I heard voices. For a moment I was lost, out of place, and then I remembered everything that had happened in the last hours. I had stayed in front of my mother’s door, watching people rush in and out, asking for any news of her condition without success, until I fell asleep. Sometime during the night someone had moved me to the sofa and put a blanket on me. I wanted to open my eyes and go looking for my mother, but I was still half asleep and having trouble waking up.
“What I’m saying is that if you wanted, you could have prevented this, isn’t part of your job description to foresee attacks on the empire?” The voice was familiar, but my brain wasn’t up to speed and it took me a while to identify him as Kamose.
“I’m not omnipotent, I don’t decide what to see, the visions come to me” that was also a familiar voice, but one I was not able to identify as easily.
“It’s hard to believe you, something like this should have been on your radar” Kamose was angry, I could tell that much. “Is this one of your conspiracies?”
“I didn’t think this was going to affect you so much, after all, if Sultana dies, then you would have an opportunity to become the emperor”
I suddenly felt more awake, did that woman wanted my mother dead? Silence filled the room, I could hear my heart beating hard and started wondering if they could hear it too.
“That’s not how I want to become emperor. Besides, Sultana’s death would have looked bad for the Clan.”
“Your lips are giving me an answer that doesn’t match the reasons of your hearth. Is it so difficult to admit that you love Sultana?” that was when I finally identified Cerridwen as the woman talking to Kamose.
“You are crazy woman, I only loved one person and it was Suiko, the mother of my true sons, you know, the Regals.
“It was a mistake letting you grow beside your father,” she said with sadness in her voice, “now you won’t even admit that you love a Maxima or that you are the son of an Amon.”
“It wasn’t in your power to keep me from my father. I am his son, I’m a Regal, just like him” Kamose voice was controlled, but the rage hasn’t left him, “You may have given birth to me Cerridwen, but we are not the same, there’s nothing yours in me.”
“In the same way that you think that there is nothing yours in Kaiserin?” Cerridwen voice lowered, and I was having trouble hearing her. “Some day you will see your error, and I hope it won’t be too late.” They were interrupted then, someone was walking towards the room. “I have to go now. Try to sleep a little bit, you look tired.”
“Kamose,” I heard Dux, “Shahzadi asked me to bring Curare, is she still with Sultana?”
“Yeah, Shahzadi, Adze and Sultana’s slave are in there, along with some healers and doctors. Curare, are you here to help?” Kamose wasn’t being as controlled as usual, I could hear suspicion in his voice, I’m sure they did too.
“I was told that they were trying to save Sultana’s hand and I think I could help with that” I couldn’t recognize the voice, but I supposed it was Curare’s. “Do you have a problem Kamose?” I didn’t hear an answer, but the question was followed by a long silence. “Satisfied?” Asked the same voice after a couple of minutes.
“I’m sorry Curare, but I had to be sure of your intentions” Kamose didn’t sound sorry at all. “Do what you can to help her, I need to go, I still have to find everyone involved in this attack.”
I hear him leaving and people moving around. I tried to open my eyes and go with my mother, but suddenly sleep took hold of me. I woke up later when someone was shaking me awake.
“Kaiserin?” someone was calling my name, “wake up little one” I could open my eyes and found Shahzadi in front of me.
“How is my mother?” was the first thing I could think of.
“Much better, do you want to see her?” Shahzadi was smiling, but I could see she was tired.
“Yes, please, I want to see her.”
She took me to Sultana’s bedroom, there were a few doctors still hovering over her.
“Enough, I’m fine, just leave me alone” ordered my mother. She was not the same person I knew, she was pale and sounded tired. Black circles made her eyes look sunken.
“I brought Kaiserin, she wanted to see you,” explained Shahzadi as she urged me to get closer to the bed, “she has to return to her post tonight, so this is the last chance she will have to be with you in a while.”
“You did good sister” my mother managed a weak smile and extended her healthy hand to me.
“Are you ok?” I asked as I took her hand on mine.
“I will be soon, the best healers and medics in the empire will make sure of that” my mother glanced at her injured arm, “I just have to rest for a few days and I will be as good as new.”
“I was so afraid” I confessed, the images of the battle crossed my mind, “but you were great, the way you defeated that clan leader was amazing.”
“Well, she is the empress for a reason” Shahzadi said, “she didn’t get here because of her pretty face.”
“It’s just that I never dreamed that something like that was even possible, the way you killed him,” I could remember him falling in pieces. “How do you control something you can’t see like that?”
“What do you mean?” asked my mother as she tried to move so she could sit upright and have a better look at me.
“You can’t see air, but you can control it so easily and make it do so many things.”
“Close your eyes” asked my mother, and I did, “now extend your hand in front of you” I reluctantly released my mother’s hand I did what she asked, “now move it up and down” I wasn’t sure of the reason behind the exercise, but I did what she asked. “How can you move your hand if you cannot see it?”
I opened my eyes and stared at my mother, I was puzzled by her question.
“I don’t need to see my hand to move it, it’s part of me.”
“Just like the air around us is a part of me” my mother explained as I felt a light breeze caressing my face, “I have been connected to the air since I can remember. An airkinetic can feel the air around him and manipulate it as if it was an extension of his body. The air is part of who I am, when the bracelet activated and my power was cut off it felt as if someone had cut my arm or my leg off, I felt incomplete.”
“I wish I was as strong as you, my power seems so limited compared to yours” I couldn’t believe that someone as amazing and powerful as Sultana could be my mother.
“Your power is as strong or limited as you make it,” said Shahzadi. “We all have felt like you at one point or another, you just have to experiment, try different things, find some new ways of using your power so you can use its full potential.” She bent over me and whispered in my ear, “no one ever thought that empathy could be used as an attack weapon, but now I’m the second most feared warrior in the Empire.”
Someone knocked on the door and I turned to see who it was just as Kamose was stepping into the bedroom.
“I was told that you had sent everyone away, but I see that you are not alone” Kamose ignored Shahzadi and me as he approached Sultana’s bed. “If you are feeling up to it, I have some things to discuss with you.”
“Were you able to find out something else about yesterday’s incident?” asked Shahzadi.
It was just as I feared, there were another two clans involved. All of them are under custody right now, but we need Sultana to make the detentions official and to decide how we are going to punish them.”
“I don’t think that Sultana should be worried with this right now” Shahzadi frowned on Kamose.
“As empress I have to worry about it, I have to be able to work these problems” my mother was glaring at Shahzadi and Kamose. “Kamose, prepare an audience for tomorrow morning. I think I will be strong enough to face the other clans by then and I will have time to think about what I want to do.”
“Are you sure?” I could be imagining it, but Kamose sounded concerned about Sultana.
“I’ll be ok by tomorrow,” she sounded so sure.
“Have you eaten?” Kamose was now standing at the foot of the bed. It looked like he wanted to be closer, but couldn’t. The memory of a conversation between him and Cerridwen came to me and I wondered if it had been a dream or reality.
“I’m not hungry,” said Sultana.
“You need to eat if you want to get your strength back” he insisted.
“He’s right sister, I’ll go ask for something to eat” Shahzadi was heading out, but Kamose stopped her.
“No, I’ll go” before Shahzadi could say something he was out of the room.
“I’m really not hungry” repeated Sultana, complaining to Shahzadi since Kamose wasn’t there anymore.
“It’s always the same with you, every time you get injured you lose your appetite.”
“Well, it’s a good thing this doesn’t happen often, isn’t it?” My mother started to laugh, but then she stopped, it looked as if she was in pain.
Once again someone was knocking on the door. This time the one to enter was a woman. She was tall, with red hair and red eyes. Her uniform wasn’t one from the empire, it was dark green and looked vaguely familiar.
“Curare is good to see you” Shahzadi greeted the woman, “did you bring something for the pain?”
“I do have something to soothe the pain,” she said, “but I don’t think is a good idea to administer it right now.”
“Why?” Shahzadi didn’t try to hide her surprise.
“Because if I take the pain away, don’t you think the empress is going to get out of bed and start working again?” she glared at my mother “Someone like her needs the pain to incapacitate her in order to take a break and be reminded of her own mortality, otherwise she will go on believing she is invulnerable.
“That’s how little you think of me?” I was expecting rage, but she sounded almost playful as she addressed Curare.
“Just the opposite” the woman was being respectful in how she handled herself, but there was some familiarity between her and my mother that told me that they knew each other well, “I have the best opinion about you. And any doubt I could have about your strength and determination was erased yesterday. Not anyone could have done what you did, you had a clear disadvantage and yet you prevailed.”
“I could say the same about you” my mother replied, “you are amazing. Who could have told that an Assassin like you could be so good at healing someone?”
“If you want to know how to destroy a body you first need to understand how it is put together, that leads to a lot of knowledge on how it works, and how to fix it.”
“That sounds logical. But Curare, I think I haven’t yet introduce you to my daughter Kaiserin. Kaiserin, this is Curare, leader of the Assassins Clan.
“It’s an honor to meet you,” I bowed to her.
“Yes, my son talked to me about you” Curare was staring at me, like trying to decide what to think of me. “He told me about your fight with Caracalla. I don’t know why I pictured you differently. If it wasn’t for the stunt the Hunters and Technologicals pull off I know that your little fight would have been the talk of this reunion. I’m not sure if it was good or bad luck.
“Everything happens for a reason,” said Shahzadi.
“Anyway, I was just coming by to check on you and give you this,” she said to my mother as she gave Shahzadi some pills. “Could you make sure she takes one of this after every meal?”
“I will, don’t worry,” said Shahzadi as she examined the pills.
“Thanks for your help Curare, it’s always a pleasure to do business with you” my mother smiled at Curare.
“We have a strong alliance, one that goes beyond our clan’s duty,” she replied, “it would have been a pity if something had happened to you.”
The rest of the day was more of the same. I stayed at my mother’s side as different people paraded before her asking about her health. Most of them were turned back at the door, a few, like my mother’s siblings were allowed in. Sometimes my mother was warm and friendly, others cold and formal. I started to see the different faces she wore in different situations and with different people.
Shahzadi left after our meal and didn’t return until late in the evening with a couple of slaves that were carrying dinner.
“It is time for you to return to the barracks Kaiserin” indicated Shahzadi after we finished our food, “you have to return to your duties.”
“Will you be ok mother?” I didn’t like the idea of leaving without knowing if she was going to be fine, I wanted to make sure that she was recovering.
“Of course I will be fine, you don’t have to worry about me.”
After a couple of days of adventures and discoveries going back to my normal life seemed dull in comparison. But I was a sergeant and an heiress and I had a job to do.
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