Chapter 44

I felt a hole inside of me the moment my brother ceased to exist.  No matter how much I had prepared for what had happened, the pain of losing him was still strong.  His last battle had been epic, and I knew that they were going to talk for a long time about how he had managed to kill dozens of men before succumbing to his battle injuries, but that wouldn’t change the fact that he was dead, and things were about to change in ways many couldn’t even imagine.

I didn’t want to talk to anyone, I wanted some time for me to grieve in peace, but Sofia arrived and sat next to me.  For a moment I thought she wouldn’t say anything, but then she broke the silence.

“There was nothing you could have done to stop what happened.”

“I know.  I saw all possible futures and I know his death was inevitable, and even kind of necessary.  Still, he was my brother and it hurts to lose him.  I know I have a new family and I’m not alone, but he was all I had left from that moment in my past.”

“You still have your cousins, they also share blood with you.  Things are about to change in your old home.”

“I also know that.”

“You still have responsibilities in this place.”

“And you think I don’t know that?  I’m well aware of my responsibilities, and I assure you I won’t do anything to put my work here at risk, but I also know that my time here is getting to its end.  From the beginning, we knew I was going to leave the Dominion eventually.  I have already extended my stay beyond our original plan, at least from mine.  Soon the time for me to leave will come, and you must know that, I won’t be here forever.”

“There’s still a very important task that will require your help,” I knew what she was talking about, but it wasn’t the time to think about that, my brother had just died and I needed time to process his death.

“Is this something we need to be discussing right now?  Your family drama has already cost me a lot of time and effort, I think that the least I deserve is some time to say goodbye to my brother before you start asking for my help again.”

“I just thought that a new task in which to focus could help you get over your grief.  Sometimes finding new tasks to focus on, something to distract you, can help you overcome pain.”

“I left my brother behind a long time ago, I left him when he needed my help, I left my responsibilities behind and let him to deal with all of that.  I think that the least I could do was to show a little respect and think about him and what his death represents.  I don’t care if the memory hurts, or if I still feel guilty for not doing more or not having a better relationship with him, my brother deserves better, he doesn’t deserve to be forgotten or cast aside.”

“It wasn’t my intention to offend you, all I wanted if for you to know you can count on me for whatever you need, and if what you need is time, that’s what I will give you, if you need a shoulder to cry on, I have some experience with that.  If what you need is a new purpose, even temporarily, then that’s what I will give you.” Sofia moved closer to me and put her arm around my shoulders, pulling me until my head was on her lap.  She started to stroke my hair, and I felt weirdly vulnerable.  “I know I have made a lot of mistakes in my life, and I haven’t always taken the best decisions, but I want you to know that one of my best decisions was to ask you for help, that’s something I will never regret.  I know that right now you feel guilty for leaving the Empire, but we both know that staying would only have hurt you.  Besides, think about all the lives, not only in the Dominion but in the Rebel territory, that were changed thanks to you.  Think of all you have done for the people in the Dominion.”

“Sometimes I wish things would have been different.  That my mother hadn’t died and I could have stayed by her side as one of her guards.  That I had grown by her side, having a comfortable, easy life.  I don’t care if I had never become the Empress, I would have been happy just serving the Empire.”

“But you were destined for bigger things, you would never have been able to be just another warrior.  And even if right now you feel bad about the consequences of some of your decisions, we both know that given the chance, you would never change a thing about your past.”

“Maybe you’re right, and once things calm down and I can think clearly again, I will agree with you,” I got up, the sun was going to come up soon, and I needed at least a little bit of sleep.  “Thanks for trying to help.  I know you meant well, but for the moment what I need is time.  I will get in touch with you once I calm down so we can discuss our pending business.”

Kimball was waiting for me when I arrived at our Suite.  He didn’t say anything, he just took me in his arms and carried me to our room.  He put me in bed and lay down next to me, keeping his arms around me all the time.

“Sometimes is good to cry and let your emotions go,” he said after a while.

“You know I can’t.  There are other ways of letting go of the pain, and right now all I need is some peace.  Just a moment, so I can accept things and keep going.  I don’t know why this is affecting me so much.  Death is part of life, that’s something I learned at a young age, there is no reason to feel like this.”

“You always thought you would have more time to be with your brother again, and I think that deep down you always thought you would be able to go back and pick up where you had left.  Even if you knew how unrealistic that really was, part of us always wants to believe in a perfect world.”

I fell asleep thinking about my brother and the Empire, and all the changes that were about to happen.  I had decided years before to leave that part of my life behind, and since then I had tried to live without regrets.  I knew that every decision I had taken through my life had a reason to be, I had never acted on a whim or by impulse, and I couldn’t waste time going over things I couldn’t change, I needed to focus on what I could change, and that meant my future.  When I woke up I decided that with the new day I would leave behind all my regrets and conflicting emotions regarding my brother, and would focus on the actions I would have to take to move my life in the direction I needed.

When I woke up I felt surrounded by a feeling of peace and love, and soon realized that it was Ethan, offering me comfort in the best way he knew how.  For a moment I felt guilty, thinking that not feeling bad was somehow an insult to my brother’s memory, but soon dismissed the idea as absurd, my brother would not want me to suffer because of him, so I accepted Ethan’s intervention and decided to be more careful with how I felt so I wouldn’t let the pain affect me again.

Work was a good distraction, just as Sofia had suggested, keeping my mind busy was good, but thanks to my double mind it was a difficult task, since I needed to focus on several things at the same to keep all my mind busy enough not to run away with other thoughts.  Luckily I had more than enough work to focus on.  We needed to keep working on what Ethan had started, it was time for Kimball to do his part.  But unfortunately we needed Kgosi for that part, and the person in charge of the Shadows Clan at the moment.  Another pending task was the change in Camil’s and William’s status.  I knew that Camil was the one supposed to be on the throne, he was the heir, his powers and his heritage were enough for him to deserve it, and he was capable of doing the work, but William was doing a good job and would be sad to see him leave, he had done a superb job as a King, and I knew he would miss it.  I wasn’t sure what Camil’s preferences were, I just knew that Melchizedek had raised him taking into account the possibility of him becoming King and Judge of the Dominion, I also knew that didn’t mean Camil would want that.

Many changes were coming my way, many tasks to get done, and that made me feel better, making a plan, focus on something, all of that would help me feel back in control, like I had a purpose, all I needed was to decide what my priorities were and decide how to face the new problems.  Even when Kimball had his own tasks to deal with, he always made time to visit and  check on me to make sure I was fine.  Even when he was silent, his sole presence made me feel better.  Still, we had some work to do together, and it was better to start working on them.

“We need to schedule a meeting with Kgosi, to start discussing our next steps on how make the alliances official.  Ethan’s work was only the first step, we need someone with more authority to finalize negotiations.  It would be better to go Mzansi and talk to him in person.”

“You know that’s not possible,” Kimball said, “Kgosi won’t accept me going to him.  Besides, you are the first one to complain about all the time you spend away taking care of personal business, I think it would be better to just do a virtual conference.  That way Kgosi would feel more at ease, and you won’t lose time traveling.”

“I’m pretty sure that the Elder’s Council could fix things, but you are right, it would be better not to lose time traveling.  I will tell my assistant to schedule an official reunion with Kgosi and I will let you know the date.  Even if Kgosi agreed to this, I don’t get the feeling he is eager to proceed, so I guess we still have time.”

“How do you feel about what happened?”

“I think it will take more time to get used to the idea that Trajan is no longer here, but I feel better.  All I need now is to focus on the future.  I feel like I’m finally ready to go back to my old home, and once the new Emperor gets chosen, and the Shadow Clan gets recognized by the Empire, I’m confident I will be able to go back without causing trouble.”

“I think it will be fun,” Kimball said after a moment of silence, “the clans have always been an interesting challenge, their politics represent a different kind of challenge from what you can find here, and I can’t wait to go back to the Assassin’s Clan now that Ethan told them who I am.  Do you think that Malkia remembers me?  That she still remembers the talks we had during my visits to the Fortress?”

“I’m pretty sure she does.  It will be interesting to see how long it takes them to put the puzzle together.  I have no doubt they will figure out who you are and what you represent.  And I’m sure your presence will only make Malkia demand for more information.”

“You know perfectly that she won’t stay on the side for much longer, especially not change is arriving at the Empire.  I think that they are running out of excuses, and even if the last battle scared her a little, and made her reconsider her insistence of going to the Imperial Clan’s meetings.  But she is the partner of the future leader of the Assassins, and she won’t stay out of it anymore.”

“No, she won’t, and that’s why it’s also important that we have more presence there, just in case something happens and the Assassins need our support.  They think that being such an important clan they have some kind of advantage, but even if it’s not likely, there still is a risk she will be attacked just for being my daughter.  Too many people are capable of holding a grudge for years and generations.  It’s just as likely that people will welcome her with open arms than to try to get rid of her as soon as they realize who she is, some because they want revenge on me, others because they fear what she represents and the powers she might have.  Even if my legend is mostly forgotten, there are some that still remember what I’m capable of and will fear that my daughter inherited my power.  There are just a few that are strong and secure enough to welcome the competition, most will focus on how to neutralize what they will consider a threat, instead on focusing on getting stronger.”

“I trust Malkia, from what I remember she has a good head over her shoulders and is pretty well balanced.  Besides, she is not alone.  I think she will be fine.  And you will be too.  Now that we have a new goal, all we need to do is start working on it and focus on that.”

Soon, sooner that I expected, I would be back in the Empire, and even if my life had taken turns I had never expected, I was finally circling back to the beginning.  My return had taken longer than I first thought, but soon I would be back, facing my fears and facing the survivors from my past.

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Chapter 43

​I knew that trying to get to the Scavengers clan was going to be risky, but I also knew that in the future they would be a key piece.  They weren’t part of the Empire and had refused to be under the alliance between the Amazons and Militaries, but they had a presence in every territory, and that made them important.  Kimball wasn’t happy about getting into an alliance with them, and I could understand that, since they had betrayed them once, I couldn’t really trust them, still, I had to try.  Ethan didn’t have any trouble selling them the idea of an alliance, but as soon as he left with their agreement, they decided that having him as a prisoner would be better for them that having an alliance.

I was sure that Ethan could feel our presence, even if we were far away from the point we had agreed to meet in.  He was still playing games with his guards, doing his best to lose them, and he had succeeded with all but the twins that never took their eyes off of him.  Luckily, instead of trying to lose us too, Ethan started moving towards our location.  Just before he could reach us, the Scavengers did their move, blocking Ethan’s way and cutting him from help.  Only Kimball and I went to where he was, and found Ethan surrounded by at least twenty warriors.  Ethan looked calm, and that was getting his opponents a little nervous, that haven’t realized how close his backup was.

“This is not what we had agreed on,” Ethan was saying.

“We just need to clarify some things, that’s why we want you to go back to talk to our boss, he wants to talk,” they were trying to convince him to go with them.

“He said that the details were going to be discussed later, between him and my clan leader.”

“Maybe we can take you back to your clan, then, make sure you get there alright,” someone else suggested.

“We will deal with that,” I said, walking out of the shadows from where we had been watching them.

“Who are you?” the closest Scavenger from my position asked me.

“Thank you for offering to escort my son back to our clan, but you help is not needed,” I told them, as I used my powers to hold them in place.  Because of the number and strength of our enemies, it wasn’t an easy task, and I could only keep it going long enough for Ethan to walk out of the circle, and for us to walk away from there.

As we were getting more distance between us, keeping control over them because even more difficult, not only because of the distance, but because I no longer had visual contact.  As soon as I let go of my hold over them, I turned my powers to the task of hiding our traces, so they couldn’t follow us.

“I knew that they were after me,” Ethan eventually said, “I also knew that the twins were close by, and that they could call for reinforcement if needed.”

“I believe you, you did a great job, and I could feel your mind sweeping the place, I know you were aware of us, and you didn’t take any risks,” I said.

“We also heard that you got many alliances pre-agreements, just like we expected,” Kimball said.  “You can say this mission was a success.”

Ethan’s guards started to arrive, the twins had been close by, all along, and I supposed that when the Scavengers had made their move, they had called for backup, in case they needed it.  Soon, all our forces had converged on the same spot.

“I did my best not to betray who I was, but I think my sisters suspect something,” Ethan told me once we were back in our camp.  “Both of them were watching me, as if I was a puzzle that was only missing a piece to complete the picture.”

“Soon they will know who you are, as soon as we move forward to the next part of our plan.  What did you think about them?  Would you like to spend more time with them?”

“I would, but the situation is odd, I’m not really sure what to think, they are more intense that I expected.  Malkia is a lot like you, she has a big presence and is a leader, and Greca is careful and analytic, I didn’t need to go inside her mind to see how she was taking everything in and analyzing it.  And both are good warriors.  And I finally get why people get so surprised when they meet Malkia, for those who haven’t seen you since she was born, seeing her must be like seeing you again, since they don’t know how much you have changed.”

“Did you just called me old?” I asked, part in jest, part seriously.

“Don’t act like you don’t know what I mean.  You still look pretty young by Dominion standards, and you haven’t aged like people in the Empire seem to do, but you are not the same person you were twenty, fifteen or even ten years ago.”

“That’s true, and you’re right that Malkia looks more like the Kaiserin they all knew that I do myself.  I’m worried that she was in that caravan with the rest of the Assassins, she is not ready to face all the clans, not yet.”

“Didn’t you look into the fog to see her plans?” Kimball asked.

“In most futures, both her and Greca stay away from others, but there’s still a chance that someone will get a look by accident, and if that happens, they could associate her with me, and that would get her in trouble.”

“Someday she will have to start going to those reunions, she is the partner of the next leader of the Assassins, after all.  Just by being with Antrax she should be protected,” Kimball said.

“I hope so.”

We didn’t have more excuses to stay in the Dark Empire, after I had my chance to talk to Trajan, and Ethan finished his mission, we had no other reason to stay, it was time to go back.  As usual, turning my back to my old world was difficult, but I needed to go back to my new reality, at least for a while.  The moment when I would be able to go back and visit without having to hide myself, maybe even move back for good, was getting closer.

The Dominion’s rules said that I couldn’t keep being the Prime Minister forever, so I had to make sure to finish all my goals in the time I had left.  In general, I could be proud of everything I had accomplished, after years at the head of the Dominion, I had managed to give them back the freedom they deserved.  For some reason, being able to leave the Dominion if they wished so, had made many nations willing to stay, instead of making them want to leave, because they felt at ease being part of it.  As I expected, knowing they had the choice, have made them more at ease with their situation.  I knew it wouldn’t always be that way, but at least for the moment we had peace and stability, and people were happy.

The Dominion was in a good situation, but I knew the time for change was approaching the Dark Empire and the Light Kingdom.  Change had been brewing for a while and it was about to explode.  My brother’s death was going to be the tipping point for the Empire, as going for Camil had been for the Kingdom.  I had realized that as a Seeress, I was destined to be in the middle of change and help it run smoothly.

I couldn’t hide my return, just a day after I arrived William went to see me and make sure that I was fine, because he knew what was going to happen, but I had made peace with the fact that my brother was going to die, not because it was something easy or that it wouldn’t hurt, but I had understood that death was inevitable and everyone was headed that way.  At least my brother had lived a good life, and he was going to leave a great legacy behind him.  I knew that everything he had done had been important, and since it was a good chance his son would become the next Emperor, that would only help prolong his legacy.  I was afraid that maybe my future actions could affect Trajan’s legacy or question his rule, but I needed to trust that his contributions had been so important that nothing I could do would be able to affect that.

In a way I was finding the idea of more conflict and fighting, even if it sounded bad.  Even if the peace and calm that I had managed to bring to the Dominion made me feel good about myself, there was something that made me feel as if I still had a job to do, and if it wasn’t in the Dominion, maybe it was because I still had some work to do over in the Empire.  And I knew that I needed to intervene, not so much for me, but for my children, I needed to make sure things would get better for them, or at least not worse.

The second day after returning from the Empire, I spent some time in the fog, making sure that my daughter would be fine while being in imperial territory.  I knew that sooner or later she would have to face them, but I felt better knowing that at least for the moment, she was staying out of sight.  When the reunion finally ended and the Assassins left the territory, I felt much calmer.  I knew that we would have to go talk to Kgosi and Kimball soon, so we could move forward with our plans, but for the moment, everything was going according to plan.

A week later, the moment I have been dreading arrived.  I knew that my brother was going to die any minute.  I couldn’t sleep, so I went outside to walk through the gardens.  I sat down on the same bench where I had pretended to murder Sofia.  Through the years that had become one of my favorite places.  I felt alone, even if I knew that the guards were patrolling the perimeter.  I closed my eyes and went again into the fog, but not to see the future, but to watch the present, or as close as I could get.  I started walking Trajan’s path, watching as the paths around the real one were dissolving as his story consolidated.  It was a path I had already walked, but it was different than watching the future, the path was no longer ephemeral, fleeting, it was hard and solid, because it was already written in the sands of time, it was no longer a possibility, but a fact.

Chapter 42

I know Ethan will be fine.  I’m still worried about him, and I’m sure Kimball is too.  For Ethan this is all an adventure, but the danger is real.  I know that the time for me to reach to my brother is getting closer, and watching the translucent figure appearing and disappearing around just confirms that.  I know it’s an astral projection securing the place, which means that Trajan’s caravan is getting closer.  It doesn’t take much to guess what she is doing, moving up and down the planes, getting into the material plane to spy on us.  I focus on her movements and make sure to make eye contact with her, to let her know I can see her.

The astral projections stops showing, but I see a falcon flying over us.  I know that zoopaths make perfect watchers and even if I can’t confirm it, I’m pretty sure that the falcon is being controlled by one.  All of those are clear signals that Trajan is near, so I extend my mind, searching for him.  I’m aware that there are many warriors capable of noticing me, but I don’t really care.  Not only have we already been seen by the advance party, but if the Emperor agrees to see me, then everyone will know about us soon.

Just as I expected, Trajan’s caravan was near, and it didn’t take long to identify his mind.  ‘I need to talk to you,’ I sent the thought to his mind, expecting him to recognize me.

Kaiserin?  Is that you?

Brother, I need to see you.  If you can, come here,‘ I asked, adding an image of the place where I was waiting.  I knew he would recognize the place, and I knew he wouldn’t keep me waiting.

I’ll see you soon, don’t move from that place.

Our conversations the last few times had been telepathic, so I wasn’t surprised he didn’t trust me to wait for him.  But I needed to see him face to face one last time.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to tell him about his destiny, but even knowing that my words wouldn’t change his future, I knew that there were still some ways for things to get worse, and I didn’t want to be the cause for more trouble for the Empire.

A group of five warriors started moving closer to us.  I had set a fire circle around me while setting the place, it was meant to mark the area I was going to claim as my own.  The only ones inside the circle, with me, were Kimball by my right, Ivan to my left, and Yoweri at my back, each one of them ready to fight for me.  In another place, near our location, Agata, Fatima and Thalia were also waiting, I knew that if something happened, Fatima would let them know so they could move closer to us and help us.

“Identify yourself,” one of the warriors demanded.

“I don’t want to cause any trouble or hurt any of you, so I ask you, please, don’t cross the fire, or you will face consequences.”

“You are invading our territory, you are the one who needs to cooperate or face the consequences,” the same warrior said.

“You are Imperialists, and we are in Runner’s territory, so you are not the ones who can ask me to leave here.”

“This is the last time I will ask nicely, identify yourself.”

“You don’t need to know who I am, there’s only one person who needs to know, and he already does.  Now, I will have to insist, don’t cross the fire, I don’t want to hurt you.”

“You should be able to see you are at a disadvantage here, it’s five on three,” the one that had been talking, and acting as the leader, pointed out.  As soon as he talked, I could identify the two that were able to see Yoweri, and that caused some conflicted feeling inside me.  On one hand, I felt proud that Yoweri’s abilities were strong enough to fool the imperial guard, but on the other, I felt disappointed that the imperial guard could dismiss a threat like him so easily.

“Four against five,” one of the guards said, trying to be discreet, but failing.  The fact that Kimball laughed at him, making things even worse.

“How are you expecting to stop us, if you can’t even see all of us?” I asked the first one, using a mocking tone.

“Enough!  We have tried to resolve this without using force, but is obvious we won’t be able to resolve this with words,” the warrior made a signal to his companions and they started to move.

I didn’t need to move to know that Yoweri was turning around, covering my back, while Kimball and Ivan just turned slightly to cover my sides.  The warrior that had been addressing me didn’t move, and was still facing me, while the other four moved to surround us.  I wasn’t sure what their powers were, but I still believed that despite their numeric advantage, they still wouldn’t be able to defeat us.

As soon as they started moving, I grew the flames around us, making them hesitate.  After making the fire grow, I moved my focus to create a psychic wall around us, a couple of them were still trying to move forward and were trapped against my wall and over the flames, that were looking for new things to consume and it didn’t take long for the fire to jump to its new victims.  Another one was in trance, and I guessed it was the zoopath, but before I could act against him the warrior in front of me started a telepathic attack against me that I didn’t bother to try and stop, no, I let him in, and I was waiting for him with my best defense ready, and as soon as he was in, I opened the chest full of pain that had him running in no time.  I noticed the zoopath on the ground, writhing in pain and I noticed Kimball holding something in his hands, and on the other side was the fifth warrior on his knees, coughing, with his hands over his stomach, so I supposed Ivan had taken care of him.

“I really don’t want to hurt you,” I repeated, “you just need to calm down.”

“The emperor is coming this way,” the zoopath said once he recovered a little.

I could see that the telepath was having some trouble getting over the pain I had caused him, but he was part of the imperial guard, and he wasn’t going to let something like pain stop him.  Thanks to his double mind, he didn’t go into trance, but I could see from his expression that he was having a psychic talk, and he wasn’t liking what he was discussing.

Without a word, the warriors moved until they had all gathered in the same area, they were watching us, but weren’t attacking anymore.  Just a few minutes later I could hear a vehicle approaching the place, but it took a while until we could actually see it.  The group that had attacked us was doing a good job of keeping themselves under control, but I could feel they weren’t happy with the situation, and they were confused with what was going on.

Trajan got out of the vehicle and I watched as a general tried to convince him to stay inside, but was ignored by Trajan.  The guards immediately went to their knees, showing respect to their Emperor, while still keeping an eye on us.  Trajan looked around, until his eyes stopped on me?

“Did you have any trouble with them?”

“I have to give it to them, they are good, and at least a couple of them have a good future ahead of them, but none of them represented a problem to me, especially since I’m not alone.”

“I see that, I was hoping we could talk alone.”

“And we will,” I used my powers to move the fire around me, breaking the circle and forming a path for Trajan to reach me, opening three areas so Kimball, Yoweri and Ivan could walk out of the circle.

“Are you sure about this?” Kimball asked, putting his hand on my shoulder.

“Everything will be fine,” I assured him.  Trajan was watching Kimball, and even if he was wearing a helmet, I imagined that Trajan was able to recognize him, and the last thing I wanted was for them to be fighting each other, but Kimball walked out and Trajan did nothing, not even asking who he was.

As soon as Trajan was inside the circle, I killed the fire and instead erected stone walls around us.  I also raised a seat in front of mine so he could sit and be more comfortable for our talk.

“I was surprised to hear you were here, and more that you were willing to see me.”

“You don’t know how sorry I am for the distance I have put between us.  I knew that at first it was necessary for my own well being to stay away, but even when things changed, I stayed away.  My place is no longer here, you are an excellent Emperor and you have done a superb job, even if some people don’t want to recognize that.  If I had returned, I would have made things difficult for you, and that wasn’t something I could allow.”

“I always felt like I didn’t deserve this position, I didn’t earn it, I inherited it.  Even now, I’m not sure who would win between us.  Our relationship was always a little complicated, but I hope you know that I was always on your side.  Now, what are you doing here?  Why did you return?”

“I always thought I would have time, I promised that one day, when I was ready, I would come back.  But time is running out and I realized the only time we have is the present.  You must know how important you are to me, right?  You know that my need to go away had nothing to do with you.  You were always a good brother and a good supported.”

“I don’t know what all this means.  Are you going to die?  Or am I?”

“I would like to be able to answer that question, but I’m afraid I can’t give you the answers you want.”

“Then it will be me,” Trajan stared at me, trying to see if my expression would betray my thoughts.  It didn’t, not even my thoughts betrayed what I was really thinking.  “And there is nothing that can be done to avoid it, or we would be having a very different conversation.”

“Brother, I love you so much, and I really admire you for everything you have done, I really think you have been an amazing Emperor, I can’t imagine leaving the Empire in better hands than yours.  Knowing you were in charge, allowed me to leave in peace.”

“Are you happy?  Are you fine, wherever you are?”  Even if we couldn’t see pass the walls I had erected around us, Trajan was looking in the direction Kimball had left.

“As with everything else, my life had some good and bad moments, but I’m doing what I want, and I have a good family, people who follow me, respects me and even loves me.  I have enemies, that I have been able to keep under control, and followers that would give their lives for me.”

We spent the rest of the afternoon going over our lives.  I told him as much as I could about my daughter and son, without giving him enough information for him to figure out where they were.  I told him a little about the problems and issues I had faced, trying to keep it vague, but I could see his mind working overtime, trying to piece every clue I was giving him to find a picture of where I had been hiding.

Trajan told me about his own children, especially his firstborn, and heir, who he expected to take his place, faster than he expected.  He also told me about his problems with some of the Rebel Clans, and how he had worked, indirectly, with Molpadia and Spike to neutralize those threats, he told me he knew some people, even some of his own advisers, weren’t happy for his decisions, but also that he was sure that his actions had saved thousands of lives, something I was glad to confirm for him.

I knew his death was the result of a failed coup, the work of a group of high officials, convinced that Trajan had gone soft and wasn’t capable of leading the Empire anymore.  Those who dared question his methods and that would do anything to correct what they considered weakness, real or perceived.  I knew that at the end Traja would prove to all of them his strength, and that he would crush his enemies, but that wouldn’t change the fact that at the end he was going to die as a consequence of the injuries sustained during that battle.

Despite all my training and my walks through the fog telling me there was nothing I could have done to save him, there was still a part of me that wanted to tell him all about what was going to happen, that wanted to find a way to save him.  There were a lot of people who deserved to die, Trajan wasn’t one of them.

“At least will you tell me how much time I have left?” he asked as we both knew our time was coming to an end, something we had been trying to ignore, despite darkness descending over us, and me having to light a fire to get us some light, the starts in the sky not being enough.

“Trajan, I don’t know what to say.  The only thing I can confirm is that this is the last time we are going to see each other.”

“Thank you for this unexpected visit.  This is what I had been missing,” Trajan hugged me, something we could indulge in because we were out of sight, and because it was our last chance.  “I would invite you to go with me to the Palace, but I know that if being there had been part of your plans, then you would have gone there and walked right in, not stop me in the middle of nowhere.”

“You are right, there still a chance I might do that sometime, but it won’t be today, and it won’t be something you will be able to witness.  I’m sorry, brother, this is goodbye.”

I let the walls around us collapse and found my guards, and Trajan’s guards facing each other, both groups ready to fight at any provocation.  I could see the rest of Trajan’s caravan waiting at a distance, watching us from afar.  I could see a familiar face watching us, and I recognized Trajan’s son, and possibly the future Emperor.

Trajan made a signal to his men and they started moving back to the vehicles, some of them still looking my way, but following orders to leave us alone.

“How do you feel?” Kimball asked.

“Much better after talking to him.  He knows what’s going to happen, he suspected immediately there was a reason behind my visit, but he is happy with his life works and is not afraid to go.  He is a good person and he has been a good Emperor.”

“You would have done an equally amazing job if you have had the chance.  You already proved that with your work in the Dominion.  You followed a different path, but your work has been just as important.”

I watched as my brother went away, he turned around one last time to see me, before getting into the vehicle, and I heard his voice in my mind.  ‘Never forget who you are, never forget how much I love you, and how much I respect you.

“I think it’s time to go back to our camp.  We still have to wait for Ethan and see if he managed to finish his work or if he will have to try again.”

I knew that Ethan was going to do what he needed to do, but I also knew that not everyone was going to be receptive about it, that was the reason we have planned his visits in a way he would have two chances of meeting the clans, one on their way to the Reunion, and one on their way back to their clans.  I was expecting that if someone was still undecided, they would be convinced once they had the chance to see and maybe speak about the mysterious clan with the others.

There was still a chance that Ethan would be able to fulfill his mission early and we could be able leave earlier.  I knew that staying there wouldn’t help in any way, I had gotten what I wanted, I had seen my brother, and staying behind would only put me in a position where I could be discovered by other clans, or by other people who wouldn’t be so happy about my presence.  I needed to take a step back and let the events that were about to happen just happen.

Chapter 41

I was standing in front of the living room’s windows.  The vision I had earlier that night had me worried.  I had gotten up from bed without waking Kimball up, something that didn’t usually happen, but something I was grateful for, since I needed a moment alone.

When my mother had died, I had been in charge of her protection, and had failed.  When my father had died, I had seen his death, but had failed to stop it from happening, even if I had since learned that some deaths were inevitable, I still considered that as my failure.  Now I had knowledge that my brother was going to die, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.  I knew that what was to come couldn’t be changed, but still it hurt me.  His time was running out and I had lost years hiding from him, thinking that I would have time later, always later, to be with him again and recover our relationship.

The color in the sky was changing, it was almost dawn.  I felt someone next to me, and I turned, expecting to see Kimball, but it was Ethan who I found, moving closer to hug me.  A wave of serenity descended over me, and it wasn’t until that moment that I realized how affected I was by the vision.

“What happened?  I could feel your pain and sadness all the way to my room.”

“I had a vision, something very bad is going to happen.  My brother…” Ethan didn’t say a word, but I felt the peaceful sensation vanish and the brush of his mind against mine.  I didn’t want to talk, I wasn’t prepared to talk about my vision out loud, so I let Ethan get into my mind and see the vision that had affected me so much.  His arms wrapped around me tighter and the peacefulness returned.  “Thank you, but you shouldn’t worry about me.”

“I know you like to pretend you are untouchable, but I know you, mom, and I know that this situation is hurting you for more than one reason.  If you are here sitting in the dark, instead of gathering your forces, then you must know there is nothing you can do to prevent what is going to happen, am I right?”  He didn’t wait for my answer, he must have seen the answer in my face, or my attitude.  “What can you do?”

“I think I can go to the Empire, I want to see my brother one last time, at least have a proper goodbye.”

“I’m sure that won’t be a problem.”

“I have taken a lot of time off, we just returned from the Light Kingdom a couple of months ago.”

“After your help with Camil, I’m sure they won’t say no to you leaving to see your brother.”

“I don’t know,” but even as I said that, I knew that I would find a way to go, even if there wasn’t much time left.  “First, I need to go into the fog, take a look, make sure that what I saw was accurate, and see how much time we have left.”

“I’ll go wake up my father, and then I will help him cook breakfast, don’t take long.”

Ethan left, but even if his power was going with him, I was already feeling better.  In part it was because I had a plan of action, and the feeling that I was actually doing something kept me calm.  I had made a lot of mistakes in my life, and I had a lot of regrets, leaving my brother behind was one of them, and I knew that I needed to be with him one more time, no matter what happened after, no matter if I couldn’t change his future, just being able to talk to him, to see him face to face one last time, would help me deal with his death.

Kimball didn’t come to talk to me right away, I heard him talking to Ethan and then the noise from the kitchen as they cooked.  When I went into the kitchen there was a feast already waiting for me.

“Do you want me to start arrangement to travel to the Empire?” Kimball asked.

“Frist I need to go talk to Fatima, maybe even Sofia, to have a better read on the situation, and depending on the time frame we get, I will have to work on some plans.”

“As you wish, but you know I’m here for whatever you need.”

“I know.”

Breakfast was delicious, and both Kimball and Ethan gave me the space I needed to think and let my worries go, at least for the moment.  Since I couldn’t just ignore my responsibilities, even less if I planned to go away for a while, I went to my office and started working.  I asked for Fatima to be go see me in the first available space in my schedule, and then I asked her to join me on the walk through the fog, to help me keep track of time and direction.

From what I could see in my short walk, I just had a couple of weeks, it was longer than the time frame I had gotten from other visions.  I also confirmed that there was nothing I could do to avoid that outcome, any try would only make things worse.  While I was in the fog, and before I had a chance to exit it, I was hit with a flurry of visions that gave me a glimpse into what would happen in the next few years.  I could avoid being trapped by the visions, thanks to Fatima’s help, but in the meantime I got some useful information.

I worked alone for the rest of the day, not even going to eat, instead asking for my meal to be taken to my office.  During the afternoon William arrived, at first I got worried that there was a problem that could affect my plans, but I should have already guessed that Sofia knew about it, and she had warned William what was going to happen.

“How long will you be gone?” he asked, right to the point.

“I don’t know.  A few days, maybe a week.”

“Take as long as you need, I’m sure that everything would be fine here, we can handle the Dominion without you for a few days.”

“How is Camil?”

“It’s a little difficult for him to assimilate everything, but other than that, he is fine.  He knows a lot about how to rule and care for people, and his moral compass is very good.  Even if he is a little young, I’m sure he could take the throne without issues.”

“And how do you feel about it?  Won’t it be hard to leave your position?”

“I don’t know.  Truth is, I’ve grown used to the position and I like what I do, at the same time, I know Camil is the true heir.  You could say that I’m happy with the work I have done, but if people decide it’s time for me to let go, then that’s what I’m going to do.  I won’t cling to the throne knowing it’s not mine, that’s what my sister did and I won’t be like her, I won’t do something that could harm my country or my family.”

“That’s good to know, but I don’t think you will have to worry about that for a while yet.”

“That’s right, but anyway, it’s not something you should worry about, just focus on your family that I will take care of things here.”

“Thanks, William,” despite our difficulties, or maybe because of that, I knew I could trust William to do his best to help me, but that didn’t help me feel better about leaving for an extended period of time.

I stayed in my office, going over all my current projects, trying to do as much as possible before having to leave, at least until Kimball arrived and dragged me away.

“We have to prepare to leave in three days,” I asked Kimball once we arrived at our home.

“Ok, I will start working on it tomorrow.  Is there someone you would like to take with us?”

“I was thinking… we have talked about what could happen once I stop being the Prime Minister, and after my vision last night, I think we need to start working on having a representation in the Empire.  I haven’t talked to the Mzansi’s rulers, but I think we should make the Shadow Clan part of the Empire.”

“Is that even possible?  We keep away from them as much as possible, most of them don’t even know or believe we exist.”

“We can make it possible.  First step is to get at least three allies that are already part of the Empire.”

“We have a few alliances with people on the coast.”

“Yes, but for what I’m planning, we need better ones, I was thinking maybe we could send Ethan…”

“What?”  Kimball interrupted.

“Ethan is the closest you have to a Shadow’s heir, at least you want to take the position yourself, so I was thinking of sending him to talk to Dendro, and maybe another few clans, about the possibility of an alliance.”

“Isn’t that dangerous?”

“Dendro would never hurt him, not if he knows he is my son.”

“And what about the others?  Who are you thinking about?  No, it would be better if I go myself.”

“I think this is a great opportunity for Ethan, a way for him to connect to his imperialist’s roots.  Besides, he wouldn’t be alone, we would send a group of people capable of protecting him.  I think Ethan is ready, and it would be good for him.”

“I don’t want him at risk.”

“He needs to test himself, and we need to show him we believe in him.  I have a few ideas of who could be potential allies for the Shadow Clan, but you know that if I go myself it would only cause more trouble, not just for me, but for you.  I know it won’t be easy to convince Kgosi of this, but if I can, it will help us a lot in the future.  This way I wouldn’t have to go back to the Imperial Clan, we could go as the Shadow’s representatives.  I’m not sure why, but I feel that this is something we have to do.”

“And as always, it’s better to listen to your instincts than to suffer the consequences later.  If you think that’s best, then you should talk to the King and the Elders Council, and talk to Ethan, after you make sure it’s a good idea.”

Luckily, everyone liked the idea.  Kgosi resisted at first, but then the idea of having some kind of representation in the Empire ended up winning him.  The Elders not only liked the idea, but they fully supported me sending Ethan, and despite Kgosi resistance, they accepted, and even expanded my list of reasons for why it was a good idea to have Ethan represent them.  I knew that Zola already considered Ethan one of the future leaders of Mzansi, she had invited him to Council’s sessions a few times, and I knew she liked to spend time with him when he visited.

Once they had accepted, I only had to talk to Ethan.  I was aware that he knew I was planning something, but I was sure he thought it was all related to what was going on with my brother, and didn’t suspect he was involved in my plans.  When I finally decided to talk to him, I had him sent to my office, so Kgosi, who was connected via conference call, and I could talk to him officially.  He was absolutely surprised by this, and I could see how he thought he was in trouble, and was going over everything he had done the last few weeks looking for something that could have landed him in trouble.

“Did you call me?” he asked, and I had to recognize his strength, even if I could feel his fear, his voice and attitude didn’t betray any of it.

“That’s right,” I said, “we have something we want to discuss with you.  As you know, tomorrow I will go to the Empire to speak to my brother,” Ethan nodded, letting us know he was aware of that part of my plans, “what’s happening with my brother, among other things, had made me realize that we need to have a presence in the Empire, but not one that depends on me, but one that has more to do with Mzansi and the Shadow Clan.”

“Your mother convinced us that it was a good idea, and since she knows the procedure we need to follow to become recognized by the Empire, we need to follow her suggestions.  The first step is to be recognized by other clans and form alliances with them,” Kgosi explained.

“I don’t think is a good idea for me to forge those alliances, if we want a true and lasting relationship between them and the mzansiers, or the Shadows, then it can’t be me who goes there.  That’s why we decided that the first contact should be done by someone they can recognize as an heir,” I had been feeling Ethan’s confusion, but at those words, I felt his hope, not that he let it show in his face.  “That’s why we called you.  I think you are the right person to take that first step, you represent something they will recognize and you have the strength to represent your clan appropriately.”

“Of course I would like to do that, it would be an honor,” Ethan said, “but what about school?”

“You will lose only a few days, and we all know you will have no problem making up for lost time.  Of course, we can’t force you to do this, so you have to decide if you want to do it or not.  I’m pretty sure that you won’t have any trouble, and this could even be a good opportunity for you to test your powers and how far you can stretch them, even so, you have to decide if you want to take that risk.”

“Then yes, I will be ready to leave as soon as possible.”

“Not so fast.  As you will be representing our clan, there are a few things I would like to discuss with you first,” Kgosi said, “privately if possible,” I knew there were some things they needed to discuss, and I wasn’t offended that he wanted me gone, not coming from Kgosi.

“I will give you some privacy then.  Ethan, you know how all of this works, so I leave it in your hands, and I’ll see you later.”

I left Ethan to his meeting and went looking for Kimball, who was working on getting everything ready for our trip.  As time went by I was getting more nervous, and also madder.  I had told myself that all I needed was to talk to my brother one more time, but as I was preparing everything to go to the Empire, I wondered if that would really be enough.  I had let many years go by, and even if I couldn’t regret all I had done in that time, I could feel bad for everything I had turned my back to.  Trajan had always been good to me, he had supported me and been by my side to the end.  How would it be to see him again?

I didn’t have time to think about that, I had a trip to prepare for, and that included going to Fatima and Sofia and having another walk through the fog, not only because I needed to find a safe way to reach Trajan, but because I needed to make sure that the mission I was sending Ethan to, was safe, I couldn’t allow something I was asking him to do to cause him harm.

I had known for a while that Ethan felt less than his sisters, that he felt he needed to prove himself, and that mission was going to help him show what he was capable of, and it would also be a way for as to recognize how far he had gotten.  But no matter how much I trusted him or how much I respected his power, I knew that even the strongest of warriors could have problems, and I wasn’t going to allow my decisions or actions to cause him harm, no matter how minimum it was.

Chapter 40

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Any doubts?  Questions?” Kimball asked.

“None,” they all responded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?”

“These documents are agreements that recognize our independence.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 39

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What are you worried about?” Ethan asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What are you going to do about this?”

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

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

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

“Good morning,” she greeted me formally.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thank you.”

“Have you talked to William?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 38

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, I’m ready.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And what are you going to do now?”

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

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