Things had deteriorated in the few weeks I was away. I found a convoy of Amazons patrolling the area, far from Alkaia’s stronghold. The increment in patrols could only mean an equal increment in attacks from the Militaries. Maybe I was running out of time. I joined the convoy and they took me back to Alkaia’s Palace. By the time I arrived, she was already waiting for me.
“Greetings, Pitonisa. I hope your trip was worthy.” Alkaia said when I approached her.
“It was, mostly.”
“How are you feeling? Are you tired? I’m sure you are, traveling while pregnant is very hard on the body.”
“That’s no longer a problem, my baby came early, she was premature.” I felt Alkaia’s pity and compassion. For most Clans a premature baby was a dead baby. Weakness was something that couldn’t be forgiven, not even a baby was spared. Alkaia thought that since I was alone and my baby was premature that meant my baby was dead. I did nothing to correct her assumption.
“I’m so sorry Pitonisa. Do you want to rest? I can send some slaves to prepare your house while you eat something, then you can go and rest.”
“I accept your offer of food, but I don’t have time to rest. There’s a lot I learnt in my travel, and I need to share the information while is fresh. After I eat, I want you to tell me everything that has happened in my absence, then I can tell you what I found. We need to know where are we standing so we can start to prepare our offensive.”
“If you are sure that’s what you need.” Alkaia called a warrior and sent her to order dinner.
“Pitonisa, welcome back!” Molpadia greeted me. I saw the strong, confident woman before me and I couldn’t recognize her from the little, insecure child she used to be. I felt proud knowing that her change was mostly because of me, and then I felt sad knowing that I wouldn’t be there for my own children like I was for her. “Did you have problems? Some people from the Empire came looking for you, I’m afraid they found out where you were going.”
“Don’t worry. I left the Shadows before they could find me. Now, let’s move, your mother promised food and I’m starving.”
“Of course, I’ll walk with you.” I followed Alkaia and Molpadia to the dining room. Just a few minutes after we arrived, the food arrived.
By the time I finished my meal and followed Alkaia to the conference room, her generals and advisers were already waiting for us. I noticed that some of them were injured, like they had been in battle recently. The worst of them was Polemusa, she had a black eye and her arm was in a sling, I knew she wouldn’t admit to wear something like that unless it was bad.
“I guess I missed a lot while I was away.”
“You have no idea.” Polemusa said, with a smug smile. I didn’t like her attitude, she looked almost proud of her wounds, not like other times when she had been ashamed of being injured.
“The attacks had increased a lot, and our main problem right now is that many of our previous alliances had been broken. Clans we were counting on had turned on us.” Alkaia explained.
“And I’m afraid is only going to get worse, if what I was it’s true, we can’t keep playing defense, we need to attack, be more proactive.” Something was off, I could feel some of them staring at me, but when I turned to them they avoided my eyes. And Polemusa was way too happy.
“We have the reports of the last attacks,” Alkaia gave me some papers. “We have been able to stop them, but although the damage has been minimum, it’s piling.”
While they talked about the last attacks I started to read the papers they had given me. I couldn’t find a battle that matched the damage some of them had, none of the battles had been near. Had they travel to protect their resources? Had they gone only to come back after being injured? Something wasn’t adding up and I had a bad feeling about it. Mostly because of Polemusa, she had a smile that said more than words, she knew something I didn’t, and she was enjoying it.
I noticed that Derinoe was talking to Polemusa telepathically. I was getting tired of their secrets and decided to eavesdrop on their conversation. I tried not to be obvious, so I kept on the limits, just picking up superficial thoughts. I needed to get an idea of what they were hiding, but I didn’t want them to notice me.
At first I couldn’t pick up much, but I knew something was very wrong. I hoped that what I was seeing were only fantasies or ideas, not memories. Most images coincided with the threats she had made when Molpadia defeated her daughter, so I hoped they were the product of her imagination, but the more I saw the more I was convinced I was looking at memories. I had to be sure, I needed to be sure. Polemusa looked at me and I used the opportunity to enter her mind, I was done being stealthy, I was going to get answers, even if that meant a direct attack.
“What are you doing!?” I threw Derinoe out of Polemusa’s mind. She was surprised, and scared. She knew that I had gone into her cousin’s mind.
“Do you think I’m stupid?” I asked. “Did you think I you can hide information from me?” Polemusa was whimpering, she was in pain. I wasn’t going easy on her, I wasn’t looking in her mind for answers, I was tearing it apart until I found what I wanted.
“Whatever you’re doing Pitonisa, stop, right now!” Alkaia ordered. She was on edge, she wasn’t sure what to do.
“Were you part of this?” I asked her. I felt betrayed, even scared. What I was looking at… Polemusa’s memories couldn’t be true.
“Calm down, you’re overreacting…” I didn’t give Alkaia a chance to finish talking. I stood up, pushing my chair, and all the other’s chairs back.
Polemusa fell like a broken doll when I left her mind. I felt many minds around mine, they were trying to attack. I dropped my defenses and let them in. They had no idea what was waiting for them. My mind was a fortress, and no one could be there and escape the punishment. I heard the screams inside and out of my mind when I opened my father’s curse. The blinding light that invaded my mind caused them so much pain that most of them passed out.
“Pitonisa, stop! What are you doing?” Alkaia yelled at me. I couldn’t see her, she was behind me as I moved to the exit, but I felt her power. Most people thought that she was just a super human, enhance strength, fast reflexes, above average resistance, but she had more than that. Her real power was her ability to affect other people’s perceptions. Her power could make you feel drunk, drugged, as if everything was moving in slow motion.
In my previous fights with her that didn’t matter because she was always in my sight, my power able to grab her without problem, but she was hiding from me now, making it harder for me to counter her power. Someone grabbed me from behind, putting her arm around me neck, trying to cut my breath. But I couldn’t waste time, I had to go.
I expanded my senses looking for Alkaia, at the same time I connected with the warrior behind me and started draining her energy. It felt like it was taking me hours to drain her, more to find Alkaia, but once I had enough energy I did what I had done during my fight for the throne, I made a psychic wall and pushed everyone to the walls, pushing until they couldn’t move, until they stopped fighting, until Alkaia’s power disappeared.
I always had trouble cutting the draining of energy, it was so addictive that nothing else mattered while I was feeding from it, but it was different, I had other things to do, my mind wasn’t consumed by the need of energy, my mind had only one thought, to go find him. I was able to cut the flow and the warrior fell to the ground, not dead, but weak enough that she wasn’t able to try and stop me again.
I ran out of the room and found Molpadia and a group of warriors moving towards the conference room.
Molpadia was asking questions, but I wasn’t listening. I heard screaming, but I didn’t bother to try to listen to them. I saw a group of warriors at the door, and moved in the other direction. I knew where the slave’s quarters were, there was no door close to them, the only exists where the main one, and through the kitchen, but I moved in a straight line, until I found the wall. I didn’t need a door, I could create my own exit.
“Pitonisa,” Molpadia was standing next to me as I was facing the wall. “What’s going on?”
“Ask your aunt. Or maybe you already know, were you part of this too?” I didn’t give her a chance to answer, I used my powers to break down the wall wand got out of the Palace. I didn’t need her to answer anyway, I could feel her guilt, that was answer enough.
I started to walk towards the slave’s quarters, and Molpadia was next to me in a moment.
“You can’t go there, why don’t we go to your house, you can rest and…” I had no time for Molpadia, I started to run.
Even without Alkaia’s power, slowing me down, I felt like I wasn’t moving fast enough. I wanted to curse Melchizedek, he could have told me the whole story, instead of giving me hints, but I knew that wasn’t fair, he did the best he could. He had told me to get back fast, he only omitted the true reason behind his suggestion. It was my own fault I hadn’t listened, that I had dismissed his advice and had taken my time traveling back. I understood the words he had spoken that first day. Was I too late? I kept running, as if I could erase the days I had wasted.
I opened the door to the first room. The place was almost empty, most slaves were working, just a few were sleeping, those who had worked during the night. I went to the next section, there the slaves were locked in cells. A group of warriors were chaining some of them, getting them ready for work outside. I think some of them tried to talk to me, but I ignored them, I kept moving, I knew he wasn’t in that room, so I went to the next. I went down to the basement, where the slaves were punished for their disobedience.
It was dark, only a few, small windows on the top, let some light in. I saw some slaves chained to the walls, but even if I couldn’t see them clear I knew he wasn’t there. I reached the last door and opened it. The smell of copper reached me first, the smell of blood, then I saw… The room was covered in blood; floor, walls, ceiling, blood everywhere. From the center of the ceiling a chain was hanging, that’s where I saw him, his body hung limp, supported only by his arms cuffed to the chain.
I started walking to him, but my legs gave up on me half way to him. I was too late, there was no way someone could survive after losing so much blood. I felt broken, I felt sick. It was my fault, my stupidity had caused his death.
I moved until he was at my back, I couldn’t see him anymore. I lifted my eyes and saw Alkaia, Molpadia, and a group of warriors gathered at the door.
“Why?” I couldn’t recognize my own voice, it was a scream filled with angst and desperation.
“He escaped, he disobeyed orders, he had to be punished.” That made sense to her, but not to me. Kimball was mine, no one could touch him, especially not Polemusa who hated me and hated him.
I heard the fear in Alkaia’s voice, I could feel the guilt in Molpadia. Whatever they were thinking, they knew that what they had done was wrong. They knew how important he was to me, they knew I was coming back, but they had hurt him.
They were going to pay, all of them. I wasn’t thinking anymore, I was consumed by pain and anger. I stood up, slowly, while the scared warriors pointed their weapons at me. With a though I pushed the weapons and made them crash with the wall. The noise was deafening, louder that it should be, but I didn’t care about that, I cared about revenge.
I saw horror and surprise on their faces, it was too strong a reaction, but I didn’t stop to think about it. It was the noise of chains that made me stop, the noise that was coming from behind me. I turned around and found myself in front of Kimball.
“What took you so long?”