I heard the door of my room opening, I saw a figure walking in the dark, it was dawn, but the sun was just starting to rise and the light wasn’t enough to see but shadows and figures. The figure was Vasuman’s, the face and the body were definitely his, but the mind was different.
“Did I wake you up?” Vasuman’s voice, but something was wrong, his eyes were wrong.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“You know who I am.” He closed the distance between us.
I threw a psychic punch in his direction, but he somehow knew and dodged, he took something out of his belt and I jumped out of bed just in time to avoid the bullets. I didn’t hear the detonation, just a buzz, he was using a silencer. I threw another psychic punch, but bigger, affecting a wider area than before. I was rewarded by the sound of a body hitting the wall. The person wearing Vasuman’s face recovered faster than I thought and lifted his hand, he was holding something. A flash of light left me blind, but instinct made me lift the bed and put a barrier between us. More bullets hit the bed, some made it through, but not one got to me. I extended my senses, remembering Jomei’s teachings I looked for his mind and attacked. I heard his scream, confident he was distracted, I threw the bed to him. The noise alerted my guards and they entered the room to investigate. I moved forward and saw my attacker trying to get from under the bed, I took him with my mind and lifted him in the air. I saw his face changing, he was a metamorph, one of Caracalla’s assassins.
“Are you alright general?” asked one of the guards, the rest was just getting inside the room.
“We have an impostor.” I couldn’t blame them for the mistake, he did look like Vasuman, but they had made a big mistake, one that could have cost me my life. “Do your job.” I said as I threw him at them. “Question him and then kill him.” Two guards grabbed the man and took him out of my room.
It had been months since Kamose had accepted me as a general. In that time the number of attempts on my life had increased a lot. I had tried to find how Caracalla was orchestrating the attempts against me, but how he recruited his hitmen was still a mystery to me, I only knew that he was the one behind the attacks.
I couldn’t stay in the room and pretend I could go back to sleep, besides, I had destroyed my bed and needed a new one. I dressed and ordered my men to clean the mess and fix my room, then I went to my office. I needed to change my guards, I couldn’t let something like that happen again.
“Are you ok?” Vasuman walked into my office, directly to me. He was the real one, I was sure of it.
“I’m fine, nothing happened.” I tried to make it sound like it wasn’t a big deal, but Vasuman was angry, the room temperature had risen a few degrees when he walked in.
“This wouldn’t have happened if you were sleeping in my room.” It was an old discussion, one that I didn’t want to repeat again. Vasuman took me into his arms and kissed me intensely and desperately, I tried to push him off me, but I couldn’t. “Tonight you will sleep in my room, and tomorrow we will leave together for the reunion.” His tone was definitive and I was too tired to discuss, I had a lot of things to do before leaving and a short time to do it. For the first time I was going to be part of the general’s reunion at the Palace, and I wanted to be prepared.
The journey to the Palace was both shorter and larger than I expected. I was desperate to arrive, but as we got closer nervousness took over. I didn’t go through one of the back entrances, I went through the main entrance, I wanted everyone to know I had arrived.
The first reunion was going to take place the following day, Vasuman and I were the last group to arrive, the rest of the generals attending were already there. But I didn’t want to talk to them just yet, it was Rex. I knew he had arrived, and since he was an important ally I needed to see him and make sure everything was fine between us. While Vasuman was busy I went looking for Rex’s camp, between the first and second walls.
“Greetings Rex, leader of the Predators.” He was looking good, he had the presence and confidence of a true leader. Felinae was standing beside him.
“Greetings general Kaiserin.” He walked to me, without letting Felinae go. She was looking better than the last time I had seen her, she wasn’t wearing her collar or the chain, but most importantly, she was glaring at me, her eyes full of fury and hate towards me. For some reason I felt better because of that, I preferred the hateful stare to the empty one.
“I hope you had a good travel, are you ready for your first reunion?”
“I am, it will be a good chance to talk to all the Allied Clans and introduce myself to all the generals.” I let Rex guide me to his tent. I noticed that the place was surrounded by female guards, I supposed it was a precaution, because of Felinae’s powers.
“How are you?” I asked.
“I’m perfectly fine,” he smiled and looked at Felinae, “I’m having an heir.” Felinae averted her eyes and I didn’t know how to interpret her action.
“Congratulations Rex, I’m sure your heir will be a great warrior.” I felt envious of Felinae, she was going to have what I wanted most, a child.
“He will be.” Rex said. “I must thank you again for your gift, it was even better than I expected. Could you leave us for a moment?” Rex asked Felinae.
“Why?” Her voice wasn’t as confident or strong as before, but at least she was talking.
Rex talked to her in the dialect of their Clan, Felinae wasn’t happy, but she obeyed. I was surprised by the exchange between them.
“Are you going to let her out on her own?” I asked.
“Yeah, is easier to deal with her if she feels she has some freedom, she tried to escape a couple of times, but the guards around here have orders not to let Felinae out of their sights, if she tries something she won’t get far.”
“I’m surprised by the change in the way you treat her, I wasn’t expecting it.”
“You were the one who asked me to treat her better,” he reproached, “but I have to thank you for that, once she started talking again, I found out she has a lot to say, she is a natural leader. I hope once her Clan is annihilated and she has nowhere to go, she will embrace her new role.”
“And what role is that?”
“The mother of my heir.”
“Of course.” Maybe that was what the vision was about, they were supposed to have a child together.
“What are your plans?”
“Our alliance, you need me for something, I want to know what are you planning so I can help you better.” When had he become so perceptive?
“All I need from you is to be there, that will be enough to prove them that I’m as capable as any of them.”
After talking with Rex and catching up I went back to the Palace. I thought about going to look for my friends, but I was too tired and needed some sleep.
Vasuman spent the night with me, I couldn’t convince him that I was safe in the Palace, I suspected that he was using his need to protect me as an excuse to possess me.
I was scared of breakfast with the other generals, I didn’t know how I was going to react to being there. I arrived with Vasuman, all the seats near the Emperor were taken, so I went to the other end of the table, my mother’s siblings were there. I knew that they already knew about my promotion to general.
“Greeting Kaiserin.” Isis said. Adze was seated next to her and both of them were looking at me with curiosity. Both were my mother’s sisters, from different Families.
“Greetings.” I said, politely, but blunt.
“I hadn’t had the chance to thank you for the help you gave my daughter Net in the Shadows.”
“Nothing to thank me for aunt,” I smiled at her, “isn’t that what family is for? Helping each other in moments of need? Extending your hand to those who need it?” I added sarcastically, Isis didn’t show any remorse, but she did look away, she knew what I meant, she had turned her back on me when I had needed her most.
“I heard an interesting rumor,” Jomei said, taking a seat close to us, “a rumor about Boyar.”
“Is not a rumor brother, she killed Boyar.” Adze said.
“I think that there are several individuals that would thank you for that,” Jomei told me, “but I think it was a childish act of revenge on your part.”
“You can think whatever you want, but it was necessary, wasn’t Boyar the one who said that the path to success is paved with the body of your enemies?” Our talk was getting attention, people around us was listening to us, although the generals were usually in very discreet, the way their bodies were inclining to us betrayed their interest.
“Did you consider Boyar your enemy?” Adze asked surprised.
“Well, he wasn’t my ally, that’s for sure.”
“But he was with you, helping you recover your strength.” Khreb said.
“No, he was with me, trying to control me, trying to make me a pawn in his twisted games. He made my life a living hell, and I don’t forgive and forget.” It wasn’t the conversation that I wanted to have, I was getting angry, about to lose control of my emotion, and I couldn’t risk that.
“You should control your tone of voice,” Vajira, one of my mother’s sisters advised, “your talk could be taken as a threat.”
“Why would it be taken as a threat?” I asked. “Just because you abandoned me and turned your backs on me when I needed you doesn’t mean that I will start a vendetta against you.” The generals moved uncomfortably in their seats, Vasuman put his hand on my arm and squeezed in a silent warning. “Don’t worry aunt, I’m done wasting my time in revenge, I found better things to do with my time.”
“I hope you gave a good use to my teachings,” Jomei said, “don’t use it against us.”
The slaves started to place food on our plates and the conversation ended. New conversations started, but everyone was trying to ignore me, it was fine by me, I was done talking.
After breakfast we moved to another room where we spent our time talking about relevant events in the different sectors of the Empire. When it was our turn I spoke, instead of Vasuman, and took my time talking about the metal extraction that was under our supervision. Everything was going according to plan and the supply was steady to all the sectors. The metal crisis was averted and a major issue solved. The generals looked at me without showing any emotion, but I knew they were angry and envied my success, I was the youngest general and the one that had solved their problem.
We didn’t discuss the Beasts, that was an issue for the afternoon talk, once the leaders of the Allied Clans joined our talks. The Beasts were a problem for all of us.
After lunch we had some free time and I decided to walk, I found Rex and his brother Sable in one of the hallways, it was a fortunate encounter.
“Rex, how are you?” I greeted him.
“Greetings general.” Rex smiled at me, but his brother was ignoring me. “We’re on our way to the throne room, my brother is to attend the reunion as heir of my Clan, at least until my heir is old enough to attend.” Sable scowled at the comment, Rex was already making plans for his heir and it wasn’t even born yet.
“Allow me to be your guide,” I asked, “I know the fastest route to the throne room.”
“I’ll be honored.” Rex said.
There were just a few heirs in the room, most from the Allied Clans, I saw Dendro talking to a group of young warriors, the heiress to the Naturalist Clan and Lamia, who was glued to a young man I didn’t recognize, among them.
“Kaiserin!” Lamia cried out and ran to me. “It was you, wasn’t it? You sent my invitation to the reunion.”
“You are an heiress Lamia, you belong in here.” I knew that after her father’s death no one had invited her to the reunion, just a general could do that, and I did it for her.
“Thank you Kaiserin.” She hugged me, and for some reason I felt uncomfortable with the contact.
“Where are Kozlak and the others?” I was hoping to find my cousins and allies there.
“I don’t know.” Lamia shrugged.
“Kaiserin, is a pleasure to see you again.” Dendro was smiling at me, but looking wary at Rex.
“Allow me to introduce you to Rex, leader of the Predators, and his brother Sable, heir of his Clan.” Rex inclined his head as a greeting, but Sable kept ignoring me. “They are the newest addition to the Empire.”
“Yeah, I heard about that.” Dendro looked more like a leader every time I saw him, his presence was imposing and confident. “Would you be free in the afternoon? I would like to chat with you.” Dendro asked me.
“I’m sorry, but she will be busy.” Lamia answered for me. “Family reunion.”
“Later then.” Dendro agreed.
“So you are the famous Kaiserin.” The man that had been with Lamia said. “I’m Pedres, heir of Clan Toreador, I’m afraid I wasn’t here on your last visit, but I heard a lot about it.” I was about to talk when a commotion at the door distracted me.
Caracalla was arriving, and he wasn’t alone, all his lackeys were with him. He walked in as if he owned the place, but when he looked at me he froze.
“I didn’t think you would dare to show your face in here.” Caracalla said once he recovered from the shock of seeing me.
“Who is he?” Rex asked me. I gave Caracalla a bored look, I wasn’t going to let him affect me.
“He is no one important.” I answered. Lamia laughed and I could see a smile on Dendro’s lips. “I’m sorry for the interruption Pedres, you were saying?”
“What are you doing here?” Caracalla asked. I felt the pressure of his mind and a few others, the combined attack was strong, but I was stronger. “Are you here to try and kill me again?”
“Try?” Rex looked surprised, but I could see he was putting an act. “You don’t strike me as a person who try, you’re more like a person who do.” He told me. “Specially after the way you annihilated the Beasts.”
“I tried,” I confirmed Caracalla’s statement, “I would have done it, but Caracalla is like an elusive bug, always hiding behind his lackeys or his father, is hard to get to him.” He was enraged by my words, his attack became vicious and I had to use all my strength just to stay standing, I wanted to curl and grab my head, but I wasn’t going to let him know he was affecting me.
“How dare you!” Caracalla was livid, he signaled two of his men to attack me. I leaned over Lamia, as if I wanted to share a secret with here, but I was using her as support, while I used my mind to get my psychic wall up.
It was hard for me to maintain my wall and repel the mental attack and Lamia knew it, she started pouring energy into me. She laughed again as if I was saying something funny. The attacks stopped and I let my wall down.
“It was fun talking to you,” I said to my friends, ignoring Caracalla, “but I have to go, Rex and I have a meeting to attend. I’ll see you later.
“You won’t be able to leave so easily.” Caracalla warned me. A group of people was surrounding us, several people were watching us with curiosity.
“Get out of my way, I don’t have time for you.” I tried to sound bored, and I did.
“I don’t know what game you are playing, but I don’t buy it, do you think I will believe you forgot about your vengeance?”
“What’s his problem?” Rex asked.
“He’s afraid of me.” The air was getting heavy and my mind was about to explode. The group around me made them think twice about attacking me physically, but no one could defend me from their telepathic attacks. I needed to get out of there or I was going to pass out. “I was afraid of him once, but then I realized that he is like a mosquito, annoying and hard to kill, but ultimately harmless.”
“You!” Caracalla accused someone at the entrance of the room. “You were supposed to keep her away, to keep her under control.” The people moved and I saw Vasuman walking towards me, but he wasn’t looking at me, he was looking at Caracalla.
“Don’t you dare to blame me,” Vasuman’s voice echoed in the room, “this is all your fault.” He is angry at Caracalla and for a moment I wasn’t sure what was going on. “Everything was perfect until you interfered!” Vasuman’s fire was started to grow and people were moving away from him. “If you had not attacked her, if you weren’t so obsessed over killing her we wouldn’t be here. It was you! You and your hitmen! Every attack makes her stronger, every killing attempt gives her more weapons.” I had to get out of there, I was at my limit and I didn’t want to hear Vasuman. I walked with Rex to the exit, I looked at Caracalla just before I reached the door and noticed his fury and incredulity at Vasuman’s words. Vasuman was doing a better work at affecting him as I did. “She was perfect,” Vasuman continued, “she was submissive and obedient, but you changed her, you are the reason of her defiance and her promotion to general.” Caracalla was losing control, it was fun to see him trying to keep calm, but I couldn’t stay there anymore, I had to leave.
We arrive to the room where the next meeting was going to take place, most of the Clan leaders and generals were already there. It wasn’t long before the last people arrived, Vasuman was one of the last to arrive. The most important issue to discuss was the Beasts Clan. Thanks to the information I gathered and the information that Kamose was able to take out of Felinae’s mind, we had a good idea where the tribes were going to be. The battle to come was the most important since the battle where my mother died.
The plan was coming together quickly and most of us agreed with the action to take, but as Kamose started to give orders I noticed that he had nothing for us.
“What’s the role of sector 32 in this?” I dared to ask when the meeting was about to finish and still he hadn’t assigned any task to us.
“You won’t be needed in this battle,” he said dryly. “This is a very important mission and we need experimented warriors.”
“With all due respect Emperor, but we have more experience fighting the Beast than any other here.” I felt betrayed, I knew that Kamose was letting me out on purpose and it wasn’t fair. “It was I who discovered his Clan structure after defeating several of their tribes. I’m the only one who hasn’t been attacked by them in the last months, they fear me.”
“Then you have done enough, no need to do more.” Kamose’s condescending was infuriating.
“That’s right Kai, let the adults handle this.” Bunefer said.
“Stay out of this.” I told her.
“Should I remind you who are you talking to?” No need, I knew Bunefer was Kamose’s second in command, and I suspected she was even more than that.
“Should I remind you who’s the stronger between us?” I realized it was a mistake as soon as the words left my mouth.
“Damn you!” Bunefer was furious and out of her seat.
“I say, stay out of this.” I used my mind to push her back into her seat, then I bent the metal in the chair to trap her there.
“Kaiserin!” Kamose warned me. He was taking Bunefer’s side. Always a Regal before me.
I had spent a lot of time trying to figure out what my father wanted from me, what to do for him to accept me. My eyes were the problem. Something so trivial was the only reason he didn’t want me, if I had Regal eyes he would call me his daughter. I had learnt some tricks from Zounkla and now that Kamose was staring at me, I took the opportunity to use those tricks. I trapped him in an illusion, one where the Kaiserin in front of him had violet eyes, the eyes of a true Regal.
‘I’m your daughter,’ I screamed in his mind, ‘when are you going to accept me? I’m better than Caracalla and you know it, I’m better than that tramp you keep by your side.’ Kamose couldn’t take his eyes off of me, the others were watching us, amused and scared.
‘What did you do?’ he asked telepathically. ‘What kind of trick is this?”
‘I want to show you what I can be, you toss me aside for something so stupid as my eyes, but I’m a Regal, just like you, I’m a telepath with double mind.’
‘You can’t be that, you are your mother’s daughter, a Maxima. Now stop this before I get really angry.’
“Father, listen to me!” I screamed in frustration, not realizing that I spoke aloud until I felt the stares on me.
“You are not my daughter,” Kamose said, I could hear the anger in his icy voice. “General Kaiserin, if you are not capable of behaving, I will have to ask you to leave.”
Humiliated and ashamed I left as soon as I could. It wasn’t fair! It wasn’t fair! Everything was going so well and I had to let Kamose’s rejection affect me again. I had made a fool of myself in front of every important person in the Empire. Caracalla would be so happy when he heard about it.
I was mad at Kamose, at Caracalla, even myself… I was so angry that I wasn’t paying attention, at first I didn’t even realize something was going on, not until I was in front of a familiar scene, one that I had seen in my dreams, but it was from another perspective, I was watching my death. This time I was not participating, I was watching it. The vision started to fade and I felt a sharp pain in my chest, I looked down just as my vision receded, and saw a dagger, I felt a pull and the dagger left my body. I pressed the wound, trying to stop the blood, weakened I fell on my knees.
“That was easier than I expected.” I moved to see who was talking, I saw two men in front of me, one of them was cleaning a dagger in his jacket. “This is the easiest job I have ever done, I didn’t even need your help.”
“Why is she still moving?” The other one asked. “Are you sure you pierced her heart? There’s not enough blood, it should be more blood.”
I saw darkness filling my vision, I put one hand on the floor and connected to it. The man with the dagger was close, he lifted the dagger again, but before he could stab me again, I gathered all my strength and filled the hallway with rock spears. I had no strength to try that twice, so I used as many as I could, expecting at least one to get them.
I heard noise around me and saw several guards running at me, I knew I was about to pass out, but I tried to remain conscious, I was surrounded by enemies and I don’t know if the ones approaching are friends or enemies. I try to fight, I know this is not how I die, I just saw my death and it wasn’t like that. Sure that I’m not dying, I let the coldness surround me and take me out.
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