After my night with Rimsin I thought I was going to die, but I wasn’t that lucky, one of his men took me to the infirmary where they fixed me up. Agmong had obtained what he wanted, his group was going to be part of that mysterious battle and he didn’t want me to stay behind in case he needed to use me again, so he told the healers and doctors to do their best to heal me enough so I could travel with them.
The New World Clan had attacked the Assassins Clan and they had called to the empire for help. I didn’t know the details and it wasn’t really something that I cared, I just knew that we were going to be in the crossfire. If I was lucky it could be my last battle, but luck hasn’t been on my side the last few months. Or was it years? Time had lost meaning a lot time ago…
Just a small part of the sector’s army was moving, most of the warriors heading for battle were coming from the sectors around the Palace and the Palace’s best warriors. Just the best for the most loyal ally of our Clan. Sector 32 was an especial case, we were going because they needed cannon fodder. But it was fine by me, the probabilities of dying were higher for us, but I tried not to get my hopes up.
The first couple of days we traveled without stopping, we had to catch up with the main force, but by the third day we finally found them and could stop to rest. The camping site was huge, almost as big as a city, many groups had theirs camps one next to the other. I went to my tent and as I was getting ready to get some rest Agmong appeared.
“Sklave, come here” Agmong was still in a good mood and I didn’t want it to end, so I obeyed as fast as I could. “Rimsin wants you again. Take your travel cloak and cover your face with the hood. Rimsin doesn’t want anyone looking at you.”
“Please don’t,” I knew I shouldn’t have spoken as soon as I did, but the idea of going back to Rimsin frightened me more than Agmong’s fury. “I don’t want to go back to him.”
“But is not about what you want Sklave” he said in a cold, deadly tone, “this is about what I want.”
Agmong pulled my cloak’s hood so it covered most of my face. I let him guide me across the different camps. Every squad had his own bonfire. We walked past several groups and I could see that where we were the ranks of the people around the bonfires was higher than before, the outer camps were for people from the lower ranks, to the center were the higher officers, Rimsin should be closer now. Even Agmong looked a little bit nervous, we were surrounded by some of the most powerful warriors of the empire.
It had been a long walk already and I didn’t know how much we would have to walk before reaching our destination. We walked past a bonfire were a group of people was laughing, someone was laughing heartily. Something in that laugh was familiar, I don’t know why it made me think of a landslide or earthquake, but before I could think more about it the pain in my head started, it was so strong that my vision darkened and for a moment I thought I was going to pass out. I did my best to stay conscious, but I stumbled and fell.
“Get up!” ordered Agmong, but I was feeling awful and couldn’t conjure the strength to obey. “It’s not time to rest, get up right now” I felt the whip on my back, but it didn’t have the electricity bite, so it wasn’t as bad as it used to be.
I then noticed the silence around us, we had attracted the attention of people around us. Agmong’s good mood was quickly disappearing and I didn’t want to be punished in such a public place so I did my best to get up and keep walking.
“What’s going on here?” the voice asking was familiar too. The pain kept getting worse, I didn’t know why, I thought I had it under control, until Rimsin arrived, and then this.
“I’m just taking one of my soldiers to meet a captain, but don’t worry Sir, everything is under control” said Agmong.
“This is none of your business Agis, I will handle this,” said Rimsin, “it’s me they’re looking for.”
Agis? The voice, even the name was familiar, but I didn’t know why. The pain was unbearable, a whimper escaped my lips before I could try to suppress it, my head was about to explode and I put my hands on my temples as I fell on my knees, suddenly too weak to stay on my feet.
“Stop doing that Sklave” Agmong was kicking me, trying to get me to stand up, but his kicks were nothing compared to the pain in my head “get up, stop behaving like that.” Agmong was furious, he grabbed me by the neck and pulled me upright.
“No!” yelled Rimsin, “Don’t take the hood off!”
But as Agmong shook me and pulled me, the hood slid off and my face was uncovered. I saw Rimsin standing in front of me, next to him was another captain, the man he was discussing with. There was something about him… our eyes locked for a moment and I lost myself in his blue eyes, I saw in them surprise and then incredulity. It was then that the pain got the best of me and I passed out.
“Kaiserin! Kaiserin, wake up!” someone was holding me in his arms, shaking me, he was calling someone, someone I felt as if I should know. The pain was too much, I didn’t want to move, I wanted to go to sleep, I needed some rest. “Please, wake up,” he begged, the voice didn’t sound like that of a captain, it was sweet and worried. But I just kept my eyes closed, I needed to concentrate on keeping the pain at bay.
“This is all a misunderstanding captain” Agmong was saying, and for the first time I could hear fear in his voice. “She is Sklave, she is not who you think she is, you are mistaking her for someone else.”
“It’s pointless, she is no longer who you knew” said Rimsin.
“You knew about her” accused the other captain. I felt as he gently lowered me to the floor. He was very careful with me, as if I was made of glass and any movement was going to break me. “You knew she was alive.” He said with venom in his voice.
“Kaiserin died a long time ago, what you see is a lowly soldier named Sklave.”
“What happened to her?” I heard a hit and then someone falling. “Tell me what I want to know or I will rip it out of your mind.”
“What happened is that Caracalla got tired of her” Rimsin’s words made the pain worse, if that was even possible, I felt as if I was going to die. “You better forget about this, forget about her. Caracalla took you back once, if you defy him again, you will regret it, he won’t be so forgiving this time.”
I started crying, I felt the tears running and my body was shaking in rhythm with the sobbing.
“I already regret it, if I knew Kaiserin was alive I would have never accepted being part of Caracalla’s group.”
“Look Agis, if what you want is your lover back we can share her” I hear another hit and then a struggle. “You will regret this Agis” yelled Rimsin, “if you think you can defeat me you are gravely mistaken.”
“Do you need help Agis?” asked another familiar voice, a woman’s voice.
“Kaiserin?” called another male voice. I wished they would stop calling her, hearing that name made the pain explode in my head, as if someone was pounding me with a rock. “Is really you?” the male voice, also painfully familiar was closer, someone cupped my face and gently stroked my cheek. I wondered who he was.
“Sir?” asked Agmong and I immediately tensed, I was in so much pain already, I wouldn’t be able to endure Agmong’s punishment. “I’ll deal with her, she’s mine.”
“Yours!?” roared the man. “Are you responsible for her condition? What the hell did you do to her?”
I opened my eyes and saw Agmong being attacked by a rock wall that had risen from the floor. I could see him angry, but mostly scared. He walked back and then turned and ran away, leaving me there. I wasn’t sure if I should be grateful for his departure or frightened by the possible consequences of being there alone, I had no idea what those men could do to me. The light of the bonfires was hurting my eyes, I wanted to close them again, but before I had to see the man that had scared Agmong away. It was a huge mistake, I looked at him and it was more than I could take, I passed out again.
When I came back, I was lying on soft pillows. The headache was still there, but in more manageable levels.
“We can’t do anything until we are a hundred percent certain that it’s her” someone was saying. “If we are mistaken, we are going to have a lot of trouble.”
“Of course it’s her! You are her cousin, you should know that better than anyone else,” said the woman from before.
“I’m just saying that she could be someone that for some reason looks like her, you know Kamose was the one who said she was dead” at his words the pain spiked and I screamed as I lifted my hands to my temples.
“What’s wrong?” asked the man that had fought with Agmong, but I couldn’t answer him, I couldn’t work any words.
I felt strong arms embracing me and I panicked. What was he going to do to me? Agmong has ordered me to go to Rimsin, what would he do if he found out that someone else had taken me? I would be disobeying him, he would punish me. I struggled, thinking it was going to be pointless, he would do whatever he wanted with me and I had to take it, but I was afraid of Agmong and I tried to stop him. As soon as I resisted him, he let me go.
“What is wrong with her?” someone asked.
“I don’t know yet” answered the captain Agis, “she doesn’t answer when we call her and Rimsin wasn’t very communicative. We focused more on creating an alternative memory of this night so he wouldn’t keep fighting us rather than gathering intel.”
“Why? You should have found out what happened,” said the man next to me. “She was supposed to be dead, and now we found her like this, broken and abused and you don’t even bother on trying to find out what happened?”
“We have to go inside her mind,” said the woman “is obvious that they did something to her, we have to find out what.”
I was used to hear people talking about me like I couldn’t hear them, but the conversation was scaring me, I had no idea what they were talking about and I knew that if I didn’t go back to Agmong he was going to be furious, his punishment was already going to be awful, I didn’t want it to get worse. I hadn’t had a headache like that in a long time and I was feeling weak and vulnerable, more than usual.
When I felt the touch of the minds I didn’t even try to stop them, it was going to be a waste of energy. I haven’t been able to stop Agmong and apparently they were even stronger than him.
I was afraid of what I would see so my eyes were still closed, suddenly I found myself in a dark labyrinth with walls of stone. I didn’t feel like I was moving, but the labyrinth was changing as if I was walking through it, it was as if I was dreaming or as if I had opened my eyes to a new reality.
“Geb!” someone yelled, “the idiot you sent looking for me was saying a bunch of crap and making no sense, I need you to explain why you summoned me.”
I turned towards the voice and suddenly I was seeing two different things, on one side, I was still in the dark halls of the labyrinth, one the other, I was in a big tent, lying on the floor, looking up to a gorgeous woman. The woman noticed me and I could see on her face the same look I had seen on the captain, surprise, incredulity and the genuine horror.
“What have they done to you?” she asked as she kneeled next to me and cupped my face.
The pain spiked again, blackness crawled the edge of my vision and for a second I thought I was going to pass out. In the dark hallways, I saw the walls around me changing, one of them was stretching. I started screaming, from pain and fear and confusion. As I tried to back off the door I hit someone, another person walked past me with a short sword in his hand. He used the sword to cut the stretching material covering the wall to reveal a door. The door opened and part of the pain vanished. Not knowing how I had done it, I was on the other side of the door, inside what looked like a small vault. In the center of the vault there was a chest, it was moving as if something alive was inside and trying to get out. I got closer and touched the chest, it exploded with a bang, two figures stepped between the explosion and me, and I saw their bodies bursting into flames and being consumed. As they disappeared, the chest opened.
I heard a couple of screams, I tried to see where they were coming from. I could still see the woman in front of me, but she was watching something behind me, apparently the other woman and two of the men had collapsed.
At the same time in the vault I approached the chest and saw the crystal inside, images were shown on the crystal surface, images of the woman in front of me, or at least of a younger version of her. Finally the images stopped and both the chest and the vault melted away, finishing with the weird double vision. I saw the woman again, surprised by my memories of her that I now had.
“Inionri?” The name came to my lips, without pain. “What’s going on Inionri?”
“Oh Kaiserin! I can believe you are here, alive” she looked on the verge of tears, she let the hand she had on my face drop to take my hands on hers.
“Who is Kaiserin?” I asked and saw the change in her face. She turned serious and I could see her looking at someone behind me. She was going to say something, but someone interrupted her.
“Don’t say a thing” ordered the captain, Agis. “No one say anything” I was turning to see him “Don’t look back!” he ordered and I let my eyes fall immediately, scared. “You can look at Inionri, she’s safe, concentrate on her, don’t think about us.” Not to think, obey. I knew how to do that.
“I need and explanation” said Inionri as she glowered at the captain.
“Yeah, I agree with her,” added one of the men.
The voices were awakening the pain that had faded after the weird episode with the door.
“Someone blocked her memory. Anything that provokes her a memory also causes her pain” explained the captain. “Names, situations, faces. That’s why she passed out when she saw me, the memory caused her so much pain that she couldn’t take it.”
“But she remembers me” pointed out Inionri.
“We were inside her mind when you arrived, we could protect her from part of the damage and she was able to recover most of her memories of you. But you saw what happened to them, and they received just part of the pain she feels.”
“What are you trying to say?” Inionri was mad, I could see it, “that there is nothing we can do?”
“That’s not what I said, we just have to look for the best way to help her” the captain explained.
“And do you think you are the right person to choose what’s best for her Agis?” Inionri raised to her full height to confront the captain, I could see her hair floating, as if it was under water. “You were the first one to go crawling back to Caracalla after Kamose became the Emperor. How can we be sure that you are looking for what’s best for her? How do we know that you are not just taking care of your new best friend’s interests?”
The pain came back with a vengeance, I tried not to think about what Inionri was saying, but every mention of a new name was a like a blow to my mind.
“That’s not fair Inionri, you know I would do anything for her,” he said, “and I told you not to use names, don’t you see that you are hurting her? You have to understand that trying to remember is a torture to her.”
“Torture?” asked a new voice from the entrance of the tent. “Who are we torturing?” knowing now that a new face was going to make the pain worse I closed my eyes. I heard a surprise gasp not long after.
“Don’t say a thing” warned Inionri. “I’m so sorry… cousin, the last thing I want to do is hurt you,” she sat beside me and I felt her hand on my face, she was touching my cheek were Agmong’s mark was I had a weird sensation on my face. “I just want to help you” she said.
“If you want to help me, please, kill me” it could be my only opportunity for escape. “Please, I can’t take it anymore, just kill me, I can’t go back to Agmong, I can’t,” I opened my eyes and looked at Inionri, she was on the verge of tears.
“You can’t ask me that,” she said, shocked, “that’s not fair.”
“Can someone tell me what’s going on?” asked the new arrival. “And who the hell is Agmong?”
“Agmong is nothing but an insect that we’ll crush very soon” barked the man who had driven Agmong away.
“Ok, you win,” said Inionri, “what can we do to help her?”
I was so used to be ignored that I wasn’t surprised when she dismissed my petition, but the whole situation was so weird and confusing. All I wanted was to rest.
“First of all we need her to remember us,” said the captain, “that way we can talk directly to her without causing her pain. We can try to do the same thing that we did when she saw you, but I’m not sure how long we can resist.”
“If you need some extra energy you can count on me,” said the new woman.
“Inionri, can you make her sleep? I think it will be easier if we deal directly with her subconscious, without distractions.”
“I can try” Inionri pulled me to her and hugged me. “Can you trust me? I promise I will do my best to help you.”
I felt sleepy and in a few minutes I was sound asleep and back in the dark labyrinth. I was standing next to the door that the man had opened earlier. I felt something weird and then the captain was standing before me.
“Do you remember me?” he asked.
Once again the walls were stretching and the pain increased. The walls were moving in rhythm with the twinges of pain. A sword appeared in the captain’s hand and he proceeded to cut the wall fabric to reveal a new door. He opened it and then extended his hand to me, inviting me in. Once inside I saw another closed chest.
“You only need to concentrate on the images, I’ll handle the rest,” he said as he got closer to the chest and opened. I heard the scream as he absorbed the explosion. Another crystal was inside the chest, with new images dancing on its surface. The images were of the man in front of me.
“Agis?” I called, but he was already gone.
“Two down and four more to go,” said a woman from outside the vault. I exited the vault and saw two figures hiding in the shadows.
“Agis?” I called again, he wasn’t there anymore.
“He will be back as soon as he recovers” explained the woman. “In the meantime, do you remember me?” she asked as she exited the shadows. The pain came back and the same scene repeated itself. Apparently I would have to go through it for every memory. But if the pain disappeared once I finished, maybe it was worth it.
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