I felt the connection with Echard as the world around me was draped in shadows; Ratri’s shadows. They were useful to confuse the enemy, but they were a problem for me, because I couldn’t use my telekinesis if I couldn’t see my target.
“Two steps in front of you” I heard Echard’s words on my mind, I prepared and pushed blindly with my mind. I heard Masani’s scream to confirm that I had hit my target.
“To the ground” came the warning and I threw myself down. As I heard a noise above me, someone had tried to attack me and someone else had tried to stop the attack.
The shadows disappeared and I saw Ratri on the ground next to me with Vasak above her. I took Vasak with my mind and threw him to the wall.
“Behind you” warned me Ratri and I turned to see Agis, as our eyes locked I felt my mind going numb, just a glance was enough for him to confuse me.
“I’ll get him, you take care of Geb” Echard had severed our mental connection, she was focusing her attention on fighting Agis.
Geb didn’t give me much time to act, I felt the floor shaking and then two big rocks moving my way. I used my powers to stop and dodge Geb’s attacks.
“Enough” finally came Boreas’s order. “It was a good practice. Go eat, rest a little, I want you back at 6:00 sharp. I will announce who of you will stay and who will be dismissed.”
“Good job girls” Agis told us when we started to walk away. “You gave us more trouble than I expected.”
“Trouble? We were sweeping the floor with you guys,” said Echard. “With a couple more minutes we would have won.”
“If that is what you want to think, go ahead” Agis put his arm around Echard’s waist and walked with her.
“I hope none of them get selected” Geb’s voice came closer than I expected, he was right next to me, “telepaths are annoying.”
“But they are useful once in a while,,” added Ratri approaching us. “Let’s go eat, I’m starving.”
“Yeah, let’s go.” It had been a week, in that time I had managed to gain the respect of my peers. Despite the incident with my mother, everyone thought that I was just a brat, an heiress used to get everything she wanted because of her lineage and not because of her abilities. After having fought most of them and proving my strength they had decided I wasn’t so bad after all.
Ratri, Geb and I walked together to the dining hall, Kozlak, Masani and Dux’s wolf were right behind us.
I went to pick up my food tray and then met the rest at our table. After the incident the first day, no one had bothered me again, it was in part thanks to Dux’s wolf, it was intimidating and most people tried not to get close to him.
“Is your friend coming today?” asked Kozlak as he sat across from me.
“I don’t know, Lamia usually has a different meal schedule,” she had joined us the first two days, we haven’t seen her since, but Kozlak’s interest was obvious.
“Well, whatever happens today I guess we will have the night off” continued Kozlak. “Do you know where I can find Lamia at night?”
“If the rumors are correct, she will be in colonel Peroz’s bed,” answered Dux. “Hi Kaiserin” he greeted me as he sat next to me. “Thanks for taking care of my wolf.”
“Thanks for lending it to me, it was a great help.”
“I have no idea what you mean,” he smiled conspiratorially as he put his arm around my shoulders in something like a hug.
“Hello Dux, I didn’t think you were the caring type” mocked Kozlak.
“I’m just taking care of my interests” his arm was still around me, protectively, “I have to take care of my little sister, because someday, when I become emperor, I will need her to take care of me.”
“Do you really think you will be the emperor?” Kozlak straightened and faced Dux defiantly. “I think I have a better chance at becoming emperor than you.”
“Keep dreaming lieutenant, will talk again when you become a general.”
“You are no general either captain.”
“But I’m closer to be one than you Kozlak.”
“You should worry about today first, then you can worry about becoming an emperor,” I didn’t like Kozlak fighting with Dux, I enjoyed the company of both and didn’t want them in a bad mood or distracted by silly fights.
“She’s right Kozlak, worry about today. Sultana is not going anywhere for a while, we still have a few years to worry about who will succeed her.”
I got the feeling that the rest of the group wasn’t comfortable with Dux’s presence, or the familiarity between him, Dux and me. But we were family and I wasn’t going to allow jealousy to affect my meal. Dux didn’t stay for long, he left with his wolf long before us. Without Dux’s wolf the walk back to the barracks seemed longer.
The time flew away and before I knew it, I was walking back to the training arena to find out who was going to make the cut. Almost half the group would have to go and I was afraid that I was going to be part of the group leaving. My nervousness increased when I arrived and saw Sultana and Shahzadi waiting for us.
“As you already know just eight of you will be part of this unit. We don’t want to waste our guest’s time, so I’ll cut to the chase. If I call your name step forward, those I do not call will have the rest of the day to decide if you want to go back to your old assignments or if you prefer to look for a spot here in the Palace.
Neither Sultana nor Shahzadi showed any emotion. I stole a glance to Kozlak and noticed the same lack of emotion on his face, the only thing betraying his nervousness was his closed fist, almost white with the effort.
“Officer Oslo from the Cohorte family” most couldn’t avoid a gasp of surprise for the fact that someone from one of the common families was admitted into the unit, Boreas ignored it. “Lieutenant Kozlak from the Vlad family” I could see the smile in Shahzadi’s face, the pride. “Lieutenant Masani from the Vlad Family, lieutenant Geb from the Amon Family, lieutenant Ratri from the Amon Family, lieutenant Echrad from the Regal Family, officer Agis from the Regal Family,” seven names had been called, there was just one spot left. Boreas paused for a moment and I could hear my heart beating so loud that I thought everyone could hear it, “and corporal Kaiserin from the Maxima Family.”
I took a step forward and looked at my mother. Unlike Shahzadi she didn’t look happy. The happiness over my acceptance quickly vanished. My mother wasn’t happy, she didn’t believe me capable of doing this.
“Are you sure of your selection Boreas?” my mother asked as she approached us.
“I’m sure they are the best options.”
“Those who weren’t mentioned can now leave” said Shahzadi, “tomorrow during the morning you can go the central and be reassigned or returned to your old assignments.”
Resigned, the rest of the group left the room. As I glanced at the rest of the unit, Kozlak saw me and smiled at me reassuringly.
“This is not the end, it’s just the beginning. Enjoy your victory the rest of the day. Congratulation” without further ado she left the place.
“Kozlak” Shahzadi called him, “I will be busy for a while, but I expect you to join me at dinner, you know where to find me” then she left after Sultana.
“The rest of the day is yours to do whatever you want” Boreas told us. “I expect you tomorrow morning as usual.”
I went back to my chambers. Unlike my previous accommodations the place where I was staying now had a common area for socialization, a hub to where our individual rooms where. I didn’t want to go to my room yet, I stayed in the common area while most were preparing to go or deciding what to do of their last free night in probably a long time. Many were leaving, I was staying, but somehow I felt as if it was an error, like I didn’t belong there.
“What are you thinking?” asked Oslo.
“I’m just thinking how surreal this is,” he looked at me with curiosity and I decided to elaborate. “After my fight with my mother and the way Boreas was treating me, I didn’t think I would make the cut.”
“I thought you were sure about your position in the group,” he said, “you are the empress heiress and a good warrior.”
“My mother doesn’t believe in preferential treatment, and sometimes I feel like everything is even harder because of her, like I have to prove something because I’m her heiress. You should know what I’m talking about.”
“Why? Because I’m not from a royal family?” he didn’t sound offended, which was good.
“Some people think less of those from common families, so usually you have to work harder to prove that you deserve the positions you get” I remembered the old complain. “Sometimes I feel the same, once people find out I’m Sultana’s daughter they assume that everything has been handled me, that I haven’t worked to get what I have.”
“That first day, when I saw those people bothering you I just assumed that you were one of those haughty and arrogant heirs, is not easy to make that many enemies,” he confessed, “but if I just get by the way you have treated us I would have never guessed that you had that impressive lineage. I have been asking around and I have heard some impressive stories about you. I have no idea how much is true and how much is just an exaggeration.
“Ask whatever you want to know” Oslo had been very aggressive during training the first days, but then his attitude towards me had changed. I wanted him to know me better, I wanted to have a good relationship with him.
“Why is that group, the one from the dining hall always lurking around you?”
“Well, Sina thinks that I had something to do with her being passed over for a promotion, but it was her own fault, she failed to protect the second wall. I discovered the bomb, she would have let it pass, is not an error easily overlooked.”
“So the bomb story is true?”
“It depends on which version you heard, sometimes people tend to exaggerate when they tell that one” I explained. “I saw some suspicious behavior and went to investigate, Sina was about to let them pass into the citadel but I had my suspicions. I acted on my gut and found the bomb. It was about to explode so I threw it out but it hit the first wall. That’s what happened.”
“That’s a lot. Although after watching you lifting that ice block the first day and fighting you I can believe the story.”
“Thanks,” I said because it felt as if he was trying to compliment me. He was making his mind about me and I think we were on good track.
“So that’s explain Sina, what about the others?”
“Some of them were my subordinates and think that I stole stopped their promotions. Mostly because that’s what Caracalla and his cronies told them. Rimsin and Farnaces think that they should be in my place, that I stole this opportunity from them, although they hated me since before I was chosen for this unit, they are part of Caracalla’s entourage.
“Who is Caracalla?” he wasn’t an heir, of course he didn’t know him.
“He is a haughty and arrogant heir” answered Agis behind us. I didn’t know how long he had been listening to us, but he decided to join our conversation. “He had taken over the heirs reunions. All of those younger than him and a few older ones had to submit to him. That’s until Lamia and Kaiserin appeared.
“Yeah, I heard the cannibal talking about it with Kozlak” I didn’t like Oslo referring to my cousin as the cannibal, but it was true and I didn’t want to antagonize him so I didn’t say anything.
“Well, that incident cost Caracalla his position” I explained, “many of his followers, those who were just afraid of him stopped listening to his orders after that. Those who are still loyal to him have done whatever they can to make me pay for that, to humiliate or hurt me” I looked at Agis, trying to remember him. “So you were there.”
“Yes, I was part of it. Not one of the guys who attacked you, but I was with Caracalla” I didn’t like the way he was staring at me, sometimes telepaths made me nervous because I ever knew what they were thinking or what they were hearing from me. “It was a relief that someone finally put him in his place. I’m thankful for that.”
“I don’t remember seeing you at the reunions” I was trying to remember him, but I just couldn’t.
“My sector is far away, and I’m not always able to come” was the explanation.
“There’s a bunch of you in the unit, right?”
“What do you mean a bunch of us?” asked Agis.
“Heirs” clarified Oslo.
“Kozlak, Geb, Agis and I,” I answered.
“And I think Echrad too,” added Agis.
“I what now?” asked Echrad who happened to be stepping into the common area.
“An heiress” said Oslo.
“Yeah, you could say that” she answered without elaborating.
She joined our talk for a while, but then she left to go see her brother and the rest of us went to our rooms. My thoughts kept drifting to Kozlak, I was jealous of him, he was celebrating with his mother, and I was alone.
I stayed in bed thinking about my mother, wondering why she was so mad at me, why she hadn’t invited me to the Palace to spend the day with her. I thought about going to the astral planes, but I decided not to. I hadn’t seen Cerridwen there lately and without her it wasn’t as appealing. When I finally fell asleep, I had weird dreams about my mother and Cerridwen.
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