The screams still echoed from the walls of the courtyard as the Empress - the Conqueror - She Whom the Known World Fears - passed through the carven door to her most private quarters. As she walked, she shed her gorgeous brocaded robes, each rustling to lie in her wake, in sure expectation that they would be immediately snatched up and carefully folded away. At the very door of her most inner sanctum, her heavy golden diadem was gently set upon the floor. Clad only in a simple silken smock, her dark hair humble and unadorned, she entered the chamber that was forbidden to all but her - and her god.
He was *there*.
She could feel His presence instantly, as the heavy doors swung silently shut behind her.
Sunlight streamed through the precious glass windows, and He was silhouetted against it, black against the golden light.
The words fell upon her ears in a light, amused tone. "A fine day's work".
"You saw?" She did not dare to look Him in the face - not yet.
Was He pleased with her? She could not tell. She licked lips that had suddenly gone dry. "It was necessary."
What WAS His mood? She had to know.
"The terror must be kept". (DAMN the quiver in her voice!)
"And you keep it so well".
Was He mocking her? Did He DARE to mock her, after all that she had done - all for His sake?
Finally, the fatal question.Let His wrath fall, if it would.
"Are you pleased?"
The leather which did not so much clothe His body as caress it, creaked softly as He moved toward her, in that arrogant stride that she loved so well. She sank to her knees at His approach, and sensed, rather than felt, His fingers trailing lightly over her hair. Their touch sent burst of fiery longing coursing through her...
She dared to ask again, "Have I pleased you?" - no longer caring for the desperation that was loud in her voice.
"And what have you done, that I should be pleased? " His tone was now clearly dismissive.
She was suddenly sparked to a suicidal anger.
"What have I done? You can ask that of me? What HAVEN'T I done? I've slaughtered thousands - for you! I have conquered entire continents - for you! I have faced armies ten times larger than my own and triumphed - for you! Every plan you have ever devised, I have carried out! I have waded through rivers of blood as high as my breast, ALL FOR YOU!!! And YOU would dare to ask me, what have I done?!!! The world kneels trembling at my feet - and it is all for you! For YOU!"
The words shattered against the stone of the walls.
Furious beyond thought, she moved as if to spring to her feet, but He was the faster. One strong, sinewy hand caught her shoulder in a punishing grip and pushed her back to her knees before Him, while the other grasped her hair, bending her head back, almost to the point of pain, forcing her to look Him in the face...
"Say it again! Who was it all for?" The words hissed out from behind a smile of poisoned sweetness.
For several heartbeats she stared her god in the face ... hating Him, loving Him, desiring Him, worshipping Him ... The breath crawled out from between her lips as she took Him in - the blue-grey eyes that seemed to glow in the dim light, the golden hair that haloed his head in a manifestation of what was surely his godhood....
"It was for you! All for you! For you! You are my love ... my master ... my god ... my Iolaus!"
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