The tension between me and Alukah could be felt from the moment we left the Palace. Even if I was the one with the contacts and the one who knew most of the routes, Alukah insisted on taking control. At first, I allowed her to command the caravan, but as we approached the place where the helicopter was waiting for us, I had to take back control, something Alukah didn’t appreciate.
Kimball had told me that once upon a time, air transportation used to be common place, but during the Great War the attacks destroyed the navigation systems used by them, making a lot of them useless and causing many accidents. Many countries reduced or canceled their air travel, and the few able to navigate without instruments were recruited for war, but they all knew how important aircraft was, so the war machine started targeting the air forces of their enemies, until it practically disappeared. When things calmed down again in the old continent, aeronautic was one of the first sciences to be resurrected, but in the zone where the Empire rested, that wasn’t the case. Many clans had tried to craft things similar to airplanes, but the ones built in the Empire rarely managed to get much height and they were easy targets for others to shoot down, because of that nobody really cared about aircrafts.
Our group finally arrived at the spot where we were hiding the helicopter, one of the biggest ones we had, capable of moving not only our people but our vehicles as well. The Imperialists were visibly impressed, and a little intimidated by our transportation.
“What are we waiting for?” Alukah asked after we finished loading the last of the vehicles with us.
“We are waiting for darkness. We prefer to fly at night, because, even if the helicopter can move high enough to be out of reach of most missiles, I prefer not to let people know that we have one of those.”
“But we are wasting time, at this pace we are never going to reach our destination.”
“We will travel by night and arrive at our first stop at the Shadows in the early hours of tomorrow, we will rest a little there and then move forward to our final destination. Since we don’t have to worry about being attacked there, it doesn’t matter when we fly. Believe me, a journey that could take days by traditional methods only takes hours by air.”
“That sounds impossible,” Alukah said, clearly she didn’t believe me.
“Just because it’s something you don’t know, it doesn’t mean it can’t be done. The use of this kind of aircrafts is one of the main advantages the Domain has over the Empire, this and the communication systems, that allows them to be in touch with people from regions far apart from each other.”
It was obvious she wasn’t impressed, but most of her people were. Even after I explained what would be waiting for them during the trip, so they would be prepared, most of them ignored my suggestions, thinking that as the powerful warriors they were, they wouldn’t be having any problems during the flight, but soon after take off, I saw a few of them getting sick, and some of them hiding their fear after looking out the windows. I decided to let them suffer for a while, so they would learn their lesson, but eventually I told them to go to sleep, so they could get over the worst of the journey.
When we arrived at our first stop, most of the Imperialists were relieved to be able to step into the ground again, but they were doing a great job trying to hide just how affected by the flight they really were. I knew that there would be someone from the Shadows waiting for us, but I was surprised when I found out it was Mistral.
“Nina! How was your trip? Are you tired? Do you need food?” she started asking as soon as I was off the plane.
“It’s a pleasure to see you!” I greeted Mistral, opening my arms to her, an invitation she quickly took. “I don’t know if they are all hungry, you know that flying can affect some people’s stomach. I think it will be better to first give them a chance to rest, and then give them something to eat.”
“I have the perfect tea to ease their stomachs, I will ask a few volunteers to prepare it and deliver it to your guests. You will join us for breakfast, right?”
“Who is she?” Alukah interrupted.
“This is Mistral, my goddaughter and the daughter of Melchizedek, a powerful seer and one of the main promoters of change in the Light. Mistral, this is my niece, General Alukah, she is the second in command of the Empire.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Mistral said happily. “How are you feeling? Want to join us for breakfast?”
“I’m perfectly well,” ALukah said, and I could see that indeed, she had a better color, I had noticed that during landing she had turned a little green. Not that I blamed her, the landing had been a little rocky.
“Perfect! I will start preparing everything, you know where to go,” with that Mistral disappeared, only to reappear a few feet away to talk to some of the locals and then disappear again.
“She doesn’t seem to have a problem using her powers.”
“People from the Shadows doesn’t have the same problem using their powers as the ones from the Light. Since they are already considered criminals, they live under a different set of rules from those in the rest of the Kingdom. Mistral learned to use her teleportation since she was little, even if she had to block that knowledge for a few years so she could live in the Light, once she remembered about her powers, she started to use them again and managed a good level of control,” I explained to Aluka.
“You seem to know each other very well.”
“Not really. My relationship with Mistral just resumed a few months back, and we had a few problems at first, until she remembered our time together during her childhood. Even if our meetings have been brief during the years, our relationship had always been good.”
“That’s one of the reasons Pompeyo can’t trust you, you are too involved with this people.”
“You may see it that way, and I’m sure that some of the Light Ones share your way of thinking, that my relationships with you stop me from being fair to them, but the truth is I look for everyone’s benefit, and I would never do anything to hurt the Empire. Even if you don’t think so, you are my people and I would never harm you.”
“Just the fact that you are not giving your all to us, if that means harming your beloved Light Ones, means that you are not on our side, you help is limited since you are not willing to hurt other people you care about, even when they don’t share your blood as we do.”
“You are way too selfish, but some day you will realize that the best way to get ahead is not by stepping over others, but by getting others to help you build a stair that can bring all of you to the next level.”
“You are talking nonsense, as usual. I’m hungry, take me to the girl so we can be fed.”
“You keep forgetting I’m the one in control, these people are my allies, those are my warriors. Even if I decide to let your lack of respect go, not everyone will be as forgiving as me, you may get in trouble if you keep that attitude.”
Alukah acted as if she hadn’t heard me, but I noticed a slight change in her attitude, she was calmer and avoided fighting me for the rest of the morning. In the afternoon, we finally got to the last leg of our trip, with Mistral and a couple more Light Ones joining us. We arrived at our destination without trouble, and by the time we landed, a group of rebels was already waiting for us.
“Alukah, allow me to introduce you to Melchizedek, he is in charge of this place and will be doing the introductions tomorrow. Melchizedek, allow me to introduce you to General Alukah, my niece and second in command of the Empire.”
“I know who she is, and if I remember correctly she has double the family ties to you. It must be nice to finally be with your family again.”
“It’s been quite the experience, and in most cases this generation has done a good job taking control of the Empire. Alukah is a strong, intelligent woman, I would just like it if she stopped seeing everyone as her enemies, that would make her a better leader.”
“You know how youth is often accompanied by inexperience and bad decisions, but that can be cured with time. I have been in the fog and I know that with you helping them along, everything will turn out just fine, at least for this visit.”
“I’m standing right here, how dare you speak about me like that?” Alukah protested.
“We’re just speaking the truth. Nothing to get excited about. Now, how are we going to do this? What do you suggest? Individual meetings or a group reunion?”
“I think it will be healthier if we have individual meetings, we don’t want to have everyone together and start a fight. I have a list of those who are more likely to accept help, once they are in, the others will be more pressed to accept, or they will be at a disadvantage in comparison with the others.”
“For a Light One you have good ideas,” Alukah said. “That’s a nice way of manipulating people to do what we want them to do.”
“Part of my training as a Prince in the Light included how to make people do what you want them to do. But I have to warn you, I won’t let you take advantage of my people, if at some moment I think that your actions are against their interests, I will step in. The only reason I agreed with all this is because I believe that we can find a solution that can benefit all of us, so don’t make me regret opening my doors to you.”
“I think it’s a little late to change your mind, you are the ones who thought this would be a good idea. Besides, the leaders are going to be making their own decisions, they are the ones who will decide if they like our deals or not, you are just here to introduce us, the rest will depend on us, as you said.
“Don’t try to play us, Alukah,” I warned her. “Even Pompeyo agreed it’s best to find the common ground, where both parts can benefit from the deal. That’s what you promised, that’s what you are going to deliver.”
Despite not being sure of what Alukah was really planning, we decided to start with the introductions. I could feel how desperate the first leader to visit us really was, but soon Melchizedek’s powers helped him relax, making it harder for Alukah to get a read on him, but she wasn’t a fool, she was actually a really good negotiator.
The first meeting went by without a problem, the second one was a little more complicated. As Alukah had asked, we limited to introduce the participants and observe, but even if Melchizedek didn’t speak a word, his powers made it clear what he was thinking. If he felt like the negotiation started to turn bad for the Light, his anxiety increased, affecting both Alukah and the person she was dealing with, making them both more cautious. At the end, from the twelve leaders that had gone to the meetings, eight agreed to make a deal with the Empire. Even if I had the feeling that Alukah wasn’t that happy with how the negotiations had turned out, none of us could really say that the end result wasn’t good for all of the parts.
It had been a long day, but at the end, I felt happy that we had made progress, even if not everyone saw it that way. Alukah was still angry that some leaders hadn’t accepted the deal, and those leaders were angry that some had made deals with the Dark Ones. We extended an invitation for dinner to all of them, but everyone rejected it, so I ended having dinner with Melchizedek and his family, something that I was actually happy about, having free time to talk to them to discuss everything that had happened that day was just what I needed.
The next morning, early in the morning I found Alukah in an open field near the place we were staying at. All around us the place was full with the equipment we had brought from the Empire, she was getting ready to distribute what she had promised. Of course not all the leaders were happy with the process, everyone wanted to be the first.
“How’s everything going?”
“They act as if only one of them could get the goods,” Alukah complained, “I already explained there is enough for everyone, as promised yesterday, they still insist on fighting over everything.”
“They are new at this, and obviously they feel like they are at a disadvantage in front of the others.”
“It’s immature and it’s starting to get on my nerves. If things keep going like this, training will be a nightmare.”
“How are you going to deal with that part?” I asked, with genuine curiosity. “I think that trying to train all the groups together may lead to conflict.”
“I will divide my people between different groups and they will deal with the training. Each and every one of them is capable of helping with the training. I have to recognize that I wasn’t expecting them to have so much potential, even if their powers have been wasted they whole lives, I can see they had a lot of potential ready to be unleashed. I’m not surprised that they getting out of control can cause so much destruction, the damage you can do with that much energy must be really big.”
“And something they want to avoid if possible, they want to be able to stop their enemy, not destroy them completely.”
“That’s why you wanted us to bring non-lethal weapons? I thought it was going to be a waste of time and space, but they seem to like the idea of being able to stunt, not kill.
“Many of them are out for blood, but the ones they want to hurt are the royals, not their followers. Besides, they have been taught their whole life that killing is bad, they can’t change their way of thinking that easily, for most of them ending a life is difficult, and many soldiers had left because of guilt.”
“That’s kind of pathetic. What were they expecting?”
“War is a nasty deal, and it’s not the same to think you know what’s going to happen to experience war by yourself. These are peaceful people, they are used to strict rules and a certain code of conduct, to be in battle for the first time is a really strong shock to them. We know what to expect from an early age, and still, some people get overwhelmed during their first real battle, not imagine what it must be like to the Light Ones.”
“If they really want their freedom, they need to know that this is going to be their life from now on, this is what they need to expect moving forward.”
“Not necessarily,” Melchizedek interrupted, “the point of all of this is to avoid this kind of fighting in the future. I know that it will be difficult at first, but I hope that in time we will be able to solve our problems and differences in a more civilized way.”
“If that’s what you think, you are sadly mistaken. It wasn’t easy to keep his people under control, but now that they have free reign and a taste of power, they will want more. Once they get rid of the royals, they will want to submit those around them. They have a taste for blood now, they will keep coming for more.”
“I have to admit you are not entirely wrong, not all people have the same world view as me, and more people will look for more of the same, but I trust that most people will look for a more peaceful future. Especially those that are willing to make deals with both the Empire and the Dominion, those deals will allow them the stability they want.”
I knew that the discussion was a waste of time, Alukah was one of those people who still dreamed about war, who idolized her ancestors and dreamed to repeat their conquests, who wanted to bathe in the glory of the battlefield as she thought they had done. Despite following Pompeyo’s orders and doing an excellent job making the deals, finding common ground and forging long lasting alliances that would help the Empire, I could tell she still believed that the best course of action was conquering the people we were working with.
Despite the fact that I didn’t believe she would do anything to go against Pompeyo’s orders, I couldn’t help but worry that she could do something that could affect our goal to bring peace to the Light. Even if I had promised to let her do her job without getting involved, and despite trusting her to be able to do her job, I knew that I needed to stay close and make sure she wouldn’t do something that could affect us later. Things were pretty complicated in the Light as it was, we didn’t need someone complicating them even more.