Enoch entered the arena again and walked to me.
“This is the moment when we usually declare the winner and recognize the new Empress, but I guess that, like your mother before you, you would prefer the ceremony to take place once you and the other participants have some time to recover.” I just nodded in agreement and Enoch started giving orders.
It was surreal, like a dream. The Emperor’s guard, no, my guard, entered the arena and kneel in front of me, guessing their intentions, I gave them their orders and they promptly obeyed while Enoch gave me his arm for support and guided me out of the arena.
“A group of medics and healers is already working with the survivors, would you be able to walk to your room?” Enoch asked, and for a moment I didn’t understand why he was asking that, but as I got out of the arena, I felt the drop in my adrenaline and my body started to protest, my psychic headache was pounding in my head and I felt like I was breathing fire, all my body was hurting. Then I realized that the blood stain in the front of my uniform was getting bigger.
“I got you.” Maddan lift me in his arms and took me to my new room, the suite destined to the Empress, the one that I still thought as my mother’s room.
A group of healers was waiting for me. Maddan gently placed me on the bed and the healers immediately put their hands over me and started working, repairing the damage that I had sustained. But my headache was something that they couldn’t heal, and it was getting unbearable.
“If you don’t mind, I would like to help,” Curare said as she entered the room.
“It would be an honor,” I answered, watching the woman that had helped me so much approaching my bed.
“The honor is all mine Empress,” she did a shallow bow and bending over me she whispered, “I know your mother would be very proud of you, what you did in there was really impressive.”
“You need to rest Empress,” one of the healers told me, “we will take care of you.” And because my strength had reached its limit and the only escape from the pain was the astral planes, I left my body. In the astral planes I would have time to think about my victory and what the future hold for me now that no one was above me.
I had my victory over Caracalla, I had defeated him completely. I had shown each and every one of the warriors of my Clan that I was powerful. I would never have to bow or obey anyone, no one would be able to make me submit to anyone else. I would finally be recognized as Kamose’s daughter, because no one would dare to question the Empress. I had done everything I wanted, I had everything an imperialist could want… and yet, I felt empty, incomplete.
I woke the next morning feeling a lot better, the healers, most likely guided by Curare, had fixed my injuries. All I had left from the battle was fatigue and discomfort, also I had to deal with the nausea that had been following me since my father’s and Vasuman’s deaths. The headache was better, and I knew that as long as I didn’t try to use my powers it would remain manageable.
I got up and took a shower, then I dressed in the clothes they had given me, they were sumptuous and fitting and I couldn’t help but smile. The image I saw in the mirror was that of a winner, but the eyes in the reflection showed anything but. I left my room and found a table set with breakfast and a group of warriors standing like statues around the room, they were members of the guard, one that I had been part of. My stomach was still feeling weird, but I managed to eat a few pieces of fruit. After breakfast, I went to finish what I had started the previous day while the members of my guard followed me in silence.
Some of the warriors that had participated in the battle were too hurt or unconscious by the time the fight ended hadn’t had the opportunity to declare their allegiance. Usually they would be killed, but I still wanted to give them the opportunity to live, so I was going to the main infirmary to see them.
Once in the infirmary, I asked for the first person I wanted to see, I went to Lamia’s room and saw her surprise when I entered the room.
“Greeting Empress.” She said in a tone of voice I couldn’t figure out.
“Hello Lamia, how are you feeling?” I asked.
“Better than I deserve.”
“Everyone did what they needed to do in battle, we knew that we would have to face each other in battle, I don’t appreciate your trickery, but I understand your reasons.”
“Do you forgive me?”
“You wouldn’t be alive if I didn’t.”
“Thanks cousin, I promise that I will never betray your trust again.” That was all I needed to hear.
I left Lamia and went to the next room, I found Trajan and another telepath inside, standing beside Adze’s bed. She seemed to be resting, but her eyes were open, staring at the ceiling.
“Empress.” They both greeted me.
“What are you doing here?” I wasn’t expecting anyone to be there.
“The doctors asked for us to help,” Trajan explained, “Adze’s injuries had been treated, but she’s not responding, they thought it was a mental block and asked us to check her.” I remembered Caracalla’s attack and wondered if he had done that to her.
“Maybe it was Caracalla.” I thought out loud.
“It seems like it, he tried to do something to me, something to trap my mind. I was able to fight back, but I guess that since Adze is not a telepath she couldn’t fight back.” He was holding her hand, and I guessed that he was already working to help her.
“He tried with me too, and he almost did it.” I remembered his intentions and shuddered, thinking what he intended to do with me.”
“He always underestimated you,” Trajan told me with a smile.
Adze suddenly sat up, she was agitated and was breathing hard, it was like she was waking from a nightmare. She was touching her body, she pinched her arm, it was as if she was checking if she was truly awake.
“Are you alright?” Trajan asked her.
“It was awful!” She said. “I couldn’t move, I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t do anything! But I was hearing and feeling everything.
“Trapped in a prison of flesh and bone.” Those were the words Caracalla had used.
When she heard me she seemed to calm down a little bit.
“Empress,” she greeted me, trying to bow from her position in bed. “I see you did it, Jomei was right about you.”
“It doesn’t matter what your motives were, you were one of the persons who helped me get here,” I wasn’t going to ignore that fact. “I know you weren’t expecting me to get this far, but I gained the throne in part because of the training I got thanks to the teachers you sent me.”
“I don’t care about the throne,” Adze confessed, “I only joined the battle because I wanted to kill Caracalla.”
“Caracalla is not dead,” Adze was shocked by my words. “Follow me,” I ordered and Adze obeyed without asking for an explanation. Trajan decided to follow us.
We entered another room and found a medic working on Caracalla. His arms were bandaged, by the shape you could see the stumps, one just above the wrist, the other arm missing the forearm. A sheet covered him from the waist down. On his chest he had a piece of equipment that I knew was blocking his telepathy. An oxygen mask was helping him breathe.
“Empress.” The medic greeted me with a bow.
“Report.” I asked the medic and he immediately went started to check his papers.
“We cauterized and dressed his wounds,” he pointed to Caracalla’s stumps, “splints were placed to help weld the bones of his legs, but there wasn’t much we could do for his broken spine and the damage done to his spinal cord.” From his place in the bed Caracalla was glaring at me, his eyes were shining with a mixture of hate, craziness and fear. “Even if he’s able to heal, is probable that he would never be able to walk again, and if we add the damage to his arms I really doubt that he would be able to fend for himself.”
“Trapped in a prison of flesh and bone.” I said, both for Adze’s and Caracalla’s sake. “You can go now,” I said, and the medic quickly left the room. “I told you once that I didn’t want to kill Caracalla, I wanted to destroy him,” Adze nodded, remembering that conversation. “He tried to trap us, to reduce us to simple dolls, to take our free will,” I went to Caracalla and took his oxygen mask off, he immediately started struggling to get air into his lungs. “What does it feel like to be trapped in the same nightmare you intended for us?”
“He still thinks he can heal and find a way to get back at us.” Trajan interpreted Caracalla’s thoughts to us.
“He’s fighting with his new reality, but given time he will fall into despair. Now he’s trying to survive, soon he will be looking for the freedom only death can give him.” I put the mask back on and I saw how his breathing went back to normal.
“Are you really going to let him live?” Adze was surprised. “Empress, with all due respect, as fitting as your punishment looks, there a chance that he can escape, not all of his followers died in battle.”
“They may be alive, but, who do you think will be willing to follow a cripple?” I spoke loud enough so Caracalla would hear and understand every word. “The only reason people as willing to help him was because of fear or interest. But there’s nothing to fear from him, he is incapable of causing any more damage or give any benefits to his followers. No one will help him for free, no one would risk the Empress’ rage to help someone that won’t be able to benefit them.”
“So are you going to do nothing?” Adze was disappointed, but was trying hard not to show it.
“I already proved that I’m stronger than him, I defeated him in front of everyone, I even gave him a taste of his own medicine. I did what I wanted to do with him, his existence is no longer my concern.” My headache was still bugging me, so I didn’t risk using my powers to try to read Adze’s thoughts or emotions, but I didn’t need my powers to see that she was having trouble remaining calm. “Adze, I’m done with him, I really don’t care what happens to him now, which is why I won’t stop you from doing what you need to do to exert your revenge.” Adze just stared at me, speechless. “My vengeance is done, I won’t stop you from getting yours.” I saw the smile Adze was trying to suppress, as I saw the terror in Caracalla’s face.
“Thanks you Empress.” Her words seemed sincere. I left the room, leaving Adze and Caracalla alone, I really didn’t need to know what Adze was going to do, I owed my aunt her revenge. I knew that it wouldn’t give her real peace, her son would still be dead, but at least it would give her some closure.
“Are you ok with what just happened?” I asked Trajan.
“He is my brother, but he’s getting what he deserves.” He didn’t hesitate in his answer. “Caracalla demanded absolute obedience and when he didn’t get it he was mad. By the end he considered me as much his enemy as he did you, I owe him nothing.” We walked together to the next room. “I don’t remember Adze promising you anything, how do you know is safe to let her live?”
“I gave her what she wanted, I think that’s enough.” Looking at the doubt in his face I tried to reassure him. “She won’t be a problem for me, I’m sure of it.”
With Trajan by my side, I visited all the survivors and asked them to swear their allegiance to me, since they haven’t been able to do that while in the arena. At the end of the day I was only forced to kill two of them, all the others agreed to recognize me as their leader.
“Bunefer is dead.” I said once we finished the visits in the infirmary. We were walking to the imperial dining room, followed by my silent guards.
“That’s right.” Trajan said, not sure what I was getting at with my statement.
“I need someone to take her place.” Bunefer had been for my father what Shahzadi had been for my mother. I needed a right hand, someone who would stand by my side, and despite having other candidates, like Kozlak or Inionri, I thought that Trajan was the best for the job. He had been working by my father’s side for a long time, and knew how the Palace worked. “Trajan, would you like to take her position? Or would you prefer the intelligence position that our father had when my mother was the Empress?”
“Are you giving me a choice?” He was stunned. “What you are offering… are you sure? I’m not even a general.”
“I think I can fix your rank problem very easily, I’m the Empress after all.”
“If you think is the right choice, if you’re sure that’s what you want, then it would be my honor to be your right hand.” I wasn’t using my powers, but I was sure he was sincere.
I walked together to the dining room. Besides me the only people allowed there were those invited by me. When we arrived, my other guests were already inside. It was weird to receive the shows of respect people gave me when I entered a room, but when I entered and saw Inionri, Geb, Kozlak, Agis, Vikomt, Ratry and Lamia bow to me, I was reminded of happier times, when I was just a captain and they were part of my group.
“Thank you for accepting my invitation,” I told them as we were seated and the slaves started to bring the food and drinks.
“It is an honor to be invited to the Empress’ table,” Geb said. I saw in his eyes adoration and a touch of lust, that also reminded me of happy times, but also of some dark times.
“Especially if is one as beautiful and powerful as you,” Agis added, with a look very similar to Geb’s.
“It’s going to be hard to get used to all this,” I said, waving my hands around, “it feels like a dream, I’m still waiting to wake up.”
“Is that a general’s insignia?” Kozlak asked when he saw the insignia on Trajan’s chest.
“Yes, I just got promoted,” Trajan said, “is my reward for my loyalty and for surviving until the end of the battle.”
“I decided that everyone that survived the battle will be promoted, starting with you.” I said. I pull the insignias out of my pocket and using my mind, I pushed them in front of each of my friends. I immediately regretted using my powers, because the simple gesture increased my headache. “I’m sorry to disappoint, those are only colonel insignias, I can’t make you generals yet, I can’t show favoritism.”
“I won’t complain, especially because I didn’t even participate in the battle.” Kozlak said, taking the insignia and fastening it in his uniform.
“You deserve it.” I said sincerely.
“Going from major to colonel in a couple of days is a good reward.” Geb was also fastening his insignia.
“Are you sure about this?” Vikomt asked, he was holding his insignia with great care, as if it was going to disintegrate any minute.
“I was expecting you to make me general, I was sure I was going to be your right hand or something,” Inionri complained, but I knew, even without using my powers, that she was complaining out of habit, and not because she was mad at my decisions.
“I’m sorry, but that honor was mine,” Trajan was trying to hide his smug smile, and Inionri’s answered with a scowl.
The dinner was great, between jokes and friendly fights, mostly instigated by Inionri that in repeated occasions mentioned her plans to kill Trajan and take his place as my right hand. Trajan heard her threats with good humor and I noticed among them a familiarity that I hadn’t seen before. Lamia stayed mostly silent during dinner, she seemed uncomfortable with Kozlak and I felt bad about them, I didn’t want them to have problems.
After that Trajan and I went to the office where we went over the casualties suffered during our battle against the Beasts and the Succession Battle. There were many positions to fill and many decisions to make, but I soon realized that I had made a good call in choosing Trajan as my second in command, he was taking his job very seriously and provided me with good suggestions and objective opinions about each candidate. He never contradicted me, but made very good suggestions and I was thankful for that.
By the time we were ready for supper, Trajan and I had decided the new ranks and decided who would take the positions that needed to be filled. Maddan, as the major in charge of the guards in the Palace met with me when I was about to go to the dining room, to discuss the people who would be part of my personal escort. I decided at the last minute to take my supper in my suite and not the dining room, and asked Maddan to go with me. We went together back to my suite where someone had already prepared a table with food.
“It’s good to have you back,” Maddan said once we were alone.
“It’s good to be back.” And it was, but I wasn’t satisfied. It wasn’t what I was expecting when I decided to go back, there were many ghosts haunting my past, and only in rare moments, like during dinner, surrounded by my friends, I felt at ease.”
Maddan stayed for a while and got me up to speed with Palace’s affairs and warned me about some of Caracalla’s followers. Even though they weren’t a significant threat, they weren’t entirely loyal to me, and that was a risk. I thought about promoting Maddan, he hadn’t participated in the battle, but he was someone I could trust.
We finished our food and our talks and I asked Maddan to leave, I noticed he was disappointed, was he expecting me to ask him to spend the night? It was possible, we had spent a lot of nights together when we were both captains, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to share my bed just yet.
Even though I wasn’t officially the Empress, I still had to do the job, and I had spent the day doing just that, and it wasn’t as fulfilling as I expected. I went to bed alone and laid there thinking, wondering what was missing, why I wasn’t satisfied after getting all I wanted.
The next day I woke up and the headache was gone. I had breakfast by myself in my room, and then I went for Trajan, so we could go to Isis and offer her a position in the Palace, as the general in charge of intelligence. She was still mad because I had defeated her, but she accepted and I felt some relief from here when she did, she was expecting me to send her far away, to give her a meaningless position away from the Palace. But she was a valuable asset and also a person that I preferred to keep close to me and under my sight.
From my office, I summoned the survivors and the persons that were going to occupy new positions until all of them got their promotions and new assignments. Finally, I managed to put some order to the chaos.
With just a few hours until the ceremony where I would take my rightful place on the throne, I finished with all the urgent work. I ate alone and the dining room felt even bigger with no other people there. After that I went to my room, using my mind, I went through the clothes they had left for me until I decided to wear the most simple ensemble I found.
I left my room and my guard immediately surrounded me as we walked towards the throne room, but I had to stop when we found Curare in one of the hallways.
“Greeting Empress,” she said. “I know that you are busy and I don’t want to take much of your time, but I need to go back to my Clan and I wanted to say goodbye before leaving.” I signaled my guards to give us space.
“Won’t you be staying for the ceremony?” I asked, making an effort to stay calm and don’t let my disappointment show. With all the work I had to do, I haven’t had time to talk to her and thank her for her help.
“No, that’s a private matter, it was bad enough that I snuck into the battle. I just wanted to congratulate you again in your victory, and wish you good luck with the life that’s growing inside you. I’m sure it will be an heir worthy of Sultana’s line.” For a moment I didn’t comprehend what she was saying, then I thought I was imagining things.
“What are you talking about?” I finally asked.
“Didn’t your healers told you that you are pregnant?” She asked, she was clearly surprised. “We found out while we were treating you, you’re not that far, a few weeks…” I was shaking my head as she spoke, I couldn’t believe her.
“It’s impossible,” I couldn’t believe her, I had lost my hope a long time ago. “All the medics, the healers, they said it was impossible, too much damage, after everything they did to me, the scar tissue was too much, they said it was impossible.”
“The external scars faded away, why do you think the same didn’t happen to the internal ones?”
I remembered Ilum, and for the first time I realized just how big her gift to me had been, she gave me the chance to have children, she gave me back a dream I thought lost. I put my hands over my tummy, still having a hard time believing there was a new life growing inside, one half mine, half Vasuman’s.
“Anyway, congratulations.” Curare left, I heard her steps growing fainter and then fading.
Feeling like I was walking on clouds I didn’t even notice the rest of the walk. I entered the room and walked through the middle of the hall in a dreamlike state. As I passed, the warriors on my sides knelt before me, showing respect and submission. I reached the throne and stopped before it, on one side was Trajan, my right hand, and Enoch, the leader of the Seers. On the other side Isis, my intelligence chief and Vajira, the general in charge of the Burrows.
I was in a daze as they put on me the insignia that my father and mother had worn before me, as they put the jewels and the cape that denoted my new rank.
“Long life to Kaiserin from the Maxima Family, daug…
“No,” I interrupted his speech. “I’m Kaiserin from the Royal families,” I let my voice grew louder, so everyone would hear my words, “I’m the granddaughter of General Mara from the Vlad Family and general Cerridwen from the Amon Family, daughter of Emperor Kamose from the Regal Family and Empress Sultana from the Maxima Family.” I heard the whispers and murmurs across the hall, no one had dared to claim more than one family, and I was claiming the four Royal Families. It was something never done, something the Heads of the families were probably not willing to accept.
“Hail, Empress Kaiserin, granddaughter of general Mara From the Vlad Family,” Lobishome, the head of the Vlad Family, said, recognizing me as part of his Family.
“Hail, Empress Kaiserin, granddaughter of general Cerridwen, Leader of the Seers, from the Amon Family.” Hera, the head of the Amon Family, said, also accepting me.
“Hail, Empress Kaiserin, daughter of Emperor Kamose from the Regal Family,” Trajan said, taking the role of Head of his Family now that both Kamose and Bunefer had died.
“Hail, Empress Kaiserin, daughter of Empress Sultana from the Maxima Family,” Khreb finally said.
“Long life to Kaiserin from the Royal Families.” Enoch shouted.
“Long life to Kaiserin from the Royal Families.” Repeated the warriors in the room.
I looked around me, I looked at the mighty warriors of the most powerful Clan in the Empire, kneeling before me. I had won, I was finally recognized as the most powerful among the powerful.
I sat on the throne for the first time and everything became real. Finally, everything was right in my world, everything fit together, I was finally whole. And I knew it was because of the promise of a new life now growing inside me. As I faced the warrior gathered there, shouting my name, I felt that everything would be right, I had finally all that I wanted.
Copyright © 2014 | Kaiserin Novel