Making the decision should have been the difficult part, but once I made my mind, I found that the actions I had to take were going to be very complicated, and each one would be more difficult than the other. But I knew it was the right choice, the only choice. I had learned a few things in my life, I had learned the difference between superficial necessities and things that really mattered. I knew that there was nothing more important at that moment that the life of my daughter, and I knew that I was going to do anything for her, it didn’t matter what I had to sacrifice for her, I had to make sure that my child was safe.
During my stay in the Shadowland I had been talking to Trajan every night, as he suspected, Bravia not only knew about Pedres’ plans, she had helped him. Trajan had moved quickly and by then the Toreador Clan was completely under our control. We had even discussed the right people to be in charge of the Clan, someone without ties to either Lamia or the Toreadors. I had trusted Trajan to take most of the decisions, and was glad with the results. He had good instincts, he could do a good job in my absence.
The original plan was to meet Trajan in the Toreador’s territory and then go back to the Palace together. My people and I set camp after a long day on the road and I started to prepare my escape. It was a painful choice, but I had to continue on my own, at least until my baby was born, I had to stay away from my Clan and the people threatening her existence. There was no other way, if I stayed then my child would die, even if I took Isis out of the way, someone else would take her place, there was more than one person that would do anything to avoid having a child from the Common Families as an heiress. They wouldn’t give her a chance, they would condemn her and execute her, I had to find the way to give her the opportunity she deserved.
Under the protection of the night, I prepared a bag with clothes for a few days, weapons and food to last for a week. I hadn’t gone camping on my own since my time with Agmong, usually other people prepared my bag for me, but as prepared my bag, I thought that it couldn’t be so hard, if I had survived while with Agmong, being terrorized and injured, then I could be by my own while I was strong and in control. The difficult part was not being on my own, but getting past my own guards. The advantage of being in charge was that I knew exactly where all of my sentries were, and I had appointed just one guard on my door. I recalled Zounkla’s teachings and created an illusion around me that protected me, hiding me from the others while I walked away from the camp. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t something I was used to do and the warriors I had to fool were strong and intelligent. Somehow I made it to the edge of the camp, and it was then that I decided to create the chaos that would mask my escape. The fire in the center of the camp went wild, the fire growing until it was a few feet high. A strong wind went through the place, tearing apart the tents, playing with them and throwing them from one side of the camp to the other. At the other side of the camp from where I was standing, I created a few rock figures, I was creating the illusion that someone was hiding there, creating the chaos in the camp. I did what I wanted to do, the guards were distracted, chasing the false enemies I had created. I collapsed the figures I had created I covered my tracks. I hoped I had bought enough time to escape, as I was getting away, I heard the screams and I felt the minds reaching to mine, they had finally noticed my absence and they were looking for me. I knew that in the chaos they wouldn’t notice I wasn’t there, they would just assume that I was fighting elsewhere, but my absence was something that couldn’t go unnoticed for long. I knew that the people I was leaving behind was going to be in trouble, but I had no choice but to leave the way I did. No one would have let me go, no one would come with me either. I was alone, on my own.
I knew I was being selfish, I was putting my daughter’s life and my peace of mind over my duty to my Clan. But I had sacrificed a lot for my Clan and I needed to be selfish just this once, besides, if my visions were right, at the end I would pay my debt to my Clan with interests.
I had been so focused on my problems and my daughter that I had lost perspective, but Melchizedek made me see that even the paths that seemed to be wrong could be the answer. The vision that I insisted on ignoring because I thought it had nothing to do with my problem ended up being the answer I was looking for. I knew that what I was doing was wrong and selfish, many would see me as a traitor because of my actions, but if I had a little luck my actions in the long run would ensure the survival of my Clan and help to atone for my sins. And if I had a lot of luck, I could even be able to return to my Clan again. But one problem at a time, I needed to focus on my survival for the next few days. First, I needed transport, the place I had to go was far away and I needed to move fast.
Once I was at a safe distance from the camp, I found a place where I could stay hidden and went into the astral planes, that way I could cover more terrain while I surveyed my surroundings. I found a good place to stay through the day. I moved and set camp, after finishing the necessary tasks, I started my meditation, I needed to enter the fog of the future again. I needed to see how my actions had altered my paths, I needed to see my options. I spent most of the morning lost in my visions, when I finally got out I ate a light meal and planned my next movement. Before long I was too exhausted to continue and had to take a nap.
I should have known that someone would be waiting for me.
‘Where are you?’ Trajan’s question reached my mind.
‘I’m safe.’ It was all I could say to him.
‘What happened to you?’ Trajan’s mental image materialized in front of me, the both of us were standing in my mental landscape, I had let him in, I knew it would be easier to talk to him that way.
‘I can’t explain it to you.’ I knew that Trajan was looking for me, and I wasn’t going to make things easier for him, after all I was running away from him.
‘I’ve been able to hide your disappearance, but when our enemies find out that you are missing, that someone captured you…’ Trajan left the thought open, waiting for me to fill the blanks.
‘You just have to know that none of the soldiers that were with me are to blame for this. I can’t tell you what is going on, but I can assure you that I’m ok and I will probably see you in a few weeks.’
‘Weeks? What’s going ok? Tell me where you are, so I can go for you.’
‘No, don’t come. I will go back when the time is right.’
‘Who is with you? Is someone threatening you? Are you in danger?’
‘Yes, I am,’ I answered his last question. ‘I need to be on my own for a while, is the only way I can do what I have to do. I know that this is going to be difficult for you and that I am breaking the promise I made to Isis of calling the Reunion. If you think that it will help, then you can organize a new Succession Battle and replace me. When I go back, if I do, then I will take back what is mine.’
‘You are making no sense Kaiserin.’ I could feel Trajan’s presence growing in my mind, he was getting desperate and wanted to search for the answers I was not giving him. ‘Who is making you do this? How can I help you?’
‘Please just forget about it, don’t think of me. I told you I need to be alone to do what I have to do. Please just forgive me.’
I severed the connection between us, I was afraid of what he could find if I gave him the opportunity, just one errant thought was enough to make my plans crumble. I felt guilty, my decisions were going to make things harder on them. Trajan wasn’t the only one affected, I knew that soon the whole Clan would be looking for me, and because of that I needed to get outside Imperial territory as soon as possible. I needed more rest, I needed to take care of me and my daughter, I needed to be rested for the journey ahead of me.
The next few days were difficult, finding a motorcycle to move through the territory was easy, I knew the control points and the secret warehouses with imperial supplies. I didn’t feel like stealing, all I took belonged to the Clan, and in a sense it was mine. Finding gas for my vehicle was the hardest, but I managed well enough and was able to move without being detected. Trajan kept trying to contact me every day and although it was hard, I managed to avoid him. As the distance between us grew it got harder for him to reach me until I was out of his range.
Traveling alone was easier than I expected, hiding was easier and soon it was like a game to avoid the groups of enemies and allies that were looking for me. The training Caracalla had given me by sending people to kill me was being tested to the limit, but in a way I was feeling free for the first time. I still felt bad for the people I was leaving behind, I knew that I was causing them problems and that some of them should be worried about me, but I hoped that once my daughter was safe I would be able to find a way to go back to my Clan.
It took me weeks to get to the place I needed to be, but I used some of the time I had to spend hiding learning to navigate the fogs of the future. I understood better why Cerridwen was so good at walking the astral planes, the skills needed to move between the future paths were similar to the one needed to move between planes, and I was grateful for the teachings she had given me. Every day the paths changed, each decision closed paths, and as some closed, new ones opened, creating a never ending shift in the fogs. Some paths were clearer than others, more possible, but not always the best options. After much walking and thinking I had decided to take a risk. If the risk payed out, then I would be safe for the next months, if not I would be in great trouble.
I saw the caravan approaching and moved to the middle of the road. I hoped that the information I had gathered from my visions was accurate. None of the vehicles were slowing down, I knew they had seen me, because the warriors on top of them had their weapons pointing at me. I concentrated my attention on the warriors on top of the vehicles, when they were close to me, I used my mind to push them out of the vehicles. After that, I moved the earth under the vehicles, lifting them from the ground just enough so the tires would lose traction and the vehicles were unable to move. More warriors spilled out of the vehicles and moved to attack me, but I had my psychic wall ready to stop any attack.
“I want to talk to Alkaia.” I screamed, making sure that everyone heard me.
“What you want is not important,” one of the warriors said. “You are in Amazon territory and as a trespasser you are an enemy. Surrender and we won’t hurt you.”
I didn’t answer, I just dropped my wall and prepared to attack. I had chosen the place carefully, we were in the woods, the huge trees had equally huge roots. The roots raised and surrounded the warriors, some of them were fast enough to avoid them, and some were strong enough to break them as fast as I was sending them. I felt frustrated because it wasn’t as easy as I expected, but I kept fighting until I had the situation under control. It was then that Alkaia herself got out of one of the vehicles. I hadn’t seen before, but I knew it was her. Her hair was the first thing that got my attention, I was used to dark haired people from the Empire, but she was blonde, a color we rarely saw, except in slaves. Her skin was fair too, she was tanned, she looked like she spent a lot of time under the sun, she wasn’t a frail leader more used to order people around than working hard, but she was tough. I could see in her movements that her slender frame was not to be underestimated, she was pure muscle, and moved like a dangerous predator.
Alkaia moved past her struggling warriors, but I didn’t attack her, I let her come to me, she walked without fear. She wasn’t afraid of me, she didn’t know me, and she was a woman used to be on the top, sure of her power.
“Greeting Alkaia.” I did shallow bow to show her respect, I needed to be on her good side, I didn’t want to fight with her if it wasn’t necessary. “Please, ask your warriors to stop fighting and I promise I won’t hurt them.”
“Tell me who you are and what you want and I might let you go without making you pay for attacking my people.”
“I’m here to make a deal with you. I know where the person you are looking for is, I can guide you to him and help you capture him.”
“Why? What’s your interest in this?” She was staring at me, her eyes were analyzing me, she was a smart woman and I couldn’t help but feel respect for her.
“I need your help. Let me help you in this mission and show you that I could be useful to you, after that I will tell you my name. All I ask in exchange is that a safe haven.”