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.

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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.

Chapter 24

“Are you sure about this?” Kimball asked, yet again.  “For years you have avoided the Empire, and now you want to go there, alone.”

“I need to visit Dendro.  But like I said, I won’t go to his clan, I just need to be close so I can reach him telepathically.”

“You said that Malkia was safe with him, why do you need to go talk to him?  Is there something you are not saying?”

“Everything is fine, you don’t have to worry about her.  Like I said, Dendro will keep her safe.  I just want to talk to him and thank him for what he did.  I think it’s only fair after he rescued my daughter from her enemies.  I just need to thank him.  He has always been there for me, it’s the least I can do.”

“You don’t owe him anything, you know that.”

“You are making this a bigger deal than it really is.  You have to go to the Empire, so do I.  I just thought that it would be better to go together, that’s all.”

Kimball had been angry that I hadn’t told him about Malkia right after I found out, but it was something in the past, I just didn’t think he needed to know, my daughter was safe thanks to Dendro and there was nothing we could do for her anyway.  But I should have realized that his annual trip to the Fortress wasn’t just because of Greca, he liked to visit Malkia as well, I knew they had even spoken a few times.  Kimball loved Greca and Malkia equally, even if only one of them had his blood, he felt responsible for both of them.

The hard part of preparing for our trip was convincing Faakhir that I needed some time off, but I managed to get the time without raising too much suspicion from Faakhir and the others.  Truth was, I didn’t want to go back to the Empire, it was something that I had avoided as much as I could, despite everything I was still afraid that someone would discover my presence there.  My last visit had been difficult, and I didn’t want a repeat.

But even with my fears and apprehensions I managed to go with Kimball to the Empire.  First, we took the jet to to the island, and from there we took a smaller plane to the Empire, one that would go unnoticed easily.  After a night camping together, we took our own paths, Kimball going to the Fortress, me moving closer to the Assassins’s territory.  It would be impossible to go all the way to their clan, but I had to move as close as I could without to be able to reach Dendro’s mind.  I was going to use a trick my brother was fond of, but it wasn’t something I was familiar with, and I needed a lot of focus to manage the same trick.  First of all, I needed to find a safe place where I could be safe while I was in a trance, I needed a fortified place in an area that was far enough to be outside their territory, but close enough to be able to reach Dendro.

It took me most of the day to arrive to my destination and then to build my refuge.  I used my powers to hide and protect the place, making it as strong as a small fortress, and hiding it in a way that no one could find it unless they knew exactly what they were looking for.  It took a lot of time and energy, but I needed to be sure that I would be safe before I could go and talk to Dendro.  I needed to be strong, because I wasn’t sure how he would receive me once I reached for him.

Finding and reaching his mind was even harder than I thought, but by midnight I had managed to do it.  Because Dendro wasn’t a telepath, his mind didn’t have the same structure than telepaths had, he didn’t have a mental landscape I could use, so I had to enter his dreams and modified them until I found a way to enter them.

I found myself in the middle of a room that looked like a lab, with tables full of gadgets, instruments and bottles that I had no idea what they were for.  Dendro was seated in front of one of the tables, looking at a book, but as soon as he noticed me standing there, he focused his attention on me.

‘This is nothing like the dreams I usually have with you, and this is not the place I usually dream when I’m with you.’

‘You know what’s going on, don’t you?’

‘Your brother has invaded my dreams a few times, so I’m hoping that you are invading my dreams and that it is really you who’s here with me.’

‘Let me tell you how sorry I am for the way I left.  I know that some of you felt like I was betraying you by leaving, and since I never explained what I did what I did, I don’t blame you for thinking the worst, but I spoke with my brother, and I hope he told you that I took this decision because I had no other choice.  And I want to thank you for what you did for me.  Despite the distance I have been trying to keep an eye on Malkia, and I felt terrible for not being there for you, and very grateful because you were.  You did for my daughter what I couldn’t do.’

‘I owe you a lot, it was the least I could do.  Besides, your daughter is a great warrior, it’s an honor to have her with me and help her become the best warrior she can be.’

‘My daughter is very important to me, and it hurts me that I can’t be there for her.  But knowing you are taking care of her I feel so much better.  Despite what my action could say, I really respect you and I consider you a true ally.  It was my fears and insecurities that drove me away without letting you know my plans, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate you.’

‘I don’t know what drove you away, but you have to know you can trust me.  I would like you to come back to us, I’m sure that despite the time you have been away, your clan will accept you back.  Your brother still misses you, and your allies want you back.  You could even take your daughter and be with her if that’s what you want.  Many people will be very happy to know you have an heiress.’

‘When my mother decided to keep me a secret, I felt that I wasn’t good enough for her to recognize as her daughter, but later I understood that she was doing that to protect me, she needed time to make sure I would be safe and no one would attempt to kill me.  My daughter will be a great warrior, but right now she is still vulnerable and being related to me puts her in danger.  Please, keep her hidden until she grows strong enough to face the dangers of being my daughter on her own.  Keep her away from my clan, at least for now.’

‘If that’s what you want, that’s what I will do.  I would never do anything to put her in danger, you can be sure that I will do my best to keep her safe.  Is there something I could say to convince you to come back?’

‘I’m sorry.  I would like to offer a good explanation for my actions, but I can’t.  From the moment I left my clan all my decisions have taken into consideration the best path for me at the moment.  I left my clan to protect my daughter, I stayed away to protect the clan and the Empire from a great danger, I’m still away to protect my own future.  I can’t tell you where I am or what I’m doing, but I can tell you that I’m needed there.  My brother is a great Emperor, this place is safe with him.’

‘When I will see you again?  Are you never coming back?’

‘I may visit you again, I would like to see my daughter in person, not just the astral planes.  And I would like to come back some day, when there is no more danger for me here, but I can’t right now.  I hope you understand and forgive me for this.’

‘I would like to have you here again.  I wish you could trust us enough to come back.  But if there’s nothing I could say or do to convince you to come back, then I will just make sure your daughter is safe with me.  As long as she is part of my clan, she is under my protection.’

‘Thank you.  I’m sure she will be ok here.’

I left Dendro’s mind, it had been good talking to him.  Despite only being able to see each other a few times through the years, we have developed a sincere friendship.  Even before helping him escape the New World Clan, his friendship with my brother had been extended to me.  When I lost my brother and he lost his sister, we saw comfort in each other.  Sometimes I suspected, by the way he looked at me, that there was more from Dendro’s side, but I like to pretend that his attention was because he felt like he owed me something and he needed to pay his debt.

I still had some time after talking to Dendro, so I decided to go into the astral planes and see if I could find Malkia.  I entered the astral planes and walked the first superior plane, trying to move closer to the Assassins’ territory.  Like all the big clans, they had astral sentries around their perimeter in the material plane and the first lower and superior planes.  I felt a presence similar to mine patrolling the planes, and I was pleasantly surprised to know Malkia had been promoted.  It was an important position, especially in a clan that wasn’t known for their psychic strength.  To have the strength and ability to walk the astral planes was something not everyone had.

I haven’t explained my daughter how to recognize essences in the astral planes, but someone had, for she detected me and came to me.

‘I knew it was you,’ she told me.  ‘Were you looking for me?’

‘Yes.  I needed to see how you were doing and I wanted to meet you, I just wasn’t expecting you to be working.  I guess I should congratulate you, you managed to obtain a great position.’

‘That’s what they told me.  They also said that being able to travel the astral planes was in my blood.  I told my superiors what had happened, they said you are my mother.  Is that true?’  She knew I couldn’t lie to a direct question like that.

‘It is.’

‘Why didn’t you say that from the beginning?’  In a place where it was impossible to hide, I could feel her hurt and confusion.  She felt betrayed because I had lied to her, if only by omission.

‘I told you in a way, I’m sorry I wasn’t clear.  Truth is, I wasn’t sure how you would take my words, most of the children taken to the Fortress are never claimed by their families and I didn’t know what you have heard about me now that you are in Dendro’s clan.  I didn’t want to tell you who I am just for you to reject my help.’

‘You’re right, you did try to tell me, but I refused to believe it could be possible.  I never allowed myself to think of a family, besides my sister.  And I have heard a lot about you since I arrived here, but not enough.  Everything they told me made me believe you were dead, because you would still be here otherwise, right?’

‘I left my clan a long time ago, for reasons I can’t explain.  But I have always been loyal to it, believe that, no matter what you hear.  I think Dendro understands, he knows I had a good reason to leave.’

‘Why did you leave?’

‘I’m afraid that I can’t tell you, not now anyway.  Some day you will know.’  I knew she wasn’t satisfied with my answer, no one was, but there were things I couldn’t say, especially not to her.  ‘I can’t be here for long, but I wanted to see if you had any questions about the astral planes, although I suppose that now you are an astral sentry, you are being taught what you need to know.’

‘Yes, they are teaching me to open my eyes and see beyond what’s in front of me.  Will I see you again?’

‘I will be with you when you need me, but for the moment you are in good hands.’

My visit had been far too short, but I knew the longer I stayed there, the more I would want to be closer to her.  I knew I could go to Dendro and ask him to welcome me into his clan, that I could be with my daughter, but I had other responsibilities waiting for me.  Besides, if my clan found out that I was with Dendro, he would get into trouble.  I needed to go back to my life and trust Malkia to be alright.

Chapter 57

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Traitor!” Caracalla was furious.

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

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

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

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

“And Vlads,” Kozlaks voice announced.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Did you doubt it?” Kozlak asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you sure you’re ok?”

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

 

 

Copyright © 2014 | Kaiserin Novel

Chapter 54

The voices reached me from afar, I wasn’t sure what was happening.

‘Kaiserin, wake up Kaiserin.’ I heard the voice in my head.  Maddan?

I did my best to wake up as he asked and I found myself in the center of a chaotic scene.  I couldn’t make sense of what was going on, I was too tired and my chest was hurting bad.  I saw Maddan’s concern, he was over me, pressing my chest, I tried to move and noticed that both his hands and my clothes were covered in blood.

“What happened here?  Get away from her!” Vasuman’s voice echoed in the hallway, he reached me and kneel on my other side, opposite from Maddan.

“If I let go, she dies.” Maddan said.  “Someone attacked her and if I don’t press on her wound she is going to bleed out.”

“I thought that she was going to be safe in here.  I shouldn’t have let her go alone.”  His fury to Maddan disappeared, it was replaced with something else, his voice was weird, but I couldn’t pinpoint what it was.

Darkness descended over me again.

I opened my eyes to find an unfamiliar face in a vaguely familiar place.

“Welcome back general,” the man said, “you scared us, you had a pretty nasty wound.”  He smiled in a way that I think was supposed to be comforting, but that only scared me more.  “You are very lucky, the knife would have pierced your heart if it wasn’t for your dextrocardia.

“Dextrocardia?” I had no idea what that meant.

“I mean your condition, Situs Inversus Totalis, your internal organs are in an inverted position, your heart is not on the left, but the right side of your body, that saved your life today.”

“No one ever told me about it.”  It was weird, it was something I thought I had heard before, but I couldn’t remember when or how.

“Maybe they assumed you knew, after all, it’s a condition that defines a true Maxima.”  He went over the papers in his hands.  “You will be fine, in a couple of hours you will be ready to leave, but I would prefer to keep you under observation for the night if that is ok with you.”

“I feel fine, I don’t need to stay.”  I needed to go out, find out what had happened.

“If that’s what you want, I will come back in a couple of hours to release you.”  He opened the door and I saw Kamose standing outside my room.

“How are you feeling?” He asked from the doorway.

“Fine, I’m fine.”

“Good.”  I couldn’t read his face, there was nothing in there, no emotions.  “Is good to see that you are a true Maxima, otherwise you would be dead right now.”  He said those words like it was a curse, and in a way it was.  He didn’t say another word, he just left.

A few minutes later Vasuman entered the room.

“How are you?” his voice was full of concern.

“I’m feeling alright, really, it wasn’t that bad, I just got distracted for a minute.”

“You were angry, you weren’t paying attention,” he accused, “if you were, they wouldn’t have had a chance of hurting you.”

“Yeah, it was a dumb mistake, but it won’t happen again.” I promised, but it was a promise I couldn’t keep.  The vision had left me at the mercy of my enemies, if it had lasted a little longer or my enemies had used a different weapon… But the worst part was that my vision was at the Palace, what if the seers had felt it?  Maybe they were already looking for me.

“I hope so.” Vasuman took my hand in his.  “I was so afraid I would lose you.”

“How did they get in the Palace?” that was my biggest concern.  “They didn’t look like part of the Clan.”

“No,” he confirmed, “one of them was from the Bronze Clan, another from the Toreador Clan, we haven’t been able to identify the third one.”

“Third one?” I just remembered two of them.

“Yeah, there were three men trapped in your spikes, one of them had the weapon they used to hurt you, the others were close to him.”

“I’m glad I used a wide attack, otherwise I would have been at the mercy or the third one.”

“Maybe, maybe not.  The noise of your fight alerted the guards, they reached you in a matter of seconds.”

“I’m sure that Caracalla as the one to convince them to attack me.  It’s not impossible to think that he can convince a few Palace soldiers to come after me as well.”

“It’s possible,” Vasuman kissed my hand before letting it go, “but is not something you had to worry about right now, we have time to figure out what to do. Right now you have to rest.”

As promised the doctor returned a couple of hours later and let me go after taking the IV out and giving me some care instructions. Vasuman walked me to my room and after a receiving Lamia, Inionri, Agis, Geb and Kozlak for a brief visit, I finally went to sleep.

Next morning Vasuman and I had a light breakfast in my room, by noon I felt strong enough to leave the room and convinced Vasuman that it was safe for me to go to the banquet.

I had to dress with with baggy clothes to avoid hurting my wound.  My bandage was visible and I spent a lot of time trying to fix my clothes to cover it, unsuccessfully.

“Don’t take it as a sign of weakness,” Vasuman told me when he saw me in front of the mirror, “is a sign of your victory.”  His words surprised me, but he was right, I was still alive, but my attackers were dead.

“Thanks.”  I was really grateful for his words, they gave me the confidence to face the day.

It was a short walk from the room to the hall where the banquet was taking place.  The guards opened the doors for us and I could see that the place was almost full.  Generals, heirs and representatives from the Allied Clans were already there.  Close to the entrance were Curare and Rex, near them, Dendro and Ivy were talking to another couple from a Clan I couldn’t identify.  I went into the room and when Curare saw me she walked towards me.

“Kaiserin, dear.”  Her greetings were as warm as a Clan leader could give.  “I heard rumors about an attack, I didn’t know where you were or I would have gone to help with your treatment.”  Curare’s approach had gotten the attention of people around us, her words even more.  Curare was a woman with great knowledge of the human body, she was able to save or destroy the body, she was feared as a great assassin, but also praised for her healing hands.

“It would have been my honor, but it was just a scratch, nothing to worry about.”  Dendro and Rex had also approached us.  “I just needed to rest, the attack was a surprise and I went all out to defend myself.”

“We went through the hallway where you were attacked,” Rex said, “and I’m sure it wasn’t easy to create that much spikes.”

“It was easy, but exhausting,” I explained, “defense and attack at the same time is hard on the mind.”

“I’m sure it is, but once again you showed your strength, Sultana’s daughter.  I haven’t forgotten what you did for my Clan in the battle against the New World Clan, you also went far beyond what others were expecting of you on that occasion.”

“You should have seen her against the Beasts,” Vasuman added, “not even Sultana herself could have done a better job.”  Vasuman’s words surprised me once again, but I felt good with his praise.

“Then it’s not strange that she was able to defend herself that way, it was an excellent piece of work, a defense like that.”  I didn’t recognize the person talking, but from her clothes and the fact that Padres was with her I supposed she was from the Toreador Clan.  “I can’t believe that my men were involved in the attack, but I assure you they weren’t acting with my Clan’s knowledge.”

“You need to take control of your men Bravia,” Vasuman said before she could add anything else, “to attack an heiress of your hosting Clan is a grave offense.”  The woman that Vasuman called Bravia said nothing, but her smile turned old and her eyes shone with a warning.

The group around me had grown since my arrival, apparently news of my attack had reached the Allied Clans, and they were curious to see the girl that had filled the hallway with spears.  I saw Kamose approaching us, followed by Bunefer, a girl I didn’t know, Trajan and a bitter Caracalla.

“Kaiserin, what are you doing here?” Kamose asked.

“I have a right to be here as a general of the Empire.”  I said, feeling defensive.

“You were just attacked, you should be resting.”  I didn’t know if he was truly concerned about my well being or just searching for an excuse to send me away.

“This is nothing, don’t you remember my time as a soldier?  I had to do harder things than assist to a friendly gathering with worse injuries than a cut.”  Kamose didn’t even flinch, but he knew what I was referring to, Vasuman was fidgeting, uncomfortable with my words.  Of the rest of the people there, the only one who knew what I was talking about was Curare, she had taken care of my injuries after the battle with the New World Clan and she had seen the signs of torture.

“As you wish,” Kamose accepted.  “I just expect you to control yourself, I don’t want another scene like yesterday.”  I felt my face heating by his words, I felt humiliated, especially seeing Caracalla’s grin.

“I’m sorry about my behavior yesterday and I assure you it won’t happen again.”

“Also, stay away from my sons, I don’t want to repeat your last visit, either.”  He added in a whisper.

“Don’t worry Emperor, I left my ideas of revenge behind me.  It’s not me who you should be warning”  I didn’t look at Caracalla, but I hoped he understood my meaning.

“You can’t change that much in such a short time,” Caracalla said, “you are still the same crazy girl obsessed with revenge.”

“You are mistaken Caracalla,” I let a lazy smile fill my lips, “it’s not me who is obsessed.”  His smile disappeared.  “I don’t have hard feeling for you, in fact, I’m grateful,” it was just a flash, but I saw surprise in the faces around me, “I wouldn’t be who I am if it wasn’t for you,” I explained. “After my mother’s death, I would probably have been lost in anonymity, I just wanted to be a captain, I was happy following orders and doing what I was told, I had no further aspirations. But thanks to you my priorities changed, you showed me how painful it can be to be under someone else’s control, you made me want to be on the top.  Besides, you have provided me with the best training I could wish for, because when your life is on the line you discover everything you are capable of, I have grown and improved more than I thought I was capable off while fighting for my life.”  Caracalla’s face was getting distorted, his mental attack was vicious and strong, but I focused on repealing it, on not showing how it was affecting me.  It was painful, but not as painful as when I had to fight for my memories.  “My power, my strength, my position, none of that would be possible without you.”  Caracalla threw himself at me before I even finished my speech. His fist hit my psychic wall, just a few inches away from my face.

“Caracalla!” Kamose admonished.  “This is not the time nor the place,”  turning to me he added, “stop provoking him.”  As always, it was my fault, not his.

“I’m sorry Emperor, it wasn’t my intention, I was just trying to be grateful.”  I knew my words weren’t fooling Kamose, but it didn’t matter, it had been perfect.  For once, it was Caracalla who had broken the rules, he had attacked a superior, and worse, one that was still injured in what everyone knew was an attack orchestrated by him.  The whispers and quiet laughs on the room were because of the Emperor’s son and his outburst.

“I’m warning you Kaiserin, behave yourself.”  With that Kamose grabbed Caracalla by the arm and walked to the other side of the room.  I knew that they were talking, but I couldn’t hear their psychic conversation.

“Kaiserin, can you join us for a moment?”  Vajira asked.  “We have a gathering of Tzar’s descendants and you should be there.”

“Of course,” I agreed, “if you excuse me, I have to go.” I said to the people I had been talking to before Kamose’s arrival.

“Don’t disappear, we still have a lot to talk about,”  Dendro asked.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Vajira asked Vasuman when he followed us, “this is just for people with royal blood.”

“I go wherever Kaiserin goes.”

“Please Vasuman, just give me a minute.”  Not looking happy, Vasuman let me go.

Most of Tzar’s children were there, at least those still alive.  Once we were all together, in a corner far from the other groups of people Adze turned to me.

“This is not what we agreed,” she as angry, but her voice was controlled, she didn’t want people to overhear our conversation.  “You were supposed to kill Caracalla.”

“No,” I whispered back, “I told you I wanted to destroy him, and that’s what I intend to do.”  Adze didn’t look convinced.  “His obsession will be his destruction, he’s losing control, he will make a mistake that will cause even Kamose to turn his back on him.  He will destroy himself, all I have to do is wait.”

“You have grown since we last talked,” Jomei said, “I didn’t expect it.”

“I’m sorry, I know this wasn’t in your plans.”  No, they wanted a crazy and easy to manipulate Kaiserin.  “But don’t worry for me, I will stay out of your way as long as you do the same for me.”

“You have had a couple of lucky breaks and a couple of good calls, that doesn’t make you one of us,” Isis warned.  “We’re still stronger and more experienced than you.”

“Of course aunt, I know that.”  I needed them to keep underestimating me.  “Now, if you said everything you wanted to say I need to go look for my cousins.”

“Inionri and the others are waiting for you.”  Khreb told me.  “You are right, go with them, they are more appropriate company for you.”  Appropriate, what he meant was they are like you, children with a bright future, but currently meaningless.  I let the veiled insult go.

“Thanks uncle, I’ll see you later.”

I didn’t take long to find the group where my cousins and allies were.  Kozlak, Geb, Agis, Inionri and Lamia were still concerned about my health, but were happy to see me.  They were my group, my supporters.  Caracalla had his lackeys, I had my family, my friends.

For a while I was able to forget about the court intrigues and my work responsibilities.  I knew that Caracalla’s intrigues were only going to get worse, and I also needed to be careful about my uncles and aunts, they were already seeing me as competition.  But at that moment I was safe, I was able to be free with my friends.  They had also grown since our last meeting, they were stronger, smarter, better prepared.  I had kept contact with most of them by astral projection, but not all of them had that ability.  I enjoyed the opportunity to be with them, and for a little while I was able to relax, I could be free with them.

I heard a commotion and noticed that Bunefer as discussing with a man, one that made me shiver.

“Who is he?” I asked.  The man wasn’t tall, neither he looked strong, he was rather average and common looking, he was part of the Clan, but instead of uniform he was wearing a brown tunic.  But despite his harmless look he made me afraid.

“That’s Enoch from the Vlad Family, leader of the Seers,”  Lamia told me.

“He’s the leader of the Seers? What is he doing here?”  That explained the fear, it was feeling, maybe a premonition, that he was dangerous to me.  If he found out about my new power he could force me to go with him and I would lose my future.

“It is said that he is after Bunefer’s daughter, Feldem.  He says that she is a seer and that he’s going to take her as soon as her powers manifest,” she explained, “but Bunefer doesn’t want to let her go, she is trying to get Caracalla interested in her.”

“Her powers haven’t manifested and he’s already looking for her?”  Was it true then that they haven’t noticed my own powers?  Was I safe?

“I don’t know how this thing work,” Inionri said, “but as I understand a seer can tell when another seer is going to manifest.”

Our conversation focused on the seers and the lives they had, how controlled and lonely it was, for their own protection.  At least my episode the day before explained why they had to be protected, they were too valuable and the visions made us vulnerable.  Still, the idea of being one of them terrified me.  I needed to escape their notice at least until I could get rid of Caracalla for good.

Several slaves with trays of food started to walk among us.  One of them approached us and offered us food.  I noticed my favorite foods on the tray, my mouth was watering just by seeing the food.  I took one of the bites and when I was about to put it my mouth Dendro appeared and grabbed my wrist, putting the bite of food in his own mouth.

“Hey, that was mine.” I said, surprised by his actions.

“No, it’s mine now,” he said, “besides, I don’t think you can enjoy it like me, the poisonous flavor is not something you’re used to.”

“Poison?” Geb asked, he was about to eat one of the foods from the tray.

“Yes, I would suggest not to eat anything from this tray.” Dendro warned.

The slave holding the tray was getting nervous, not that he didn’t have reason to be, everyone around us was getting agitated and he was an easy target.

“How did you know it was poisoned?” Agis asked Dendro.

“I suspected it.  You know my Clan is not the only one that likes to play with poisons, were just the best at it,” he said proudly.  “This slave was with the people from the Death Clan before coming here, Caracalla was there and told him to come here.  I suspected they were planning something.”

“I’m sorry.” The slave said, he was shaking.

“Can you identify the poison and the Clan that uses it?” I asked Dendro.  This could be a great opportunity.

“By tasting them, I can only know if is poisonous or not.  To know who made it, I would need to analyze it in the lab.”

“Take your tray and go offer it to Curare, then take the tray to the Emperor’s group.”  I ordered the slave.

“But…”  the slave was terrified.

“Do it!” I ordered, putting all the authority I could behind my voice.

“What are you trying to do?” asked Inionri.

“You’ll see.”

We saw the slave across the room, offering food to Curare, she took a bite in her hand but didn’t eat it immediately.  The slave wasn’t moving so I used my mind to push him towards Kamose’s group.  The slave went and offered the food to them, Kamose ignored it, but Bunefer took a bite.  Before she could taste it Curare approached her and told her not to eat it.  I saw Caracalla walking towards them in a hurry.

“This looks interesting.” Lamia said.

The slave kneel in front of Kamose, letting the tray drop, the noise got everyone’s attention.  A weird silence fell over the gathering, Kamose’s eyes were surveying the place.  I felt his eyes lingering over me and I wondered if he could find a way to blame it on me, but he continued his search until his eyes fell on the Death Clan, they were already moving towards the door.

“Nothing to worry about,” Kamose’s voice echoed in the place, “nothing but a clumsy slave.”

Little by little the people got back to their talks and the noise of conversations grew again.

“Warning my mother so she could avoid an accident and then forcing Kamose to investigate by himself, is certainly more effective than accusing Caracalla.” Dendro said.

“He wouldn’t have believed either of us,” I said, “but unless Caracalla was able to put some impressive locks on that poor slave’s mind, Kamose is going to find everything he needs to see it was Caracalla’s doing. I know he wouldn’t care if he killed me, but endangering the other heirs is unforgivable.”

“Cool!” Lamia said as she hugged me.

“What did you do this time?” Vasuman asked, apparently he had decided he had given me enough alone time.

“This time? I did nothing.” I smiled.  “That’s the best part.”  I watched as Kamose guided Caracalla outside the room, the Death Clan had already left, but I was sure that they were already under arrest.

How are you going to escape this time Caracalla? I wondered before turning my attention back to my friends and their conversation.

 

Copyright © 2014 | Kaiserin Novel

Chapter 53

I heard the door of my room opening, I saw a figure walking in the dark, it was dawn, but the sun was just starting to rise and the light wasn’t enough to see but shadows and figures.  The figure was Vasuman’s, the face and the body were definitely his, but the mind was different.

“Did I wake you up?” Vasuman’s voice, but something was wrong, his eyes were wrong.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“You know who I am.” He closed the distance between us.

I threw a psychic punch in his direction, but he somehow knew and dodged, he took something out of his belt and I jumped out of bed just in time to avoid the bullets.  I didn’t hear the detonation, just a buzz, he was using a silencer.  I threw another psychic punch, but bigger, affecting a wider area than before. I was rewarded by the sound of a body hitting the wall.  The person wearing Vasuman’s face recovered faster than I thought and lifted his hand, he was holding something.  A flash of light left me blind, but instinct made me lift the bed and put a barrier between us.  More bullets hit the bed, some made it through, but not one got to me.  I extended my senses, remembering Jomei’s teachings I looked for his mind and attacked.  I heard his scream, confident he was distracted, I threw the bed to him.  The noise alerted my guards and they entered the room to investigate.  I moved forward and saw my attacker trying to get from under the bed, I took him with my mind and lifted him in the air.  I saw his face changing, he was a metamorph, one of Caracalla’s assassins.

“Are you alright general?” asked one of the guards, the rest was just getting inside the room.

“We have an impostor.”  I couldn’t blame them for the mistake, he did look like Vasuman, but they had made a big mistake, one that could have cost me my life.  “Do your job.” I said as I threw him at them.  “Question him and then kill him.”  Two guards grabbed the man and took him out of my room.

It had been months since Kamose had accepted me as a general.  In that time the number of attempts on my life had increased a lot.  I had tried to find how Caracalla was orchestrating the attempts against me, but how he recruited his hitmen was still a mystery to me, I only knew that he was the one behind the attacks.

I couldn’t stay in the room and pretend I could go back to sleep, besides, I had destroyed my bed and needed a new one.  I dressed and ordered my men to clean the mess and fix my room, then I went to my office.  I needed to change my guards, I couldn’t let something like that happen again.

“Are you ok?”  Vasuman walked into my office, directly to me.  He was the real one, I was sure of it.

“I’m fine, nothing happened.”  I tried to make it sound like it wasn’t a big deal, but Vasuman was angry, the room temperature had risen a few degrees when he walked in.

“This wouldn’t have happened if you were sleeping in my room.”  It was an old discussion, one that I didn’t want to repeat again.  Vasuman took me into his arms and kissed me intensely and desperately, I tried to push him off me, but I couldn’t.  “Tonight you will sleep in my room, and tomorrow we will leave together for the reunion.”  His tone was definitive and I was too tired to discuss, I had a lot of things to do before leaving and a short time to do it.  For the first time I was going to be part of the general’s reunion at the Palace, and I wanted to be prepared.

The journey to the Palace was both shorter and larger than I expected.  I was desperate to arrive, but as we got closer nervousness took over. I didn’t go through one of the back entrances, I went through the main entrance, I wanted everyone to know I had arrived.

The first reunion was going to take place the following day, Vasuman and I were the last group to arrive, the rest of the generals attending were already there.  But I didn’t want to talk to them just yet, it was Rex.  I knew he had arrived, and since he was an important ally I needed to see him and make sure everything was fine between us.  While Vasuman was busy I went looking for Rex’s camp, between the first and second walls.

“Greetings Rex, leader of the Predators.”  He was looking good, he had the presence and confidence of a true leader.  Felinae was standing beside him.

“Greetings general Kaiserin.”  He walked to me, without letting Felinae go.  She was looking better than the last time I had seen her, she wasn’t wearing her collar or the chain, but most importantly, she was glaring at me, her eyes full of fury and hate towards me.  For some reason I felt better because of that, I preferred the hateful stare to the empty one.

“I hope you had a good travel, are you ready for your first reunion?”

“I am, it will be a good chance to talk to all the Allied Clans and introduce myself to all the generals.”  I let Rex guide me to his tent.  I noticed that the place was surrounded by female guards, I supposed it was a precaution, because of Felinae’s powers.

“How are you?” I asked.

“I’m perfectly fine,” he smiled and looked at Felinae, “I’m having an heir.”  Felinae averted her eyes and I didn’t know how to interpret her action.

“Congratulations Rex, I’m sure your heir will be a great warrior.”  I felt envious of Felinae, she was going to have what I wanted most, a child.

“He will be.” Rex said.  “I must thank you again for your gift, it was even better than I expected.  Could you leave us for a moment?” Rex asked Felinae.

“Why?” Her voice wasn’t as confident or strong as before, but at least she was talking.

Rex talked to her in the dialect of their Clan, Felinae wasn’t happy, but she obeyed.  I was surprised by the exchange between them.

“Are you going to let her out on her own?” I asked.

“Yeah, is easier to deal with her if she feels she has some freedom, she tried to escape a couple of times, but the guards around here have orders not to let Felinae out of their sights, if she tries something she won’t get far.”

“I’m surprised by the change in the way you treat her, I wasn’t expecting it.”

“You were the one who asked me to treat her better,” he reproached, “but I have to thank you for that, once she started talking again, I found out she has a lot to say, she is a natural leader.  I hope once her Clan is annihilated and she has nowhere to go, she will embrace her new role.”

“And what role is that?”

“The mother of my heir.”

“Of course.”  Maybe that was what the vision was about, they were supposed to have a child together.

“What are your plans?”

“My plans?”

“Our alliance, you need me for something, I want to know what are you planning so I can help you better.”  When had he become so perceptive?

“All I need from you is to be there, that will be enough to prove them that I’m as capable as any of them.”

After talking with Rex and catching up I went back to the Palace.  I thought about going to look for my friends, but I was too tired and needed some sleep.

Vasuman spent the night with me, I couldn’t convince him that I was safe in the Palace, I suspected that he was using his need to protect me as an excuse to possess me.

I was scared of breakfast with the other generals, I didn’t know how I was going to react to being there.  I arrived with Vasuman, all the seats near the Emperor were taken, so I went to the other end of the table, my mother’s siblings were there.  I knew that they already knew about my promotion to general.

“Greeting Kaiserin.” Isis said.  Adze was seated next to her and both of them were looking at me with curiosity.  Both were my mother’s sisters, from different Families.

“Greetings.” I said, politely, but blunt.

“I hadn’t had the chance to thank you for the help you gave my daughter Net in the Shadows.”

“Nothing to thank me for aunt,” I smiled at her, “isn’t that what family is for?  Helping each other in moments of need? Extending your hand to those who need it?” I added sarcastically, Isis didn’t show any remorse, but she did look away, she knew what I meant, she had turned her back on me when I had needed her most.

“I heard an interesting rumor,” Jomei said, taking a seat close to us, “a rumor about Boyar.”

“Is not a rumor brother, she killed Boyar.” Adze said.

“I think that there are several individuals that would thank you for that,” Jomei told me, “but I think it was a childish act of revenge on your part.”

“You can think whatever you want, but it was necessary, wasn’t Boyar the one who said that the path to success is paved with the body of your enemies?”  Our talk was getting attention, people around us was listening to us, although the generals were usually in very discreet, the way their bodies were inclining to us betrayed their interest.

“Did you consider Boyar your enemy?” Adze asked surprised.

“Well, he wasn’t my ally, that’s for sure.”

“But he was with you, helping you recover your strength.” Khreb said.

“No, he was with me, trying to control me, trying to make me a pawn in his twisted games.  He made my life a living hell, and I don’t forgive and forget.” It wasn’t the conversation that I wanted to have, I was getting angry, about to lose control of my emotion, and I couldn’t risk that.

“You should control your tone of voice,” Vajira, one of my mother’s sisters advised, “your talk could be taken as a threat.”

“Why would it be taken as a threat?” I asked.  “Just because you abandoned me and turned your backs on me when I needed you doesn’t mean that I will start a vendetta against you.”  The generals moved uncomfortably in their seats, Vasuman put his hand on my arm and squeezed in a silent warning.  “Don’t worry aunt, I’m done wasting my time in revenge, I found better things to do with my time.”

“I hope you gave a good use to my teachings,” Jomei said, “don’t use it against us.”

The slaves started to place food on our plates and the conversation ended.  New conversations started, but everyone was trying to ignore me, it was fine by me, I was done talking.

After breakfast we moved to another room where we spent our time talking about relevant events in the different sectors of the Empire.  When it was our turn I spoke, instead of Vasuman, and took my time talking about the metal extraction that was under our supervision.  Everything was going according to plan and the supply was steady to all the sectors.  The metal crisis was averted and a major issue solved.  The generals looked at me without showing any emotion, but I knew they were angry and envied my success, I was the youngest general and the one that had solved their problem.

We didn’t discuss the Beasts, that was an issue for the afternoon talk, once the leaders of the Allied Clans joined our talks.  The Beasts were a problem for all of us.

After lunch we had some free time and I decided to walk, I found Rex and his brother Sable in one of the hallways, it was a fortunate encounter.

“Rex, how are you?” I greeted him.

“Greetings general.” Rex smiled at me, but his brother was ignoring me.  “We’re on our way to the throne room, my brother is to attend the reunion as heir of my Clan, at least until my heir is old enough to attend.”  Sable scowled at the comment, Rex was already making plans for his heir and it wasn’t even born yet.

“Allow me to be your guide,” I asked, “I know the fastest route to the throne room.”

“I’ll be honored.” Rex said.

There were just a few heirs in the room, most from the Allied Clans, I saw Dendro talking to a group of young warriors, the heiress to the Naturalist Clan and Lamia, who was glued to a young man I didn’t recognize, among them.

“Kaiserin!” Lamia cried out and ran to me.  “It was you, wasn’t it?  You sent my invitation to the reunion.”

“You are an heiress Lamia, you belong in here.”  I knew that after her father’s death no one had invited her to the reunion, just a general could do that, and I did it for her.

“Thank you Kaiserin.”  She hugged me, and for some reason I felt uncomfortable with the contact.

“Where are Kozlak and the others?” I was hoping to find my cousins and allies there.

“I don’t know.” Lamia shrugged.

“Kaiserin, is a pleasure to see you again.”  Dendro was smiling at me, but looking wary at Rex.

“Allow me to introduce you to Rex, leader of the Predators, and his brother Sable, heir of his Clan.”  Rex inclined his head as a greeting, but Sable kept ignoring me.  “They are the newest addition to the Empire.”

“Yeah, I heard about that.”  Dendro looked more like a leader every time I saw him, his presence was imposing and confident.  “Would you be free in the afternoon?  I would like to chat with you.” Dendro asked me.

“I’m sorry, but she will be busy.” Lamia answered for me.  “Family reunion.”

“Later then.” Dendro agreed.

“So you are the famous Kaiserin.” The man that had been with Lamia said.  “I’m Pedres, heir of Clan Toreador, I’m afraid I wasn’t here on your last visit, but I heard a lot about it.”  I was about to talk when a commotion at the door distracted me.

Caracalla was arriving, and he wasn’t alone, all his lackeys were with him.  He walked in as if he owned the place, but when he looked at me he froze.

“I didn’t think you would dare to show your face in here.”  Caracalla said once he recovered from the shock of seeing me.

“Who is he?” Rex asked me.  I gave Caracalla a bored look, I wasn’t going to let him affect me.

“He is no one important.” I answered.  Lamia laughed and I could see a smile on Dendro’s lips.  “I’m sorry for the interruption Pedres, you were saying?”

“What are you doing here?” Caracalla asked.  I felt the pressure of his mind and a few others, the combined attack was strong, but I was stronger.  “Are you here to try and kill me again?”

“Try?” Rex looked surprised, but I could see he was putting an act.  “You don’t strike me as a person who try, you’re more like a person who do.” He told me.  “Specially after the way you annihilated the Beasts.”

“I tried,” I confirmed Caracalla’s statement, “I would have done it, but Caracalla is like an elusive bug, always hiding behind his lackeys or his father, is hard to get to him.”  He was enraged by my words, his attack became vicious and I had to use all my strength just to stay standing, I wanted to curl and grab my head, but I wasn’t going to let him know he was affecting me.

“How dare you!” Caracalla was livid, he signaled two of his men to attack me.  I leaned over Lamia, as if I wanted to share a secret with here, but I was using her as support, while I used my mind to get my psychic wall up.

It was hard for me to maintain my wall and repel the mental attack and Lamia knew it, she started pouring energy into me.  She laughed again as if I was saying something funny.  The attacks stopped and I let my wall down.

“It was fun talking to you,” I said to my friends, ignoring Caracalla, “but I have to go, Rex and I have a meeting to attend.  I’ll see you later.

“You won’t be able to leave so easily.”  Caracalla warned me.  A group of people was surrounding us, several people were watching us with curiosity.

“Get out of my way, I don’t have time for you.”  I tried to sound bored, and I did.

“I don’t know what game you are playing, but I don’t buy it, do you think I will believe you forgot about your vengeance?”

“What’s his problem?” Rex asked.

“He’s afraid of me.”  The air was getting heavy and my mind was about to explode.  The group around me made them think twice about attacking me physically, but no one could defend me from their telepathic attacks.  I needed to get out of there or I was going to pass out. “I was afraid of him once, but then I realized that he is like a mosquito, annoying and hard to kill, but ultimately harmless.”

“You!” Caracalla accused someone at the entrance of the room.  “You were supposed to keep her away, to keep her under control.”  The people moved and I saw Vasuman walking towards me, but he wasn’t looking at me, he was looking at Caracalla.

“Don’t you dare to blame me,”  Vasuman’s voice echoed in the room, “this is all your fault.”  He is angry at Caracalla and for a moment I wasn’t sure what was going on.  “Everything was perfect until you interfered!”  Vasuman’s fire was started to grow and people were moving away from him.  “If you had not attacked her, if you weren’t so obsessed over killing her we wouldn’t be here.  It was you! You and your hitmen!  Every attack makes her stronger, every killing attempt gives her more weapons.”  I had to get out of there, I was at my limit and I didn’t want to hear Vasuman.  I walked with Rex to the exit, I looked at Caracalla just before I reached the door and noticed his fury and incredulity at Vasuman’s words.  Vasuman was doing a better work at affecting him as I did.  “She was perfect,” Vasuman continued, “she was submissive and obedient, but you changed her, you are the reason of her defiance and her promotion to general.”  Caracalla was losing control, it was fun to see him trying to keep calm, but I couldn’t stay there anymore, I had to leave.

We arrive to the room where the next meeting was going to take place, most of the Clan leaders and generals were already there.  It wasn’t long before the last people arrived, Vasuman was one of the last to arrive.  The most important issue to discuss was the Beasts Clan.  Thanks to the information I gathered and the information that Kamose was able to take out of Felinae’s mind, we had a good idea where the tribes were going to be.  The battle to come was the most important since the battle where my mother died.

The plan was coming together quickly and most of us agreed with the action to take, but as Kamose started to give orders I noticed that he had nothing for us.

“What’s the role of sector 32 in this?” I dared to ask when the meeting was about to finish and still he hadn’t assigned any task to us.

“You won’t be needed in this battle,” he said dryly.  “This is a very important mission and we need experimented warriors.”

“With all due respect Emperor, but we have more experience fighting the Beast than any other here.” I felt betrayed, I knew that Kamose was letting me out on purpose and it wasn’t fair.  “It was I who discovered his Clan structure after defeating several of their tribes.  I’m the only one who hasn’t been attacked by them in the last months, they fear me.”

“Then you have done enough, no need to do more.” Kamose’s condescending was infuriating.

“That’s right Kai, let the adults handle this.” Bunefer said.

“Stay out of this.” I told her.

“Should I remind you who are you talking to?” No need, I knew Bunefer was Kamose’s second in command, and I suspected she was even more than that.

“Should I remind you who’s the stronger between us?” I realized it was a mistake as soon as the words left my mouth.

“Damn you!” Bunefer was furious and out of her seat.

“I say, stay out of this.” I used my mind to push her back into her seat, then I bent the metal in the chair to trap her there.

“Kaiserin!” Kamose warned me.  He was taking Bunefer’s side.  Always a Regal before me.

I had spent a lot of time trying to figure out what my father wanted from me, what to do for him to accept me.  My eyes were the problem.  Something so trivial was the only reason he didn’t want me, if I had Regal eyes he would call me his daughter. I had learnt some tricks from Zounkla and now that Kamose was staring at me, I took the opportunity to use those tricks.  I trapped him in an illusion, one where the Kaiserin in front of him had violet eyes, the eyes of a true Regal.

‘I’m your daughter,’ I screamed in his mind, ‘when are you going to accept me?  I’m better than Caracalla and you know it, I’m better than that tramp you keep by your side.’  Kamose couldn’t take his eyes off of me, the others were watching us, amused and scared.

‘What did you do?’ he asked telepathically.  ‘What kind of trick is this?”

‘I want to show you what I can be, you toss me aside for something so stupid as my eyes, but I’m a Regal, just like you, I’m a telepath with double mind.’

‘You can’t be that, you are your mother’s daughter, a Maxima. Now stop this before I get really angry.’

“Father, listen to me!” I screamed in frustration, not realizing that I spoke aloud until I felt the stares on me.

“You are not my daughter,” Kamose said, I could hear the anger in his icy voice.  “General Kaiserin, if you are not capable of behaving, I will have to ask you to leave.”

Humiliated and ashamed I left as soon as I could.  It wasn’t fair!  It wasn’t fair!  Everything was going so well and I had to let Kamose’s rejection affect me again.  I had made a fool of myself in front of every important person in the Empire. Caracalla would be so happy when he heard about it.

I was mad at Kamose, at Caracalla, even myself… I was so angry that I wasn’t paying attention, at first I didn’t even realize something was going on, not until I was in front of a familiar scene, one that I had seen in my dreams, but it was from another perspective, I was watching my death.  This time I was not participating, I was watching it.  The vision started to fade and I felt a sharp pain in my chest, I looked down just as my vision receded, and saw a dagger, I felt a pull and the dagger left my body.  I pressed the wound, trying to stop the blood, weakened I fell on my knees.

“That was easier than I expected.”  I moved to see who was talking, I saw two men in front of me, one of them was cleaning a dagger in his jacket.  “This is the easiest job I have ever done, I didn’t even need your help.”

“Why is she still moving?” The other one asked.  “Are you sure you pierced her heart?  There’s not enough blood, it should be more blood.”

I saw darkness filling my vision, I put one hand on the floor and connected to it.  The man with the dagger was close, he lifted the dagger again, but before he could stab me again, I gathered all my strength and filled the hallway with rock spears.  I had no strength to try that twice, so I used as many as I could, expecting at least one to get them.

I heard noise around me and saw several guards running at me, I knew I was about to pass out, but I tried to remain conscious, I was surrounded by enemies and I don’t know if the ones approaching are friends or enemies.  I try to fight, I know this is not how I die, I just saw my death and it wasn’t like that.  Sure that I’m not dying, I let the coldness surround me and take me out.

 

Copyright © 2014 | Kaiserin Novel

Assassins

“I have a job for you,” said the young imperialist to Curare, leader of the Assassins Clan.

“Speak.” Dendro said.  He was seating next to his mother.  He knew the young man, he remembered him from the reunions, he was part of Caracalla’s inner circle.

“Our clans have always been close allies” the young man ignored Dendro, talking to Curare, “we have always been there for each other.  Now I have a job that can strengthen the ties that keep us together, a job that will cement the future for our Clans.”

“Do you speak for the Emperor?” Curare asked.

“I came here in representation of the future of my Clan.”

“You speak for Caracalla, don’t you?” Dendro asked.  “You think he is the future of your Clan.”

“I represent the Imperial Clan, that’s all you should care about.” He snapped.

“Are you sure that is how you should talk to the current leader and the future leader of the most important Clan in the Empire after your own?”  Curare voice was cold, and the young man lost his composure for a moment, letting them see his fear.

“If I ofended you I appologize, it wasn’t my intention.” The young man bowed to them.

“Say what you have to say, we’re done wasting our time.” Dendro said.

“You are the Assassin’s Clan, there’s no one better than you to get rid of someone dangerous.  And there is a person that if left alive will became a danger to all of us, we need to get rid of her.”

“That kind of requests is usually done through the Clan’s representatives, I don’ see why you asked to see us.”

“This is a very important job, and it requires care and discretion.”

“We know how to do our job, you don’t need to come here and tell us how to do it.”  Dendro had a bad feeling about it.

“If it wasn’t important I wouldn’t be here.  You saw what happened in the last reunion.  Kaiserin, Sultana’s daughter is out of control, she’s gone crazy.  By allowing her to live our Clan is suffering, conflicts are growing between factions, and we don’t even know what she will do next.  Is better for all of us if she disappears.”

“You came here to ask us to kill Sultana’s daughter?” Curare asked.

“That’s right.  For the future of our Clan.  But don’t worry, we will pay you for this, whatever you want.  I’m prepared to offer you territories and slaves in exchange of your sevices.”

“Kaiserin is not crazy.”  Dendro knew that he couldn’t act on impulse, but he wanted to beat the young man in front of him.  “She was just getting revenge, payment for the wrongs done to her.  She is not out of control and she is not a danger to us.”

“I agree that is best if the same situation doesn’t repeat itself,” Curare said, “but we also avoid it by killing Caracalla.”  The young man’s face went pale.  “Tell your boss that we won’t take the job.  What he offers me is nothing compared to what Kaiserin has already given me.  Our loyalty to your Clan remains, but we are betting in a different future.”

“You’re making a mistake.”  The young man’s words were brave, but he looked like he wanted to run out of there.

“No, your boss was the one who made a mistake the moment he decided to fight Sultana’s daughter.”