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Chapter 55

“Can you feel it?” The young men in front of us asked.  “It’s different from person to person, so I can’t tell you what to expect, you need to learn to identify it for yourself.

“Yes, it’s curiosity, it feels like a tickling.” I said.

“Good, now try again by yourself.”  Kozlak let my hand go and put it in the young Empath’s hands, letting go of the bridge he was creating between us.  “Do you still feel the connection?”

“Yes, it’s there,” Kozlak was helping me try to decipher his power, so I could learn how to use other people powers.  Empathy was the last core power that I haven’t been able to master, but now, thanks to Kozlak I was learning how to feel people’s emotions without having to touch them.  I still depended on the contact with the empath beside me to do that, but in time I would be able to do it by myself.

“What about him?” Kozlak pointed to his father on the other side of the room.

“Anger?” Lobishomen was watching us in silence.  “Disapproval?  It feels like I’m burning and my blood is boiling.  I think your father doesn’t want you helping me.”

“Be careful,” the empathy warned, some emotions can consume you easier than others, you need to learn how to feel them without letting them get to you.”

“What about projecting them?” I said, thinking about Melchizedek and Shahzadi.

“That’s harder to do, not all empaths can do that, and I’m afraid is beyond my capabilities.” He apologized.

“Let me try it by myself.”  I let go of his hand and tried to recreate his power.  I had learned the basics, to read feelings you used the same principle as reading minds, but you didn’t reach out with your mind, but with your essence.  It was such a subtle difference that made it almost impossible for an empath to learn telepathy and vice versa.  Using physical contact you didn’t need to reach out, making it easier to do, but I needed the range and it was proving very difficult to do.  “I’m doing something wrong.” I was getting frustrated, ideas and thoughts were reaching me, but not feelings.

“You need to feel it,” the empath told me.

Little by little I stopped listening and started feeling.  I felt my lips curving in a smile, I looked at Kozlak and I felt warmth over my back, like when someone gave you a pat on the back, was he feeling proud of me?

“You did it, didn’t you?” he asked, he had already guessed the answer but I nodded my confirmation.  “I knew it, you’re incredible.”  He waved the empath away and he left without a word.

“Thanks to you.”  I hugged my cousin.  Thanks to him I had done it, I had the psychic triada.

“Now what’s next?” he asked, his arms still around me.

“I don’t know, Lamia’s powers would be the perfect addition, but she’s always busy and I won’t be able to see her before I leave.  I don’t know who else I can trust who does something like her.

“That’s true, that guy is still hanging around.”  My powers were still working and I felt my blood boiling and my heart squeezing, leaving an emptiness behind, Kozlak was angry, jealous and hurt because Lamia preferred Pedres over him.

“You are much better than him.” I said sincerely.

“And still she prefers him over me.”  I felt the emptiness growing and I felt bad for him.

“It’s just the novelty, she will go back to you as always.”  That’s what I hoped, they were both very dear to me.

“You’re leaving tomorrow?” He changed the topic.

“Yes, Vasuman doesn’t think is safe for me to be here.  Did you know that Kamose haven’t let Caracalla out of his room in two days?  Trajan said that he won’t be able to leave his bedroom until everyone has left, but the fact that he is locked up doesn’t mean that he can’t plan something against me.

“I hate to agree with him,” he said, “especially since Dendro is no longer here to taste your food for poisons.”

“I really doubt he will try the same trick twice.”  No, I was sure he was planning something else, less risky.

“Still, is better if you play it safe.  We are going soon too, we need to start preparing for the battle with The Beasts.”  He stood up and offered me his hand to help me up.  “I will miss you at the battle, it’s been a while since we shared the battlefield.”

“Kamose won’t give me any chance to stand up, the less attention I get, the better for him and Caracalla.”

“Caracalla has the support of the Regals, but nothing from the other families, if something happens to Kamose you are in a better position.”

“Isis is the one in the best position, without Sultana and Shahzadi she is the head of Tzar’s descendants, and she has contacts with the Amon and Maxima Families.  The game between Caracalla and I is long term, short term is for the older players.”

“When they participated in the Succession Battle with Sultana they were our age,” Kozlak pointed out.  “Given the opportunity I really think you could beat them.”  At first I thought he was joking, but my empathy told me how serious he was.  “Besides, you would do a better work than them.”

“Thank you Kozlak,” it was nice to see how much he trusted me, “but I’m not the only heir here.  What about you?  Haven’t you thought about becoming Emperor?”

“I have, but I prefer to be a general, is almost the same prestige with just a fraction of the work.  Remember what our mothers used to say?  Being Emperor is not a privilege, is a duty, only the right person should be allowed in the throne, only someone that can understand that being the Emperor doesn’t mean to have people to serve you, it means you have to serve your people.  Caracalla doesn’t get that, and I doubt Isis does either.

“Do you think I deserve it?”  I was humbled by his words.

“From the moment I meet you I saw that you are willing to sacrifice yourself for others, you proved that on our first mission, and time only confirmed that opinion, not even what happened to you changed that part of you.  You would be perfect for the job, strong enough to protect the Empire, sensible enough to do it with justice.”

“If it wasn’t me, who do you think would be a good option?”  I knew my time was short, as soon as the Seers noticed I was one of them my freedom would disappear, along with my opportunity to be Empress.

“Inionri would be my next choice, maybe Trajan…”

“Trajan?” I couldn’t hide my surprise.

“I’ve been watching him, he is smarter than people think, he does a good job at getting unnoticed.”  The rest of our conversation was halted, because we have arrived at the dining hall, where the rest of our allies were waiting for us.

After our meal Agis walked me back to my room, I knew why they were doing that, always someone with me, they were trying to protect me from Caracalla.

“Thanks Agis,” I said.  I entered my room and was surprised when he followed me inside and closed the door after me.  “Is there something you want to talk about?”

“No, no talking.” He grabbed me by the waist and pull me to him.

I was stunned by his actions and didn’t do anything to stop him from kissing me.  At first I didn’t know what to do, but then I started to kiss him back, it was so different from Vasuman’s kisses.  I remembered another time, when I couldn’t get enough of him.

When his hands started to feel my body I didn’t stop him, but when he started stripping me, I felt cold, for a moment I forgot who I was with and I was back in time, I felt the hands touching me, tearing my clothes from me, hurting me.

“No!” I push him away.  “Let me go!”

“What’s your problem?” he let me go.

“I can’t, I…”  What was my problem?  It wasn’t the first time we were together, he wouldn’t hurt me, but that didn’t stop the memories from coming back.

“You have no problem fucking Vasuman.” He said, angry at me.

“Please, just go.”  I couldn’t face him, he had every right to be angry at me, and I was just too embarrassed to face him.

He slammed the door and I jumped at the noise.  It was horrible, just a few hours ago I felt like I was at the top of the world, and then, something as simple as a touch reminded me how broken I really was.  It wasn’t fair for Agis or the others.  Sex was very common among the heirs, a recreative activity to enjoy, but I was unable to give them what they wanted.  Why it was different with Vasuman?  Maybe that he didn’t give me a choice, I remembered being just as scared with him, but I had learned to tolerate it, sometimes even enjoy it.  Maybe if I let them have me I would learn to tolerate it with them.

I heard a knock on the door and thought that Agis was back, and even if my mind was telling me to go through with it, I just couldn’t do it.  The door opened, but it wasn’t Agis, it was Vasuman.

“What happened to you?” He sounded scared, he closed the door and ran to me, it wasn’t until he was standing over me that I noticed I was curled on the floor, it wasn’t until he put his arms around me that I noticed I was shaking.  “Are you hurt?”

“It’s nothing, I’m fine.” I finally said.  “It was just a bad memory.”

“Another nightmare?” He was getting calmer.  “You know I won’t let anyone hurt you again, don’t you?”  His arms around me sometimes felt like a prison, but at that moment they made me feel safe.

I tried to get Agis and the memories out of my mind.  I put my hand behind Vasuman’s neck and pull him to me, searching for his lips. He didn’t waste time kissing me back, and with him there were no memories to haunt me.

I had little opportunity to see my allies before going back to my sector, but I made an effort to see each one of them before going away, I even saw Trajan, even if I wasn’t sure what side he was on.

The trip back home was boring, and it gave me a lot of time to think about what had happened in the last days, from my third vision to Caracalla’s actions.

Kamose was angry at my behavior, but Caracalla was worse than me.  His attitude was absurd, he had hated me from the first day.  First time his plan had worked out, he had taken advantage of me when I was at my most vulnerable and had destroyed me, but he wasn’t expecting me to pick up the pieces and rebuild myself. I had been able to avoid falling in his traps, but he only needed a moment of vulnerability to get me again, and my visions were a great opportunity for him.

Getting back in my sector was comforting, immersing myself in the work I was able to stop worrying for a while.  But things had changed, especially with Vasuman, he was different, he was treating me as an equal, instead of fighting me all the time and trying to undermine my decisions, he was asking for my opinions, even letting me take charge sometimes.

“Would you join me to dinner?” he asked one day as we were finishing our work.

“Of course, see you in your room?”

“If you like, or we can eat in your room.”

“No, in your room is ok.”  I went to my room for a change of clothes and went to Vasuman’s.

The food was already served when I arrived, Vasuman was waiting for me with a glass of wine.

“What’s going on?” I asked.  “You’re different, you’re acting weird.”

“Is that a problem? You don’t like my attitude?”

“No, is not that, I like it very much,” I honestly said, “is just that I’m getting used to this and I’m afraid it will hurt once you get back to how you usually are.”

“Don’t you trust me?” he asked as he took me in his arms.  He was looking at my eyes, searching for something.

“You spent the last few months trying to force me back to your room and getting back under your command, and suddenly you accept everything without protesting.”

“I almost lost you at the Palace.”

“Is not the first time someone almost killed me,” I reminded him, “other times you used that as an excuse to remind me I needed your protection.”

“The battle against The Beasts proved how capable you are, more than me,” he said, “I just wanted to be able to protect yourself, I wasn’t expecting you to be stronger than me.”

“You didn’t want me dead, but you wanted me to depend on you, incapable of leaving you.”  I sat down, drinking the wine and using my mind to refill my glass.  “You wanted to force me to stay by your side.”

“I want you,” he said, “and I want you to be with me, I thought that having you depending on me was the only way.  With every accomplish, every victory, you pushed me away, and I can’t live without you.  I just want to have you by my side, if not as my second in command, maybe I can be your second in command.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You are strong, stronger than me, and you could be the next Empress, you will have hundreds of men at your feet, you would be able to choose whomever you want.” I could tell he was hurting.  “Maddan made me see the other day that there’s a lot of men willing to fight for you.  I just want to be the men you will choose to be by your side.”

I was speechless, his explanation was not what I was expecting when I asked.  It was true that he was possessive of me, and usually controlling, but he was the one that had been by my side when I needed help, I couldn’t believe he was expecting me to just toss him aside at the first opportunity.

We didn’t talk about it again, we had our dinner and then went together to bed.  We talked and cuddled.  I felt Vasuman’s feelings, he was worried about me, he loved me and was afraid I was going to leave him, but he was also angry and frustrated because things weren’t what they used to be.  Could it really work between us?  I wanted to believe they would, they had to, he was the only man I could be with, Agis had proved it.

I was lying awake, not wanting to disturb Vasuman’s sleep.  I was feeling happy, things were getting better for me.  Still, I had a lot to do, but I felt my worries getting away.

I was staring at the ceiling when I started to get sleepy, I let myself fall asleep, but before the dreams came to me, I found myself in the middle of a battlefield.  I couldn’t hear anything, everything around me was moving in slow motion.  I saw familiar faces fighting for their lives, I saw The Beasts coming after the Imperial troops in an endless flow.  The Imperialists were fighting back, but they were about to be overwhelmed.  The Emperor himself got out to lead the troops.  The Emperor’s guards broke formation, leaving him vulnerable.  I wanted to scream, to warn him, but I couldn’t speak.  I tried to run to him, but I wasn’t able to reach him.  I looked at Kamose and for a brief moment he looked at me, it was then that the silence ended and I heard an explosion.  I saw Kamose blowing up in pieces, and the sounds of the battle became deafening.

I woke up scared and agitated, it took me a moment to see where I was.

“Kaiserin?  Are you ok?” Vasuman was awake, looking at me with concern. “Another nightmare?”

“Yes,” I said, taking refuge in his arms.  “It was terrible.” I admitted from the safety of his arms.

I had seen my father die, but it wasn’t a nightmare, it was a vision.  My father and our troops were in danger, the upcoming battle was going to be harder than expected, many warriors were going to die.  It was the perfect vengeance, Kamose falling before a Clan I had already defeated.  But it wasn’t what I wanted, I realized that I couldn’t let him die like that.

“Vasuman, I can’t say here,” I said, “I need to go the battle against The Beasts.”

 

Copyright © 2014 | Kaiserin Novel

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