Chapter 66

Once the reunion was done, we went to the throne room to see how the meeting had gone for Ethan and Greca.  I knew that it wouldn’t be easy for them, they were the new guys and, besides, their relationship with me would put them in a difficult position.

As soon as the doors opened, my suspicions were confirmed.  I could see the floor moving back to its original position while Ethan was trying to walk away from the throne in what was supposed to be a careless manner, while Greca was still standing next to the throne with a smile on her face.

“Already causing trouble?” I asked Ethan.  I could see most of the other attendees looking at him with a mix of fear and respect, while others looked at him with hate and resentment, the defeated I guessed.

“Of course not, you know me.”

“That’s exactly why I’m asking.  I hope you didn’t kill anyone,” I said, looking around and looking for possible victims.

“You offend me, mother,” Ethan said, trying to look all innocent, “you know I wouldn’t hurt anyone.”

“We both know that your cousin would say otherwise.  Do I have to remind you of the time you almost killed two of them?”

“First of all, they attacked me first, and second, they are fine.”

“Just because your mother arrived in time to keep them stable and because I was able to use my medical knowledge to save them.  I don’t think it’s a good idea to start making enemies, so fast, you shouldn’t be starting fights,” Kimball said.

“We didn’t start them,” Greca said, defending her brother, “we just finished them.”

“I’m surprised you have a problem with this,” Inionri told me, “you were always causing trouble, you tried to kill many people during these reunions, you even managed to kill a few.”

“If it was only me there wouldn’t be a problem, like you said I would have done much worse, but Kimball is a pacifist and he is trying to teach Ethan more control.”

“A pacifist that threatened to destroy a whole clan?” Inionri asked.

“I don’t have problems acting when it’s needed,” Kimball said, “but I don’t think my son has to prove anything to them, we already know who are the most powerful warriors in this room, no one here is really a challenge to them, and if they know what they are capable of, then I don’t see why they need to fight or prove anything to anyone.”

“You seem to have a lot of confidence in your son, but he has never been in a real fight in the Empire,” Inionri pointed out.

“I’m pretty sure that Ethan could handle any of your children, Ratu included,” I said.

“Don’t be so sure, my kids are pretty good, I’m sure they could take yours,” she said.

“My three kids against your five, I’m sure they will beat them without problems,” I said.

“What is she doing?” Greca asked Ethan.

“She is most likely organizing a fight so she could prove to her cousin that we are stronger.  I’m used to my mother making others agree to fight me, it’s her way of teaching them a lesson.  It’s always fun to see how someone who thinks can defeat mom is defeated by me, the humiliation they feel is increased that way.  She already defeated Ratu, but I think that making one of us fight her, is her way to really show her she is not that big a deal.”

“You really think highly of yourselves,” Ratu said, she had followed her mother into the room, “but even if I have to recognize that the stories about you turned out to be true,” she said, “there is no way that your son or daughters would be able to fight me, I’m older and more experienced than any of them.”

“I think you are underestimating us,” Malkia said, “you have no idea what we are capable of.  But it’s not worth it to discuss this with you, as Kimball said, we don’t have to prove anything to you.”

“It looks more like you are afraid to fight me, maybe because you don’t want people to realize how weak you really are.  So many people talking about your mother and what she is capable of, it must be very frustrating to be compared to her and know you can’t live up to the expectations,” another warrior entered the room and stood next to Ratu, there was something familiar about him and it took me a moment to place him as another of Inionri’s children, looked like Ratu’s older brother.  “It’s better for them if they don’t fight, it will save them the public humiliation.”

“You didn’t see what those two did, Nanjue, I don’t think it’s a good idea to make them mad.”

“Don’t be a coward, Shinatobe, maybe you are impressed by a few cheap tricks, since you are fresh out of the Burrows, but we have enough experience to face even strong enemies.”

“So now we are enemies?  Every moment I become more convinced that this fight is a good idea,” Ethan said.

“Enough,” Kimball interrupted.  “I don’t think this is the time for this.  You said you were going to spend some time with your family,” he told me, “I will then spend some time with our children, try not to collect more enemies in the meantime.”

“You are the one who came here trying his hardest to make everyone your enemy, don’t try to tell me now that I’m the one with the problem,” I complained.  “You know that things here are different,” I started, but Kimball wasn’t listening, he had already signaled Ethan to move to his side, and I could tell that even if they weren’t sure it was a good idea, Malkia and Greca were also following him.

“Do you really think they can take my kids?” Inionri asked while staring at the three of them standing there.

“I’m pretty sure they can, but we can organize something to prove it,” I suggested.

“I’m not sure I want to participate in any plan you come up with, if I wanted to do something about this, I would challenge them myself,” Ratu said.

“I guess that you would have to face Greca and the little one would have to fight Ethan,” Nanjue said.

“No thank you, after watching what he did to Fergus’ group the last thing I want to do is face that crazy guy,” Shinatobe complained.

“And what exactly happened?” I asked.  “Because I remember his father strictly forbidding him from fighting any of his cousins unless it was a life or death situation.

Shinatobe stayed silent, glancing at his siblings, but without any intention of talking to me.  I couldn’t help but smile at that weird show of loyalty.  Inionri was also smiling, doing your best to keep your partners out of trouble was part of a non-written code among young soldiers, and the fact that he was including my son in it made me happy.

“Well, I wanted to introduce my kids to you officially, and I think that part is covered, want to go elsewhere to talk?” Inionri asked.

“Who else is invited?” I asked, knowing that the reunion wouldn’t be just between the two of us, but that was a good thing, I wanted the opportunity to talk to the others.

Just as I expected, Inionri guided me to a big room, where soon some of my other allies would arrive, but before that, both of us noticed that Ratu was following us.

“I would like to talk to you for a moment,” she said, the respectful tone she was using was the first clue she wanted something from me.

“We can do this two ways,” I told her, “I could take care of it myself, going into your mind and setting a series of instructions that would let your powers know what to do in order to protect you when you have a vision, or I could teach someone you trust how to do it,” Ratu was surprised by my words, I wasn’t sure if she was more surprised by the fact I knew what she wanted, or because of the options I was giving her.

“What are you going to ask in return?” she asked, I could tell she didn’t trust me and that she was expecting me to demand something drastic out of her, like for her to kill Pompeyo or something like that.

“I will ask you to stop seeing me and my daughter as enemies, and that you keep out of any crazy plans that Pompeyo comes up with against us.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s all I need from you.  I don’t need you to stop anything they try against me, but it will be much better if I don’t have to worry about you too.  I know exactly what you are going through.  You would have been a great Empress, but you weren’t even given the chance to try, so the least I can do is help you keep being part of this clan.”

“I told you that you don’t have to worry,” Inionri said.  “We are family, and Kaiserin and I have been allies from the beginning, so everything will be fine.  We won’t let that cursed Fedelm to get her claws into you, all you need to worry about is Pompeyo and whatever he has to say about this.”

“My brother told me he would support me, he knows it’s better for him to keep me by his side instead of leaving me to rot in those caves.”

“I see that you understand exactly how I felt when I was in your situation.  People insist in saying that I betrayed the clan, but the truth is that the clan was going to betray me by stealing my life.  I refused to be part of that game in the past, and until your brother does what needs to be done to change that, I will do my best to help whomever needs it.  Sooner or later your brother will realize that I came here to help, not to make things worse.  I’m pretty sure most of you won’t like my ideas, but you need to understand that I have the best of intentions.”

“Sometimes good intentions aren’t enough,” Ratu said.

“I know, I have lived it.  But for now, we have time, so think about the options I gave you and decide which one is best for you.”

“I will, thanks you.  I’ll leave you to your talk.”

More people arrived in the room, most of them I recognized, but there were a few new faces.  Thanks to my visions I had a good idea of how my family had expanded, I knew some faces, some names, but I wasn’t always certain how they were related to me or what their position in the Empire was.

Something that had most of them worried was my reasons for being there.  For them it was hard, if not impossible, to understand that I had no intentions of taking over the clan.  I knew that I needed to establish my presence there before the true changes started.  Both the North and the South had already started to change and the Empire was trapped in the middle.  It was necessary to find a way for them to adapt to those changes.

I knew that I would have to pay a visit to Melchizedek soon, he would have a better idea of what was going on with his people and how it could affect mine.  I knew that he had realized he had been overly optimistic about his revolution.  Even if the Light Ones were known to be peaceful people, once their basic instincts had been awakened, the consequences had been bad.  Those people had been trapped in a masked tyranny, and as soon as the blindfolds started to fall, the consequences became clear.

I knew that it would be very difficult to avoid the bloodshed if the young people in the Empire insisted on keeping their tradition of conquering and taking things by force, but I hoped I could convince them there were other ways to reach the prosperity they wanted.  I wouldn’t be easy for them, but I had never gone for the easy path in my life.

 

Advertisements

Chapter 64

The vision vanished as soon as it had come, leaving me with a lot of questions and almost no answers.  I knew that I would have to go back and find more about what I had seen, but that would have to wait, I was exhausted, really tired, and already feeling what felt like the beginnings of a psychic headache, it took me a few seconds to understand what had happened, a few seconds until I fully processed the destruction in front of me.  The table was in pieces and the people that had been there for breakfast had been pushed against the wall, some of the soldiers looked in bad shape, and I could see a broken body to the side, and by his position, I could tell he was no longer alive.

Kimball was by my side, helping me stand up, because he knew how tired I was.  I saw Ethan standing with Pompeyo and his group, only one them looked hurt, the others were fine.  My daughters were standing to the side with another group, all of them unharmed.

“Are you ok?” Fatima asked from behind me.

“I little tired.  I see these idiots didn’t get the message the first time and kept trying to attack, without luck, but that made me spend a lot of energy.  It was very unfortunate that the vision came to me when it did.”

“It was no accident,” Fatima said, “it seems the local seeress put you into a trance, which surprises me, she is not even half as strong as you are, you should have been able to stop her.”

“What are you talking about?  Fedelm can make me have visions?”

“Didn’t you learn about that with your teacher?  Did he ever force you into a vision to teach you how to control your powers?”

“You must remember that my teacher was a Light One, a very considerate and polite person who taught me without forcing me into anything.  I never thought you could be forced into a vision like that.”

“Maybe you should ask Queen Sofia to teach you how to avoid falling into the trap again.”

“I’m pretty sure that Fedelm sent that vision because she thought I would be at her people’s mercy while in trance, now that she has seen how wrong that assumption was, I doubt she will make the same mistake again, especially if we consider that she won’t always be able to hide behind someone from my family to avoid damage.”

“What you did was impossible,” Fedelm said, “you are not supposed to be able to use your powers while in trance, that’s against everything we know.”

“Making the impossible possible is just one of my many abilities.  All my life I have worked on that, many people has underestimated me, but everyone who has make that mistake has suffered the consequences,” when I said that, I used my powers to grab the young Emperor and drag him over the destruction until he was in front of me.  Several of his guards moved to attack, but I threw them against the wall once again to remind them what would happen to them if they attacked.  “I don’t usually like to kill members of my family, but if you insist on crossing me, I will make an exception,” I threatened.

“I won’t stand still while you come here and take what’s mine,” he answered as he tried to attack me with his powers.

I knew that the situation was going to escalate very fast, I needed something drastic to make him stop his attacks, if I didn’t we would just end up fighting every time we met, so I used my powers to drag his mind into mine, while I kept his body frozen outside.

I locked Pompeyo’s mental representation inside some crystals that had my memories of my fights with the Amazons and the Dominion, and I even showed him how I had taken control of Mzansi for a while, just to show him how every time I gave that power back, how I had refused to take control of the Amazons, even after defeating the War Council, how I had given Kgosi control of Mzansi and how I had given up control of the Dominion little by little so its own people would be in control.  Once I made my point, I let him out of my mind.

Outside, my people had surrounded me to stop people from attacking, but there were several that were staying out of the conflict, and once I let Pompeyo go, I realized that the people supporting me was bigger than Pompeyo’s group.

“I hope that this doesn’t happen again,” I told Pompeyo, who was still angry at me, but at least I hoped he could understand what I was trying to tell him.

“How did you do that?” Ratu asked.  “How did you avoid being vulnerable while you were in trance?  That’s why seers have to hide from the world, the reason why they have to stay always at the Palace, because it can be dangerous to have a vision and be unprotected in case someone attacks, but you were able to defend yourself.”

“That’s a trick I learned, believe it or not, in the Shadowlands.  A person there was sick, and used his biokinesis to keep living, but it required constant concentration, something that didn’t work as soon as he was distracted of fell asleep, so a group of them found a way to make his powers work constantly, using hypnosis to teach his body how to work.  It’s the same principle of what I do, I make my body follow a series of instructions when I fall into trance by using auto-hypnosis.”

“Is that how you are able to keep a seeress as one of your guards?” Ratu asked.  “You go into her mind and put some orders so she can keep working even when she has a vision?”

“Fatima didn’t need my help for that, she is a powerful technopath, and one of her many abilities is creating gadgets that connect to her and are able to protect her while she is in trance, she has everything, from shields to attack weapons.”

“Then there is a way for me to keep being a warrior,” Ratu said, and it was impossible not to notice the hope in her voice.

“Don’t even think about it, Ratu,” Fedelm threatened, “your destiny was written a long time ago, you will soon have your third vision and as soon as you are reborn as a seeress, you will belong to the seers.  Despite your tricks, you must know that you belong with the rest of the seers” she continued talking to me directly, “that’s your destiny, and your duty, and you shouldn’t keep denying your place with us, no matter what fancy tricks you have learned.”

“There is no way you can force me to go with you, you already saw what would happen if you try.  Ratu, I completely understand your position, it’s very frustrating, for every seer in the Empire, to know they will spend the rest of their lives locked up.  The seers are some of the most powerful seers in the world, always, and the fact that they have such an obvious weakness is what drove our people to come up with this system, instead of looking for other alternatives.  I didn’t leave the Empire because I was a seer, but that is the reason I never came back, even after I found a way to fight that weakness.  Part of me doesn’t have any problem helping you, but the other is not that happy with the idea of helping someone that is so eager to ruin my life.”

“This is the way the clan had worked for many generations, you can’t come here and change everything.  We are powerful, we are invincible.  Don’t think this is finished.  I’m the most powerful seer in the Empire and sooner or later I will find the way to defeat you.”

“If I were you, I wouldn’t insist so much for me to be part of your group.  As you know the most powerful seer in the group automatically becomes the leader, and if you take me there, I will be the leader.  Haven’t you wondered why no one knew I was a seer?”
“You were lucky to be far from the rest of the seers when you awakened, I’m sure your potential was so low no one noticed you.”

“There are two clear errors in your words,” Fatima said, “and you should know that yourself.  As leader of the seers, as the strongest of your group, you should know that the weaker the seer is, the most people will notice their birth, you must feel the echo of every seer being born in the Empire, no matter how far they are, but the biggest error is to think that Kaiserin’s birth as a seer was away from here, as far as I know, her third vision took place here, in the Palace’s hallways.”

“That’s not possible, someone would have noticed,” Fedelm said.

“Do you remember the day I was found in the hallways badly hurt, after my father threw me out of the General’s meeting?”

“I remember,” Maddan said, “the bodies of your attackers were trapped in the spikes you have filled the hallway with, but I always thought it weird they had been able to hurt you in the first place.”

“The only reason they were able to reach me was that they caught me while I was trapped in a vision, my third vision, the one that marked my birth as a real seer.  Melchizedek, the Light Ones’ seer, and the most powerful seer in the continent felt me and was able to help me understand my new role and my new powers.  There was only one more person that knew about my awakening, and that was Queen Sofia, a seeress that lives on the other side of the world.  They were the two most powerful seers in the world at that moment, and I became the third.”

“You’re lying, that can’t be true.”

“There is a simple way of proving it,” Fatima suggested.  “Go into the fog, there you can prove who has the most control over it.  Kaiserin is able to see more and walk more paths than anyone.  Her control and command over the fog is undeniable.”

“I don’t want to go inside right now, not after the vision I was just forced to see.  I will need more time before I’m able to face it.”

“What did you see?” Kimball asked, concerned.

“I’ll tell you later.  Now, I think this breakfast is ruined, and I haven’t even had a chance to eat, so if you excuse us, and even if you don’t, my family and I will take our leave.”
We still had a lot to talk about as a group, but I needed some time for myself, besides, I needed to be in a safer environment so I would be able to rest my mind so I could avoid the full headache that was threatening me.  Luckily, not much had changed in the time I had been away, and I was able to find a small dining room where I could request some breakfast for us.

“What you did was incredible,” Malkia said once we finally got our breakfast.  “To be able to do something like that is amazing, especially since you were in a trance.  For a moment I feared we would suffer the consequences of that attack, but it never reached us.”

“My power is constantly adapting.  After an accident when I had a vision while Ethan and I was sparring, and I ended up hurting him, I looked for ways to avoid something like that happening again.  My power is capable of recognizing Ethan’s psychic barrier, and neutralize, or at least minimize the damage done to it.  I’m glad the same happened with you.”

“Ethan warned us that something was about to happen and that we needed to copy what he was doing, it was a little weird, but that barrier seems to be very useful, I just hope we will be able to use it in other circumstances,” Greca said.
“Everything I can do, and everything Ethan can do, you can copy and then learn with a little practice.  We have time, and the chance to practice, you just have to tell me what you would like to learn, and I can teach you.  It’s the same principle you and your sister use to share your powers, there is a lot you can take from me.”
“I had seen you doing such incredible things, I wouldn’t know where to start.  There is so much I would like to learn.”

“And I promise I will teach you everything you want.  I had the chance to teach Malkia about the astral planes and how to use that ability, but I haven’t had the chance to work with you.  We have wasted so much time, and I want to fix that.  Anything you want to learn, anything you want to do, if is in my power to do it, then we will.”

“I think you should teach us all that trick you took from Alukah,” Ethan said, “that seems like a pretty good ability to have.”

“That’s quite a useful ability, but also dangerous, it’s easy to lose yourself in the feeling of all that energy you are taking, you could easily leave the other person without energy, it’s easy to kill and not even realizing it.  I think I would feel better to teach you how to take energy by contact first, and once you have control over that teach you how to take it from a distance.”

“Do you think Pompeyo finally learned his lesson?” Malkia asked.  “I don’t like to be constantly looking behind my back for fear of him trying something.”

“I’m afraid that’s not something that will change any time soon, even if Pompeyo change his tune.  He is not the only one after you, he is only the most obvious one.  I hope things will change, Fedelm’s vision forced me to see a future that’s very far from what we see now.  Many changes are coming our way, I just hope we can keep some control.  What they did make me tired, I think I will have to go get some rest before facing the rest of the clans this afternoon.”

“I think that’s a good idea.  You need to be at full strength, or as close as you can if you are going to face a group that could get aggressive.  And sooner or later, you will have to start letting your people handle them.”

“As long as I can keep fighting, I will.  I have to show that I’m strong, at least for now, any sign of weakness can open the door to new attacks, until they get that they can’t defeat me, I will have to keep showing them what I’m capable of and fight anyone who wants to challenge me.”

Chapter 63

I woke up the moment Kimball put me in bed, I saw we were no longer in the living room and that my children were no longer with us, I realized I had fallen asleep.

“Please, tell me I didn’t fall sleep in front of everyone.”

“Your body can only hold on for so long, you were exhausted and your body required rest, so it took it.”

“My family must think I have become very weak with time, what kind of idiot falls asleep at a time like this?”

“No one was bothered or had anything to say about the fact that you needed sleep.  Everyone understands the need for rest after a fight like the one you just had.  And as your doctor, I think you need even more sleep.”

My first instinct was to refuse, but I was really tired and still wanted more sleep.  For a moment I feared they had given me something to make me feel like that, some pain medicine could have that effect, but after thinking about it, I had to recognize that wasn’t the case, my body, and especially my head, still hurt too much for it to be pain medicine.  In fact, because of the pain it should have been impossible for me to be able to sleep, but for the second time, I let sleep take me under before I realized it was happening.

I woke up the next morning feeling so much better, and the first thing I did was to deactivate the suppressor.  I didn’t use it unless it was absolutely necessary, and with the pain gone, it was no longer needed.  Besides, it was better to be free to have the option of borrowing energy if I needed, it would be best to help me fight my tiredness.

Another thing I was feeling at the moment was hunger.  I was surprised Kimball hadn’t surprised me with breakfast in bed, that was the kind of details he had made me used to.  I had to recognize he spoiled me a lot.  With carefulness, making sure not to move too fast so I would not get dizzy and lose my balance, I stood up, and just as I started to move to where the clothes were stored, Kimball walked into the room, followed by Malkia.  I got a glimpse at the living room and saw that there was a group of people already there.

“How are you feeling?” Kimball asked as he looked at me with a critical gaze.

“Much better, my body still hurts, but my head is pain free and I have my powers back.  But I’m starving, did they bring anything to eat yet?”

“We were invited, or more accurately, required, to have breakfast with the Emperor,” Malkia said, she had a couple of envelopes in her hands, she offered one, but I could already imagine what it said, and after looking at it, I confirmed what Malkia said, more than an invitation, it was an order.  “What do you think he is planning now?  Poisoned food?”

“That would be incredibly stupid on his part, I had a food taster and you are immune to most poisons.  If what he wants is to get rid of us, this is not the best way.  I don’t think this is a peace offering either, the young Emperor is definitely planning something, but for my part, I think it would be best if we go see what he wants, there is no point in avoiding him.  Besides, I’m hungry.”

“If that’s what you want, you know we will be by your side, but at least take a moment to consider the consequences,” Kimball said.

“You have nothing to worry about, everything will be fine.  I will insist on taking my guards with me, Yoweri, Agata, Thalia, Fatima and Ivan will be more than capable to face anything they throw at us.  Besides, you, Ethan and my daughters are going to be there, and I’m guessing Antrax too?”

“It’s not clear if he is invited, but as my partner I think his place is with me.”

“I agree.  What time are we supposed to show up?  Do I have time to prepare?”

“Just a few minutes,” Kimball said.  “We were on our way to wake you up, we have just enough time to get ready, unless you want to be late enough to make an entrance.”

“For the moment it will be best if we try to aggravate the Emperor as little as possible.  We will have time during breakfast to find out what he is planning, with luck, whatever he is going to do will be after we eat.”

Both of them offered to help me get ready, but I had to prove to myself I was capable of doing it myself.  It may have taken me longer to get ready by myself that if I had let them help, but I was doing that for myself, and both of them accepted it.

In just a moment we were on our way to the dining room, the one where I had spent so much time in my younger years, where I had spent time as a guest, and also where I had stood behind my mother as a guard.  I had so many memories of the place that I was moving automatically, not even thinking about it.  Once we arrived, I was forced to leave my guards outside, not the best outcome, but I accepted it.

There was a big group when we arrived.  I noticed some of them were part of my family, but it was mostly Generals, Colonels and their families, a group of the most influential people in the Empire.  I noticed an empty seat to Pompeyo’s left, next to it was Alukah, and on his other side were Pompeyo’s siblings.  Then only other empty seats were clearly marked as unimportant places.  It was a very subtle insult, but an insult nonetheless.

There were no places set opposite Pompeyo, so I used my connection to the Palace to create some chairs and then I moved some things until the places were set so I could sit opposite the Emperor.  I also moved some people to make sure my family could sit around me, with Kimball and Ethan on one side and Malkia, Antrax and Greca on the other.

“Just arriving and already thinking you can rearrange things?” Pompeyo said, clearly angry.

“It’s too early to fight, for your own safety I would wait until I have something to eat before you start pissing me off,” I threatened, and maybe it was partly true that hunger was making me impatient.

“Do I have to remind you again that I’m still the Emperor?  If you really want to pretend you are part of this, you need to start showing more respect.  I’m being pretty nice by letting you and your family eat with us, but I can still kick you out if I want.”
“Not until I have a chance to eat,” I said, not bothered by his words or acknowledging his subtle threat for us to move.  Luckily, Pompeyo decided to let it go.

“We are just waiting for a couple more people to arrive before we start eating, but if you are so desperate, you can take some fruit,” Alukah mocked me, and still I followed her suggestion.

There were many fruit platters along the table, and since we haven’t taken the seat assigned to us, and I doubted Pompeyo would have endangered anyone else at the table, I felt it was safe to take an apple without fearing it was poisoned.  I wasn’t sure what Pompeyo’s plan was, but I could tell he had something on his mind thanks to the fear masked as anger that I was getting from him.  I was sure the invitation wasn’t a peace offering, but a trap, I just wasn’t sure what his goal was yet, and diving into his mind would get me nowhere.

I decided to ignore him and started greeting those I knew, I had already talked with a few of them, like Maddan, Inionri, Kozlak and Geb, there were others that I knew, but that were not part of my circle and that were looking at me with curiosity, others like Vikomt were keeping their distance, not knowing what would be best, to support the Emperor or make peace with me.  I didn’t know what to expect from some of them, like Agis, but since he was sitting close to the Emperor I had to assume I couldn’t trust him.  Others were from younger generations and I haven’t had a chance to talk with them, but I at least knew about them, some were even part of my family.

More people arrived, but I knew Pompeyo was waiting for someone in particular, and there was still an empty seat, the one for the person we were still missing.  People started chatting in groups around the table, but only those who had come with me were talking to me, the others were nervous, waiting for something to happen.

We have a problem with Fatima, she just told me the attack was coming and then she fell into a deeper than usual trance, I can’t get her out,’ Thalia told me.

My group had stayed outside the dining room, but that wasn’t something that bothered me, I knew that they were close enough to help if we needed them, and the fact that Ivan appeared just behind me, told me that they had everything under control.

“Pompeyo, I asked for you to hold any attack until after breakfast, but I was just told you are about to launch whatever crazy plan you have.”

“I have no idea what you are talking about,” Pompeyo said, not convincingly enough.
“One of my guards is under attack, whatever you are doing, I warn you to stop before is too late, neither me or my people will hold out if you insist on attacking us.”

“You must be really desperate if you have a worthless seeress as one of your guards.  You should know by know that our kind is not suited for battle,” said a woman from a door on the other side, at first I couldn’t recognize the woman, in part because half her face was covered by a blindfold.  I finally recognized her as Fedelm, Bunefer’s daughter and current leader of the Palace’s Seers.

“You are making a big mistake by underestimating Fatima, she may be a seer, and I have no idea what you did to her, what I know is that she is not the kind of person you can attack without consequences.  What happened to your eyes?” I couldn’t help but asking.

“You need to make some sacrifices if you want to be a true seeress, I gave up my mundane sight to be able to see better in the fog,” she answered haughtily.

“That sounds painful, and unnecessary.”

“I know that you have been playing a seeress for a while, but I really doubt you understand the true calling of one, especially since you hid your gifts and ran away from your responsibilities.  But with time and proper training, you will learn how to be a good seer.”

“So this is your play?  You have no power over me, Fedelm.”

“I heard that Inioniori welcomed you into the Maxima Family, that makes you part of this clan, even if you don’t deserve it, it also means you must follow our rules.”

“Nice try, calling the Rules of Seers into play,” I recognized, “but if you think I will bow my head and walk into my grave, you have learned nothing about me.  I gave my back to that life years ago, and I didn’t come back here to walk into that trap.  Fedelm, sit down and join us for breakfast if you want, but don’t expect me to go with you, much less for me to obey you.”

“Do you really believe you are the first seer that has tried to renounce the call?  As the leader of the seers, I know every method of convincing rebel soldiers to follow their destiny.”

I was starting to get a bad feeling about the whole situation, but I was sure that I could take any of them in a fight, unless it was an unfair fight, but what could I do?  If they had waited after breakfast to attack, I would have expected them to put something in my food, but I was sure that neither my drink nor my apple had anything on them.

“I’ll warn you right now that you will regret anything you do, it would be better if you forget all about whatever crazy plan you have.”

“We have to get out of here!” Ivan exclaimed.  “Fatima just got out of her trance and says things are about to escalate.”

The noise outside the room increased and I knew my people was fighting, I wasn’t sure what they were planning yet, but if Fatima was worried it was because something bad was coming, and not necessarily to me or my children, I knew my actions could affect other people in the room.  I didn’t want to look as if I was running away or as if I was scared, but I didn’t want to spill my family’s blood, so I stood up and prepared to leave.

“I really wanted for us to have the chance to talk, but if this is how you will act, then we will have to talk in another occasion.”

“You still don’t understand the situation, you fell into a trap of your own doing.  You were the one who insisted to be part of this clan, you are not an Assassin like your daughters or a Shadow like your son and your partner, and that means you fall under our jurisdiction.  Like it or not, you will be coming with me,” Fedelm threatened.  I was about to talk back to her when the world around me dissolved and I found myself in the middle of a vision.

Chapter 62

I felt there were several persons in the room as soon as I woke up, but even after noticing that I had a power suppressor on me, I didn’t feel scared or threatened, in part because the strong headache helped me remember what had happened and the reason for all my hurt.  The last thing I remembered was Kimball checking my injuries, and I was sure he would have never let anything bad happen to me.

“How are you feeling?” Kimball asked, as always he could tell the moment I became aware, even if my eyes were still closed.

“You gave us quite the scare this time,” Ethan said, as I felt him sitting on the bed, next to me.

“There was no reason to worry, none of the injuries were really bad, even without your father’s help I would have recovered after getting some sleep.”

“From what Kimball said, I think your injuries were worst than you are letting on,” Malkia said, and I could tell by her tone of voice that she was angry.  “Was that show really necessary?  You were at a disadvantage for most of that fight, no one would have said anything if you had asked for help, and if what they say is true, even one of them would have significantly changed the flow of the battle.”

“You, better than anyone, should know how important is to keep appearances in this place.  If I had let anyone help me, most of the clan would still see me as a target.  I know that I have gained a lot of enemies with my actions, and that new generations don’t have the same fear or respect and the older ones, that’s why I needed a show of strength.”

“It was a big risk to take,” Greca said.

“No, it really wasn’t.  Even if the attack from the Death’s Clan was highly unlikely, it was possible, so I knew I would win that fight.  I saw myself walking away from the battle.”

“And you did walk away, but only because you were using your powers to keep your body working, you can’t deny you were falling apart, and the only reason you even reached the door was the use of your powers.”

“You are exaggerating.”

“No, I’m not,” Kimball said, “I saw the damage first hand, and I know that without medical attention, your life would have been at risk.”

“I had you with me, so that was never a risk.”

“I would really like for you to stop taking that kind of risks,” Kimball said, moving closer to me and giving me a sweet kiss to the forehead, it was such a tender gesture that I felt a little guilty, even as I felt angry for letting something as simple as that affect me, especially in front of my daughters.  “You haven’t answered my question yet, how are you feeling?”

“Like I was hit by a train,” I admitted.  “My body hurts a lot, and that is not taking into account the psychic headache, which is not as bad as it could be, thanks for activating the suppressor.”

“I know you don’t like to take strong medications while using the suppressor, so I only gave you mild sedatives, but if you want, I can give you something stronger.”

“No, that’s fine, I prefer to have a clear mind.”

“There is no need for that, it’s only us.  Nothing will happen to you, even if you are not in full control of your mind,” Kimball insisted.

“I’ll be fine, this is nothing, you just worry too much.”

“Someone has to,” he said, not insisting, but clearly not happy with my decision.

“Do you think that Pompeyo will change his tune after what happened?” Malkia asked.  “Or do you think he will keep trying to get rid of me?”

“His worst fear is to be replaced by someone else, and after my little demonstration, I became the biggest threat.  I hope that by the time he realizes he can’t get rid of us, he will also realize we are not the threat he fears we are.”

“Unless you want to be that threat,” Ethan told Malkia, “after all, this is also your legacy and you could take the throne easily, if you want.  There is no one in this clan that could represent all the Families better than you.”

“I have no interest in taking over the Imperial Clan, all I need is to be by Atrax’s side.”

“If that’s what you want, that’s your choice, just think about it.”

“Ethan, stop trying to cause trouble,” I told him, even if I knew that my words wouldn’t matter, once he got a new idea into his head, there was nothing that could stop him.

We were still talking, mostly it was them scolding me for my actions, when we heard someone knocking on the door of the suite.  I knew, even if I had never given the order, that a couple of my guards had to be outside the room, but still we could hear the knocking, that showed just how insistent the person on the other side was.

“I’ll go see who is there,” Ethan offered, getting out of the room before anyone could protest.

“I would like to know what’s going on,” Greca said, “maybe I should join him.”

“That’s not necessary,” Kimball said, activating one of his gadgets, after that we could hear Ethan’s voice, as if he was still standing there in the room.

“What’s going on here?” we heard Ethan ask.

“These individuals want to get in,” another voice, one I recognized as Franz’s, explained.

“Those two are my aunt and uncle, so I guess they’re ok, the others, I’m not so sure,” Ethan said.

“We just want to make sure that Kaiserin is ok,” Maddan said.

“It’s just us four, believe me, many more people wanted to come, but we didn’t want your mother to feel overwhelmed, especially not after the fight she just had, but we would like to see her,” Inionri said, once again acting as the voice of reason, something that would take some time to get used to.

“I will have to ask mom and make sure she doesn’t mind some visitors.”

“We won’t leave here until we speak to her, or at least until we are able to check by ourselves that she is in fact fine, especially after what your father did to her in their way here.”

“Do they really think that Kaiserin needs their protection?” Agata asked, I could almost see the incredulity painted in her face.

“They know my mother, but they don’t know my father,” Ethan said.

“If they know the boss lady, then they should know that no one messes with her and survives to tell the tale.”

“You are still alive,” Ethan pointed out, and I knew that his words could be misinterpreted in may ways, it was true that she had tried to kill me, but could they read the truth behind those words?  Would it be problems if they did?

For a moment, no one said anything, and I could imagine Ethan having a telepathic conversation with Agata, maybe even Franz.  When the silence went by for too long, I started to get nervous and was about to ask Kimball to go see what was going on, when Inionri broke the silence.

“I understand if you don’t want them to get inside, but at least let me go and talk to her, at least to confirm she is ok, they can wait here.”

The others started protesting, but with everyone talking at the same time it was hard to understand who and what they were saying.

“Ok!” Ethan’s voice raised over the others.  “You can come in, but just for a moment, my mom needs to rest to get her strength back.”

Ethan knew I would like to see him, so he had taken the right decision.  I tried to get out of bed, I didn’t want them to see me there, I wanted to meet them outside in the living room, where I could try to not look so bad.

“What do you think you are doing?” Kimball asked.

“I don’t want them to see me here, like this.”

“I’m pretty sure this won’t be the first time they see you injured, not if what you have told me is true.”

“Still…”

“Not waiting any longer, Kimball took me into his arms, I tried to protest, but I knew it would be useless, so I let him carry me.  As soon as we crossed the door, I saw that Ethan had already taken everyone inside and had them take a seat, by his position he was about to go looking for me.  As soon as he saw me in Kimball’s arms, he smiled, he tried to hide it, but I had seen him, and I glared right back at him, I didn’t find the situation any funny, and didn’t appreciate that he was laughing at me.

“How are you feeling cousin?” Kozlak asked, he had gotten out of his seat and was ready to help me if I asked.

“I’m tired, I’m hurting, but that’s what you should expect after a fight like the one I just had,” even if I didn’t have my powers, I could tell what they were thinking just by looking at them, so I interrupted them before they could scold me.  “You don’t have to tell me that what I did was insane, they already told me that.  We can avoid the lecture.”

“What you did was impressive, and a good idea, that will show the youngsters what we mean when we talk about you,” Maddan said.  “You must know that Pompeyo has been very nervous since you made your first appearance, your brother always referred to you in good terms, the few times he talked about you, but I’m afraid that Pompeyo never shared the same good feelings.  Even if most of the youngsters will think twice before attacking after your display, I’m afraid Pompeyo may have not learned his lesson, and you will need to be careful with him.”

“I know, and I know he is planning something, but he has some of the Palace’s seers involved, and because of that, I’m not sure what he will do, still, I’m sure I can handle anything he throws my way.”

“Not if you’re hurt,” Geb said.  “If you are going to face the kids again, you will need to have all of your strength back.”

“Or use the trick you stole from my daughter and borrow some energy, but no mater what happens, you can’t face them if you are not truly prepared for them,” Kozlak said.

“You don’t need to worrry about me, I know what the young Emperor is capable of, and I also know what I am capable of, and believe me, I will be fine.”

“It’s good to have you back,” Kozlka said, “we just want this to last, and we don’t want you to get in troble here.  Not that we don’t trust your abilities, it’s just we worry about you, you have to admit you have a tendency of getting into trouble.”

Kimball and Ethan laughed at that, and I knew that it was because they agreed with him.
“Are you really ok?” Geb insisted, and by the way he was looking at Kimball I knew he was really asking if I was ok with him.

“Everything is perfect.  I just need to rest a little bit, which won’t be an issue, Pomepeyo also need to rest and recover.”

“It’s been so long since we had a chance to talk, and there is still a lot you haven’t explained.”

“You are right, but there are some things I can’t share, I hope you understand.”
For the next few hours I told them a short and censured version of what I had been doing for the last few years, while I had been away, they already knew part of the story, but they wanted to know more, to get a bigger picture, to understand why I had been gone, leaving them for so many years.  No matter what I said, I knew it wouldn’t be enough, even after meeting them and showing and explaining my visions, I was sure that most of them still thought they would have find a way for things to work, a way for us to be able to stay together.

My daughter already knew most of the story, I had already talked to them, still they were listening carefully, trying to caught new fragments of information.  Explaining, or more accurately, justifying why I had left my daughters with Dendro instead of with them had been easier, because after a moment, they had accepted that they would have been at risk in the Empire, and would have ended up dead after a while, even under my brother’s protection, it was only a matter of time, Pompeyo and the others had already shown the youngsters’ attitude towards them.

Being back at the Empire was felt different from what I had expected originally, but once I started talking to my cousins and old allies, I felt as if time and distance were banishing until I felt like no time had gone by, as if I was back at home.

I knew that the next day I would have to face Pompeyo and his people again, and that eventually I would have to face the rest of the clans, I needed to be prepared, and I had to make sure they didn’t take me by surprise.  Even having back that sensation of danger and fear was a familiar feeling, that was what my life had been back then, a constant battle, something I didn’t realize I missed until I was back there.

Chapter 59-b

When the people from the Shadow’s Clan entered the room, every eye focused on them.  It wasn’t just because the new group had arrived, it was because of Zola, an older woman and Nelson, dressed in a suit, and not the uniform his compatriots were wearing, they were obviously out of place, being nothing like the rest of the people gathered in that room.

Some faces were showing naked hostility, others were watching with curiosity, and still a few were looking at them in a friendly way.

“I wasn’t expecting to see you here,” Pompeyo said from his place on the throne.

“It seems our invitation was lost, but that’s not an issue, like I told you the last time I was here, we have ways of knowing what’s going on, you can’t get rid of us so easily.”

“It seems that way,” Pompeyo went silent, because a new group was walking in, Antrax, Malkia, Greca, Dendro and another Assassin entered the room and Pompeyo’s attention turned to them.  “I thought I had been very clear the last time we met, she is not welcome in this place.”

“She is my partner and not allowing her in here is an insult to my clan, and an offense I can’t let go,” Antrax said.  “You will have to get used to seeing her here, whether you like it or not.”

“I think you don’t understand how things work, new leader of the Assassins’ Clan, I’m the one in charge, the one who makes the rules, you are the ones who follow them, I won’t stand this insubordination, no one disobeys my orders no matter who he is.”

“You are the one who asked for our clan to come here, that includes my partner.  Either you accept us all, or we all walk out of here.  Are you willing to put at risk an alliance generations old over this?”

“Be careful Antrax, again you are talking as if you are threatening me,” Pompeyo warned.  “That doesn’t change anything, you disobeyed a direct order and I can’t allow that.  If I let you get away with it, then everyone will think they can do the same.  Guards, take Malkia to the dungeon, if she is so eager to visit the Palace, then lets start her visit from the bottom.”

“I won’t let you take my partner away,” Antrax said, facing Pompeyo.

“With all due respect, Your Majesty, I won’t let you take me away that easily,” Malkia said, moving from behind Antrax and standing next to him.

“I will gladly take care of them,” Alukah offers, eager to fight Malkia.

“That’s not necessary,” Pompeyo says, “I can take care of them.”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Kimball cuts in.

“This has nothing to do with you,” Pompeyo replies.

“Everything that has to do with Malkia and the Assassins is my business.  She is part of my family, and because of that she has the protection of my clan.  Do you really want to continue with this?” Kimball’s words, instead of helping, only make Pompeyo feel more threatened, and push him to put everyone in their places.

“My orders won’t change, you have two options, you either send her back to your clan and promise not to let her out of it again, or you let her stay here, in which case she will become a permanent resident of our dungeon.”

“If you think you can intimidate me so easily, is because you know nothing about me,” Malkia said, not letting herself be intimidated by Pompeyo’s words and attitude.

‘We can do this in a civilized manner so we don’t have any problems, or you can keep fighting back, in that case, I promise you won’t walk out of this room alive,’ Pompeyo sent the thought to Malkia.

“That’s not a good idea,” Ethan said.  “You have no idea what you are facing.”

“We are the Imperial Clan, do you think we are afraid of a couple of clans?”

“Is not the Shadows or the Assassins you have to worry about,” Zola said, speaking for the first time, and surprising everyone by the strength of her voice and the command in her tone, “it’s Kaiserin you should be worry about.”

“I’m the Emperor, I’m not afraid of cowards that don’t even have the courage of coming here.”  Right at that moment, following Pompeyo’s silent command, the guards around the room moved, trying to surround the Assassins, but before they got to their positions, the whole room trembled.  “What was that?” Pompeyo asked, turning to see Maddan, the one in charge of security.

“That’s must be my mother,” Ethan said, “I think it’s time for you to finally meet her face to face.”

“No one can get inside this place without authorization.”

“Kaiserin used to be a Captain of the Royal Guard, she knows all the secret entrances and she has the powers to come here without being detected if she wants,” Maddan said.

“You give her too much credit,” Pompeyo answer, “and anyway, she is not welcome here either, find her and take her to the dungeons, maybe she can share a cell with her daughter.”

“The last time Kaiserin decided to crash a reunion in this room, I was unable to stop her, I’m pretty sure it will be the same this time.”

“If you are afraid, then I can take care of her,” Ratu offered.

Before her offer could be accepted, another crash sounded and the building shook, then the doors of the room opened, on the other side the bodies of the guards could be seen on the floor, and in the middle of the chaos, Kaiserin was standing.

Chapter 59

I woke up to people talking around me, I froze for a moment, trying to get a reading of the situation, to find out what was happening and why, it only took me a few seconds to place the voices and see they belonged to Kimball and Ethan, and to know I was safe, even if my body hurt and my head felt like it had been hit by mallet.

“How are you feeling?” Kimball asks, he clearly wasn’t going to be fooled into thinking I was still asleep.

“I think that right question is, in the scale of 1 to 10, how strong is your desire to drill into your head?” Ethan asked.  It was a joke he liked to make, he always said that when having a psychic headache he felt like drilling his head to let the pain get away.

“I think that at the moment I would really appreciate some silence, my head does feel like it’s about to explode.”

“I think you forced yourself too much this time,” Kimball reprimanded me.  “I’m not blaming you for that, I know that you did what you needed to do, and I would have done the same in your position, but you pushed yourself too hard.  You have been sleeping for almost twenty hours and we needed to give you an IV just to give you some liquids and nutrients,” I hadn’t noticed the IV until he mentioned it.

“I’m just tired, what happened wasn’t that bad,” both Kimball and Ethan looked at me in a way that made it clear they weren’t buying my words, but that wasn’t important, for the moment all I needed was a few more minutes of rest.

“I will call for some food, you need real food, before you think of anything else,” I knew that anything I said would be a waste, it was obvious Kimball was worried and he would do whatever he thought was best, besides, I was hungry and wouldn’t say no to something to eat.

“Can you bring me up to speed while we wait for our food?” I knew that Kimball wanted to wait until things were calm, but I wasn’t going to be able to relax until I had an update on what had happened.

“All you need to know is that everything is alright,” Kibmall said, and I turned to see Ethan.

“That’s true,  nothing interesting to report.  Right now the discussion is all about what they are going to do with that think they created, they are debating between destroying it or studying it.  Some think it’s too dangerous to keep, others are dying to find out what applications it could have.”

“So they still have it here, from what they said I thought it was too dangerous to keep here, what happens if it gets out of control again?”

“We found a way to keep it stable, and right now they are updating the security protocols to make sure there isn’t another incident like it, to make sure we will be able to stop it before it causes damage.”

“I will have to trust you,” was all I couldn’t think of answering, and it was true, I trusted them, if they thought there was no danger, then I had to believe them.

After getting something to eat and rest for a while, the headache finally calmed down enough for me to be able to take the suppressor off and get my powers back.  It didn’t matter if the suppressor was needed to minimize the pain and speed up the healing, having it on affected me more than I cared to admit.

Everything had gone back to normal and I felt rested and much more calm, still, the peace didn’t last for long, just a few weeks later, while we were in Mzansi, I got a vision that pushed everything else to the back.  In just an instant time had gone by and a new Clan’s Reunion had arrived.  It was time to get ready and prepare for another trip, one that would have a bigger impact.

The first step, as always, was to get Fatima and ask her to take a walk through the fog with me.  I knew that the vision I had was not written in stone, I knew there were alternative endings, that there was something I could do to avoid it, and just as I expected, I was able to see many paths opening before me, paths where I could make sure everything was fine, and that not unnecessary deaths would take place.

“What do you have at the moment?” Kimball asked.

“I have a date, and since we are part of the Empire we can be there, even if we haven’t been officially summoned, as allies we are automatically invited, all we have to do is be there.”

“Are you going with us?” Ethan asked, assuming he was going to be part of the group.

“No, not yet.  There is a chance there is another fight between Antrax and Pompeyo, and there is a chance there won’t.  By being there I will only make the situation worse.  There is a chance nothing happens, in which case my presence won’t be necessary, but if things start to get back, you can be sure I will get there, but to avoid problems between the clans, if I go, I will go not as a Shadow, but as a former member of the Imperial Clan.”

“Won’t it be problematic if you go there and don’t present yourself as part of our family?” Kimball asked.

“There is a rule that says that only five representatives from each clan can go to the reunion, if I go and say I’m part of your clan, there the Shadows will be over represented and that can cause trouble, but if I go there and ask my place as part of the Imperial Clan, at least in name, then they won’t be able to accuse you of having more people than allowed.”

“Even if you play that card, everyone knows you are part of my clan, I’m not sure most people will buy that argument as easily as you think.”

“Don’t worry about that, I can be very convincing when I need to.  For now, what’s important is getting ready for our trip.”

Both Kimball and Ethan accepted my words, I was the expert, after all, and if I said that it was the best way to deal with the situation, they had to accept that.

I knew that we were taking great risks, but those were necessary.  If there was a chance for things to resolve peacefully, if Pompeyo and Antrax were capable of reaching an understanding, then I would stay away, but if there was a slight chance of things getting out of control and putting the lives of my loved ones at risk, then I would have to intervene, no matter the consequences.

Getting ready for our trip was easy, so we prepared everything so we would be able to spend some time with my daughters in case I didn’t get to be part of the Reunion.  We arrived at the Empire with more than enough time to get to the reunion, and set camp on the route I knew the Assassins were going to take.  With the help of mzansiers’ technology, it was easy to hide our camp, we used the same camouflage tech that had surprised me so much the first time I had been in one of their camps.  From the road the Assassins were coming, it would be impossible for them to know there was a camp there, but I was sure than once they were close, my daughters would be able to tell there was something in the way.

Ethan had offered to wait for them and receive them, he was sitting in the middle of the road, just a few yards from the camp.  Since I didn’t want to miss the show, I was hidden near him, in the tree line, something Ethan had caught even if I was using some of my tricks to hide my position.

“Greetings,” Ethan said to the Assassins’ scouts.  “I’m waiting for Malkia and Antrax, please let them know that Ethan is here.”

The soldier didn’t look convinced, but he turned around without attacking Ethan, and that was a good sign.  Ethan turned to see me and then put his attention back on the road.  A few minutes later the rest of the Assassins’ caravan came into view.

“We need to stop meeting like this,” Malkia said, approaching Ethan.

“Ethan! It’s so good to see you, are you alone?” Greca asked.

“Of course not,” Malkia said, her eyes turning to where the camp was, then turning and staring directly at the shadows where I was hiding, with Greca turning my way a moment later.

“I can’t say how glad I am to see you again.  I hope you can accept our invitation to spend the night at our camp,” I told my daughters.

“I think it would be pointless to ask how you knew we were going to be here,” Antrax said, moving to stand next to Malkia.  “But you should know we already picked a place to set camp for tonight.”

“I just want to spend some time with my family, you don’t have a problem with that, do you?  Nothing is going to happen if my daughters stay with me tonight, you have more than enough time to reach the Palace tomorrow.”

“I guess the camp you’re talking about is behind us, right?  I can feel a huge settlement, but I can’t see it.”

“That’s one of the Mzansier’s many tricks.  You are right, the camp is right behind us,” I took a small remote control, one Kimball had given me, and disabled the camouflage on the camp for a moment, so the Assassins could see the three huge structures we had set.

“That’s impressive,” Antrax said, even if he sounded more angry than impressed.

“Just wait until you see the interior,” Ethan added, clearly trying to get a rise out of Antrax.

We moved in silence to the main tent, where Kimball was already waiting for us with some food ready.  My daughters avoided asking questions, but I could feel their curiosity, they were just willing to accept the fact that we had appeared in the middle of nowhere for the chance to talk to them.

For a while we just enjoyed our mutual company, talking about superficial topics and enjoying the food.  Dendro, as always, was happy for the chance to talk to us, but it was clear that Antrax didn’t share his feelings, he was on the other side of the common room, staring at us, with an attitude that made it clear he didn’t like the situation we were in.

“Are you finally going to present yourself to the rest of the clans?” Greca asked, voicing the question everyone had.

“The Shadows’ representatives are going to be there, but I will stay away unless my presence becomes necessary.  With the way things are between Pompeyo and your clan, my presence would only make things worse, I don’t want to be the excuse he uses to start something with you.”

“We can take care of Pompeyo, you don’t have to worry about him,” Antrax said, as if my actions were an insult to him.

“He is the Emperor, and despite his behavior, the fact is that he is the most powerful warrior in the Imperial Clan, and he can be a powerful enemy.”

“I’m not afraid of him,” Antrax declared.

“Then you are a fool,” I replied.  If that was the attitude he was going to have while facing Pompeyo, it wasn’t surprising that the situation had such a high possibility of getting out of control.

Antrax opened his mouth, and I was sure he was ready to say something I wouldn’t care for, but he was interrupted before he had the chance to speak.

“I would think twice before speaking,” Kimball said, “you don’t reach our age, getting over multiple battles without learning a thing or two, you should listen and learn, instead of rejecting and fighting.”

“Everything was fine before you decided to come here, and they would still be fine without you.  I don’t need your help of constant interference.”

“What you may not understand is that we didn’t come just now, we allowed you to see us, but we have always been here, watching from the shadows and helping when it was necessary, and we will keep doing it as long as it’s necessary.”

Chapter 57

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.

“Mother?”

“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.