I was standing in front of the living room’s windows. The vision I had earlier that night had me worried. I had gotten up from bed without waking Kimball up, something that didn’t usually happen, but something I was grateful for, since I needed a moment alone.
When my mother had died, I had been in charge of her protection, and had failed. When my father had died, I had seen his death, but had failed to stop it from happening, even if I had since learned that some deaths were inevitable, I still considered that as my failure. Now I had knowledge that my brother was going to die, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I knew that what was to come couldn’t be changed, but still it hurt me. His time was running out and I had lost years hiding from him, thinking that I would have time later, always later, to be with him again and recover our relationship.
The color in the sky was changing, it was almost dawn. I felt someone next to me, and I turned, expecting to see Kimball, but it was Ethan who I found, moving closer to hug me. A wave of serenity descended over me, and it wasn’t until that moment that I realized how affected I was by the vision.
“What happened? I could feel your pain and sadness all the way to my room.”
“I had a vision, something very bad is going to happen. My brother…” Ethan didn’t say a word, but I felt the peaceful sensation vanish and the brush of his mind against mine. I didn’t want to talk, I wasn’t prepared to talk about my vision out loud, so I let Ethan get into my mind and see the vision that had affected me so much. His arms wrapped around me tighter and the peacefulness returned. “Thank you, but you shouldn’t worry about me.”
“I know you like to pretend you are untouchable, but I know you, mom, and I know that this situation is hurting you for more than one reason. If you are here sitting in the dark, instead of gathering your forces, then you must know there is nothing you can do to prevent what is going to happen, am I right?” He didn’t wait for my answer, he must have seen the answer in my face, or my attitude. “What can you do?”
“I think I can go to the Empire, I want to see my brother one last time, at least have a proper goodbye.”
“I’m sure that won’t be a problem.”
“I have taken a lot of time off, we just returned from the Light Kingdom a couple of months ago.”
“After your help with Camil, I’m sure they won’t say no to you leaving to see your brother.”
“I don’t know,” but even as I said that, I knew that I would find a way to go, even if there wasn’t much time left. “First, I need to go into the fog, take a look, make sure that what I saw was accurate, and see how much time we have left.”
“I’ll go wake up my father, and then I will help him cook breakfast, don’t take long.”
Ethan left, but even if his power was going with him, I was already feeling better. In part it was because I had a plan of action, and the feeling that I was actually doing something kept me calm. I had made a lot of mistakes in my life, and I had a lot of regrets, leaving my brother behind was one of them, and I knew that I needed to be with him one more time, no matter what happened after, no matter if I couldn’t change his future, just being able to talk to him, to see him face to face one last time, would help me deal with his death.
Kimball didn’t come to talk to me right away, I heard him talking to Ethan and then the noise from the kitchen as they cooked. When I went into the kitchen there was a feast already waiting for me.
“Do you want me to start arrangement to travel to the Empire?” Kimball asked.
“Frist I need to go talk to Fatima, maybe even Sofia, to have a better read on the situation, and depending on the time frame we get, I will have to work on some plans.”
“As you wish, but you know I’m here for whatever you need.”
Breakfast was delicious, and both Kimball and Ethan gave me the space I needed to think and let my worries go, at least for the moment. Since I couldn’t just ignore my responsibilities, even less if I planned to go away for a while, I went to my office and started working. I asked for Fatima to be go see me in the first available space in my schedule, and then I asked her to join me on the walk through the fog, to help me keep track of time and direction.
From what I could see in my short walk, I just had a couple of weeks, it was longer than the time frame I had gotten from other visions. I also confirmed that there was nothing I could do to avoid that outcome, any try would only make things worse. While I was in the fog, and before I had a chance to exit it, I was hit with a flurry of visions that gave me a glimpse into what would happen in the next few years. I could avoid being trapped by the visions, thanks to Fatima’s help, but in the meantime I got some useful information.
I worked alone for the rest of the day, not even going to eat, instead asking for my meal to be taken to my office. During the afternoon William arrived, at first I got worried that there was a problem that could affect my plans, but I should have already guessed that Sofia knew about it, and she had warned William what was going to happen.
“How long will you be gone?” he asked, right to the point.
“I don’t know. A few days, maybe a week.”
“Take as long as you need, I’m sure that everything would be fine here, we can handle the Dominion without you for a few days.”
“How is Camil?”
“It’s a little difficult for him to assimilate everything, but other than that, he is fine. He knows a lot about how to rule and care for people, and his moral compass is very good. Even if he is a little young, I’m sure he could take the throne without issues.”
“And how do you feel about it? Won’t it be hard to leave your position?”
“I don’t know. Truth is, I’ve grown used to the position and I like what I do, at the same time, I know Camil is the true heir. You could say that I’m happy with the work I have done, but if people decide it’s time for me to let go, then that’s what I’m going to do. I won’t cling to the throne knowing it’s not mine, that’s what my sister did and I won’t be like her, I won’t do something that could harm my country or my family.”
“That’s good to know, but I don’t think you will have to worry about that for a while yet.”
“That’s right, but anyway, it’s not something you should worry about, just focus on your family that I will take care of things here.”
“Thanks, William,” despite our difficulties, or maybe because of that, I knew I could trust William to do his best to help me, but that didn’t help me feel better about leaving for an extended period of time.
I stayed in my office, going over all my current projects, trying to do as much as possible before having to leave, at least until Kimball arrived and dragged me away.
“We have to prepare to leave in three days,” I asked Kimball once we arrived at our home.
“Ok, I will start working on it tomorrow. Is there someone you would like to take with us?”
“I was thinking… we have talked about what could happen once I stop being the Prime Minister, and after my vision last night, I think we need to start working on having a representation in the Empire. I haven’t talked to the Mzansi’s rulers, but I think we should make the Shadow Clan part of the Empire.”
“Is that even possible? We keep away from them as much as possible, most of them don’t even know or believe we exist.”
“We can make it possible. First step is to get at least three allies that are already part of the Empire.”
“We have a few alliances with people on the coast.”
“Yes, but for what I’m planning, we need better ones, I was thinking maybe we could send Ethan…”
“What?” Kimball interrupted.
“Ethan is the closest you have to a Shadow’s heir, at least you want to take the position yourself, so I was thinking of sending him to talk to Dendro, and maybe another few clans, about the possibility of an alliance.”
“Isn’t that dangerous?”
“Dendro would never hurt him, not if he knows he is my son.”
“And what about the others? Who are you thinking about? No, it would be better if I go myself.”
“I think this is a great opportunity for Ethan, a way for him to connect to his imperialist’s roots. Besides, he wouldn’t be alone, we would send a group of people capable of protecting him. I think Ethan is ready, and it would be good for him.”
“I don’t want him at risk.”
“He needs to test himself, and we need to show him we believe in him. I have a few ideas of who could be potential allies for the Shadow Clan, but you know that if I go myself it would only cause more trouble, not just for me, but for you. I know it won’t be easy to convince Kgosi of this, but if I can, it will help us a lot in the future. This way I wouldn’t have to go back to the Imperial Clan, we could go as the Shadow’s representatives. I’m not sure why, but I feel that this is something we have to do.”
“And as always, it’s better to listen to your instincts than to suffer the consequences later. If you think that’s best, then you should talk to the King and the Elders Council, and talk to Ethan, after you make sure it’s a good idea.”
Luckily, everyone liked the idea. Kgosi resisted at first, but then the idea of having some kind of representation in the Empire ended up winning him. The Elders not only liked the idea, but they fully supported me sending Ethan, and despite Kgosi resistance, they accepted, and even expanded my list of reasons for why it was a good idea to have Ethan represent them. I knew that Zola already considered Ethan one of the future leaders of Mzansi, she had invited him to Council’s sessions a few times, and I knew she liked to spend time with him when he visited.
Once they had accepted, I only had to talk to Ethan. I was aware that he knew I was planning something, but I was sure he thought it was all related to what was going on with my brother, and didn’t suspect he was involved in my plans. When I finally decided to talk to him, I had him sent to my office, so Kgosi, who was connected via conference call, and I could talk to him officially. He was absolutely surprised by this, and I could see how he thought he was in trouble, and was going over everything he had done the last few weeks looking for something that could have landed him in trouble.
“Did you call me?” he asked, and I had to recognize his strength, even if I could feel his fear, his voice and attitude didn’t betray any of it.
“That’s right,” I said, “we have something we want to discuss with you. As you know, tomorrow I will go to the Empire to speak to my brother,” Ethan nodded, letting us know he was aware of that part of my plans, “what’s happening with my brother, among other things, had made me realize that we need to have a presence in the Empire, but not one that depends on me, but one that has more to do with Mzansi and the Shadow Clan.”
“Your mother convinced us that it was a good idea, and since she knows the procedure we need to follow to become recognized by the Empire, we need to follow her suggestions. The first step is to be recognized by other clans and form alliances with them,” Kgosi explained.
“I don’t think is a good idea for me to forge those alliances, if we want a true and lasting relationship between them and the mzansiers, or the Shadows, then it can’t be me who goes there. That’s why we decided that the first contact should be done by someone they can recognize as an heir,” I had been feeling Ethan’s confusion, but at those words, I felt his hope, not that he let it show in his face. “That’s why we called you. I think you are the right person to take that first step, you represent something they will recognize and you have the strength to represent your clan appropriately.”
“Of course I would like to do that, it would be an honor,” Ethan said, “but what about school?”
“You will lose only a few days, and we all know you will have no problem making up for lost time. Of course, we can’t force you to do this, so you have to decide if you want to do it or not. I’m pretty sure that you won’t have any trouble, and this could even be a good opportunity for you to test your powers and how far you can stretch them, even so, you have to decide if you want to take that risk.”
“Then yes, I will be ready to leave as soon as possible.”
“Not so fast. As you will be representing our clan, there are a few things I would like to discuss with you first,” Kgosi said, “privately if possible,” I knew there were some things they needed to discuss, and I wasn’t offended that he wanted me gone, not coming from Kgosi.
“I will give you some privacy then. Ethan, you know how all of this works, so I leave it in your hands, and I’ll see you later.”
I left Ethan to his meeting and went looking for Kimball, who was working on getting everything ready for our trip. As time went by I was getting more nervous, and also madder. I had told myself that all I needed was to talk to my brother one more time, but as I was preparing everything to go to the Empire, I wondered if that would really be enough. I had let many years go by, and even if I couldn’t regret all I had done in that time, I could feel bad for everything I had turned my back to. Trajan had always been good to me, he had supported me and been by my side to the end. How would it be to see him again?
I didn’t have time to think about that, I had a trip to prepare for, and that included going to Fatima and Sofia and having another walk through the fog, not only because I needed to find a safe way to reach Trajan, but because I needed to make sure that the mission I was sending Ethan to, was safe, I couldn’t allow something I was asking him to do to cause him harm.
I had known for a while that Ethan felt less than his sisters, that he felt he needed to prove himself, and that mission was going to help him show what he was capable of, and it would also be a way for as to recognize how far he had gotten. But no matter how much I trusted him or how much I respected his power, I knew that even the strongest of warriors could have problems, and I wasn’t going to allow my decisions or actions to cause him harm, no matter how minimum it was.