It had been an interesting morning, I got a lot of information. After the breakfast I went back to my room alone, but it was ok, I had a lot to think about. I now had a family, one that thought that I was special.
The only thing that worried me was my mother’s parting words: “Be careful of whom you trust.” As an heiress, as Sultana’s heiress I had a target on my back. I remembered Baal and Montu and took them as an example of how crazy people could get about power and succession. I knew that Baal wouldn’t have thought twice about killing me to ensure his son’s victory if it wasn’t for the presence of the Heads of the Families during battle. I allowed myself a moment to think that my mother’s actions that day were because of her love for me, and not because she had felt offended by Montu’s words. That morning, during breakfast, I had felt a deeper connection with my mother, I had felt loved and appreciated. But eventually my mother and her siblings had to go meet the rest of the generals and the leaders of the Allied Clans and I had to go back to my room.
At lunch time one of the slaves brought me some food, a couple of hours later one of the guards took me to a huge room. It was beautiful and bigger than any room I had seen. The roof was at least three times the usual height, and the space could easily fit two or three times the barracks. But the central piece of the room, the one that caught my eyes was the throne. The throne was tall and decorated with elaborated designs and precious stones. From the door to the throne ran a metal corridor, to the left the floor looked like rock and to my right like wood, it was weird, but it made for an interesting sight. Behind the throne, on the wall, hung the banner of the Clan, on the wall to the right side of the throne I could see the banners of the 9 families, on the opposite wall there were more banners, some I recognized as some of the Allied Clans.
There were many people in the room, I figured that about 200 people were already there, I had the feeling that I was late for the reunion. I started walking without knowing where to go, I noticed a young man sitting on the floor in front of the throne. Most of the younger attendants were around him. I was so focused on that group that I didn’t notice where I was walking until I heard a low growl and felt the warm breath of a wolf. I think I jumped a little, startled by the beast, I heard people laughing at me.
“No need to be afraid, he doesn’t bite,” told me Dux.
“I have seen him bite, I have seen him kill” I said, “but I’m not afraid, I was just surprised.”
“Interesting girl,” said the young man besides Dux. His eyes as well as his hair were deep red. A live snake was wrapped around his neck. I was more afraid of that snake than of Dux’s wolf.
“Yes, yes she is,” confirmed Dux with a smile. I noticed Net and Rani behind them talking to a few other heirs that didn’t seem part of the Clan. “Did you notice some repairs being done on the outer wall?” asked Dux, the young man nodded. “Well, it’s because of her, she broke it.”
“Your walls shouldn’t be so good if a little girl like her can break them,” was his answer.
“It was because a bomb, I tried to throw it out, but I couldn’t.” I tried to defend myself.
“An attack?” his snake hissed at the word.
“That’s right, by herself, and from the top of the second wall, she spotted the enemy and figured out the attack. She stopped the guys smuggling the bomb and threw it half a mile using just her mind. That’s how she broke the wall.”
I felt my face warm, I knew I was blushing. By the way Dux was telling the story, it sounded a much bigger deal that it really was.
“I don’t remember you talking so high of someone before Dux” commented the man.
“Well, is just that little Kaiserin is like a sister to me,” if I wasn’t blushing by then I sure was after his words. “But how rude of me, I haven’t even introduced you two. Dendro, this is Kaiserin from the Maxima family, Kai, let me introduce you to Dendro, heir to the Assassins Clan.
“It’s an honor to meet you,” I say along with a little bow.
“And I’m glad I got to know someone as interesting as you.”
“Yeah, yeah, it’s great to have you here and all that, but this is a private gathering” interrupted Net, “grownups only. Why don’t you go over there with the other kids, you’ll have more fun that way.”
“Be nice Net” warned Dux, but at the same time he just turned around and walked away, leaving me there by myself.
I started to walk towards the larger group, where most of the ‘kids’ were. As I approached them, I noticed something going on. A circle of people had gathered around a girl and two guys. One of them had her hold down by her arm while the other had grabbed her by the hair, both were trying to force to kneel in front of the young man seated in front of the throne.
“What’s going on?” I asked the closest person I could.
“Caracalla asked the new girl to kneel in front of him, you know, show him her respect, but she doesn’t want to” the guy explained.
Not even the both of them could handle the girl, so the young man, Caracalla I guessed, sent another one to help. From somewhere, the new guy, produced a baton and lifted it in preparation to strike the girl. I couldn’t contain myself, it was so unfair and I decided to intervene. Using my mind, I got hold of the baton and taking it from the new guy I struck the hand of the guy holding her by the hair.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” asked Caracalla.
“No, what do you think you’re doing?” I answered. “Three against one is not a fair fight.”
As soon as the girl got free from the man I had struck she had attacked the other guy and she was now free. She came closer to me as a bunch of guys started to close in on us.
“Thanks” the girl told me, “I’m Lamia from the Vlad family by the way.”
“Kaiserin from the Maxima family” I answered automatically. “What’s going on here? Why did they attack you?”
“You must be new too,” said Caracalla, “so you don’t know the rules here. I’m in charge. If you want to be here you need to show me respect and do what I tell you to do.”
“Caracalla” someone was trying to get his attention, “there’s something you really need to know” I recognized Trajan by Caracalla’s side. He was trying to talk to him, but Caracalla was not paying him any attention.
“I will give you both one last chance” he said, his voice final, “kneel before me or face the consequences.”
“I have no intention to kneel before anyone” I said a little more forceful that I intended, “I don’t know you and I don’t have to respect you.”
“I’m not afraid of you,” was Lamia’s answer, “you’re nothing but a coward who is incapable of doing things for himself. If you think so highly of yourself, why don’t you try to come for me?”
“Someone like me doesn’t need to dirty his hands with crap like you” Caracalla made a signal with his hand and more people started to circle around us.
Trajan was trying to talk to Caracalla, unsuccessfully. I noticed that Vikomt was standing close to him too, trying to get unnoticed. But I couldn’t waste time observing them, I had to concentrate on the people about to attack us. Remembering previous fights I decided to use my mind to grab one of the attackers and throw him toward a couple of guys trying to get to me from the other side. I blocked a few hits from an older guy and then threw him away. I turned to find that they had Lamia submitted again, a couple of Regals had her under some kind of trance. I felt movement behind me and turned in time to see a projectile coming to me, I used my mind to change its course towards Lamia’s attacker and free her once again.
Both of us were strong enough to keep them at bay for a long time. Caracalla was by then shouting to get more people to attack us, but a large group was content to wait on the sidelines, and less and less people seemed willing to obey him. I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to last much longer when Caracalla decided to join the fight. He had gotten a sword and was coming to us. My instinct told me that once I handled him the madness would stop.
Using my arm and a telekinetic shield I blocked Caracalla’s attack. I kicked him, hoping to get him to throw his sword with no luck. A stab of pain in my neck told me that he was trying to get into my mind. I lifted my mental defenses as well as I could, but the attack was at least distracting me. It was very difficult to defend myself from him and his cronies had Lamia cornered again. She was doing a good job of fending them off, but there were too many of them. Caracalla’s attacks were doing a lot of damage and he was getting confident. He tried to cut me open with his sword, but I used my mind to take hold of the sword and change its trajectory, stabbing through Caracalla’s foot with it.
Caracalla’s scream filled the place, I didn’t know if it was from pain or surprise. He tried to pull the sword out, but I used my telekinesis to keep it in place. Trajan and a young woman went to help him. Even the people attacking Lamia backed off to see how their boss was.
I heard some people laughing and clapping, I was surprised to see Dux and others from the grownups group had come closer to see the fight.
“Impressing as always my dear Kaiserin” Dux told me, smirking, “I think your mother will be very proud of you.”
And just with those words I felt like any bruising was worth it.
“What happened here?” asked a man with thunderous voice as he crossed the crowd.
“Daddy!” cried Lamia as she closed the distance between them. “That arrogant prick and his friends attacked me. I was just defending myself.”
“Why did they attack you?” The man was impressive, tall and strong, with a thick beard and long black hair. His amber eyes injected with blood marked him as a Vlad.
“Because I wouldn’t submit to him,” she answered in a strong confident voice.
“And you stopped Caracalla?” he seemed to know him and was surprised.
“Not me daddy,” Lamia quickly said, “my new allied Kaiserin did,” she pointed to me. “She wouldn’t submit to him either. We both stood up to him.”
“Interesting,” said a voice I immediately recognized as my mother’s. “Why I’m not surprised by this?”
“Empress,” Caracalla greeted my mother with a shallow bow, “I was just trying to establish some sense of hierarchy. I was just teaching them a lesson.”
“It seems that you were the one who received that lesson,” my mother said, “I hope you learned it this time.”
I noticed that some of the generals I had met during breakfast were there, along with a few I hadn’t seen before. Everyone seemed very interested with the scene. Kamose was at the back, near the door, with two other Regals, and by the aggressive postures they had it looked like they were about to fight. Being telepaths it was possible they were fighting with their minds.
“I thought that I had made myself clear last year” my mother spoke condescendingly, “everyone here are equals, this is an opportunity to socialize without being troubled by things like rank or lineage.”
“Lineage is everything, if being here is about anything, it should be about knowing your own place,” was Caracalla’s defiant answer.
“And according to you how this hierarchy should be established?”
“It should follow the same structure here than on the outside. The descendants of the higher ranked should have higher rank here. The children of the emperor, generals, colonels.”
“But then, according to your line of thought Dux would be the one with the higher position in here, not you.”
“He is not your real son, everyone here knows that he is just your pity project.”
Before Caracalla finished talking Dux’s wolf was already running towards him ready to attack, but at my mother’s signal the wolf stopped.
“Don’t waste your energy on him Dux. You are stronger and should be more intelligent,” my mother walked to the wolf and started petting him, the wolf relaxed under her touch. “If not Dux, then who?”
“Since you don’t have any heirs and my father is the next in command the honor should be mine, as I am his first born.”
“And who exactly said he is next in command?” Asked Shahzadi outraged. “I think that many could agree that I’m second in command.”
“Same thing, you don’t have a real son, having a Vlad heir is the same as not having any at all.”
“Caracalla!” warned Kamose from across the room, he was going to say something else but the others stopped him.
“Maybe you are right” my mother finally said, “you do raise an interesting point, why don’t we test your theory and see how well it works,” she had a wicked smile on her face, I didn’t know how Caracalla wasn’t seeing it. “Kaiserin, come here” I walked to her and stood in front of her, facing Caracalla. “I think it’s time to establish ranks, the lower ones should bow to the true heir. Kneel.” I was surprised by her words, did I really had to submit myself to him? No, my mother’s eyes weren’t on me as she issued the command, she was looking at him.
“Come on little girl, you heard the empress.”
“I don’t think she’s talking to me.” My mother’s hands around me gave me confidence.
Around me some people were giggling, some were murmuring, not everyone knew what was going on.
“That’s what I was trying to tell you!” Trajan had finally reached Caracalla’s side, “she is the empress daughter.”
I was getting used to the reactions, as soon as Trajan said it, I could hear the surprised exclamations and frantic murmurs around us.
“No, that’s impossible!” Caracalla’s face was transfixed by rage. He had now realized that my mother had set him up, he had fell right into her trap.
“It’s not.” Kamose had finally shaken off the other Regals and was walking towards us, he was really mad. “The kid really is Sultana’s daughter.” When he reached us he grabbed my mother by the arm and tried to pull her closer to him so he could talk to her, but she easily resisted him and shove him away.
“I warned you to talk to your son about his attitude, don’t you dare trying to fix his mess for him,” she warned him.
“I think she told you to kneel.” Lamia wasn’t paying attention to my parents, she was looking at Caracalla, “you don’t want to disobey your empress, do you?” She was enjoying the situation more than me. He has tried to humiliate her and now he was facing an even worse situation, because he was now in the presence of not only the heirs, but the empress and the generals of the empire.
Caracalla’s rage was obvious, plain in his face. His followers were unsure what to do.
“Do you need help?” Lamia’s father walked to him and putting his hand on his shoulder pushed him to the floor, ‘helping’ him to a kneeling position.
“Tepes!” just that word conveyed all the anger that Kamose was feeling, but my mother stepped between the two of them.
“He brought this on himself Kamose,” it was all the warning she gave him.
Once Caracalla was on his knees before me, all the rest of the heirs followed him. I felt weird, awkward, I didn’t feel like I deserved the attention. I was great to see Caracalla doing what he was trying to force on me, he had asked for it, but not the rest.
“This is not really necessary” I told Dux stopping him from doing the same, at the same time I grabbed Lamia to help her stand up. “I don’t really need others to humiliate themselves to feel better about myself. I know who I am and what I’m worth.” At least now I was sure of whom I was, Sultana had acknowledged me before the Clan.
“Thanks for helping me” Lamia told me with a smile, “I think I owe you one.”
“And history repeats itself” I could hear Tepes whispering to my mother behind me. “I still remember those days when you would have my back and I would do the same for you little sister.”
“It’s all fun and all, and believe me, I could stay here all day watching Caracalla on his knees choking on his own rage, but we don’t have time,” Shahzadi urged my mother to wrap things up.
“You’re right,” my mother walked to the throne and sat on it.
Kamose walked to Caracalla, and after shoving Tepes aside, he helped his son stand up.
“I know that is traditional for the Heirs Reunion to take place is the Throne room” my mother said from her seat, “but especial circumstances require for this reunion to move to another location. Dux, Kaiserin and Trajan, you are welcome to stay if you wish so. Heirs from the Allied Clans, please stay here. The rest will be escorted to another room.”
“You will pay for this humiliation with your blood heiress” Caracalla told me as he limped by me on his way outside the room. The certainty and hate in his voice made me shiver.
“Don’t worry about him” Dux told me, “he’s brave only when he has a small army to hide himself behind.
“You did a good job of showing him his right place,” Dendro was again standing next to Dux.
“I didn’t really do anything,” it was true, I haven’t.
“He will remember this every step of the way, literally.” Dux was laughing. “That wound on his foot has to hurt.”
I could avoid a giggle to escape from me thinking about it. Remembering Dux trying to get the sword off his foot was funny.
“I get why she told you and the girl to stay,” Dendro was telling Dux, “but why Trajan?”
“Because after what happened with Caracalla Sultana need something to soothe Kamose,” was Dux’s response. “Kamose is fierce in protecting his sons.”
“I was surprised by Tepes” Dendro continued, “I never picture him as the family guy, but as soon as he saw that little girl he ran to check on her.”
“Yeah, I wasn’t expecting that either.”
“So Tepes is also Sultana’s brother?” I asked Dux and he gave me an affirmative nod. “Why wasn’t he this morning?”
“Well, Tepes is Mara’s son, but not Tzar’s” he explained, “and he is really strong, he makes other a little bit nervous.
As we talked, we had moved to one side of the room. I saw that the generals were there too, even Lugat and Cerridwen, she greeted me across the room, but made no effort to approach me. On the opposite side most of the Allied Clan’s heirs were gathering, and some older people that I assumed were the Allied Clan’s leaders.
“My parents are there,” said Dendro as an impressive couple entered the room and started walking toward the rest of the Clans leaders, “I’ll see you later Dux, nice to meet you little heiress.”
“What’s going on?” I asked Dux once we were alone.
“I’m not sure,” he sounded concerned.
We watched in silence as people gathered there, by then our side was smaller than the other one and I felt like the Allied Clans had the advantage over us and that made me a little uneasy. The last to cross the door before it shut down was an average guy. Dark hair framed his face and his dark skin had the texture of rocks. Every one of his steps echoed in the room, it sounded like someone far bigger than him was walking.
“What took you so long? I was starting to think you had developed cold feet” he said to my mother in a voice too strong for a man his size.
“A challenge was issued,” my mother’s voice resonated in the room, “Ende, from the Hunters Clan has decided he no longer wants to be under the Imperial Clan’s protection. Furthermore, he decided to fight over control of the Empire. The rules establish that any challenge like this must be taken. A fight to the death will resolve who is going to rule over the Empire.”
Copyright © 2013 | Kaiserin Novel