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.”