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Chapter 9

I was hurting.  I was in pain.  For a moment I didn’t know where I was, but I was thrown back to those days when it was normal to wake up with a broken body and a headache that felt like someone was trying to crack my skull open.  But those days were over, Agmong was dead.  What had happened? Why was I feeling like that?  I started to hear the sounds around me, voices I didn’t recognize speaking in a language I couldn’t understand.  And then I heard a baby crying.  My baby.  I forgot all my training at that moment, I just reacted, I opened my eyes and sat up.  It was an error to move so fast, I felt sick and my vision went dark for a second.

“Take it easy, everything is alright,” a voice that sounded familiar said to me.  “Your baby is ok, she’s just hungry.”  I felt a hand on my back and tensed, I was ready to try and defend myself.  “Easy,” he repeated, “I won’t hurt you.  Do you think you can nurse your baby girl? I’m afraid we are short on baby food.”

I finally managed to clear my mind and focus on what was important: my daughter.  I took a deep breath and concentrated on blocking the pain, I needed to calm down and focus on my next task.  I extended my arms and the man put little Malkia on them.  When the man bent over to give me Malkia I could see his face, beautiful green eyes were staring back at me, it was then that I finally connected the voice with a memory, he was the man I had fought the day I joined the Amazons.

“I see you remember me,” his lips curved in a smile, but I wasn’t sure if I found the gesture comforting or threatening.  “Don’t worry, you’re safe here.”

I took a moment to look around, we were in a huge tent, there was a fire in the center and a few people were sitting around it.  I was sitting on one side of the tent, there were some blankets and pillows under me.  The man went back to the fire and I saw that they were eating.  I could see that they were trying to give me a little privacy and I wasn’t sure what to think about that, they were watching me out of the corner of their eyes, but they were subtle about it.  There was something weird about them, the last time I saw them, I thought that they were wearing some kind of paint because of the darkness of their skin, but now I could see that it was their natural color, most of them had black skin, only a couple, like the man with green eyes had lighter skin, and it was still darker than most people I knew.  It was such a simple matter, but it was puzzling me.

They had taken my jacket off, and I noticed a few bandages on my arms, they had taken care of my injuries.  I lifted my shirt so I could nurse Malkia.  I was mostly covered, but for some reason I felt naked and vulnerable.  They weren’t paying me attention and after a few minutes I felt more at ease.  I couldn’t understand what they were saying, that was why I couldn’t completely relax, I knew most of the languages spoken in the land, but I couldn’t recognize theirs.  I tried not to worry, I was alive and so was my daughter, and for the moment it was all that mattered, I would worry about their plans for us later.

I heard a noise and saw another group entering the tent.  The man got up and walked towards a woman that I guessed was in charge of the group arriving, they started talking like she was reporting to him.  Two of the people arriving went to sit with the others, but the other two saw me and starting moving towards me.  I tried to ignore them as they moved around the others.  I didn’t need my powers to know what they were thinking, it was clearly painted on their faces, I had seen the same intent in many others in the past.  I forced myself to remain calm, I wanted to run or fight, but I couldn’t, so I tried my best to appear unaffected.  It was difficult, I felt like I had fallen into a nightmare, I was weak, defenseless and at the mercy of men that wanted to abuse me.

“After the recon mission I’m a little thirsty,” one of them said, he was standing just a couple of feet from me.

“Same here, I’m craving some milk, don’t you?” The way they were talking and the way they were looking at me was making my skin crawl, but I kept an appearance of calmness, I couldn’t let them see they were affecting me.

“I think I’ll take a turn after the baby, those breasts are mouthwatering.”  I noticed a change in the atmosphere, it was suddenly heavy and more people were paying attention to us now.  I knew I should have seen it coming, I was just a prisoner, it was just a matter of time before they decided to take advantage of me, they were in control after all, I was too weak to fight back.

“Why should we wait?” The other one said.  “Let´s just get rid of the baby and we won’t have to wait our turn.”  I saw him extending his hand as he was talking, I saw him reaching for my baby, trying to take her away from me.

I wasn’t thinking, I just reacted, not caring about the pain or the consequences.  I used my mind to push him and the other man, throwing them to the other side of the tent.  It was after that that I noticed my error, everyone was standing, they were moving, some trying to reach me.  I tried to get up, I needed to escape, but my attack had only made my headache get worse, I couldn’t see straight, and when I tried to stand up my legs weren’t strong enough to hold me, my legs buckled under me and I thought I was going to fall, but I didn’t, strong arms surrounded me, holding me up.  I didn’t need to see to know who he was, I knew those arms, and I knew the power behind them, he could crush me easily, there was no way I could escape him, I was trapped.

The noises got quiet and I knew that whatever was going on was now finished.  The man moved and moved me with him, I tried to focus my sight and saw the man that had tried to take Malkia away on the floor, one of the women had her foot on his head, and had the other man by the neck.

“We were only joking,” said the man on the floor.

“You are all overreacting,” said the woman that had arrived with them, “they were just having a little fun.  Just calm down.”

“The life of a little baby is a joke to you?” asked the woman that had them subdued.

“That’s enough Mbali,” the man that had me, said.  “Take our guest to my room, I’ll go there as soon as I settle this.”

The woman, Mbali, let them go and came to me, she put one arm around my waist and the other over my own arm to help me hold Malkia.  I was too weak and I couldn’t move without help, so I had no choice but to follow her. I was halfway there when the words of the man really sunk in, I was going to his room, I started to panic, but then decided that maybe it was best that way, I preferred to be with just one of them than to be abused by the whole camp.  After Agmong and then Joshes I thought that I would never let myself be in that situation again, that I would rather die than let someone take me without my permission, but I had no choice, it was my daughter I had to think of, not only myself, I had to endure whatever happened as long as my child was safe.

The woman, Mbali, took me to the side of the tent, there was an opening in the fabric, it took us to another room, it had an air mattress and also some packs and tools.  She helped me down to the mattress and then she sat next to me.

“Are you ok?” She asked, but I didn’t know how to answer, besides, I had no energy left to speak.  “Don’t worry about them, I won’t let anything happen to your daughter.” She sounded sincere and I wanted to trust her, but I couldn’t, she may be just trying to get me to trust her so she could manipulate me.

Just a couple of minutes later the man entered the room.  He looked even bigger in the small space, he had to keep his head down, the roof was lower in there and he couldn’t even stand straight.  He had a plate with food in one hand and a bottle of water in the other, he put both of them in front of me.

“I’m sorry about what happened,” his voice was nice and gentle, not like the strong and domineering tone he had used with his men.  “My name is Kimball,” he said with a smile.  “Are you ok?” He looked at me, but didn’t wait for my answer.  “Are you in pain?” He was staring at me, and it was making me nervous.  I closed my eyes, I didn’t want to see him looking at me, and then I didn’t have the strength to open them again, it was easier just to stay that way.  “I’ll give you something for the pain.”  I felt panic, the last thing I needed was to be drugged.

“I just need to rest.” My voice was fragile, weak, and I hated that I was showing them my weakness.

“Are you sure about that?” Kimball asked.  I didn’t know how to answer, if I said I was sure, would he force the drugs on me anyway? Or would he listen to me and respect my wishes?  “If you need anything call me, I will be just outside.” He left the food beside the bed and then Mbali helped me lay on the bed, she put my daughter by my side and then left with Kimball.

The pain was overwhelming, I couldn’t even move, I had over used my powers and I knew that I was lucky I wasn’t dead.  I left my body, I couldn’t handle the pain anymore and outside my body I could forget for a moment and let my body recover.  I wasn’t going to be much help to my daughter until I got better.

I stayed on the material plane, I stayed close, and I saw the people going to the different rooms to rest for the night, I expected Kimball to go into the room any moment, but he moved the blankets where I had rested, to the front of the division between the common area and the room I was in, and sat there, Mbali joined him for a while.  Were they a couple? Mbali left and Kimball lay down and went to sleep outside my room.

I was surprised to see that and I felt a little bit safer, I explored more and realized that I was a long way from where the battle had taken place.  After that I spent a moment in the superior planes trying to find some peace before returning to my body.  I fed Malkia and ate some of the food they had left for me, but ignored the pills, I wasn’t sure if they were really for the pain or something more.  I wanted to leave my body again, I knew I needed some rest, and I wouldn’t be able to sleep, but I had already spent too much time outside and it was dangerous, so I had to endure the pain as much as I could.

The morning arrived sooner than I expected, I hadn’t been able to rest much and my head was killing me.  Mbali entered the room while I was nursing Malkia.  She didn’t say anything, she waited for me to finish before she knelt beside me and then helped me change her.

“How are you feeling? Better?” I shook my head, and then realized that I was admitting my weakness to my enemy.  “Come with me.”  She helped me get to my feet and then guided me to the center of the tent, where the others were already having breakfast.

Mbali sat me beside her, across from me was an older man that as looking at me as if I was a puzzle he was trying to solve.  On his side were the men that had tried to hurt Malkia and the woman that had defended them was next to them.  She was discussing with Kimball.

“She is my guest,” Kimball responded to her foreign words in a language I understood.  “I won’t repeat myself, I left everything clear yesterday.”

The woman continued to talk in the language I couldn’t understand, her tone of voice growing with each sentence, she was talking about me and wanted me to know that, she just didn’t want me to understand her words, but I didn’t care.  I felt bad, the pain was bad and my headache was just getting worse, attacking those men the day before had been a mistake, I knew I was just a step from passing out, the pain was that bad.  Mbali gave me a plate of food and I started to panic, what if the food was poisoned, what if they had noticed I didn’t take the pills and were trying to drug me.  I noticed that everyone was eating from the same pot and considered that maybe I was being paranoid.  I wasn’t thinking straight, the pain was getting to me.  The discussion kept rising in volume and I felt like someone was hammering my head.  I let the plate of food slip from my fingers, I took my hands to my head and started to press on my temples, as if it could hold the pain at bay.  I closed my eyes and tried to block everything.

I felt a hand on my arm and opened my eyes to see Kimball in front of me.

“What’s wrong?” He asked me, but I couldn’t speak, I could just stare at him.  “What’s the problem?” I felt like I was going to pass out and he shook me.  “Kaiserin! What’s wrong?”

That was a name I hadn’t heard in a long time and I was surprised.  Have I told them my name?  They weren’t supposed to know it.

“Kaiserin?  Did you just call her Kaiserin?” The woman he was discussing with asked.  “Kaiserin, as in Empress Kaiserin?”  I felt everyone’s eyes on me, they were all waiting for an answer.

“Just shut up Sei,” Kimball growled the words.

“It kind of makes sense, she was really alone, just someone with a reputation like hers could defeat some Natives and then a group of Scavengers.  Do you have any idea what she is worth?  If we give her to the Imperialist Clan our reward would be great, they are offering instant recognition as part of the Alliance and they are also offering territories for her!”

“Is good, then, that we don’t have any desire to get into the Alliance and that we don’t need any territories,” Kimball said in a tone that made it clear that the conversation was over.  But everything was different, I could feel the change in the atmosphere, everyone was staring at me and I could feel the weight of their stares.  “Glassy eyes, photosensitivity, shivering, paleness… you have a migraine, don’t you?  You need something for the pain.”

“It’s a psychic headache, there’s nothing I can take that would ease this kind of pain.”  I saw something like concern in his eyes, but I couldn’t focus on it, I couldn’t think of that or anything else, the pain was consuming everything.

“You need to rest, are you finished eating?”

“I’m not hungry.”

“Come then.”  Kimball took Malkia an put her in the crook of his arm, his other arm he put around my waist.  He helped me up and guided me outside.  The light of the sun hurt my eyes and I kept my eyes closed, letting Kimball lead the way.  I heard a door opening and then he took me to the inside of a van.  “You can rest here while we pack the camp, the place is dark and quiet.” There were two benches on the sides, Kimball took me to one and helped me lay down, he then put Malkia over me.  “Rest, you will feel better after a nap.”  I didn’t intend on follow his advice, but I was tired, and not long after he left I fell asleep.

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