. And we will. With or without your blessing."
King Alcon faced his son. "You know she is just using you?"
The prince narrowed his eyes. "How so?"
The king replied, "She only wants your money and the title she stands to gain. She has nowhere else to go, and no one else to go to. Yet if she marries you she will gain a rich husband, a glorious palace to live in on this beautiful island. Your fiancee," he sneered the word, "has it made."
"She doesn't care about my money, Father. Gabrielle loves me for me, and I resent you speaking this way about her. You don't know her." He secretly thought that Princess Gabrielle sounded precious. The young woman deserved to be a princess.
"Oh and you do? You haven't known this girl a month and you're talking marriage. This is insane, Kyros."
Kyros replied, "It's not insane. It's love."
"I forbid you to marry this girl," the king started. "You will not marry her and that is the end of it." King Alcon began to march out of the room.
"I'm a grown man, Father. I will marry who I choose to marry."
King Alcon turned around. "Over my dead body will you marry her. I put my foot down!"
"I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss your bride."
The prince smiled at his new wife warmly. He leaned down and kissed her, with his father mumbling in the background about this not being right. On the other hand, Gallus was there and Kyros knew that he had the man's full support. Kyros and Gabrielle broke the kiss and turned to all in attendance. Although his father was upset by the marriage, King Alcon hugged his son anyway. He gave Gabrielle a quick peck on the cheek, managing to keep his mouth shut.
The prince and his new wife soon found out that their friends, mainly Gallus, had planned a glorious feast and party for them after the wedding. They all insisted that the prince and new princess dance. Kyros declined at first, announcing that he had two left feet, but he finally gave in. He and Gabrielle danced and he only managed to step on her toes twice. Proving that she had a healthy appetite, Gabrielle ate three rather large pieces of cake. Her husband teased her about it, so she smashed a piece in his face making everyone laugh. Well everyone except the king since he had left immediately after the wedding, claiming that he had some important business to attend to. Kyros had not believed him, but if the man wanted to be stubborn then that was his problem. The prince would not let it ruin his wedding day. This started him to thinking about his wedding night. Oh, he could not wait for the moon to come out.
The short, blonde man walked through the camp, nodding to the soldiers as he passed. It had been a good day. The battle was won, not that he ever doubted it. He had a good army; strong, efficient. He made sure they trained daily, constantly running through drills. There was no room for the weak in this army. No slack was given. After all, this was Xena’s army.
Iolaus had been in Xena’s army for over eight years. Truth be told, the man had no idea why the warrior allowed him to join in the first place. He was a thief before he met her. A good thief, but still a common thief. Xena’s army had camped outside a small village he was visiting. He decided to steal some weapons. They'd catch a hefty price. Although the young man had robbed from warlords before, he soon found out that Xena was different. He was immediately captured and taken to her. To this day he doesn't know why she didn't kill him. Xena had taunted him for being caught. Then she explained, in detail, what she did to thieves. Iolaus knew his life was over but didn't want to go out this way. He asked Xena to let him fight her in fair combat. He couldn't win but maybe it would save some of his dignity. The warlord was intrigued. No one had ever made such a request. She allowed it.
It's a testament to Iolaus’s fighting skill that he is still alive. Xena could have killed him that day, there is no doubt in the man's mind, but he lasted long enough to impress the warlord. She gave him a position in her army. It was at the bottom of the chain, but it was a job and he was still alive.
Iolaus worked hard in Xena’s army and began to work his way up the ranks. Today, the man walking towards Xena’s tent, is second in command. Second only to Xena herself.
The flaps to the tent opened. Xena grinned as she watched her second stride through the opening.
“It was a good day, Iolaus.” She said as her grin widened. “That it was Xena.” The man crossed to his commander and they clasped hands. Taking a step back he began his report. “Brutus wants to talk.” Iolaus was interrupted by the laughter that came from Xena. “Of course he does. He's lost and Rome is mine.” Iolaus couldn't help but smile. This was a great victory for her army, yes. But it was an even bigger personal victory for Xena.
Xena had been successful in killing Caesar a year ago. After what he had done to her she had a thirst for Caesar's blood. She finally sated that thirst. But still she wanted more. If she could kill Caesar then what was to stop her from taking Rome, the land he had held so dear. But there was still Pompey and Crasus to deal with. And now, with them out of the way, the man named Brutus had vowed to protect Rome from Xena’s wrath. He failed.
“What do you think of this Brutus, Iolaus?” Iolaus thought for a moment and began informing his commander that Brutus was a strong and wise leader. Xena thought about this. She had felt the same way about him. “I can't remain in Rome. Maybe I need to appoint a leader. Under my rule, of course.” She added with a smirk. “Tell Marcus to bring Brutus to my tent. And I want you here too, Iolaus. There is much we need to discuss.”
“Yes, Xena.” Iolaus turned and began walking out of the tent. Just before he reached the entrance he stopped and turned to his commander. “Xena, I almost forgot. There is an island off the coast of Greece. One of the men has visited there and thinks it's in a great strategic spot." He walked over to the map on the desk, pointing out the small island. Xena glanced down to where the man had his finger. “No, it's not worth it at the moment.” Iolaus nodded and left. Xena was still staring at the map. ‘But one day’ she thought to herself. ‘One day Phantasia will be mine.’
“Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!” The pain was unbearable. The young blonde didn't think she could take anymore. “That's it, Gabrielle, you're doing fine.” Came the voice of the midwife, Ria. “I-I can’t…I can't push anymore.” Gabrielle was barely able to get the words out. “Just one more push. You can do it.” Ria told the young Princess.
Ria had been a midwife to the Royal Family of Phantasia since before Prince Kyros was born. She had helped deliver Prince Kyros himself and was devastated when his mother, the queen, had died shortly following the birth. Ria was a short, stocky woman with shoulder length hair. Her demeanor was kind and friendly. Gabrielle had liked her from the moment they were introduced.
It was several months after her wedding to Prince Kyros that the princess discovered she was pregnant. To say she was overjoyed was an understatement. No woman was ever happier about the prospect of bringing a new life into the world. The prince was just as excited about the news. The couple spent many nights, over the past six months, talking about the baby and making plans for their future.
The king was even happy, although he was loathed to admit it. But the thought of a grandson to carry on the royal line made him quite pleased with his son.
The prince heard the cry of his newborn child, and jumped from his seat. He had been pacing, out in the hall, since Gabrielle had gone into labor. Finally, he had taken a seat on the chair next to the door only to be brought back to his feet.
The door opened and Ria stuck her head out. “You may go in now, Your Highness.”
Prince Kyros took a deep breath and entered the room. The sight before him swelled his heart. His beautiful wife was lying on the bed with a small bundle in her arms. He walked over and knelt down beside the bed. “Say hello to our son.” Kyros looked up into emerald eyes, eyes he knew so well. “A son?” he asked. Gabrielle smiled at her husband and asked, “Would you like to hold him?” Kyros shook his head, “No. No, I don't…” “It's okay my love, you won't break him.” Tentatively, Kyros reached out his hands. Gabrielle gently placed their child into his father's loving arms. “Oh, Gabrielle, he's beautiful,” the new father whispered. “He looks like his father.” Gabrielle said, smiling at father and son.
The princess’ eyes closed and she began to drift off. She heard her husband comment that she should rest and opened her eyes. “Not before we give our son a name,” she stated quietly. Kyros thought for a moment, “I like the name you picked out the other day.” “You do?” Gabrielle said with a slight laugh. “I thought you didn't like that name?” The prince smiled, “I didn't at first but now…” he looked down at his son, “now, I really like it.” “Then I guess it's settled.” Gabrielle reached out and caressed her newborn's cheek. “Welcome to the world, Orion.”
Ria smiled at the sight of the family before her, and prayed the gods grant them long and happy lives.
The queen sat on her throne, rubbing her eyes. It had been a long day. There had been much debate with her Royal Advisors as to what to do, if anything, about the possible threat from Greece. ‘Not Greece’ the queen thought, ‘the Conqueror.’
The known world was under the tight rule of one woman. It had been this way since the Conqueror's army defeated Rome and then went on to Chin, four years ago. After that it was easy. Before anyone really knew what was happening, Xena, Destroyer Of Nations, had become the sole ruling body over all the lands. The Conqueror, as she was called, ruled with hatred and violence, showing no mercy. The fields outside of Xena’s palace were filled with the bodies of the people who dared to go against her.
The island of Phantasia was one of the last countries left untouched by the Destroyer Of Nations. It was only a matter of time, the Queen knew, before the Conqueror's army would take to the sea and hit the island with everything they had.
‘I won't let that happen.’ Gabrielle thought to herself. ‘I will not let my husband's dreams for this country die.’ The queen sighed and stared up at the ceiling. ‘My love, I know you can hear me. I will do everything in my power to keep Phantasia safe from harm. And I will one day see our son crowned king. I promise you.’
Gabrielle's thoughts were interrupted as the side door of the throne room opened. A small, blonde, green-eyed boy bolted across the room, heading straight towards his mother. “Mama!!” The queen scooped the boy up onto her lap and engulfed him in a strong, yet gentle, hug.
Gabrielle looked up and saw Ria standing in the doorway, trying to catch her breath. She looked down at her son. “Orion, did you run away from Ria again?” She tried to put on her best “mother” look, biting the inside of her cheek to keep from smiling.
If people were to see Orion and Gabrielle walking down by the shore or anywhere else, they would know instinctively that the two were mother and child. The energetic little Orion was just like his mother in looks and personality. The boy knew his mother was taking him to the beach when her duties were over and he just couldn't wait any longer. Gabrielle understood her son. She remembered what she was like at that age.
The boy looked up at his mother, then down at his lap. “I'm sorry, Mother.” Gabrielle gave in to her urge to smile. She placed a kiss on the top of his head. “I know you are excited about going to the beach but you must be patient.” “Yes, Mother.” The prince looked up at her and saw her smile. He returned the smile and wrapped his arms around her.
Having regained her breath, Ria walked over to the queen. “That boy is going to be the death of me, Your Majesty.” Gabrielle chuckled. “Well, at least you're getting your exercise.” Ria glared at the queen, causing the younger woman to laugh. “I'm glad your sense of humor is intact, Your Majesty.” Ria stated, trying desperately not to smile.
The older woman had grown very close to Queen Gabrielle over the years. Their relationship, at times, was that of a mother and daughter. Ria was free to speak her mind to the queen and she treasured the time spent with both Gabrielle and Orion. She feared, with the way the known world was changing, for the life of the queen and the prosperity and peaceful life of all Phantasia. But there was one thing Ria was very certain of, and that was the strength and wisdom of Phantasia’s ruler.
Gabrielle stood, lifting Orion up with her. Gently placing the boy onto his feet, she looked at Ria. “I’ll just be a few more minutes.” She knelt down in front of her son. “You, stay with Ria until I'm finished.” She playfully poked the boy in his stomach. “No running off. Do you hear me?” His mother's tone may have been light, but the Prince knew he would not get away with disobeying her again. Orion let out a sigh, “Yes Mother, but don't be too long.” He grinned as his mother tapped the tip of his nose with her finger. “I won't, I promise. Go on now.”
The queen watched her son as he clasped Ria’s hand and they walked out of the room. She turned and walked over to the far wall of the throne room. Hanging on the wall, were two portraits, both of former rulers, King Alcon and King Kyros. Gabrielle stared at the portraits of her deceased father-in-law and husband.
King Alcon died shortly after the birth of his grandson. He had been ill for some time but never told anyone. King Kyros was wounded in a battle with the Persians two years later. Gabrielle had not wanted him to go. The couple fought the day before Kyros was to leave. It was his duty, he told his wife. He couldn't stay locked up in the palace while his army was in battle. They had won the battle but the King was mortally wounded. He died in his bed with his wife by his side.
“I miss you Kyros. Our son misses you.”
Gabrielle turned and headed for the door. One way or another she would keep her son and Phantasia safe from the lethal grasp of the Conqueror.
From behind a grove of trees, a man was watching and waiting. Watching mother and son on the beach. Waiting for his opportunity to strike. He knew his mission and he would not fail.