Chapter 59-b

When the people from the Shadow’s Clan entered the room, every eye focused on them.  It wasn’t just because the new group had arrived, it was because of Zola, an older woman and Nelson, dressed in a suit, and not the uniform his compatriots were wearing, they were obviously out of place, being nothing like the rest of the people gathered in that room.

Some faces were showing naked hostility, others were watching with curiosity, and still a few were looking at them in a friendly way.

“I wasn’t expecting to see you here,” Pompeyo said from his place on the throne.

“It seems our invitation was lost, but that’s not an issue, like I told you the last time I was here, we have ways of knowing what’s going on, you can’t get rid of us so easily.”

“It seems that way,” Pompeyo went silent, because a new group was walking in, Antrax, Malkia, Greca, Dendro and another Assassin entered the room and Pompeyo’s attention turned to them.  “I thought I had been very clear the last time we met, she is not welcome in this place.”

“She is my partner and not allowing her in here is an insult to my clan, and an offense I can’t let go,” Antrax said.  “You will have to get used to seeing her here, whether you like it or not.”

“I think you don’t understand how things work, new leader of the Assassins’ Clan, I’m the one in charge, the one who makes the rules, you are the ones who follow them, I won’t stand this insubordination, no one disobeys my orders no matter who he is.”

“You are the one who asked for our clan to come here, that includes my partner.  Either you accept us all, or we all walk out of here.  Are you willing to put at risk an alliance generations old over this?”

“Be careful Antrax, again you are talking as if you are threatening me,” Pompeyo warned.  “That doesn’t change anything, you disobeyed a direct order and I can’t allow that.  If I let you get away with it, then everyone will think they can do the same.  Guards, take Malkia to the dungeon, if she is so eager to visit the Palace, then lets start her visit from the bottom.”

“I won’t let you take my partner away,” Antrax said, facing Pompeyo.

“With all due respect, Your Majesty, I won’t let you take me away that easily,” Malkia said, moving from behind Antrax and standing next to him.

“I will gladly take care of them,” Alukah offers, eager to fight Malkia.

“That’s not necessary,” Pompeyo says, “I can take care of them.”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Kimball cuts in.

“This has nothing to do with you,” Pompeyo replies.

“Everything that has to do with Malkia and the Assassins is my business.  She is part of my family, and because of that she has the protection of my clan.  Do you really want to continue with this?” Kimball’s words, instead of helping, only make Pompeyo feel more threatened, and push him to put everyone in their places.

“My orders won’t change, you have two options, you either send her back to your clan and promise not to let her out of it again, or you let her stay here, in which case she will become a permanent resident of our dungeon.”

“If you think you can intimidate me so easily, is because you know nothing about me,” Malkia said, not letting herself be intimidated by Pompeyo’s words and attitude.

‘We can do this in a civilized manner so we don’t have any problems, or you can keep fighting back, in that case, I promise you won’t walk out of this room alive,’ Pompeyo sent the thought to Malkia.

“That’s not a good idea,” Ethan said.  “You have no idea what you are facing.”

“We are the Imperial Clan, do you think we are afraid of a couple of clans?”

“Is not the Shadows or the Assassins you have to worry about,” Zola said, speaking for the first time, and surprising everyone by the strength of her voice and the command in her tone, “it’s Kaiserin you should be worry about.”

“I’m the Emperor, I’m not afraid of cowards that don’t even have the courage of coming here.”  Right at that moment, following Pompeyo’s silent command, the guards around the room moved, trying to surround the Assassins, but before they got to their positions, the whole room trembled.  “What was that?” Pompeyo asked, turning to see Maddan, the one in charge of security.

“That’s must be my mother,” Ethan said, “I think it’s time for you to finally meet her face to face.”

“No one can get inside this place without authorization.”

“Kaiserin used to be a Captain of the Royal Guard, she knows all the secret entrances and she has the powers to come here without being detected if she wants,” Maddan said.

“You give her too much credit,” Pompeyo answer, “and anyway, she is not welcome here either, find her and take her to the dungeons, maybe she can share a cell with her daughter.”

“The last time Kaiserin decided to crash a reunion in this room, I was unable to stop her, I’m pretty sure it will be the same this time.”

“If you are afraid, then I can take care of her,” Ratu offered.

Before her offer could be accepted, another crash sounded and the building shook, then the doors of the room opened, on the other side the bodies of the guards could be seen on the floor, and in the middle of the chaos, Kaiserin was standing.

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Chapter 59

I woke up to people talking around me, I froze for a moment, trying to get a reading of the situation, to find out what was happening and why, it only took me a few seconds to place the voices and see they belonged to Kimball and Ethan, and to know I was safe, even if my body hurt and my head felt like it had been hit by mallet.

“How are you feeling?” Kimball asks, he clearly wasn’t going to be fooled into thinking I was still asleep.

“I think that right question is, in the scale of 1 to 10, how strong is your desire to drill into your head?” Ethan asked.  It was a joke he liked to make, he always said that when having a psychic headache he felt like drilling his head to let the pain get away.

“I think that at the moment I would really appreciate some silence, my head does feel like it’s about to explode.”

“I think you forced yourself too much this time,” Kimball reprimanded me.  “I’m not blaming you for that, I know that you did what you needed to do, and I would have done the same in your position, but you pushed yourself too hard.  You have been sleeping for almost twenty hours and we needed to give you an IV just to give you some liquids and nutrients,” I hadn’t noticed the IV until he mentioned it.

“I’m just tired, what happened wasn’t that bad,” both Kimball and Ethan looked at me in a way that made it clear they weren’t buying my words, but that wasn’t important, for the moment all I needed was a few more minutes of rest.

“I will call for some food, you need real food, before you think of anything else,” I knew that anything I said would be a waste, it was obvious Kimball was worried and he would do whatever he thought was best, besides, I was hungry and wouldn’t say no to something to eat.

“Can you bring me up to speed while we wait for our food?” I knew that Kimball wanted to wait until things were calm, but I wasn’t going to be able to relax until I had an update on what had happened.

“All you need to know is that everything is alright,” Kibmall said, and I turned to see Ethan.

“That’s true,  nothing interesting to report.  Right now the discussion is all about what they are going to do with that think they created, they are debating between destroying it or studying it.  Some think it’s too dangerous to keep, others are dying to find out what applications it could have.”

“So they still have it here, from what they said I thought it was too dangerous to keep here, what happens if it gets out of control again?”

“We found a way to keep it stable, and right now they are updating the security protocols to make sure there isn’t another incident like it, to make sure we will be able to stop it before it causes damage.”

“I will have to trust you,” was all I couldn’t think of answering, and it was true, I trusted them, if they thought there was no danger, then I had to believe them.

After getting something to eat and rest for a while, the headache finally calmed down enough for me to be able to take the suppressor off and get my powers back.  It didn’t matter if the suppressor was needed to minimize the pain and speed up the healing, having it on affected me more than I cared to admit.

Everything had gone back to normal and I felt rested and much more calm, still, the peace didn’t last for long, just a few weeks later, while we were in Mzansi, I got a vision that pushed everything else to the back.  In just an instant time had gone by and a new Clan’s Reunion had arrived.  It was time to get ready and prepare for another trip, one that would have a bigger impact.

The first step, as always, was to get Fatima and ask her to take a walk through the fog with me.  I knew that the vision I had was not written in stone, I knew there were alternative endings, that there was something I could do to avoid it, and just as I expected, I was able to see many paths opening before me, paths where I could make sure everything was fine, and that not unnecessary deaths would take place.

“What do you have at the moment?” Kimball asked.

“I have a date, and since we are part of the Empire we can be there, even if we haven’t been officially summoned, as allies we are automatically invited, all we have to do is be there.”

“Are you going with us?” Ethan asked, assuming he was going to be part of the group.

“No, not yet.  There is a chance there is another fight between Antrax and Pompeyo, and there is a chance there won’t.  By being there I will only make the situation worse.  There is a chance nothing happens, in which case my presence won’t be necessary, but if things start to get back, you can be sure I will get there, but to avoid problems between the clans, if I go, I will go not as a Shadow, but as a former member of the Imperial Clan.”

“Won’t it be problematic if you go there and don’t present yourself as part of our family?” Kimball asked.

“There is a rule that says that only five representatives from each clan can go to the reunion, if I go and say I’m part of your clan, there the Shadows will be over represented and that can cause trouble, but if I go there and ask my place as part of the Imperial Clan, at least in name, then they won’t be able to accuse you of having more people than allowed.”

“Even if you play that card, everyone knows you are part of my clan, I’m not sure most people will buy that argument as easily as you think.”

“Don’t worry about that, I can be very convincing when I need to.  For now, what’s important is getting ready for our trip.”

Both Kimball and Ethan accepted my words, I was the expert, after all, and if I said that it was the best way to deal with the situation, they had to accept that.

I knew that we were taking great risks, but those were necessary.  If there was a chance for things to resolve peacefully, if Pompeyo and Antrax were capable of reaching an understanding, then I would stay away, but if there was a slight chance of things getting out of control and putting the lives of my loved ones at risk, then I would have to intervene, no matter the consequences.

Getting ready for our trip was easy, so we prepared everything so we would be able to spend some time with my daughters in case I didn’t get to be part of the Reunion.  We arrived at the Empire with more than enough time to get to the reunion, and set camp on the route I knew the Assassins were going to take.  With the help of mzansiers’ technology, it was easy to hide our camp, we used the same camouflage tech that had surprised me so much the first time I had been in one of their camps.  From the road the Assassins were coming, it would be impossible for them to know there was a camp there, but I was sure than once they were close, my daughters would be able to tell there was something in the way.

Ethan had offered to wait for them and receive them, he was sitting in the middle of the road, just a few yards from the camp.  Since I didn’t want to miss the show, I was hidden near him, in the tree line, something Ethan had caught even if I was using some of my tricks to hide my position.

“Greetings,” Ethan said to the Assassins’ scouts.  “I’m waiting for Malkia and Antrax, please let them know that Ethan is here.”

The soldier didn’t look convinced, but he turned around without attacking Ethan, and that was a good sign.  Ethan turned to see me and then put his attention back on the road.  A few minutes later the rest of the Assassins’ caravan came into view.

“We need to stop meeting like this,” Malkia said, approaching Ethan.

“Ethan! It’s so good to see you, are you alone?” Greca asked.

“Of course not,” Malkia said, her eyes turning to where the camp was, then turning and staring directly at the shadows where I was hiding, with Greca turning my way a moment later.

“I can’t say how glad I am to see you again.  I hope you can accept our invitation to spend the night at our camp,” I told my daughters.

“I think it would be pointless to ask how you knew we were going to be here,” Antrax said, moving to stand next to Malkia.  “But you should know we already picked a place to set camp for tonight.”

“I just want to spend some time with my family, you don’t have a problem with that, do you?  Nothing is going to happen if my daughters stay with me tonight, you have more than enough time to reach the Palace tomorrow.”

“I guess the camp you’re talking about is behind us, right?  I can feel a huge settlement, but I can’t see it.”

“That’s one of the Mzansier’s many tricks.  You are right, the camp is right behind us,” I took a small remote control, one Kimball had given me, and disabled the camouflage on the camp for a moment, so the Assassins could see the three huge structures we had set.

“That’s impressive,” Antrax said, even if he sounded more angry than impressed.

“Just wait until you see the interior,” Ethan added, clearly trying to get a rise out of Antrax.

We moved in silence to the main tent, where Kimball was already waiting for us with some food ready.  My daughters avoided asking questions, but I could feel their curiosity, they were just willing to accept the fact that we had appeared in the middle of nowhere for the chance to talk to them.

For a while we just enjoyed our mutual company, talking about superficial topics and enjoying the food.  Dendro, as always, was happy for the chance to talk to us, but it was clear that Antrax didn’t share his feelings, he was on the other side of the common room, staring at us, with an attitude that made it clear he didn’t like the situation we were in.

“Are you finally going to present yourself to the rest of the clans?” Greca asked, voicing the question everyone had.

“The Shadows’ representatives are going to be there, but I will stay away unless my presence becomes necessary.  With the way things are between Pompeyo and your clan, my presence would only make things worse, I don’t want to be the excuse he uses to start something with you.”

“We can take care of Pompeyo, you don’t have to worry about him,” Antrax said, as if my actions were an insult to him.

“He is the Emperor, and despite his behavior, the fact is that he is the most powerful warrior in the Imperial Clan, and he can be a powerful enemy.”

“I’m not afraid of him,” Antrax declared.

“Then you are a fool,” I replied.  If that was the attitude he was going to have while facing Pompeyo, it wasn’t surprising that the situation had such a high possibility of getting out of control.

Antrax opened his mouth, and I was sure he was ready to say something I wouldn’t care for, but he was interrupted before he had the chance to speak.

“I would think twice before speaking,” Kimball said, “you don’t reach our age, getting over multiple battles without learning a thing or two, you should listen and learn, instead of rejecting and fighting.”

“Everything was fine before you decided to come here, and they would still be fine without you.  I don’t need your help of constant interference.”

“What you may not understand is that we didn’t come just now, we allowed you to see us, but we have always been here, watching from the shadows and helping when it was necessary, and we will keep doing it as long as it’s necessary.”

Chapter 57

I hadn’t felt so alive in a long time, I felt the adrenaline from the competition and the danger of being discovered, running through my veins, filling me with energy.  I made sure that no one was following me, again, checking the illusion masking me and stopping to make sure no one was around every few minutes until I arrived to the building and found the windows of the room that I was targeting.

I used my mind to open the window and then to give me a push to so I could jump to it.  Just as I was about to enter the room the door opened, I froze for a moment, making sure my powers were keeping me hidden, but then I realized it was Kimball at the door, so I jumped into the room and let the illusion drop as we both moved to the crib.

“I guess we will have to call this a tie?” asked Kimball, smiling.

“Technically, I had half of my body inside when you arrived at the door.”

“But my whole body made it inside before yours,” he pointed out.

“I guess we can call it a tie,” I accepted.  Even if I wanted to get another win, the truth was that it wasn’t that important, what was important was that we both had made it to the room without being detected.

We were both focused on the baby when we felt a pressure around us, the metal bit in our clothes pulled us away from the crib.  I knew I could counter the effect easily, but I knew it wouldn’t be right, so I let the warrior that was at the door, pull us away from the baby, putting some distance between us.

“Who are you and what are you doing here?” Malkia asked once the baby was safely in her arms.

“I’m sorry I scared you,” I said, “but I assure you, the last thing I would do is hurt him.”

frozen in her spot, her eyes going from me to Kimball and back to me, as if she was making sure she wasn’t imagining things.  At first she didn’t dare speak up, and when she did, it was just a whisper.

“Mother?”

“I’m really sorry I didn’t tell you about my visit, especially because I made you worry,” we heard steps on the hallway, and a moment later Antrax entered the room, followed by Dendro.

“Kaiserin?” Dendro asked, surprised by my presence.

“Again, I really apologize for coming here unannounced.”

“You will always be welcome in my clan, there was no need to hide,” Dendro told me.

“I have been waiting for you to come for a long time,” Malkia said, and I could feel her conflicting feelings, she wasn’t sure how to act or how to feel.  In the middle of her turmoil I could feel something else, she was feeling betrayed.

“I would have liked to come earlier, but I was waiting for the right moment, I know that tomorrow Dendro will give the control of the clan to Antrax, and you will also become an important part of this clan, it is something I can’t miss.  I have lost a lot of milestones in your life, I wasn’t going to let another one go by.”

“Is that the reason you are here?” I knew she was thinking I was there because of her son, that even if I had never made an effort to visit her, I was doing it for her son.

“That’s not the only reason,” I said, and I could feel her disappointment.  ” planning a visit to assist Antrax’s promotion as leader of the clan, there is a chance nothing will happen, but there is also a possibility that there will be trouble, that’s why we are here.”

“What kind of problems?” Malkia asked, and I had the impression that Dendro had been about to ask the same.

“Predicting the not an easy task.  Every decision we make, every action we take opens a new path in front of us.  What is going to happen here gives us a lot of options.  What I do know is that if I didn’t come here, the possibility of everything working out was only 35%.  If I came here and showed my face, the probability of someone ending up dead was 90%.  I came here, unannounced and hiding, because, if Pompeyo doesn’t realize who I am, and I’m able to help keep things under control, then the chances of no one dying goes up to 80%.”

“When you say someone is going to die in some of those scenarios, you mean one of us?” Antrax asked.

My mind went back to one of the visions I had seen a few days before, one in which and Antrax were and a moment of frustrations ended up with Antrax dying at Pompeyo’s hands, and Malkia’s pain caused a massacre.  But I couldn’t share that vision, I couldn’t predispose him, or the situation could escalate faster than in my visions.  Both of them had grown as heirs of their clans, and had developed a strong relation, by telling Antrax that he could die at Pompeyo’s hands, I could shatter any chance of a good working relationship.

“The problem with sharing what I see in my visions, is that sometimes it can help avoid a certain outcome or minimize risks, but others, the most people know about the future, the worse things will go,” I tried to explain.  “But let me assure you, no one in this room will die if I can avoid it.”

And I was sure that I would do everything in my power to make sure no life was lost, it was bad enough that the happiness of my first grandchild’s birth was shadowed by the vision of killing him in a moment of madness.  The visions surrounding Antrax’s rise to power had been filled with blood and different scenarios in which most people in attendance ended up killing someone or being killed.  I had seen the death of my grandchild and Antrax, but also of my daughters and my nieces and nephews depending on the situation.  During my trip there I had gone over different plans I could use to ensure that my daughter’s and her partner’s celebrations didn’t end up as a bloodbath.

“I hate to think we are at risk, but it’s good to finally be able to talk to you face to face,” Malkia said.  “Why don’t we take this talk to my room?  We will be able to talk without interruptions there.  I will let Greca know that you are here.”  I could feel her uncertainty, she wasn’t sure how to act or what to do.  I could understand how she was feeling, I had dreamed of how it would be in our first meeting, and now that I was there, I wasn’t sure what to do.  the door, but then she stopped, turned to me and offered me the chance to take the baby in her arms.  “Would you like to hold Lason?”

“It would be my honor,” I said, taking the small bundle from her arms.  He was still sleeping, all the commotion in the room hadn’t affected his sleep.

“I will take them to your room, I’ll make sure no one sees them, you can go search for your sister,” Dendro offered, and Malkia agreed.

sure there was no one in the hallway while Dendro opened the door to the adjacent room.  It was easy to see that it was the room of someone important, just as it should be for an heir.  There was a small living room, and that’s where Dendro guided us.  silent, but I could tell he didn’t trust in us, he wasn’t sure of our intentions.

“Who would imagine we would end up sharing a grandchild?” I told Dendro, breaking the silence.

“Not me,” he said, “but I’m glad that’s the case.  It’s been a few years, but I’m glad that you are back with us.  I would ask you, how are you, but I can tell, you look good, you look… .”

“My life haven’t been easy since I left the Empire, but I have to recognize that it had its highlights.  And it’s true, I’m happy with my life,” my eyes went to Kimball before I could stop them.  Kimball was one of the reasons of my happiness.

“I’m glad to hear that.  Many of us were worried for you when you disappeared, many still wait for your return.”

I wasn’t sure what to say, but right then Malkia and Greca walked inside.  Greca was acting with the calmness and  of her position, but as soon as she walked I felt the wave of her feelings hit me.  Unlike her sister whose feelings were more cautious, I could feel Greca’s happiness.

“Ethan isn’t here?” Greca asked, looking around, as if hoping her brother would walk out of his hiding place.

“I’m afraid that this mission required a level of stealth that made it impossible for him to come with us,” Kimball said.  “But I’m sure he will be here with us for our next visit.”

“With one of them is enough,” Antrax mumbled from his side of the room.

“I see Ethan made quite the impression,” I said, I could see that Antrax was not a fan of Ethan, and apparently his relationship with Kimball was complicated, I would see that he felt anger and annoyance at him, but that he also admired him.  I knew that Kimball could be intense, but I wondered what he had done to cause that reaction.

” me that you came because we will have trouble,” Greca said, changing the subject.  “Is that something we should worry about?  Or you have it under control?”

I couldn’t help but smile at the way she spoke and the intensity of her emotions, she had no doubt that if I said I had it under control, then everything would be fine.  “I think I have it under control.”

“Then there’s nothing to worry about,” she told her sister with confidence.  “I remember when she helped me escape and I have no doubt she will be able to help us with any challenge that presents itself.”

“I hope that’s the case,” Malkia said, her eyes moving to Lason.

‘Are you happy here?’ I asked Greca using telepathy, I didn’t want everyone to hear our talk, but I needed to know.  Greca, despite growing up in the Empire, had a  spirit, and for the first time in a long time I wondered if I had done the right thing by leaving her behind.

‘I am, and so is my sister.  Even if I had been given the chance to be somewhere else, I wouldn’t have left my sister behind, and I know she wouldn’t be complete without Antrax and Lason.’  It seemed I had underestimated my daughter, she had been able to look behind my questions to my thoughts and doubts, but I was grateful for that, since her answer and the sincerity behind it had given me peace.

“I think we will leave you so you can talk,” Dendro said, getting up and signaling his son to follow him, “I’m sure you have a lot to talk about and I’s sure you would be more comfortable to continue this chat in private.”

From the moment Greca arrived, she showed she had a lot to talk about, she kept asking questions about everything, from my life to the world I lived in.  There were some things I couldn’t share with her, but I did my best to explain about my life, sharing more information than ever before, but not giving them everything, soon I realized that Greca was like her father, she was able to read between lines and fill the empty spaces.  took longer to warm up, but soon she was also asking questions.  Despite our long talks in the astral planes, I discovered there were a lot we still needed to talk about.

The conversations were so that we didn’t realize the time passing, until Antrax arrived with a tray of food.  Dendro had taken my words seriously and wasn’t going to allow anyone to find out we were in his territory, that’s why his son was fetching our dinner, something that amused Kimball and angered Antrax.

“Tomorrow is going to be a very important day, and I guess we need some rest,” Malkia said.  “You can stay here, Antrax and I will stay in the room we prepared for Lason.”

“Thank you, I’m sorry I’m taking over your room.”

“Don’t worry about it, I spent most of the time visiting Lason anyway, this will save me the trip,” Malkia told us  and moved away, but she wasn’t done with me.  ‘I have heard a lot of stories about you, many theories.  Kimball told me how we met the first time and what you have done for me, and during my visit to the Palace I was told by many that I was the reason you have left.  I didn’t understand your actions, but now I think I get you.’

walked outside, not turning back to see me, it was as if the words she had projected in my mind had never happened, but I knew she had talked to me, and I knew I hadn’t imagined her message.

The next day Antrax brought us some food, and I knew his actions would cause some people to be suspicious, but I was grateful for the care they were taking.  Later that day Antrax and my daughters entered the room.

“You were right about the Emperor, he just arrived to our territory and is on his way here,” Antrax announced.

“Soon you will realize I’m always right,” I told Antrax, who apparently didn’t like my humor.  “What time does the celebration starts?”

“In a couple of hours, just enough time for the Imperialists to arrive and prepare for the ceremony.”

“You said no one could know you were here, but you also said you were going to attend the celebration, what are you going to do?” Greca asked.

“There are a few ways to accomplish my goal, but I think that the best way is to use illusions to hide in plain sight,” as I was speaking, I used my powers to create an illusion around Kimball and , changing our looks so we wouldn’t be recognized.

“That’s incredible!” Greca exclaimed, she didn’t have a problem admitting she was impressed.

“I will try to stay out of the Imperialist’s way, but I really doubt they will be able to see the real face behind the illusion.”

In just a short time we found ourselves in the hall enjoying the festivities, during the celebration Dendro had asked for everyone’s attention and announced to everyone that from that moment on, his son would be the one in charge of the clan and that he would only be an advisor to Antrax.  After presenting his son and my daughter as the new leaders of the clan, a round of applause and congratulations followed, and then the banquet started, with a great number of slaves entering the room, carrying exquisite food to the table.

Kimball had assumed the role of guard and was standing behind me.  I was sitting at the same table as my daughters, but on the other side of the Imperialists, still, I could hear every word they said.

“It is official, then,” Pompeyo said.  “I always believed one day we would be both the leaders of our clans, but this is not exactly how I imagined it.”

“What would you have changed?”

“Your partner, for starters, you could have found someone better,” he said.

“Who better than the descendant of powerful warriors?”

“Her lineage comes from cowards and trash,” Pompeyo replied.

“We share the same grandfather,” Malkia said casually, “I would be more careful before insulting my lineage,” Pompeyo’s gaze moved to Malkia, and I knew he was trying his powers on her, but by looking at smile, I was assured that Malkia was using her sister’s powers to fight back, and even if she didn’t know that, by being there, I was also lending her strength and my own abilities, one of Vlad gifts.

“Your mother was a coward that ran away because she couldn’t deal with the responsibilities of the throne, and your father was a low level warrior who didn’t deserve the position that was given to him.  That’s what you will be, a failure like them.”

“, our clans had been allies for a long time, because of that I ask you to respect the mother of my .”

“Think of the legacy you are giving your by having them as his mother.  It would be better to get rid of them and start again.”

That was one of the turning points, the moment that a seed would be planted in Pompeyo’s mind, one that could be disastrous.  The tension at the table increased.  was the first one to realize the threat behind his words, and she got ready to defend herself and her son.  I saw a couple of warriors moving towards Lason’s room, making sure he was protected, not that they needed to worry, Kimball had prepared some gadgets to protect him from both physical and psychic attacks, besides, he himself had left at the first threat from Pompeyo, knowing that from all of us, was the most vulnerable, and therefore, the one who needed his protection more.  I needed to trust my daughter would be able to deal with the situation, but still I started to use my empathy, trying to calm them down.

“Be careful Pompeyo, that could be misinterpreted as a threat, and that’s not how you should talk to your allies.  Especially not now that you are facing all revolts from the clans under Imperial control, it would be unfortunate that in your time of need you couldn’t count on your allies.”

“Your words could also be misinterpreted as a threat, worse yet, ad treason.”

“I’m not the one who walked into one of his ally’s  and threatened his family…”

‘Careful,’ I sent the warning to Antrax, making sure Antrax would notice the communication.

bit his words back and took a moment to think over his words, realizing the damage the rest of his speech could do if spoken out loud or if managed to read them.  The last thing the young Emperor needed was to be reminded that there was something else fit to occupy his throne while he was still fighting to be recognized by all his subjects.

I increased my efforts to calm them down, increasing the feelings I was sending out, but then I noticed that Alukah was looking around, searching for something.  She had found out someone was trying to affect them.  I knew that if her attention focused on me there was a chance she would be able to see I was using an illusion, so I let my powers go, while and Antrax were in a staring contest, or knowing Pompeyo’s powers, maybe something more.

“What are you afraid of?” Malkia asked him.

“I’m not afraid, I’m the Emperor!”

“Exactly.  You are the Emperor, and I’m the partner of the leader of the Assassins, but your actions and your attitude  that you have something against me, and I doubt is because of my relationship with Antrax.  I don’t care what your problem with me is, you need to get over it, because all you will accomplish with your attitude is to break the relationship our clans have held for generations.”

“I’m not the problem,” Pompeyo said, acting like a little child, and not like the Emperor he was.  His fear of Malkia and everything she represented was affecting his judgement.

I realized Alukah was looking very satisfied with the situation, it looked like once things started escalating she starting feeling better.  I realized that it was not only Pompeyo who was responsible for the problem, there were more people feeding the rivalry.  I knew that I would never get away with influencing the Emperor, no matter how strong I was, he would notice my influence.  On the other side, could be a good option, because, despite her arrogance, that was clear from everything she did, she could be more susceptible to suggestion.

I used a lot of energy making sure that my mind reached her in a subtle way, not putting a lot of pressure, with care.  His mind was a fortress, but I found the way to slip past her defenses.  Her mind, wasn’t that of a telepath, it didn’t have the same structure you would find in one, so I needed to approach it differently.  I started whispering in her mind, building little thoughts that I let her, letting her think they were her own ideas, and she was falling for it.  For a moment I felt resistance, and I thought she was on to me, but a few new words calmed her down.

Between going into Alukah’s mind and keeping the illusion, I couldn’t focus my attention on what was going on around me, so when I went out of the trance, I realized the situation had escalated faster than I expected, or maybe I had spent more time in her mind that I thought, anyway, both Antrax and Dendro were on their feet, facing Pompeyo, who looked ready to fight.  To the side, Greca and Malkia were still sitting, but the focus on Malkia’s face made me think that her mind was busy, maybe fighting off Pompeyo’s attacks.

“This is getting ridiculous,” Alukah said, “we shouldn’t be wasting our time here, it’s clear they are not going to change their minds and they will keep protecting that woman.  I say that we have better things to do, forbid her coming into our territory, so we won’t have to see her again and let’s get away from here.  This party is not even good.”

For a moment it looked like Pompeyo hadn’t heard her, or wasn’t going to listen to her advice, but then his posture relaxed a little.  ” is right, this is a waste of time, it’s obvious you are not willing to see reason.  It’s a pity things have to end like this, but I don’t want to see her again,” Pompeyo told Antrax, pointing to Malkia, “make sure I don’t have to.  It was a mistake to come here, so we will leave immediately.”

Everyone in the room was tense, frozen in place until the Imperialists left the place.

“Greca, make sure they leave the territory and that they don’t take any detour,” Antrax ordered, and then, turned and walked out of the room, followed closely by Dendro and Malkia.  After a moment I followed as well.  “Who does he think he is to come here and talk to me like that, especially this day?” Antrax was saying.

“I’m sorry that ruined your day,” I told them, “but believe it or not, this went better than I expected.”

“I thought you were here to help, but all you did was stay there while he insulted and threatened your daughter.  Maybe is right about you.”

I used my powers to push Antrax into Lason’s room, where Kimball and a couple of soldiers were protecting the baby.  “Leave us,” I told them, and after looking to for confirmation, they did.  “I know this was a difficult situation for you, and I know that you are mad on behalf of my daughter, because she is important to you, that’s the only reason there won’t be consequences your words, but I recommend you think twice before speaking to me like that again,” Antrax tried to move, even speak, but my powers had him completely under my control.

“I think that’s enough,” Dendro said, “the situation was hard, you can’t blame him for losing his temper.”

“Of course I can, especially since he is blaming Pompeyo and the situation is not that different, Pompeyo is acting like a teenager out of control just because he feels threatened by Malkia.  This is exactly why I insisted she should stay out of Imperial circles, just her presence is enough to make people talk, making Pompeyo lose her reason.  The first few months are always difficult for a new Emperor, especially if his authority and strength are being questioned like this.”

“I guess you ran into trouble,” Kimball said, he was holding little Lason in his arms.

“Things went out of control, and the situation was so heavy that my empathy wasn’t working, luckily I was able to plan a suggestion in Alukah and she was able to convince Pompeyo that it was better to leave.  Still, I have a feeling this is not over yet.

“Alukah is a powerful warrior,” Malkia said, “someone like her can’t be deceived or tricked easily.”

“I didn’t say it was easy, and there is still a chance she could find out what I did, but we would have to wait to see if my action had consequences.  I just hope everything goes well.”

But I knew that at that moment there was no way I could foresee the consequences of my action, but I could see that even if Dendro was happy to have me there, Antrax wasn’t.  I couldn’t stay mad at him because his worry was for Malkia’s safety, and I couldn’t blame him for wanting to protect my daughter.  The young leader of the Assassins wasn’t aware that my daughter was much more dangerous than him, the problem was not the danger she was in from the Imperialists, the danger was what would happen if he died protecting her, for Malkia would be forced to seek her vengeance.

Chapter 50

It had been a long and difficult day, like in previous occasions the leaders, or representatives, of the different nations that were part of the Dominion had traveled to Capital City to attend the vote.  Just one of the candidates seemed unfit to the position, but since he didn’t have a lot of support I decided not to worry about him. I was worried about the sector where he was from, and I was afraid that if things didn’t change, those people would decide to separate from the Dominion and form their own separate group.  But that was something I wasn’t going to worry about, all I needed to worry about was who was going to take my place.

Before the vote took place, some groups had their private meetings, some of those groups called me to talk to their candidates, and even some asked my opinion, but I did my best to stay out of it, not wanting to influence their decisions, like they had told me I was supposed to do.

The vote took place in the afternoon.  Even if I had never talked to the person they elected, I had a good feeling about her, and that made me feel better, because I was aware that no matter what my opinion was, she was going to be taking my place.  I couldn’t help but worry about it, but at the same time I was aware that it was how things were supposed to be, and I had to get used to the fact that I was no longer going to be leading the Dominion, I needed to start thinking about what my life would be once I was gone and someone else had my position.  Luckily Ethan was about to finish school and ready to start a new chapter in his life, so there was nothing keeping us in that city, a place where I had been living for a good part of my adulthood.

But not only what had happened that afternoon was going to affect my life permanently, there was something going on in the other side of the world that would affect my life even more.  I went over my messages again, and I found one from Ethan from a couple of hours earlier that day. They were already in Imperial territory, and had gotten inside the Palace, he also told me they had ran into his sisters and the Assassins, as well as a few Imperialists.  I was sure he wasn’t telling me the whole story, by the few glimpses I had caught during my walk in the fog I knew it was very likely that meeting could take place, and I also knew that in most paths with that encounter, Kimball had caused trouble.

Soon Kimball and Ethan were going to meet Pompeyo and ask for the Shadow’s Clan to be part of the Empire, and I knew how important that meeting was for all of us.  A lot depended on that meeting, and even if I knew everything was going to end well, I also knew that they could face a lot of problems, and that depending on the actions taken that day, we could start the alliance in a good or a very bad way.  I also knew that there was a slight chance that the acceptance of the Shadows into the Empire could be delayed, it all depended on Kimball’s and the Scavenger’s actions.

I arrived at my suite, that felt especially empty without Kimball and Ethan.  I went to one of the monitors and called Ivan. He, and all the others on the list, had been part of my personal army for a couple of days, and without Kimball noticing, I had sent them on a mission, the first one directly under my command.

“How’s everything there?” I asked Ivan, once his face appeared on the screen.

“Everything is exactly as you predicted, the group is quite big, and we could find a few families among them.”

“Remember that each and every one of them is a warrior, they may not seem that dangerous, but you need to remember not to underestimate them.”

“Of course, we are aware of the risks and are following your indications, we are ready for whatever we need to do.  So far, no one has noticed our presence, and we are just waiting orders.”

“Perfect,” I said, ending the call, but keeping a communication line ready.

Most of the plan depended on Ethan, and I was sure I had him on my side.  Just as I was starting to get nervous, a message appeared on my screen, then I saw the text: everything is ready, followed by a link.  Ethan hadn’t failed me.

I followed the link and the image being transmitted from Ethan’s camera filled the screen.  I could see the throne room, and around it groups formed by the different clans in the Empire and the high commanders of the Imperial Clan.  It was weird to see Pompeyo sitting on the throne, and even weirder to see Maddan standing at his right, and Alukah, Kozlak’s and Lamia’s daughter on his left.  It was a clear example of past and future.

“Who are you?” Pompeyo asked.  “And what brings you to my humble Palace?”

“My name is Kimball, and I’m here in representation of my clan, the Shadow’s Clan.” His words were being transmitted loud and clear, I could even hear the whispering of the crowd caused by Kimball’s revelation.

“I thought that clan was just a story told to scare young soldiers on their first mission.  Are you using that name in an effort to appear though? If you think a cheap trick like that is going to work in here, you are clearly mistaken,” Pompeyo said.

“My clan has been around for a few generations, but we mostly prefered to go unnoticed.  That has changed, and we want, for the first time, be recognized by the clans in the Empire.  Most of all, we want to be part of the Empire.”

“If it’s true that you clan has been around that long, how is it possible that we have never come across your territory?” Pompeyo asked, and I had to give it to him, he was handling the situation very well, doing a good job of showing everyone in the room who was in charge, but I knew Kimball wasn’t going to make things easy to him.

“We come from one of the caribbean islands.  Even if it’s something that is not usually shared, some of the costal clans know about us.”

Pompeyo took his time to consider his explanation, and then started to look around, going over the clans in attendance, until he found the costal clans and, most likely, used his powers to see into their mind before asking out loud.  “Does any of you recognize the existence of this clan?”

A couple of clans stepped forward and recognized their alliances with the Shadows, a few others said they knew about their existence, but mostly because of stories and rumors, but all the clans that had spoken were minor clans, mostly under the control of the Imperial Clan.  The only clan of importance that could confirm their existence was the Buccaneers’ Clan, the group that controlled the bigger island in the caribbean.

“We have heard about them, in fact, they have caused us trouble for many generations,” Fidel, the leader of the Buccanners explained.  As you know, not every island in the caribbean is under control of the Empire, a couple of near islands are under Imperial control, our island is under ours, but there is another big island we have never been able to control, it’s mostly inhabited by fishermen and farmers, but there is another group that protects them and is always causing trouble, and even if I can’t assure you it’s them, they are the most likely group.”

“That only confirms that you in fact own a territory, but that’s not enough to be part of the Empire.  Before you can be accepted, and recognized by us, you need to have alliances with at least three clans, and you have to prove that an alliance with you can be of benefit to us.”

“As you see, we have a couple of alliances already recognized, and we can produce a few more, that’s not an issue,” Kimball said.  Ethan was standing next to him, and I couldn’t see his face, but I didn’t need to see Kimball to guess that both his posture and expressions were challenging Pompeyo.

“Alliances with minor clans is almost the same as no alliance,” Pompeyo said dismissively, and I knew that his words, even if true, wouldn’t be well received by some of the leaders under his control.  I knew that words like those could be the start of an uprising or at least cause trouble. “If you want an alliance with us because you are in need of protection…”

“That’s not something you have to worry about, we don’t need anyone to protect us.  It’s just that we want a better relation with people in the continent and we believe this is the easier way to do it.  In fact, our offer to be part of the Empire is for both our benefit, the other option is to be enemies, and that’s not something you want.”

“Brave words from a clan with such weak alliances,” Alukah said.

“What kind of alliances would we need to join the Empire with all the rights and privileges available for an ally?” Kimball asked calmly.

“You would need to have alliances with the most powerful clans in the Empire, most powerful after us, of course,” Pompeyo answered, and by his smile and confident demeanor I could tell that he didn’t believe they would be able to fulfill his request.

“You name the clans you think we need alliances with, and we will get them.”

“First of all, you will need an alliance with the Assassins’ Clan, one of the most important and recognized clans in the Empire.  You would need an alliance with the Merchant’s Clan, one of the best known and respected clans in the Empire. And lastly, you would need an alliance with our most recent acquisition, the Scavenger’s Clan, a clan with presence in almost every occupied territory.”

“That’s all?” Kimball asked, and I could almost see the smile on his face, for a moment I considered asking Ethan to turn, but by the look on Pompeyo’s face and the almost imperceptible change in his demeanor, I thought it was better to keep the image on him so I could try and read his reactions.

“No, that’s not all, you will need to do it during the week this reunion lasts, if by the end of the week you haven’t secured the alliances, then you will forfeit your chance of being part of the Empire,” Pompeyo’s face didn’t change much, but I could tell he was satisfied by his demands, thinking it was in impossible task, and under different circumstances it would be, it wasn’t an easy task, but I had forseen his demands and we were ready for them, we had also secured a couple more alliances, because I had seen different versions of his demands.

“That’s not a problem,” Kimball said.  “You asked for an alliance with the Assassins first, right?  Dendro? Could you confirm our alliance for Emperor Pompeyo?”

“Our clan has, in fact, formed an alliance with the Shadow’s Clan,” Dendro confirmed, and the surprised whispers raised on the room.  I could see Pompeyo’s eyes betray his surprise after hearing Dendro confirm the alliance.

“How is it possible that a clan as known as yours could accept an alliance with nobodies like them?” Pompeyo asked.

“Do you remember the story I told you about the warrior that saved my partner’s life?” Antrax asked.  “He is that man. We not only have a personal debt wit that man for that help, he has also proven the strength of his clan and his warriors, that’s why we accepted the alliance.”

“Thanks for that,” Kimball said, “but you know there was no debt to pay, I gave you my help freely and without expecting anything in return,” Kimball’s words sounded sincere, even if a few could understood the truth behind his words, he had acted, not thinking of the Assassins, but for me and my daughters.  “Now is your turn Fugger, do you confirm the alliance between us in front of the Emperor?”

“A while ago the Shadow’s Clan approached us, and after a long negotiation,” Fugger started explaining, trying not to attract Pompeyo’s anger, “we decided to offer the Shadows an alliance.  So yes, I confirm that there is an alliance between us and their clan.”

Pompeyo was staring at Fugger through narrowed eyes, and even if it was clear he was doing his best to control himself, it was also clear he didn’t like the turn the situation was taking.

“So that only leaves the Scavengers,” Kimball said, and that was the moment of truth, the Scavenger’s answer would decide what would happen, and if the Shadows would become part of the Empire.  “Vultur, you are the only one left to confirm our alliance.”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t confirm that,” Vultur had moved closer to the throne and his eyes were focused on Pompeyo, for a moment his eyes lost focus, making it clear to everyone that he was having a very deep telepathic conversation with Pompeyo.

“Think very well about what you are doing, you are not only breaking your word and going back on our deal, you are gaining a very powerful enemy, and if you don’t fix this right now, you will regret it.”

“Our deal was made before we decided to join the Empire, things have changed, and we no longer need you, because of that, I see no reason to respect our deal.  Right now, you need us more than we need you. There is nothing you can offer us that can make us change our minds, our alliance with the Imperialists is much better than anything you can offer us.”

“This is the third time you have broken your word to us, and this time there is no going back,” Kimball said, he had finally moved and I could see him, his posture was very aggressive, and I had to admit, very impressive.

“I thougth this was the fourth time,” Ethan commented.

“I’m not counting the time his brother betrayed us, because we killed everyone involved in that one,” Kimball said, his words, thrown so casually, made an impression in the people around them, one of Vultur’s companions, who hadn’t moved until then, reacted to Kimball’s revelation moving closer to Vultur and whispering something to him.

“You did me a favor,” Vultur said,” by killing my big brother you saved me the time of doing it myself, but still, I can’t help you, there is nothing you can say to make me change my mind, your clan won’t be part of the Empire.”

“You can’t say I didn’t give you a chance,” Pompeyo said, “it’s a pity this won’t work for you.”

“This is not finished.  All I need is a couple of days.  In two days I will come back and we will discuss this again.”

“I told you, there is nothing you can say to change my mind,” Vultur repeated.

“And I won’t change my conditions.”

“In two days that won’t matter, you will have to pick another clan for us to form an alliance with, and with all due respect, you will do it, because in two days, the Scavenger’s Clan won’t exist anymore.”

Ch 49-b

Malkia was starting to think that all the warning and horror stories she had been listening to the last few years were nothing but lies.  Dendro had been nervous from the moment they arrived at the Palace’s territory, he couldn’t stop looking around, as if he was expecting an ambush at any moment, but so far they hadn’t found any problems, and Malkia was starting to relax.  When they arrived at the area they would be staying in, one that they had been warned was private and not many were allowed inside, Dendro’s attitude had become even more cautious.  Greca was the first to notice the change, but Malkia noticed not long after, and then she noticed a pair of imperial warriors coming their way.

“Dendro, it’s nice to see you again,” one of them greeted him, with a familiarity that Malkia was sure wasn’t well received.

“It’s a pleasure to have you again with us,” the other warrior said, his attitude a lot more respectful, “it’s an honor to hav…” the warrior’s eyes had been looking over them, and when his eyes made contact with Malkia his words died out and his attitude shifted completely.  The warrior next to him noticed the chance and looked over to see what had caught his attention, and when he found it, his attitude also changed.  “You have a lot to explain,” the warrior told Dendro, all his respect gone and his attitude turning aggressive.

“Nothing to explain, Maddan,” Dendro said.  “Agis, I’m sorry I can’t say the same to you.”

“She looks like a very close copy of Kaiserin,” Agis, the other warrior said, “and for years you told us you had no idea where she was.”

“I don’t know where Kaiserin is, just that she trusted me with the care of her daughters.  If she wanted you to know about this, she would have told you herself.”

“Daughters?  Plural?” Maddan asked, his eyes going again over the group and stopping on Greca.

Greca felt his mind trying to read her thoughts, but with just a little effort she managed to avoid the invasion, mostly because Maddan didn’t press on with his attack.

Several hurried steps could be heard in the hallways, and soon another three warriors were with the group, two men and a woman.  The three were looking at the group with open curiosity, all three of them staring at Malkia.

“Dendro?  Is there something you would want to share with the group?” one of the warriors asked.

“I asked the same question,” Maddan said.

“What’s your name?” the woman asked Malkia.  “And who is the young lady with you?”

“My name is Malkia, I’m Antrax’s partner and this is my sister Greca,” Malkia knew why the group looked so interested in her, but she didn’t try to offer more information.

“Your son’s partner?” Agis asked.  “After the unfortunate accident of your own partner, I would expect you to take her as your partner.”

“I respect both Kaiserin and my son too much to do something like that,” Dendro said.

A heated discussion started between Dendro and the Imperial warriors, especially the first two they found, and after a while nor Malkia nor Greca fully understood what they were talking about, but they knew that the fight was about their mother and what they thought they deserved from her.  After a few minutes they heard laughter from the other side of the hallway, and Malkia was surprised to see Kimball walking their way.

“What are you laughing about?” Agis asked.

“It’s fun watching you fight over something you already lost, especially since I have it.”

“You don’t even know what we are talking about,” another of the warriors pointed out.

“The correct term would be to say someone they lost, not something,” Ethan corrected at the same time the other talked, and that caught the attention of a couple of the warriors, the ones that haven’t been part of the discussion and therefore were more focused on what was going on around them.”

“Who do you think you are to interrupt our discussion'” Maddan challenged him.

“Father?” Greca chose that moment to ask, “What are you doing here?” Her words left the group in silence, some making the connection faster than others.  Since Greca was Malkia’s sister, and Malkia was so obviously Kaiserin’s daughter, then that meant that Greca was also her daughter, and if Kimball was her father, that would make him Kaiserin’s partner.

“You shouldn’t have said that?” Ethan complained, “you are only encouraging him, encouraging his bad attitude.”

“I think you forgot a few things the last time we saw each other,” Malkia told Ethan.

“Do you think so?  I believe everything has its time and place, that wasn’t the right moment.”

“I don’t appreciate you being here, especially since our mother insisted I had to stay away from the Palace for so long.  What makes you so especial?”  Malkia complained, her frustration so bad she forgot to think about the consequences of her words before speaking.

“Well, for starters, I’m not a copy of her, and if no one had said anything about me being her son, no one would have found out, I would have been able to enter and leave without anyone knowing about it, that gives me an advantage, one you can’t have while looking so much like her,” after his words Malkia looked around and realized everyone was watching them and listening to their conversation.

“There is no way this could be true.  Kaiserin would never stoop so low as to have relations with a mutant,” Agis complained, using the word mutant as an insult.

“I don’t see how it would be bad for the most powerful psychic in the world to be with the most powerful mutant in the world,” Ethan said, speaking out for his father.

“I think our mother was being way too protective asking me to hide with the Assassins for so long,” Malkia said, still bothered with the situation and Ethan’s presence.

“Do you want to know why she insisted you needed to be away from this clan?  Take a look at General Agis’ mind,” Ethan told Malkia, but it was Greca who took the initiative, and she didn’t like what found on his superficial thoughts.

“Ethan is right, you should see what he is planning,” Greca said, “he is thinking of going to the Emperor and request for you to be taken from the Assassins and put under his supervision, he will claim you belong to the Imperial Clan, but his intentions are…” Greca didn’t go on, she simply let Malkia borrow her powers so she could see the same things she was seeing.

Agis wasn’t going to stay still, as soon as he felt the sister’s minds, he started building barriers in his mind, but their curiosity and combined power was enough to tear them apart, still, Agis had an advantage over them, one that fell apart when a third mind joined them.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Agis complained.  “Get out of my mind immediately.”

“Who do you think you are to try and take my partner?” Antrax, who had been quiet until then, asked.  “I don’t care who Malkia’s mother was, she is my partner and she stays with me.”

“I said, out of my mind!” Agis repeated, attacking Ethan, who was the closest to him, but before he could connect, Kimball shook off the cuffs and grabbed Agis by his jacket, throwing him against a wall.

“I was waiting for you to give me a chance to do this,” Kimball said with a smirk, as he hit Agis against the wall again and again, but then his movements started to get slower, several threads of hair started wrapping around him, holding him still.

“It’s not that I don’t appreciate someone knocking some sense into Agis,” the woman said, “but I can’t let someone just attack an Imperialist in our own stronghold.”

“How is it possible for him to free himself?” Maddan questioned the warrior that had been escorting Kimball and Ethan.  “And the kid is supposed to have his powers blocked before being allowed to enter this part of the Palace.”

“And we did,” the warrior answered, picking up the cuffs, “we even tried with a few other kinds, this are the strongest ones, and he said he wouldn’t be able to break this ones.”

“And I didn’t, I opened them,” Kimball said, he had been forced to let Agis go, his movements growing slower and more difficult.

“And I checked that the blocker was working myself,” the warrior said, “besides, he was classified as an empath, there was no reason to think he could do something like this.”

“I’m sorry,” Ethan said, but it was obvious he didn’t mean that, “but blockers make me feel weird, so I disabled it.  And even if empathy is my main ability, I’m actually classified as a hybrid.”

Before they could continue the discussion, a flare enveloped Kimball, burning all the hair wrapped around him, freeing him from the bondage and returning him his freedom of movement.  His dark skin showed a few burns that were healing before the eyes of the other warriors.

“I will take care of them,” Maddan said, and by the way his subordinate was acting, it was clear that more had been added telepathically.

“You feel dangerous,” one of the men told Ethan, “I can’t figure out why, yet.”

“I think, uncle Kozlak, that is because you can feel my confidence, and there’s only two kind of people that would be this confident in the middle or enemy territory, those that are incredibly stupid, and those who are very strong, and since you know who my mother is, you should know I’m not stupid.  Knowledge is power, and I’m carrying quite the arsenal.”

“And what do you know?” another of the warriors challenged him.

“I know your name is Geb, and that you served under my mother’s command, and I also know you were with the group who found her and helped her get her memory back.”

“This is not the moment to be talking about that,” Agis said, he had managed to get Kaiserin’s children’s minds out of his, and had moved to where Malkia was standing.  “Why don’t you come with me to a private space where we can discuss the situation more calmly?”

“She is going nowhere with you,” Antrax quickly answered, stepping between him and Malkia.

“You are wasting your time, Agis, Malkia won’t fall into your hands,” Kimball said.

“You think you can stop me?” Agis challenged him.

“I made sure, a long time ago, that if you dared put your hand on her, it would be the last thing you did,” Kimball said, with a menacing smile, while Maddan was checking the cuffs, probably looking for a way to put them back on Kimball, but he eventually decided it would be a waste of time.

“What do you mean by that?” Agis asked.

“If you were paying attention, Agis, you would have already noticed that she is Antrax’s partner, and he is the heir to the Assassins, there is a very particular characteristic that they must have so their union can be possible.  I agree, we have a lot to talk about, and this is not the place for that,” the woman looked around, they were still in the hallway and sound could carry in that place.

“I have no problem with that,” Malkia said, “I too have a lot of questions.  But I don’t want him to be with us,” she said, pointing to Agis, who still looked a little out of control.

“Don’t worry, we will make this first meeting a family affair.”

“And what about me?” Geb protested.

“You can come as my partner,” she said, and noticed Maddan’s stare.  “We could include those two in the reunion, and you could come with the excuse of guarding them,” she suggested, pointing Kimball and Ethan.

“No matter how attractive the idea sounds, I have my orders with regards to these two, and now that I’ve seen what they are capable of, I think it would be best if I take care of them personally.”

Both Kimball and Ethan smiled at that, the similarities between the two becoming even more clear thanks to the identical expressions on their faces.

Will we see each other soon?‘ Greca asked Ethan using telepathy.

It depends, if everything goes well, it’s probable that we will make a lot of enemies and will be forced to leave the territory fast to avoid problems, the other option is that we will end in the dungeons.

Take care, there is a lot you still have to explain,‘ Greca warned.

You too sister, remember that you are in a greater danger than I.’

Greca had seen Agis mind and his hidden desires, she knew that Malkia was the one in the greatest risk, but she also knew that the attention could easily shift to her once they found out she was also Kaiserin’s daughter.

Chapter 23

Kimball had been very patient while waiting for me, but he needed me to make a decision, and by looking at the clock I could tell that the tournament was about to start.

“Have you decided what to do?” Kimball asked, trying to act like he didn’t care, even if I knew how much he wanted to be there to watch our son fighting.

“Emily used to go every year, in fact, she is the reason there is a tournament at all.  I think it won’t look suspicious if I go,” I could see the relief in his face.

“Perfect, I will call for transportation and will send a message so they know we are going.  Ethan must already be there with his cousins.  The rest of the family should already be there, even my parents mentioned something about going,” Kimball said, as he worked sending messages and programming routes and security protocols.

They were waiting for us when we arrived, and I was escorted to the best place in the gym, from where I could watch everything that was going on.  Many fights were going to be taking place at the same time, and the spaces for each one were already delimited, each one for a different age category.  It wasn’t hard to spot Ethan among the participants, like it wasn’t hard to notice something wasn’t right.

“Is he using a suppressor?” I asked Kimball, knowing he would know what I was talking about.

“It was his idea, he said he didn’t need his powers to fight the other kids, and that it would help him not to accidentally use too much force.”

“I’m not saying it was a bad idea,” I said after thinking for a moment, “but without his powers he is at a disadvantage.  I’m not saying he isn’t capable, but some of them are mutants, and he could get hurt.”

“Ethan is pretty sure he won’t be at risk, the only ones who could be a problem are his cousins, and he will only be fighting one of them in that category,” before I could protest that his cousins could cause a lot of damage Kimball continued, “but Ethan knows him and his fighting style, and he knows how to avoid being injured.  And even if something happened, we can help him.”

“If you are sure he is going to be fine,” I said, not entirely convinced, I had a bad feeling.  I had seen the future, and even if I hadn’t wanted to see exactly what was going to happen during the fights, I knew that Ethan was going to survive without a scratch.

After a short ceremony to start the event, the kids started to fight.  The actual fighting wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, it looked nothing like the kind of fighting students did in the Empire.  There were many rules about the kind of hits and movements they could use, and they were using a point system to establish the winner of each fight.  The points were awarded if the kids hit certain areas in a specific way, that reduced the risk of injury a great deal.  After learning that I was surprised that Emily liked the tournament so much.

Despite the suppressor, Ethan had no problem winning his fights.  I had thought the event was going to take longer, and that it would be very late by the time the finals started, but by midday the finalist had been chosen, and they were given some time to rest before the final fight.  We were taken to another room where a buffet was laid for the participants and other guests.  Ethan came to talk to his father as soon as he saw us, but I moved to where the Principal was to ask a few more questions about what to expect.

A while later the start of the finals was announced.  Since it was the main event the fight were no longer going to be held at the same time, but consecutively, starting with the younger ones.  It was going to be a while before it was Ethan’s turn, so I didn’t pay much attention to the fights, I took the time to study Ethan’s opponent.  He had already defeated his cousin in one of the first battles, and the kid he was going to fight was far beneath his level.  He wasn’t bad, but he was a telepath, and even if Ethan was using a suppressor, the toxicity of his mind would stop his opponent from reading it, giving Ethan the advantage.

I was watching the fight previous to Ethan’s when the vision arrived.  I knew immediately that the bad feeling I had been so worried about had nothing to do with Ethan.  I recognized the people in the vision immediately, and the only comfort I had is that for what they were saying I still had time to act, but how much?

“What happened?” Kimball asked as soon as I got out of the vision.

“A vision, our daughters are in danger,” I explained, and I could see the change in his demeanor, in just a second he was ready to fight.  “The good news is that we still have time, we still can watch our son win this thing,” I said, trying to calm him down.

“Are you sure,” he asked, and I just nodded.

Even if I had told him we had time, I started reaching to my men, selecting those I wanted to go with me to save my daughters.  As I watched Ethan’s fight I started issuing orders, so everything would be ready for us to leave as soon as possible.  Beside me Kimball was doing the same, using all his gadgets to make plans, even as he watched his son fight.  No one was surprised to see that Ethan had won.

Kimball went to congratulate him for his victory, but I remained in my seat.  The tournament was going to end soon, and then we would be free to go.  From the beginning I had planned to leave before the celebration started, and since I had something much more important to take care of, the need to leave was only getting stronger.

As soon as the last fight ended, I got up to congratulate the winners and left the gym as soon as I could, not even looking back to see if my people was following me, but knowing that Kimball was going to be right behind me, probably with Ethan by his side.  And as I expected, both of them got inside the limo behind me.

“What happened?”  Ethan asked.

“Congratulation,” I said, moving closer to him to give him a hug.

“Thanks, but I know something is going on and I would like to know, if I can,” he added sheepishly.

“I had a vision, one of Dendro’s Colonels and Ivy are planning on selling your sisters as slaves.  Apparently Ivy had already promised him to make his daughter Antrax’s partner, and when they announced Malkia as his partner, he got angry.”

“We need to stop them,” Kimball said, his fury barely controlled.

“And we will.  Our transportation is being prepared.  I don’t know what excuse are we going to use, or if we even need one, but we need to start travelling as soon as possible.  I’m not sure how much time we have, but I want to move before they can be hurt.  I will take a walk in the fog as soon as we have a chance, to gather more information.”

“I also started making preparations as soon as you told me they were in danger.  All we might need should be already be prepared.  I think you should let William and Dante know you will be leaving, at least so they know you won’t be here.”

“I will send them a message with one of my guards.”

The rest of the day was pretty chaotic while we finished our preparations and organized the trip.  For a moment I thought that Ethan may ask to come with us, but he thought better and decided not to say anything, he didn’t even protest when we told him he needed to stay with his grandparents.  Kimball as usual, had started acting without asking too many questions, but I knew he would want more information, soon.  I trusted Dendro explicitly, but I had always had my doubts with Ivy, it seemed that the fact that our children were going to be a couple was more than she could stand.

Kimball waited until we were in the air to question me.

“What do you know?” he asked.

“I just know what they are planning to do.  It seems that the Colonel is going to ask for both of them to assist him during a mission, and uses it as a cover for their disappearance.  I guess that Greca got caught up in this just because she is Malkia’s sister, they want to get rid of both.  The vision was about something that was going to happen, so I know that we have time, I just don’t know how much.  Fatima will help me find more information,” I said, looking at where she was, “but it will have to wait until we both can be in the right place to go into the fog.”

“We will stop on the Island to get more people, you know that they are more familiar with the Empire and will be able to help better.  During our stop there you both can go into the fog, while we prepare for the last leg of the trip.  That will give us a better chance to be prepared for what is going to happen.”

“I feel guilty for leaving Ethan so soon, we didn’t even have a chance to celebrate his victory,” I confessed.

“Ethan understand, besides, this will help with the idea that you don’t care about him,” I tried to smile, agreeing with him.  “We need to stay positive.”

I was grateful that Kimball didn’t remind me that it was my fault that our daughters were in the Empire, away from us and in danger, but then I realized that having Ethan with us haven’t stopped him from being in mortal danger twice already.

As soon as we arrived at the Island Fatima and I went to a bedroom where we could get into the fog.  As soon as we got in, I went to where the paths I needed, those of my daughters, were.  Most of the time their paths ran parallel to each other, but they crossed each other a few times, their lives were connected.  It didn’t take long to find what we needed, but it made me realize we didn’t have as much time as I expected.  I was hoping that I could have reached Dendro and have him stop this from happening, but that wasn’t possible.  To be able to talk to him I needed to wait until I could reach his mind during his sleep, but by that time, they would be already out of his reach.  I still planned to talk to him, but I would need to move if I wanted to keep my daughter from being hurt.  By walking in the fog I had realized that my daughter were strong enough to get themselves out of the situation, but not before being hurt, and I didn’t want them to get hurt if I could avoid it.

Once we were sure we had covered all the possible scenarios, we got out of the fog and I went to Kimball to tell him all about it so we could plan for the best course of action.  He wanted a direct attack, but I was convinced we needed to act with caution, in a way the Colonel couldn’t deny what he had been planing.  Even if Kimball wanted something more drastic, he agreed that my plan was the best option if we wanted to stop him from trying again.

After some discussion, we decided to leave for the Empire and set camp near the spot where we knew the attack was taking place.  Neither Kimball nor I wanted to risk something delaying us and risking our mission.  After setting camp and going over the plan and the job everyone, Kimball decided we needed some rest.  I went with him to bed, but after a while I extended my conscience, looking for the two minds that I needed to contact.

I decided first to try my brother, since he would need more time to act.  Reaching him wasn’t going to be easy since the Palace had very strong defenses, but I knew that my brother was one of the few persons who could hear my calling, and he did.

Kaiserin?  Is that really you?’  Our minds were connected, and I felt enveloped by a feeling of familiarity.  Being away from the Empire it was easy to pretend that everything was fine, but feeling my brother reminded me that despite everything, the Empire had been my home for half my life.

Brother.  I’m sorry to bother you, but you must know that there is an enemy clan in your territory.  The Slavers are trying to come back.

Are you sure about that?  I thought I had taken care of them years ago.

I’m sure,‘ I shared with him part of my visions, giving him enough information to identify the place.

Are you alright? I had been worried about you.

Everything is just fine, I am fine.  I’m where I want to be, with whom I want to be.  I hope you know how much you mean to me, and that you understand why I had to leave.

I get it, the last time we talked explained your motivations, but I still would want you to trust me more.

It’s not a matter of trust.  I’m sorry, I would like to stay and chat, and if you want, we can talk some more tomorrow, but right now I have things to do.

Tomorrow.  I will be waiting for you.

No matter how much I would have preferred to stay with my brother, I still had to reach Dendro, and see if I could reach Malkia and warn her what was going on.  My first stop was with Dendro, and it wasn’t easy, but I finally could reach his dreams.

Dendro, it’s been a while,‘ I greeted him.

Are you a dream or real?‘ he asked.

I came to warn you that one of your men is going to betray you.  The group that left yesterday is not going to reach its destination, your Colonel is planning to sell them to your enemies, as slaves.  And you know who is part of that group.

Your daughters,‘ he said, immediately realizing the problem and the reason I was involved.

‘I will try to keep them safe, but they will need reinforcements, and it would be better if they were from your clan.’

‘Don’t worry, I won’t let anything happen to them,’ Dendro said, and I knew he meant that.

‘I would like to stay, but we both have work to do,’ I said, and I could tell he didn’t want our chat to end, but understood the need for action.  ‘Thanks for taking care of my daughters.  I know this is not your fault, but you must know that the blame belongs to someone very close to you.’

I left his mind before he had a chance to ask me any questions.  I knew that accusing Ivy directly wouldn’t be a good idea, it was enough to plant the seed of doubt.  There weren’t many people who would be interested in harming my daughters, and Dendro was smart enough to connect the dots.

I tried to contact Malkia, but after many failed attempts, I decided I was just wasting time, and that it would be better to leave and rest a little so I would be ready to fight.

Bonus

“I think it’s time to make it official,” Dendro told his partner Ivy.  “I will announce Malkia as Antrax’s partner.”

“I don’t see why you have to do that, there are women born and raised in this clan that are a better match for our son.  Women we know that will be able to give him heirs, we don’t know what the procedure could have done to Malkia, for all we know she could be sterile.”

“You know that our son only has eyes for Malkia, and that’s important.  Maybe she wasn’t born here, but that doesn’t mean she can’t be Antrax’s partner, she has proven herself a fearsome warrior.  Besides, you know the lineage she comes from, and it’s far better than that of any other woman you could push our son to.  And in the eventuality that she is unable to have children, well, there is time, if they can’t have children, then we will find him another partner in a few years.”

“You are not seeing reason.  She is not her mother, your obsession with Kaiserin is clouding your judgement.”

“I think the one who’s getting blinded by her obsession is you, your hate for Kaiserin is affecting how you see Malkia, enough that you can’t see what’s best for your son.  It’s clear that he has been interested in her since the beginning, and if you think that the accident that almost cost Malkia her life was an accident, then you are truly blind.”  Dendro saw something passing through his partner’s face, it was just a second, but it told him enough.  “You did know how close they were getting and say nothing.  Were you expecting our son to kill her?”

“Don’t you dare blame me for that, you are the one who did nothing to keep them apart, you encouraged them.  The only thing that surprises me is that you didn’t try to take her for yourself once she became immune to the family venom.”

“I would never do that to our son, he really wants her, he has fought for that chance.  It’s clear they belong together.”

“Is that what’s stopping you?  That your son claimed her first?  I know you would prefer that cheap copy by your side than me.”

“Don’t start with that again, you are the one who made this relationship harder than it had to be.  None of us had a choice in this union, we did it for our clan and its future, but now, Antrax has a real chance to be happy, and I don’t understand why you want to force him into a miserable relationship like ours.  I have done my best to respect you and give you your place, and I’m sorry if that wasn’t enough for you, but you knew what the deal was.”

“You never gave me the same kind of respect you give that woman who abandoned her clan and betrayed the Empire.  She can’t do anything wrong in your eyes, and you are still looking out for her, you are even taking care of her daughters.”

“It’s the least I can do for her, because despite your delusions and jealousy, you can’t deny that my people and I wouldn’t even be alive if it wasn’t for her.  I owe her a debt, and I won’t back out of it just because you can’t control yourself.  And I never planned or pushed for Antrax’s and Malkia’s relationship, that’s something that happened on its own.”

“I see that nothing I could say will change your mind, you are going to do whatever you want no matter how I feel or what I want,” Ivy knew that she didn’t stand a chance against Kaiserin’s daughters.  She had thought that Malkia’s poisoning was her chance to get rid of her, but she had survived, and even worse, thanks to the prisoner’s help, she was immune to Antrax’s venom, and that qualified her to be his partner.

“You are right about that, Antrax and Malkia will be official partners, and there’s nothing you can say to change my mind, and for your own good, and your son’s, I hope you can make your peace with that.  I will make the official announcement in a couple of hours during my meeting with the Generals.  It’s up to you if you want to stand by my side, or if you want to keep throwing your tantrum,” with those words, Dendro walked away, leaving a fuming Ivy behind.