The next day Hercules was back outside repairing fortifications. Xena was sparring with Callisto, whose moves were as lightning fast as he remembered, but Xena eventually disarmed and overpowered her with solid kicks and blows. Xena's war cries and Callisto's shrieks rang in the air, as both women flipped and whirled, trying to get an advantage. When Xena had Callisto pinned to the ground, she let her up and dismissed her with a friendly pat on the rear.
He straightened momentarily, stretching and wiping the sweat from his eyes with his forearm, careful not to hit himself with the chain that dangled between his wrists. He winced, for the sweat stung the cuts in his back, but he'd been too busy to notice it until now. He felt her eyes upon him again and turned around. "Slave boy!" she called, walking toward him. "Do you have any fighting skills?"
Hercules replied matter-of-factly, "I've been told I have some abilities in that area, my lady."
"Really. And how are your reflexes?"
He suddenly reached up and caught the knife she had thrown just as it was whizzing past his ear, and answered drily, "Fine."
She grinned, "I see. Well, as you see, I'm sorely in need of a challenging sparring partner. Are you willing to volunteer?"
"I don't want to hurt you, my lady."
"So sure of your abilities, are you?" she laughed. "Well, think of it as doing me a favor. Even Callisto's too easy an opponent, and my skills are getting rusty. And I prefer to improve my chances of surviving the next battle any way I can."
"Of course, my lady," he answered, remembering a time when his Xena had demanded he practice with her. He easily leapt the portion of wall he had been working on and approached the Conqueror. He returned her knife and dropped to one knee before her and bowed his head, his honey-colored hair falling forward. "However I can be of service, my lady."
"Stand up. Hold out your wrists." She unlocked his manacles and tucked the key back into her bosom, saying, "Don't get used to being without those. They suit you."
"As you wish," he answered quietly, wondering to himself, Why does she trust me? I could easily break her neck and run. Is it so obvious that I've surrendered my will to hers?
"Turn around. Let me see your back," she commanded lightly. He complied. "Callisto does lovely work, don't you think?" she asked.
"I can't fault her technique, my lady," he answered mildly, while she indicated that he could turn back and face her.
She laughed. "You are a genuine prize, slave boy." She grabbed a sword from a small cart filled with weapons and tossed it to him. "So show me what you've got," she challenged. "And don't think of holding back, or I'll really lay your back open for disobedience."
He didn't bother to explain that he rarely used his full strength in fights with humans. As it was, remembering his experiences with his Xena, he knew she would prove a challenge, even to his strength. They came together in a clash of blades, attacking and parrying. Hercules wondered if she knew that every move pulled and reopened the gashes in his back; he concluded she probably did and that this was another test. Of what? The extent of his submission? He knew she was more skillful than he was with a sword, but he took advantage of the fact that he could move considerably quicker than she would have expected, given his size. And Xena was being cautious, aware that he had no protection for his lower arms. Their movements evolved into a controlled dance, Xena attacking, and Hercules parrying. She whirled around, slashing downward toward his sword, and he spun backward, bringing the sword up with the strength of both arms above and behind his head. "You're not bad, slave boy," she muttered.
Eventually, she saw an opening, and with a carefully controlled blow, she sent his sword flying away from him. He was actually relieved--this was more familar territory for him. She advanced on him, her sword flashing, but he readily avoided her blows, sometimes ducking under and sometimes jumping over her slashing sword, then threw himself into a sudden roll, knocking her off her feet and onto her back. She arched her back and jumped into a standing position, exclaiming, "Good boy!" As she raised the sword, he charged her, grabbing her wrist and throwing her. She flipped and landed on her feet and took a flying leap to strike him in the chest with a solid kick. As she spun around to kick him again, he caught her foot in his hand, upending her. She was up again immediately, but was breathing more heavily.
"Is this the kind of thing you were looking for, my lady?" he demanded, as she came up behind him, and he drove an elbow backward into her stomach, which sent her flying backward.
"Yes it is!" she panted, flinging her body into a roll, leaping to her feet, and charging him. He was about to grab her and simply pick her up and toss her, knowing she wouldn't get hurt, but she was quicker and managed to hook a foot around his ankle, bringing him down hard on the grass. He winced as the blades stabbed into the wounds on his back, almost all of them bleeding again and stinging excruciatingly from sweat. She pointed her sword at his throat, but he clapped his hands on the blade. Their eyes locked, and for a moment he thought he saw a gleam of recognition there. They had been there before, and he wondered if any memories from the original timeline were seeping through. As it was, she was distracted for a moment, and he wrested the sword out of her grasp, flung it aside and rolled up to his feet.
Mad at herself for letting her concentration waver, she took it out on Hercules, driving him backward with a series of solid, well-placed kicks to his chest and stomach. "C'mon slave boy!" she taunted. He ducked under a backhanded swing to his jaw, and scooped her into his arms. She flipped herself over backward and out of his grip, struck him a blow in the jaw that spun him around, then locked her arm around his neck from behind, yanking his head back by the hair with her other hand.
"Am I allowed to surrender, my lady?" he gasped, knowing he was perfectly capable of dislodging her arm but not positive he could do so without breaking it.
"Normally, I'd say no," she said, releasing her grip on him, "but I think your back's taken enough punishment." His back was streaked with blood, and strewn with clinging blades of grass. She reached out her hand and clasped his wrist firmly, treating him for a moment, as almost an equal. "That was impressive, slave boy. Best workout I've had in a long time."
He bowed his head, then dropped to one knee, surprised at how naturally this gesture was coming to him. "My privilege and my pleasure, my lady."
"Flatterer," she laughingly accused. "Stay there." She retrieved his manacles, then fastened them back on him, musing, "you seem to have a lot of ways of making yourself useful. Take those weapons back to the castle, then get yourself cleaned up and get those gashes looked at again. I want to see you and Gabrielle in my chambers at dinner time. It's time for you to learn some new duties."
"As you wish, my lady," he replied.
She looked down at him, where he remained kneeling, traced one finger in a path over his cheekbone and along his jawline and thence to his lips, where he lightly kissed it. "You're turning out even more useful, not to mention entertaining, than I anticipated, slave boy. Don't disappoint me." She turned around and walked away, collecting her sword as she went, neatly flipping it up into her hand with her foot. He got up slowly and rather painfully and set about fulfilling her orders.
* * *
As he moved toward the slave's quarters to get cleaned up, Gabrielle came running toward him. "She wants me to take care of your back," she explained.
He nodded. "Just let me wash up a little first."
The cold water was excruciating on his back, but he was glad to flush all the sweat and grass and dirt out of the gashes from the whip.
"What did she do to you?" asked Gabrielle, applying a salve that would prevent infection.
"Target practice," answered Hercules, and he shrugged self-deprecatingly and smiled.
"She wants you to wait outside her chambers; I'll bring her dinner later. She'll let you know when you're wanted," explained Gabrielle.
Hercules waited outside the Conqueror's chambers, as ordered. After a while, the door opened, and she looked out. "Come in, slave boy." As he followed her, he noticed that she was wearing a long black robe, tied with a sash, with apparently nothing underneath.
"Let's see your back," she said abruptly. He turned around, and her fingers very lightly inspected him. "You'll do. They'll heal. Now--I'm assuming that strength of yours is good for more than carrying firewood, repairing fortifications, and flinging me around the practice field." She smiled almost warmly, before resuming her abrupt tone. "How are you at giving a massage?"
He grinned, saying, "I've been told I have some abilities in that area."
"Good. Prove it." She unlocked and removed his manacles, then walked over to a kind of padded table, opened the top of her robe and pulled her arms out of the sleeves, then lay face down on the table, her back bare. Hercules had caught a glimpse of breasts, breasts he had caressed and worshipped and suckled. What this Xena had in common with his Xena was an utter lack of self-consciousness about her body. Xena could be just as intimidating nude as she could in the severest armor.
"As you wish," he whispered, and began rubbing her neck, thumbs firmly rotating at the base of her skull. Any flexing of his muscles made his own back throb and ache; Callisto had laid stripes across every possible muscle group. But he was overcome again with an intense desire to please this cold warlord, and not only as a ploy to achieve his goal of restoring the original timeline.
"Oh, that's good," she purred, as his strong thumbs made their way down her neck. "You just got yourself another job, slave boy."
"I--I hope to please you, my lady," he stammered.
"Well, keeping working at it," she returned. "You've made me a good deal sorer than I've been for a long time."
His hands moved to her bare shoulders, and he began to probe them deeply with his fingers, using his strength to coerce knotted muscles into submission. "Is this too hard, my lady?" he asked as his thumbs worked deeply into her shoulders.
"No. I'll let you know if it's too hard, slave boy."
"Yes, my lady," he answered, somewhat abashed. But he took pride in his task, and relished the feeling of the tense muscles yielding to his pressure. He didn't exactly know what such a massage would feel like--no one he knew was strong enough to really liquify his muscles like that, although his Xena had come close--, but he knew from experience that a Herculean backrub was a prized commodity. Iolaus in particular would congratulate himself on having a half-god as a lover, when Hercules would give him a massage. No, best not to think of Iolaus now. Satisfied that the shoulder muscles had loosened sufficiently under his hands, he placed them on Xena's upper arms and began working his way down. She allowed herself a small sigh of contentment, and Hercules smiled to himself.
Suddenly he noticed faint lines radiating across her back. Transfixed and momentarily forgetting himself, he traced one with his finger. "Yes," said Xena abruptly, as if reading his mind. "I don't mete out any punishment I haven't experienced myself. I wasn't born the Conqueror, you know. Now get back to work, slave boy."
"Yes, my lady." Silently wondering about this Xena's past, he found a sore spot immediately under her shoulderblade, a hard knot of tension. He began rubbing it gently, then harder, seeming to dissolve it under his fingers. He moved down her spine, with sweeping outward strokes of the heels of his hands, and then worked his thumbs into another area of tension in her lower back.
He returned his hands to her shoulders, for another long and deep massage, until she said, "Nice work, slave boy." Xena sat up, pulled on her robe, then gestured to the manacles. Hercules brought them to her and held out his arms while she locked them back on. Then she said, "Gabrielle will be bringing my dinner soon. Go kneel in the corner there out of the way. Watch and learn."
He flushed, but moved quickly to his appointed place. He had a pretty good idea just what he would be watching and learning, and a tangle of confused emotions whirled in his brain. On the one hand, he found his position both embarrassing and humiliating. Embarrassing because he would be watching Xena making intimate use of Gabrielle; humiliating because he was being made to watch. At the same time, he had a flash of hope in his heart; if he was to watch and learn, then presumably Xena would be wanting him for the same purposes. Yet he also felt absurdly jealous of Gabrielle. How did the Conqueror have this effect on him?
But then he reminded himself ruefully that Xena always had had this effect on him, if not in such a dramatic way. The day before the battle with the revivified Darphus he had fallen hard, although he suspected it first happened when he held a sword to her throat, and she had glared at him, courage and defiance blazing out of those blue eyes. But that day before the battle--when poor Iolaus had gone off to scout--and he had watched her bravely confronting her new life, he had realized in a flash why Iolaus had been so dangerously infatuated with her. Hercules willingly handed her his heart on a platter. He had hoped she did care and that she was, in some way, reciprocating his feelings, but he already knew they weren't destined to be a couple. But he also realized it didn't matter what she felt--he was willing to give her anything she wanted, even if she was just using him.
Despite all the pain that had come later--his own hurt feelings about her entirely expected departure, Iolaus' hurt feelings about his betrayal, and Ares' subsequent assault on Iolaus which finally forced the friends to confront their feelings about each other--he had never regretted that time. Desire had flared between them, white-hot, pure as silver, and incandescent. His hands had burned where they touched her body, his muscles had melted when she touched his, their mouths had fused in drought-quenching kisses, and when she had guided his cock inside her, she had locked him to her with a strength and force that freed all of his own. He was surprised they didn't consume each other in the heat and friction of their powerful bodies.
From that point on, a part of him had belonged to her, even as he was forced to realize his love for Iolaus, even as he later betrayed that love with his own impetuous foolishness in marrying Serena. When Hera had bound Prometheus, Hercules' first and only thought was that he had to stop Xena from striking the fatal blow. When Ares had framed him for Serena's murder, she had brought him back to himself, and in a few quiet words she had made him see his own mistakes with utter clarity. He had had to take time to mourn, but it was the memory of Xena's words that finally sent him back to Iolaus, apologizing the most abject way he knew how. And when Callisto had taken Xena captive, leaving her hurt, terrified, broken, and shattered, he had dedicated himself to putting her back together. Which, of course, had gotten them into this mess. They might have known that humiliating Ares would have future repercussions, but they both couldn't resist.
And here he was, kneeling on a stone floor, his wrists manacled, waiting for a demonstration in the proper methods of serving as a personal slave of a violent and ruthless warlord, while his lover was quite happily serving as the plaything of the god of war. Hercules' musings were interrupted by a light tap on the door and the entrance of Gabrielle.
She carried a heavy tray and deftly set the dishes and platters on the Conqueror's table, barely acknowledging Hercules' presence. Her job was to please her Mistress, and if her Mistress wanted him there, then that's how it should be. She poured a goblet full of wine, then stepped back. Xena gestured at the blonde slave's clothes, and Gabrielle took them off, folding them carefully and putting them on a low stool. She knelt, naked, near Xena's chair, and Xena said, "You need some adornment, girl." She pulled something that glinted out of a pocket in her robe. It was only when she began to attach them to Gabrielle's nipples that Hercules realized it was a pair of silver clamps, linked with three light chains. He winced slightly in sympathy, as Gabrielle silently gasped, her lips parting but making no sound.
"Have you already eaten?" asked Xena brusquely.
"Yes, my lady," whispered Gabrielle. Hercules and Iolaus had played with such toys before, and while he was usually the one applying them, not wearing them, they reversed roles on occasion. He remembered the sensation quite vividly--an intense, shooting pain that burned and throbbed its way directly to his cock. He couldn't help wondering how it would feel with a woman's full breasts, and then he was horrified, but not entirely surprised, to discover that his cock was beginning to swell inside his tight pants.
"Good," said Xena, "because I want some entertainment while I eat." She was seated at the head of a long wooden table, and she directed Gabrielle to get up on the table, lying down at the other end out of the way of Xena's dinner. "Spread your legs wide, girl," she ordered. "I want your fellow slave to have a good view. Now play with yourself. I want you dripping wet by the time I finish eating, but I don't need to tell you not to come."
Hercules flushed a deeper red, but no one was looking at him, and he couldn't help watching with rapt attention. And he couldn't help remembering when he had ordered Iolaus to perform in a similar fashion for him. Gabrielle positioned herself as directed, spread her legs, and began playing with her own pubic hair, twisting the reddish curls around her finger. She then slid her finger along her center, parting her lips. At first she circled the entrance to her vagina with one finger, occasionally sliding it inside. Hercules glanced at Xena. He couldn't see her face, but her pose reminded him of nothing so much as a large bird of prey, focusing intently on its victim. She ate her dinner abstractedly, her attention on Gabrielle.
He was getting increasingly aroused and was disturbed at his own reaction. There was no question that the situation was highly erotic, but it made him deeply uncomfortable at the same time. And Gabrielle was so matter-of-fact about what she was doing. She was obviously becoming more aroused, particularly as her now slick finger began circling her clitoris, but from what he could see of her face, she seemed neither humiliated by nor passionately involved in what she was doing. He might very well be in her place soon, he thought, as he watched her spreading her lips wider with one hand, and stroking her own increasingly engorged clit with the other. Would he be able to obey the Conqueror's every command, no matter how personally humiliating he found it? Would he be able to please her? Would he be able to distinguish himself from Gabrielle and the other slaves enough to earn her confidence and accomplish his mission? And would be able to move her enough to melt some of the ice from her eyes and her heart? He knew his desires were no longer entirely related to his mission; he knew he had to reach this Xena somehow in order to accomplish it, but he also wanted to reach her because he was captivated by her. And much to his own discomfiture, he was captivated by the idea of serving her.
Xena finished her dinner, and ordered Gabrielle to stop what she was doing and clear the table. Gabrielle obeyed instantly and gracefully, not a hint in her facial expression to indicate that she was frustrated. She cleared the table, taking the heavy tray outside, but leaving the wine, which she brought into Xena's bedroom. Xena beckoned to Hercules, and he got up and followed her. She pointed to a stool in the corner of the bedroom, saying, "Over there. You've probably had enough of kneeling on a hard floor for now." Hercules was a bit surprised at the Conqueror's taste for luxury as he sat down on the stool and looked around him. The bed had a very sturdy iron frame, undoubtedly useful for securing bed-mates, and was draped by a canopy of rich purple velvet which matched the coverings on the bed. A few iron rings jutted from various points along the wall or hung from the ceiling, making the Conqueror's propensities very apparent.
Xena directed Gabrielle to pull the coverings off the bed, and then she took off her own robe. Her body was as perfect as Hercules had remembered, strong, muscled, and yet rounded in all the right places. He desperately wanted to taste those nipples again and to fill his hands with the contours of those breasts. Gabrielle scurried to put the robe away, and then Xena said, "Hands and knees. Middle of the bed." Gabrielle obeyed, positioning herself on her hands and knees, legs spread wide. Hercules suddenly noticed a variety of chains and cuffs hanging from the corners of the bed frame. Xena selected the length she wanted and buckled the leather cuffs onto Gabrielle's ankles and wrists, so that there was a length of chain extending from the slave to the corners of the bed. Xena carefully maneuvered herself between the chains at the head of the bed, sitting in front of Gabrielle with her own legs parted. "Please me now, girl," she ordered. Gabrielle crouched lower, kissing her Mistress reverently between her legs before proceeding to pleasure her with her lips and tongue.
Watch and learn; there are rituals here I'm supposed to be picking up, thought Hercules to himself, shifting slightly to accomodate his increasingly uncomfortable erection. Xena caught his eye as he shifted, and let a knowing half-smile reveal that she knew exactly what was making him uncomfortable. Then she returned her gaze to the strawberry blonde head moving between her legs. Hercules was momentarily rocked by a surge of jealousy, and he was sure Xena had read that too in her momentary glance. He deeply envied Gabrielle at the moment, wishing it was his tongue tasting the Conqueror's essence, his tongue giving her pleasure. And he knew, without any self-inflation, that his strength made him better at providing that particular pleasure than almost anyone. Still, Gabrielle must have known what she was doing, for Xena soon took in her breath sharply, her body jolted in climax.
"Good girl," she purred, stroking the slave's blonde hair. "Would you like to come, girl?"
"If it pleases you, my lady," answered Gabrielle, back up on her hands and knees.
The rote answer, thought Hercules grimly. Watch and learn, indeed.
Xena retrieved a vial from a table next to her bed and positioned herself behind Gabrielle. "Get on your elbows," she ordered softly, and Gabrielle lowered herself again, and Hercules couldn't help admiring the way the pose made the slave's buttocks stand out while exposing all the treasures that lay between her legs. Xena pushed Gabrielle's legs a little farther apart, then poured oil from the vial over her hand. She spent a few moments stretching Gabrielle's vagina with three fingers, but was satisfied the slave was sufficiently prepared, and made her hand into a fist and pushed it inside. Hercules gasped at the same time that Gabrielle did. Gabrielle had obviously been entered this way before, and Xena's hand passed the muscled opening easily. Hercules had never seen anything quite like it, for all of the experimentation he and Iolaus had done. Seeing Xena's fist vanish into Gabrielle's body, seeing her wrist tightly gripped by those strong muscles was one of the most powerfully and intensely erotic sights he had ever seen. It gave him ideas, and he glanced at his own big hands, now marked with manacles and wondered two things: if such a thing would be possible with Iolaus, and if he'd ever have his Iolaus back to try it.
Xena began moving her hand, rocking it slightly, then increasing her tempo, pulling her fist out part of the way and pushing it back in. Hercules pretty much forgot how to breathe, and he watched Gabrielle seeming to pull Xena back inside her. Xena's fist drove faster, and Gabrielle shrieked and bucked in her climax. "Good girl," murmured the conqueror, leaving her fist where it was. With the inside edge of her other hand, she began rubbing the slave's clitoris hard in a sawing motion. Gabrielle came again almost immediately.
"Thank you, my lady," she gasped breathlessly. "My lady is too good to her slave."
Xena only smiled and unbuckled the cuffs. She pulled Gabrielle into her arms, carefully removed the clamps, and held her while the slave came down off her shattering climaxes and gasped with pain from the clamps' removal, gave her some gulps of wine from her goblet, then dismissed her gently. As Gabrielle had reported, the Conqueror slept alone. Gabrielle obediently went to the outer room to gather her clothes and departed. Her body radiated all the signs of someone who had been thoroughly fucked, but her face maintained its usual placid expression.
Xena carelessly pulled on her robe and tied the sash as she crossed the room to where Hercules waited mutely. "And did you learn, slave boy?" she asked.
"I trust . . . I did, my lady," he answered carefully. His condition was all too apparent, and his cock had been ready to burst out of its leather restraints for quite some time now.
Xena rested her hand lightly over the obvious bulge in his pants. "You're frustrated, aren't you, slave boy?"
"Yes, my lady," he answered, his voice strained and his face flushed.
"Good. I'd like you to stay that way for a while--until I give you permission to come. I won't know what you're doing alone in your sleeping chamber, obviously, but I'm asking you not to take care of it yourself."
She could see by the defeated sag to his shoulders both that he was going to obey her command and that he wasn't at all happy about it. "As you wish," he murmured, bowing his head as he felt both shame and frustration flood his cheeks.
Xena reached out and gently ruffled his hair, to soften the blow. "It's obvious you're not accustomed to slavery, boy," she said. "You're not like the others here. Yet that gives you the potential to be all the more valuable to your owner. I can see your willingness to suffer for me and to obey an order that I can't possibly enforce. That pleases me, slave boy."
"Then I am more than rewarded, my lady, " he answered, and he meant it.
She grinned and
dismissed him. He walked rather uncomfortably to his sleeping quarters,
and it was a long time before his erection subsided enough for him to get
to sleep. Yet the thought of bringing himself relief was no
longer even a remote possibility, and he realized he had submitted himself
utterly to the Conqueror. No one but himself would know if he stroked
himself to climax, but he wasn't even tempted to disobey Xena's command.
to Chapter 6
to Table of Contents
to XWP and HTLJ