The months I had spent with the Amazons before Malkia’s birth made me understand what I had to do, for the moment my place was with the Amazons. If I had gone back to my own Clan I would have been serving a lifetime sentence, even if I could go back to being the Empress it would be only temporary, it would be just a matter of time before they discovered what I really was, and then they would take control of my life, I would be nothing but a slave to their whims, my life in the hands of the one sitting in the throne. Because of that I needed to go back to the Amazons, that and Alkaia’s daughter. Their future depended on me training Alkaia’s daughter, and maybe the future of my own Clan too.
Alkaia was mad because of my disappearing act, but at the end she blamed it on our different philosophies, she thought that I had had a boy, and even if she didn’t understand how a mother could want a male, she understood my desire to keep him protected. Her advisers and generals saw my actions as a sign of weakness, or even a form of treason. For them having a male heir was some kind of sin, their absolution only possible by giving him to the slave mistresses to become just one more anonymous slave.
There was so much I didn’t understand about the Amazons, but their treatment of men was one of the things I hated most. I wasn’t against punishing those who deserved it, like Tank, he deserved what he was getting, but I couldn’t stand the thought of punishing innocent people.
I was concentrated on Alkaia’s daughter’s training. For the last months of my pregnancy the combat part had been difficult, besides, I used to get tired really fast. But now that I had no pregnancy to hold me back, I could train with her in melee combat. She was stronger than most people, with a tough body just like her mother, with the correct training and movements she could deal a great amount of damage. But it wasn’t enough, I knew because of my visions just how strong she could become, but we weren’t anywhere near that level, I knew I was missing something. She was stronger than most, I couldn’t deny that, but she wasn’t that great. I had seen her cousins fighting, and I knew there were at a level above her. She needed to become so much more if she was going to get her family and Clan’s respect.
“You need to come at me with all you got,” I told Alkaia’s daughter, “don’t worry about me, don’t be afraid of hurting me or I will hurt you.”
“I’m trying,” she said in a tone of voice so soft I almost didn’t hear it.
“I know what you are capable of and you are holding back. This is it for today, I will let you go, but I want you to think about his: you will never know what you are capable of until you try, stop holding back!” She just nodded. “And remember that tomorrow morning you will train with your mother’s guards, try to practice what I taught you today and I want you to defeat at least one of them. They will report to me and I hope they give me good news.” She nodded again and when I didn’t say anything else she just left.
She was good at following orders, she just needed to learn to give them. She had so much potential, I just needed to find a way to use it. It was difficult dealing with her, she was so insecure, so shy, she couldn’t even talk out loud.
I got up from the stadium where we trained every day and decided to walk back home. The first weeks of my time with the Amazons I had been a guest, or more likely a prisoner in Alkaia’s palace, but after a while I had earned a house, a home. Most Amazons lived in the ruins of ancient cities, and most of their houses and buildings were death traps, so old and neglected that they could fall on you without warning, some were even rigged so whomever got in wouldn’t be able to go out again. The Amazons knew which buildings were safe and which weren’t, a knowledge that had been passed to me. I lived on the outskirts of the city, on the other side from Alkaia’s palace, but near to the stadium’s gym where we usually practiced. Around me, Amazons and slaves got with their routines, I wasn’t paying much attention, until someone stepped in front of me.
“Greetings Pitonisa,” Alkaia said when I looked at her.
“Greetings Alkaia,” I answered as I stopped in front of her. “To what do I owe the pleasure of your company?” I knew she wasn’t there by chance, she was there to see me.
“I needed to talk to you about a couple of things,” Alkaia started to walk and I followed her. “First, I want to know how is my daughter doing with her training?”
“She has improved a lot,” that was true, “but I haven’t found that one thing that makes her especial. In her current form she is a great warrior, but not a leader. I’m worried about her silence, how can she command an army if she can’t make her voice heard on the battlefield? I have tried to make her speak up, but I haven’t been able to do it. I need to find something to make her great, otherwise she won’t ever be anything but a great soldier.”
“Well Pitonisa, that’s your work. You are here to make sure that my daughter becomes a woman capable of taking my place,” Alkaia was getting arrogant. “You know exactly what the situation is. My daughter is already past fifteen, my niece Valasca earned her name four years ago, and she and my sister are eager to take the heiress title from my daughter, and if that happens, then I can’t guarantee that there’s going to be a place for you in this Clan.” It sounded as if she was worried about me, but I knew better, it was a threat wrapped in sweet words.
“Is that some kind of threat?” I asked directly. I thought that if she was trying to intimidate me there was no reason I couldn’t do the same. “Don’t forget, Alkaia, that you only have power over me because I allow you to have it.” I stopped and forced her to do the same. “Don’t make a mistake, my friend,” I said, looking at her in the eyes, “the only reason you are still in control of this Clan is because I allow you to. You know what I’m capable of and that if I decided to, I could take the throne from you.” Alkaia was acting tough and challenging, but I knew that under the surface she was scared, she knew I was right. It wasn’t the first time she had tried to intimidate me, and each and every time I showed her who was stronger. “But don’t worry, Alkaia,” I said as I started walking again, “like I said before, it has never been my intention to take your place, and I assure you that your daughter is the one that will take over once you are gone.”
“I will let your threats go this time, Pitonisa, because so far all of your predictions have been true, but for both our sakes I hope that it doesn’t take long for you to make my daughter the warrior you and I know she is.” She was walking with me again, not too close, but not far, just a safe distance from me.
“Is there something else you want to talk about?” I asked after a few minutes of silence.
“We are worried about you, since you had your baby a few weeks ago you have been very… well, more isolated than usual. I think it’s time for you to move on.”
“And how do you suggest I do that?”
“Well,” she started, “this morning a group of Amazons found some people fighting within our borders,” she smiled, “we captured a fine collection of warriors and we decided to give you a gift,” she finished just as we reached my house.
“We already discussed this Alkaia, I don’t want or need a slave.” It was normal for them to use slaves, and among the Amazons sex slaves were very important and common, it was their way of keeping the population, but I wasn’t comfortable with that. I had never considered forcing someone to have sex with me, especially not after what had happened to me under Agmong’s and then Joshes’ command.
“Just give him a try before you reject him, he is one fine specimen, we picked him especially for you. If after a couple of days you decide you don’t like him I can take him out of your hands.” She was doing me a favor, and I knew that she had the best of intentions, it wasn’t her fault that I felt so strong against it, I just couldn’t be ungrateful to her.
“I will Alkaia, thank you.” I was pretty sure that I could pretend for a couple of days, it would give him a couple of days to get used to the idea of being a slave. There wasn’t much I could do for the poor fool, but I would do what I could to help.
Alkaia smiled and left, I stayed there for a moment, thinking about Alkaia’s ‘gift’, but first things first, I had to go and see what they had given me. I reached my door and saw the young warrior there. Officially, she was there to protect me, but I knew that she was there to keep an eye on me. It didn’t bother me, she was no threat to me, if I wanted I could get past her easily.
“Welcome Pitonisa. Everything is calm, a slave came early to prepare a bath for you. Your new slave is waiting for you. Food will arrive in a couple of hours as usual.”
“Thanks.” I entered my house and closed the door behind me.
The house I lived in was centuries old, but well preserved. I always thought that someone very powerful or influential must have built it if it could survive the Great War. The Amazons had done a good job restoring it. It wasn’t the kind of place I was used to, it was comfortable and luxurious, with enough space to house an entire squad, but it was just for me. Just crossing the door, I found myself in an open space. To my left there was a living room, to my right a kitchen, just in front were the stairs. I climbed up the stairs and walked to my room. I didn’t want to, but I had to see what the Amazons had prepared for me.
I walked past the first two doors until I reached the master bedroom. I put my hand on the knob and took a deep breath before opening the door. The first thing I saw was the four post bed that dominated the room. I was expecting to see the slave there, but all I saw were some broken chains. I was on alert immediately, cursing myself for being so distracted, I had trusted my house to be a safe place, and now there could be someone waiting to harm me. My defenses were down and I could have fallen into a trap.
I expanded my senses until I felt the person in the room. He was outside my field of vision. It took me just a second to realize that he was on the other side of the room, where I had some pillows and a table. Feeling more secure after finding where he was, I lifted my psychic wall and connected to the room and the house around me. Once I was confident I had the upper hand, I walked inside the room, ignoring the bed and moving to where I knew the slave was waiting.
“Why do they call you Pitonisa? I thought your name was Kaiserin,” the slave said even before I stepped fully into the room, before he could see me and I could see him, but I knew that voice.
And then I saw him, he was seated on the pillows, obviously naked, his lower half covered by one of my sheets. For a moment I stood there frozen, not sure what to do or what to say, unsure if he was real or part of my imagination. I had been so sure I was never going to see him again, and the last place I expected him to be was my room.
“What are you doing here?” I asked, my voice calm and my body in control, so unlike what I was feeling inside, but he could read me like a book and I had to do my best to stop him from seeing just how his presence had surprised me.
“I came to see you, obviously.” Kimball said with a bright smile on his face.