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.”