After dinner, I was sent back to my room, I didn’t know what they were expecting of me, nor what I was supposed to do with my free time, so I spent most of the time trying to see things out of my window, exercising and observing the boy in the other bed. At night, I was brought some food, after eating I finally fell asleep.
I woke up feeling tired; the previous day had been an emotional storm and being near Shahzadi only made everything worse, not knowing which feelings were mine, and which were Shahzadi’s impositions. Besides the conversation between Kamose and Sultana gave me a lot of questions, none that I dared to ask out loud.
I didn’t know what I was supposed to do, if someone was going to come for me, or I was going to be left alone again. I was considering doing some training to occupy my time when I heard a noise, the boy in the other bed was waking up as well. The light seemed to bother him, I supposed that it was because he never had been exposed to strong light before. Remembering the conversation the day before I felt guilty and went and put back the fabrics that were covering the windows when I first arrived to the room.
“Thanks,” he looked at ease now with under the dim light. “What’s your name?”
“I’m Tri…” I was about to say Trilambda, but I caught myself and tried for the correct name “I’m Kaiserin from the Maxima Family” he smiled in understanding.
“Yeah, the new name is weird for me too; I’m Trajan from the Regal Family by the way.”
“Are you Kamose’s son?”
“Yes, I’m the third son of general Kamose” so Kamose was a general. I could hear how proud Trajan was of his father, and I wondered if it was a good idea to mention my mother. “I don’t remember seeing you during the race.”
“Well, it’s because I…” What was I supposed to say? I didn’t know the official story “I left the Burrows before the race.”
“You’re the one that killed Hoshi!” he was excited by the discovery. He looked at me like I was a freak, and for some reason, I thought I was going to get in trouble for this.
“What do you know about Hoshi?” I asked nervously.
“Nothing really, I just heard some rumors, people back in the Burrow think you are dead, but now I know you’re not” he smiled. He enjoyed the situation, knowing something the others didn’t. “It’s incredible that you survived. How did you do it?”
“I really have no idea.” For some reason, I liked the boy. I felt comfortable with him; it felt natural, like I have known him for a long time. He had blue eyes, very similar to Kamose’s. His hair just started to show after spending some days without shaving it, and it was black. The most I looked at him the more I could see the similarities between him and his father.
We stared at each other for a few minutes, trying to get a read of each other. Trajan was acting smug, like he knew something I didn’t. For a second, I almost could swear that I could hear what he was thinking of me, I felt dizzy and looked at Trajan that was surprised at something. Just as we were trying to figure out what to say the door opened, and we both were startled.
Kamose entered the room with Sultana on his arm. I was surprised by them, after the previous times that I have seen them together, it was strange they were behaving like that.
“Who is she?” Trajan was spellbound by Sultana.
“She’s the empress” I answered in a whisper. I could understand Trajan; the two warriors in front of us were a sight to behold.
“Trajan, Kaiserin, get up and follow us” ordered Kamose, in a gentler tone of voice that I could imagine him capable of. After that order, Kamose guided Sultana out of the room.
After they left the room Trajan and I stared at each other for a few seconds, then we ran towards our closets to grab some clean clothes and changes as fast as we could. We found them waiting for us just outside our room. Sultana was lost in Kamose’s eyes, staring at him with dreamy eyes. As we stepped outside our room, Kamose turned in our direction as did Sultana, after blinking a few times. She smiled at me, but the way she looked at Trajan was cold, I could see him squirming under her glance.
Kamose noticed Trajan’s discomfort and stepped between him and Sultana. Without a word, we all walked over to the dining room to get our breakfast. I knew the way; we were going to the dining room, maybe for breakfast, but Trajan looked nervous and uncertain as we walked, not knowing our destination. We arrived and found Shahzadi and Lobishomen already there.
Shahzadi was on Lobishomen’s lap, and they were kissing, as soon as we arrived a cold wind surrounded them leaving a thin white layer over them.
“Sister! That’s cold, do you want us to freeze to death?” Shahzadi separated herself from Lobishomen just enough to be able to speak to her sister. “What are you trying to do?”
“It looked like you needed to cool down,” Sultana’s voice was devoid of any emotion, in contrast again to her sister’s.
“I told you beautiful, we should have taken our breakfast in bed,” said Lobishomen. I was blushing at his words, and I wasn’t sure why.
“Can you try to act with some seriousness? Leave that kind of behavior for when you’re alone” Kamose pulled out Sultana’s chair and help her get seated, then he took the seat to her right.
“It’s easy for you to ask that, you have your woman all the time. I have to make the most of the time I spend in here.” Lobishomen was addressing Kamose, but she was looking at Shahzadi.
“Please, don’t pretend you don’t have more than enough women in the north to help you get warm in the cold nights” Kamose held out his hand, and immediately one of the slaves put a drink in his hand.
Shahzadi finally got off Lobishomen’s lap and took her place at Sultana’s other side, in front of Kamose.
“I could have all the women in the empire by my side, but none of them can compare to my Shahzadi” was Lobishomen’s response. He took Shahzadi hand in his own. There was something incredible intense going on between them.
“Please Shahzadi, don’t tell me you’re buying this nonsense.”
“Ideas and memories can be faked, but unless you are an incredible strong empath you cannot fake your feelings. You can throw all the venom you like Kamose, but it won’t affect us. I know what he feels for me,” said Shahzadi as he put her head on Lobishomen’s shoulder and then glared at Kamose.
I wasn’t sure what to do. I looked around and noticed the five warriors standing around the room, so still that they looked like statues. One of them looked at me, and I shivered. At least Trajan looked as intimidated as I felt.
A slave pulled out a couple of chairs and Trajan and I took that as an invitation to get seated. Both of us ate in silence as the adults talked about missions and problems in the empire’s borders, about clans and battles.
I had already finished my food when I noticed that Trajan was distracted, he was shaking and the food in his fork fell down just as he was about to take a bite.
“Are you ok?” As soon as the words left my mouth, I knew how stupid it sounded, of course he wasn’t ok.
He didn’t answer, just looked at me in a frightening way. I backed down afraid. He looked past me to Kamose, but he didn’t even acknowledge him.
“I hate Regals and their double minds,” said Lobishomen. I wasn’t sure what he was talking about.
“Well, I find Vlads very annoying. They’re nothing but common thieves with a superiority complex,” was a Kamose’s answer to Lobishomen comment. He was apparently ignoring Trajan, but something else was going on.
“Hey, don’t be envious, you know you wish you had the abilities that we have,” Lobishomen’s eyes were challenging.
“That’s ridiculous. No ability is worth having if it cannot be taken to the extreme like the Maximas can,” Sultana was very matter of fact about her statement. She didn’t even get distracted of her breakfast.
“Well, I do hate the Amons.” Everyone stared at Shahzadi, Trajan and I included. “Someone had to mention them, don’t you agree?” With that out of place comment, the ambient got lighter, Lobishomen was now laughing and hugging Shahzadi. Kamose was still angry, but Sultana was acting as if nothing was happening around her.
Kamose and Trajan stood up at the same time and left the room in silence. A couple of slaves started cleaning after them.
“I still have some business to attend, so if you excuse me, I’ll be going now,” he bowed to the sisters as he was leaving the room.
“Are you sure you don’t want to go with him?” Sultana asked, without looking at Shahzadi.
“No, it’s ok, don’t worry. If I go with him, I will only distract him,” Shahzadi looked at me and smiled.
“Besides, you and I have something to discuss with the little one. She’s completely lost.”
“So you don’t want to distract Lobishomen, but you don’t have a problem bothering me?” Sultana took one last sip of her glass, put it on the table and stood up.
“It’s my job to take care of you, and I take it seriously” Shahzadi also stood up to follow her sister. “Take a couple of hours, we’ll see you on the throne room.”
It was like five statues coming alive. The warriors who were positioned around the room started to move and got out of the room by the opposite door from Sultana and Shahzadi. I went to catch up with the sisters, not knowing what else to do.
“Shahzadi?” Sultana asked, she was walking ahead of us, with Shahzadi a few steps behind, and I was running to catch up. “What did you want to discuss?”
“Kaiserin, what do you know about the clan’s families?”
“There are nine families, the four Royal Families, the four Common Families and the Nova Family” I said quoting the lessons from the Burrows.
“When we were talking about the Royal Families, she was confused. I don’t think she stayed in the Burrows long enough to learn about the characteristics of each family.”
“That’s a possibility. She was too young to be tested, and Dame wouldn’t have any reason to explain. You know how most of the instructors don’t explain the real importance of the families until they are ready to be part of one of them.”
“That’s what I was thinking Sultana, we didn’t take that into account when we took her. I think that it is now our responsibility to instruct her in this.”
They both turned, looking at me, and I felt insignificant and dumb. I had done something wrong; I didn’t know something important.
We went somewhere new for me, to a garden, full with all kinds of plants. I studied plants in the Burrow. They taught us what plants to avoid and which plants to use to heal wounds and cure illnesses, but I haven’t seen live plants like the ones in that place. The ground was covered with all kinds of plants, small and big, some I recognized but most I didn’t. There were huge plants, bigger than us capable of covering us in shadows.
“Let’s talk Kaiserin” Sultana sat in the shadow of one of the big plants. “I think it’s time to explain some things to you.”
“Where should we begin? Should we use the short version?” Shahzadi lay down next to Sultana and closed her eyes, like she was going to sleep.
“I think that if we’re going to do this, we need to do it right” Sultana pointed a spot between her and Shahzadi, and I sat there. “In the beginning, when the Clan was formed, it wasn’t as organized or strong as it is now. Then, we were just one more clan among many, trying to survive. But then the first emperor came; he took the best warriors and guide them in a series of conquest that made him the ruler of most of the known territories.
“Do you know why that first emperor was so powerful?” Shahzadi asked.
I was shaking my head, but as Shahzadi still had her eyes closed, I spoke “I don’t know.”
“It was because of his double mind,” Shahzadi opened just one eye and looked at me, like trying to see my reaction. I have heard about the double mind before, but I wasn’t sure what it meant.
“Telepaths are very powerful warriors who can go inside your mind and read your thoughts,” explained Sultana. “If they fight against an inexpert warrior, they can take their superficial thoughts and know what they are planning to do, know their attacks before they even move and that gives them a big advantage in battle. However, experimented warriors know how to shield their thoughts. Against one of them, a normal telepath can only enter their minds if they project themselves, it has the advantage that it renders their opponent immobile, but their own bodies are left exposed. A telepath has to decide either to attack the body or the mind. In a one on one fight, there’s no problem, but if there is more than one opponent, attacking somebody’s mind is almost a death wish. Telepaths with a double mind don’t have that problem. They can attack directly the mind of their opponents and still be able to move and fight normally.”
“That first emperor was Regal, the father of the Regal Family. He inherited that power to his children and they to theirs. A true Regal is a telepath with a double mind.”
“So Kamose and Trajan have a double mind?” I asked. That would certainly explain some things.
“That’s right,” answered Sultana. “That’s how they were talking to each other during breakfast. I don’t know what they were talking about, but they were using their double mind the whole time.”
“Besides the double mind there are other characteristics that define a Regal,” explained Shahzadi. “A real Regal has blue or violet eyes. Most Regals have blue eyes, but it is said that the first Regal had violet eyes.”
“For many generations the Regals were the only Royal Family, but then the Amon appeared among them, and they formed their own family. They also have a double mind, but there is a small difference between them and the Regals.”
“Any idea of what is that difference?” Shahzadi asked me. I looked at her and try to remember something about Regals and Amons that made them different.
“The Amons are telekinetics,” I said, thinking about the Amons I knew and the characteristics that I could think “also they have green eyes” I finished. Shahzadi laughed.
“Exactly, they are green-eyed telekinetics.”
“Telekinetics can move or manipulate different things, but you only can focus on one thing at the time. It is like when you have a weapon, let’s say a sword. You have your body moving and manipulating the weapon, but an Amon with a double mind can move his body and the weapon independently of each other, almost as if the weapon is moving by itself. So you can attack two different opponents at the same time, one with your body, the other with your telekinesis. It’s an incredible useful tool when you are in the middle of a fight.”
“It is, I’m sure you would love to have a double mind, right sister?” Shahzadi was smirking, teasing her sister like she always did, but something happened and suddenly the plant above us moved, and something fell on top of Shahzadi. “Hey!” was the only complain for what obviously was Sultana’s way of shutting up her sister.
“The next Royal Family to appear was the Vlad,” Sultana continued her explanation ignoring her sister. “The Vlads were at first primary empaths, but now you can find almost any kind of psychic among them, what really defines them is their uncommon ability to manipulate the energy around them, and in others. For example, Lobishomen can absorb the intensity of emotions around him to enhance his body. Lugat can drink blood and temporarily acquire the abilities of the owner of the blood.
“Kozlak can duplicate the powers of those he is in direct contact with, and when he’s dealing with someone without psychic abilities, he can render them helpless.” I didn’t know who Kozlak was, but Shahzadi spoke of him with proud. “Most Vlads have amber eyes that tend to be bloodshot, often because of a series of illnesses characteristic of them.”
“The Vlad Family claims to have come from the Regal Family, but some people don’t believe this because unlike the Amons they don’t have any ability in common with either the Regals or the Amons. But we Maximas are even more different than any of them.”
“You know what happens to a psychic who abuses his powers?” Shahzadi asked.
I thought for a while before answering. We were always warned in the Burrow never to abuse your powers, because it was dangerous, we were taught not to use them, unless we had no other choice. I remembered a fellow student that had abused his powers and lost control over them. Many were injured, and he ended up dead because of that.
“If you abuse your powers, you lose control of them and die.” I answered, expecting not to be wrong.
“That’s right, when you don’t know your limits you can get a psychic headache, and a headache can mean a lot of things, most of them dangerous.”
“The problem is that when a psychic has one of these psychic headaches the pain makes it easy to lose control over their powers and the psychic end up burning himself to death. It is like a time bomb, often destroying everything around them.
“That’s why I love being a Maxima,” said Sultana with a smile, “because we Maximas can use our powers to the extreme without losing control.”
“That doesn’t mean that we don’t have the same risk of going over the board and suffer a stroke or an aneurysm or something like that,” it was one of those weird occasions when Shahzadi sounded extremely serious.
“No, we have that risk as well, but we can push ourselves a little more than the rest. I have suffered psychic headaches, the ones that are a death sentence for most, but despite the pain, I can control my powers and after some rest, the pain eventually disappears. Sometimes the pain means that you cannot use your powers for a while, which is the opposite of what more people experience.”
“But how can you tell the difference between a normal headache and a psychic one?” What Sultana and Shahzadi were saying, if true, opened the door to a lot of possibilities. We have been taught not to use our powers unless necessary, but if what they were saying was true, then I could explore my powers without fear.
“You will know the difference, trust me.”
“So, our family was part of the Regal Family as well?”
Both sisters exchanged a look, as if they could talk to each other with their eyes. Finally, Sultana answered my question. “The Maxima Family comes from the Nova.”
“But I thought that the Nova family wasn’t really a part of the Clan, I thought they were warriors from other Clans that are accepted into our army because of their skills. I believed we had no blood tie between them and us,” as soon as I spoke I regretted it, if I was wrong in my assumption, then I was only making a fool of myself by saying that.
“That’s correct,” said Shahzadi, sitting in front of me, “and this is something that not everyone knows. Officially, we are descendants of the Vlad Family, just like they are supposed to be descendants of the Regal Family, but the truth is that our family was initiated by the empress Maxima, the partner of Emperor Maximus.”
Emperor Maximus was known for destroying the Revolutionary Clan, but he didn’t really destroy it,” explained Sultana.
“The Revolutionary Clan almost changed the balance of power in the territories. The rulers of that Clan, the siblings Greco and Greca were practically invincible.
“After the war ‘finished’ three things happened: The Revolutionary Clan disappeared. The Assassins Clan appeared, and Maxima became a general of the Imperial Clan and then the empress, without being records of her being part of the clan before that.”
“It has been erased from history, but there was something important about the revolutionaries; they all had red eyes. Right now, there are only two families in the Dark Empire with red eyes,” Shahzadi told me.
“And those families are the Maxima Family from the Imperial Clan and the Royal Family from the Assassins Clan,” finished Sultana.
That was a lot to process. Nobody said anything for a while. I didn’t dare to say anything, and they had finished telling me what they needed to say.
“We still have to see your level of training, but not now” Sultana finally broke the silence. She stood up, and Shahzadi followed her example. “Today I have a lot to do. You will have to eat alone. In the afternoon, I will send someone for you, so we can test you and see where you stand.”
We got out of the garden, and I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to follow them or try to get back to my room. Shahzadi solved my problem by calling an escort to guide me as they went the other way.
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