I was at the Palace’s training facility, surrounded by Dominion warriors, most of them loyal to the King and Queen, a few loyal only to themselves. I was isolated, in a meditation posture, but I wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings, I was paying attention to the people around me. In the center, in the arena, some people were in a mini tournament that was supposed to help them train, but it was just a competition to prove who was better. On the other side of the gym, Carmina was practicing her knife throwing, hitting the wooden target in a rhythmic pattern. But my attention was on Thalia, she was talking to Ivan, something I was sure haven’t happened before. I haven’t had a chance to talk to her since Madelaine, and I wasn’t sure what she knew of what she thought she knew about what had happened that day. I was worried because I wasn’t sure if she was an enemy or a possible ally, and watching her with Ivan was making me worry. Then she moved, directly to Fatima, and I was even more worried, but Fatima received her with a smile and I decided to take that as a good sign.
I moved my attention from Fatima and Thalia to the other groups in the place. After a while I felt a mind trying to enter mine. There were just a few telepaths in the place, and it was easy to identify the mind as Thalia’s. She was still with Fatima, and it was easy to see her in trance, and I knew she was focusing only on me, her full focus on communicating with me. I opened my mind to her, I was sure I would be able to fight her off if I needed, after all, my father had given me a powerful weapon that no one could resist.
‘Thanks for letting me in,’ Thalia said, ‘Fatima doesn’t want to go to you, she doesn’t want to attract attention, but she saw something that will happen in a couple of hours that you need to know, it has to do with your son.’
‘What’s going to happen?’ Even if Fatima had declared herself my ally, the fact that it was Thalia talking to me made me suspicious. Was she trying to threaten me using my son?
‘Fatima says that if you walk the fog of the future, and move just a couple of hours ahead, you will see what you need to see. Or you can go inside her mind and see what she saw, but you may miss something if you limit yourself to what she saw.’ I wasn’t sure about her, was she trying to get me to go into trance so I would be vulnerable to an attack? ‘You don’t have much time, you need to decide if you are going to see the future first hand or trust in Fatima’s memories, but you have to do it now before it’s too late.’
I didn’t waste my time answering, I just cut the connection between us. I needed to find a quiet, safe place, so I could go into the fog. I was going through my alternatives when I noticed something changed, the background noise changed, the thump I was expecting never came and my instincts made me lift and strenghten my psychic wall, just in time. I felt Carmina’s knife hitting the wall in front of me.
“I’m sorry,” she said, with faked concern, “I didn’t mean to hurt you, I think the throw went a little bit wide.”
“More than a little. It’s good you spend so much time practicing, it’s obvious you need all the help you can get.”
I wasn’t sure what Carmina was expecting from me, but my words made her angry, and in just a few steps she closed the distance between us. In the time she took to get to me, I got on my feet, ready to face her.
“I know you think you’re untouchable just because you’re Faakhir’s favorite, but you should start showing the proper respect to me or I will show you how things really work here.”
“I only have to be respectful to Faakhir and Emily. You are nothing, and if you don’t want me to prove to you just how insignificant you are, you will go away and leave me alone. Just your presence is offensive to me, go.”
Carmina didn’t bother to respond with words, she moved faster that I could follow and grabbed one of the daggers in her belt and tried to stab me, but all she hit was my psychic wall. Over and over she tried to break the wall and hurt me, while I just stared at her, faking concentration as I made sure the wall didn’t crumble and let her in. I took advantage of a second of hesitation on Carmina’s part to hit her in the stomach, making her bend over, gasping for air. She fell to her knees and tried to get her breath back as I walked away, leaving her behind.
“I have more important things to do than wasting my time with you. Once you are able to hit more than air, look for me again,” were my parting words, as Carmina tried to get on her feet to follow, but I was long gone before she was able to do that.
During Carmina’s tantrum, people had stopped their training to watch us, so I could feel everyone’s eyes on me as I walked out of the place, but no one followed me. I wasn’t sure where I should go for my trip into the fog, but before I realized it, I was walking towards Sofia’s garden, and I thought it would be the perfect spot. It didn’t take long before I found what Fatima wanted me to see, and I understood why I had to go there myself, because there were many decisions that could be made, and it was best if I could be there making them and watching how it affected the flow of time.
I had no idea how a couple of kids had managed to get inside the Palace undetected, but I had to do something to stop them before it was too late. I went inside the Palace, and moved to the area where the help had their living space. There were just a few ways to get access to the area where the King and Queen lived, one of them was from the guards quarters where I had been training earlier, the other was from the help’s quarters, where I needed to go. The area was like a labyrinth, with long corridors with doors that looked all the same. I was lucky I had my powers to guide me, I just needed to focus on who I wanted to find and let my power guide my feet.
I made a turn, knowing that any moment he would turn the hallway on the other side, I didn’t know if he knew he was coming my way, or if he even knew I was in that area, but I didn’t want to warn him, I wanted his surprise to be as genuine as it could. It only took a few seconds for him to turn into the hallway I was standing in, he was running my way, but when he saw me he tried to go back.
“Run away, get out of here,” he said to the couple behind him, but I couldn’t let them go, so I used my powers to conjure a strong wind that pushed him and them against the wall, with enough force to make them fall and give me time to get near them.
“I just had the most interesting vision, any idea what it was about?” Ethan had managed to get up and was standing between me and the other two, as if he could protect them from me.
“Not really, but if you want we could go to another place and you can tell me all about it,” Ethan tried to use his empathy to calm me down, I hadn’t even realized how angry I was at the situation until I felt his power reaching me. Ethan was doing what he thought was best, but I wasn’t going to allow him to manipulate me, he had made a mistake, he had crossed a line he shouldn’t crossed and he needed to face the consequences.
“Do you think this is a game?” Ethan had gone against my orders, and especially his father’s orders, he had endangered not only himself, but all of us. But the real guilt laid with the kids behind him. Ethan had been at the wrong place at the wrong time, he had been there when the two kids had been discovered by Jonas while trying to get into the Palace, he had been eager to torture and kill them, just for fun, to set an example. The problem was that Ethan had been there, he had stopped him, somehow he had managed to knock him out and rescue the other two, but Jonas would wake up any moment and go directly to Faakhir, he would expose Ethan and then Faakhir would suspect me. “Do you have any idea of what you did?” Without giving it time for second thoughts, without giving it time for regrets, I used my anger and fears and lashed out to Ethan, cleanly breaking his leg. The sound of bone breaking echoed in the empty hall, and the scream that followed, as Ethan fell to the ground, was even worse.
“Mother!” Ethan complained from the floor. ‘Was that really necessary?’ he asked telepathically, to avoid the other two from hearing his complain.
“Do you have any idea of the size of the trouble you caused? Did you stop to think how this would affect me? What will Faakhir think that my own son attacked one of his men?” I did nothing to hide my anger from him. ‘Ethan, our cover could be blown, you could be in danger, and I don’t know how much I can do to protect you.’
“Mother…” I felt Ethan’s change in demeanor when he realized what he had done, when he finally understood how bad he had messed up.
“Jonas is going to the King, he will tell him what you and those kids did, and Faakhir don’t care about age, the punishment for attacking his people is the same for kids or adults. And what do you think will happen to your father? With their parents? It’s not only you who could lose their lives, this could affect your whole families. I don’t care what your reasons for being here are, I’m sure that Jonas will have some interesting theories that will paint you worse than you can imagine.” Jonas had been looking for an excuse to make me look bad in front of Faakhir since I arrived, Ethan’s actions had given him the perfect weapon for that. He would go after my credibility, and then after my son’s life, he would find a way to force me to act.
“Jonas was going to kill Dmytro, I had to do something!” Ethan said, desperately trying to make me understand him. “I couldn’t let Jonas kill him.” Ethan opened his mind, he let me see what had happened from his point of view. It had been an accident that Ethan was there, but it was Jonas’ dark thoughts that had called to him. Jonas wanted to kill Dmytro, he wanted to make him suffer, and Ethan knew that, but he had gone to battle without taking precautions, he had exposed himself and his powers, not only to Jonas, but to Dmytro and Hye Ki, the children of my enemies.
“Maybe they deserved to die. They came here with ill intentions. If not Jonas, then somebody else would have to stop them.” They had been naïve, they thought they could do what others couldn’t. They intended to install some gadgets that would have allowed them to spy on the King, they wanted to find something that could help their parents stop him. Maybe even a way to kill the King and Queen. “It wasn’t your place to interfere, but it’s my place to take care of them.”
“No!” Ethan tried to get up, forgetting his broken leg, but the pain was a good reminder, and he folded as he tried to put weight on it. “Please mother, don’t do it! Just let them go.” He said. ‘They are innocent, you can’t kill them or let them in Faakhir’s hands. Let them go.’
‘Do you have any idea of what you did?’ I asked Ethan again. ‘Jonas has been looking for a way to stop me from the beginning, you have him what he needs to do it. You know how much it cost me to keep Faakhir’s attention off of you, you just put a target back on your back. What do you want me to do when Jonas asks for your head? I will have to throw years of work to protect you!’ I needed him to understand. “Give me one good reason not to kill them right now.” I could feel their fear, even Ethan was taking me seriously, and that was a good thing, they needed to fear me, they needed to have me even.
“I know that you are worried that Jonas will make you look bad in front of Faakhir, but what if you could make Jonas look bad?” Ethan asked. He didn’t have a plan, but he was brainstorming, looking for alternatives, for solutions. “Hye Ki hacked the cameras, there is no footage of us being inside the Palace. Just let us go and make it look as if Jonas is lying about us.” I didn’t say anything, but I was surprised by the fact that it was Hye Ki had hacked the cameras, it was something I had to confirm. ‘C’mon mother, you know you don’t want to hurt them, there’s got to be other options, you must already have a plan or something.’ From anyone else I would have suspected flattery, but from Ethan I knew it was blind trust, he really expected me to save him.
‘You can’t expect me to solve all your problems. You made a big mistake this time,’ I scolded him. Both of us knew that there was no way I would leave him in Jonas’ or Faakhir’s hands, but I needed him to understand the problem he was in. We couldn’t let it happen again.
‘I’m sorry mother, I know I should have taken better precautions, I should have come up with a plan before rushing in to the rescue, but you and I are wired the same way, you would have done the same, you wouldn’t be able to stand aside while Jonas tortured and murdered a kid, especially not the son of one of the Representatives.’
‘Maybe, but at least I think before acting,’ even if he was right, I couldn’t let Ethan off the hook.
“Mother, please, just let us go,” he pleaded in a pathetic voice, so different from the tone he was using in our telepathic conversation, I felt like laughing at his act.
“Alright,” I could feel the relief on the kids and Ethan’s sense of victory. “I will give you a chance, but you will have to earn it. I have a meeting with Faakhir in 10 minutes, I’m sure Jonas will go to him as soon as he wakes up, in about 15 to 20 minutes. So that’s the time you have to get out of here, if you manage to get out by that time, I think I will be able to convince Faakhir that you were never here.” Ethan’s mind immediately started to search for possibilities, his brain going so fast that I couldn’t follow him without risking a headache. ‘I already talked to your aunt Mbali, she will be waiting for you at the service exit in the basement. Can you get there in time?’
‘I think I can, I will do my best.’ “What about them?” Ethan asked out loud, looking back at the other two that had not been included in our chat.
“They are not my problem, if they manage to get out, I think my argument against you being here, could be applied to them too. It all depends on how fast you move.”
“Are you sure you can’t buy us more time? I can’t exactly walk fast right now,” Ethan pointed to his broken leg.
“That’s also not my problem, if you could stay out of trouble, then I wouldn’t be forced to do stuff like this,” I hoped he understood that the broken leg wasn’t punishment, but part of the plan. I needed something to guarantee that Faakhir would buy my lies, I needed something that would help my words have more weight than Jonas’. “The clock is ticking, I wouldn’t keep wasting time, you have to move, now.” Without another word I turned around and walked away. I needed to get to Faakhir before Jonas could reach him, I couldn’t give him the advantage and let him talk to him first.
‘Thank you mother, I’m sorry I caused you trouble,’ Ethan’s words reached me as I turned around the hallway and walked out of his sight. I felt like I had failed him again, I haven’t even known about his problems until Fatima and Thalia told me about the vision and pointed me in the right direction, if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have been there in time to help him.