I got to the border of the wall, so I could have a better sight of the people under me. As I moved I could feel the weight of my weapons; a pistol on my side and a crossbow on my back. It was a comforting feeling. I rarely used weapons, but the last year I had improved my aim, and it gave me a sense of security.
It was getting late. It was close to sunset, and even after two years living aboveground the spectacle of the setting sun still amazed me. My shift was about to end, and then I would be able to take time to enjoy the sunset on my own, or at least that was what I first thought until I saw Montu walking towards me.
“Greetings Kaiserin,” he said with a friendly smile, but I knew him well enough to see it was just an act.
“I’m working Montu, leave me alone.” I did my best to ignore him, but I knew by experience that it was a near-impossible task.
“I know that, I’m on guard duty too, but the shift is almost done, and I thought that we could talk.”
“I can’t talk while I’m still on duty.” Under us, I could see captain Dux crossing the outside gate with his animals close by. I suspected he was getting back from one of his recon missions. “I don’t want to be punished because you decided to distract me,” Dux looked up. I felt like he was looking at me.
“Don’t worry about that.” Montu walked closer to me, and I had to repress the urge to shove him away from me. I couldn’t make a scene, especially not when I risked drawing a captain’s attention. “I can take care of you Kaiserin, now that Cervo is gone, it’s only a matter of time before they give me the command over the squad, and if you’re good to me, I will be good to you.”
I didn’t like his words. I was getting tired of him and his advances. Cervo had kept him restrained and nothing had happened, but without him, it was getting more difficult to ignore him, if he got the sergeant’s insignia, it could become a nightmare for me.
“Why don’t you go bother someone else and leave me alone?” Dux had already crossed the distance between the walls and was now going through the gate. I had to resist the urge to walk to the other side and see him enter the training grounds. As I tried to suppress my curiosity about Dux I noticed something weird going on, a group of people, dressed like common merchants, was approaching the gate, but something was off. They didn’t act like merchants. They were moving with the ease of well-honed warriors. They were approaching in a truck that had fruits and flowers. I bend over the edge to get a better look. The group was trying to get to the other side. They were temporarily detained, but something was nagging at me.
“Don’t play hard to get Kaiserin, you’re only making things harder on you.” Montu grabbed my arm and pulled me to him.
I took a rope that was on the floor and grabbed it with my hand while I tied the other end around Montu’s arm.
“Could you hold on to this?” I asked as I jumped over the edge and started climbing down. I landed a couple of yards from the gate, surprised that Montu had held on to the rope instead of letting me fall.
I walked towards the group standing around the truck and talking with the gatekeepers. Some of them were watching me. It was another red flag. Merchants wouldn’t dare to look an imperialist on the eye.
Sina was on duty at the gate. It wasn’t good for me. We didn’t have a pleasant relationship. Every time we trained together I managed to defeat her, and she was a sore loser. I hoped that she would listen to me and be professional about this, leaving personal issues on the side.
“What’s going on?” I asked when I arrived at the gate, trying to be as polite as I could.
“This is none of your business Kaiserin.” She was angry. It wouldn’t be easy. Sina was more likely to fight me than the group in front of her, no matter how fishy their presence was.
“What are you transporting?” If Sina wasn’t going to cooperate with me, I had to try the leader of the ‘merchants’.
“Like she said, none of your business little girl, we’re here to speak with the gatekeeper, leave us alone and don’t bother us.” He wasn’t just moving like a warrior. He was talking like one too, and like one who was used to give orders and have them followed.
“What are these?” I asked to no one in particular, as I pointed the truck.
“They brought flowers and food for the royal banquet to be held after the test is over,” Sina told me as she handed the papers back to the leader of the group. “Everything seems to be in order, you can go.”
“Wait,” I insisted as I put my hand on the truck rack, “I really think we should check the contents of the truck.”
“I don’t need you to tell me how to do my work.” Sina was being unreasonable; she was more worried about making me look bad than doing a proper job. “Every vehicle is searched at the first wall gate. Everything is in order, now get back to your post.”
I could feel the hostility around me, from Sina and the group of merchants. I knew I was getting into trouble. I had left my post and picked a fight with the gatekeeper, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong, so I decided to go with my instincts. I pulled the rack with both my arm and my mind. The contents of the truck fell to the floor exposing a weird-looking artifact.
In a heartbeat, everything was chaos. I was surprised to see the artifact and didn’t notice the leader of the group next to me. He kicked me away from the truck as four of his companions wrestled with Sina and Sina’s backup, and another tried to drive the truck through the gate. As I tried to stand up, I saw the leader of the group taking something out of his belt: a trigger, the artifact was a bomb.
I didn’t have any time to think. I had to act. I had to protect the second wall; it was my duty. Without time to waste, I used my mind to get a hold of the artifact and applying all of my strength, I threw it away from the wall. The artifact had already crossed most of the distance to the outer wall when the bomb blew up. The force of the explosion drove me into the wall leaving me breathless.
I could hear screaming, but it sounded far away. A dust cloud was covering the field, and I couldn’t see more than a couple of feet away. I felt light-headed and couldn’t think straight. I was trying to focus, but my mind felt clouded, just like my vision.
Someone was walking towards me. I could only see something shiny in his hands. I tried to grab my gun, but my movements were awkward and slow. I saw the knife approaching me, but just as I thought I was going to be slashed a big wolf jumped over my attacker. Before the man had time to react, the wolf bite into his neck, tearing it apart and killing him in seconds. I stood up and saw the wolf; he was one of Dux’s companion animals. The wolf stared at me, and for a moment, I thought he was going to attack me, but he dismissed me and went to look for another target.
When the dust settled, I noticed the damage the bomb had done, a part of the outer wall was missing, from the fallen wall an enemy army had entered the area. None of them reached the second wall. Most of them were gunned down by the guards on top of the first and second wall. The rest of them were detained by the soldiers coming through the second wall’s gate.
The attack was over almost as soon as it started, the invaders were controlled before I had the chance to join the fight. I walked as I looked around, everyone on the ground level was covered in dust, some had a few superficial injuries, but other than that unharmed. I saw lieutenant Morrigan and the captains Dux and Pacorus looking at the first wall trying to assess the damage.
“Who is responsible for this?” Pacorus, Morrigan’s superior, asked to no one in particular. We all knew he was a man with a strong temper.
“It’s Kaiserin’s fault that the outer wall fell.” Sina looked unharmed, but mad, and she was willing to blame me for the mess.
“I’m Kaiserin” I walked closer to them. I couldn’t avoid it; I had to take responsibility for my actions. It didn’t matter if they wanted to blame the whole thing on me.
“Corporal Kaiserin. She’s a member of warrant officer Cervo’s old squad.” I was surprised that Morrigan knew who I was, but then I realized that maybe it was part of her job to know about her underlings.
“I just saw her on top of the second wall, how did she end up here in the middle of this mess?” I was right, Dux had seen me when he arrived.
“The people transporting the bomb looked suspicious, so I left my post to investigate.” I felt so insignificant in front of them and their stares were making me nervous, “I…, when I found out the bomb I just reacted, I wanted to throw it as far away from the second wall as I could, I wasn’t trying to damage the outer wall. I was just trying to do my job.”
“The second wall is more important than the outer wall, but the damage done to it was big.” Pacorus wasn’t paying attention to me anymore. He started walking away. “We’ll need a few days to cover the area, and I guess a couple of weeks to fix the wall.”
Dux walked with Pacorus. I wasn’t sure what was happening. Morrigan stayed with me instead of going with the captains.
“You did a good job today. You noticed a problem, attacked it and found the best solution.” Morrigan didn’t look mad at me. I felt relieved to be out of trouble.
“Good job?” Sina said. “She blew the outer wall away.”
“And what would you have done Sina?” Morrigan asked. “Let the bomb explode on the second wall and leave the barracks exposed?”
That was exactly what Sina was doing before my intervention, but unlike her, I didn’t feel the need to tell on my colleagues to make myself look better.
“I think that we need to take a look at your injuries corporal.”
It wasn’t until Morrigan mentioned it that I noticed the burning sensation on my arms, I looked at them and noticed a bunch of little cuts caused by the metal and wood thrown at me by the explosion. I also noticed for the first time a piece of wood embedded in my leg. It was weird that I didn’t feel it.
“Follow me,” ordered Morrigan and I complied, as I started to walk I noticed a numbing sensation on my leg and a sudden tiredness. “Cervo always had a good opinion about you,” said Morrigan. “You constantly excel in the tasks assigned to you, and you are the one who had shown the most improvement in training during the time you have been with us. How you reacted to the threat just now have shown me that you can think under pressure. Those are good qualities for a leader to have.”
I wasn’t sure why she was telling me that, but I felt good about her words. I couldn’t understand Morrigan’s motivation for talking to me or helping me. I had seen her many times before, but it was the first time talking to her. We were on the other side of the second wall, and I could see the effects of the attack. The training sessions were suspended, and soldiers were marching through the gate to secure the wall. We walked toward the third wall. It was just a little more than half a mile away, but by the time we reached the gate to the citadel I was exhausted. We walked into the citadel, and I had to suppress my surprise. Most soldiers never walked across the third gate. I knew that there was a better infirmary in the citadel, but it was exclusive for officers and extreme injuries.
“It’s been a week since Cervo was promoted, and you’re still without a sergeant. I’m sure you’ve been wondering about it. Who do you think would be best as Cervo’s replacement?” she asked, breaking the silence and my thoughts.
“It’s not my place to think about Cervo’s replacement,” I didn’t want to think about it. “I believe that whatever decision you take on the matter will be a good one.” I felt intimidated by Morrigan, and I didn’t know why she was questioning me.
“So, if I designate Montu as the new sergeant you think it will be a good choice?” I couldn’t avoid shivering at the thought of Montu as my superior and Morrigan noticed my lapse, I glanced at her and noticed she was smiling. “That’s what I thought. Here we are.”
We had arrived at the citadel’s infirmary, as I looked at it, I noticed the differences. It was better staffed and bigger; everything looked cleaner and nicer. Slaves walked in and out of rooms, it wasn’t like our infirmary where all the beds were lined in a single room with just a couple of private rooms to conduct treatments and operations. A soldier beside the door, took a look at Morrigan and immediately signaled one of the slaves to come to us. He brought a stretcher, so he could carry me to one of the rooms. I looked at Morrigan waiting for her to tell me what to do, but she was already talking to another person, a very imposing man, the one responsible I assumed. Both of them turned toward me at the same time. The man was nodding to something Morrigan was telling him, then Morrigan left without a word to me.
“Rest kid, by tomorrow you will be as good as new.” The man was staring at me. I was trapped by his eyes. I started to feel cold, and darkness descended upon me.
Copyright © 2013 | Kaiserin Novel