It was the first time I had a vision in the daytime since I had become the Empress, it was fortunate that I had felt the danger and sent the people out before the vision arrived, what would have happened if the vision had arrived before the generals and colonels were out? I knew that my days as Empress would be over the moment they found out that I was a seer.
Could I trust my powers to warn me again before the next vision arrived? I hoped so, because the idea of being found out was almost as terrifying as the idea of my daughter dying. But at least now I had a hope that my daughter could be saved. The vision showed my daughter alive, and that was all I needed to keep going. I just had to find the right path to that future, I needed to stay away from the other paths and walk the correct one.
I left the room and found Trajan waiting for me. Lamia was there, but she wasn’t waiting for me, she was distracted with one of my guards.
“Are you ok?” Trajan asked as soon as I was out of the room, looking at me as if he was searching for something.
“Of course I am, I just needed some time to cool down, I wanted to kill Isis so bad, but I don’t think murder is a good way of dealing with my subordinates.”
“In Isis’ case I think it was a good idea,” Trajan smiled at me and made me feel better. Despite everything that was happening, I felt like I could trust him.
“Ixtlilton seems to think you are ill or something,” Lamia said. I looked at her and saw her in front of my guard, looking at him in a way that was making him uncomfortable.
“I’m just tired, but not sick. Once everything is the way I want it to be I will be able to relax a little bit. But I don’t think there is anything to worry about, being tired has never stopped me before.”
“Well, if you are sure about it. How long for the guard change?” Lamia asked.
“A couple of hours.” I said automatically, not really thinking about the question or the motivation for it.
“Perfect, can you send this one to my room once he is done?” She asked, putting her hand on my guard’s chest.
“He’s a captain, I thought you only slept with generals.
“Sleep is not what I have in mind,” she answered with a predatory smile that took me by surprise, “besides, my possibilities had been cut and I need to expand my options and he looks delicious.”
“I don’t think so Lamia, you know what I think of forcing people to your bed.” I was feeling nauseous, and that had nothing to do with my pregnancy, it had more to do with the memories that I couldn’t stop from coming, memories of being forced to please my superiors. I knew that it was part of the status quo, if someone with a better rank than you told you to do something you had to do it, no matter what, and I knew that if Lamia or I ordered Lord into our beds he would do it without complaining, but he wouldn’t like it, he would hate it.
“Anyone would be glad to be invited to my bed, I’m really just doing him a favor.” Her answer instead of making me feel better made me feel even worse. How many times had I heard the same thing? I felt sick remembering the feeling of being trapped, of being used.
“Not him, I’m sure he would be more willing to share Trajan’s bed than yours.” The guard kept silent, he couldn’t do anything else, as long as he was on duty, he was little more than a statue, he wouldn’t more, wouldn’t talk, wouldn’t even react. I remembered my own time as my mother’s guard, how I had to keep silent and immobile while Caracalla insulted me and attacked me.
“Well, if that’s the case, then he has no idea what he’s missing.” Lamia didn’t seem to understand the pain of being at other people’s mercy, the humiliation that came with being used as a toy for other people’s pleasure. “You’re doing it again Kaiserin, you are letting your personal experiences cloud your judgement. He knows what is expected from him, I’m sure he won’t have a problem coming to me.” And that was true, he was a soldier, he would obey his orders, it didn’t matter if the orders were to receive a bullet for me or please Lamia, he would do it, but he wouldn’t enjoy it. I could feel his emotions, I could see his thoughts, he didn’t want to be with any women, not even Lamia.
“Just forget it Lamia. I’m sure you would be able to find someone who actually wants to be with you, like you said many would be honored to be invited to your bed, just not him.”
“You have changed Kaiserin, and I don’t like this new you.” Lamia made a shallow bow in my direction and walked away.
“I could say the same about you,” I told her, not sure if she had heard me. And it was true, we had changed, everything was different from the time my mother was the Empress. Lamia was not the same and neither was I. Surviving the hell of sector 32 had changed me more than I was willing to acknowledge.
“You did the right thing Kaiserin.” Trajan voice cut through my thinking and brought me back.
“Reading my mind?” I asked, worried that I haven’t felt any proving in my mind. Were my thoughts so loud that they were escaping my mind, free for any telepath to read?
“I don’t need to read your mind to see what you are thinking. Don’t let what other people think affect you, Kaiserin. You did the right thing, with Lamia and with Isis, don’t let their ideas make you doubt yourself.
“You really think I’m doing the right thing?” I asked him. “I know many people think just like Isis is thinking.”
“I’m with you sister, I think you are doing a good thing by giving your people an opportunity to improve themselves. You, better than anyone, know how valuable an opportunity can be. And you and I know the real value of people. Isis is just too caught up in her position and her air of superiority to understand those around her, she doesn’t see a human when she sees a slave or a simple soldier.
“I would like to believe that, but I know it won’t be easy. I know my word is law, but just because I want it, it doesn’t mean that it won’t be resistance.”
“It will be worth it. You have good instincts and I know that your ideas will prove to be valuable in the long term, give it time and people will be how wise your actions were. Lesser minds still think that fear is the greatest weapon, they don’t realize that loyalty is a far better weapon, is important to keep your people happy. If my enemies only knew how much information I gathered from the slaves. People ignore them, they don’t keep their conversations hidden from them, making them the best spies there are. But you can’t just force information out of them, you have to make them want to cooperate. It’s in our best interest to keep them happy, they can be a powerful weapon against us if unhappy and a valuable resource if satisfied.
“Sometimes I really wonder if you are capable of going inside my mind without my knowledge, the way your ideas are aligned with mine is kind of scary.” Trajan smiled at my words, a warm smile that made me feel good.
“Great minds think alike, and remember that even if we’re just half siblings, and that we spent most of our lives apart, that doesn’t change the fact that we share the same blood and the same ideals, I have more in common with you that I ever had with Caracalla. The main difference between us is that you were always willing to do the right thing, it took me years to find the courage to step out of Caracalla’s shadow and start fighting for what I believed.
“I’m glad I have you with me brother, I don’t know what I would do without you.”
“If I wasn’t here, one of your cousins or ex-lovers would be in my place, there’s a lot of people who would be glad to help you.”
“You are right, you are not that necessary after all.” Trajan started to laugh at my words, he wasn’t fooled by my words, he knew how much I appreciated him. It was another thing in his favor, he knew when I was being serious and when I was joking. I stopped to think of his words, there was a lot of people willing to stand by my side, and Lamia was one of them, but it didn’t feel like that. “I don’t like what happened with Lamia, I know that she is not angry at me, and that’s not what I want. Maybe I overreacted, I’m sure she wasn’t trying to be mean or anything.”
“I don’t think you overreacted, but if you feel like that, then you can do something about it. I don’t think it is the best option, but you could always do what she wanted.” I felt the panic coming from Lord at hearing Trajan’s words, he believed I would sacrifice him for my friendship with Lamia.
“I can compromise, I will send her someone, just not the one she wants.” I thought about another of my guards, a Vlad that reminded me of Lamia when she was younger, one everyone wanted. “Do you think Liderc would like to go to Lamia?”
“Liderc?” Trajan thought about it for a moment and then smiled at me. “Liderc would be perfect for Lamia, and knowing him, he will be very pleased to be sent to her. It won’t be a problem for him, but we will have to rearrange your guard’s shifts if we are going to let Liderc go for a couple of days.”
“I just intend to send him tonight.”
“If you put two highly sexual beings as Lamia and Liderc together one night won’t be enough, both are energy thieves, both will want to be on control, and if Lamia wins, and I’m sure she will, then Liderc won’t be in any state to move for a couple of days.” I tried my best not to react to Trajan’s words, the picture he was painting wasn’t a comforting one. “But I know that Liderc will be a very happy man once Lamia finishes with him, so don’t worry.” It was easy to say, not so easy to believe that I was doing the right thing.
“Could you handle it? Speak with Maddan and rearrange the shifts as you think best.”
“Of course, I will handle it.”
Trajan left, leaving me alone with my thoughts. I went to my office and started with the reports, trying to engage my mind in other matters, trying to forget the last hours. Before retiring to my room, I supervised the guard’s change, as the new guards arrived and the others left, I heard a whisper in my ear.
“Thank you.” The whisper said. I didn’t recognize the voice, but I knew only one person that could be thanking me. It was such a simple thing, but it made me feel so much better and gave me faith that I was taking the right decisions.
I asked for my dinner to be delivered to my room and ate alone and in silence. As I was finishing I was interrupted by an unexpected visitor.
“Can I come in?” Agis asked from the door.
“Of course, come on in. I had no idea you were in the Palace.” I signaled my guards to leave the room, I didn’t want them listening to us.
“I wanted to speak to you, to see how you were doing.” Agis smiled at me, but his smile wasn’t warm like always, it made me uneasy.
“I didn’t know you were here, I thought you were in your sector, settling into your new position.”
“I went there, set things, and came back for you. I wanted to see how you were doing, how you were settling into your new role as Empress.”
“It’s a hard job, but someone has to do it, why not me?” I closed my eyes and let myself get more comfortable in my seat. I was very tired, and the feeling that something bad was about to happen was making me uneasy.
“You don’t have to do everything by yourself,” I opened my eyes when I heard how close his voice was and found Agis in front of me, offering me a cup of tea, from the service my slaves had prepared for me. “You know you can count on me for anything you need.”
We talk about trivial stuff while I drank my tea, I was expecting to feel relaxed, but I felt worse, not sick, just weird, I had a feeling that I didn’t like. It took me a while to find what the problem was, I was getting excited, artificially excited, a feeling very similar to the one Joshes made me feel. It was wrong, so wrong and I was having trouble controlling it.
“Are you alright?” Agis took my hand and I felt the heat extending from the point where our hands were touching to the rest of my arm.
“I don’t know.” I was confused, I knew something wasn’t right, but I had trouble understanding why I was feeling like that. “I think I’m just tired, I think I will go to bed now.”
“Let me join you.” Agis helped me to stand up and then dragged me to his arms, then he started kissing me.
At first I was too confused to fight the kiss, the kiss that was feeding the sensations running through my body, but soon the hunger turned to panic. I was transported to my past, it wasn’t Agis with me anymore and I wasn’t in my room, I was in Joshes’ room, reliving the nightmare nights in her company. In my panic, I pushed Agis away and that brought me back to the present, I saw that it wasn’t one of my tormentors, but Agis who was with me, Agis my friend, my savior. But something wasn’t right, I wasn’t feeling right. It had been a difficult day, and it was getting worse. I was losing control of my body, I was getting scared because of that. I was trying my best to appear calm, but I was screaming inside. I couldn’t do it anymore, I needed help, and like a coward I summoned my guard, trying to hide behind them.
“Did you call?” One of them asked from the door as they returned to the room and I tried to put some distance between Agis and I.
“Yes, I did. I’m going to sleep now, you can come into the antechamber now.” It was a rule that my guards couldn’t be more than one room from me. “And I would appreciate if one of you could escort colonel Agis back to his room.”
“Kaiserin…” Agis tried to interrupt me, he was mad at me for some reason.
“Good night Agis.”
I almost ran to my room, it was hard to control myself. I closed the door and went into my bed, drowning my frustrated screams in my pillows.