When the minds were willing, it was easy to pull them inside my mind. Once they agreed to do it, it took less than a minute to have them. I saw the mental representations of the four of them appear beside mine, in the center of my mental landscape, in the garden in the center of my labyrinth.
‘This is different to what I remembered,’ Agis said, he was looking around staring at the bushes that made the wall of that part of the labyrinth, and the crystals poking out of the ground.
‘As you know, a mind can change, and evolve with time,’ I said.
‘But your mind has changed a lot since the first time I visited it,” he said.
‘And as you know, my life has gone through some pretty significative changed. I’m a very different person to the one I was when I first met you. My father completely destroyed my mind, and the one I rebuilt ended up being very different to the original.’
‘What did you want us to see?’ Kozlak asked, interrupting our discussion.
‘Follow me. I’ll show you the way.’
We started walking through the labyrinth, but I used the control I had over my mind to change it, so we wouldn’t have to move that far. When the bushes turned to rock and the sky was covered by a ceiling, I felt Agis demeanor changing.
‘This looks more like what I remembered from my last visit,’ Agis said. ‘Did you know that someone left a backdoor into your mind?’ I shouldn’t have been surprised that he had noticed Faakhir’s presence from where we were standing, he was a very powerful telepath.
‘That was Faakhir, I’m letting him think he has me under his control, at least for the moment, but don’t worry, I will deal with him soon.’
‘What have you been doing cousin? Are you in trouble?’ Inionri asked, and she couldn’t hide her concern.
‘Don’t worry, everything is under control.’
The bushes had turned completely to rock and we were nearing a different area, it was as if we were entering a huge cavern, it was filled with big dark crystals, some of them were as tall as us, and their surface was smooth, resembling obsidian mirrors.
‘This place is beautiful,’ Geb said. He was studying the place and what looked like an endless number of crystals, they reflected each other, creating the sensation of infinite space.
‘In this place are stored all the visions I’ve ever had, that’s part of the reason it seems so endless. But please, don’t get carried away, there’s a lot to see, but I just want you to see four visions, otherwise we could stay here forever.’
‘What do you want to show us?’ Inionri asked.
‘Let’s start here,’ I said, standing next to one of the crystals, ‘this vision was one of the most likely to become reality if I had never left the Clan instead of going with the Amazons,’ I put my hand against the surface of the crystal, and it started to sink in it, creating waves, as if I was breaking a water surface. ‘Follow me, and you will have a taste of what my life would have been like,’ I took a step inside the crystal, but left half of my body outside, as I waited for the others to follow me.
At first I thought they wouldn’t move, but then Inionri moved and went into the crystal. Geb and Kozlak followed her, but Agis took his time. Outside my mind, I could still see Agis in trance, and I knew he was up to something, since his double mind would allow him to be inside my mind and still be aware of the outside world. I knew that there were many paths he could take, but I hoped that once he experienced my visions he would take the right one.
When he entered the crystal I followed him, and I was immediately submerged in the vision, reliving it as if I was experiencing it for the first time, it felt real. The first thing I noticed were the sensations, I felt tired, weak and powerless. My hand, that was moving without my permission, touched the suppressor strapped to my chest, and a feeling of sadness filled me. I heard a noise and lifted my head to look at Inionri, walking towards me, fully dressed in the Empress garb.
“Is this how you pay my good will?” Inionri asked. “Two of my men died getting you back here.”
“You could have let me go,” I said, and I couldn’t believe how weak and pathetic I sounded.
“Of course I couldn’t do that, you are a Seeress, you are only safe between these walls, outside here you are in danger. Don’t you see that I’m trying to help you?”
“I see that you are trying to destroy me. There’s nothing left of who I used to be, now all I want is my freedom. I can’t be here, locked up inside these walls, not able to see the sun or smell fresh air. I was in your place once, and now I’m here, just watching life go by. Give me a chance to live,” I was desperate, but also angry and sad, because I knew my begging wouldn’t move her.
“You are being really melodramatic. You have everything you could wish for here, you are the leader of the Seers, you have them under your command. If you spent half the time you use trying to get away, working for your people, things would be so much easier for you and safer for our Clan.”
“You don’t get it Inionri, this life is killing me. I know I am supposed to be doing better things, I need to go away and find my destiny.”
“Stop talking nonsense and trust me. When have I failed you?”
“When you let my daughter die, after I asked you to keep her safe.” The pain of losing my daughter was fresh and sharp, and it hurt like an open wound, making me feel ill. I lost more than my daughter when she died, I had lost my hope, she was a symbol that everything that had gone wrong with my life could be fixed, but she was gone.
“Are you seriously still crying about it?” Inionri asked contemptuously. “That kid should have never existed, I don’t get why you can’t get over her. She was the daughter of a good for nothing warrior from the Common Families, she wasn’t worth it.”
“She was the daughter of the Empress and one of the Generals of the Clan. She could have been the next Empress, and that was the problem, wasn’t it? None of you could stand the idea of someone like her ruling over all of you. But none of that matters, what matters is that you promised you would help me keep her safe, that you would hide her identity so she could survive, but you lied, she never even made it to the Burrows. You only care about what you think is right, you don’t care what I think or feel.”
“I can’t stand this pathetic version of you, this isn’t you. I can’t stand you still hung up on something that doesn’t matter. If you want to have an heir, just pick whomever you want and I will send him to you. Pick someone who deserves to be part of your legacy, someone worthy.”
“You really think I can just replace a child with another?”
“That’s enough, I’m sick of this. If you can’t appreciate everything I do for you, I will show you how bad it could really be. From today until you learn to be grateful for what you have, you won’t be able to take the suppressor off, and won’t be allowed to leave this room. You won’t be able to speak to any of the other Seers or the soldiers that live here. If you insist you feel like a prisoner, I will treat you like a prisoner.”
The vision ended, and I found my mental representation outside the crystal, surrounded by the others. They all seemed deep in thought, they were trying to process what they have seen and felt, but Inionri was the most affected by the experience, and I was sure she was trying to make sense of it, and trying to reconcile what she knew about herself with what she had seen.
‘I can’t believe that something like that could be possible,” Inionri said, “there has to be some mistake, I would never…’ She didn’t finish her thought. I guessed she knew, deep down, that it was possible for something like that to happen.
‘If I had stayed here, that was the most likely outcome. For some reason, if I had left and then came back after having my daughter, the probability of you becoming the next Empress was drastically reduced.’
‘What we felt inside, what was that?’ Geb asked.
‘”Some visions come just as pictures, some are the full experience. That’s how I would have been feeling if I had let it happen.’ I walked a few steps and stood next to another crystal. ‘Are you ready for another vision? This is the most likely reality if I had come back after staying with the Amazons for a few months.’
‘I don’t know if I’m ready, but I agreed to be here, and I will see whatever you want to show us,’ Kozlak said, not knowing the next vision was about him.
We went into the vision and I found myself walking along a hallway between two guards. If I focused hard enough, I could feel what they were feeling, they pitied me and my situation. I focused again and tried to hear what they were thinking, but I couldn’t hear them, it wasn’t because of me, they were part of the Emperor’s personal guard and that meant their minds were strong. I changed again and used my powers to connect to the world around me, I felt the stones under my feet, and the air around me. Little by little I flexed my powers, trying to get them ready in case I could use them.
A door opened and we walked into the Throne Room, and I saw my brother seated on the throne that was once mine. I saw Kozlak standing next to him and I felt terrified of him, I knew what was going to happen next and I didn’t want it, I had just recovered my powers and I didn’t want them taken away again.
“Hello sister. How are you?” Trajan asked.
“How do you want me to feel after being locked up for weeks?”
“You weren’t locked up, you were in your home, with the other Seers, where you were supposed to be. You know things are getting dangerous in the North, and you have to work with the other Seers in finding as much information as you can so we can be prepared against them.”
“Like I told you, this could have been avoided if you had let me go back and strike a deal with the Amazon’s Queen. Now that they were defeated, the power balance is lost and the new leaders of the Rebel Clans won’t stop until they destroy the Empire or, most likely, die trying.”
“It was too dangerous for you to go back, you need to stay here, where you’re safe,” Kozlak said. “Besides, you know they are not really that big of a risk, the Rebel Clans won’t ever be able to defeat us.” A sense of panic filled me when I heard Kozlak’s voice, and for a moment I couldn’t speak, I was too afraid.
“The war that’s coming could have been avoided. It’s true, we will come out the victors, but we will lose a lot of lives in the process.”
“We will deal with the battle plans and deal with the casualties. All you need to do is give us as much information as you can. You are the most powerful Seeress we have, I’m sure you will give us all we need to win,” I could feel Trajan’s mind reading my superficial thoughts, circling my mind in search of weakness he could use to enter it.
“I just know that they will attack soon, and things won’t be easy for us,” I tried to warn them, but Trajan’s power was already there, trying to see if what I was saying was true.
“She will try to escape again,” Trajan said, his voice was filled with sadness and resignation.
“No, I won’t,” I tried to deny it, but it was true, I needed to go away and I needed to do it soon. I knew something wasn’t right and that I was running out of time, I needed to run or I would lose my chance, but before I could, I felt someone grab my arm and immediately I felt myself growing weak.
“Please, don’t do this!” I begged Kozlak, who was looking at me with pity and regret, as if he cared he was hurting me.
“As long as you have your powers, you will try to run away, and you will end up hurting yourself. This way, you will be safe. Don’t worry, you will still be able to use your clairvoyance, I’ll just take the powers you can use to fight.”
As my powers started to fade so did my hope and my will to live. Without my powers I was nothing but an empty shell. I felt the tears running down my face and I knew that I had hit rock bottom, if I was crying, it was because there was nothing left of Kaiserin, and the pathetic being that was Sklave was back in control.
Again, I found myself outside the crystal, with the others around me, the vision was gone, but I could still feel the emptiness and despair.
‘That can’t be true, I don’t have that power,’ Kozlak said, ‘there’s no way I could have done something like that to you, even if I wanted to, and I would never hurt you like that.’
‘From what I could gather from my visions, that’s a skill you developed especially for me, a way to borrow my powers by taking them long term, leaving me weak and defenseless, and you with all my power. You thought you were helping me, but you didn’t realize you were killing a little bit of me every time you did it.’
‘I just can’t believe something like that could happen.’
‘At first I couldn’t believe it either, but after having the same vision or variations of the same, over and over again, I had no choice but to believe it could be true. Are you ready for another one?’
‘I don’t know,’ Inionri said, ‘I’m can’t shake the feeling of hopelessness that I got with the last vision.’
‘Let’s keep going,’ Agis said, ‘the sooner we do this, the sooner we will be able to finish this and get out of here.’
I guided them to the next vision, and they went inside the crystal without prompting, starting the next experience.’
I was trapped inside my own mind, I could see what was happening outside, but I couldn’t react, my body was not my own. A pair of slaves were tending to my needs, one of them was feeding me, while the other was brushing my hair. I could feel my mouth working, my moves instinctive. A door opened and two people walked inside the room: Gaia and Geb. Geb was dressed with the Emperor’s uniform.
“Good morning Kaiserin. How are you today?” Geb asked, his voice sweet and concerned.
“She is ok,” his mother said. “She is safe and cared for here. Even if her mind is lost in her visions.” Gaia moved in front of me, and I could see her smile. “At least she is yours now. No one else can claim her, as Emperor you get to decide what happens to her. You just have to hurry up and put a baby in her, we need to ensure your legacy, an heir by her will be unstoppable.”
“I’m still not sure if it’s right, she is not here, I feel like I’m taking advantage of her.”
“Nonsense,” Gaia said, as she dismissed the slaves. I could feel one of them taking off my robe before going, leaving me naked. “She wouldn’t respond to you if she didn’t desire you.” Get got closer to me and I felt my body responding to him, but it wasn’t a natural reaction, it was just like when I was with Joshes, the excitement was artificial, but there was nothing I could do to stop it. “I will leave you alone so you can spend some time together.”
“Kaiserin? Can you hear me?” Geb asked, kneeling in front of me. As soon as I felt him, my body started to move on its own, my arms going around his neck, pulling him closer to me. My mind was screaming to stop, but my body didn’t listen, without my permission my lips looked for his, my hands went to explore his body…
I took us out of the vision, I knew there was more to see and experience, but it wasn’t something they needed to feel, I was sure they already got the picture.
‘I don’t get it,’ Geb said. ‘What happened in there?’
‘Your mother took advantage of one of my moments of weakness to make a telepath, one of Caracalla’s followers, to brainwash me, conditioning me to respond only to you, unable to resist you. She wanted me to have your son, she wanted you to have an heir capable of continuing your lineage, and you were so glad that you had me that never questioned my actions, just took advantage of the situation. From what I was able to see in my visions, I didn’t leave that room for two years, that situation lasted until Maddan realized what had happened and rescued me.’
‘What happened after that?’ Inionri asked.
‘I don’t know. There’s too many paths in the future, and I don’t have time to explore all of them. Some situations have a greater impact, that’s why I have visions about those, that’s why sometimes I explore the future to understand them better, but to see all alternatives could take me a lifetime.’
‘I guess the next vision is about me,’ Agis said. His actions outside my mind were starting to worry me, and I knew that he was planning something.
‘That’s right,’ I pointed to a crystal at his back, and he started moving towards it. ‘This vision is different, it would be too difficult for you to experience it, this one you will have to watch.’
‘More difficult than the others?’ Inionri asked.
‘Just watch,’ I said, and I called the vision to the surface of the crystal.
At first nothing happened, then different colors started to swirl on it until an image started to form. It was as if we were watching through a window. We could see a room, there wasn’t much in there, just a bed and someone under the covers. We heard a door opening and then steps, until we could see Agis in the picture, wearing the Emperor’s clothes and insignia. He was smiling as he started stripping his clothes until he was only wearing his pants. He went to the bed and started pulling the covers off the bed, uncovering the figure under them. The body of a woman started to show, wearing only a thin white camisole, but as the covers went past her waist, a huge blood stain showed.
“What happened?” The Agis inside the vision asked, alarmed at the blood.
“It seems we lost another baby,” my voice said on the other side of the crystal.
“Another? You are doing this on purpose!” Agis accused, getting angry and grabbing the figure by the hair, yanking her from the bed, until they were face to face. As her hair moved, a collar around her neck was uncovered, a chain keeping her tied to the bed.
“Of course it was on purpose, I told you already, you may be the Emperor, but that doesn’t mean you can have everything you want. I told you I wouldn’t give you an heir, not even by force, and there’s nothing you can do about it. It doesn’t matter how many times you impregnate me, I will never give birth to your child.”
“Why? You had no problem having that mutant’s child, but you won’t have the Emperor’s son? What’s wrong with you?”
“I wanted to have his child, you never asked if I wanted to have yours. You think you are better than him, but you are wrong. As Emperor you can force me to share your bed, you can take my powers and my freedom, but there are some things you can’t take from me.”
Letting out an enraged scream, the Agis in the crystal started to beat the figure on the bed, letting out his anger and frustration on a woman that was too weak and sick to defend herself.
‘I can’t accept that, that’s can’t be true,’ Agis mental representation said.
‘Why not? You tried to drug me once, this is just a step up.’
‘I didn’t do that, I was just trying to help you relax. I would never do anything to hurt you. Did you already forget that it was me who helped you when your father locked up your memories?’ Agis asked.
‘I would like to say that I believe you, but I know that you are planning something even now. Do you think I don’t know what you are doing?’
‘What’s she talking about Agis?’ Kozlak asked.
‘You have to get out of my mind before you get hurt,’ I warned them, as I used my powers to trap Agis’ mental representation before he could try to hurt me.
I felt Kozlak getting out of my mind, and using a little effort I pushed Geb and Inionri out. Agis wasn’t ready to leave, and I knew I needed to use other methods to convince him to leave, so I called for my father’s chest and got ready to use it against Agis.
‘We don’t have to do this Kaiserin,’ he said.
‘That’s what I believe, you can leave my mind, and I won’t have to chase you out.’ For a moment Agis did nothing, he just stared at me, both his mental representation and physical body, and then he left my mind, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to fight against the power inside the chest.