Chapter 49

A loud explosion woke me up. The windows shattered and we were thrown from the bed. I tried to get up, but my legs felt unstable and strong nausea stopped me for a moment. I took a moment to see what was wrong with me, and the suspicion that I had for a few days wasn’t just a suspicion anymore, something was going on with my body.

“What’s going on?” Kimball was already on his feet and dressing himself. I wanted to answer, but I knew that I needed to keep my mouth closed and my breathing even if I wanted to keep the nausea at bay. “Kaiserin?” I waved Kimball away, he needed to go and see what the problem was, they needed him more than I.

He hesitated for a moment and then left. I managed to crawl to the bathroom. After a few minutes Kimball was back.

“It’s everything alright?” I asked, but a new explosion hit us then.

“Under control, the missiles are hitting the barrier. What about you?”

“I’ll be fine in a moment, just morning sickness, nothing to worry about.” I got up, feeling better already. “I think this only confirms what I’ve been thinking,” just to be sure I did a quick biokinetic search, and found the differences in my body. “I’m pregnant.” Kimball was speechless, just staring at me.

“Are you sure?” He asked, not the reaction I was hoping for.  “This is not the right moment for that, it’s not safe enough for you to have a healthy pregnancy.”

“You worry too much, I’ll be fine. Just give me a minute to change and we can go back to the command center to figure out what’s going on.”

“Shouldn’t you stay here and rest?”

“Of course not, I’m feeling okay now. I just needed a moment for my body to settle down.” I could see that Kimball wasn’t convinced. “Stop worrying, this is my third pregnancy, I know what to expect and how I’m suppose to feel, I will know if I need some rest. Everything is alright.”

“You’re right, it’s just I was surprised you weren’t feeling okay, that’s not something I’m used to.”

Kimball went back to the command center and after changing my clothes I met him there. An enemy group was attacking us with missiles, but our defenses were strong and no real damage was done, yet. By the force of the attack it was clear that the enemy wasn’t expecting any survivors.

“We found the place where the missiles are being launched from.” One of the technicians said.

“Perfect. Prepare our own missiles, let’s give them a taste of their own medicine.”

“This is too easy,” I said, “I think the attack might be a distraction. We need to review other possibilities, we can’t waste our fire power in something that may not be our biggest threat.” No one said anything, not even to acknowledging my words, but they turned to Kimball, waiting to see his reaction. Usually his support was immediate, but he didn’t say anything and that angered me.

“We must look all possibilities, but our first priority is to stop the attack. So far none of our structures have been damaged, but that could change fast, we can’t defend ourselves forever, we need to attack.” After his words, everyone got back to their tasks and started to plan the attack, ignoring me. “Where are you going?” Asked Kimball when I decided to leave the place and headed for the door.

“You don’t need me here, I’ll go and think of other possibilities.” I knew Kimball was going to say something, and I all but ran outside, not giving him the option. Once I reached our room, I started to meditate, I knew that visiting the fog of the future was worth the risk.

After what felt like a few minutes, but could have been hours in the fog I found what I needed. By the time I got out the fog the planned attack against the people with the missiles was finished, but it had taken most of our resources to stop it, just like the enemy had planned. Even if I was too late to stop them from wasting our weapons, at least I knew what was coming next. The enemy was hidden, waiting until our weapons were spent to start another attack, stronger than the last one, luckily his plan depended mostly on the element of surprise, and I was able to foil it. I gave the information I had gathered to the Mzansiers and we were able to stop the second attack.

After that we moved from one point to another, visiting most of the bases on the border, the ones that had been under attack the most. Soon our days found a routine; first thing in the morning Kimball got up and brought me something to eat and ease the nausea. He insisted that I needed to take some time for me, so he left for the command center before I got out of bed. Soon the time I spent with Kimball in the command center was less and less every day. Unlike with previous pregnancies, I was tired most of the time, so when Kimball suggested that I needed I nap, I didn’t fight him much. Like with previous pregnancies, my visions increased, and I started to get a lot of information, so I spent a lot of time meditating or visiting the fog of the future to clarify my visions and find something useful.

Every day the enemy’s attacks grew in strength and frequency, they were getting desperate. I was sure that without my visions, the fight would have been lost already. I felt like the information I was gathering was making a difference in the war, but at the same time I felt like I was being pushed to a secondary position. The feeling of being pushed away increased the day I entered the command center and found Kimball having a video conference with Kgosi, Zola and Frederik. At first I wanted to believe that it was a last minute thing, an emergency meeting that I wasn’t called for because they were too busy to tell me about it, but as the meeting progressed, I realized that it was neither a last minute thing or a new thing, it was a weekly meeting that I knew nothing about. I had been there for some meeting in the past, but apparently they decided I was no longer needed.

“If I had known that we had a meeting I would have come earlier.” I told Kimball once the meeting was over.

“It was nothing important, you have more important things to do.” Kimball said.

“Like what?”

“You need to take care of yourself and our baby. I know that your first trimester was tough on you, you need time to rest and recover, I don’t want to add more stress.”

“I spent the first months of my first pregnancy leading the most powerful Clan of the Empire, fighting every one who dared to question me or suggested that I didn’t deserve the position. My last months were among some of the deathliest women in the worlds, in a hostile environment, where everyone was waiting for me to make a mistake so they could get rid of me. Nothing here even compares to that, and since I survived that, I don’t see why you have to treat me like this now. I’m capable of helping with this war, nothing here will affect me or my pregnancy.”

“I’m sorry, you’re right, I was just trying to make things easier for you, I didn’t think you would be mad at my actions. You know that all I want is for you to be okay.” I felt better, maybe I had misinterpreted his actions, or overreacted. “Did you want to see me for a particular reason? Did you have a new vision?”

“No, nothing relevant, it’s just that I’ve been having a bad feeling, I think we need to be on alert, something big is going to happen. I wouldn’t be surprised if before the day is over we have to fight.”

“Don’t worry about it, my men are patrolling the area and our defense systems are on high alert. We won’t be taken by surprise, we have everything under control.”

“Good to know.”

“Why don’t we go grab something to eat? We have to take advantage now that everything is under control. We can come back to work after we eat.” It sounded good, but I had the feeling that after we ate, he would suggest that I should take a nap.

We ate and talked a little. I was expecting Kimball to take us back to the command center of suggest a nap when we saw a young warrior running towards us, well, towards Kimball.

“Sir, we just received a report that one of the neighbor base is under siege. President Frederik is there. They need you at the command center right away.” Kimball didn’t wait, he ran back to the command center.

By the time I arrived to the command center the place was full of images of a brutal battle, the images showed the place where the base was, but it was hard to see anything with all the bombs hitting the shields. All around the place a huge army was ready to attack the moment the shields collapsed,

“How could that many people move without us noticing?” I asked to anyone willing to answer.

“That’s what I would like to know, they shouldn’t be able to move that close. We are the ones closer to them, my men are already getting ready to move, we have to go help them, another two bases are also moving their men.” Kimball was working on the computer in front of him, he wasn’t even looking at me, focused on his work. “We don’t know how this happened, but we have to stop them. Kaiserin, you will stay here with a few of my men, we need people to protect the base.” I knew that it was just an excuse to keep me out of trouble, and normally I would fight him over it, but the feeling that had been with me all day made me bite my tongue and accept his words, I knew something was going to happen at the base, and I couldn’t leave it alone.

“Don’t worry, go and do what you need to do, I’ll wait here.” Kimball smiled at me, relieved that I had accepted. He hugged me and kissed me before storming out of the place, ready to go to battle.

The number of people who stayed behind was minimal, and I knew something was coming. I risked a quick visit to the fog of the future, and saw that something was going to happen, I couldn’t risk trying to find the details and getting lost, so I returned and started preparing for the enemy’s arrival. I started by creating a plan, covering the different scenarios that I knew could take place.  I wanted to leave nothing to chance.

It was almost midnight when the enemy arrived.  Despite our precautions they had managed to contain our sentries and infiltrate the base.  Luckily I had remained in the command center and was there to notice the change in the camera feed, I knew someone had tampered with the cameras.  It wasn’t an obvious change, but enough to raise alarm and let me know that the enemy was already inside.

I had already warned the warriors of what could happen, so when I reached them and let them know that the enemy was there, they were ready to act.  Our warriors were able to move and neutralize part of the enemy’s forces, the ones tasked with setting bombs that would destroy the place once they finished their business.  Another group was heading to the command center, their goal was to gather all the information they could.

Our first mistake was expecting the enemy to enter the command center by the door, I already had a group of five gathered around the room with their weapons directed at the door, waiting for them to enter, but when the door opened, it was because an explosion that threw the door at one of the men, another explosion on the side opened a hole big enough for the enemy to enter, weapons firing.

The first soldiers were fast enough to take a few Mzansiers by surprise, I saw them kill one of them and shot the other before they started to return fire.  I was slow to respond because all my focus was on the psychic wall protecting me, when I could, I tried to grab the enemy’s weapons, but I couldn’t find their essences, it was something that I haven’t felt before, I had to resort to using my sight to grab them.  Taking their arms tipped the fight in our favor, without their arms they lost focus.  I was going to push them against the wall, hoping to knock them out, but I never had the chance.

I found myself sitting at a table, eating breakfast with a group of people, I couldn’t see their faces, but I knew that it was people I knew.  I moved my hand and took a glass, when I drank from it, I knew something was wrong, as my sight started fading I saw the person in front of me smiling in triumph.

I returned from the vision to pain, my side was hurting.  I looked at it and saw a blood stain growing at my side.  I looked up and saw that one of our enemies had recovered his gun and had fired at me.  The rest of the Mzansiers were on the floor, no help there.  The man turned his gun to me, and prepared to fire again.  I used my mind to take his gun away and then lifted him on the air, letting him drop on a piece of wall with enough force to break his spine.  The noise of breaking bones echoed in the room, but I didn’t know if he was dead, at least he wouldn’t be bothering me again for a while.  The rest of his people were searching the computers and the cabinets for information to take, but when they noticed what I had done they tried to attack me.  Taking the gun I have stolen from the man I used my mind to hold them still long enough to put a bullet in each of their brains.

Once I was done with them, I sat in one of the few chairs that had survived the explosion.  I tried to take deep breaths, I needed to calm down and look at the damage I had received, but I had lost too much blood, and as much as I wanted to fight it, it didn’t take long before I passed out.

Chapter 11

The nightmares that I had left behind were back, but the situation I was in was a reminder of my old days.  I was weak, powerless and the party that received us when we came back from leaving Malkia at the Fortress, was a scary reminder of the parties that Agmong used to organize.  At least I wasn’t the main attraction at the party as I was in Agmong’s, but as the people got louder my fear kept climbing.  Luckily I didn’t have to stay at the party for long, but still it was enough to bring the nightmares back.  I was trapped inside a nightmare, the pain and the humiliation were driving me crazy, I was so terrified that I couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe.  I was fighting to get some air into my lungs, as I fought, I noticed that it wasn’t a dream, someone was sitting on top of me and had his hand over my nose and mouth.

“We don’t have time for this,” a woman said, “we have to go before Kimball and the others notice what we are doing.”

“It will be quick,” said the man on top of me; Dowe.  I tried to push him away, but I didn’t have enough space to move.  “You didn’t take what we gave you, did you?  Saden? Did you bring an extra?”

“Of course I did, we can take any risks with someone like her.”  Saden took a syringe out of her jacket and moved closer to me.  While Dowe held me down, Saden injected me with the unknown liquid.

Between the panic I still had lingering from my nightmare and the rude awakening I hadn’t been able to react, but my mind was getting clearer and I knew that I had to do something about the substance they had injected me with.  I had to do something, I was no longer a victim, I was a warrior and I wasn’t going to let them harm me.  I concentrated my powers in feeling my body, the blood running through my veins, especially the area where they had injected me.  I gathered all the contaminated blood and isolated it, then I threw it out of my body.  The action let an open wound on my arm, but I didn’t care.  Saden made a surprise gasp, but she couldn’t react in time when I molded my blood into a dart and threw it at her, attacking her with the same drug she had intended on using on me.

Dowe didn’t notice what I was doing with Saden, but while I was focused on cleaning the contaminated blood and attacking Saden, he had torn my shirt open, leaving me naked from the waist up.  His free hand was groping my breasts.  A drop of milk was running down my breast, he licked his lips and I saw him preparing to take what he wanted since the first time he saw me.  Dowe moved and I used my powers to throw him away, he hit the walls with a force that shook the entire tent.  I moved out of the bed while I tried to pull the remains of my shirt together to cover myself.  I felt someone moving behind me and I moved just in time to avoid a hit to my head, but I couldn’t avoid a hit to my shoulder that made me lose my footing.  Dowe and Alu moved at the same time, each taking one of my arms.  They were strong, stronger than me, but my mind had healed enough and I wasn’t going to let them take me down.  Throwing my body weight to the front I threw them out of balance, and using my mind I made them hit their head together, hard enough for them to let me go.

I was so eager to escape them that when they let go I stumbled and fell, Dowe was over me before I could stand up.  I could feel his erection pressing into my thigh and I felt sick and dizzy, but I recovered fast, I wasn’t going to let him win.  I knew what he wanted, and I was going to make him wish that he had never laid eyes on me.  He moved a little and I started to unbuckle his belt, at first he was surprised, but lust clouded his judgment and he helped me with his pants.  I took him in my hand and he growled his pleasure, but soon he was screaming his pain when I used my hand and my powers to break his member.  I pushed him off me and watched him writhing in pain as a pool of blood started forming under him.  I smiled, I knew that even if he survived there was a good chance that he wouldn’t been able to abuse another woman.  Alu and another man went to try and help Dowe, both were pale and looked at me with fear.

“What did you do?” I turned to see Sei standing at the other side of the room, it was then that I noticed that they had cut the outside wall of the tent.

I saw Sei lifting her weapon and preparing to fire, everything was happening in slow motion, I could almost see the moment when Sei decided that trying to capture me wasn’t worth it.  I saw her finger squeezing the trigger, I used my mind to push her hand, diverting the shot, at the same time strong hands grabbed me by the waist and pulled me out of the room.  While I tried to regain my footing after being dragged out I saw Kimball entering the room and go directly to Sei, his hand closed over her arm and I saw the gun dropping as Sei’s bones were shattered.

“I warned you Sei!” Kimball’s voice was frightening, I had never heard such fury in it.  “You should have listened to me.”

Sei’s screams joined Dowe’s drowning any other noise.  Maybe because of that I didn’t hear or notice Alu moving closer to me until he grabbed me from behind, putting one of his arms around my neck and holding a gun to my temple.  The movement or maybe a sound alerted Kimball and he turned to us, dropping Sei to the ground and walking back to us.  He was impressive, I knew many warriors that would have surrendered just seeing the aggressivity and the power coming out of him.

“Don’t move.” Alu whispered in my ear. “Stop!” He told Kimball as he pushed the gun into my head.  To my surprise Kimball stopped moving.

I tried to speak, but the pressure in my neck kept me from it.  I put my hand over Alu’s arm and did something that I hadn’t done in a long time, not since I had lost control during the Succession Battle.  I opened my senses and looked for the energy around me, when I found his energy flow I grabbed at it and pulled, stealing his energy.

“What are you doing?!” I could hear him panicking, despite his great energy reserve I was weakening him fast.  “Stop!” He tried to let me go, but I was the one that wouldn’t let him go, because just like last time I couldn’t stop pulling at his energy.

Strong arms grabbed me by the shoulders and pulled me while someone else took Alu away.  Once our physical connection was severed I was able to cut my compulsion to steal his energy.

“Are you ok?” Kimball’s soft and concerned voice was such a contrast to the tone he had used before.  “Did they hurt you?”

I wasn’t sure what to think, it appeared as if Kimball was not aware of Sei’s plans, but it could be a trap, maybe he knew, maybe it was all a plan to get me to trust him.  As the adrenaline was running out I felt tired and the headache that had been gone was trying to return.

“Kimball?” One of his men said.  “I think you should check Dowe, his losing a lot of blood, and Alu is not responding, he might be dead.”

“If Alu is dead is his fault for attacking Kaiserin.  And Dowe, I’m sure he got what he deserved, right now I don’t care about him, I have more important things to do right now.”  Kimball let me go and noticed the blood running down my arm, his own hand was wet with my blood.  “You’re hurt.”  He looked at me again up and down and I felt the need to cover myself, I forced myself to remain quiet, but it wasn’t easy, especially when his eyes got darker as he reached my chest.  He finally looked at my face and I saw his lust evaporate, he took his own shirt off and put it on me.  I wasn’t sure why he did that, was he getting rid of temptation?  Was he afraid he was going to follow Sei’s men steps? Or had he noticed how uncomfortable I was with my nakedness?  “Come, let me look at your arm, I have to clean it before it gets a chance of infection.” I felt the impulse of rebelling at his order, but I needed time and for the moment it was better to follow his lead.  Besides, he was right, I had been too busy trying to get rid of whatever they had injected in me that I wasn’t paying attention to the damage I was doing, I needed my arm taken care of.

He took me to the fire, or what was left of it, I sat down and then I don’t know what happened, one moment I was looking at him, and then I was looking into the future.  The vision wasn’t about me, it was about them and their reunion with the Scavengers.  When I left the vision I found a worried Kimball in front of me.

“Sei had one of the trucks prepared for escape,” Mbali informed Kimball.  I noticed blood on her clothes and I wondered what had happened outside.  “Some of the others are drugged, I suspect that some of the drinks last night were drugged.”  That made sense, Dowe had kept giving me drinks, I suspected he was trying to get me drunk, but his words in the morning showed a different intent.”

“I’m so sorry about what happened,” Kimball apologized, “I knew Sei was angry and that she wanted to take you to the Empire, but I never thought she would go so far, I never imagined that she would be willing to attack her own people.  I should have been more alert, I should have keep you protected.”

“I don’t need protection,” I had spent most of my life taking care of myself, I didn’t need him to protect me, I didn’t want to depend on him.  “I’m grateful for your help, especially for helping me with my daughter, but I don’t need you or your protection, I’m capable of protecting myself.”

“I know, but just because you can do it yourself it doesn’t mean that you can’t have someone helping you.  Let me help you, let me be your friend.” He had finished cleaning my wound and was dressing it.  “Stay with me and I promise that no one else is going to hurt you, not while I’m here.  I don’t know what you are running from, but I can keep you safe.”

“And what do you want in return for your ‘protection’.”

“I won’t ask you for anything.”

“You think that I haven’t noticed the way you look at me? I recognize that you are not like your men, you have treated with respect, but you want the same thing they want.  If I stay with you, how long will it take for you to demand payment from me?  No one does what you do and don’t expect something in return.”

“Kaiserin…”

“No!” I interrupted.  “If all you really want is to finish the fight we started four months ago, then fine, let’s finish it, and then I’ll go.”

“You are not alright, you just had a difficult time.  Your arm is hurt, your neck too, Alu did more damage than you think, your eyes are red from suffocation.”  He didn’t know that my red eyes were the result of stealing Alu’s energy, not because of his attack.  “I bet that your headache is back.  It wouldn’t be fair for me to fight you now, you would be at a disadvantage.”

“I think you are underestimating me.”  I had the advantage, I had Alu’s energy in me and it needed to be released.

“Last time our fight was long and difficult, it wouldn’t be fair to fight again when you are not at your best.”

“Last time I was five months pregnant and half of my energy was focused on protecting my unborn baby.  From the beginning I realized that if I let you hit me, I would be in danger, I had already lost a baby because of a beating, I wasn’t going to let it happen again.” Last time it had been a blessing to lose the baby, I wasn’t happy to carry the seed of a monster, even later when they told me that I wasn’t going to get pregnant ever again I was happy, it wasn’t until Agmong was dead that I realized how much I wanted a child.  It was thanks to Ilum that I had the opportunity, and I wasn’t going to do anything to risk it.  “Last time I spared energy to protect my baby, energy that I could have used to fight you.  I don’t have that problem now, I can fight you with all I have.”

“Still, if I win, it wouldn’t feel right.”

“Who says you will win?”

“Kaiserin…” his condescending tone and arrogant attitude was making me angry.

“Right now Kimball, just promise me you will let me go after that, I can’t go with you, I can’t go where you are going.”

“We don’t have to do this right now, just calm down, you still have time to recover, we can do this later.”

The energy inside me was making me uncomfortable and the situation was making me feel claustrophobic.  I needed to take control of my destiny as soon as possible, I couldn’t let someone else take decisions for me.  Any mistake, any hardship had to be my decision, I couldn’t stay with them, especially after what had happened.  I couldn’t stay with them, I couldn’t risk going with them to meet the Scavengers, if they recognized me, I would be in trouble, it would complicate everything.  I got up and walked out, Kimball followed me.

“I can’t stay here any longer, I have responsibilities, I need to go back to the Amazons.” I was walking away from the camp, Kimball and a few of his men were following me.  “You don’t need to worry about me, show me respect and fight with me with all you have, because I will do the same.”

I took a deep breath, letting the air fill my lungs and connect with everything around me.  I followed with several quick breaths, I needed to take oxygen into my body.

“Are you sure this is what you want?” Kimball asked.  I could see the change, he was preparing himself for the fight, he was taking me seriously.

I didn’t answer with words, but with actions.  I created an airstream and then put it to circulate around us.  The air started at ground level and started to rise little by little, taking dirt and leaves with it as it climbed up forming a column of air around us.  It was a trick I had used to fight Vasuman, it helped to control his fire.  Kimball was quiet for a moment, but as soon as he realized what I was trying to do he tried to get closer to me.  Using my mind, I lifted him in the air, away from me.  I no longer needed to protect someone else, I could take risks, so I left my body unprotected to take full advantage of my double mind.  I thought it would be easy, with Kimball in the air he would be unable to fight me, but something hit my forehead and I lost my concentration for a moment, enough for Kimball to get free and ran to me.  The vortex around us kept going despite my slip in focus.  The vortex was sucking all the air and it was getting harder to breathe.  Kimball was getting affected by the lack of oxygen, but I had prepared and I had a lot of experience with asphyxiation, to survive Agmong and his games I had to learn how to make the most of every breath of air, so I knew I had time.  When Kimball tried to hit me I moved out of his way, then I used my mind to punch him in the stomach, he was out of air.

Kimball was trying to get air to his lungs, without success, there was no air to get.  I was impressed by him, he didn’t let panic take hold of him, he kept fighting until the last moment.  He took something like a marble out of his belt, he tried to toss it, maybe that was what he had done when I had him up in the air, but his aim wasn’t as good as the first time.  It took another couple of minutes before Kimball passed out, just as I was reaching my limit.  When I let the air vortex around us disperse I saw that I was surrounded by Kimball’s men.  Mbali looked surprised to see Kimball on the ground and ran towards him.

“He will be alright, he just needs a moment to recover,” I told Mbali, trying to ease her worry.

“What happened this morning was not his fault,” she said.  I was expecting her to be angry at me for fighting with Kimball after everything he had done for me, but she wasn’t, she sounded sad.  “Kimball was just trying to help you, really, that was all.” Mbali signaled one of the men and he approached me with my jacket and my backpack.

“Mbali? I know there is no reason why you should trust me, but I need to warn you.  Don’t go to the Scavengers, it’s a trap, they are going to betray you.”

“What do you mean? How do you know?”

“I can’t explain, but I know that you will be in danger if you go to them.”

“We are in the middle of negotiations with them, there’s no reason for them to attack us.”

“They are always looking for that that will give them the most gain, they traffic weapons and other goods, but they know that information is the biggest commodity.  They know that if they capture you they will be able to torture you for information, and that way they will make more money.  There are many that would pay for information of the Clan that most believe is just a legend.”  Mbali stared at me, she started to say something, but then stopped.  “Do you think that you are the only ones that can read the clues?  I suspected of you since I first saw you with the Militaries, the time I spent with you only confirmed my suspicions.”

“Now I get why Kimball is so interested in you, you are really an amazing woman Kaiserin,” one of the warriors said.  “Have a safe trip Kaiserin, I hope you arrive safe to your destination.”

I saw Kimball stirring and decided to go before he had a chance to recover.  I hoped they listened to my warning, I didn’t want anything to happen to the Shadows.

Chapter 60

Enoch entered the arena again and walked to me.

“This is the moment when we usually declare the winner and recognize the new Empress, but I guess that, like your mother before you, you would prefer the ceremony to take place once you and the other participants have some time to recover.” I just nodded in agreement and Enoch started giving orders.

It was surreal, like a dream.  The Emperor’s guard, no, my guard, entered the arena and kneel in front of me, guessing their intentions, I gave them their orders and they promptly obeyed while Enoch gave me his arm for support and guided me out of the arena.

“A group of medics and healers is already working with the survivors, would you be able to walk to your room?” Enoch asked, and for a moment I didn’t understand why he was asking that, but as I got out of the arena, I felt the drop in my adrenaline and my body started to protest, my psychic headache was pounding in my head and I felt like I was breathing fire, all my body was hurting.  Then I realized that the blood stain in the front of my uniform was getting bigger.

“I got you.”  Maddan lift me in his arms and took me to my new room, the suite destined to the Empress, the one that I still thought as my mother’s room.

A group of healers was waiting for me.  Maddan gently placed me on the bed and the healers immediately put their hands over me and started working, repairing the damage that I had sustained.  But my headache was something that they couldn’t heal, and it was getting unbearable.

“If you don’t mind, I would like to help,” Curare said as she entered the room.

“It would be an honor,” I answered, watching the woman that had helped me so much approaching my bed.

“The honor is all mine Empress,”  she did a shallow bow and bending over me she whispered, “I know your mother would be very proud of you, what you did in there was really impressive.”

“You need to rest Empress,” one of the healers told me, “we will take care of you.”  And because my strength had reached its limit and the only escape from the pain was the astral planes, I left my body.  In the astral planes I would have time to think about my victory and what the future hold for me now that no one was above me.

I had my victory over Caracalla, I had defeated him completely.  I had shown each and every one of the warriors of my Clan that I was powerful.  I would never have to bow or obey anyone, no one would be able to make me submit to anyone else.  I would finally be recognized as Kamose’s daughter, because no one would dare to question the Empress.  I had done everything I wanted, I had everything an imperialist could want… and yet, I felt empty, incomplete.

I woke the next morning feeling a lot better, the healers, most likely guided by Curare, had fixed my injuries.  All I had left from the battle was fatigue and discomfort, also I had to deal with the nausea that had been following me since my father’s and Vasuman’s deaths.  The headache was better, and I knew that as long as I didn’t try to use my powers it would remain manageable.

I got up and took a shower, then I dressed in the clothes they had given me, they were sumptuous and fitting and I couldn’t help but smile.  The image I saw in the mirror was that of a winner, but the eyes in the reflection showed anything but. I left my room and found a table set with breakfast and a group of warriors standing like statues around the room, they were members of the guard, one that I had been part of.  My stomach was still feeling weird, but I managed to eat a few pieces of fruit.  After breakfast, I went to finish what I had started the previous day while the members of my guard followed me in silence.

Some of the warriors that had participated in the battle were too hurt or unconscious by the time the fight ended hadn’t had the opportunity to declare their allegiance.  Usually they would be killed, but I still wanted to give them the opportunity to live, so I was going to the main infirmary to see them.

Once in the infirmary, I asked for the first person I wanted to see, I went to Lamia’s room and saw her surprise when I entered the room.

“Greeting Empress.” She said in a tone of voice I couldn’t figure out.

“Hello Lamia, how are you feeling?” I asked.

“Better than I deserve.”

“Everyone did what they needed to do in battle, we knew that we would have to face each other in battle, I don’t appreciate your trickery, but I understand your reasons.”

“Do you forgive me?”

“You wouldn’t be alive if I didn’t.”

“Thanks cousin, I promise that I will never betray your trust again.”  That was all I needed to hear.

I left Lamia and went to the next room, I found Trajan and another telepath inside, standing beside Adze’s bed.  She seemed to be resting, but her eyes were open, staring at the ceiling.

“Empress.” They both greeted me.

“What are you doing here?” I wasn’t expecting anyone to be there.

“The doctors asked for us to help,” Trajan explained, “Adze’s injuries had been treated, but she’s not responding, they thought it was a mental block and asked us to check her.”  I remembered Caracalla’s attack and wondered if he had done that to her.

“Maybe it was Caracalla.” I thought out loud.

“It seems like it, he tried to do something to me, something to trap my mind.  I was able to fight back, but I guess that since Adze is not a telepath she couldn’t fight back.”  He was holding her hand, and I guessed that he was already working to help her.

“He tried with me too, and he almost did it.”  I remembered his intentions and shuddered, thinking what he intended to do with me.”

“He always underestimated you,” Trajan told me with a smile.

Adze suddenly sat up, she was agitated and was breathing hard, it was like she was waking from a nightmare.  She was touching her body, she pinched her arm, it was as if she was checking if she was truly awake.

“Are you alright?”  Trajan asked her.

“It was awful!”  She said.  “I couldn’t move, I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t do anything!  But I was hearing and feeling everything.

“Trapped in a prison of flesh and bone.”  Those were the words Caracalla had used. 

When she heard me she seemed to calm down a little bit.

“Empress,” she greeted me, trying to bow from her position in bed.  “I see you did it, Jomei was right about you.”

“It doesn’t matter what your motives were, you were one of the persons who helped me get here,” I wasn’t going to ignore that fact.  “I know you weren’t expecting me to get this far, but I gained the throne in part because of the training I got thanks to the teachers you sent me.”

“I don’t care about the throne,” Adze confessed, “I only joined the battle because I wanted to kill Caracalla.”

“Caracalla is not dead,” Adze was shocked by my words.  “Follow me,” I ordered and Adze obeyed without asking for an explanation.  Trajan decided to follow us.

We entered another room and found a medic working on Caracalla.  His arms were bandaged, by the shape you could see the stumps, one just above the wrist, the other arm missing the forearm.  A sheet covered him from the waist down.  On his chest he had a piece of equipment that I knew was blocking his telepathy.  An oxygen mask was helping him breathe.

“Empress.” The medic greeted me with a bow.

“Report.” I asked the medic and he immediately went started to check his papers.

“We cauterized and dressed his wounds,” he pointed to Caracalla’s stumps, “splints were placed to help weld the bones of his legs, but there wasn’t much we could do for his broken spine and the damage done to his spinal cord.”  From his place in the bed Caracalla was glaring at me, his eyes were shining with a mixture of hate, craziness and fear.  “Even if he’s able to heal, is probable that he would never be able to walk again, and if we add the damage to his arms I really doubt that he would be able to fend for himself.”

“Trapped in a prison of flesh and bone.” I said, both for Adze’s and Caracalla’s sake.  “You can go now,” I said, and the medic quickly left the room.  “I told you once that I didn’t want to kill Caracalla, I wanted to destroy him,” Adze nodded, remembering that conversation.  “He tried to trap us, to reduce us to simple dolls, to take our free will,” I went to Caracalla and took his oxygen mask off, he immediately started struggling to get air into his lungs.  “What does it feel like to be trapped in the same nightmare you intended for us?”

“He still thinks he can heal and find a way to get back at us.”  Trajan interpreted Caracalla’s thoughts to us.

“He’s fighting with his new reality, but given time he will fall into despair.  Now he’s trying to survive, soon he will be looking for the freedom only death can give him.”  I put the mask back on and I saw how his breathing went back to normal.

“Are you really going to let him live?” Adze was surprised.  “Empress, with all due respect, as fitting as your punishment looks, there a chance that he can escape, not all of his followers died in battle.”

“They may be alive, but, who do you think will be willing to follow a cripple?”  I spoke loud enough so Caracalla would hear and understand every word.  “The only reason people as willing to help him was because of fear or interest.  But there’s nothing to fear from him, he is incapable of causing any more damage or give any benefits to his followers.  No one will help him for free, no one would risk the Empress’ rage to help someone that won’t be able to benefit them.”

“So are you going to do nothing?” Adze was disappointed, but was trying hard not to show it.

“I already proved that I’m stronger than him, I defeated him in front of everyone, I even gave him a taste of his own medicine.  I did what I wanted to do with him, his existence is no longer my concern.”  My headache was still bugging me, so I didn’t risk using my powers to try to read Adze’s thoughts or emotions, but I didn’t need my powers to see that she was having trouble remaining calm.  “Adze, I’m done with him, I really don’t care what happens to him now, which is why I won’t stop you from doing what you need to do to exert your revenge.”  Adze just stared at me, speechless.  “My vengeance is done, I won’t stop you from getting yours.”  I saw the smile Adze was trying to suppress, as I saw the terror in Caracalla’s face.

“Thanks you Empress.”  Her words seemed sincere.  I left the room, leaving Adze and Caracalla alone, I really didn’t need to know what Adze was going to do, I owed my aunt her revenge.  I knew that it wouldn’t give her real peace, her son would still be dead, but at least it would give her some closure.

“Are you ok with what just happened?” I asked Trajan.

“He is my brother, but he’s getting what he deserves.” He didn’t hesitate in his answer.  “Caracalla demanded absolute obedience and when he didn’t get it he was mad.  By the end he considered me as much his enemy as he did you, I owe him nothing.”  We walked together to the next room.  “I don’t remember Adze promising you anything, how do you know is safe to let her live?”

“I gave her what she wanted, I think that’s enough.”  Looking at the doubt in his face I tried to reassure him.  “She won’t be a problem for me, I’m sure of it.”

With Trajan by my side, I visited all the survivors and asked them to swear their allegiance to me, since they haven’t been able to do that while in the arena.  At the end of the day I was only forced to kill two of them, all the others agreed to recognize me as their leader.

“Bunefer is dead.”  I said once we finished the visits in the infirmary.  We were walking to the imperial dining room, followed by my silent guards.

“That’s right.”  Trajan said, not sure what I was getting at with my statement.

“I need someone to take her place.”  Bunefer had been for my father what Shahzadi had been for my mother.  I needed a right hand, someone who would stand by my side, and despite having other candidates, like Kozlak or Inionri, I thought that Trajan was the best for the job.  He had been working by my father’s side for a long time, and knew how the Palace worked.  “Trajan, would you like to take her position? Or would you prefer the intelligence position that our father had when my mother was the Empress?”

“Are you giving me a choice?” He was stunned.  “What you are offering… are you sure?  I’m not even a general.”

“I think I can fix your rank problem very easily, I’m the Empress after all.”

“If you think is the right choice, if you’re sure that’s what you want, then it would be my honor to be your right hand.”  I wasn’t using my powers, but I was sure he was sincere.

I walked together to the dining room.  Besides me the only people allowed there were those invited by me. When we arrived, my other guests were already inside. It was weird to receive the shows of respect people gave me when I entered a room, but when I entered and saw Inionri, Geb, Kozlak, Agis, Vikomt, Ratry and Lamia bow to me, I was reminded of happier times, when I was just a captain and they were part of my group.

“Thank you for accepting my invitation,” I told them as we were seated and the slaves started to bring the food and drinks.

“It is an honor to be invited to the Empress’ table,” Geb said.  I saw in his eyes adoration and a touch of lust, that also reminded me of happy times, but also of some dark times.

“Especially if is one as beautiful and powerful as you,” Agis added, with a look very similar to Geb’s.

“It’s going to be hard to get used to all this,” I said, waving my hands around, “it feels like a dream, I’m still waiting to wake up.”

“Is that a general’s insignia?” Kozlak asked when he saw the insignia on Trajan’s chest.

“Yes, I just got promoted,” Trajan said, “is my reward for my loyalty and for surviving until the end of the battle.”

“I decided that everyone that survived the battle will be promoted, starting with you.” I said.  I pull the insignias out of my pocket and using my mind, I pushed them in front of each of my friends.  I immediately regretted using my powers, because the simple gesture increased my headache.  “I’m sorry to disappoint, those are only colonel insignias, I can’t make you generals yet, I can’t show favoritism.”

“I won’t complain, especially because I didn’t even participate in the battle.” Kozlak said, taking the insignia and fastening it in his uniform.

“You deserve it.” I said sincerely.

“Going from major to colonel in a couple of days is a good reward.”  Geb was also fastening his insignia.

“Are you sure about this?” Vikomt asked, he was holding his insignia with great care, as if it was going to disintegrate any minute.

“I was expecting you to make me general, I was sure I was going to be your right hand or something,” Inionri complained, but I knew, even without using my powers, that she was complaining out of habit, and not because she was mad at my decisions.

“I’m sorry, but that honor was mine,” Trajan was trying to hide his smug smile, and Inionri’s answered with a scowl.

The dinner was great, between jokes and friendly fights, mostly instigated by Inionri that in repeated occasions mentioned her plans to kill Trajan and take his place as my right hand.  Trajan heard her threats with good humor and I noticed among them a familiarity that I hadn’t seen before.  Lamia stayed mostly silent during dinner, she seemed uncomfortable with Kozlak and I felt bad about them, I didn’t want them to have problems.

After that Trajan and I went to the office where we went over the casualties suffered during our battle against the Beasts and the Succession Battle.  There were many positions to fill and many decisions to make, but I soon realized that I had made a good call in choosing Trajan as my second in command, he was taking his job very seriously and provided me with good suggestions and objective opinions about each candidate.  He never contradicted me, but made very good suggestions and I was thankful for that.

By the time we were ready for supper, Trajan and I had decided the new ranks and decided who would take the positions that needed to be filled.  Maddan, as the major in charge of the guards in the Palace met with me when I was about to go to the dining room, to discuss the people who would be part of my personal escort.  I decided at the last minute to take my supper in my suite and not the dining room, and asked Maddan to go with me.  We went together back to my suite where someone had already prepared a table with food.

“It’s good to have you back,” Maddan said once we were alone.

“It’s good to be back.”  And it was, but I wasn’t satisfied.  It wasn’t what I was expecting when I decided to go back, there were many ghosts haunting my past, and only in rare moments, like during dinner, surrounded by my friends, I felt at ease.”

Maddan stayed for a while and got me up to speed with Palace’s affairs and warned me about some of Caracalla’s followers.  Even though they weren’t a significant threat, they weren’t entirely loyal to me, and that was a risk.  I thought about promoting Maddan, he hadn’t participated in the battle, but he was someone I could trust.

We finished our food and our talks and I asked Maddan to leave, I noticed he was disappointed, was he expecting me to ask him to spend the night?  It was possible, we had spent a lot of nights together when we were both captains, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to share my bed just yet.

Even though I wasn’t officially the Empress, I still had to do the job, and I had spent the day doing just that, and it wasn’t as fulfilling as I expected.  I went to bed alone and laid there thinking, wondering what was missing, why I wasn’t satisfied after getting all I wanted.

The next day I woke up and the headache was gone.  I had breakfast by myself in my room, and then I went for Trajan, so we could go to Isis and offer her a position in the Palace, as the general in charge of intelligence.  She was still mad because I had defeated her, but she accepted and I felt some relief from here when she did, she was expecting me to send her far away, to give her a meaningless position away from the Palace.  But she was a valuable asset and also a person that I preferred to keep close to me and under my sight.

From my office, I summoned the survivors and the persons that were going to occupy new positions until all of them got their promotions and new assignments.  Finally, I managed to put some order to the chaos.

With just a few hours until the ceremony where I would take my rightful place on the throne, I finished with all the urgent work.  I ate alone and the dining room felt even bigger with no other people there.  After that I went to my room, using my mind, I went through the clothes they had left for me until I decided to wear the most simple ensemble I found.

I left my room and my guard immediately surrounded me as we walked towards the throne room, but I had to stop when we found Curare in one of the hallways.

“Greeting Empress,” she said.  “I know that you are busy and I don’t want to take much of your time, but I need to go back to my Clan and I wanted to say goodbye before leaving.” I signaled my guards to give us space.

“Won’t you be staying for the ceremony?” I asked, making an effort to stay calm and don’t let my disappointment show.  With all the work I had to do, I haven’t had time to talk to her and thank her for her help.

“No, that’s a private matter, it was bad enough that I snuck into the battle.  I just wanted to congratulate you again in your victory, and wish you good luck with the life that’s growing inside you.  I’m sure it will be an heir worthy of Sultana’s line.” For a moment I didn’t comprehend what she was saying, then I thought I was imagining things.

“What are you talking about?” I finally asked.

“Didn’t your healers told you that you are pregnant?” She asked, she was clearly surprised.  “We found out while we were treating you, you’re not that far, a few weeks…” I was shaking my head as she spoke, I couldn’t believe her.

“It’s impossible,” I couldn’t believe her, I had lost my hope a long time ago.  “All the medics, the healers, they said it was impossible, too much damage, after everything they did to me, the scar tissue was too much, they said it was impossible.”

“The external scars faded away, why do you think the same didn’t happen to the internal ones?”

I remembered Ilum, and for the first time I realized just how big her gift to me had been, she gave me the chance to have children, she gave me back a dream I thought lost.  I put my hands over my tummy, still having a hard time believing there was a new life growing inside, one half mine, half Vasuman’s.

“Anyway, congratulations.”  Curare left, I heard her steps growing fainter and then fading.

Feeling like I was walking on clouds I didn’t even notice the rest of the walk.  I entered the room and walked through the middle of the hall in a dreamlike state.  As I passed, the warriors on my sides knelt before me, showing respect and submission.  I reached the throne and stopped before it, on one side was Trajan, my right hand, and Enoch, the leader of the Seers.  On the other side Isis, my intelligence chief and Vajira, the general in charge of the Burrows.

I was in a daze as they put on me the insignia that my father and mother had worn before me, as they put the jewels and the cape that denoted my new rank.

“Long life to Kaiserin from the Maxima Family, daug…

“No,” I interrupted his speech.  “I’m Kaiserin from the Royal families,” I let my voice grew louder, so everyone would hear my words, “I’m the granddaughter of General Mara from the Vlad Family and general Cerridwen from the Amon Family, daughter of Emperor Kamose from the Regal Family and Empress Sultana from the Maxima Family.”  I heard the whispers and murmurs across the hall, no one had dared to claim more than one family, and I was claiming the four Royal Families.  It was something never done, something the Heads of the families were probably not willing to accept.

“Hail, Empress Kaiserin, granddaughter of general Mara From the Vlad Family,” Lobishome, the head of the Vlad Family, said, recognizing me as part of his Family.

“Hail, Empress Kaiserin, granddaughter of general Cerridwen, Leader of the Seers, from the Amon Family.” Hera, the head of the Amon Family, said, also accepting me.

“Hail, Empress Kaiserin, daughter of Emperor Kamose from the Regal Family,” Trajan said, taking the role of Head of his Family now that both Kamose and Bunefer had died.

“Hail, Empress Kaiserin, daughter of Empress Sultana from the Maxima Family,” Khreb finally said.

“Long life to Kaiserin from the Royal Families.” Enoch shouted.

“Long life to Kaiserin from the Royal Families.” Repeated the warriors in the room.

I looked around me, I looked at the mighty warriors of the most powerful Clan in the Empire, kneeling before me.  I had won, I was finally recognized as the most powerful among the powerful.

I sat on the throne for the first time and everything became real.  Finally, everything was right in my world, everything fit together, I was finally whole.  And I knew it was because of the promise of a new life now growing inside me.  As I faced the warrior gathered there, shouting my name, I felt that everything would be right, I had finally all that I wanted.

 

The End

 

Copyright © 2014 | Kaiserin Novel

Inionri

Inionri walked across the arena, she needed some distance from Kaiserin.  She knew it was very likely that she would have to fight her eventually, but if it was the case, she wanted to delay it as long as possible.

When Enoch announced the start of the battle, Inionri saw one of the heirs ran to her.  She didn’t hesitate in using a few tricks, faking surprise, she stumbled back and let herself fall, pretending to lose her balance.  Her attacker smiled and lifted his mace, ready to strike her, but before he had the chance, Inionri’s hair twisted around his ankle and pulled at it, making him fall.  Only his quick reflex saved him from hitting himself with his mace.  Inionri’s hair crawled up and twisted around his neck, pulling tight, choking him.

Inionri tried to get up, but before she could a new enemy pushed her back down.  Acting by instincts, she used the heir, the one still tangled in her hair, as a shield.  Managing to get up, she saw that her new enemy had stabbed her captive, killing him for her.

“Thanks for doing my dirty work,” she smiled as she threw the body towards her new enemy, then she twisted her hair to form a spear and drove it through her enemy.  That had been easy.  “Two down, a few dozen more to go.”

After that Inionri was ambushed by two enemies, and while she tried to remove the weapon of one of them, the other one cut her hair.  Inionri didn’t know if she should smile for her luck or be angry that they didn’t even recognize her and her powers.  The idiot had just given her the advantage in that battle, because she didn’t need her hair to be attached to her to manipulate it, and she proved by sending her cut hair to grab him by the neck and choke him.  The other man saw that and decided to escape, but Inionri saw him and creating another hair spear she drove it through his heart.

As the battle advanced, so did her confidence.  That was her error.  She felt someone behind her, so she turned around found herself face to face with a general, she saw his eyes, his blue eyes, eyes so deep you could lose yourself in them, and that’s what she did, she was lost…

The pain in her chest broke the trance, she saw the general walking away, leaving her there to bleed to death.  But again, she had been underestimated, the control of her hair wasn’t her power, it was just a fraction of it, she was a biokinetic, she had absolute control of her body.  She felt her heart and forced it to beat, she made her blood flow through her body.  She let herself relax for a minute, she really needed to fix herself first.  It wasn’t easy, by the time she had patched herself, her head was hurting, the first sign of her psychic headache showing.  She knew that it would hurt like hell if she continued to use her powers, but the battle wasn’t over and she needed to fight, or at least that’s what she thought.

Suddenly something was pushing her, it was like an invisible wall moving forward and forcing her back.  She tried to escape, but it was impossible to fight the invisible enemy.  She continued resisting but it was pointless, she was pushed until she stood between the arena’s wall and the invisible force.  It took her a while to realize what was happening.  Kaiserin and Caracalla were the only ones unaffected by the force, they were still standing in the center of the arena.

Impressed by her cousin’s power, she watched as she defeated her mortal enemy.  Inionri knew that her cousin was powerful; Kaiserin was one the strongest telekinetics in the Clan.  And after watching her destroy Caracalla as she held the remaining warriors captive, she knew no one would doubt her double mind again.

“You have seen what I can do,” Kaiserin’s voice echoed in the arena, “I don’t want to kill you, I think you are too valuable to kill, so I’m going to give you a choice: You can swear allegiance to me and recognize me as your Empress or you can die by my hand.  The choice is yours.”

Inionri didn’t have to think it twice, as she felt the wall vanishing, she approached her cousin and kneeling before her she pledged her loyalty.

Copyright © 2014 | Kaiserin Novel

Chapter 59

Enoch announced the start of the battle, as soon as he stopped talking I felt a strong mental attack, and not just one mind, I was fighting several invisible enemies.  The floor under my feet started trembling and then I felt something like an explosion, my enemies were not wasting time in showing their powers.  I heard steps and turned to see some of Caracalla’s followers rushing to me.  I dodged the ax as I fought the mental pain.  From the corner of my eye I saw another attacker, and using one of my oldest tricks I grabbed him with my mind and threw him against the one with the ax.  They crashed together and I saw that they had hurt themselves with their own weapons.  I took advantage of their distraction, while they were trying to get up, to raise some spears out of the ground, trapping them in a makeshift cage.  The mental attack was getting weaker, my enemies were engaging other battles and couldn’t waste their resources attacking me, but the ones still attacking were distracting me.

Before I could work my trap someone was pushed to me, using my double mind to keep the mental attack at bay on one hand and my telekinesis on the other, I had left my body unguarded, I stumbled, but regained my footing in time to avoid falling, the one they had pushed against me wasn’t so lucky. I saw him fall, he was one of the generals.  I turned and saw the one who had attacked him, I saw another general with a Pudao in her hands, the blade was already covered in blood.  She attacked me and I dodged the attack using my blade, but I started feeling dizzy, disoriented.  Her attacks were intended to kill, her powers were messing with my coordination, she wasn’t pulling back.  The other general stood up and joined the battle, when the general attacked me with the Pudao I redirected it towards the other general.  My attacker was content to take any of us down, so she didn’t think twice before finishing her enemy.  I took advantage of the moment her hands and attention were busy killing the general to let my sword fall on her, cutting her head off.  Once they were both dead, I felt the dizziness lift.

I looked around me, in just a couple of minutes the number of people fighting had been cut in half.  I turned to my previous adversaries and notices that someone had taken advantage of my prison to kill them.

My head was feeling better, during my fight with the generals the mental attack had completely stopped, and I noticed why, all of Caracalla’s followers were too busy keeping him protected, they had no time to worry about me.  I saw Adze, Trajan, and two others trying to reach Caracalla, but his followers were doing a good job keeping them away.  It wasn’t fair, he was cheating!  He was supposed to fight by himself.  I heard a scream and saw Inionri fighting two adversaries at the same time, one of them cut her hair, not aware that her control over her hair still worked while it wasn’t attached to her head, when the cut strings of hair wrapped around his neck he noticed his error, the other attacker backed down, but Inionri went after her.

I saw a projectile coming my way and I used my psychic wall to stop the attack.  I felt cold and noticed that ice was forming around me, trying to trap me.  I used my mind to melt it, but as soon as I melted some of it it just froze again, someone was actively feeding it.  I looked around and noticed an heiress that I had seen in the reunions, I didn’t remember her name.  Still trying to keep the ice at bay I used my mind to throw my sword at her, she was focused on the ice and didn’t notice my attack until it was too close to completely dodge it.  She broke her focus and I escaped the ice.  I used my wall to fend another attacker, once I looked back at the heiress she was already moving away, with a nasty cut on her shoulder.

I felt the ground under my feet disappear, I moved out of danger, only to receive a kick that sent me to the ground.  I moved away and put a psychic wall around me in time to block a spear flying my way, I stood up and noticed Isis in front of me.  Too surprised at seeing her I didn’t react in time to prevent the next attack, as her powers destroyed my wall, she attacked again, I took a mace some other warrior had dropped and prepared to defend myself.

“You fight like an Amon,” she said calmly, “this will be an interesting fight.”  I didn’t answer, I was busy trying to focus on rebuilding my defenses.

I lifted the mace and prepared to attack, but Isis was faster and I barely dodged her spear, when I was trying to hit her, she just touched my mace and it fell at my feet in pieces.  I desperately looked around for my sword, I had lost it when I was fighting the heiress, and I needed it.

Isis’ power wouldn’t let me use anything solid, she was able to destroy my weapons and my wall.  I needed to change my defenses, instead of creating an energy, solid wall, I created an air wall, using the air currents to push the spear away.  It was risky using my mother’s tricks on her sister, but it was my best option against her power.  I created a small whirlwind, using the debris around us to fuel it.  I push the whirlwind against Isis, but she moved too fast for me to trap her, it did work on some of Caracalla’s followers that were trying to take me by surprise, trapped by the whirlwind, punched by the debris, cut by the metal shards.

I finally got Isis by throwing one of my attackers against her, it was then that I saw an image that left me frozen in my place.  Two of Caracalla’s men were holding Trajan while Caracalla faced him.  I saw him lift his sword and stab Trajan.

It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t!  We were supposed to fight by ourselves, Trajan was at a disadvantage there.  Forgetting about Isis I ran toward my brothers, I was decided to even the odds.

Caracalla was slowly moving the sword out of Trajan, when he was preparing to stab him again, I used my mind to push him away, then I used my sword to attack one of the men holding Trajan.  The man I attacked looked at me and I felt him going after my mind, but before he could do any damage I cut him in two.  When I turned to help Trajan with the other one I saw that he had already killed him.  Trajan cut’s weren’t dangerous, but they looked painful.

“Thanks,” Trajan said, “I owe you one.”

“I couldn’t let Caracalla kill you, he was cheating.”  Trajan smiled at me, but there was doubt in his eyes.

“There’s few people left,” he said, and I understood what he wasn’t saying.  Soon we would have to fight each other, but not yet.

I looked around, assessing the situation.  Adze was on the floor, she looked alive, but her eyes were blank and she had some wounds, similar to Trajan’s.  Isis was fighting Lobishomen, Net was fighting against two others, one of them a general.  There were a lot of dead people, and some injured that were fighting just to stay alive, they presented an easy target.

Suddenly I was surrounded, Caracalla’s followers had separated me from Trajan.  Just a third of their group remained, but even do they were less that at the beginning, they were more than me, they got me at a disadvantage.  Trajan tried to attack one of them to give me an out, just as Caracalla stepped inside the circle that surrounded me.

“It’s time to end this,” Caracalla said, “only one of us can sit at the throne.”

“I agree, this has lasted too long.”  I felt the combined attack of Caracalla and his followers, I knew I wouldn’t be able to fight them for long.  “Not even now will you face me alone?”

‘I don’t need to.’  I heard his voice, but I didn’t see his lips moving, it was then that I discover he had already entered my mind.

His men attacked me, with my mind occupied repelling the psychic attacks, there wasn’t much I could do to defend myself, I was going to be forced to use just my physical abilities.  I didn’t waste time trying to stop them, I knew they were going to come at me with everything they had, so my best choice was to dodge.  I was able to avoid some of them, but the ones not actively participating in the mental attack were using their double minds to read my movements, their attacks started to get through while mine were failing.  Trajan was fighting some of them, but even with his help, it wasn’t enough, I was losing.  Something weird started to happen, it wasn’t only the fact that they were reading me, something was wrong with me.  I felt my body slowing down, my reflexes were not working fine.  Somehow I knew it was Caracalla’s fault.

‘That’s right,’ he confirmed my suspicions.  ‘I’m taking control of your body.  I had already warned you what I was going to do, soon, you won’t own your own body.’  I shivered at his words, I wasn’t sure what he was doing, but I had to stop him fast.

Despite the odds I continued to survive until there were just two of his followers facing me, the rest were down or fighting Trajan.  Decided not to waste more time I took one of them down using my sword and when the other tried to take me down I left him unconscious with a hit of my sword to his temple.  Before I could take a breath I felt cold and pain radiating from my chest, I looked down and saw the tip of a sword.  With a swift movement the sword disappeared and I fell on my knees.  I couldn’t breathe, I tried to, but my chest was burning and I couldn’t.  I was tired, short of breath and scared, I didn’t even understand what had happened.

‘You lost,’ Caracalla said, and when I saw him I noticed we were standing in my mental landscape, my mental projection was chained in the center of the labyrinth.  ‘I will destroy you and claim my victory.’

‘This is my mind, you can’t defeat me here.’  I tried to move, but I was trapped.

Caracalla just laughed at me as more chains appeared around me, I was feeling the cold metal crushing me.

‘I will trap your subconsciousness and destroy your mind, your mental projection will remain chained and you will lose control of your body, your body won’t answer to you anymore.’  He was enjoying himself as the chains continued to grow and entangle around me.  ‘You have seen what happens, little by little your body will stop to move.  Be proud, this is a trick I designed thinking of you.  I will let you live, but you will be trapped in a prison of bone and flesh, unable to move, powerless to defend yourself.’ His laughter filled my mind, reaching every corner.

For a moment I fell in desperation, I couldn’t let this happen to me! It was a nightmare, it was being Sklave all over again.  Caracalla was taking control of my mind, making me feel he  was stronger, that there was nothing I could do to stop him.  But it was a trick, there was no one stronger than me in my own mind, those chains were real only if I let them be real, Caracalla was only as strong as I let him be.  I couldn’t let him win, I had fought too hard to let him win.

I felt weak and my body was vulnerable, with my double mind, I could see Caracalla in front of me, pointing his sword at me, letting me know that he could kill me if he wanted.  I started to meditate, I needed to be calm, I was certain that I had enough power to defeat him in my mind.  First, I forced the chains to vanish, and then conjured them around Caracalla.  But Caracalla just disappeared and reappeared behind my mental projection, kicking it.

I felt the hit not only in my mind, but in my body as well, I fell to the ground, at Caracalla’s feet, he was just smirking at me.

I needed my most powerful weapon, I conjured the forbidden chest, the last trapped memory, the one that Kamose told me I would never recover, and I opened it in front of Caracalla.  The explosion filled my mind with light and fire, a painful attack that dissolved Caracalla’s mental projection, leaving his body screaming and squirming on the ground.

“Are you alright?” Lamia asked.  She held me and helped me up.

“I’m hurt,” I said, “but alive.”  Lamia’s arms were still around my waist, I tried to move away but she didn’t let me get away.

I started to feel extremely tired, it was as if my strength was being drained from me, that’s when I realized that Lamia was stealing my energy.

“What are you doing?” I was confused, I tried to understand what was happening, then I tried to do what Kozlak had taught me.  I needed to understand her power.

“You are not the right person to be in the throne, Pedres told me that you won’t have the Allied Clans support, you have too many enemies, you won’t survive.”

“Let me go,” I tried to resist her hold, but I was too weak.  The injuries and my lack of energy were too much for me.  I considered surrender, I just wanted to sleep, to rest, but I knew that if I did that I was done, I needed to fight.  “I thought you were my friend,” I said, “I thought I could trust you.”

“We are friends, and we are family, but this is beyond that, there’s too much at stake,” she smiled sweetly at me.  “The throne and the power behind it is greater than us.”

Lamia’s power was one I wanted to acquire, but she always had an excuse for not letting me learn it, her usual excuse was that nobody should have so much power, and that it was dangerous for me to try to know too much.  I wondered if that was really the reason, or if she had planned to use it against me all along. But despite her excuses I wanted that power and I had had glimpses of it through Kozlak, that gave me enough to try to learn it and control it.

I started to see some weird ribbons of light running around us, I realized it was our energy moving out of me and going into Lamia’s body.  Using my mind, I focused in the ribbon and started pulling it.  She noticed what I was doing and tried to let me go, but I couldn’t let her get away with my energy, so I gathered what I had left of my strength and held on her.  I pulled and pulled until I noticed the color of the ribbons changing.

“Stop!” Lamia asked, with panic in her voice.  “You won’t be able to control it.”

But I didn’t want to stop, and then I realized that I couldn’t stop even if I wanted.  I was feeling strong again, more than that, the feeling was intoxicating and I wanted more.  I punch made me let go of Lamia, one of Caracalla’s followers had attacked me.  Trajan was now fighting another heir, and those attacking him had come to aid their leader.  While the man was attacking me, a young woman was helping Caracalla.  Once she saw that Caracalla was still alive, she came to me, her partner held me while she prepared to hit me, but once I made contact with him I was able to see the energy ribbons around his body.  I tried to recreate what I had done with Lamia, I saw the ribbons and pulled them.  When the woman fist made contact with me, I grabbed her and search for her energy, then I started pulling both ribbons, stealing their energy, faster and faster until both of them collapsed.

I was feeling invincible, I had the energy of my enemies fueling me, but I was aware that I didn’t have much time, even if I was now empowered by the stolen energy, my body was still injured.  I saw Caracalla retrieving his sword and walking towards me.  Around us the noise was dying, most of the people were already down.  Lamia was still alive, but unconscious.  Geb, Inionri, Adze, Net and Trajan were injured and wouldn’t survive much longer.  Isis, Agis and a couple of generals were still fighting, but their fights were not as impressive as in the beginning, they were getting tired.  More than a hundred warriors had walked into the arena, just a fraction of them remained.  And it was time to finish the fight.

Caracalla was getting closer and I could see the hate and madness in his eyes.  I conjured my psychic wall around me, expanding it more and more, pushing everyone I found in the way, trying not to affect those already fallen.  Surprised by the invisible force pushing them, some tried to fight against it, some tried to break it, but it was useless, I had more than enough energy to defeat them.  In just a few seconds the warriors still on their feet were pushed against the walls of the arena.  The only ones still standing in the middle were Caracalla and I.

“You shouldn’t have been born,” Caracalla told me, “you should have died like all of Sultana’s children, you shouldn’t exist, you shouldn’t be here.”

“I don’t know why you hate me so much,” I told him, “but I’m tired of trying to understand you.  For a long time I tried to find a reason for your hate, for all that you did to me.  But there is no reason, is it? You’re just mad.”

Caracalla tried to attack me, but I was ready for him, my sword stopped his, for a moment we were facing each other, our swords intertwined.  Caracalla’s sword was longer than mine, giving him better reach, but mine was easier to move.  I was waiting for his mental attack, but it never came, his mind was still hurting after his failed attack to my mind.  Gathering strength I pushed him away and then I turned before he could react, giving him a nasty cut to his side.  Caracalla screamed and attacked again.  I dodged him and cut him in the back.  He was angry and out of control, he wasn’t thinking, he was just fighting, he was sloppy and easy to read.  His attacks were too fast at first and I could only defend, dodging and parrying until I was able to take his sword away from him.  Even without his sword he didn’t stop his attacks, he came again and again after me and I cut off his arm, after he tried to punch me I cut his hand.  Then he kicked me, the strong hit made me bend over in pain, but when he tried to kick me again, I captured his leg and hit his knee over and over until it broke.  But Caracalla insisted in his attacks, he wasn’t going to stop.  I took his sword and nailed him to the ground, through his stomach, breaking his column.  He was still alive, but cripped.  I thought about killing him, but it wouldn’t be fair to let him get away so easily, he still had a lot to answer for.  He wasn’t a problem anymore, it wouldn’t be long before he lost consciousness.

I felt the warriors still trying to break my wall, the end of my fight with Caracalla only made them increase their efforts, the telepaths went after my mind, the telekinetics used their powers to throw whatever they could against me, but I increased the force of my wall, pushing them harder against the arena’s walls, forcing them to quit their attacks.

“You have seen what I can do,” I said to the trapped warriors, “I don’t want to kill you, I think you are too valuable to kill, so I’m going to give you a choice: You can swear allegiance to me and recognize me as your Empress or you can die by my hand.  The choice is yours.

Slowly I let my wall pull back, I saw how some of them tried to see their possibilities, some were looking at each other, silently asking what the others were going to do.  Inionri and Geb were the first ones to step forward and kneel in front of me, with a strong voice and without doubts they swore their allegiance to me.  Agis and Trajan were next, then one of the generals.  I could see the doubt and reluctance in Net and Isis, but they too let go of their pride and kneel in front of me.  One of the heirs at my back tried to attack me, but I felt his approach and conjured a rock tree, like the one I had used against Rimsin.  The branches grew, going through his limbs and body, leaving him immobilized and screaming in pain.  After that, the others didn’t waste time in swearing their allegiance.

I had won, finally I had defeated Caracalla, and was finally and without a doubt the strongest warrior in the Clan.

 

 

Copyright © 2014 | Kaiserin Novel

Chapter 58

Once everything was settled each group left.  Some groups were taking the prisoners to their destinations, most were going to become slaves in different parts of the Empire.  The generals were going to the Palace, they were escorting Kamose’s body and then assist to his funeral.  Most were going to participate in the Succession Battle, others were going to be witnesses of it.

I couldn’t go with them.  I was still confused, too much had happened in a very short time, I needed time and distance to make sense of my ideas.  So I went to the only person that could give me peace and clarity: Melchizedek.

I wasn’t surprised when I was received by a group of people when I arrived to the Shadow’s territory, I wasn’t surprised when Soturi came running from the group to hug me or that she offered me condolences and a shoulder to cry.  Melchizedek took me in his arms and gave me his warmth, he knew that even if I wanted to I couldn’t cry, and told me it was ok to be sad and that tears were not the only way to mourn a loss.

“I’ve been waiting for you for a long time,” he scolded me, once I was calm enough to talk to him.  “I know your powers have been active for a while now, I told you to come to me, you need to be trained in the use of your powers.”

“I didn’t think I needed it,” I admitted.  “I thought it would be easy, just see the vision, know what was going to happen and then decide what to do, if letting it happen or try to stop it.  I didn’t think I would make a mess out of it, but I should’ve known, I made a mistake with Rex and Felinae, I thought I was doing the right thing when I gave her to Rex, but I just ruined her life.”

“You did the right thing, Felinae had a rough start, that’s true, but things between them are getting better, Felinae will be fine there.  She would be dead right now if she wasn’t with Rex.” Melchizedek tried to cheer me up.

“Are you sure she will be fine?”  I couldn’t shake the guilt away, she had been an heiress, and thanks to me, she became a sex toy for Rex.  I knew she was my enemy, and that she tried to kill me, but knowing that I had done to her what Caracalla had done to me was enough to fill me with guilt.

“She was born to rule, and one day she will rule her new Clan, that’s something she wouldn’t be able to do if it wasn’t for you.  But she will always be your enemy, and that would be true no matter the decisions you made.”

“One more enemy is something I can live with, but knowing that Vasuman and Kamose are dead because of me, that’s different.”  What I did to Felinae was nothing compared to the guilt of killing them.  “I should have been able to save Kamose, but I didn’t.”

“You cannot always change your visions,” Melchizedek said, “sometimes the future can’t be changed.”

“Then what’s the point of being able to see it?” I screamed.  “Why see the future if you won’t be able to change it? That’s just a joke, a cruel one.”

“I understand your frustration, it’s just that you tried to change the future without knowing the consequences.” I knew he was a strong and experienced seer, he knew more than me about the future and the past.  But that only added to my frustration.

“I just made everything worse!” I wanted to cry, but the tears wouldn’t come.  “If I hadn’t tried to help Kamose, Vasuman would still be alive and I wouldn’t be alone.”

“First of all, you’re not alone, there’s a lot of people that care about you.  Second, Vasuman took his own decisions, you had nothing to do with that.”

“Of course I did, I ruined everything! Things were getting better between us… he loved me.”

“I’m sure he did, you don’t give your life for someone you don’t love.  But you can’t stay in the past, you need to move forward, meet your future, you still have a lot to live for.”

“I never wanted this, my clairvoyance is nothing but a curse, and I don’t want it, take it away!”

“Clairvoyance is a gift, one the goddess gave you,” Melchizedek explained.  “The gods don’t give something we can’t handle.  They may test us, but is just to show us what we are capable of.  You lost someone important to you, but I know that someone better is waiting for you.”

“If the gods really exist, I’m sure they hate me, just when I think things are getting better they have to ruin it for me.  Is so unfair!”

“The gods have to have something wonderful reserved for you, all of this will be worth it, just wait and see.”

“Have you seen it?” I felt hopeful.  “Have you seen my future?  Are you sure it will be better?”

“I’ve seen a lot of things, many possibilities, but leaving my visions aside, I know you are a good person and you deserve all the blessings that the gods can give.”

Just having Melchizedek with me was enough to calm me down most of the time, as if he was absorbing my pain and insecurities, and maybe he was, with the help of his power, but it didn’t matter how he was doing it, being with him eased my pain and gave me the peace I needed to think.  It wasn’t his words, but his company, that helped me through the first days, but even with Melchizedek by my side, the guilt was too much sometimes.

There wasn’t much time and I had a lot to learn.  Melchizedek warned me that it would be impossible to learn everything I needed to know how to interpret my visions.  My problem was that I didn’t know how to dissect a vision.  It wasn’t enough to see a vision, you had to learn how to use the knowledge to modify the future.  Melchizedek told me that the future could always be changed, but sometimes by changing it you just delayed it, and sometimes you made it worse, that’s what had happened with Kamose and Vasuman.  When dealing with someone’s future, direct intervention was a bad idea, a seer needed to suggest, without interfering.

His words and teaching reminded me of Cerridwen.  I saw Cerridwen’s teachings under a new light and I started to suspect that she knew this was going to happen and that she was trying to prepare me for it, but she never told me anything directly, as always, she let the riddles for me to solve.  Hearing Melchizedek talk about visions and how to interpret them, I started to understand Cerridwen better.  I understood why she was the way she was, but I wished she had been more direct with me, Melchizedek was and it seemed to work for him.

“After experiencing a vision you can go back and see the alternatives,” Melchizedek explained, “you just have to focus on what you could do to change it, and see the consequences of your actions.”

“Cerridwen was always talking about costs and probabilities.  She said that some futures had better probabilities than others.  She also said that you can reach the same future from different paths, but paying different costs.  Like when my mother died, Cerridwen said that the victory was ours, the only difference was how many lives would be sacrificed for it.”

“You need a lot of talent and experience to be able to do something like that, to be able to see the future as clear as an open book.  Still, when it’s about your own future, there are a lot of variables to consider, it’s too difficult to see how others are going to respond to every change you introduce.”

“When will I be able to do it?”  Melchizedek insisted that with time it would get easier, but time was something I didn’t have.  “I don’t want to misinterpret my next vision, I don’t want to ruin things again.”

“It can be a long time before you have another vision.  It can be weeks or months between visions.  That’s the time you have to revisit and analyze your visions.”

“I didn’t have time to analyze my vision, I just have a couple of days to react.”

“And sometimes you will have just minutes, but you need to understand that you won’t always be able to do something, sometimes a vision comes just to help us prepare to the inevitable.”

“What’s the point of having a vision if you can’t do anything about it?” Sometimes it felt as if we were just repeating ourselves.  “Wouldn’t it be better not to have a vision at all?”

“You will understand one day.”  Melchizede kept repeating, but that didn’t help.

A week flew by, between Melchizedek’s teachings and training with Soturi, who, despite her peaceful upbringing, was one of the best warriors I had known, thanks to her unique power.  But what I enjoyed the most of my time there was the time I spent with little Mistral, my goddaughter, one of the most beautiful experiences I have had.  Being with Mistral was a bittersweet experience, I loved her, so young and innocent and full of life, but a constant reminder that I would never experience anything like that.

I traveled with a small group, it was easier to go unnoticed that way, I knew Caracalla had spies everywhere, and even though he had announced that we would settle our score in the Succession Battle, I couldn’t trust him not to send more people to kill me.  Zounkla and his illusions helped us to travel without raising suspicion, keeping our enemies from finding us.  The only problems we found on our way to the Palace were because of thieves trying to take advantage of a small group, nothing I and my men couldn’t handle.

My arrival to the Palace was the end to my anonymity, as soon as I arrived at the gates I could see how my presence was causing a reaction, they had been expecting my arrival for days, and my delay had caused rumors of my death to spread.  We arrived at night, but that didn’t stop my allies to find me just a few minutes after my arrival.  First was Kozlak, followed by Trajan, and not long after that Inionri and Lamia, soon my room was full of people.  They showed me their concern, some by telling me how happy they were to see me, some by scolding me for my disappearance.  I was happy for their concern, but after a while I was tired of their constant complaints.

Some of the people I had under my command during my time as captain in the Palace, held now important positions, they were able to give me information that I needed, letting me know that Caracalla hadn’t been idle during my absence.  Caracalla was sure he was going to be the next Emperor, and he wasted no time letting everyone know that.  Even Benefer, who, after the battle with the Beasts had become Caracalla’s enemy, wasn’t able to stop his rants.  As second in command Bunefer was supposed to handle all the Empire’s business, but she wasn’t able to handle it all and Caracalla had taken advantage of that fact, taking control of the Palace.  Without my contacts in the Palace: Maddan, Agis and Echrad, I would have been at Caracalla’s mercy.

The morning after my arrival, I joined the other generals at breakfast, most of them already knew I was there.

“Where have you been”? Isis asked at the first opportunity.

“I needed some time to think,” was all I said.  I didn’t want to have problems with Isis, but I wasn’t going to let her interrogate me.

“You missed the Emperor’s funeral.” Her tone made me angry.

“I don’t need to assist to his funeral to mourn him.”

“You didn’t have to be alone.” I couldn’t interpret her tone.  “That’s what your family is for.”  I was ready to snap at her, but I noticed her sincerity and decided to say nothing.

During breakfast, I heard the generals stay their intentions, some were trying to gather support in their quest for the throne, others were trying to decide who to support.  The point was to try to reduce the number of candidates, keep as much people as possible out of the Succession Battle.  I just sat there and heard them, no matter what I knew I was going to be there, I didn’t care for the rest.

I finished eating and went looking for my men, I needed to be sure that they were ok, but before I reached them, Net and Hor found me.

“My mother wants you to come with us,” Net said.  I considered refusing them, but I was curious and decided to follow them.

We arrived at Isis’s room, her siblings and their children were gathered in her chamber.  I went to sit next to Inionri and other of my allies.

“Welcome,” Isis greeted me, “thank you for joining us.”

“What’s this about?” I asked.

“You are going to participate in the battle,” it wasn’t a question, she already knew, “I want to ask you to consider staying out of it, I wouldn’t want you to die there, it would be better for you to stay out of it.”

“I have a score to settle, I won’t let Caracalla say I was afraid of him, I will fight, and even if I don’t win, I will at least take care of him.  I’m not saying I am expecting to lose, I know I have what it takes to be the Empress.”

“Are you willing to risk your life?” Isis asked.

“I won’t die.” I said with conviction, thanks to my visions I could be sure of it.  “Maybe you haven’t noticed, but I’m not easy to kill.”

“I told you, she won’t change her mind,” Adze said.

“Maybe you should change your mind mother,” Net said, “you already had your chance, now is our turn to fight, you are too old for this.”

“You are too young to even think about ruling an Empire.”

“History shows that the younger fighter usually wins,” Inionri said.  “Our grandfather Tzar was closer to our age than yours when he became Emperor.”

“The younger ones tend to be underestimated, that’s why they usually survive,” Inionri’s father said, “but that doesn’t mean that they’re the best choice.”

“I really doubt someone is going to underestimate me,” I thought out loud.  “It’s a pity that just one person is supposed to survive, it’s a waste of capable warriors.”

“I know,” Isis agreed, “that’s why I’m thinking of following your mother’s example and spare those willing to swear allegiance to me during the battle.”

“Maybe it will be you who will have to bend her knee and swore allegiance to the next Emperor, sister.” Adze said.

The reunion was the same as breakfast, but more open.  I thought they wouldn’t wait until the battle to fight, but time flew by and before I knew it, it was time to eat.

After lunch I went with some of my allies to one of the training grounds, we needed to train, even though we hid our best tricks, the need to be prepared forced us to be prepared.  It was then that I realized that I was going to be fighting some of them, the thought made me feel uncomfortable, not just because I didn’t want to fight them, but because some of them could die and I couldn’t do anything to avoid it.  I was going to be unable to protect them, even worse, I would have to be the one to harm them.

Trajan had decided to participate in the battle despite Caracalla’s threats, Agis and Hor haven’t said anything, but I knew they wanted to participate, both were willing to risk death in exchange for the opportunity to gain the throne.  Inionri and Net were very vocal about their willingness to participate, and their confidence made me fear that they would be strong opponents, what would I have to do to stop them? Geb’s and Vikomt parents were the ones urging them to participate.  Many of my allies were going to be in the battle, once there our alliances were null, we would be enemies.  I would be alone against them.

The rest of the week passed in a blur, the battle was announced to the following day, at the main arena, the one at the end of the Burrows.  Enoch, the seers’ leader was in charge of the battle, some people said that he already knew who the victor was, but no one could make him confirm it.

The night before the battle I couldn’t sleep, but my restlessness was understandable.  The battle was scheduled to noon.  Isis was sure she was going to win, but as Khreb has pointed out, the younger ones had the advantage, if only because they were underestimated most of the time.  But no one would make that mistake with me, I was sure Caracalla wasn’t going to, he was prepared for me.  I was sure he had found a way to take the advantage in the battle.  I knew he didn’t trust to be able to win by himself, he would find a way to cheat.

Everything we have to say to each other had already been said, there was no time for visits or talks, so I spent my morning in my room, pacing and thinking, preparing myself for the battle, convincing myself that had what I needed to win.  I told myself that it was just another fight, that I could do it.  Finally, it was time, I left my room and walked to the arena.  There was no reason I couldn’t be there early.  I felt the weight lifting from my shoulders, it would be over soon, I was walking to my future, everything was going to end in a few hours.

Halfway to the arena I heard steps behind me, I was preparing to attack the person behind me, but a familiar voice greeted me.

“Are you ready?” Lamia asked.  I was surprised to find her there, it wasn’t her usual route.

“As ready as I could be,” I told my cousin.  “I can’t help but feeling nervous, this is not like other battles.”

“No, this is the most important battle, and not just for you, but for the whole Clan.”  Lamia smiled at me.  “What are you going to do once you become Empress?” she asked.

“We don’t know if I’m going to win.”

“Don’t be modest cousin, we all know who has the best chance at winning this, Caracalla won’t be able to stop you, not even with help from his allies, by the way, what are you going to do with them once you defeat Caracalla?”

“I don’t know, some of them are just too loyal to him, they could be a problem for me if I let them, I would need to send them away or kill them.”  Not something I was looking forward to, I didn’t want to be forced to kill strong Regals, it wouldn’t be a good precedent.  “And I have to consider his allies in other Clans too.”

“Kaiserin, I don’t want anything to happen to you today.”  Lamia approached me and hugged me.  “Why don’t you stay out of this?  Isis could win, she could take care of Caracalla.”

“I can’t, I have to be there, not just because of Caracalla, it’s something I have to do.”

“Are you sure that you are the right one to be the Empress?” I was surprised by her question, and I took my time to answer, but before I did she continued.  “You are too strong, too dangerous, I guess it can be a good or bad thing.  I have no doubt you will win, but, is that the best for the Clan?” before I could answer Lamia left, leaving me behind.

I stood there for a while, trying to understand what Lamia had said, until I noticed that it was getting late and I needed to go to the Arena.  I had left my room early, but after my talk with Lamia and my wondering, I was late, by the time I arrived the place was full.  Caracalla and his people, about half the generals and roughly the same number of heirs were already at the arena.  I saw some familiar faces and some new ones.  In the balconies the observers were already gathered, the rest of the generals and a few important people were there.  Even though it was an internal affair and only Clan’s people was allowed, I saw Curare and at least another two Clan leaders there, people important enough to be granted the honor of being there.

I saw a young group on the other side of the Arena, most of my allies were there, including Lamia, she was standing next to Kozlak.  I went to them.

“Greetings.” I say to them.

“Hello,” Net said, “ready?”

“Of course, are you going to participate?”  I was surprised Isis hadn’t convinced her to desist, they had been talking about it nonstop the last days.

“Of course, my mother may think she’s invincible, but she is going to be surprised,” she said, “you too.”

At that moment Enoch, the seers’ leader walked to the center of the arena.

“We are gathered here today to be part of history,” his voice echoed through the place.  “Two weeks ago, our powerful leader, Emperor Kamose from the Regal Family, died in battle.  Now we are here to find his successor.  Those of you who think themselves worthy of being the Emperor, those who believe themselves to be stronger, more intelligent, and better than the rest, will fight to prove your worth to your Clan.”

“You forgot to mention that this is a fight to the death.”  I recognized Bunefer’s voice, but I couldn’t see her.

“I didn’t forget, but it would be pointless to say it,”  Enoch said, his voice changing a little bit.  “Years ago Sultana decided to spare the lives of those willing to swear allegiance to her.  Kamose did the same on a smaller scale.  The key players in this battle have already decided to do the same.  Many will die this day, but this won’t be a battle to the death.”

I remembered Isis telling her siblings that she would spare them if they swear allegiance to her, convinced that she would be the winner.  I had made a similar promise to my own allies, I wasn’t ready to kill any of them.  I knew some like Inionri and Agis would be loyal to me even if they didn’t make any public statement, but other like Net, Hor or Vikomt would need a little convincing, but I wouldn’t kill them unless I was forced to it.  From Caracalla I had no idea what he intended.

“Those of you willing to fight for the throne, chose your weapons, the rest, you can go to the balconies to witness the fight.”

From where I was standing I saw the sword that I wanted, one I had used to practice when I was a captain, one I remembered.  Using my mind, I grabbed it before someone else did.  A few decided to go unarmed, most took a weapon.

A few warriors left the arena, most stayed for the battle.  The place was big, but it was difficult to move with so many people there.  Around 30 warriors were standing around Caracalla, working as a human shield.  Including me there were 23 generals and a similar number of colonels.  I wondered how the Clan was able to survive a Succession Battle in older times if so many of the leaders of the Clan died in their search for the throne.  Replacing them had to be difficult, especially if most candidates for the position were also killed during battle.  I could see many heirs willing to fight.

“Good luck cousin.”  Inionri wished me before walking to the other side of the arena, putting some distance between us so we wouldn’t have to fight each other from the start.

“If everyone is ready,” Enoch said, “I declare the Succession Battle officially started.”

 

Copyright © 2014 | Kaiserin Novel

Chapter 57

It had started to rain.  It was a soft rain that did nothing but increase the cold that was crawling down into my bones.  My father’s men, guided by Bunefer had gathered the injured and taken them to the medical camps for treatment.  The battlefield where Vasuman and Kamose had died was empty, just my bodyguards and I remained, the rest had already gone looking for treatment or survivors.

Tankene and Kroppen had found me after my meltdown and helped me get out of my astral trance, bringing me back to reality.  I had refused to go to one of the medical camps, and despite my insistence for them to go, Tankene and Kroppen stayed with me.  Tankene’s arm was hanging down, useless, and Kroppen had an open wound on his back, along with bruises and scratches all over their bodies.  But they had insisted on being with me, in helping me gather Vasuman’s remains to give him a proper goodbye.

Before the rain started, we had gathered enough wood for a funeral pyre.  Vasuman’s remains were burning now, the fire that never touched him in life was consuming him in death. I had no idea how long I had been watching the smoke rising to the sky, taking the man that had loved me and given me a second chance to live, to his final destination.

“It seems the powerful Kaiserin has failed again when it mattered most,” Caracalla’s voice mocked me.  “First, you let your mother die, now you failed your emperor and your lover.”

“Go away Caracalla, I don’t have time for you.”  My voice sounded hollow to my ears.  I knew that Caracalla wasn’t going to let the opportunity to attack me at my most vulnerable, but I wasn’t expecting to be alone by the time he came.

“That’s what you wish, but no, there’s no one else to defend you now and I’m decided to finish what we started six years ago.”

“I don’t need anyone to defend me Caracalla, if you managed to defeat me six years ago was because Kamose was with you.”  I heard some giggles and laughing, Caracalla wasn’t alone.

I finally looked away from the fire and confronted Caracalla.  I knew he wasn’t going to be alone, but I wasn’t expecting as many people as he had with him.  His group was big enough that I couldn’t see everyone, some were lost on the fringe in the forest and their shadows between the trees was all I could see.  Tankene and Kroppen moved in front of me, putting a barrier between Caracalla and me, but as sweet as that gesture was, it was a pointless one, neither of them was strong enough to stop him.

“I see you are not alone,” I finally said, “are you that afraid of me that you need a small army to kill me?”

“I don’t need them,” he said, “and I’m not going to kill you.  Six years ago I wanted to, but my father stopped me.  At first I was mad at him for trying to give you an easy, happy life, but then I heard about sector 32 and saw the opportunity to send you to there.  I would never have imagined how fun it could be until the reports started to come.  And now, there’s no one left to stop me from doing it again.  I won’t kill you Kaiserin, I will keep you alive for entertainment purposes.

“If you think you can defeat me, you are gravely mistaken,” I said, “I’m a telepath now, there no way you can lock my memories and take my powers away like Kamose did.”

“True, I can’t erase your memory or take your powers again, but I can destroy your mind until there’s nothing left but an empty shell, a hollow toy to keep me and my friends entertained.”  His followers started to laugh again.

“I’m not afraid of you Caracalla, and I’m not afraid of them.  Although is clear to me that you are afraid of me.”

“I’m not afraid of anyone,” he yelled, losing his cool, “I’m better than you in every sense.”

“If that was true, you would be facing me one on one.”

“That’s what you wished, but I won’t waste my time in a piece of trash like you.”

“That’s what you say, but you spent so much time and resources looking for a way to get rid of me, you know that the only way you can take me out is if you play dirty.”

“I don’t need anyone’s help to destroy you!”

“Brave words, but your actions betray you, if you were really sure of yourself you wouldn’t be hiding behind so many warriors, you would face me in a battle.”

“I could kill you so easily right now, you are pathetic, you are tired and injured.  Breaking you wouldn’t even be fun right now.”  His words sent a shiver down my spine.  He was right, I was hurt, injured, and tired.  All I wanted was to crawl down and sleep, and never wake up.

“You are insane if you think we will allow you to touch our general.” Kroppen said.

“You are the insane ones if you think that a piece of trash like you could stop us,” Caracalla said.  “We are not only more powerful than you, we are more.”

“Only a warrior without honor would take advantage of a situation like this,” Tankene said.  “It’s true that we are tired and injured, but we are willing to fight you until our last breath.”

“I’m just smarter than you, I know how to take advantage of any situation.” Caracalla proudly said.

“Smart enough to know that you would never get the throne by your own merits?  That’s why you are doing this, why you always cheat and scheme, you know it’s the only way you can win.  Do you think I don’t know what you did today?  You always were Kamose’s weakness, he trusted you and you betrayed him.  You were helping him gather the Beast’s information, and you modified it so he would underestimate them and die, you wanted to get rid of as many generals as you could, you didn’t even care how it would affect the Clan, you only thought of yourself.”

“I have no idea what you are talking about.” But his smug smile and proud stand only confirmed my suspicions.

“Even if you could get rid of me, that doesn’t mean that you will get the throne, we are not one of the Allied Clans, being the Emperor’s son doesn’t make you the next Emperor.”

“I have the Regals with me, they will make me the next emperor.” He announced.

“Not all the Regals,” Trajan said from the shadows behind me, “and after what you did today, I’m sure that you would be the worst choice for the throne.”  He was getting closer, his voice louder.

“Traitor!” Caracalla was furious.

“I won’t let you harm Kaiserin, is better if you realize that she is not alone.” Trajan warned him.

“And you think you can stop me?” Caracalla mocked his brother.

“We can stop you,” Agis said.  “You are mistaken if you think that all the Regals will follow you.” I turned to see him, and noticed that Trajan and Agis weren’t alone, a small group of Regals were with them.

“I don’t know why you think you could get away with this Caracalla,” Inionri’s voice was coming from the other side, “as you see not all the Regals are by your side, some of them are behind Kaiserin, as are a considerable number of Maximas.”

“And Vlads,” Kozlaks voice announced.

“And don’t forget the Amon’s,” Geb added from another group.

“I know you don’t think much of us, the minor families,” Modra said, “but Kaiserin has our support as well.” She was with some of the surviving warriors from my own sector.

“Maybe he doesn’t think much of you,” Flora, the Naturalists heiress said, “but he can’t deny the importance of the Allied Clan’s heirs.”

“And even if we are a small group, we come from the most powerful Clans,” Dendro added.

“You are wasting your time if you think we will let you harm Kaiserin,” Trajan stood by my side. “We’re not only more powerful than you, we are more than you.”  His words let me know that they had been close by when Caracalla appeared, maybe even waiting for him.

“You are just delaying her fate,” Caracalla said, arrogant, but knowing he was at a disadvantage.  “We will finish this in two weeks, in the Succession Battle.  I will defeat you in front of the whole Clan.  And even if you don’t participate in the battle, once I become the Emperor, there will be nowhere to hide from me.”

“You will never be Emperor,” I said, “and I think you know it.”

Without another word Caracalla and his followers left, as fast and silently as he arrived.  I turned back and realized that the funeral pyre was almost gone, just a few embers were left, the rain was doing a good job of extinguishing them.  There was enough light left to see the group that had gathered behind me, it was bigger than I expected, bigger than Caracalla’s, with faces I wasn’t even expecting, like Net’s and Hor’s.

“You are all here,” I said, surprised.

“Did you doubt it?” Kozlak asked.

“We would never leave you alone,” Inionri said, “especially not to face someone like Caracalla.”

“But I know you have your own problems and duties, some of you are even injured, I thought…”  for a moment I had thought that I was going to have to face Caracalla alone.  I had asked for help, but I was afraid no one would come.  “Thanks for coming, I’m not sure if I could… there were so many of them…”

“You’re hurt,” Dendro was staring at me.  “Come with me, my mother will patch you up.”

“Is nothing,” I shrugged, “there’s other people who need her help more than me.”

“You need to be at your best Kaiserin,” Trajan added, “I really doubt Caracalla will wait until the battle to try something again, is better if you go with the Assassins and let them check you.”

“I’m not the only one in danger Trajan, Caracalla thinks you betrayed him and will try to kill you too.”  I had never expected Trajan to go against his brother, not for me anyway.  He had to be aware of the consequences.

“You don’t need to worry about me,” he said, “I will take my precautions, worry about yourself.”  He had really changed, and I haven’t noticed when.

Suddenly I felt really tired, I haven’t even noticed how exhausted I really was until then, and the rain wasn’t helping, I felt so cold I couldn’t even remember what warmth was.

“Thanks.” It was all I could manage to say before I followed Dendro to his camp.

Curare was just as impressive as always, but the dark circles under her eyes and her slow movements betrayed her exhaustion.  I felt guilty about taking her time, I was sure she had other people who needed her help, I was just wasting her time.

“You will be fine, none of your injuries are life threatening,” Curare said, after she checked me and ran a bunch of analysis and tests that I thought unnecessary, “you will be hurting for a few days, you have a lot of bruises.  I will give you some salve and medicine to prevent infections.  Most injuries caused by the Beasts can be infected, we will have to keep you monitored.  By tomorrow the rest of the test will come back and I will know for sure if there is something to worry about.”

“Thanks Curare, but as you said, I just have some light injuries, nothing to worry about, I just need some rest and I will be fine.”  I was feeling uncomfortable taking her time, and I wanted to be alone.  I needed to be alone, I needed time to think and mourn my losses.

“There’s nothing more important to me than making sure you’re ok,” she said, “you need to stay here, just in case.”  The look she gave me told me that she wouldn’t take no for an answer, I had to stay.

I was sure I wasn’t going to sleep, I felt so empty and a pain that had nothing to do with my wounds was consuming me, but before I noticed I was trapped in a restless sleep.

The next morning I woke up and dressed, I was moving without thinking, following everyday’s routine.  I just wanted to lay down and do nothing, but I had responsibilities as a general, and I had to go to the meeting, there were a lot of decisions to make, and we needed to make them because Kamose couldn’t… he was… gone.

I went directly to the meeting place without bothering to find something to eat.  I felt dizzy and had nausea, food was the last thing in my mind.  Kamose’s and Vasuman’s deaths were affecting me more than I thought.  I put my arms around me, trying to warm me up just a little bit.  Without Vasuman’s warmth it was as if I was going to be forever cold.

“How are you?” I haven’t even heard Isis approaching me until she was next to me.

“What do you care?” I said.  I wanted it to sound like an insult, but my voice was too weak.  “Isn’t it a little too late for you to pretend you care about me?” Once again, my voice was too weak for it to make the proper impact.

“It’s never too late to rectify our errors.  I wasn’t there for you six years ago, but I’m here for you now.”  I had no reason to trust her, she had let me down before, and for all I knew she could be trying to be on my good side just to be closer to me and stab me in the back at the first opportunity.  But then her arms wrapped around me and her hand started to stroke my hair in a soothing way and I just let her, borrowing just a little bit of her warmth.

It took me more time that I wanted to compose myself, I wasn’t expecting Isis’ gesture to affect me so much.  It was just that I felt so alone.

“Is everything alright?” asked Khreb when he saw us.

“Yes,” I said, but again, my voice failed me.

“Let’s go, we have things to do, the others must be expecting us.”  Khreb reminded us.  He offered his arm and I was just so tired that I accepted his support.

Most of the generals were already there, but the first one I noticed was Bunefer, her eyes were red and puffy, it was clear she had been crying and she wasn’t even trying to hide it.  When she saw me she tried to attack me.

“You knew it!” She said.  “You knew he was going to die and you didn’t say anything!”  Jomei had grabbed her before she could reach me.

“You wouldn’t have listened to me if I had.”  I was just too tired to try to deny it, and I really didn’t care what anyone thought.  “None of you would have believed me anyway, I just thought I could help him by myself.”

“You came here to save him?” Vajira asked, incredulity painted on her face.

“You worthless piece of shit!” Bunefer was yelling.  “You should have said something, he would have listened to you!” She was acting like a crazy person, and for the first time I realized that she really cared for Kamose, what they had, it had been real.  “He was always clueless about his children, he always trusted you, he would have believed you!”

“What did you say?” For a moment I thought I had imagined her words, it was almost as if Bunefer had accepted me as Kamose’s daughter.  It was as if she was saying that Kamose thought about my as one of his children.  But he always denied me, he always said I was nothing to him.

“But it was Caracalla’s fault, it was all Caracalla’s fault!” She yelled again, ignoring my question.  “If only I could prove it!” She was crying again, it was painful to see her.

Bunefer was a mess, she didn’t look like the second in command of the most powerful Clan in the Empire.  I sat down, I was confused and exhausted.

“What’s going to happen now?” I asked.

“We need to take Kamose’s remains to the Palace and give him a proper burial.”  Taking advantage of Bunefer’s meltdown, Isis took charge of the meeting.  “We need to contact all the heirs and other candidates to the Succession Battle and prepare everything.  We have two weeks to do it.”

“What about the Beasts?” I asked.  “Did we finish them?” I hated to think that it had been a waste, that our sacrifices had been in vain.

“It seems so,” Lobishomen said, “but we have a few squads looking around, trying to find survivors.”

They started to discuss how to handle the prisoners and how to divide he spoils between the Clans involved in the battle, but the more they talked the less I listened.  I was so tired I was getting sleepy, and distracted, nothing there held my attention for long.  After the meeting I went back to where my men had made our camp, it was close to the Assassins’ camp.

“How are you?” Modra asked as soon as she saw me in the camp, I haven’t even noticed she was approaching me, that’s how distracted I was.  It was a dangerous thing for me.

“I’m fine, don’t worry about me.”  But even to me, the words sounded hollow.

“I don’t want to bother you, but there’s some things that need your attention, decisions to make…” Modra looked uncomfortable, I wasn’t sure why, and I didn’t care either.

“Give me the reports, I will check them later.  I’m just going to rest for a little while.”  I needed to go to bed and maybe stay there for the rest of my life.

“Are you sure you’re ok?”

“Yes, I am, I just need some rest,” but it was a lie, one I was sure she didn’t buy. Nothing would ever be the same, and not even I knew how much things were going to change.

 

 

Copyright © 2014 | Kaiserin Novel