Just as promised, Faakhir took me on a mission just a few days after Kimball and Ethan joined me in Capital City. Even if Ethan hadn’t said anything about it, I knew that his first day at school was as bad as I feared it would be. He wasn’t complaining, and even if I was able to see his memories and he knew it, he wasn’t talking about it. I suggested him to stay at home his second day, and Ethan happily took my advice, and even if Kimball wasn’t happy about it, there was nothing he could do about it, not while he kept denying what was in front of him. I wasn’t happy about leaving him when he was having trouble at school, but I had no choice but to follow Faakhir and get on the airplane.
Just as I thought Faakhir was just waiting for the first chance to fulfill his fantasies about me, but after being caught off guard I decided to be prepared, and I was ready for him. When he went after me, I was ready, and I used my illusions to make him believe that he was getting what he wanted, the illusion so real that he finished feeling satisfied while I ended up feeling sick.
The mission was supposed to be an easy one, Faakhir was just visiting some religious chiefs to remind them who was the boss and ask them to stop trying to get the people to rebel against the government, but as soon as we arrived everything went to hell. While we were getting out of the airplane, a little girl, no older than five, came at us with a flower bouquet, she was supposed to be giving us a gift, but something was telling me that something was not right, and the bad feeling only grew worse the closer she got. I noticed that the rest of the people were keeping their distance, so I used my powers to try and get an idea of what was going on. Even if we were in one of the places where I wasn’t familiar with the language, I could still get into their minds and try to understand what they were thinking based on the images there.
By the time I finally put together a picture of what was about to happen, my options were very limited. I didn’t stop to think about what I had to do, I couldn’t afford to wait, so I just put my hands on the tarmac and used my powers to rip it off while opening a hole under the child, once she fell, I covered the hole with the tarmac. But I knew it wasn’t enough, so I put a psychic wall between her and our group. I did in just in time, before the bomb that the rebel groups in the area had strapped to the girl, exploded. Even with my efforts to contain it, it still caused damage to some of the people that weren’t protected, but none of Faakhir’s group was seriously hurt.
What happened after that could only be described as a massacre. Faakhir was furious that someone had tried to kill him, and decided to kill every person that had been there to witness the attempt on his life. I pretended I had a headache after stoping the girl from blowing us and didn’t participate in the killing, but I was a witness, and I hated it. I felt bad enough about what I’ve done, and watching the blood running was making me feel even worse. The picture of the little girl refused to go away. I had been trained to kill, in the Empire, killing was something we did without a second thought, but it was something done on the battlefield, with enemies capable of defending themselves, of fighting back, but the girl wasn’t a fighter, she was an innocent. She was someone that had been used by others to stop a fight that wasn’t hers. Or maybe it was her battle, but her place wasn’t at the front.
It took us longer to return than originally planned because Faakhir insisted on hunting down everyone involved in the attack. He hadn’t stopped until he was sure that there was no one left to oppose him, killing every rebellion that existed. By the end of the mission I was exhausted, physically and mentally, and I needed to be with Kimball, I needed his strength to keep me going.
We arrived in Capital City at noon, so I wasn’t able to see neither my son nor husband, and they were still occupied. Kimball was working and Ethan at school, and even if there were a few servants working in the apartment, I was alone. I sat on one of the couches in the living room facing the wall to wall windows, where I had a clear view of the pyramid where the Palace sat on. While I watched the landscape and tried to relax after a few difficult days, I felt something pulling me away, and before I could react, I found myself on the astral planes.
From the day I had struck the deal with the lower plane’s spirit I had done my best to stay away from the lower planes. I knew that the lower spirits were hungry for energy and that they were never going to be satisfied. For years they had fed on the pain and despair that I had suffered while being under Agmong’s power, and when I opened the doors for the spirit to take my life energy I had only made them even more vicious. At first I feared that the spirits were the ones that had dragged me, but soon I realized that I wasn’t alone, and the spirits had a different prey on their claws.
All the time, people walked through the astral planes, but we rarely crossed each other, even if I was aware that more people was there, the presence I was feeling was different. The essence felt familiar, like I knew it. The closer I moved, the clearer I felt the terror and despair that the lower spirits were feeding off. Little by little the projection was being dragged further away from escape, and it wouldn’t be long until escape would be impossible. That’s when I saw the evil spirit, the darkness with eyes like fire, opening a gap between planes.
I moved closer, and the main spirit focused it’s attention on me, I wasn’t sure if it was the same I had made the deal with, but it felt the same, it was evil and strong. I started to feel scared, and I knew that I had to get out as soon as possible, but I couldn’t, not alone. All I knew was that whomever it was, I needed to help, it was the only thing I was sure off, I couldn’t run away.
I started to move between the spirits, but it was hard, every spirit I passed by grabbed me, stealing my energy and making me despair. The evil spirit started moving too, and I knew I was running out of time. I was cold, so cold, I wanted to stop moving, but I knew I couldn’t. I finally reached the other essence, so like my own that I hadn’t realized until that moment who it was, but it was Malkia. I understood then why I had been dragged to that place, why I couldn’t leave it behind, why I needed to save her.
Knowing why I was fighting gave me the strength I needed to finally take Malkia away from the spirits. It gave me the strength to drag her to the superior planes where I could help her.
‘Are you ok?’ I asked to the astral projection that I knew was my daughter.
‘I don’t know what’s going on, I don’t know how I got here.’
‘Your body projected itself to the astral planes, and when the lower plane’s spirits felt you, they went after you. Your energy is very valuable to them, they feed on it, it makes them stronger.’
‘How did this happen? I didn’t want to be here.’
‘Not everyone can astral project, so it’s not something that is discussed during training. And you are still too young to be able to do this, people is usually older on their first trip. Once someone shows the ability to do this, someone takes over training and shows you what you need to survive here. It’s even more important in your case. I’m afraid that your essence is too attractive to the being that inhabit the lower planes.’ I had moved Malkia higher while we were talking, and while warming in the light of the superior planes I felt her essence growing calmer, the energy that had been stolen being replenished. ‘It would be my honor to help you and teach the basics. I want to teach you how to protect yourself from the threats and dangers you can find here.’
‘Who are you? Why are you helping me? Why do you look like me?’ I haven’t noticed that when I had entered the astral planes my projection had taken a younger image of myself, I looked the same way as the first time I had walked the planes.
‘I’m someone that would do anything to help you and keep you safe. We are part of the same heritage, you are part of me just like I’m part of you. What just happened, it was my fault. I’m at war with the beings of the lower planes, and they felt your essence and mistaken it for mine. The least I can do is help you, be your guide in this place.’
‘I don’t think it was your fault. It was me who stumbled into this place not knowing what I was doing, and let myself be dragged by those things. And I know I owe you for your help and everything, but I’m not sure if it’s a good idea to let you help me further. How can I be sure that is safe to trust you?’ I was proud of her. Not trusting me showed me that she was smart and knew how to protect herself.
‘Let me give you your first lesson: you cannot lie in this place. There’s no way I could hide my intentions. Once you spend more time here and learn to control your environment you will realize that there many things you can do, like change the way your projection looks and how to move between planes and places with ease. You will even learn to walk the material plane and reach places you cannot reach with your physical body. What you won’t be able to do is lie or hide. In this place only the most pure representation of yourself can enter. If you don’t believe me, try and lie to me, and you will see you can’t. In this place we don’t communicate using words, we use feelings, we use our essence.’
Malkia was quiet for a while, but I gave her time to think about my words, she needed to come to terms with what was happening and make a decision. It was her first time in the astral planes, but I thought we still had enough time for her to take me on my offer and for me to teach her what she needed to travel the planes safely.
‘I feel safe with you,’ she finally admitted, ‘I feel good just being near you, is not what I felt with the dark spirits that trapped me before you arrived. I guess that it would be ok to trust you.’
‘I’m happy to hear that. First of all, you need to learn what this place is and how to move in it, then I will teach you how to get in and out of it. The astral planes are dangerous because you can get lost here and the bond between your body and your spirit can break, leaving you here forever. You’re lucky that you come from a strong lineage, our people have walked through the planes for generations, and we have a powerful anchor that makes it easier for us to find our way home. I will do my best to pass to you the knowledge my grandmother passed to me.’
For a long time I was with Malkia, explaining her how the astral planes divided, about the dangers that she could find in the lower planes, the usefulness of walking the material plane, the peace she could find in the superior planes. I told her how to enter the astral planes and what it would do to her body, I pointed out the danger her body would be in, if she let it alone and vulnerable. And finally, I showed her how to follow the connection back to her body.
When I finally went back to my body both Kimball and Ethan were waiting for me, watching me with concern.
“Where were you? Did you go to the future?” Kimball asked.
“No, I was taking a walk through the astral planes,” I answered with a smile. I was happy that I finally had to chance to be with my daughter, that after all those years I had been able to help her and teach her. I had helped her, I had protected her, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
“I don’t like you going there. Were you alright? Did you managed to stay away from the lower planes?”
“Actually, I went to the lower planes, but don’t worry, I did see the dark spirit, or something very similar, but I managed to stay away from it, and I even managed to steal his prey away. Believe me, being there was a good thing.”
“Who did you rescue?” Ethan asked.
“Malkia. She walked the planes for the first time today,” I answered with an even bigger smile. I was sure that they could see how glad and how proud I was just looking at me.
“That sounds like fun. When are you going to teach me how to enter the astral planes?” Ethan asked, eager to learn something new.
“I’m sorry, but astral projection is not something easy to do, and not everyone is able to do that. It’s going to be a few years before we can test you and see if you are one of them.” I didn’t add that as a hybrid it was unlikely he would be able to walk the astral planes. That Malkia, the daughter of a hybrid was able to do it was a feat, but I doubted it was one that Ethan could replicate.