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Chapter 43

The noise stopped and I knew that Vasuman had stopped his work once again to check on me.  I didn’t care, I wasn’t going to talk to him, I didn’t want to talk to anybody. I heard papers being shuffled and I concluded that he was back to his work. I just kept staring at the fire, watching the fire dance in the chimney. I wanted to cry, but there were no tears left, I have run out of them.  I felt empty inside, as if my soul had poured out of me along with the tears I had spilled.

Watching the fire was relaxing, and helped clear my mind. I saw figures in the fire, faces, places… it was as if the fire reflected my thoughts. Ilum’s death had made my mother’s death real again, it had reminded me of all the people that no longer were with me. Being back at the Palace had just showed me how much I had lost, shed a new light on everything that had happened to me.

One thing I realized during my trip was that my life had never been really mine. During my years as a student all my decisions were taken by my teachers. Then I got out of there and I became a piece on the game between Sultana and Cerridwen, both convinced that they were doing what was best for me. Their actions and decisions had molded my life, nothing had been accidental, they had manipulated me into doing what they wanted. My freedom has been just an illusion they granted me.  But the method of control that Kamose and Caracalla had used was by far the most direct and cruel, they had taken any illusion of freedom from me and gave me to someone who had controlled every aspect of my life to a point where I had to ask permission even to breath.  I was able to escape Agmong and then Joshes and that had given me back some control, but not for long, my life now belonged to Boyar and Vasuman, they had control over me now.

I needed to find a way to take control of my life or I would be forever under someone else’s control. But it was a difficult task, I had no idea how to do that. Boyar was always telling me that a cold mind was best for analyzing situations and planning.  He said that I let my pain and emotions cloud my judgement, but now there was no pain, and the emotions I had were getting lost in the emptiness inside me.

On the table, in the middle of the room, was a glass of water, I took it with my mind and I tried to bring it closer to me, the glass started to move, but as it floated towards me Vasuman appeared and took it.  He brought it the rest of the way.

“Are you thirsty?” I nodded.  “If you want to drink it, you just have to ask.”  He put the glass in front of me and I tried to take it, but he wasn’t letting it go.  “Just ask” he repeated, “Say it, ask me for water and I will give it to you.”

He was angry, but I didn’t care. I let my hand drop and went back to stare at the fire. I wouldn’t be able to wrestle the water from him, but I could wait, he wanted me to talk, but that wasn’t going to happen. This was the only thing I could control and I wouldn’t lose it over something as simple as a glass of water. I didn’t have to look at him to see he was getting desperate, I knew he was trying to make a decision.  After a while I felt his hand on the back of my neck, he put the glass to my lips and held it as I drank the water. He went to refill the glass and then put it on the nightstand next to the bed, where I could reach it. He was just sitting down when one of his guards entered the room.

“General,” he said, “General Boyar is asking for an audience, he is not alone.”

“Tell Boyar that I’m busy and I can’t talk to him. He can’t just appear and expect me to comply. If he wants, we can have dinner together, I can’t see him earlier than that.”

“But Vasuman” interrupted Boyar from the door, “we haven’t seen each her since you left the Palace in a hurry. There’s a lot we have to discuss.”

“Boyar, go away, I don’t have time for you.”  His voice was even, but it had an edge, he was angry and it could be bad for Boyar if he pushed too hard. “I have to deal with more important things than you.”

“I heard some rumors about the death of Sultana’s slave” Boyar ignored Vasuman’s words. “People say that she died trying to fix Kaiserin.”

“That is true.”  Vasuman confirmed.  I wanted to cry again at the reminder, but the tears refused to appear.

“Impressive,”  Boyar’s attention was now focused on me, he looked at my now flawless skin.  “After the slave’s failure to heal Sultana, she was unable to fix even a scratch. We thought that she had lost her powers, but she was fooling us. Did she erased all the scars?”

“Most of them, as you can see, she still have a part of her burn scar on part of her neck and shoulder. The rest is gone.”

“Really impressive.” Boyar repeated.

“Well, there is a reason she was Sultana’s favorite slave, her powers were amazing,” said a woman. “Of course I didn’t see the extent of the damage, but after Boyar’s description I was expecting to find her completely disfigured.”

“Adze, what are you doing here?”  Vasuman wasn’t pleased by her presence, and I knew that only Boyar could be responsible for my mother’s sister being there.

“I missed this year reunion, but Boyar was kind enough to escort General Knyaz back to our sector and inform me of the interesting events that took place.” Adze explained. “So I wanted to come and see my niece.”

“Well, you saw her, now leave.” Vasuman said. “You are not welcome here.”

“Kaiserin, do you remember me?” Adze ignored Vasuman and walked to me, but he stepped between us, blocking her.

“You are wasting your time, she won’t talk to you.” Vasuman pushed her away from me.

“So now you decide who she can talk to?” asked Adze.

“I wish.” Vasuman answered in a whisper.

“Kaiserin?” Boyar was now standing in front of me, blocking my view.  “Kaiserin?” I felt Boyar trying to read my superficial thoughts, but there was nothing there for him to read, I was using my double mind to hide them.  I moved a little bit so I could keep watching the fire.  “Her mind is empty” Boyar announced.

“What did you do to her?” asked Adze.  She didn’t raise her voice, but there was anger and an implicit threat in her tone.

“I haven’t done anything to her, but I can’t say the same about Kamose, I’ve been thinking that perhaps he…” Vasuman left the thought unfinished, maybe he was afraid of speaking his fears out loud.  “But as you see there is nothing for you here Adze, you can leave now.”

“What did I miss Vasuman?”  Boyar asked.  “She wasn’t like this the last time I saw her.”

The last time I had seen Boyar he was busy trying to sell me to the highest bidder.  I wondered if Adze’s presence meant she was the winner.  Would Vasuman allow her to take me with her?  Would I like her to?

“After the slave’s death Kaiserin was in shock.” Vasuman explained.  “She couldn’t stop crying, she cried for days during the trip, without stopping.  When the tears finally stopped, she was like this, I can’t make her talk.”  He sat next to me on the bed and took one of my hands in his.  I didn’t resist him, but neither I showed any reaction to his touch.  “What do you think Boyar?  Do you think this is Kamose’s doing?  Have I lost her?” Vasuman squeezed my hand and for a moment I looked at him.  He was staring at me, looking for something in my face, but I hid in the depths of my mind again.  I was watching them from there, but refusing to participate.

“It is possible,” Boyard said, “he already wiped her mind once, maybe this time he decided to go further and destroy her mind.”  Boyar was moving in front of me, getting closer.  “Maybe she is now just an empty shell.  I’m really sorry about this Adze, I know this is not what I promised you, I really thought Kamose wouldn’t do something to harm her like this.”

“It’s a pity,” Adze agreed, “but maybe we still have a chance, she recovered once before, maybe she will do it again.  It would be a waste to lose someone with her potential.”

“We have to see the extent of the damage,” said Boyar, “but we have to be prepared, we may find nothing left.  I’m sorry Vasuman, maybe this time they really broke your toy.”  Boyar chuckled and added in a mocking tone, “But I’m sure she still have her uses, even after you get bored with her, she will be well received in the barracks.”  He was laughing and I focused my attention on him.

Did he really mean that? Or was he fishing for a reaction from me?  His mind was still brushing mine, looking for something.  He hadn’t tried to enter my mind, maybe he was afraid of what he could find there.  Boyar sat on the bed, opposite to Vasuman.

“She is mine,” Vasuman told Boyar, “and I won’t let anyone near her.  No one will harm here as long as I’m here.”

“You haven’t done a good job so far,” I heard Adze but I couldn’t see her.  “This is unacceptable, I promised to help my niece and I will do it.  I will take her with me.”  She wasn’t even finished talking when Vasuman’s fire was already surrounding him, Adze was walking to him, unconcerned about his fire.

“You won’t take her, I have Kamose’s permission to have her, and I have no intention of letting her go.”

“I’m not asking for permission General, she is my family and I will take her with me.”

Both of them were strong warriors, any conflict between them was dangerous.  I knew why Vasuman wanted me, but I had no idea what Adze wanted from me, so I took the chance of Boyar discovering that my mind was still working and extended my mind to Adze, trying to catch any superficial thought that I could find.  I could see her determination of taking me with her, it was a thought that she was repeating in her mind over and over again.  That and a name: Caracalla.

I was surprised to see that she was thinking about Caracalla.  What was her connection to him?  I never expected Adze to have any relation to Caracalla, but I knew what Caracalla was capable of and I couldn’t dismiss a possible partnership between them.

Vasuman tried to surround Adze in flames, but she was too fast for him and was escaping the fire, moving without being affected by the fire.  Adze got a grip on Vasuman and was about to bite him when I used my mind to pull her.  She was suspended midair, I started to put pressure on her neck, imagining my hands around her neck, strangling her with my mind.

“Caracalla?” I tried to ask what was her relation with him while she was struggling to breathe, looking for an escape.

“What did you say?” When Vasuman heard me talking, he extinguished his fire and ran back to my side.

Boyar chuckled and I felt his mind again.  Vasuman sat next to me.  Adze was struggling to get free of my hold, and it was getting complicated to keep her controlled.

“You misunderstood girl” Boyar looked as if the whole situation was funny.  “Adze is not here because she’s working with Caracalla, she is here because she wants him dead, just like you.”  He was silent for a moment, I could feel both his mind and his eyes on me.  “Adze is not your enemy Kaiserin.”

I let Adze go.  I heard her coughing, trying to get air back into her lungs.  I concentrated my attention on Boyar, silently urging him to continue.

“You are full of surprises, aren’t you?” He was studying me, and I felt his mind circling mine, not entering, but reading everything on the surface, I let him know that I wanted information.  “You are finally paying attention,” he told me, “it was about time you started to differentiate friends and enemies.”

“What the hell happened?” Adze asked with raspy voice.

“Kaiserin caught you thinking of Caracalla and thought that you were allies or something.” Explained Boyar.  “It took me a while,” he told me, “but I finally found someone in our family who has the same goals than you.”  I just stared at Boyar, I expected him to see the incredulity in my eyes, I knew that he only cared about himself, he didn’t care about me.  “Everyone needs to take care of themselves first, but there is no reason my goals cannot be the same as yours.  I’m sorry Vasuman, but Kaiserin is too important to remain as the lover of a third-rate general.  Adze has the same goal as her, they both want Caracalla dead.  Adze can help Kaiserin reach her goal, she will be better for her.”

“What’s your interest in Caracalla?” Vasuman asked Adze.

“Back when my sister was the Empress, I had Caracalla assigned to my sector.  He was under my son’s command.  During a recognition mission my son died, and although I could never prove it, I’m convinced that Caracalla is the one responsible for his death.”  I too believed that Caracalla could kill his superior just so he could climb the ranks.  “I heard that you were in the Palace, looking to kill Caracalla.  I can help you with that, next time we won’t fail.”

We had the same enemy, but that didn’t mean that we had the same goal.  I knew Adze was looking to use me as a weapon to fulfill her vengeance, she would use the excuse of helping me to use me against Caracalla.  She wouldn’t care what happened to me, as long as I got rid of him.  I wasn’t sure why Boyar was setting this up, but I knew that he would have something to gain from the deal.

“Come with me Kaiserin, and I will help you kill Caracalla.”  Her invitations sounded like an order.

“I don’t want to kill Caracalla, I want to destroy him.”  My voice sounded weird to me, after days of not talking I had forgotten the sound of my own voice.

“If that’s what you want, that’s what we are going to do,” Adze said, “as soon as we arrive in my sector…”

“I won’t go with you,” I interrupted her.  “I will stay here.”  Adze and Boyar looked at each other, Vasuman put his arm around me in a protective gesture, or maybe it was a sign of possessiveness.

“You heard her Adze, she will stay here, you won’t.” Vasuman said.

“You just need some time to think about it,” Adze insisted, “soon you will see that I’m your best choice.  I will protect you, you will be safe with me.”

“Safe? Just until you sacrifice me to get rid of Caracalla, then you will let me face Kamose’s fury alone while you enjoy your revenge.”  Adze didn’t say anything, I had guessed her intention and she couldn’t deny the truth in my words.

“If you play this with care, there’s no reason for both of you to enjoy your revenge.  We have time, we can find a way to avoid consequences.” Boyar tried to convince me.

“If you really want to help, it will be under my terms.”  I was trying hard to sound confident.  “If I need help, I will ask for it.”

“You need our help, we know what’s best for you.” Adze insisted.

“I’m tired of people knowing what’s best for me.  And I’m tired of speaking with you.”  I pushed Adze to the other side of the room with the help of my powers.  She was a general and even if she was not defending herself, I felt satisfied being able to push her like that.  I looked at Boyar and prepared to attack him too.

“I think that it will be all for today.”  Boyar stood up and walked to the door.  “Adze, dear, I think she needs some time to think, and so do we.”

“I’ll talk to you later, in private.  For now Adze, I want you to prepare your journey back home, I want you out of here as soon as possible.” Vasuman said.

Both of them left Vasuman’s room without another word.  I started to get back to the safety of my own mind, but Vasuman saw what I was doing.

“No, please don’t go, don’t leave me.”  Vasuman took me in his arms and wrapped me in a hug.  “You don’t have to hide from me, talk to me, please.”

“I’m sorry.”  In his arms, with my head resting on his shoulder, I felt protected.

“You are the best that has happened to me,” he said as he caressed my arm, now free of scars.  “I thought you couldn’t be more beautiful, but now you are perfect.” His hand started to caress my leg.  “You know I would do anything for you, as long as it doesn’t put you in danger, I can’t lose you.  Just promise me you will stay with me.”

I felt guilty for putting him through this, I have been unfair to him, I shouldn’t have ignored him.  I was angry at him for taking Ilum from me, for taking me out of the Palace without letting me say goodbye to my friends, but deep down I knew he was acting in my best interest.  He had taken care of me while I was hiding inside of me, he hadn’t left my side for a moment.

He moved the hand he had in my back until he was holding my head, he moved my head until I was facing him and kissed me.  I felt his worries, his desire, his hunger.  He broke the kiss and I took the opportunity to breathe.  Vasuman stared at me and I saw the question he wasn’t asking.  He wanted me, he had for days, but he had contained himself, now he was asking for permission to take me.

Vasuman had done so much for me, and all I had to give him was myself.  Just the fact that he was trying to contain himself spoke of how much he cared about me.  He could take me by force, but he cared too much about me to hurt me like that.  He wanted me, not just my body, but all of me.  I was lucky to be with him, I knew it could be worse.  Of all my options, right now Vasuman was the better one.

I put my arms around his neck and kissed him.  It was all the permission he needed to lose himself in me.

 

Copyright © 2014 | Kaiserin Novel

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