Chapter 38

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, I’m ready.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And what are you going to do now?”

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

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

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Chapter 53

Jose was ready, but I wasn’t. After days of talks and preparations, the day in which we would take Mistral’s memories away had arrived. Mistral had asked us to do it, demanded even, but I still thought she was too young to really know what she was getting into, and it was so hard for me to know that after we finished with her, she wouldn’t be the same sweet little girl we all knew, she was going to be a shadow of her former self, and even worse, she wouldn’t even know who I was.

A sign that this situation was hard and important was that Melchizedek hadn’t picked up on my distress. I was sure that if he knew just how much it was affecting me, he would have stopped it. Melchizedek had listened to my concerns and discussed it with me, it was one of the reasons Jose was there, the old man was one of the most powerful telepaths in the Light Kingdom, he had ended up in the Shadowlands because the High Priests were worried about his power, and had sent him away where he couldn’t risk their positions.

“Are you ready?” Melchizedek asked.

“I am. Are you Mistral? Are you ready to do this?”

“Of course I am Madrina.” I still doubted that she understood the situation or the consequences of her actions, but it was her decision, and all I could do was try to help her.

“Then we need to start. First of all, I want you to relax and think happy thoughts, the best you can think of.”

“Ok.” Mistral smiled and then concentrated, her serious face showing how much importance she was giving to my instructions.

“Ready.” Jose asked. “I will see you inside her mind.”

Mistral’s mind didn’t have a landscape like the minds of telepaths had, it was a much simpler representation, just an open space filled with spheres where the memories resided. Some were alone, some were gathered in groups. Mistral was calling her happy memories to the front of her mind, I saw a sphere going into the air and exploding, the memory appearing in the air. The memory was of me during my last visit, I saw myself through Mistral’s eyes. For her, our time together, even if it was just a walk through the village, talking, was a happy time. I wanted to give up the task, to run away and avoid stealing her happy memories, to avoid breaking my own hearth. I knew just how difficult it was to live without memories, to go through life with just pieces of yourself, but I had to remember that it was what Mistral wanted, what Melchizedek needed. I had no choice when my father took my life away, but Mistral did, it was her choice, she had decided to sacrifice herself for the greater good.

“How do you suggest we proceed?” Jose asked.

“We need to find all memories related to her powers. The first time she used them, how she felt using them, how she feels every time she uses them, the things she can do with them… Everything related to her powers has to go, and not just that, the memories strongly related to the Shadowlands that can be passed as time in the Light Kingdom will have to go too.”

“How are you going to make them go?”

“Just worry about getting the memories we need, I will handle the rest.”

Using my powers I built a chest using Mistral’s mind essence, I took the memories Jose was bringing to me, and put them inside. It was hard to understand how the mind worked, but I knew Mistral’s mind was going to try and access the memories, even if they were inside the chest, just like my mind had tried to reach the memories hidden behind doors and inside chests like the one I was holding. I needed to find a way to keep her mind from accessing the memories, a way that wouldn’t make her scream in pain.

I found a way, by looking for happy memories and arranging them in a way that would distract her mind and stop it from getting into the memories I wanted to hide. Instead of stoping his brain from remembering by causing pain, I was hoping to distract it with happy memories. I was pretty sure it would work, and Jose thought the same. It was a hard and time consuming work, but we finally got everything ready and Mistral’s memories were gone.

During the time I was working in Mistral’s mind, I kept talking with Soturi and Melchizedek, explaining what we were doing and making sure they knew that everything was going according to plan. I wasn’t sure what problems Melchizedek had to face in the Light, all I knew was that the problems there had reached a critical point and he felt like it was his job to help. I knew that the Light was getting even more unforgiving, punishing people and sending them away even for the lightest of crimes. I didn’t know their laws and their problems didn’t concern me, I had my own problems to solve, but it was important for Melchizedek and I had to help any way I could, and one way of helping was by not adding my own problems to his. I was, once again, alone.

After a long time we finally finished locking away Mistral’s memories.  When we got out of her mind, she was asleep, and she was going to stay that way until Melchizedek and Soturi were on their way to the Kingdom.  She knew they were moving, but her memories would say she was moving between towns in the Light.  It was better than she didn’t stay there any longer, waking up there could trigger a memory.

“It’s done.  Mistral won’t remember anything, no ideas or teachings of the Shadowlands.  You can teach her the ways of the Light.”

“I cannot thank you enough, I know how hard this was for you, don’t think I don’t.”  Melchizedek said.

“You helped me when I needed it, you taught me to use my powers and gave me advice even when I pretended I didn’t need it.  You have done a lot for me, I’m just giving you back a little of what you have given me.”

“You don’t realize it Kaiserin, but you touch the lives of everyone you meet.  I know that you need a friend, and I should stay here and be for you, but I need to go and claim my rightful place, I need to be there for my people, and I feel terrible that I won’t be here for you.”

“Don’t worry about me, all I need is a place to hide while I figure out what to do with the rest of my life.  You know how this works, every time I have problems I come here and hide until I have a plan.”

“He is coming for you.  I need to tell you that you have a chance of fixing things with him, I’m sure he regrets what happened.”  I couldn’t pretend I didn’t know who he was talking about, but the idea of Kimball coming for me angered me… and frightened me.

“We can’t fix things, not after what he did to me.  I won’t be able to trust him again.  I told him my fears, and he used them against me.  Besides, he must be angry at me for the way I left him, if he survived my tree of pain, he must be furious at me for making him go through that kind of pain.”

“I don’t want you to let go the opportunity to take back your happiness.  I know he made mistakes, but there’s still hope for you.  I just want what is best for you.  You were happy with him, I want you to be happy again.”

“Thank you, but this time it won’t be possible.  Do you know how long I have before he comes here?”

“You have a couple of days.  Are you sure you will be ok?  Maybe we can find a way for you to come with us, or move to another village…”

“No, don’t worry about me, I will find my way to the Amazons, Molpadia will help me, even if Alkaia is not happy with me, her daughter will do her best to hide and protect me, and I’m sure they won’t have any problems fighting Kimball and whatever army he brings with him.”

“If you are sure.  Just let me tell you that there’s no way I can repay for what you did for us today.  You know that if there is anything I can do for you, you just have to ask.  You are a great friend, and a great human being, don’t think I don’t appreciate you.  You may feel like the world is against you, but things are going to get better, you will find your happy ending.”

“Thanks Melchizedek.  I hope things go your way, and that you can find a way to solve your problems.  You know that you can count on me, you are the only one I can truly trust.”

After saying a final goodbye, Soturi and Melchizedek left for the Light.  I knew we would see each other again, but it was hard watching them leave, they were true friends, and had been by my side through my difficult times.  I felt sad and alone.  I stayed on his porch, watching the road they had traveled, long after they had disappeared.

“I’m sorry, but I need to ask you for a favor.”  Jose interrupted my thinking.

“No problem.  What do you need?”

“There is an old lady in one of the other villages that has heart problems.  She has been using her biokinesis to restart her heart every time she has problems, but it’s getting more difficult when it happens at night, and sometimes she is too afraid and it takes her a long time to gather her powers to use them.  I want to implant a hypnotic order in her mind, so her power gets triggered automatically when her heart fails, and she doesn’t need to do it manually.  I thought you could help me with that.”

“I don’t know if what you are saying is even possible.”

“It’s not a commonly used technique, but it works.  It’s hard work to implant an order, so I thought you could help me, but if you don’t feel comfortable then I understand.”

“No, it’s ok, I’ll help you.  It’s just that I never thought of doing something like that.  In my world hypnosis and hypnotic programing is used as a weapon, to control people or harm them, it never occurred to me that it could be used to help.”

“You learn something new every day, don’t you?”

We agreed to travel the next day to the village where the old lady lived.  The plan was to leave before sunrise and be there in time for breakfast, so we could start working after eating.  I took advantage of the trip to question Jose about the other uses he had for hypnosis, how he had helped people with it.  After a couple of hours I was convinced that hypnosis could help me with my problems.  If I could plant an order that helped me create a shield around me every time a vision hit me, I would be safe, I would be able to overcome my greatest weakness, and no one, not even Kimball would be able to take me by surprise.  If it worked, I could even go back to my Clan, without fear of being attacked while being defenseless.  Being able to defend myself, even while having a vision opened a world of possibilities.  I would need to test my idea first, but it could be the answer to my problems.

Even if I could make the hypnosis trick work, I would need to go to the Amazons first, I needed to save my son, or he would suffer the same destiny that Malkia was going to suffer in my Clan.  Even if Kimball was an extremely powerful warrior, he was a mutant, and our son would be a hybrid, someone considered lacking in my Clan.  My people would get rid of him at the first opportunity, and I couldn’t let that happen.  I had to take him to a safe place, give him to the Fortress like I had with my daughters.  If I managed to get back to my Clan, I could be able to go back and claim them back once they graduated and were powerful enough to defend themselves.

I was surprised by the old lady’s strength and the way she had overcome her limitations, using hypnosis to help her keep her heart working was impressive.  As I helped Jose put the order in her mind, I had the opportunity to see how it worked.  The more I saw, the more I wanted the same for me, but I didn’t have that much experience, so I asked Jose to help me.  He agreed easily, he said that after everything I had done for them, it would be his pleasure to help me.

The complicated part was to find how to trigger the order, none of us knew how visions worked, how they were triggered, and since I couldn’t call visions at will, it took us some time to come up with a way to make it work.  Once we had the hypnosis order planted we knew that the next step was to wait for a vision to arrive and see if the order was working, but I didn’t have time to wait around and see if it worked, I needed to go before Kimball arrived, I wasn’t ready to fight him again.  It wasn’t only that the idea of fighting someone I used to trust, that I used to love didn’t feel right, but I wasn’t sure that I had the strength to do it.  Even if I my pregnancy wasn’t that advanced, only five months, same as the first time I fought him, I wasn’t as strong as that time, I was getting tired easier, and I felt heavy and clumsy.

I needed to go away, and find a safe place as soon as possible, because I knew I didn’t have much time, soon I wouldn’t be able to defend myself.  I needed a place where I could hide until my son was born.  The Amazons had helped me before, I hoped they could help again.

Chapter 52

Victoria was moving closer to me, but I didn’t know what she intended to do, I needed to be safe, so I put a psychic wall between us so she couldn’t get to me.

“What’s this?”  Victoria was surprised when she felt the wall.

“What are you doing here?  I wasn’t expecting you.”  Unlike the Mzansiers, Victoria’s mind lacked protection, I could read it, and I intended to take advantage of that fact.

“We are here because my husband has been working with Paki.  We were just about to go back when we heard about the attack to the Villa where you were recovering, and then we found out that a plane from there was coming our way and we decided to wait and see what we could find out.  We thought maybe you could explain what happened to Kimball and why he almost died.”  Her words surprised me, I expected Kimball to be dead by then, after the hours of flight I was sure he was gone, the little cuts were enough for him to bleed to death.  If he was still alive, he would be mad with pain.

I felt conflicted for a second, my first reaction to hearing he was alive, was relief, I didn’t want to be the cause of his death, because despite everything I loved him, but I couldn’t forgive or forget his betrayal.  I also felt afraid, because if I had learned something is that men in my life were possessive bastards, if Kimball was alive, he was going to come after me.  I couldn’t risk that, I needed to be gone before he could trap me again and turn me into his slave.

“Kaiserin, my dear, are you alright?”  Victoria tried to move closer, she tried to grab my hand, but I kept my defense.

“I won’t go back, I can’t go back.”

“What do you mean dear?”

“I won’t go back to that prison, I won’t let you lock me away.  I won’t let you!”

“What are you talking about dear?  I don’t understand…

“Kimball was holding me prisoner!  He knew it would tear me apart, but he didn’t care, he locked me up and took my powers away and left me at the mercy of those two.  I wanted to get out, and no one would let me go.”

“Oh, Kaiserin!  There must be a mistake, Kimball would never do anything…”  She didn’t finish her thought, I saw the moment she understood what had happened.  “It was you,”  she whispered.

“I wanted to get free, I wanted to get out, but they wouldn’t let me.  I just want to go away, and I won’t let anyone stop me!”  I added the last part as a threat, even if I was surrounded by the enemy I was sure that I would be able to fight my way to freedom, I wasn’t going to let anyone stop me, not even them.

​”Go, go and don’t come back.”  Victoria turned and called one of the guards.  “Prepare a boat and take her to wherever she wants to go.”  She turned back to me.  “She will take you to the Empire.  I don’t know what happened between you and my son, but I don’t care.  All I care is that my son is fighting for his life and it’s your fault.  Maybe you were justified, maybe don’t, but I don’t want you anywhere near me, or I will do something I’ll regret.”  I could feel her confusion, she didn’t want to acknowledge that his son could do something to harm me, but at the same time she believed that I wouldn’t do anything to him unless I had very good reasons to do it.  I could feel her fury, but I wasn’t sure if it was directed at me or not.

“That’s all I want, to go away.  If Kimball survives, please tell him to stay away, I really don’t want to hurt him, don’t let him make me.”  I felt and saw the pain in her face.

“Have a safe trip, and good luck.”  Victoria walked away, and I felt better, I didn’t want anything reminding me of Kimball.

Following her orders, a boat was ready to take me to the Empire in a few minutes, but I wasn’t sure of what they could do, I didn’t feel safe with the crew piloting the boat, so as soon as we were at sea, I put them in one of the lifeboats and sent them back.  I knew they could make it back safely, and I knew it would take them time, I would be away and safe by the time they could think of coming after me.

I was tired, and once the adrenaline left my body I realized I hadn’t slept or ate in a long time.  The boat had enough food for me to survive a few days, so I ate until I was full and took the rest for my trip.  Sleep I couldn’t get, as soon as I closed my eyes the nightmares attacked me, I felt lonely and frightened, and I hated myself because every time a nightmare woke me, I looked for Kimball, wanting his protection.

The boat was fast and it didn’t take long to reach the Empire.  I left the boat, I knew that Victoria or another Mzansier would send someone to retrieve it soon.  I needed a safe place to spend the night, and even if it was hours until sunset, I started searching for a safe place.  I used my powers to help me build a refuge, a hidden place where my enemies wouldn’t find me.  I was so tired that I fell asleep despite trying to stay awake, I didn’t remember my dreams, but my body was tense and I didn’t feel rested, so I knew the nightmares had arrived again.

There was an Empire warehouse near the place I had arrived, so it was easy to secure a vehicle to transport me to the Shadowlands.  I was eager to get there, I felt that if I could reach Melchizedek everything would be alright, he always knew what to do, and I needed someone I could trust, someone to help me.

I was tired, worried and desperate, the journey was spent on dark thoughts and regrets, not focusing on a single idea, just letting everything wash over me.  I needed to reach Melchizedek, I needed his advice and comfort to calm my mind and heal my soul, to make me forget Kimball’s betrayal.  I was so distracted that I didn’t see the little girl in the middle of the road until I was almost over her, I had to use my reflexes and powers to stop the vehicle before I ran over her.

“What the hell were you thinking!”  I yelled at Mistral as I got out of the vehicle.  “I could have hurt you!”

“No, you couldn’t.  I would have moved out of the way Nina.”  She calmly said.

“That’s true,” I had to admit that with her powers, it was easy for her to move away from danger.  “Still, you have to be careful.  And shouldn’t you come and greet me properly after scaring me half to death?”

“I’m sorry Nina.”  She ran to my stretched arms with her usual happiness and hugged me as if her life depended on it.  “Nina?  Can I ask you a favor?”

“You know you can ask me for anything.  I will do whatever I can for you.”

“You promise?” She insisted.

“What do you need?”

“I need you to take my powers away.”  For a moment I thought I had misunderstood her, but I couldn’t deny her words.

“Why would you want me to take your powers away?!”

“Because my father needs to help people, and he can’t if I have my powers.”

“You have no idea what you are asking for.  Your powers are a part of you, I can’t take them away without taking a part of you away.”

“But you can take them away.”  She looked happy knowing I could ruin her life.  “You promised, you said you would help me.  My father can’t go to the Light Kingdom as long as I have my powers, but if I lose them, then we can go and my father can be a High Priest again.”

“But if you go I won’t be able to see you again.”  I had gone there looking for a safe heaven, but if Melchizedek and his family left, I wouldn’t have a place to stay.  “It’s not only your powers, I would have to take your memories of your life here away.”  She had no idea how painful it was to lose your memories, she didn’t know how painful it would be for me to know that she wouldn’t even remember me.  I had lost so much, I didn’t want to lose her too.

“But you promised to help, besides, you were the one to tell me that the fate of many is more important that the fate of one.”  I felt sick when she repeated the words my mother had taught me, the ones I had repeated to her.

“Let’s go to your house and talk to your parents before making any decisions.”

“But I don’t want them to know, they will feel guilty, and I don’t want them to, I’m doing this for them.”  I was surprised by how grown up she sounded, but with parents like her I should have expected it.

“We need to go anyway, we will talk more about this later.”  She wasn’t happy, but she got into the vehicle and together we went to Melchizedek’s.

We arrived at their house and I was surprised when he wasn’t there to greet us, things had to be very bad for him not to realize I was at his doorstep, he usually knew when I was going to arrive and was prepared for it.  When Mistral guided me to the inside of the house both Soturi and Melchizedek seemed surprised by my presence.

“Time flies, I knew you were coming, but I didn’t realize it would be so soon.”  Melchizedek hugged me and I let myself drown in his arms, seeking comfort and calmness, and receiving just a small part of it, his powers weren’t working as usual.

“I hope it’s ok for me to be here, I don’t want to intrude.”

“Don’t worry, is a pleasure to have you with us,”  Soturi took her turn hugging me.  She looked happy to see me and I felt better about being there.

“My Nina is going to help me lose my powers so we can go to the Light,”  Mistral announced with the innocence of her youth.

“What?!”  Soturi was shocked by the announcement.

“That’s not necessary little one,” Melchizedek said.

“Yes, it is.  You said that we couldn’t leave because if people saw me using my powers we would be sent back, but if my Nina takes them away, I won’t make mistakes and we will be able to stay there and help people.”

“I knew we couldn’t keep it from her, she was going to find out sooner or later,” Soturi said.  “Can you really do it?”  She asked me.

“I can do it, but I’m not sure I should.”

“But you promised.”  Mistral protested again.

“Powers are part of us, by taking them away I’m taking a part of you away.”  I remembered my youth, not being able to have full access to my powers, then I remembered the last few weeks and wearing the power suppressor, both were painful memories, and something I didn’t wish on anyone, especially not sweet, little Mistral.

“I know we are going through a difficult situation, but I don’t want to ask of you something that will be painful to you,” Melchizedek told me, “and Mistral, there are some things, that even if they are possible, they are not right.  I think that what you are asking for could cost us all more than we can pay.”

“You don’t trust me enough to just not use my powers, that’s why I need to lose them completely, and no one can help me with that but my Nina, she can do it all.  If I don’t do this, then a lot of people will suffer, you said so, you need to go back to help people, and you can’t go back because of me, I can’t be the reason people suffer.”

“My daughter, you have no idea how proud I am of you, but what you are offering is too much, you don’t have to do this,”  Soturi took her daughter in her arms and I felt the love flowing between them.

“I want to help, and this is the only way I know how,”  Mistral insisted.

“Will you do it?”  Soturi asked me.

“I know how to do it, because it was done to me, but it won’t be easy and the consequences could be worse than you think.  Powers are related to memories, by suppressing memories you can erase the knowledge of how to use powers.  That doesn’t mean she can’t find another way of using them, it only makes it harder.  The process is long and difficult.”

“If there’s something we can do to help the process along, we will.”  Soturi said.

“Are you sure about this?” Melchizedek asked.  “If you are here now, it’s because you have problems with Kimball.  I don’t want our problems and requests to put a heavier burden upon your shoulders.  We would understand if you can’t do this.”

“No, it’s ok, if you need me to do it, I will.  If this is the only way I can help you, then I have to do it.  You are always helping me, it’s time I repay the favor, no matter how difficult the task.”

None of them could understand how difficult Mistral’s request was, they didn’t know how many wounds would open on my soul after recreating the worst part of my past so soon after Kimball’s betrayal, but I owed them.  I couldn’t fail them, they were the only ones who I was sure would never betray my trust.  I had put my trust in many people who didn’t deserve it, but it was different with Melchizedek and his family, they were true, they would help me through anything if I asked.

Chapter 47

I woke up and realized that Kimball was already awake and watching me. None of us said anything, there was nothing to say. As soon as we left the bed we would be taking different roads, he was preparing for his annual visit to the Fortress. The first year, while we were with the Amazons and he decided to go visit Greca I thought it was a one time deal, but a year later he made the same trip, going as far as leaving in the middle of battle with the enemy, leaving us behind so he could see his daughter. Now for the third year in a row, he was going to her. Most of the year we were fine, but as the anniversary of her birth grew closer, I could feel his anger at me for leaving our daughter behind. Most of the time I believed that he understood that I had left her behind, not for selfish reasons, but because I loved her and wanted what was best for her, but sometimes I wondered if he believed I didn’t love her. I was sure that he didn’t understand why I couldn’t go with him to see my daughters, he thought I didn’t love them, but the truth was I couldn’t go and leave them behind again. Leaving them in the Fortress wasn’t an easy decision as Kimball thought, it had torn me apart to leave them there, but it was what I needed to do, for them.

I was going in the opposite direction, I have done the first part of our travel with him, but I was going to the Shadowlands to visit an old friend. For the last couple of years I had helped the Mzansiers to remain free, and we have even helped other nations to recover their freedom as our neighbors joined us in our fight, but it wasn’t easy. Our fight was hard and dangerous and we have faced losses. I have tried to use my visions to help us win the war, but the visions offered little help. I needed guidance for the important decisions, I needed Melchizedek’s help.

“Time to go.” Kimball broke the spell, it was time to face reality.

“We have time.”

“No, our journeys are long and we need to start them.” I have never asked him how he could infiltrate the Fortress and see our daughter, but I knew that he used the information I had given him on the Empire’s supply points to help him during his travel.

“The Shadowlands are close, my journey will be short.”

“Maybe, but mine isn’t and I need to be there on time, I can’t stay any longer.” Kimball got up and started gathering his stuff and preparing for the trip. As every year I could feel him pulling away from me. I hated the feeling, his emotional barriers going up, and my inability to tear them down.

“Will I see you in a week?”

“Yes, I will come for you in a week.”

The journey to the Shadowland was quick and I was at Melchizedek’s doorstep before night. As every time I visited him, he was already waiting for me. Melchizedek went outside to greet me, with little Mistral running to me even before I could turn off my vehicle.

“Welcome Kaiserin, we were waiting for you.” Melchizedek said. Something was missing and it took me a while to realize that the feeling of well being and calmness that I usually felt around Melchizedek wasn’t there.

“Nina! Nina!  Why haven’t you visited me?” Complained little, well, not so little Mistral before hugging me.

“I’m sorry little one, I wanted to visit you, but my new home is far away and it was difficult for me to come.”

“But I missed you!”  She was the same; cheerful, happy Mistral, but he had grown so much since I had seen her.

“And I missed you, very, very, very much.” I told her as I lifted her in my arms and spun her around, causing her to scream and laugh.  I felt a pain in my chest, watching her, I loved Mistral, but I wished I could spend time with my daughter like I spent with her.  I have seen Mistral grow up, but I wouldn’t be there for my own children, they would be warriors by the time I could see them again.

“Come inside Kaiserin, Soturi is preparing dinner.  You must be hungry and tired after your trip.”

“I am, but I’m so glad to be here.  I missed you all.”

I entered the little kitchen and Soturi hugged me.  I spent some time playing with Mistral while Soturi finished cooking dinner.  After eating I helped Soturi put MIstral in bed and then I went back to Melchizedek so we could talk.  I knew something was bothering him and I needed to know what it was so I could help him.

“I know you came here because you need my help, so tell me, what can I do for you?”

“I need your advice and guidance, but not now, I know something is bothering you, what is it?  Are you in trouble?”

“Don’t worry about me…”

“You always help me, every time I need you, you are there.”  I interrupted him.  “If there is something I can do to help you, just tell me, I would do whatever I could for you, it’s only fair after all your help.”

“I’m afraid this is not something you can help me with.  There are problems in the Light Kingdom, many things have changed these past years.  I’m afraid there’s a crisis coming that won’t be easy to face.  The High Priests are so blinded by their positions that they don’t watch for their people anymore, the Priests are abusing their power and no one stops them.  Every day innocent, desperate people are being punished for the smallest sins, more and more people is being sent here as punishment.  I fear that soon the people will lose their faith and revolt against the power.  There’s only so much they can endure before rebelling.”

“Is there anything you can do?”

“Not from here. I would need to be there if I wanted to help, but it’s not possible, I would be a big sinner, not a leader to be followed. My wife is a warrior and my daughter uses her power freely, those things are not accepted in the Light. We would be sent back here in no time.”

“I’m so sorry, you know I would do anything to help you, and if there is something I can do all you have to do is ask.”

“I know Kaiserin. But enough about me, you came here for a reason, and it wasn’t to listen to my problems. What can I do for you?”

“I don’t know, I don’t feel good about talking about my problems, you have enough of your own.”

“Don’t be silly Kaiserin, that’s what friends are for, to help each other. There is nothing I can do about my own problems right now, give something I can fix.”

“My visions have been confusing, hard to interpret. I’m in the middle of a war, one bigger and with more repercussions than the one between Amazons and Militaries. With that war I had the advantage of knowing what was going to happen, but not with this one, I can’t find anything to help me win the war. I need your help to find the right path.”

“As you say, this war is bigger, with more participants, and as you know, the more people involve, the more variables there are, the more paths that can grow. You can’t see every possible future, the possibilities are just too many, not one person can see it all. Plus, there is another factor that you have to consider, unlike with your fight with the Militaries, they have an advantage that put you on equal footing.”

“And what is that?”

“Your enemies have their own Seeress.” I was speechless by his revelation, that was something that I had never considered, but it actually made sense. “I have more experience than you, and my visions have taken me farther. Like I told you, your initiation as a Seeress wasn’t perceived by people in your Clan, by your echo was felt by me and other powerful Seers. I know there is person strong enough to feel your echo on the other side of the sea. We are not the only Seers, and certainly we aren’t the strongest.”

“This only complicate matters. I want this war over as soon as possible. I need peace so I can be with Kimball, so I can give him everything he wants. He has done so much for me, I need to give something back.”

“You really love him, don’t you?”

“I really do. I thought I knew what love was because of Vasuman, but now I realize it wasn’t like that. I needed Vasuman, I depended on him and I kind of loved him, but I also hated him, resented him and feared him. What I felt for him doesn’t compare with what I feel for Kimball, I don’t just love him, I’m in love with him. With Kimball everything is better, I would do anything for him, I don’t want to disappoint him. I want to help him, to make him proud of me.”

“I’m glad to hear that, and I like that he makes you so happy, but you need to remember that no matter how you feel, you need to remain true to yourself. Don’t get lost in what you think he needs, I’m sure he likes you just the way you are and you don’t have to prove anything to him. You two complement each other just the way you are.” As he talk I knew he was trying to tell me something else, there was something hidden behind his words, something I would have to think about and analyze later. “But back to your problem. We already established that more variables create more futures, and the farther into the future you go, the most paths you need to search. So what I would do is to focus on short term events.”

“You want me to have visions of the near future?”

“Yes, I believe if you focus on what will happen in days instead of weeks or months, you will face less forks in the paths. You will have less possibilities to search through. Of course it will limit the information you can gather and what you can do, you may miss the big picture, but you will have more reliable information most of the time.”

“Makes sense, I think you are right. As always you have been a great help, thanks you. Is there something else? Have you seen something in my future that I should know about?”

“I know that someday you will meet the Seeress from the other side of the world. I also know that your next visit will come faster than the last one did. I don’t know if it’s good or bad that I will see you soon, but I know that something big will happen and you will need my advice. I also know that it’s time to go to bed. I’m sure Mistral will go and wake you up at sunrise, she is eager to spend the day with you.”

Melchizedek was right, of course, little Mistral woke me up early and took me outside to show me all the wonders and treasures her young mind could find in her little world. As always it was a bittersweet experience to be with her. I loved her and her joy, but I felt guilty that I couldn’t experience the same things with my own daughters.

The goal of my visit was to find the information I needed to help the Mzansiers win the war, but the magical answers that I was looking for weren’t possible, and I couldn’t press Melchizedek for answers when I knew that he was having his own problems. So everything that I was planning on doing during my trip changed, I no longer needed to spend my time in the fog of the future, so I could relax and spent time with people I cared about. It had been a long time since I could relax like that and I realized that I needed it. It was wonderful, for two days.

“I think is time for you to go.” Melchizedek said my third day there, during breakfast. “It seems your Clan is eager to get their slaves this year and they sent their people early. If you stay here, they will realize you are here, and I know you don’t want to meet them.”

“Do you know when are they arriving?”

“Soon.”

“You can’t leave yet, you just arrived,” Soturi protested. “It’s too soon, it’s not fair. Why don’t we send them to another route so they don’t pass through here?”

“I don’t think it will work, but if Kaiserin is willing to try…”

“No, I don’t want to cause you any more problems, you have done enough for me. I think is better if I go, it would be easy for them to realize I’m here, especially if they have telepaths with them. Do you know who is coming?”

“I don’t know her name, but it’s not our usual visitor.”

A few hours later, some hugs and many protests from Soturi and Mistral, I was on my way back. I needed to find a safe place to wait for Kimball, it was a shame that I couldn’t wait for him in the Shadowlands, I really wanted him to meet Melchizedek. But it would have to be on another occasion, Destiny had decided it wasn’t time yet for them to meet. I sent a message to Kimball to tell him about the change of plans and looked for the less traveled roads to get to the new meeting point. I was trying to avoid the Imperialists by using those roads, but it was my bad luck that they decided to do the same.

The next morning as I was lifting my camp, I felt people coming. I expanded my mind to take an inventory of what I was facing. They were still far away and it would be easy to stay out of their way, the problem was that I touched a strong telepath’s mind while doing my sweep, a mind I recognized and that recognized me. I moved faster, gathering my things and preparing to run, I knew she had recognized me and that she would be looking for me. A moment later I felt her mind trying to reach me, asking permission to talk to me, but I couldn’t, after all that time I still wasn’t ready to face any of them.

I left trying to be quiet, but it was hard to hide the noise of the engine in my vehicle, I knew of a few tricks I could use to hide the noise, but I needed my powers for other tasks. When I felt a lone soldier getting closer I decided to stop and face him. Hiding in the forest I waited until he was just a few steps away and using my mind, I grabbed him and pushing him against a tree I used some vines to tie him up.

“You shouldn’t have followed me.” I warned him.

“I have no intention to harm you, all I was doing was following you so I could talk to you.” The man was young and I guessed he didn’t know me or why they were looking for me. “Please, come back with me so we can talk.”

“No.”  I was ready to go.  I thought he was properly restrained so I turned my back on him, and as soon as I did it, he got free of his bindings.  He was fast and he closed the distance between us in the blink of an eye.  He tried to grab me, but all he could get was my psychic wall.

“I just need a few minutes of your time so you could take with my superior,” he insisted.

“Tell Echard that even if I wanted to stay and chat, I just can’t.  Tell her that I’m sorry for this, but she doesn’t need to worry about me, I’m safe, I’m fine.  Tell her that I can’t go back with her.”

“I was ordered to take you to her.  You can tell her that yourself, we won’t hurt you.”

“You can’t hurt me even if you wanted,” I said.  “You have no idea who I am.  Now, let me warn you.  Leave while you can, or you will regret it.”

“I have my orders, I can’t leave.”  I had to admire his loyalty and perseverance, and I knew that it wouldn’t be easy to leave him behind without hurting him.  I didn’t want to harm him, he was just following orders after all, but I needed to go.”

“You don’t know who you’re dealing with.”  I needed to stop him, but I couldn’t use the same tactic, so instead of tying him up using vines, that I knew he could escape from, I moved the ground under him until his legs were buried.  I knew that if I left, he would do his best to follow me, so I used an old trick and left an illusion behind to make him believe I was staying.

I got back to my vehicle and left.  I knew the roar of the engine would alert him of my trick, but it would take him too long to break free and follow me, I would be too far away by then.  I knew that I was taking a risk by returning to the Empire, it was a risk I shouldn’t be taking.  Kimball needed me, and I had to be with him so I could help him.

Chapter 23

“This is as far as we can go.” Aury said.  We were in the coast, it was closer than the place they were originally going to leave me, and I was grateful for that.  I had an ATV to help me navigate the terrain, I could be in Melchizedek’s village by the end of the day.

“It’s close enough.” I said.  “Thank you for bringing me here.”

“How are you going to go back?” Brion asked.  “We could be back in a couple of weeks if you want.”

“No, it’s ok.  I’m not sure how long I will have to stay here.  I will find my way back.”

“Good luck Pitonisa, be safe.” Aury said.

“I hope you find everything you need here.” Brion said.

I stayed there until they sailed away.  Then I started my trip to Melchizedek’s village.

It was the middle of the night when I finally arrived, I shouldn’t have been surprised to find Melchizedek and Soturi waiting for me.

“You’re late,” Melchizedek said.  “I was expecting you for supper.”

“But don’t worry, I saved something for you, I hope it’s still warm, I put in the oven.” Soturi moved closer and hugged me.  “Mistral wanted to wait for you, but it’s late for her, she’s already asleep.  Tomorrow morning she will all over you.”

“I can’t wait to see her, I missed her.” I felt like home, Melchizedek’s powers were already making me feel relaxed and happy.

“I’m sure you’re tired, let me feed you and then you can go to sleep.” Soturi went inside the house to prepare everything.

“I’m sure you have a good reason for being here, but I don’t want to discuss anything tonight, let’s wait until tomorrow.” Melchizedek put his arm around me and guided me inside the house.

The next morning I woke up with a little girl jumping on my bed.

“She’s awake!” Mistral yelled with glee, then she fell on top of me and hugged me.  “I missed you so much Nina!”

“I missed you too, little one.”

“I’m not that little anymore, I’m a big girl now.” She announced proudly.

“Yes, I can see that, but you’re still smaller than me, so you’re still my little one.”

She looked at me for a few seconds, her brow furrowed in concentration.  “Ok,” she finally accepted, after deciding that my arguments were valid. “Let’s go eat breakfast, I helped my mom cook.”  She took my hand and dragged me to the kitchen.

They looked so happy, I liked seeing Mistral with her parents, I liked their version of a family.  For a moment I imagined me with Kimball, and our little one, and knew that it would never be like that for us, and I felt a sadness that not even Melchizedek’s powers could keep away.

“You found happiness since the last time I saw you.” Melchizedek said.

“And I lost it again.  Maybe you can help me see if I can find him again?  My visions are not clear.”

“You have a decision to make.  As you remember the roads to the future are many, you need to be sure what it is that you want to see, we can concentrate in you or the Amazons.” Melchizedek said.

“How do you know I’m here because of the Amazons? Forget it, dumb question.” Melchizedek always seemed to know everything.  “I need to know about the war between the Amazons and Militaries.  Last time I was here we saw what could happen if the Militaries win that war, but it’s been a long time and I can’t find a way to ensure the Amazon’s victory.  But I need to know what happened to Kimball, I need to know if he is alive.”

“Maybe I can help you with that.  He is alive.  He is far away, and that makes it even harder to focus on him, but I know he will come back eventually, that’s why I know he is not dead.”

“So we will be together again?” I felt hope filling me, I felt happiness coming back to me.

“There are many roads…”

“Melchizedek, please, tell me, what do you know?”

“He will come back, but I’m not sure if you will find him in time.  I’m sure you understand that there’s not much I can tell you, if I say everything I know, I can make things worse for you and for him.  I’ trying to do my best to help you find your place.  Please trust me.”

“I do trust you.”  He was a pure soul, and I knew that anything he did would be with my best interest in mind.  Ours was a weird friendship, but I could trust him to act selflessly.  I felt safe with him, I knew he would never betray me or use me.

“Why don’t you take it easy for today, I’m sure Mistral is going to keep you busy.  Tomorrow we will go into the fog and try to find the answers you’re looking for.”

Everything was easier in with them, they had such a simple life.  I spent the first day following Mistral to the orchards, the crop fields, the workshops.  Everyone had a job to do, and everyone did it happily.  I wished I could stay there forever, but I had no job there, I was a warrior, a leader, an advisor.  I had to take advantage of my time there, because I knew it would be short, I had a job to do and I needed to be on the other side of world to do it.  As soon as Melchizedek helped me find the information I needed to tip the scale in the Amazons’ favor, I needed to go back.

I couldn’t keep up with Mistral, she was a bundle of energy and I was getting tired faster every day.  It didn’t take long before I had to go back to Melchizedek’s house to rest.  When I explained to her that I was pregnant and needed to rest she decided to play nurse.  Anything I needed she fetched for me.  I could have easily got used to that, but reality was waiting for me.

For the next week I spent my mornings with little Mistral and my afternoons in the fog with Melchizedek.  It was hard to concentrate in what I needed to find, my thoughts kept drifting to Kimball, but Melchizedek helped me keep on track.

The war between the Amazons and Militaries was going to affect not only the Rebel Clans, the Empire was going to suffer if the Militaries won, but if I could help the Amazons win then I was sure that the Empire would be safe.  The Empire would survive any outcome, but I didn’t want it to go into war, there would be enough deaths in the Rebel Clans, I didn’t want my people dying too.

I started feeling pain during my second week there.  I tried to ignore it because it wasn’t time yet.  I still had two more months to go.  When my water broke I couldn’t stay in denial anymore; I was in labor.  I was scared, it wasn’t time.  Soturi found out what was going on, and she took charge.

“It’s going to be alright.” Soturi said once again.  “You and your baby are in good hands.” Soturi had called some of her friends, there were at least four women there, one of them old enough to be my grandmother, but at least they seemed to know what they were doing.

I don’t remember much of what happened after that, I just know that I was scared, angry, and sad.  They assured me that it was going to be alright, but I knew what was going to happen, a premature baby was a weak baby; a weak baby was a dead baby.  I remember hearing my baby crying, and at first, I didn’t want to hold her, I was too scared of loving her just to lose her.

“Are you sure you were only seven months pregnant?” Soturi asked.

“Of course, I know when I conceived her, she’s here too early.” Soturi tried to give me the baby, but I resisted.

“Babies are not too early or too late, they arrive when they are supposed to.” The old lady said.  “She is strong enough to face the world, she wanted to meet her mother, and her mother should want to meet her.”

Soturi forced the baby to my arms, and I felt a little hand holding mine.  I finally saw her, she was tiny, but not as much as I feared, she was as big as Malkia when she was born, she didn’t look weak, she looked perfect.  Once she was tired of crying, she started to look for my breast.

“She’s hungry, that’s good, she needs to eat,” the old lady said.  “You need to rest, it wasn’t an easy delivery for you, your body wasn’t ready, you weren’t ready.  You need time to bond with your baby and to let go of your fears.”

“She is going to be ok, and so will you.”  Soturi stayed with me, making my baby and I were fine.

I was tired and I think I fell asleep, next I remember Mistral was in the bed, next to me, looking at my baby.  It took me a few days to restore my strength and accept that my little Greca was a strong baby despite being premature.  I realized that it was going to be even harder to give Greca to the Fortress than it was with Malkia.  I had spent hours afraid that she wasn’t going to be strong enough to survive the night, much less years of training, I wanted to keep her safe, protected, even when I knew that she was as strong as any other baby, I was still reluctant to give her up.

I was ready to change my plans again in an effort to keep her with me forever, but as always the visions arrived to change everything.  I saw two girls, training together, they were my daughters; Malkia and Greca, and I knew that they would be stronger together than apart.  I couldn’t keep Greca with me if that was going to affect Malkia.  And I still had to help the Amazons.

“It’s time,” Melchizedek said, “you need to go back.  You know I would love for you to stay here, but it wouldn’t be fair.  You have responsibilities in your world, and your old Clan is coming for you, you need to leave in the next couple of days if you wish to avoid them.”

Trajan was still looking for me, and it wasn’t fair for Melchizedek and his people to face his anger if he found me there.  He would never understand my need to leave the Clan, I needed to go, I had to take little Greca to the Fortress and then go back to the Amazons and help them win the war.

Chapter 4

Everything was ready, yet I was hoping I was wrong and that there was nothing to worry about, that my suspicions were just the result of my imagination.  I heard noises outside my tent and saw Lamia entering my room.  I had changed my guards to a pair of simple soldiers, I was hoping she hadn’t killed them, I had changed them not because the soldiers were expendable, every life was valuable, but because my guards were more useful in other parts.  Lamia was moving silently, but I could feel her movements.  When she was halfway to me, I moved.

“Lamia?” I asked, faking confusion and sleepiness.

She didn’t answer, she moved like a viper trying to strike, but I was waiting for it and my psychic wall stopped the syringe she had in her hand, from getting to me.  She tried to absorb the energy in my wall, but I used my powers to open the ground under her feet, the hole under her grew too fast for her to react, and before she could react I had closed it again around her, trapping her legs and arms, half of her body buried in the ground.  She couldn’t move, she couldn’t escape.

“Why Lamia?” I couldn’t understand her motivation, why was she betraying me?  I took the syringe she had dropped and, not wanting to go closer to her, used my mind to inject the liquid in the syringe in her.  She tried to resist, but she had no room for movement.

Lamia stood frozen once the liquid got into her system, she was still breathing, I checked, but she couldn’t move, even her eyes were paralyzed.  I hated her at that moment because I could see how defenseless she was, and that kind of vulnerability was a nightmare for me.  How could she had planned that for me?  What kind of friend was willing to use my worst fear against me?

I went out of the tent and checked the soldiers that Lamia had attacked, they were still alive and apparently only suffering from lack of energy.  They were going to survive so I didn’t waste my time with them, I kept moving and soon one of my guards was by my side.

“Everything is ready, apparently they are waiting for some kind of signal.”

“I’m sure they’re waiting for Lamia to let them know that I have been neutralized.”  I could go back and try to steal information from Lamia’s mind, but I had no time to waste.  “Let our troops know that they are to attack at my signal.  And I don’t want them to take any risks, if they can, I want them to capture them, but if they think there is any risk, then just kill them.”

“As you wish, my Empress.”

I walked to the center of the camp, I was barefoot and that allowed me to feel the ground through my feet, connecting to the ground under me.  I felt the air on my skin and the heat from the dying fire.  When I was ready I took the ember from the fire and sending them to the sky I made them blow, the small explosion alerting my men that it was time to attack.  I moved as fast as I could to the place where the fight was taking place.  I used my connection to the ground to build a wall behind Pedres’ troops so they couldn’t escape my men.

Pedres was prepared for me, they had the numerical advantage, he had at least three men for each of mine.  But his plan was to take us by surprise, and they were counting on Lamia’s help.  Without that the advantage was ours, they had no opportunity to win.  The fight ended in just a few minutes, half of his men were dead and mine only had superficial wounds.  But I wasn’t feeling like a winner, just the fact that I had to fight them made me feel like a loser.  They had tried to betray me, and that was the worse defeat I could get.

“What are your orders, Empress?” asked one of my officials.

“Secure the prisoners.  Including Lamia, just make sure to keep her away from Pedres.”

I called my officers and they joined me during breakfast.

“What happens now?” One of them asked.

“I want half of you to take the prisoners and go back to the Palace with them.  Trajan is already on his way here with more men, you need to report to him, he will decide what to do with the prisoners.  For obvious reasons we can’t send Lamia to the Palace jail, she had been working there for too long and is possible that some people there will be loyal to her.  Trajan will go to the Toreador Clan to find if Pedres was action by himself or if his Clan was behind this.  Once he finds out he will decide their punishment.”

“Are you joining Trajan at the Toreador’s territory?” asked one of them.

“No, I will take half of the soldiers and continue my trip.”  They were trying to mask their reactions, but I saw and felt the surprise and anger my decision was giving them.  “I won’t let this attack change my plans.  I won’t give them any power over me and my life.  I have important issues to discuss with the Shadowlands leader and I won’t change my plans for any reason.”

“With all due respect, I don’t think is a good idea to continue your trip, especially with just half of your escort.  What would happen if they decide to attack again?”

“I am more than able to defend myself, I don’t need anyone to protect me.  And I would think that after today you would realize that I won’t be taken by surprise.  I have spent many years fighting people determined to kill me, I know how to assess threats, I know how to recognize a problem and how to neutralize it.”

“Wouldn’t be better to wait for general Trajan and give him custody of the prisoners?  That way you would be able to continue with the same number of people.” Another one suggested.

“No, that’s no up to discussion, I want everyone ready to continue in two hours, so I suggest that you start lifting camp and preparing the prisoners.”

I stayed at the edge of the camp while they worked, my guards were around me as the rest of the soldiers did their jobs.  I had let the decision of who would go where, to my men, I decided not to trust them for the moment, no matter who went with me I would treat them as possible traitors.  I looked into their minds, they seemed to be worried bout me, they didn’t want to hurt me, they wanted to protect me, but I couldn’t relax, not after what Lamia had done.

I had refused to see either Lamia or Pedres, I wasn’t ready to face them.  Lamia because she had been my friend, and Pedres because I blamed him for Lamia’s change.  I also was feeling bad about Kozlak, Lamia’s betray would hurt him too, it would end any hope that he had of going back to her.

The rest of the journey was quiet, we found no problems the rest of our way.  I had a few astral encounters with Trajan, where he kept me up to date with his end of the situation.  Lamia had been sent to a jail up north, Pedres and his men were on their way to the Palace.  Trajan was at the Toreador’s territory, Bravia insisted she didn’t know anything about her son’s plans, but Trajan wasn’t so sure, so he stayed there waiting to see what he could find out.  A big scale attack was already in motion, just in case Trajan’s suspicions were true and he had to put the whole Clan under supervision.  I trusted Trajan to take care of the problem, but I was worried about Isis alone in the Palace and wished Trajan could hurry up.

As we approached the place where Melchizedek was waiting I started feeling more calm.  I got out of the vehicle when we were just over a mile away, I wanted to arrive by foot and preferable alone, just so I didn’t worry the locals, but our arrival wasn’t missed, by the time I came into view of the village I could see a small group already waiting for us.  A small child ran towards me, receiving me with open arms, little Mistral had grown a lot in the few months I hadn’t seen her.  Not caring about the image I was showing to my warriors and not caring about my role as Empress, I too ran to Mistral and took her in my arms.  I hugged her and received, without complaining, the wet kisses she was giving me.

“Nina! – The small child shouted with happiness.  “Daddy said you were coming, but you took too long!”

“Mistral, I explained that your madrina is a very busy woman, just be thankful that she could come to see you and don’t complain to her.” Soturi gently scolded her.

“How are you? Where is Melchizedek?” I asked Soturi.

“I’m sorry he couldn’t be here to greet you, but he had an urgent matter to attend in another village, but don’t worry, he knew you were coming and let everything ready for your arrival.  We have a place ready for your men and, as always, we have a place for you in our home, we would be honored if you stay with us.  Would you like a cup of coffee? We can catch up while we wait for Melch.

“The honor would be mine, just let me set my men and warn them to be on their best behavior.  I also need to make sure my guards understand that while in the Shadows I don’t need them to protect me.”

“Of course.  Come Mistral, help me prepare some food for you nina Kaiserin.”

“No!” the little child said, hugging my neck as if her life depended on it.  “I want to go with my nina.”

And that’s how I spent the next hour giving orders and settling my men while I had a little child attached to my neck.  But I was grateful for the distraction, because even if Mistral was making my job harder with her questions and constant interruptions, her warmth and sweet smell were helping me feel better, happier.  I couldn’t imagine how it would feel to have my own daughter in my arms if having Mistral could feel so right, surely it could only be better to have a child that was part of you.

Later, while I talked with Soturi and she prepared supper, Melchizedek arrived.

“Congratulations Empress.” Melchizedek smiled at me and opened his arms wide to receive me.

“Thanks Melchizedek.”  I went into his arms.  It was getting easier to be part of their extravagant shows of affection the longer I knew them.

“I’m glad you came to me, you have arrived just in time.  Difficult times are coming your way, you have very hard choices to make and I hope that I can give you the guidance you need to take the path that will be better for you.”

“I guess you already know everything, right?” I asked.

“It’s always hard to face a betrayal, but if the one that betrays is someone you considered your friends is even harder.  I’m sorry I have to tell you this, but things will be even worse.  A time of great vulnerability and danger for you is coming.  I know, because of what you told me last time, that you don’t want anyone to find out that you are a seer.  I have to warn you, the risk of being discovered is only going to increase with your pregnancy, the visions are going to be more and more frequent.”

“Of course you had to know I was pregnant.”  My pregnancy was something I was used to hide, my need to protect my unborn daughter was too strong, but I should have known that something like that wouldn’t escape Melchizedek’s notice.

“That’s just another blessing in your life Kaiserin, one of many. I know that sometimes you think that life has been too hard on you and that nothing goes your way, but I promise, things will get better.  A great destiny awaits you, you will have a wonderful life, but you need to get over the obstacles in your way before you can reach it.”

“Sometimes it’s just too much.  I feel like I can trust no one.  Agis and Lamia… I owe them my life.  They fought for me, they helped me get my strength back, but now that I finally have what I wanted, is like they resent the help they gave me, it’s as if they preferred the weak pathetic version of me.”

“Some people need control, maybe when they helped you they thought that their help was giving them so control over you.  Maybe at the time they were acting out of kindness and then they regretted giving you the power to surpass them.  The problem, my dear Kaiserin, is that they are not the only ones.  I would love to tell you that it won’t happen again, but as you know there are many complex paths in front of you and in many of them there is a risk that someone you care about, or even love, is going to hurt you.  And the worse part is, sometimes they won’t even see that they are hurting you, sometimes their wish to protect you is going to cause them to harm you.”

“I don’t know what to do, I don’t know if I will be able to face this.  I’m worried about my daughter and the possibility of losing her, but I also have a lot of responsibilities, I have a duty to my people and it would be selfish to just think about me, but I can’t just no do something.”  I was desperate, it was a feeling I did not like.  I needed time, and I needed help. “I need someone I can trust, I need your help.” Just having to ask for his help made me feel vulnerable.

“I will do my best to help you, and I would love to say to you that I will always be there for you and that you will always be able to trust me, but not even I can make a promise like that, all I can promise you is that I will do my very best to help you and I will try to be a person that deserves your trust.”

“That’s all I can really ask for.”

Luzian

Before the idea of Kaiserin was born, I had another idea for a novel, one where the protagonists were four girls, but criticism made me try to change it, give it a better backstory. That’s how Mistral’s dark godmother idea was born, and then I realized that the Light was boring compared to the Dark Empire, and that Kaiserin’s life was more interesting than Mistral’s. This is what would have been the first chapter of my original novel:

 

A young brunet was walking in the middle street, the houses of the High Priests were looming over her.  After spending most of her life in a tiny shack and then living in a small room in one of the temples, the houses around her looked incredible huge and intimidating.  After a while she stopped in front of one of those houses.  It was almost as big as the temple where she used to live, but the architecture was simpler.

She didn’t know how to feel, she was going to see her brother after seven years of living apart.  She stopped before the door and steeled herself.  She knocked and waited what felt like an eternity for someone to open the door.  In the meantime she couldn’t stop from wondering, what if they don’t open? What if they don’t let me in? What if my brother doesn’t recognize me or want me anymore?

The door opened and she saw a young woman, Luzian thought that her fears were going to come true after seeing the annoyed look on the woman and her hard eyes, but then, the face changed completely and she was greeted by a huge smile and laughing eyes.  Before Luzian could react the young woman hugged her and dragged her inside the house.

“You must be Luzian, Camil’s sister.  He’s going to be so happy to see you again!” They were in the middle of the room before Luzian could notice what was happening.  “You arrive just in time, we are about to finish cooking dinner, but first you should take a bath, you must be so tired after your travel, you need to rest your muscles and…” Luzian’s face betrayed such confusion that her companion stopped talking.  “I’m sorry, my name is Mistral, I’m Melch’s and Soturi’s daughter and your brother’s good friend.”  Just then Luzian noticed another woman in the room, a very tall woman that looked so out of place there.  “Arla, look!  Camil’s sister is here.  Luzian, she’s Arla, a friend.  Arla, why don’t you go tell Camil his sister is here?”  Before Arla could move, Mistral finally let go of Luzian and started walking toward a door.  “Never mind, you are so slow, I’ll go.”  And then she was gone, leaving Luzian stunned, not knowing what to do.

“Don’t worry, Mistral is just too much, try to not take her seriously.”  Arla approached Arla and hugged her.  “I’m sure you and I are going to be such good friends.  I’m a good friend of your brothers and if you are anything like him I know you and I are going to be good friends too.”

“Welcome Luzian, my name is Onid,” said a shy girl that Luzian hadn’t noticed before.  “Camil talks so much about you that I feel like I already know you.  He misses you so much, I’m glad that you are here, he will be so happy to have you here, I hope you can stay a long time.”

“Hi,” Luzian was finally able to say something.  “It’s a pleasure to meet you all.  Do you know where my brother is?” Just as she was asking, she noticed her brother entering the room.  She couldn’t help herself, she just ran to him and hugged him.  “Brother! I’m so glad I can finally see you.”  He looked so good, he was taller and his hair was longer, but he was without a doubt her brother.

“Hi sis, you look so beautiful!” Camil was holding her sister as if she was going to banish the moment he let her go.  The last time he had seen her it had been in an extremely difficult situation.  He had thought that he would never see her again, but she was with him again and he was happier than he could remember.  “I’m so glad you could finally come to me.”

“I’m glad I’m here as well.  I’m sorry if I dropped unannounced, I think you weren’t expecting me until later, but I was desperate to see you and I came here as soon as I could.”  In her brother’s arms, Luzian felt happy and secure, feelings she hadn’t felt in years.

“Don’t worry, you arrived just in time, a little later and your brother would have died, he was desperate to see you too.”  Mistral was back in the room, now accompanied by her parents.

“Welcome to my home, I hope your stay here is pleasant.  You are free to stay as long as you want.”  Melch was nice, but just to be in the same room as him was intimidating, he was a living legend after all.

Melch was the only High Priest that wasn’t part of the Royal Family.  His fair hair and skin marked him as chosen by the goddess, and because of that the Priests had given him the opportunity to be one of them.  People said that he had been born in one of the small town near the Shadows, but soon his good deeds and the love for the people had attracted the attention of the High Priests that gave him an opportunity to be one of them and be part of the government.  Since he had joined the government things had improved so much for the common people, and no one could be more grateful for that than Luzian and his brother.  Their mother had been accused of high treason and all their family had been sentenced to be exiled to the Shadows.  Only Melch’s intervention had saved her and her brother from being sent there.  Luzian had become an acolyte in one of the temples and her brother had been accepted as Melch’s apprentice.  It had taken seven years for Luzian to reach adulthood and only then she had been free to go looking for her brother.

“You must be tired, go and rest a little, we have time before dinner is served.”  Soturi approached the siblings and gently separated them, for they were still in each other’s arms.  She put her arms around Luzian’s shoulders and guided her to the door where her husband and her had entered the room.  “Don’t worry, you and your brother will have all the time you need to catch up later.”

Camil walked with them, holding her sister’s hand while she tried to stop the whirlwind of ideas going through her mind.  After going up some stairs Soturi took Luzian inside a big room, one bigger than the room she had in the temple, as big as the shack where they used to live as children.  It was simple, but it had every comfort she could ask for, and the view was to die for.

“This is where we have to separate, my room is next door, if you need me you can call for me.  I’ll see you in an hour.”

“Wait, this room is only for me?  But is huge!” Camil smiled, for he undertood where his sister was coming from, he had felt the same way when he first arrived to Melch’s house.  His reaction may have been even stronger, because he was expecting exile and instead he had arrived with a loving family and good friends, from a nightmare he had come to a dream come true.

“All the rooms are the same, well, the one Melch and I share is a little bit bigger, but don’t worry, you will get use to it.”  Soturi opened a door that Luzian hadn’t noticed.  “This is the bathroom, you will share it with your brother, I hope that’s not a problem.  I will start a bath so you can relax before dinner.  I’m sure you must be very tired.”

Soturi went into the bathroom and Camil went to his room, leaving Luzian alone in her very own room.  She couldn’t believe how in just a few minutes her life had completely changed.  It was like being in a dream, one she didn’t want to wake up from.