There was no time in the astral planes, there was no difference between a minute or a century. I didn’t know how long I had been there, all I knew was the agony, the pain. The spirits around me were feeding on me, tearing me apart as they took everything from me. Freezing cold and pain were the only things I knew in that place. There was no escape, no respite, I had doomed myself by accepting that thing’s deal. I had agreed to his demands, and now I couldn’t fight him off. I was trapped, maybe for eternity, because I had been too scared to think about the consequences.
I had been floating for an eternity, suffering the shadow’s attacks, when a light shone upon me. After so many attacks my astral projection had lost its form, but under the warm light, I felt myself being rebuilt, getting together. I saw a light spirit in front of me, but it was so bright that I couldn’t distinguish its looks.
‘You cannot drift apart, you have too many things to accomplish, too many things to live for. You have to go back.’ I knew that voice, it was comforting and familiar, it resonated inside and out of me, making me stronger and driving the dark spirits away.
‘How? The link to my body is broken, I have no way to get back.’
‘Listen. They are calling you. Follow their voices’
And I heard, my name being yelled, the sound reaching me from far away, from a place I couldn’t see. I moved towards the call, as the light spirit had told me, but it was difficult to find my way in the darkness and I felt lost. I didn’t know if I was going up or down, if I was getting closer or farther away. For a moment I lost the voices, and I was afraid, the fear was like a call for the shadows to fall on me. I felt incorporeal hands grabbing at me, but I kept moving, searching for the voices that would take me out of that place.
‘We have a deal.’ the dark spirit’s voice echoed in that place, but at least I knew that I was on the right path. ‘You can’t go back, you are mine now.’
‘That deal is not valid and you know it,’ the light spirit said, ‘stronger forces already claimed her soul and you can’t take it away. You got more energy than you deserved from her, now it’s time to get back to the hole you came out of.’
The place was washed with light, until it was impossible to see. The shadows ran away and I could hear the dark spirit screaming his rage. I knew I had made a promise and I was breaking it, but I couldn’t let that hold me down, I had already paid for my mistake.
I found my body and got back inside. It was a weird experience being back after so much time drifting through the planes. The physical body felt alien at first, and then it was just familiar. I haven’t escaped the pain, but at least I wasn’t cold anymore.
“Why is she not waking up?” Kimball’s voice was near. I wanted to tell him that I was awake, but I was too weak to speak or open my eyes.
“The exorcism is not easy on the body, the spirit fought hard and drained her, it will be a while before she gets her energy back. At least we got rid of that thing, she is weak, but safe.”
“Are you sure she will be alright?”
“I’m sure. Don’t worry.”
“Kaiserin?” He whispered in my ear. “Can you hear me? I’m so sorry, I failed you, and if I could I would do everything different, you know I would do anything for you, right? You can’t leave me yet, I still need you. I know you can take energy from others, take mine, let me help you, let me pay for my mistake. Take whatever you need to get back to me.”
As if his words activated my powers, I could see his energy around us. I knew that it was dangerous, it was easy to get lost and take more than it was offered, but his energy was tempting and I needed it. I grabbed the ribbon of energy with my mind and started to drag it into me, slowly at first, but as I started to feel stronger I started to drain it faster. I opened my eyes and looked around me, we weren’t alone, some people were standing around us. Kimball was sitting on the border of my bed, holding me. I knew he was feeling me stealing his energy, but he didn’t show his discomfort, he was smiling at me.
“I can’t stop,” I warned him. “You have to get away from me.”
“No, this is my fault and I have to fix it.”
“I don’t want to hurt you.”
“You won’t, everything will be alright. You need to get better.”
“You don’t understand, I can’t stop.” I was draining him, and I knew he felt it. His smile wavered and the light in his eyes was dying.
Energy was addictive, it was easy to get lost and keep pulling. My first experiments with the power had been cut down by external powers, because I hadn’t been strong enough to break the connections by myself, the only occasion I had been able to control myself was when I was fighting for Kimball. I had to do the same, I couldn’t be the one to hurt or kill him. I gathered my will and managed to break the connection before Kimball passed out.
“I think we should leave them alone.” A woman said.
“I will stay a little bit longer to make sure they are both okay.” Mbali said. “How are you feeling?” She moved closer to me so I could see her, as the rest of the people left the room.
“Better. What happened?”
“I’m not sure, I was hoping you could tell us about it.” Kimball said. He looked tired, which was normal after letting me steal most of his energy. I moved to give him some space in the bed so he could lie down next to me.
“I don’t remember what happened, I know that we were captured by the enemy and that I couldn’t let those animals keep me, I had to do something and I made the mistake of making a deal with one of the dark spirits. I think that the deal allowed him to take control of my body and cross into this plane completely.”
“Rutendo said that you were possessed by a demon. Apparently the demon used your body to kill people, our enemies. For some reason none of our men were killed, just some minor injuries, but from their side we have only one survivor.”
“I hurt our people?” I didn’t like that, I wanted to kill our enemies, but I never intended for our people to get hurt.
“Don’t worry about it,” Kimball tried to appease me. “You took our enemy by surprise, you killed most before I could get away from my bindings. You did an excellent work, and even if there were some minor injuries, think that you save us all.”
“I didn’t, the spirit controlling my body saved us.”
“But it was because of you and what you did. The problem was after all that, when we were trying to contain you, it was very hard to do without hurting you. The thing inside you wanted to kill us all, but something was holding him from doing it. We used some of the drugs the enemy had to keep you sedated, but they didn’t have any effect on the thing. It was very hard to transport you here, but the demon wasn’t as strong outside of the base.” Mbali said. “Right now we are in one of the summer villas of the Royal Family, it’s supposed to be abandoned, so I think we will be safe here for a while.”
“I hope you can forgive me,” Kimball said, taking me into his arms, “I’m supposed to protect you, to make sure you are safe, but this is the second time I almost have you killed. It was horrible to watch you being hurt and not being able to help you. If I could I would have taken your place, I would gladly take all your pain into me to spare you.”
“It’s the same for me, it would have been torture for me to see them hurting you. I still feel bad about the beating Polemusa gave you, so I understand how you feel, and I hope you understand how I feel. I don’t blame you for what happened, and I don’t want you to feel guilty about it, there was nothing you could have done to stop it.”
“Of course I could, if I haven’t dragged you with me, if I had been more alert…”
“No,” I interrupted him, “nothing could have stopped it from happening. Remember the fight we had? The one I lost because a vision? I saw us there. At the time I wasn’t sure what I was watching, but I knew that it was a vision I couldn’t escape from. I know that some visions cannot be avoided, trying to change them only makes things worse. You can try, but in my experience is not a good idea. Please believe me when I say that there was nothing either of us could have done to change it.”
“She’s right, you have to see the silver lining,” Mbali said, “we captured one of them, and it was the one creating the drugs, they lost one of their key elements, we won a new source of information. As soon as we can have him talking we will have information on our enemy that will help us win this war. We will know their plans and how to stop them. We will be fine.”
“That’s not entirely true, we are safe for now, but more will come after us. Killing Dante only bought us some time, he will be soon replaced and someone else will come after us.” Kimball eyes locked on mine and I could see the fear and guilt eating at him. “I think we should move to a safe place and stay out of this fight. I can’t risk it, I can’t let this happen again. I’m supposed to protect you and I only succeed in putting you at risk. Every time I get you and my people together, you are hurt.”
“Do you want us to run and hide like cowards? That’s not going to happen, I won’t let you. It wasn’t your people who hurt me,” at least not that time, “but the enemy, and I will make them pay. Instead of hiding I think I have to be more involved in this war.”
“Your woman is right.” Zola, the leader of the Elders Council had entered the room while we were talking. “Running away won’t solve your problems. You need to learn from your mistakes and move forward. Kaiserin, I can’t tell you how much I regret the danger we put you in, or how grateful I am for your help, without you we would be prisoners of Fakhir and Emily and our people would be lost. I know that without you and Kimball we would have lost our freedom a long time ago. I know I’m asking for a lot, but I need you to help us with this fight.”
“I will do my best, but as you know King Kgosi is not as welcoming as you are, he won’t let me help. I think he despises me, he thinks of me as an enemy.”
“It’s sad that Kgosi haven’t learned not to let his prejudices aside, but I will talk to him. He has to learn how to put the interests of his country above his personal beliefs.”
“I still think that it would be better to stay out of this. I don’t want to put her at risk again. Kaiserin, this is not your war, I don’t want you to be hurt because of me.”
“It wasn’t your fault Kimball, I know you did what you could….”
“I didn’t do anything!” Kimball screamed. “That’s the problem, I couldn’t help you, and I don’t want to be in that position again.”
“Then we will be more careful,” I said. “This is not new for me, you know I have been fighting since I was a child, this is all I am, there’s nothing else I know how to do. Besides, since the moment I decided to be with you, your battles became mine. I know you want to, but you can’t turn your back to your people, just like I couldn’t let the Amazons alone against the Militaries. The enemy won’t stop, and I want to help you vanquish them.”
“Your woman is right, we need all the help we can get. Every day more people fall under their control, if we want to keep our freedom we need to fight them.”
“I have lost too much to this war already.”
“And you will lose even more if you insist on staying out of it, you will lose yourself. I know that what we went through wasn’t easy, but as you know, I’m hard to kill. It doesn’t matter what happens, we are alive and I plan to stay this way for a long time, but I won’t spent my time cowering from danger. You have to trust me, we will be fine.”
“I trust you, but I can’t stand the idea of you being hurt again. Watching them beat you, touch you, and not being able to help was pure hell, I can’t live through that again, I wouldn’t survive that pain.”
“You have to trust, in me, in us. As long as we are together everything will be fine. As I told you, this was going to happen no matter what, it was part of our future, but I can use my powers to avoid something like this from happening again. You helped me defeat the Militaries, let me help you defeat your enemies.”
“I love you, more than anything. I don’t know if I could survive if I lost you, but you are right, I’m not giving you enough credit, you are one of the most powerful women in the world and you can make your own decisions. If you want to help us, I won’t let anyone, not even Kgosi, stop you from doing what you want. We will defeat our enemies, together.”
“That’s what I wanted to hear.” I understood Kimball’s feelings, his guilt and his need to protect me, because I felt the same way. But I have trusted him to fight by my side, I needed the same trust from him. We were partners.
“Now that your woman is back, I need you to finish your work. You need to interrogate the young scientist and found out about his drugs and everything he may know about our enemies’ plans.” Zola said.
“I think we should let them be together for a while before we put them to work.” Mbali said.
“No, I think that’s a good idea,” I said, “but I want to be there for the interrogation.”
“No. You may feel better, but your body was traumatized, you need time to recover. You should rest.”
“Fine, but then you have to go and find everything you can about their plans, we have to make them pay.” I knew he was right, my body was broken and some rest would be great for it, but I knew I could move and fight if I needed to, during my time with Agmong rest was something I wasn’t allowed to get. But some rest would help Kimball feel better, so I decided to get some.
“Dante and his men are dead, they already paid for their attack.” Mbali said.
“But they weren’t there because they wanted, someone sent them, someone told them to hurt us, and that someone will have to pay.”
“Don’t worry Kaiserin, if you want revenge, I will give it to you.” With those words Kimball left the room, leaving me with Zola and Mbali. I hated to stay behind, but I knew it was the right thing to do. I would have my opportunity to fight. No matter who those Fakhir and Emily were, they had made a terrible mistake by messing with me, their time was running out.