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.