Finding Dendro’s mind had been easier than the first time, despite the distance. I had talked to him about Greca and he had accepted her into his Clan, he even told me that he was thinking of going to the Fortress to pick her up since he knew that Malkia had a sister. The problem was that Greca had been sent to the mines before he had the chance of going for her.
My talk to him had been brief, since he didn’t have more questions for me. It was lucky because I didn’t have much time and the last few days had been difficult for me. Greca was still sick, and she had spent most of our time together asleep, but maybe that was a good thing, because it was getting harder to let her go as the time passed, even if I knew that staying was best for her. She needed to be with her sister, in a place she knew and understood, if I had taken her with me, I would have to leave her in Aquarium and force her to live in a world she didn’t know and didn’t understand. No, being with her sister was the best for her, and I trusted Dendro to keep her safe.
“The sentries found Greca and took her with them. I saw a girl that looked like you, I suppose that was Malkia,” Mbali told me, she had been guarding Greca until the Assassins found her, I knew she was safe, there wasn’t any possible path in which she was harmed by the Assassins, but Mbali preferred to keep an eye on her, just in case.
“Everything will be fine. Dendro’s Clan knows about medicine, and I’m sure she will be in good hands, they will make sure she gets better.”
“We need to go back, we already wasted too much time and you know that the King already noticed you were gone and is asking for you.”
“Kimball’s father is still sick, so I have an excuse to stay away from Capital City.”
“If you’re thinking that I need more time to recover, then don’t worry, I’m fine, really, we can leave as soon as you want,” Mbali said.
Her fight with Kozlak had affected her more than she was willing to accept. Kozlak could borrow the powers of the psychics he touched, but with mutants like Mbali, he was able to steal their energy, leaving them weak and defenseless. Mbali had never faced someone like him, and she didn’t realize the danger she was in. To make it worse, there was something about Kozlak’s power that had made it harder for her to recover her energy, mutants usually could recover in a few minutes or hours, but Mbali had taken days to get back to normal.
“We need to make another stop. I need to go into the fog to see which path to take, but I have to go somewhere else before we can go back home.”
“We don’t have time, we need to go back, we can’t risk another fight, we were lucky the last time, but I’m not sure we can face another battle like that and get away.”
“Are you scared?” I asked, surprised by her attitude. “That’s why I want to go into the fog, I need to make sure everything’s going to be ok and we won’t be in danger.”
It took me a while to find what I was looking for, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that everything would fall into place. During my fight with Kozlak I had realized that I didn’t do things the right way, I had let my fears guide me, but thanks to Kimball and the people from the Light, most of the fears that kept me away from my family were gone. With the fear out of the way, I had realized how selfish I had been, I had let them worry about me, and I had resented my family for the things they would have done, but never had a chance to do, I was blaming them for things they never did.
It wasn’t easy to convince Mbali that I needed to make another stop, she was still scared because of her fight with Kozlak, even if she was making excuses and denying her fear. Not that it mattered, I needed to see him again, and thanks to my powers I knew where he was going to be and that he wouldn’t be alone, other people I needed to apologize to were going to be with him. The best part was that they were going to be outside of the Palace’s territory, in a place they wouldn’t be interrupted by people from the Clan. They didn’t know it was me who was going to crash their party.
We arrived with enough time to secure the place. We searched for a safe place for Mbali to wait, even if I knew she wasn’t going to stay there. I didn’t care if she followed me, all I needed was for her to give me enough time to face the people I wanted to see. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, and that it was too much to ask for them to forgive me easily, I needed to explain to them why I had taken the decisions that had taken me away from them. What I needed to do was dangerous, and it could damage my relationship with them even more, but it was a risk worth taking.
I knew that each of them would arrive with a group of guards, and even if I knew that I could face them if I needed to, I also knew that I needed to save my energy and that avoiding them was my best option. Because of that, I arrived early to the place and prepared myself to wait for them. I knew their guards would check the place before the meeting could take place, so I used my powers to hide from the, and that wasn’t an easy task, I had to use some of the mzansiers tech gadgets, and my powers, but I managed to hide from them.
I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about the guards after the initial check, Kozlak wanted privacy, and because of that the guards would have to stay away from the actual meeting. I stayed away from the astral planes, because I was sure at least one of the guards would be checking them, and if I went into them, I would be easily spotted. Because of that, I wasn’t sure what was happening around me, and I felt like I had been waiting for them forever, I even thought that they had changed their mind after waiting for what felt like hours. At the end, my visions were correct and I heard their voices approaching the place.
“I think we are far enough, it’s time for you to tell us why you called us here,” Inionri complained.
“We will get there,” Kozlak said. “What I have to tell you it’s not easy, I can’t even believe it yet and I was there.”
“Stop being all mysterious and start talking,” Geb said. “I still don’t get why we had to come here, we could have talked in the Palace.”
“There’s too many people there, and I didn’t want anyone to hear what I need to tell you. I don’t know if it’s something we can share with the Emperor, and if we had been at the Palace he would have known about it. You know the walls have ears and the Emperor hears everything that happens there.”
“The Palace is not the only place with ears,” Agis said, “the woods also have them. We are not alone.”
I shouldn’t have been surprised that one of them managed to discover me, they were some of the most powerful warriors in the Empire, they were Generals. As soon as Agis made alerted them of my presence, they looked for me, and using their different powers, they managed to find the place where I was hiding, and prepared themselves for an attack.
“I don’t know who you are,” Geb said, “but you chose the wrong people to attack.”
“I don’t plan on attacking anyone,” I said, getting out of my hiding spot, dropping the camouflage and letting them see me, “I came to talk.”
All of them were on their role, their responses under control, but still, I was able to see the moment they realized who I was, I could feel their emotions, and they were surprised, but at the same time couldn’t believe what their eyes were telling them.
“Who are you? You can’t be her,” Inionri said, she was angry, because she thought someone was trying to fool her, pretending to be her cousin, but at the same time I could feel hope that I was really who I pretended to be.
“I knew it was you,” Kozlak said, “but you left before I could speak to you. I saw her a few days ago, that’s why I wanted to talk to you,” he explained to the others.
“You both have a lot of explaining to do, right now I have no idea what’s going on,” Inionri said. I noticed that none of them had made any effort to approach me.
“A few days ago, during a rescue mission, I met Kozlak. Like he said, we didn’t talk, I just took care of him and his people and left. I wasn’t planning on coming back, or talk to you, but after my fight with Kozlak, I realized that there was something I needed to do.”
“Really? And what do you need to do?” Geb asked, his tone of voice was controlled, betraying nothing, but his emotions were out of control, he felt relief to find me alive, but he was angry that I had left in the first place, and he was hurt that I had left him.
“I need to ask you for forgiveness and I need to explain why I did it.” My words affected them, they weren’t what they were expecting.
“I would say that’s the least you could do after leaving us without a word,” Agis was the first to attack. “We searched for you, for years! We were worried, and scared for you, and then we found out that you were hiding with our enemies. Every time we reached out to you to help you, you went away.”
“The help you were going to give me wasn’t what I needed.”
“What rescue mission?” Inionri asked, changing the topic.
“A slave escaped from one of the mines under my control,” Kozlak explained, “while I was looking for her, I found Kaiserin, she had the slave with her. Who is the kid?”
“Can’t you guess?” I asked.
“If the kid is your daughter, then you just had to tell me that, you didn’t have to take her away.”
“If I had told you who she was, she would have become a target for everyone that still knows who I am and want to hurt me. If she had stayed in the Clan, she would have died.”
“You can’t know that. We would have protected her,” Geb said.
“That’s what you say now, but in other circumstances, you wouldn’t have helped her.”
“That’s not true, any of us would do anything for you. All we have done is what’s best for you,” Kozlak said.
“You and I have a different idea of what’s best for me. You think you know how things would have worked out, but you don’t. I, on the other hand, have a pretty good idea of what you are capable of.”
“You sound so sure,” Agis said.
“I am, that’s one of the problems of being a Seeress, you know and see a lot of things you don’t like, you know things you wish you didn’t,” my confession was met with silence, as they processed what I had told them.
“Are you a Seeress? That’s not possible,” Geb said, breaking the silence.
“It kind of makes sense, the warnings to Trajan, her actions the last months before she disappeared. How long have you had your powers?” Inionri asked.
“Do you remember the day I fought with my father during one of the General’s reunions? Do you remember how he kicked me out of the reunion and I was attacked by some people working for my brother? They almost killed me because I was distracted having a vision. It was the day my powers fully awakened.”
“That’s before you became the Empress. That’s not possible, the other Seers would have known about your powers. They can feel other Seers, or at least that’s what they say,” Kozlak said.
“Most Seers can feel another when their powers are awakening, but they can only feel those weaker than them, and my power is stronger than that of most Seers, there was no one in the Palace able to feel me. Maybe they could tell that some activity was going on, but they wouldn’t be able to identify me as the one having the visions.”
“And why didn’t you say anything about it?” Agis asked.
“Because if I had told anyone about it, I would have been locked up with all the other Seers, and I already spent too much time locked up, I didn’t want to repeat the experience.”
“Is that the reason you left?” Kozlak asked.
“Part of it. At first I didn’t think much about what would happen once they found out I was a Seeress, I was just focused on getting my revenge on Caracalla, but then I won the battle and became the Empress, and my visions intensified, showing me a future so awful I couldn’t take it. At first I left with the idea of staying away just a few months, long enough to keep my daughter safe, but then, the visions changed and kept pushing me away. I couldn’t go back and risk my visions coming true.”
“We would have helped you, we would have kept you safe,” Geb insisted.
“I know that you don’t understand, and I get that you feel betrayed by my actions. For a long time I felt betrayed by you, but after meeting Kozlak I realized that I wasn’t being fair to you, because I was mad at you for something you never had the chance to do. If you give me a chance, I can show you why I did what I did.”
“How?” Kozlak asked.
“If you allow me, if you still trust me, I could invite you into my mind and show you the visions that drove me away.”
“Can you pull us all into your mind?” Agis asked.
“You and Kozlak can enter on your own, I would open my mind for you, and I could bring Inionri and Geb inside. If you want.”
“I want to, I like to see how you justify abandoning your family,” Inionri said.
“I’m not so sure about going inside your mind, but if the others accept, then I won’t stay behind,” Geb said.
“If Agis doesn’t mind letting me borrow his powers, I’m in,” Kozlak said, and I couldn’t help but notice that he had chosen to use Agis’ powers and not mine. I wasn’t sure if it was because he didn’t trust me or if he was giving me some space, but in a way I was grateful he wouldn’t be touching me, I wasn’t sure how I felt about letting him use my powers.
“I’m ok with it. Let’s do it,” Agis accepted.