Chapter 41

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.”

“I know.”

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.

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Chapter 40

It took us a week to write the laws, agreements and procedures we needed for a country to be able to leave if they didn’t want to be part of the Dominion anymore.  In that time, the country that wanted to leave had escalated  in ways that made me uncomfortable.  As Yu and Kimball had feared, the border of the country was now fully militarized, and their neighbors had already suffered some minor attacks.  When we had asked them to go to Capital City to sign the papers that would grant them their independence, they had thought we were trying to trap them, and had refused.  As their Ambassadors and Representatives had already left days before, there was no one else to sign in their name.

“Are you sure this is what you want to do?” Kimball asked again.

“Of course, it will be fine, and it will set a good precedent.  They think they are safe and that they can do whatever they want from their capital, it will be good for them to learn they are wrong.”  I couldn’t stand the situation and I didn’t have enough patience to wait for them to decide what to do, so I had decided to invade them and face their king in person.  “Are you all ready?”

“Yoweri and I will go ahead, to make sure the way is clear, once we reach the point marked for the camp, we will signal you to follow,” Ivan said.

“Be careful,” I asked, even if I was pretty sure everything would be just fine.

We didn’t wait long before receiving the signal to go.  We had found a weak point in the border and used some of Kimball’s and Jeong’s gadgets to jam the different radars and trackers set at the border.   The first part of our trip was by foot, but once we got away from the area secured by the army we would be able to use other means of transportation.

It took us half a day to reach the place that Kimball had marked as safe to set camp.  Once there he set a tent just like the one that had housed us the first time I had stayed with him.  I knew it would be impossible to spot us from outside, the tech used on it made it invisible and also made sure that no other tracking technologies like infrared,  radar or even thermal could be used to find it.

“This bring back memories,” Mbali said, most likely thinking about the same thing as me.

“Certainly,” Kimball said, “I just hope this trip goes better than that time.”

“From what I remember it was quite a successful trip,” I said, because, even if they had had some difficulties with the Scavengers after I left, I had managed to do everything I needed to do.

“What’s the plan for tomorrow,” Ivan asked, focused on the mission, as usual.

“We will take a couple of vehicles from a place near here, and use them the rest of our way.  I really doubt we will find any blockage on our way, but if that happens, Kaiserin will use her powers to convince them to let us go, or if things get complicated, we will use Agata to take over the body of the person in charge so we can continue,” Kimball explained.

“Members of the local resistance, from the time Emily and Faakhir were still in control of the Dominion, told us about a tunnel system running from the castle where the Royal Family lives to safe places.  Those were designed to help them in case they needed to escape, but we will use them to get inside.  It won’t be easy, but I think I will be able to deal with any astral sentries, and Kimball and Fatima will take over any electronic surveillance system.  Between Franz and I will set some illusions that will keep us hidden until we reach the place where I hope we will find them.

“Any doubts?  Questions?” Kimball asked.

“None,” they all responded.

We had already gone over the plan several times before going there, but I knew that during a mission it was important to go over the plan as many times as it was necessary.  I had chosen the people with me personally, and each one of them had the abilities I needed for the plan to go smoothly.  In a way it was a fun mission, it had been a while since I had the chance to do something like that, at least in a situation as relaxed as that, because even if the results were important for the wellbeing of the Dominion, I wasn’t running against the clock to save someone important to me.

I tried to get some sleep, but it was hard, so I decided to go into the astral planes instead, that way I would be doing something productive, I ended up going as far as the city where our target was.  I was surprised when I didn’t find any signs of astral activity around there.  I knew that many people were afraid of using the astral planes, even if it was easy going into them, it was also easy to get lost in them and lose the connection to your body, a risk that increased with distance, I assumed they had thought there was no risk of someone going that far just to scout the place.  I took advantage of that situation to go and get a read of the place, to make sure that the tunnels and secret passages they had talked us about where there, and still working, I didn’t want any surprises.  I was glad to see the tunnels were still there, and also to find a few other things that would help us in our mission.

By the time I went back to my body, the rest of the group was awake and ready to continue.  Even if I hadn’t slept, the astral projection had allowed my body some rest, enough that I could function without problems.  Our journey was slow, but we didn’t have any problems reaching the capital, everything was going according to plan.  In other circumstances the lack of trouble would have me worried, but it was becoming more and more obvious that the people in charge didn’t worry about any attacks coming from the inside.  They had posted all their defense in the border, thinking the threats were outside.

We finally arrived at the capital and went to a building near the castle.  We knew that the tunnels ran underneath it, and instead of going to the exit, that might be under surveillance, we decided to create our own entry point.

“Are we sure this is going to work?” Thalia asked.  “One would expect a tunnel like this to be reinforced to avoid people trying what we are going to try.”

“First of all, these tunnels were constructed a long time ago, when there were no building above them, I don’t think they ever considered the possibility of a building being constructed over them.  Second, the fact that these are supposed to be a secret and that no one should know about them makes them confident no one will think of using them.”

“When they told us about the tunnels, they never said where exactly they were located,” Kimball explained, “we decided to find out everything about them and map them out on our own, it was very difficult, since we didn’t ask the locals for help, and I doubt they even suspect we have this information.”

“Anyway,” I continued, “I think we are ready to move forward, and I’m pretty sure we have nothing to worry about with this part of our mission.”

I went back to the astral planes to do some recon while others took care of excavating to reach the tunnel and others kept guard around us.  Once they reached the tunnel, making the hole to get access proved to be more difficult than we originally thought, but Kimball was prepared for that, and had the tools we needed to break the walls of the tunnel and gain access to it.  I got back to my body just in time to be one of the first to descend into the tunnel.  Despite its age, and the time it had been abandoned, there were still a few security measures we had to deal with as we advanced.  We got a nasty surprise once we made it to the end of the tunnel, the door we were supposed to use to get inside the castle and that we thought was just locked, seemed to have been sealed some time in the last few years, and that was going to make our task even harder.

I went to the door and used my powers to connect to it, I needed to understand exactly what had been done if I wanted to know how to undo it.  For what I could see, it had been welded to the frame, they must have decided they no longer needed the tunnels, or maybe it was just this one tunnel and we just had bad luck.  Either way, looking for another entry was going to take too much time, what we needed was to find a way to get to the other side.  Luckily I had already learned that there were more than one way of getting to the other side.  I extended my powers to connect to the wall around the door and found the weaknesses in it, finding it would be much easier to break the wall, than the door.

“If I can find the weak points, can you open a hole in the wall?” I asked Kimball.  “I could use my powers to control the opening and make sure we don’t affect the integrity of the wall, or make too much noise.”

“I sure can, this is one of the scenarios we prepared for,” Kimball said.

It only took a few minutes of working together to get a hole big enough for all of us to get through.  From that point on the risk of being found out would increase dramatically.  Mbali set a hologram to disguise our entry point, while Franz used his powers to create an illusion to mask us.  I knew that Kimball and Fatima had already found and disabled all electronic security measures.

While we had been working on the entry point, Fatima had already seen to the next step, and she guided us to the place where she was sure we would find the leaders of the country.  We had gone over different ways of doing what was next, but we eventually agreed that it was best to wait for them to find us and take them by surprise.  We arrived to a room that looked like a conference room, and I immediately knew that important conversations took place in there.

“They should arrive in a few minutes,” Fatima announced, before going to the corner of the room to go back into the fog.  I knew she would be able to warn us in time if anything happened.

“Most of these security measures are not active unless the room is in use, and it seems to be pretty standard security, mostly gadgets to avoid other listening in, to protect from intruders or spies,” Kimball said after going over the room.

“Perfect, most of those will be useful once or meeting begins.  How’s the security of the room is?” I asked.

“Once we turn it on, it will be very hard to get access to the room.  From what I can see, it would have been very difficult to get inside if they had been already been in here.  It’s really sad that they don’t have a defense protocol for when the room is empty, it would have been very helpful for them.  How good can your protection be if its useless if your enemy arrives first?”  I didn’t say anything, but I agreed with Kimball, one would expect that a country that was getting ready to fight for its freedom would be better prepared to fight off an attack.  So far, all their efforts were focused on protecting the border, and the inside had been neglected.

I took the papers we had prepared for the reunion and started setting them on the table, choosing the seats everyone would take.  Once everything was prepared, I took a seat and prepared to wait.  All around the room my people also went to their positions.

“Incoming,” Thalia said, and from the focus on Franz’s face I knew he had an illusion around us.

“You worry too much,” King Phou was saying as he opened the door, ignoring one of his guards that was trying to get inside first to check the room.

“In this case a lack of news could be bad news.  I don’t trust this calm, I think we are in danger, you should never have given them an ultimatum, not like this, brother” Souvanna said.

“Our borders are protected, there is no way they can get to us.”

Just as Phou and the rest of his people stepped inside the room I used my powers to push their guards out of the room.  Kimball was waiting just next to the door and moved to make sure the door was closed and secure, so they wouldn’t be able to follow inside.

The others were looking around in panic, but when Franz left the illusion drop and they realized who was there, the color left their faces.  I could feel the fear pouring out of their bodies, even as the woman tried to compose herself and face me.

“What are you doing here?  I thought it was clear you weren’t welcome here anymore, we are no longer part of the Dominion, and no matter what you do today, our people won’t allow you to control them that easily,” I had to recognize that her bravery was admirable, I knew she wasn’t one hundred percent on board with how things were going, at least not with how her brother was managing the situation, but still she stood by his side.

“Why don’t you take a seat so we can talk about this like civilized people?” without waiting for their agreement, I used my powers to force them to the seats I had already selected for them.  “Since you refused my invitation to visit the Dominion, I was forced to come in person to deal with this situation.”

“There is no going back,” Phou said, “we already made our minds, and we won’t be part of the Dominion again.”

“Do you really think it would be as easy as to say you wanted to leave?”

“There is nothing you could do or say…” Phou started to protest, but I could feel his fear, and even if I knew that wasn’t my intention, I was sure that with a little pressure I would be able to force him to do what I wanted.  Luckily for the, I had already decided to let them go.

“In front of you is a folder with documents, all I need from you is to sign them.”

“Do you really expect us to sign whatever you throw at us just because you say so?”

“That’s exactly what I expect.  You can take your time, but let me warn you that you won’t be leaving this room unless those documents are signed.”

While Phou was busy protesting and throwing threats we all knew he wouldn’t be able to fulfil, his sister was going over the documents and reading them.  At first she was reading with mistrust, then with surprise as she found out what they were about.

“Brother,” she eventually called, “you need to see this.”

“What?”

“These documents are agreements that recognize our independence.”

“What are you talking about?  How can that be possible?” Phou said, before grabbing his own copy and reading it.  “But…”

“If you had accepted my invitation, you would have seen that we have no problem letting you go from the Dominion,” I could feel his eyes on me, trying to read if I was saying the truth.  “Of course, there will be some economic sanctions and from now on Laos habitants won’t be able to go travel into the Dominion without an especial permission, that’s why you will have to accept a Dominion embassy in your land.  Also, you need to know that it’s not acceptable to militarize the border, your neighbors are getting nervous and we won’t stand for that kind of aggression.”

“The army is there for our protection,” Phou protested.

“You don’t need protection, unless you decide it’s a good idea to attack us, then I strongly suggest you seek protection, not that it will help you in any way, but at least you will feel better about yourselves.”

“Are you saying our army is not capable of  protecting us?” he asked, incensed.

“It didn’t help to keep us out, did it?  If my goal was different, I would have killed you by now, and would be ready to put someone in your place, just like Emily and Faakhir used to do.  You are lucky that’s not my goal.”

“You were lucky getting inside, but that doesn’t mean you would be able to leave here unscathed after attacking us,” the threat was clear in his unspoken words, he still thought he had the advantage, thinking we would be in trouble as soon as we opened the doors.

“It seems that in the last few years you forgot what I’m capable of.  That’s without taking into account what my people can accomplish.”

“I have to give you some credit, leaving the Dominion required a lot of bravery, but you aren’t thinking this through,” Kimball said, “a few soldiers posted at the border won’t be enough to keep you safe from the Dominion.  Our forces can face you a hundred to one, that’s not taking into account bombing and other methods.  You are not taking into account what could happen to your people and the damage your country would suffer.  If we wanted to, we could kill all of you and leave this place without receiving a scratch.  Unlike you, we thought things through before coming here, we considered all the possibilities and prepared for them.  There is no scenario where we wouldn’t obtain what we came for.”

“But if it makes you feel better, you will also get what you wanted, after all, we will give you the independence you want,” I said.

“The restrictions outlined in theses documents are a little drastic,” Souvanna complained.

“Those are the consequences of leaving the Dominion, your independence has a price, one you will have to pay.”

“If that’s what we need to do to get rid of you, then that’s what we will do,” Phou said, “I don’t see another option.”

“It’s good to see you finally get it,” I said, as I made a signal to Kimball.

Kimball moved and put a disc in the middle of the table, a moment later a hologram of President Yu and King William appeared on my sides, and I knew that in Capital City, they would be able to see what was going on in the room.

“Greetings,” William’s voice reached us.  “I hope everything has been settled, we are going to act as witnesses to the signing, since it will give you the independence you asked for.”

“You can proceed,” I said, “the sooner you finish, the sooner we can leave this place.”

For a moment I thought they would complain again, but instead Phou grabbed a pen and started signing the documents.  Once he was finished, I took my copy of the documents and gave it to Ivan, he had orders to make sure the documents were safe, and that they made it out of there, in the unlike case we were forced to run away from there.

We went out of the room, and as we expected, there was an armed group waiting outside the door.  Neither Fatima or Thalia had given any sign that we were in danger, so I assumed everything was going according to plan.  Using my powers I disabled all their firearms, and once they realized they couldn’t use them, many prepared to attack, but they found that my people was ready to fight back and they managed to neutralize the enemy.  As we started to retreat, we heard the noise of soldiers getting near to our position, but by then we were already hiding behind Franz’s illusions.  One of the soldiers managed, somehow, to see beyond the illusion and kept approaching us, ready to attack, but Agata managed to subdue, even without using her full powers.

Getting out was much easier and faster, especially since we didn’t bother to clean up the mess we had caused in the tunnel, even knowing that would betray our access point and force them to be more careful about it.  Everything had gone according to plan, like with the last few missions we had planned since getting control of the Dominion.  Only in a couple of occasions that we had been taken by surprise, most missions had been easy, maybe because of all the work we did in preparation for them, but sometimes I wasn’t sure if our victories were really thanks to us, or just the result of facing weak enemies.

Anyway, we had succeeded, other than keeping an eye on them to make sure they didn’t try anything against the Dominion, I could be glad that we had taken the first step to getting real progress.  Other countries would be able to see what we had done there and decide if that was something they wanted for themselves, if the advantages of leaving the Dominion were worth it, or if it was better to stay with us.

Chapter 39

The trip back to the Dominion was very different, we all could feel Sofia’s happiness, but Camil emotions were harder to read.  One moment he was happy, then worried, then angry or even scared.  His face didn’t betray any emotion, and because of that Sofia didn’t see them, or chose not to, anyway.

“Do you want me to use my powers to calm him down?” Ethan asked mid trip.

“No, he is too used to Melchizedek’s influence, it will be good for him to be able to experience his emotions freely.”

“Your friends are very nice,” Kimball said.  “I’m glad to know you had them to help you through your hard times.”

“You have no idea how grateful I am for having Melchizedek and his family in my life.  Some of the best memories I have, are from the time I spent with them.  I have no idea what I would have done if Melch hadn’t been there to teach me how to use my clairvoyance powers.”

We spent the rest of the journey sharing memories, even Sofia and Camil joined us at some point.  Even if the chat was light and happy, Camil was getting more nervous as we approached our destination.  We knew it wasn’t a good idea to take him directly to the Dominion, so we were taking him to one of his family’s castles, Sofia was going to be with him, teaching him about our society and giving him time to get used to the Dominion.  At first we had considered taking him to Aquarium, but he didn’t need a secure place like that, there were no longer any threats against him.

We stayed at the castle one night, in part to make sure Camil felt at easy, in part to make sure everything was ok, but at the next day we continued our way to Capital City.  As soon as we landed, a car approached the plane, and William came out to greet us.

“Black lady, it’s good to have you back.”

“William, what a surprise, I didn’t expect you to come welcome us.”

“You know I didn’t want to leave the Dominion with just one of us here, but now that you arrived, I think there won’t be a problem if I go visit my mother and nephew.”

“No, I don’t think it will be, take as long as you need.”

“Thanks, Kaiserin,” I could tell he had a lot of questions, but instead of asking, he turned around and went into his car, without even bothering to greet Kimball or Ethan.

“I’m surprised he wasn’t at the castle to greet his family,” Ethan said, coming to where I was standing.

“Someone had to be here, one of us gone is no problem, but two of us is another matter,” I said.

“It’s not like your work intercedes that often, you all have different tasks to do.”

“Still, we always have to be prepared in case something unexpected happens, the Dominion is a huge place, and there are many scenarios that need the attention of all of the Dominion’s leaders,” Kimball explained.

“We have been lucky, there haven’t been any crisis lately, but that’s not a reason to neglect our responsibilities,” I said, but I couldn’t help but recall all the occasions I had left the Dominion to take care of personal problems, or just because I needed some rest.

We didn’t wait to see William leave, we went directly to the Palace, back to real life.  Even if I wasn’t officially back until the next day, I couldn’t help but go to my office to check my messages and make sure nothing had happened while I was gone.  Even if it had been just a few days, I couldn’t help but feel unease, I wasn’t sure if I was just feeling guilty about leaving, or if it was something else, but I knew that it was better to make sure everything was fine, instead of taking unnecessary risks.

Ethan had been more and more interested in my work, and anything related to the government, so it didn’t surprise me when he asked to go with me, and I didn’t bother trying to tell him no, I knew that any training he could get by my side would be useful for him in the future, no matter what path he decided to take.

Everything was just as I expected, the reports and files were what I would normally find on my desk, nothing out of place, mostly just routine work, but still, that didn’t make me feel better.

“What are you worried about?” Ethan asked.

“Nothing specific, I just had a feeling something was wrong, but maybe I’m just feeling guilty for all the time I was away, leaving my people unattended.”

“Isn’t the Dominion’s advantage the fact that it is just a regulatory body?  Once all the rules are set and the programs are running, most of the work is done by the different countries, you only have to make sure everything is going as planned, just supervising work.”

“That’s a rather simplistic way of explaining it, but you are right, if our work is done well, then sooner or later we reach an equilibrium where everything is fine.  Of course, we still have to be on our guard in case something unexpected happens, like a conflict between nations or a natural disaster, that’s when we really need to work.”

“But right now, everything is fine, right?”

“That’s right.  I think I just needed to make sure by myself to be calm, we only were away for a few days, still the trip was not something planned, and we had only returned from Aquarium, so I feel like I’m not doing my job, that I’m leaving my responsibilities.”

“Have it ever occurred to you that you take on too many responsibilities?” Ethan said, and I could tell he was serious, and even if his words were sincere and his worry was real, I couldn’t help but laugh.

“If you want to rule one day, you can’t think like that.”

“You know I’m not talking about that, I know your main responsibility comes from being the Prime Minister, but still, you worry about things going on in other places, first it was only the Empire, but sometimes is what’s going on with the Allied Clans, and not what happens in the Light Kingdom.”

“I’m a Seeress, Ethan, if I have a vision about something going on in any of those places, then I’m going to worry, but you know that most of the time I don’t even have to interfere.”

“I really admire everything you do, still I think you could take it a little easier.”

“I’ll try,” I said, mostly just to calm him, but in part I knew he was right.

We went back to our side of the Palace and I went to rest, but the next morning I was still feeling uneasy and I knew that it wasn’t my imagination, I couldn’t keep telling myself it was just guilt, what I was feeling was a premonition, and that meant something bad was about to happen.

While we were having breakfast the feeling got worse, and then I noticed that Kimball was receiving messages.  My fears were confirmed when one of my assistants arrived, followed by a couple of my guards.

“I’m so sorry for interrupting your breakfast,” Keith apologized, “but there is a situation that requires your attention.”

“No need to apologize,” I said, as I took one last bite, and got up from my seat, I looked at Kimball, waiting to see his reaction, he didn’t hesitate, he said goodbye to Ethan and got up after me.  “Can this wait until we are in the office?  Or do you want to explain what’s going on right now?”

“I think it would be better if I can explain at the office,” he said.

It didn’t take long to get to the office, and as soon as we arrived, I took my place at the desk, with my guards, who had followed us from the moment we left the Suite, taking their places around the room and outside of the door, while Kimball took his position behind me.

“I think that you can tell me what’s going one now.”

“We got some reports that one country is not paying taxes, when we asked about them, the King said that they are tired of the Dominion taking everything from them, and decided to declare their independence, and war to us.  Everything is here,” he added, giving me a stack of reports with a detailed explanation of everything that had happened.

“Just when William decides to take a few days, this happens,” I said.  “I suppose we will need to call the President, she will want to discuss about what to do, and we can’t agree on a course of action, then we will have to interrupt William’s family reunion, but not until it’s necessary.”

“Do you want me to call the President?” my assistant asked.

“Please, as soon as she can come,” he left the room right away and I was sure that it wouldn’t be long before the President arrived.

“We knew something like that would happen sooner or later,” Kimball said.

“But I didn’t think it would be in such an aggressive way.”

“What are you going to do about this?”

“You know that I had already been thinking about giving them the choice to leave the Dominion if they wanted, so I think I will give them what they want,” I said.

“Something tells me it won’t be that easy” Kimball said, his voice suspicious.

Not long after someone knocked on the door, and a moment later, President Yu walked into the office.

“Good morning,” she greeted me formally.

“Good morning.  I guess you already know what’s going on.”

“Of course, I was informed about it early this morning, in fact, I already programed this issue to be discussed in the Congress.  I know it’s your job to deal with this directly, but we also need to go over the situation and see alternatives.”

“We had already talked about this, when you took over Dante, even if it was superficially.  I think it’s time to change the law to open the possibility of countries leaving the Dominion if they want.”

“Do you really think that’s a good idea?  The Dominion’s power resides in our union.”

“Before Emily took charge, not every country was part of the Dominion, and even those who were, had more freedom than they have now, as far as I know.”

“You’re right, but despite all the problems Emily caused, there were a few good things, and one is that as long as everyone is under the Dominion, they have to follow the same rules as everyone else.  If a country gets outside of the Dominion, then they will be able to do whatever they want and we won’t be able to do anything about it.  All they want right now is independence, but, what would happen if they decide they need more territory?  Or if they start taking what is not theirs?”

“If they do, then they will get exactly what it means to fight the Dominion.  Any aggression against their neighbors will be dealt with all of our force.  Besides, after a while they will realize just how hard it is to be without our support.”

“You might be right, but I don’t like this situation.”

“You said you are going to discuss this on the session today, tell them about my plans, lets see what they say about this.  Give me some time, and I will go and present my point of view directly to them, and if they decide to support me, I will present a series of proposals on how to proceed.  Obviously we can’t use the same rules that were used before Emily, because we are no longer in the same situation, and we need to make sure what the advantages and disadvantages of being part of the Dominion are.”

“That seems fair enough.  I will leave you to your work, I will tell you at what time you can address the Congress.”

“Thank you.”

“Have you talked to William?”

“Not yet, but I will, soon, for the moment he is with Sofia, dealing with some family issues.”

“We don’t need him right now, but we need to keep him updated.”

Yu walked left the room, and Kimball moved to the other side of the desk, to the place that Yu had just left.

“While we work on the situation, we should move our troops to the border, to keep the situation under control,” Kimball suggested.

“That could be taken as an aggression and cause things to escalate.”

“Maybe, but they already declared war, and just the act of leaving the Dominion could be taken as an act of aggression.”

“Not necessarily.  But you are right, we need to take precautions.  Sent some people to make sure they have no surprises waiting for us, they shouldn’t have any weapons, but it’s better if we check on that.  If they want to leave the Dominion, then we will make an example out of them, they will help us show that we won’t force anyone to be part of us, but they will also help us highlight the advantages and disadvantages of the Dominion.”

Chapter 38

Sofia’s words caused a deep silence.  For a moment I wasn’t sure if I should speak up, or wait for her to keep talking, but Camil was the one who broke the silence.

“I really need you to start at the beginning.  I don’t understand what’s going on.”

“You know why the Higth Priests are interested in you, there are some rumors running around about you being related to them, that you share the same lineage.”

“Do you mean Camil and I are related?” Mistral asked, alarmed.

“No, that’s what they think,” I assured her, “but they are wrong.  Camil has royal blood, but from a different royal family.  In fact, he is from a place on the other side of the sea.”

“There’s nothing on the other side,” Camil said confidently.

“When the Great War started, communication between the old and new continents was cut.  Once things stabilized again and a new society emerged from the ashes of the old one, they decided that there was no reason to resume communication.  But we knew about you, even if you forgot about us,” Sofia said.  “In our land things are very different, but at the same time very complicated.  I think that is best if I start from the beginning.  When the world was destroyed, new societies started to rise again using extinct systems, many societies went back to follow ruling monarchies…”

“Is it really necessary to start from that far back?” I asked Sofia.

“Our royal blood wasn’t the most pure,” she kept going, ignoring my interruption, “but our family was well known, and our nation didn’t hesitate to follow our lead.  As time went by, many countries started with the idea of the Dominion, it was supposed to be a bridge between all of us, to be a mediator between all of us.  We tried to copy the system that most countries had adopted, and we mirrored their ruling systems, but even if many had gone back to have a ruling monarchy, our family moved to be the Dominion’s monarchy, but in charge of justice, mostly because of our family gift, because we were not only well known and loved, we had also doubled as human lie detectors, that made us good judges, capable of knowing if people was telling the truth or trying to fool us.”

“Human lie detectors?” Camil asked, he was realizing that was an ability he was very familiar with.

“Every generation, from the moment our family became the Dominion’s main monarchy, had had an ability related to that.  My son William, the current King can use his powers to make sure that any question he asks is answered with the truth and nothing but the truth, my son Charles, your father, could hear the truth hiding behind the lies he was being told,” Sofia explained, staring at Camil, waiting for his reaction, but he wasn’t the first one to react.

“You always say you can see when someone is not telling the truth,” Mistral said.  “What does this means?”

“That means that Camil is Charles’ son, and that I’m his grandmother.  This means he belongs with us in the Dominion and he was to come with us and takes his rightful position as King of the Dominion.”

“No!  You can’t just come here and decide for him, he belongs here with us,” Mistral protested.

“This was going to happen sooner or later,” Melchizedek explained, “his place, no matter how much I would like otherwise, is with his family and his people.  But none of us would make him do something against his will, he is the one who needs to decide what he wants to do with the rest of his life, he needs to think about what he wants to do with the information he is going to learn today.”

“Mistral, you saw what happened today, it’s not safe for me, or for you, if I stay here,” Camil said, “still, I would like to know how is that I ended up here if I’m supposed to be  from a far away place.  And if I’m some kind of prince, why no one came for me?  Where are my parents?”

“Those are valid questions,” I said, “but I’m afraid you won’t like the answers.  The first thing you need to know is that your parents are dead.”

“My son Charles died before you were even born,” Sofia added, “and as far as we know, your mother died giving birth to you.  And the reason you and your mother were in this kingdom, and not in ours, is because of my daughter Emily.  Your father was a great person and a good leader, Emily on the other hand was a greedy, damaged woman.  She was my first born, but I knew she wasn’t the right person to sit in the throne, so I abdicated in favor of your father, because I knew he was going to be great.  The problem is that Emily didn’t accept that, and she decided to kill her own brother so she could take back what she thought was hers.”

“That’s horrible!” Mistral said, putting her arms around Camil, in a show of support.  I could feel how affected she was by the revelation, and I knew she thought that if something not related to her was affecting her so much, that it would be even worse for Camil, and her first impulse was to comfort him, like the good girl she was, she was giving him what she would have wanted in a similar situation.

“Are you saying my aunt killed my father?” Camil’s voice was strong, and at first glance you would think he wasn’t affected by the revelation, but I could feel that inside him his emotions were all over the place.

“And she would have killed you if she had known about you.  Your mother managed to escape and reached this place, but she knew that if she went back, then you would be in danger, so she took refuge in this place and then left you in the care of the Light ones.”

“That sound like the truth, but the Hight Priests are convinced that I’m the son of one of the princesses, why?”

“The woman who took care of you your first years, was my cousin’s maid.  When my cousin became pregnant, out of wedlock, and to a man her parents, both High Priests, would never approve of, she knew she was destined to end up in the Shadowlands, with her daughter sharing the same fate, if not an even worse, so they came up with a plan to make Luzian pass as the maid’s daughter.  She pretended to be pregnant, the plan had been to pretend she was her daughter, but then you arrived and the plan changed, she took you in, because she knew that if the High Priests decided to come looking, she could pass you as my cousin’s son, and keep Luzian safe,” Melchizedek explained.

“Are you ok?” Mistral asked, worried, because even if she wasn’t an empath, she could feel how Camil was being affected by the revelations, no matter how stoic he was acting.

“Everything I thought I knew about myself, my past, even my identity has changed, everything has been a lie, and I don’t even know who I am anymore.  I feel like the ground under me is collapsing and I can’t find something to hold on,” Camil said in a tone that didn’t betray how affected he really was.

“I understand how you feel perfectly,” Mistral said, and Camil showed emotion for the first time, he was surprised for a moment, until he realized that Mistral was going through the same thing, both had the blindfolds taken from their eyes and were facing a new reality, one very different from what they had believed up until then.

“You’re right, I’m sorry, you just learned a lot about yourself, it seems we are in the same boat.”

“I get this is difficult for you and if the situation was different…” Sofia started, then cut herself.  “All these years I tried not think of you, not because I didn’t love you or cared about you, but because I wanted you to be safe. When Kaiserin finally stopped Emily and punished her for all of her crimes, my first impulse was to go looking for you, but my visions let me know that you were well, and happy, and what right did I have to take you from the only life you have known?  But things have changed, and I couldn’t stay away knowing you were in danger.”

“We both got a vision, that I’m sure Melchizedek also shares, letting us know you were in danger.  We are here because of that.  I know I told you we are here to take you with us, but it’s your choice.  After what just happened, you have to know that the High Priests consider you a threat and won’t stop with anything to keep the status quo.  Our goal is to make sure you are safe, and well, but there are more than one way to achieve that goal.”

“I don’t want you to leave,” Mistral said, breaking the silence that had fallen over us, “but if you really are in danger, then you have to do what’s best for you, no matter what.”

“You thought different a few days ago,” Camil said.

“A few days ago I didn’t know what I know now, a few days ago, no, a few minutes ago my whole life was different.  Things are no longer white and black, everything has changed and now I see all shades of gray, and I don’t like this new picture.”

“I’m really sorry this is happening to you,” I said sincerely, “I would like to tell you we have time, but all I could do was a short time memory wipe of the man following you, and sooner or later he will find another thing to blame Camil for.  We need to make a decision about what to do, and make a plan on how to proceed.”

“I know that leaving is my best bet, not only because of me, but for the safety of those around me,” Camil said, “but even after all you have said to me, I still feel like I don’t have the whole picture, and that everything is even more complicated that it seems.  Still, I can’t just leave, I need at least to talk to Luzian first.”

“Of course, that’s totally understandable,” Sofia said, “and we can wait for you to do whatever you have to do.  We don’t want to make this even more difficult for you, we would do what we can to make things easier for you.”

“How long do you think we have?” Camil asked.

“That’s easy to find out,” Sofia said, and I knew what she was talking about, and Melchizedek too, since he was the first to answer.

“A walk through the fog of the future could give us what we need, let us know how much time we have left and what we can expect.”

“You just got out of a vision, are you ready to go back?” I asked Sofia.

“Yes, I’m ready.”

It was much easier to walk through the fog with the three of us.  It was even easier now that Camil knew about the situation and was able to make an educated guess as to what to do, because that eliminated several paths.  We had fewer options, and that made it easier to know what paths to avoid and which we could follow.  Camil and Mistral had accepted their pasts better than I expected, so far.  Camil could accept it because he could see the truth in our words, for Mistral it was because she was still trying to fit the pieces of a puzzle we had given her.  Once she had time to go over everything we have told her, things could change.  No matter how much it hurt me to cause Mistral any pain, I knew it was time for her to learn the truth, it was part of her future and what she needed to open the doors she needed to be able to face her future.

In Camil’s case, his options were limited, and once we got out of the fog we explained them to him.  One was to leave at that moment and don’t look back, another for him to stay and wait until the High Priests decided to send him to the Shadowlands and take him from there, but the one he chose was to spend one more night with his family, to have the chance to say goodbye to his sister and the rest of Melchizedek’s family and other proteges.  We decided to wait for him at the camp, we couldn’t risk going into the city, but once night fell, Melchizedek, Soturi and Mistral found their way to us.

Meeting with Soturi was nothing like what I expected, the strong, confident woman I had known had grown small in her time living in the Light Kingdom.  I could feel Melchizedek’s regret, he knew that her change was mostly his fault, since she had followed him there, but Soturi didn’t regret her decisions, and as the night went by, I could feel the old Soturi coming back.  She was happy to be there, glad to meet my husband and son.

Mistral’s blindfold was off, and despite her father’s influence, I could tell she was barely holding together.  Her whole world had changed and she was still going through her memories, looking at them under a different light.  There was a moment in which she decided to walk away from our group, and after giving her a few minutes, I followed her.

“How are you?” I asked, waiting to see is she was going to admit her feelings.

“For years I was happy, I blindly believed in everything I was taught in the temple.  My father did his best at teaching me to be more open minded and to be empathic, to put myself in other people’s shoes, and still my faith was absolute and my obedience complete.  Now that I know the truth behind my father’s past, and the about the High Priests actions, I finally see that the world is not how I imagined it.  I have been so wrong, and I don’t know what to believe anymore.”

“The place we are going to, the place Camil is from, was created to help hold peace and order between the different nations.  It was created based on good and just principles, but it took only one person to take that and corrupt it until it became a nightmare.  Most of the beliefs you grew up with are good, with pure intentions, but some people can twist that for their own benefit and turn something good into something ugly.  From what your father told me, not everyone is bad, there are good people, even in the government, don’t let the bad seeds poison your faith.  You are smart enough, and have the tools to be able to interpret the teachings on your own, so you can find the path that is best for you.”

“I don’t know what to believe anymore,” she repeated.

“You can believe in yourself, you can find a way to be true to yourself and what you have been taught.  Your father is a good example of how to do it.  His world also collapsed when he went to the Shadowlands and found out how things were there, and then the way his family reacted to his relationship with your mother changed everything.  And even after all that, he remained true to himself and his beliefs.  You are not alone, you have your family and you have me, even if I’m away, you can trust me.”

“I know.  I know I can trust you and my parents.  I get it now, what I asked you to do wasn’t fair, and even if I didn’t realize that at the moment, now I see it, and I know I was selfish asking that of you.”

“Not selfish, it was one of the most selfless things I could think of.  The truth is that you sacrificed a lot for your parents and the people of this kingdom.  I know you made a difficult choice.  You don’t regret it, do you?”

“No, my father needed me, and now I can see why it was so important to him.”

“And what are you going to do now?”

“Support my father and move forward.  I just hope I can see Camil again.”

“Everything is possible, my dear, there are many paths in front of you, it’s your choice which one to choose, and I’m sure at least one of them will take you back to him.”

Chapter 37

We were in the middle of an unknown territory, among enemy forces.  From what Melchizedek had told me, the Light ones weren’t as good and sweet as they pretended to be, and I knew that they could cause trouble for us, even if I wasn’t concerned about them hurting us.  I knew that this was not only and important mission, but a chance to see Melchizedek for the first time in years, and even if I couldn’t pretend that this was only a meeting between old friends, I decided to bring Kimball and Ethan with me.

“You should wait here, but if you think there might be trouble or if you think everything is under control and there’s no problem with getting closer, then you can come here, but for now, just try to be discreet,” I asked them.

“I don’t think you can be discreet in this place, there’s no way you won’t be noticed using that uniform.”

I ignored Kimball, mostly because I knew he was right, and kept walking to a point from where I could watch the couple moving through the temple’s gardens.

“There must be another choice,” Mistral was saying, “you can’t leave.”

“You don’t see what I see, every time they speak, I can see the fakeness twirling around their words.  I’m no longer sure this is a good place, and I’m afraid if I stay you could be also in danger.”

“But you can’t leave, where would you even go?  How would you survive?”

Both of them had been distracted while they walked, so none of them had realized they were not alone any longer, nor that they were being followed, but eventually they got too close to me not to notice me.  Charles’ son moved in front of Mistral, trying to protect her.  “Who are you?” he asked, as he started to move back, trying to put more distance between us.

“I don’t recommend moving back, there’s more danger behind you than in front,” after hearing my words, and recognizing the truth in them, they both looked over their shoulders and finally noticed the man that had been following them

“What is going on here?” Mistral asked, to no one in particular, I could see her fear and confusion, but her partner was doing his best to keep her protected from all the threats around them.

“The High Priests asked me to follow you, they are worried about your faithfulness and obedience, and the fact that you are consorting with a Dark one is a sign that they were right to doubt you.”

“Dark one?” Mistral asked, a note of hysterics coming to her voice as she looked at me with distrust and confusion, maybe even a hint of recognition.

“Now it won’t matter who your father, or your protector is, this is enough to send you to the Shadows, maybe even to offer you to the Goddess as a sacrifice.”

“And you call my people barbarians,” I said, “at least we don’t make elaborated lies to justify our actions.  We all know you are only looking for an excuse to do what you already were going to do.”

“Camil?” Mistral was looking at her companion asking for an explanation.

“Everything she says is true, but when he talks his words are full of half truths or outright lies.”

“And how do you know that?” the Light one asked, “Are you being helped by demons?”

I couldn’t help but laugh at his words, the situation was ridiculous, the guy knew the truth about powers and their nature, and still he was buying into his own lies.  “Your hypocrisy is outstanding,” I finally told him.

“My powers come from the Goddess,” he said.

“And why are you so sure his don’t come from the same place?  You know what? I don’t care about your answer, I just want to fix this.  I will give you the chance to leave this place, so you can see I’m not so bad, but if you stay here, I won’t guarantee your safety.”

“Sinners and infidels, I won’t let you get away with this,” from somewhere between his clothes he managed to get a knife out and moved to Camil and Mistral, but using my powers I threw him in the opposite direction, making him hit a column with enough force to knock him out.

“You killed him!” Camil said.

“No, I didn’t, he is still alive, and I think you should remember that if he had gotten away with it, he would have killed you.”

“Who are you?  What do you want?” Mistral asked.

“I thank you for your help,” Camil said, more diplomatically, “but I think it’s time for you to leave here, you are not welcome.”

“I’m afraid I can’t go, not unless you come with me.  You are the main reason I came here today.”

“I won’t let you take him,” Mistral said, turning brave as soon as someone she cared about was threatened.

A feeling of peace and calmness fell like a blanket over us, and I immediately knew that Melchizedek had decided to join us.  After taking a moment to search the surrounding area I realized that he was getting closer, but he wasn’t coming from the same place as Camil and Malkia, he was coming from the other side, from behind me.  I turned around just in time to see him getting out of the tree line, and noticed he wasn’t alone, Ethan was with him, smiling, but also looking a little confused.  Without thinking about it, I started moving towards them, only to have Mistral appearing between us, holding the knife the other guy had used against her, blanding it inexpertly.

“Not another step,” she warned me, but I ignored her, using my powers to take the knife from her and throw it away, then to hold her still while I moved passed her and into Melchizedek’s open arms.

“It’s been so long since I saw you!” I greeted him while I lost myself in his embrace, feeling the safeness and peacefulness that I had missed so much.

“It’s good to see you again, darling,” Melchizedek told me.

I let go of my hold over Mistral, allowing her to turn and see what was going on.  I couldn’t see her, but still I could tell she was confused and even a little bit mad, even with Melchizedek’s influence.

“Sir?” Camil asked, moving closer to where we were.

“Are you ok?” Melchizedek asked him.

“Confused, do you know this… Dark one?  She is a Dark one, isn’t she?”

“Yes dad, what’s going on?”

“I think that deep down, you know what’s going on, my dear.”

“She is getting her powers back, that means her memories must be coming back too,” I agreed with Melchizedek, she had to know more, even if she was refusing to believe it.  “I see you already met my son Ethan,” I said, changing the topic and trying to figure out why they had arrived together.

“I found him on my way here, and he agreed to come with me.”

“You knew who he was,” I was sure, Melchizedek’s powers were far superior from mine, and I was sure he knew all there was to be known about Ethan already.

“He even called me by name,” Ethan confirmed, “but I’m sure I would have known who he was, just by looking at him after all you told me about him.  What I don’t get is why you call him the most powerful empath there is, he has strength, but he lacks control.

“Maybe he doesn’t have the same kind of control as you in how he affects those around him, but he has a lot of control over his own feelings.  Just imagine the kind of damage someone like him could do by being angry or scared and projecting those feelings, imagine the chaos.  You know I’m always going after you to control your emotions because of the kind of damage you could do by projecting all those feelings without control.”

“You may be right,” he accepted.

“Could someone explain to me what’s going on?” Mistral asked, some traces of frustration going over her father’s influence.

“I would also like to know who she is and what’s she doing here.”

“This is Kaiserin, former Empress of the Dark Empire,” Melchizedek introduced me, “and she is here to take you with her.”

“What? No!” Mistral said, moving in front of Camil as if she could protect him.

“You know who he is,” Melchizedek nodded, but I didn’t need the confirmation, I expected him to already know everything about the young man he had taken under his protection.

“I know, and I have done my best to prepare him for his future.  And you arrived just in time, for the High Priests are already suspicious of his powers, and they don’t trust their ability to turn him to their side, they know he is a good person, and one that is not fooled by their lies.”

“He has become a risk, they no longer want to have him around in case he could turn against them or betray their secrets,” I said, getting a better understanding of the situation.

“There’s nothing they fear more than truth, since all their teachings are based on lies and secrets.”

“Daddy, I don’t get what’s going on.  Please, explain to me what this is, how do you know her?”

“Could we have this conversation in another place?” Kimball’s voice reached us.  “A group of people is heading this way.  It would be better to move this conversation to a place where there isn’t a risk of people walking into a Dark one.”

“Of course, that’s a good idea, let’s more to a more secluded place where we can talk without problems,” Melchizedek agreed.  “I promise to explain everything, even if I think you already know the answers, you just have to accept them.”

We walked in silence for a while, with Kimball in the front, guiding us to the place we had already prepared just for this reason, and where Sofia would be waiting for us.  Despite the lack of words, there was plenty of communication going on around us, Camil and Mistral giving each other looks and gestures meant to reassure each other, while Melchizedek’s smile was all I needed to know how glad he was about our meeting.  Kimball also was looking at me, letting me know that everything was alright, while Ethan just looked around, absorbing as much information as he could.  We finally arrived to our destination, an improvised camp with a group of warriors watching us just from out of sight, while Sofia waited in the center.  When we moved closer, I noticed that Sofia was in trance, and I actually felt the vision that had her trapped calling to me.

“I think this is the first time that the three most powerful Seers in the world had been in the same place,” Melchizedek pointed out, “usually this kind of power is placed in different parts of the world.”

“With Sofia and me in the same place, the balance must have been seriously affected a long time ago,” I pointed out.

“Not that much, the Dark Empire has a lot of seers, that helps to keep the equilibrium.”

“Is that how you know each other?  You meet in the Fog of the Future?” Camil asked.

“Not really, in fact, it was Melch who taught me how to walk the fog, he was my teacher.”

“Can we start from the beginning?  I really need to understand what’s going on here,” Mistral asked.

“Of course, that’s only fair.  But I’m pretty sure that you at least have an idea of who I am, deep down.  I saw how you appeared in front of me, that means you are using your powers again, that wouldn’t be possible if you didn’t have at least part of your memories back.”

“How do you know so much?  Who are you?  Tell me, no more evasion, or mores questions.”

“You know that, I’m your godmother.”

Mistral stayed quiet and silent, she didn’t deny my words like I expected her to do.  I could see her going over my words and her memories, trying to find something to confirm or deny my words.

“Sometimes I remember a woman’s voice, but when I try to see her face something else distracts me and I can’t focus on her anymore.  There are some memories, some things and feelings that I can’t get a hold on, like the feeling of getting lost in time, the feeling of moving from one place to another in the blink of an eye.  Sometimes I even see myself in another place with different people.”

“Those are suppressed memories, from a past you no longer remember,” I tried to explain.

“Why can’t I remember?”

“Because a long time ago you asked me to block your powers, and the only way I knew how to do it, was by hiding some of your memories.”

“Are you going to do that again?”

“The first time I did it because you asked me to, and I may do it again if it’s something you really want, but the first time it was because you were too young and impulsive and we were afraid you wouldn’t be able to hide your powers from other people.  But now you are all grown up, you are capable of hiding your powers, and of knowing when it’s ok to use them.  What happened before was your reaction to what you perceived as a threat, but once you have the right tools, you will be able to control that kind of thing from happening if you don’t want it to.”

“I want my memories back,” Mistral asked, “I want to understand what’s going on and see for myself what’s going on, right now I feel like everyone knows something I don’t, I feel I don’t see the whole picture and I hate that.”

“If you are sure about it, then I can help.”

“Wait a minute,” Camil asked, “are you sure you can trust her?  She is a Dark one.”

“You can answer that question better than I can.  What do you see?  Is she lying or telling the truth?”

“She seems to be telling the truth, but I don’t know if it’s a good idea to trust her, besides, she wants to take me with her, and she hadn’t explained why.”

“What do you know about your origins?  Your past?” I asked him.

“There are a lot of rumors and guesses about my past, and something tells me you know more about it than me.”

“There is so much to talk about that I don’t know where to start,” I said.

“What about the beginning?”

“I will, but could you give me a few minutes first?  I would like to work a little on Mistral, try and free some of her memories about the Shadowlands, that way she will understand better what we have to say.”

No one objected to my suggestion, so while Camil and Melchizedek had a private conversation, and Kimball and Ethan moved away, either to give us privacy or make sure we were safe, Mistral and I took some of the free chairs near Sofia.

“What do I have to do?” Mistral asked, looking a little nervous.

“Nothing special, you just need to relax and try not to fight this.  The only reason this worked so well the first time was because you trusted me, and didn’t put any resistance to my influence, and I need that right now.”

“You must be telling the truth, because I feel like I can trust you, sure, my first reaction wasn’t a good one, and all my teachings tell me to run the opposite direction from you, but deep down I feel like I could trust you.  If not in you, at least in my father, he had always guided me in the right direction, and I trust him.”

Feeling a lot better after her words, I went into her mind.  What I had done with her was different from what my father had done to me, he had hidden my memories behind closed doors and inside protected chests, I had gone for a less painful option.  Mistral’s landscape was also different, she wasn’t a telepath, and because of that her mental landscape was very basic, without visual representations, still, a lot of time had gone by since the last time I had been in there, and what I found was very different, I was hard to find my way to where I had hidden her memories.  Instead of locking them up like my father had done, I had put them behind other memories, masking them and distracting her from looking into them with the brighter, happier memories before them.  The attractiveness of those memories had lost its power with time, and I could see some of the memories shining from behind them, trying to get out.  Recovering those memories was extremely easy, all I had to do was move them from behind and leaving them in a place where they could be easily accessed.  She had already been trying to reach them, and some had escaped in their own, making the whole process extremely easy.  The fact that I didn’t find any resistance was a sign that she did trust me.

Hiding her memories and locking her powers had been a long process, but freeing them had taken just a few minutes.  I finished my task and got out of her mind.  She opened her eyes and stared at me for a moment, I could see her wince in pain and realized that despite my best efforts, I haven’t been able to shield her from all the pain, having that much memories dumped on her, had still affected her.  I knew there wasn’t much I could do, so I just waited, and just a moment after her face lighted up in recognition and she threw herself into my arms.

“Nina!  I can’t believe I forgot who you were.  Well, I do, I asked you for this, after all, but it’s incredible someone can forget someone like you.  There are so many things I have to ask, things I need to clarify.  I feel like a big part of me had been hidden, and I feel complete for the first time in forever.”

“That’s exactly what happened, those secrets were necessary, but left you with only half a picture,” Melchizedek said.  “But it’s good to see you have them back and that we can talk freely now.”

I saw the same painful wince in Mistral, and then she looked solemnly at her father.  “You weren’t accepted as a Priest because of your powers, you are not a Blessed one that was guided to them, you are part of that family, you were destined to be a High Priest,” she said.

“That’s right, they are also your family, our family, but their hypocrisy made them reject us and put us to the side.”

“I see everything so differently now, is like the pieces of the puzzle are falling into place, but I don’t see the image I’m putting together,” Mistral said, and I could see she was sad because of that.  “What I still don’t get is why you are here and why are you interested in a Light one,” Mistral said.  “Why do you want to take him away?”

“I’m afraid I’m the reason for that,” Sofia said, finally out of her trance.  “Kaiserin is only helping me getting reunited to my grandson.”

Chapter 36

Aquarium was officially part of the Dominion, even if it was also considered just an extension of Mzansi since it wasn’t big enough to be a nation of its own.  But it was still mine, my refuge when I needed time, or a safe heaven, where my allies and I could get together and just be ourselves.

For a whole weekend I was going to host our allies and enjoy some peace and quiet, even if the assistance list had gotten longer than I anticipated and I was having to deal with logistic problems I had not expected.

“I think that everything is settled,” Kimball said, “we had to ask for some of the permanent residents to let us use their homes, since we didn’t have enough space for everyone.

“This place is huge, I never thought we would be able to fill it like this.”

“It’s not that unexpected, since we are hosting almost all of your old refugees and their families, plus a few new allies.”

“I never that many would accept the invitation.”

“A lot of people love you and respect you, some day you will realize that,” Kimball said, moving closer to me and wrapping me in his arms.  “And this is just because some of them already had previous commitments they couldn’t get out of.”

“Where is Ethan?”

“Where do you think he is?”

I was to be expected that if Ethan and his cousins, and the rest of the young refugees, got together, they would be in the gym competing against each other.

I didn’t need to tell Kimball what I was thinking, he could always read my intentions, so he just moved to offer me his arm and guided me to the gym.  The organized chaos that greeted us would be surprising to anyone who didn’t know this particular group of teens.

Apparently they had decided to form two teams and they were facing each other.  Just as we walked in, we watch as Ethan raises a flag between shouts of joy and people complaining.

“That is not fair!”  one of his cousins was complaining.  “Everyone wants to be on your team, so we get the bad players.”

“There are always situations where you found yourself at a disadvantage,” I said, raising my voice, “so that’s not a valid excuse.  A good warrior will always find a way to succeed no matter the challenge.”

“But it’s impossible to win against Ethan,” another one from the losing team complained.

“Nothing is impossible, it can be difficult, you may not even succeed the first time, but if you work hard enough, you can do it.”

“Mom, you are supposed to support me, tell them I’m invincible, make them fear me, or something.”

“I’m sorry, but another important lesson, one you have to learn, is that no one is invincible, and that you need to be prepared for anything.”

“Why don’t we try an ‘everyone against Kaiserin?'” Joon Hwan suggested.

“Isn’t that a bit unfair?  There’s a lot of you,” I said, “at least let me have Kimball on my team.”

“Somehow I feel we would be the ones at a disadvantage with that arrangement,” someone said.

“I accept the challenge,” Ethan said.  “Who is with me?”

A choir of voices, some more enthusiastic than others, agreed with Ethan, who immediately started to plan and organize his team.

“This will be fun,” Kimball said, “we will be doing a classic capture the flag setting.  I suppose you are going to defend and I should capture?”

“That sounds like a good strategy,” I agreed.

A protective bubble around the flag was the easy choice, but Ethan knew me enough to know how to find and attack my weaknesses.  He also knew his father’s strengths and most of his strategies, and that made the challenge a good one.

His plan was simple, he was attacking from different sides, trying to weaken my bubble, as Ethan used his powers to try and distract hard enough that I would lose concentration, allowing them to go through my bubble.  It was a good plan, and in another setting, it may have been effective, the problem was that with Kimball trying to capture the flag, they didn’t have enough time to make it work.

Ethan had been consistently getting stronger as the years went by, and he was capable of keeping his mind alert enough to go against his father, making counterattacks and changing strategies on the fly, while simultaneously sending psychic attacks against me.  Unfortunately for him, I had fought stronger attacks than his without problems.  Eventually Kimball managed to get past Ethan’s defenses and had taken their flag, the exercise had taken more time than I had expected, and I had to recognize that I was tired after it.

I couldn’t avoid turning the game into a learning opportunity, and I went on to point out the mistakes and the successes of the exercise, while Kimball did the same.

We barely had time to go to our next stop by the time we finished with the young ones.  My people in Aquarium had insisted that we needed a banquet to celebrate the reunion, even if I wanted something simple.  After a quick shower and a change of clothes we went to the hall where the party was going to take place, and most of our guests were already there when we arrived.  I had kept contact with most of them, but there were a few faces I hadn’t had a chance to see in a long time, and those were the first to approach me.

The reunion was pleasant and just what I needed to remember why I was doing what I was doing.  My ulterior motive involved talking to the refugees and see if they could help me decide if it was ok to give the nations of the Dominion more freedom.  Before Emily took control of it, being part of the Dominion was a choice, being part of it provided stability and protection, much like what happened in the Empire with those allied to the Imperial Clan.  Once we had reached new levels of stability in the Dominion, it was time to move things a little closer to what they used to be, and that included letting them decide if they wanted to be part of us, or not.  It wouldn’t be an easy task, but I needed to see if it was possible.  I knew that opening that door could open us to a lot of problems, but I also knew how important it was for people to be able to have a choice.  I doubted that anyone would jump to take the opportunity and leave the Dominion, at least not right away, not when being part of it gave them so many advantages, but I knew that with time, some of them would decide it was a risk worth taking, and I wanted them to have the option.

I needed to talk to Dante and present the proposal to the congress, but from what I had gathered, it would be well received.

“This is a celebration, you need to relax, you look too tense,” Sofia said.  Our relationship had improved a lot since her betrayal, and I didn’t feel as angry as before, still I didn’t feel comfortable with her, especially not when she had cornered me while I was alone.

“Sofia, what are you doing here?”

“Still mad at me?  I don’t know what else can I do to show you how much I regret what happened.”

“I expected you to be able to understand where I was coming from, for you to understand how hard it was for me to trust, and how much a betrayal could hurt me.  You should have known how your decisions would sever our relationship.  I trusted you, you know you could have approached me and talked to me about it, instead of going behind my back.”

“I get that, in retrospect, but you know that my children are my only weakness, and…”  Sofia never finished her thought, because before she could, we both got trapped in a vision.

I couldn’t see Sofia, but I knew she was with me inside the vision, I wasn’t sure if it was mine or hers, but one of us had dragged the other inside it.  We were in the middle of an unfamiliar landscape, a pair of figures approaching.  I thought I recognized one of them, and once I heard her name, I knew who she was.

When we got out of the vision I found Sofia crying, something I wasn’t expecting, especially not if we considered the smile that accompanied the tears.

“Did you see?  Do you recognize…?”

“Yes, that was my goddaughter Mistal.”

“No, that was my grandson, Charles’ son,” she said, leaving me speechless.  “When his mother escaped Emily, I tried to ignore her future and what had happened to her son, I didn’t want Emily to know what had happened to them, and if I couldn’t tell if they were alive, then she wouldn’t either.  I lost their trail, but I did that to keep them safe, and now I know he is ok.”

“But not for long.  I could be wrong, but the vision showed us he is in a difficult situation.  We need to go back to the fog and see more, at least now we will have the vision to guide us in the right direction.  And even if that’s not enough, I think I will be able to find him, his path seems to be connected to someone close to me.  Sofia, it’s possible we will meet with Melchizedek, that was his daughter Mistral with him.”

“Melchizedek, the seer.”

“This could become complicated,” I said, more to myself than to Sofia.

“For the moment you have a party to attend, nothing in that vision suggested this is urgent.  But please, as soon as we can, help me find more information about my grandson.”

“I will,” and not just because of her, that vision could also mean danger for her.

Chapter 35

I woke up scared, and started to panic until I realized that I wasn’t trapped, that it was only Kimball who was holding me.

“Calm down, everything is ok, easy there…” he was talking softly to me, comforting me.  “Can you tell me what happened?” he eventually asked, once he realized that I was back under control.

“Malkia is in trouble,” I said, and as soon as I spoke, Kimball’s demeanor completely changed, and he was ready to act.  “Don’t worry, she has help, she isn’t in danger.  Is just that my old problems are once again hurting my daughter.  It’s hard enough to face your own demons, it isn’t fair that she has to fight mine too.”

“That’s not your fault, whatever happened, you are doing your best to keep her safe, and that’s all you can do.  Do you want to tell me what you saw?”

“The Empire is having trouble, new battles are starting and the assassins, as the Imperial Clan’s allies are there helping.  Malkia was eager to prove herself in battle and despite Dendro’s warnings she went to battle, but she didn’t realize she was going to be facing enemies and allies.  Once of my old tormentors found her and decided to take her, just because she looked like me.  She had an unlikely ally stepping in and helping, things could have gone a lot worse if it wasn’t for him.”

“What you saw, it’s something that is going to happen?”

“It was something that was happening, it was too real, it felt written in stone.  I have to go talk to her, I’m sure that once she finishes dealing with the situation, she will have questions for me.”

“Are you strong enough to make that kind of astral journey?”

“I am, you don’t have to worry, I’ll be fine.  I just hope that she will be looking for me, and I don’t want to get too close to her camp, she is in Imperial territory and they always have astral sentries posted around.”

“Whatever you have to do, just be careful,” Kimball asked.

I knew that the vision wasn’t about the future or the past, it had to be something that was happening, so it was too late to change it, all I could do was being there and answer any questions I could.

The travel through the astral planes was easy, I moved to the superior planes and had no trouble moving, and as soon as I got close, I felt my daughter waiting for me.

I thought you may have some questions for me,‘ I told her as soon as I reached her.

That’s correct.  I guess you already know what happened,‘ she said, her demeanor serious.

I saw what happened through my visions.

You forgot to mention a few things the last time we spoke,‘ she complained.

I told you that I couldn’t tell you the whole story, I only told you what you needed to know.  I get if you don’t understand why I can’t tell you more, but this is one of those occasions where knowing could be more dangerous than staying in the dark.

Don’t you trust me?

What do you want to know?‘ I asked, knowing that it was better to move the conversation forward instead of going in a direction that could provoke a fight.

The woman that… attacked me,‘ she started, having trouble finding a word that described what had happened.

Her name is Joshes.

She said that I looked like her broken toy, but that her toy couldn’t have children, so she couldn’t be my mother.  The Captain also mentioned that I looked like his father’s lover, but that she was barren…

When I was under Joshes’ command, and at the beginning of my… relationship, with Vasuman, that was true, but eventually I was healed and managed to get pregnant, not long before Vasuman’s death.

Then that Captain…

He is your half-brother, Vasuman’s son with one of the women he used to have before he found me.‘  I could feel her confusion, everything she had learned from the warriors from Sector 32 was different from what she knew about me.  ‘I had already talked to you about this the last time we saw each other, like you had already guessed, I wasn’t an Assassin, but an Imperialist, and I told you that I was in a bad situation during my early years, and that you were the daughter of one of my superiors.  I also told you about the enemies I left in my old clan, and why I had left you in the Fortress, and then under Dendro’s protection.  I know that as Antrax’s partner, you have the right to be by his side during the Clan’s meetings, but you need to understand that my old enemies wouldn’t hesitate to make you pay for the problems they had with me.

I have a half-brother,‘ Malkia said, for some reason that had been what had caught her attention.

More than one,‘ I told her sincerely.  ‘Before meeting me, your father had a lot of women, most of them recognized his power and decided to have children with him.  I don’t know how many of them survive to this day, but the fact is that you have more brothers and sisters.

I should go to the Empire and try to meet them.

Those who were raised by their mothers may be poisoned against you.  It was never my choice to be with your father, but the rest of the women always hated the fact that he stopped paying them attention once he got me.  The fact is that you need to be careful, not all of them will be happy with your existence, some of them could see you as a rival, someone to get rid of.

But we share the same blood,‘ she said, and I could feel her desire to connect with her family.

Most of my problems in the Empire were caused by my half-brother.  Not everyone is like Greca, my blood and my powers created a link between you that makes you stronger when you are together, that’s an advantage in your relationship.  But is not the same in other cases.  If you trust the Captain, you can share with him who you really are.  I had a chance to meet him, since he got out of the Academy before his father died and had a chance to meet us, even if Vasuman didn’t really recognize him, he didn’t seem to be angry at me for that.  Still, is better if people don’t know about you at all.

I can’t spend the rest of my life in hiding.

You can face the world once you are sure you can take it on.  You need to be able to face them all, to be the strongest of them all, that’s a lesson I had to learn the hard way.  I’m sorry I left such a burden for you, but there’s nothing we can do about it, you just have to make sure to stay away from the Imperial territory unless you are sure no one can take you down.

Why do they hate you so much?  Why do they love you so much?  Some of them, like Dendro, would do anything for you, but others like Ivy don’t hesitate to try and destroy me just because they feel like they are fighting you.

When you are ready, once you are strong enough, you will be able to go to the Palace and face the Royal Families, then you will understand.  If I told you everything right now, you would get ideas that would put you at risk.

You can’t know that,‘ she said.

I can, I have seen your futures and I’m doing my best to keep you on the best path available.  Is there anything else I can do for you?

You said you would come back one day, when?

I still have things to do where I’m at, reasons to stay away, at least for a couple more years.

Then I guess we don’t have anything else to talk about.

Please, don’t be mad, you need to understand this is not easy for me either, but I’m doing what I think it’s best for both of us.  Someday you will understand it all, for the moment all you can do, what I’m asking you to do, is to train to be stronger, to become an invincible force.  That is very important.  There will be always battles to be fought, and you need to be prepared for them.

I trust you, even if I don’t get you.  When I needed you, when I was trapped in the inferior planes you were there, helping me.  I know that it’s likely I wouldn’t have survived the experience without your help.  It’s just that these secrets make me think that it’s you who don’t trust me.

I’m sorry you feel that way, and I hope you know how proud I am of everything you have accomplished, but the danger waiting for you in the Empire is beyond what you can imagine.  I had to face that danger before I was ready, and that cost me a lot of pain and blood.  I’m just trying to make your journey easier than mine.  After everything that happened today with Joshes, and what happened a few years back with Ivy, I hope you understand why I’m so worried.

It’s not easy, but I will try to be more patient and not put myself at risk again.

‘That’s all I ask.’  After talking about some superficial stuff, I finally left her to get back to my own body.

I thought Kimball would have gone back to sleep after I left to the astral planes, but when I got back I found him awake, waiting for me.  I knew how hard it was for him to stay behind, not being able to do anything, without a chance to act.

“How did it go?” he asked as soon as I opened my eyes.

“She is fine, a little mad she doesn’t know the whole story.  I think that what she found affected the image she had of me and she still doesn’t get what is going on.  She wants to know everything, and I can’t give her the details.”

“Why not telling her the truth?  That you were the Empress for a short time and that your position made you a lot of enemies?”

“I know what is going to happen if she learns everything.  She is still young and doesn’t get all the dangers of that position.  If I tell her who I was and who her family is, she will get curious.  As soon as she gets in front of my brother, he will receive her with open arms, painting a target on her back, everyone who desires to take the throne will go after her, because they will realize she is a threat.”

“But she is the partner of the next leader of the Assassins, I don’t think she will leave him for the chance of being part of the Imperial Clan.”

“That is something they don’t get and don’t care about.  In my youth it never crossed my mind to become the Empress, that didn’t stop Caracalla from being afraid of me and trying to get rid of me.  It’s too big of a risk, and one Malkia won’t understand until it’s too late.  She is strong, but not strong enough to face the whole Clan.”

Kimball didn’t insist, but I knew he didn’t agree with me.  I knew that I couldn’t keep Malkia on the fringe forever, sooner or later she would be forced to take her rightful position by Antrax’s side, and she would have to go to the heart of the Empire, I just wanted to give her as much time as possible to get stronger.  Maybe I was affecting her future by keeping her away from her roots, but I didn’t want her to suffer like I had.  I knew that it was the sum of my experiences that had made me who I was, without Agmong’s torture and Caracalla’s assassins I wouldn’t have have grown so strong, at least not as fast.  I wanted to believe that I would have been able to reach my potential in other forms, I needed to believe that for my children’s sake, since I wanted them to reach their own potentials without having to suffer like I had.

Sometimes I felt like I had condemned them just by giving them my blood.  Sharing my face had given Malkia shelter and the opportunity to make a life with the Assassins, but it had also put her life at risk every day.  Like Ethan’s life that had been in danger many times because of me.  No matter what I did, I couldn’t change that, all I could do was to do my best to keep them safe.

With all that had happened, I couldn’t go back to sleep, so I got out of bed and went to Ethan’s room, from the doorway I watched him for a while, he was calm, but he was going to wake up soon to start his day, so I left him alone.  I kept walking and went to our living room, stopping in front of the windows, watching the city, with the Black Tower easy to spot in the distance.  I could feel Kimball nearby, but he knew me enough to give me a little time.  Eventually Kimball came to me, with a cup of coffee as an offering.

“How are you?” he asked.

“I feel like a change is approaching.  Sooner or later things are going to change and we need to be ready.  My time in the Dominion is approaching its end, even if I get elected as Prime Minister for another term, that only buys me three more years, then I will have to find another path.”

“You want to go back to the Empire,” Kimball said, he wasn’t asking, he knew what I was thinking.

“I think I will need to, soon.”

“When the time arrives, I will be by your side.”

“I know,” I answered sincerely, feeling stronger by knowing, that as always, I had his support.