“Are you sure about this?” Kimball asked, yet again. “For years you have avoided the Empire, and now you want to go there, alone.”
“I need to visit Dendro. But like I said, I won’t go to his clan, I just need to be close so I can reach him telepathically.”
“You said that Malkia was safe with him, why do you need to go talk to him? Is there something you are not saying?”
“Everything is fine, you don’t have to worry about her. Like I said, Dendro will keep her safe. I just want to talk to him and thank him for what he did. I think it’s only fair after he rescued my daughter from her enemies. I just need to thank him. He has always been there for me, it’s the least I can do.”
“You don’t owe him anything, you know that.”
“You are making this a bigger deal than it really is. You have to go to the Empire, so do I. I just thought that it would be better to go together, that’s all.”
Kimball had been angry that I hadn’t told him about Malkia right after I found out, but it was something in the past, I just didn’t think he needed to know, my daughter was safe thanks to Dendro and there was nothing we could do for her anyway. But I should have realized that his annual trip to the Fortress wasn’t just because of Greca, he liked to visit Malkia as well, I knew they had even spoken a few times. Kimball loved Greca and Malkia equally, even if only one of them had his blood, he felt responsible for both of them.
The hard part of preparing for our trip was convincing Faakhir that I needed some time off, but I managed to get the time without raising too much suspicion from Faakhir and the others. Truth was, I didn’t want to go back to the Empire, it was something that I had avoided as much as I could, despite everything I was still afraid that someone would discover my presence there. My last visit had been difficult, and I didn’t want a repeat.
But even with my fears and apprehensions I managed to go with Kimball to the Empire. First, we took the jet to to the island, and from there we took a smaller plane to the Empire, one that would go unnoticed easily. After a night camping together, we took our own paths, Kimball going to the Fortress, me moving closer to the Assassins’s territory. It would be impossible to go all the way to their clan, but I had to move as close as I could without to be able to reach Dendro’s mind. I was going to use a trick my brother was fond of, but it wasn’t something I was familiar with, and I needed a lot of focus to manage the same trick. First of all, I needed to find a safe place where I could be safe while I was in a trance, I needed a fortified place in an area that was far enough to be outside their territory, but close enough to be able to reach Dendro.
It took me most of the day to arrive to my destination and then to build my refuge. I used my powers to hide and protect the place, making it as strong as a small fortress, and hiding it in a way that no one could find it unless they knew exactly what they were looking for. It took a lot of time and energy, but I needed to be sure that I would be safe before I could go and talk to Dendro. I needed to be strong, because I wasn’t sure how he would receive me once I reached for him.
Finding and reaching his mind was even harder than I thought, but by midnight I had managed to do it. Because Dendro wasn’t a telepath, his mind didn’t have the same structure than telepaths had, he didn’t have a mental landscape I could use, so I had to enter his dreams and modified them until I found a way to enter them.
I found myself in the middle of a room that looked like a lab, with tables full of gadgets, instruments and bottles that I had no idea what they were for. Dendro was seated in front of one of the tables, looking at a book, but as soon as he noticed me standing there, he focused his attention on me.
‘This is nothing like the dreams I usually have with you, and this is not the place I usually dream when I’m with you.’
‘You know what’s going on, don’t you?’
‘Your brother has invaded my dreams a few times, so I’m hoping that you are invading my dreams and that it is really you who’s here with me.’
‘Let me tell you how sorry I am for the way I left. I know that some of you felt like I was betraying you by leaving, and since I never explained what I did what I did, I don’t blame you for thinking the worst, but I spoke with my brother, and I hope he told you that I took this decision because I had no other choice. And I want to thank you for what you did for me. Despite the distance I have been trying to keep an eye on Malkia, and I felt terrible for not being there for you, and very grateful because you were. You did for my daughter what I couldn’t do.’
‘I owe you a lot, it was the least I could do. Besides, your daughter is a great warrior, it’s an honor to have her with me and help her become the best warrior she can be.’
‘My daughter is very important to me, and it hurts me that I can’t be there for her. But knowing you are taking care of her I feel so much better. Despite what my action could say, I really respect you and I consider you a true ally. It was my fears and insecurities that drove me away without letting you know my plans, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate you.’
‘I don’t know what drove you away, but you have to know you can trust me. I would like you to come back to us, I’m sure that despite the time you have been away, your clan will accept you back. Your brother still misses you, and your allies want you back. You could even take your daughter and be with her if that’s what you want. Many people will be very happy to know you have an heiress.’
‘When my mother decided to keep me a secret, I felt that I wasn’t good enough for her to recognize as her daughter, but later I understood that she was doing that to protect me, she needed time to make sure I would be safe and no one would attempt to kill me. My daughter will be a great warrior, but right now she is still vulnerable and being related to me puts her in danger. Please, keep her hidden until she grows strong enough to face the dangers of being my daughter on her own. Keep her away from my clan, at least for now.’
‘If that’s what you want, that’s what I will do. I would never do anything to put her in danger, you can be sure that I will do my best to keep her safe. Is there something I could say to convince you to come back?’
‘I’m sorry. I would like to offer a good explanation for my actions, but I can’t. From the moment I left my clan all my decisions have taken into consideration the best path for me at the moment. I left my clan to protect my daughter, I stayed away to protect the clan and the Empire from a great danger, I’m still away to protect my own future. I can’t tell you where I am or what I’m doing, but I can tell you that I’m needed there. My brother is a great Emperor, this place is safe with him.’
‘When I will see you again? Are you never coming back?’
‘I may visit you again, I would like to see my daughter in person, not just the astral planes. And I would like to come back some day, when there is no more danger for me here, but I can’t right now. I hope you understand and forgive me for this.’
‘I would like to have you here again. I wish you could trust us enough to come back. But if there’s nothing I could say or do to convince you to come back, then I will just make sure your daughter is safe with me. As long as she is part of my clan, she is under my protection.’
‘Thank you. I’m sure she will be ok here.’
I left Dendro’s mind, it had been good talking to him. Despite only being able to see each other a few times through the years, we have developed a sincere friendship. Even before helping him escape the New World Clan, his friendship with my brother had been extended to me. When I lost my brother and he lost his sister, we saw comfort in each other. Sometimes I suspected, by the way he looked at me, that there was more from Dendro’s side, but I like to pretend that his attention was because he felt like he owed me something and he needed to pay his debt.
I still had some time after talking to Dendro, so I decided to go into the astral planes and see if I could find Malkia. I entered the astral planes and walked the first superior plane, trying to move closer to the Assassins’ territory. Like all the big clans, they had astral sentries around their perimeter in the material plane and the first lower and superior planes. I felt a presence similar to mine patrolling the planes, and I was pleasantly surprised to know Malkia had been promoted. It was an important position, especially in a clan that wasn’t known for their psychic strength. To have the strength and ability to walk the astral planes was something not everyone had.
I haven’t explained my daughter how to recognize essences in the astral planes, but someone had, for she detected me and came to me.
‘I knew it was you,’ she told me. ‘Were you looking for me?’
‘Yes. I needed to see how you were doing and I wanted to meet you, I just wasn’t expecting you to be working. I guess I should congratulate you, you managed to obtain a great position.’
‘That’s what they told me. They also said that being able to travel the astral planes was in my blood. I told my superiors what had happened, they said you are my mother. Is that true?’ She knew I couldn’t lie to a direct question like that.
‘Why didn’t you say that from the beginning?’ In a place where it was impossible to hide, I could feel her hurt and confusion. She felt betrayed because I had lied to her, if only by omission.
‘I told you in a way, I’m sorry I wasn’t clear. Truth is, I wasn’t sure how you would take my words, most of the children taken to the Fortress are never claimed by their families and I didn’t know what you have heard about me now that you are in Dendro’s clan. I didn’t want to tell you who I am just for you to reject my help.’
‘You’re right, you did try to tell me, but I refused to believe it could be possible. I never allowed myself to think of a family, besides my sister. And I have heard a lot about you since I arrived here, but not enough. Everything they told me made me believe you were dead, because you would still be here otherwise, right?’
‘I left my clan a long time ago, for reasons I can’t explain. But I have always been loyal to it, believe that, no matter what you hear. I think Dendro understands, he knows I had a good reason to leave.’
‘Why did you leave?’
‘I’m afraid that I can’t tell you, not now anyway. Some day you will know.’ I knew she wasn’t satisfied with my answer, no one was, but there were things I couldn’t say, especially not to her. ‘I can’t be here for long, but I wanted to see if you had any questions about the astral planes, although I suppose that now you are an astral sentry, you are being taught what you need to know.’
‘Yes, they are teaching me to open my eyes and see beyond what’s in front of me. Will I see you again?’
‘I will be with you when you need me, but for the moment you are in good hands.’
My visit had been far too short, but I knew the longer I stayed there, the more I would want to be closer to her. I knew I could go to Dendro and ask him to welcome me into his clan, that I could be with my daughter, but I had other responsibilities waiting for me. Besides, if my clan found out that I was with Dendro, he would get into trouble. I needed to go back to my life and trust Malkia to be alright.