I hadn’t felt so alive in a long time, I felt the adrenaline from the competition and the danger of being discovered, running through my veins, filling me with energy. I made sure that no one was following me, again, checking the illusion masking me and stopping to make sure no one was around every few minutes until I arrived to the building and found the windows of the room that I was targeting.
I used my mind to open the window and then to give me a push to so I could jump to it. Just as I was about to enter the room the door opened, I froze for a moment, making sure my powers were keeping me hidden, but then I realized it was Kimball at the door, so I jumped into the room and let the illusion drop as we both moved to the crib.
“I guess we will have to call this a tie?” asked Kimball, smiling.
“Technically, I had half of my body inside when you arrived at the door.”
“But my whole body made it inside before yours,” he pointed out.
“I guess we can call it a tie,” I accepted. Even if I wanted to get another win, the truth was that it wasn’t that important, what was important was that we both had made it to the room without being detected.
We were both focused on the baby when we felt a pressure around us, the metal bit in our clothes pulled us away from the crib. I knew I could counter the effect easily, but I knew it wouldn’t be right, so I let the warrior that was at the door, pull us away from the baby, putting some distance between us.
“Who are you and what are you doing here?” Malkia asked once the baby was safely in her arms.
“I’m sorry I scared you,” I said, “but I assure you, the last thing I would do is hurt him.”
frozen in her spot, her eyes going from me to Kimball and back to me, as if she was making sure she wasn’t imagining things. At first she didn’t dare speak up, and when she did, it was just a whisper.
“I’m really sorry I didn’t tell you about my visit, especially because I made you worry,” we heard steps on the hallway, and a moment later Antrax entered the room, followed by Dendro.
“Kaiserin?” Dendro asked, surprised by my presence.
“Again, I really apologize for coming here unannounced.”
“You will always be welcome in my clan, there was no need to hide,” Dendro told me.
“I have been waiting for you to come for a long time,” Malkia said, and I could feel her conflicting feelings, she wasn’t sure how to act or how to feel. In the middle of her turmoil I could feel something else, she was feeling betrayed.
“I would have liked to come earlier, but I was waiting for the right moment, I know that tomorrow Dendro will give the control of the clan to Antrax, and you will also become an important part of this clan, it is something I can’t miss. I have lost a lot of milestones in your life, I wasn’t going to let another one go by.”
“Is that the reason you are here?” I knew she was thinking I was there because of her son, that even if I had never made an effort to visit her, I was doing it for her son.
“That’s not the only reason,” I said, and I could feel her disappointment. ” planning a visit to assist Antrax’s promotion as leader of the clan, there is a chance nothing will happen, but there is also a possibility that there will be trouble, that’s why we are here.”
“What kind of problems?” Malkia asked, and I had the impression that Dendro had been about to ask the same.
“Predicting the not an easy task. Every decision we make, every action we take opens a new path in front of us. What is going to happen here gives us a lot of options. What I do know is that if I didn’t come here, the possibility of everything working out was only 35%. If I came here and showed my face, the probability of someone ending up dead was 90%. I came here, unannounced and hiding, because, if Pompeyo doesn’t realize who I am, and I’m able to help keep things under control, then the chances of no one dying goes up to 80%.”
“When you say someone is going to die in some of those scenarios, you mean one of us?” Antrax asked.
My mind went back to one of the visions I had seen a few days before, one in which and Antrax were and a moment of frustrations ended up with Antrax dying at Pompeyo’s hands, and Malkia’s pain caused a massacre. But I couldn’t share that vision, I couldn’t predispose him, or the situation could escalate faster than in my visions. Both of them had grown as heirs of their clans, and had developed a strong relation, by telling Antrax that he could die at Pompeyo’s hands, I could shatter any chance of a good working relationship.
“The problem with sharing what I see in my visions, is that sometimes it can help avoid a certain outcome or minimize risks, but others, the most people know about the future, the worse things will go,” I tried to explain. “But let me assure you, no one in this room will die if I can avoid it.”
And I was sure that I would do everything in my power to make sure no life was lost, it was bad enough that the happiness of my first grandchild’s birth was shadowed by the vision of killing him in a moment of madness. The visions surrounding Antrax’s rise to power had been filled with blood and different scenarios in which most people in attendance ended up killing someone or being killed. I had seen the death of my grandchild and Antrax, but also of my daughters and my nieces and nephews depending on the situation. During my trip there I had gone over different plans I could use to ensure that my daughter’s and her partner’s celebrations didn’t end up as a bloodbath.
“I hate to think we are at risk, but it’s good to finally be able to talk to you face to face,” Malkia said. “Why don’t we take this talk to my room? We will be able to talk without interruptions there. I will let Greca know that you are here.” I could feel her uncertainty, she wasn’t sure how to act or what to do. I could understand how she was feeling, I had dreamed of how it would be in our first meeting, and now that I was there, I wasn’t sure what to do. the door, but then she stopped, turned to me and offered me the chance to take the baby in her arms. “Would you like to hold Lason?”
“It would be my honor,” I said, taking the small bundle from her arms. He was still sleeping, all the commotion in the room hadn’t affected his sleep.
“I will take them to your room, I’ll make sure no one sees them, you can go search for your sister,” Dendro offered, and Malkia agreed.
sure there was no one in the hallway while Dendro opened the door to the adjacent room. It was easy to see that it was the room of someone important, just as it should be for an heir. There was a small living room, and that’s where Dendro guided us. silent, but I could tell he didn’t trust in us, he wasn’t sure of our intentions.
“Who would imagine we would end up sharing a grandchild?” I told Dendro, breaking the silence.
“Not me,” he said, “but I’m glad that’s the case. It’s been a few years, but I’m glad that you are back with us. I would ask you, how are you, but I can tell, you look good, you look… .”
“My life haven’t been easy since I left the Empire, but I have to recognize that it had its highlights. And it’s true, I’m happy with my life,” my eyes went to Kimball before I could stop them. Kimball was one of the reasons of my happiness.
“I’m glad to hear that. Many of us were worried for you when you disappeared, many still wait for your return.”
I wasn’t sure what to say, but right then Malkia and Greca walked inside. Greca was acting with the calmness and of her position, but as soon as she walked I felt the wave of her feelings hit me. Unlike her sister whose feelings were more cautious, I could feel Greca’s happiness.
“Ethan isn’t here?” Greca asked, looking around, as if hoping her brother would walk out of his hiding place.
“I’m afraid that this mission required a level of stealth that made it impossible for him to come with us,” Kimball said. “But I’m sure he will be here with us for our next visit.”
“With one of them is enough,” Antrax mumbled from his side of the room.
“I see Ethan made quite the impression,” I said, I could see that Antrax was not a fan of Ethan, and apparently his relationship with Kimball was complicated, I would see that he felt anger and annoyance at him, but that he also admired him. I knew that Kimball could be intense, but I wondered what he had done to cause that reaction.
” me that you came because we will have trouble,” Greca said, changing the subject. “Is that something we should worry about? Or you have it under control?”
I couldn’t help but smile at the way she spoke and the intensity of her emotions, she had no doubt that if I said I had it under control, then everything would be fine. “I think I have it under control.”
“Then there’s nothing to worry about,” she told her sister with confidence. “I remember when she helped me escape and I have no doubt she will be able to help us with any challenge that presents itself.”
“I hope that’s the case,” Malkia said, her eyes moving to Lason.
‘Are you happy here?’ I asked Greca using telepathy, I didn’t want everyone to hear our talk, but I needed to know. Greca, despite growing up in the Empire, had a spirit, and for the first time in a long time I wondered if I had done the right thing by leaving her behind.
‘I am, and so is my sister. Even if I had been given the chance to be somewhere else, I wouldn’t have left my sister behind, and I know she wouldn’t be complete without Antrax and Lason.’ It seemed I had underestimated my daughter, she had been able to look behind my questions to my thoughts and doubts, but I was grateful for that, since her answer and the sincerity behind it had given me peace.
“I think we will leave you so you can talk,” Dendro said, getting up and signaling his son to follow him, “I’m sure you have a lot to talk about and I’s sure you would be more comfortable to continue this chat in private.”
From the moment Greca arrived, she showed she had a lot to talk about, she kept asking questions about everything, from my life to the world I lived in. There were some things I couldn’t share with her, but I did my best to explain about my life, sharing more information than ever before, but not giving them everything, soon I realized that Greca was like her father, she was able to read between lines and fill the empty spaces. took longer to warm up, but soon she was also asking questions. Despite our long talks in the astral planes, I discovered there were a lot we still needed to talk about.
The conversations were so that we didn’t realize the time passing, until Antrax arrived with a tray of food. Dendro had taken my words seriously and wasn’t going to allow anyone to find out we were in his territory, that’s why his son was fetching our dinner, something that amused Kimball and angered Antrax.
“Tomorrow is going to be a very important day, and I guess we need some rest,” Malkia said. “You can stay here, Antrax and I will stay in the room we prepared for Lason.”
“Thank you, I’m sorry I’m taking over your room.”
“Don’t worry about it, I spent most of the time visiting Lason anyway, this will save me the trip,” Malkia told us and moved away, but she wasn’t done with me. ‘I have heard a lot of stories about you, many theories. Kimball told me how we met the first time and what you have done for me, and during my visit to the Palace I was told by many that I was the reason you have left. I didn’t understand your actions, but now I think I get you.’
walked outside, not turning back to see me, it was as if the words she had projected in my mind had never happened, but I knew she had talked to me, and I knew I hadn’t imagined her message.
The next day Antrax brought us some food, and I knew his actions would cause some people to be suspicious, but I was grateful for the care they were taking. Later that day Antrax and my daughters entered the room.
“You were right about the Emperor, he just arrived to our territory and is on his way here,” Antrax announced.
“Soon you will realize I’m always right,” I told Antrax, who apparently didn’t like my humor. “What time does the celebration starts?”
“In a couple of hours, just enough time for the Imperialists to arrive and prepare for the ceremony.”
“You said no one could know you were here, but you also said you were going to attend the celebration, what are you going to do?” Greca asked.
“There are a few ways to accomplish my goal, but I think that the best way is to use illusions to hide in plain sight,” as I was speaking, I used my powers to create an illusion around Kimball and , changing our looks so we wouldn’t be recognized.
“That’s incredible!” Greca exclaimed, she didn’t have a problem admitting she was impressed.
“I will try to stay out of the Imperialist’s way, but I really doubt they will be able to see the real face behind the illusion.”
In just a short time we found ourselves in the hall enjoying the festivities, during the celebration Dendro had asked for everyone’s attention and announced to everyone that from that moment on, his son would be the one in charge of the clan and that he would only be an advisor to Antrax. After presenting his son and my daughter as the new leaders of the clan, a round of applause and congratulations followed, and then the banquet started, with a great number of slaves entering the room, carrying exquisite food to the table.
Kimball had assumed the role of guard and was standing behind me. I was sitting at the same table as my daughters, but on the other side of the Imperialists, still, I could hear every word they said.
“It is official, then,” Pompeyo said. “I always believed one day we would be both the leaders of our clans, but this is not exactly how I imagined it.”
“What would you have changed?”
“Your partner, for starters, you could have found someone better,” he said.
“Who better than the descendant of powerful warriors?”
“Her lineage comes from cowards and trash,” Pompeyo replied.
“We share the same grandfather,” Malkia said casually, “I would be more careful before insulting my lineage,” Pompeyo’s gaze moved to Malkia, and I knew he was trying his powers on her, but by looking at smile, I was assured that Malkia was using her sister’s powers to fight back, and even if she didn’t know that, by being there, I was also lending her strength and my own abilities, one of Vlad gifts.
“Your mother was a coward that ran away because she couldn’t deal with the responsibilities of the throne, and your father was a low level warrior who didn’t deserve the position that was given to him. That’s what you will be, a failure like them.”
“, our clans had been allies for a long time, because of that I ask you to respect the mother of my .”
“Think of the legacy you are giving your by having them as his mother. It would be better to get rid of them and start again.”
That was one of the turning points, the moment that a seed would be planted in Pompeyo’s mind, one that could be disastrous. The tension at the table increased. was the first one to realize the threat behind his words, and she got ready to defend herself and her son. I saw a couple of warriors moving towards Lason’s room, making sure he was protected, not that they needed to worry, Kimball had prepared some gadgets to protect him from both physical and psychic attacks, besides, he himself had left at the first threat from Pompeyo, knowing that from all of us, was the most vulnerable, and therefore, the one who needed his protection more. I needed to trust my daughter would be able to deal with the situation, but still I started to use my empathy, trying to calm them down.
“Be careful Pompeyo, that could be misinterpreted as a threat, and that’s not how you should talk to your allies. Especially not now that you are facing all revolts from the clans under Imperial control, it would be unfortunate that in your time of need you couldn’t count on your allies.”
“Your words could also be misinterpreted as a threat, worse yet, ad treason.”
“I’m not the one who walked into one of his ally’s and threatened his family…”
‘Careful,’ I sent the warning to Antrax, making sure Antrax would notice the communication.
bit his words back and took a moment to think over his words, realizing the damage the rest of his speech could do if spoken out loud or if managed to read them. The last thing the young Emperor needed was to be reminded that there was something else fit to occupy his throne while he was still fighting to be recognized by all his subjects.
I increased my efforts to calm them down, increasing the feelings I was sending out, but then I noticed that Alukah was looking around, searching for something. She had found out someone was trying to affect them. I knew that if her attention focused on me there was a chance she would be able to see I was using an illusion, so I let my powers go, while and Antrax were in a staring contest, or knowing Pompeyo’s powers, maybe something more.
“What are you afraid of?” Malkia asked him.
“I’m not afraid, I’m the Emperor!”
“Exactly. You are the Emperor, and I’m the partner of the leader of the Assassins, but your actions and your attitude that you have something against me, and I doubt is because of my relationship with Antrax. I don’t care what your problem with me is, you need to get over it, because all you will accomplish with your attitude is to break the relationship our clans have held for generations.”
“I’m not the problem,” Pompeyo said, acting like a little child, and not like the Emperor he was. His fear of Malkia and everything she represented was affecting his judgement.
I realized Alukah was looking very satisfied with the situation, it looked like once things started escalating she starting feeling better. I realized that it was not only Pompeyo who was responsible for the problem, there were more people feeding the rivalry. I knew that I would never get away with influencing the Emperor, no matter how strong I was, he would notice my influence. On the other side, could be a good option, because, despite her arrogance, that was clear from everything she did, she could be more susceptible to suggestion.
I used a lot of energy making sure that my mind reached her in a subtle way, not putting a lot of pressure, with care. His mind was a fortress, but I found the way to slip past her defenses. Her mind, wasn’t that of a telepath, it didn’t have the same structure you would find in one, so I needed to approach it differently. I started whispering in her mind, building little thoughts that I let her, letting her think they were her own ideas, and she was falling for it. For a moment I felt resistance, and I thought she was on to me, but a few new words calmed her down.
Between going into Alukah’s mind and keeping the illusion, I couldn’t focus my attention on what was going on around me, so when I went out of the trance, I realized the situation had escalated faster than I expected, or maybe I had spent more time in her mind that I thought, anyway, both Antrax and Dendro were on their feet, facing Pompeyo, who looked ready to fight. To the side, Greca and Malkia were still sitting, but the focus on Malkia’s face made me think that her mind was busy, maybe fighting off Pompeyo’s attacks.
“This is getting ridiculous,” Alukah said, “we shouldn’t be wasting our time here, it’s clear they are not going to change their minds and they will keep protecting that woman. I say that we have better things to do, forbid her coming into our territory, so we won’t have to see her again and let’s get away from here. This party is not even good.”
For a moment it looked like Pompeyo hadn’t heard her, or wasn’t going to listen to her advice, but then his posture relaxed a little. ” is right, this is a waste of time, it’s obvious you are not willing to see reason. It’s a pity things have to end like this, but I don’t want to see her again,” Pompeyo told Antrax, pointing to Malkia, “make sure I don’t have to. It was a mistake to come here, so we will leave immediately.”
Everyone in the room was tense, frozen in place until the Imperialists left the place.
“Greca, make sure they leave the territory and that they don’t take any detour,” Antrax ordered, and then, turned and walked out of the room, followed closely by Dendro and Malkia. After a moment I followed as well. “Who does he think he is to come here and talk to me like that, especially this day?” Antrax was saying.
“I’m sorry that ruined your day,” I told them, “but believe it or not, this went better than I expected.”
“I thought you were here to help, but all you did was stay there while he insulted and threatened your daughter. Maybe is right about you.”
I used my powers to push Antrax into Lason’s room, where Kimball and a couple of soldiers were protecting the baby. “Leave us,” I told them, and after looking to for confirmation, they did. “I know this was a difficult situation for you, and I know that you are mad on behalf of my daughter, because she is important to you, that’s the only reason there won’t be consequences your words, but I recommend you think twice before speaking to me like that again,” Antrax tried to move, even speak, but my powers had him completely under my control.
“I think that’s enough,” Dendro said, “the situation was hard, you can’t blame him for losing his temper.”
“Of course I can, especially since he is blaming Pompeyo and the situation is not that different, Pompeyo is acting like a teenager out of control just because he feels threatened by Malkia. This is exactly why I insisted she should stay out of Imperial circles, just her presence is enough to make people talk, making Pompeyo lose her reason. The first few months are always difficult for a new Emperor, especially if his authority and strength are being questioned like this.”
“I guess you ran into trouble,” Kimball said, he was holding little Lason in his arms.
“Things went out of control, and the situation was so heavy that my empathy wasn’t working, luckily I was able to plan a suggestion in Alukah and she was able to convince Pompeyo that it was better to leave. Still, I have a feeling this is not over yet.
“Alukah is a powerful warrior,” Malkia said, “someone like her can’t be deceived or tricked easily.”
“I didn’t say it was easy, and there is still a chance she could find out what I did, but we would have to wait to see if my action had consequences. I just hope everything goes well.”
But I knew that at that moment there was no way I could foresee the consequences of my action, but I could see that even if Dendro was happy to have me there, Antrax wasn’t. I couldn’t stay mad at him because his worry was for Malkia’s safety, and I couldn’t blame him for wanting to protect my daughter. The young leader of the Assassins wasn’t aware that my daughter was much more dangerous than him, the problem was not the danger she was in from the Imperialists, the danger was what would happen if he died protecting her, for Malkia would be forced to seek her vengeance.