Chapter 39

The trip back to the Dominion was very different, we all could feel Sofia’s happiness, but Camil emotions were harder to read.  One moment he was happy, then worried, then angry or even scared.  His face didn’t betray any emotion, and because of that Sofia didn’t see them, or chose not to, anyway.

“Do you want me to use my powers to calm him down?” Ethan asked mid trip.

“No, he is too used to Melchizedek’s influence, it will be good for him to be able to experience his emotions freely.”

“Your friends are very nice,” Kimball said.  “I’m glad to know you had them to help you through your hard times.”

“You have no idea how grateful I am for having Melchizedek and his family in my life.  Some of the best memories I have, are from the time I spent with them.  I have no idea what I would have done if Melch hadn’t been there to teach me how to use my clairvoyance powers.”

We spent the rest of the journey sharing memories, even Sofia and Camil joined us at some point.  Even if the chat was light and happy, Camil was getting more nervous as we approached our destination.  We knew it wasn’t a good idea to take him directly to the Dominion, so we were taking him to one of his family’s castles, Sofia was going to be with him, teaching him about our society and giving him time to get used to the Dominion.  At first we had considered taking him to Aquarium, but he didn’t need a secure place like that, there were no longer any threats against him.

We stayed at the castle one night, in part to make sure Camil felt at easy, in part to make sure everything was ok, but at the next day we continued our way to Capital City.  As soon as we landed, a car approached the plane, and William came out to greet us.

“Black lady, it’s good to have you back.”

“William, what a surprise, I didn’t expect you to come welcome us.”

“You know I didn’t want to leave the Dominion with just one of us here, but now that you arrived, I think there won’t be a problem if I go visit my mother and nephew.”

“No, I don’t think it will be, take as long as you need.”

“Thanks, Kaiserin,” I could tell he had a lot of questions, but instead of asking, he turned around and went into his car, without even bothering to greet Kimball or Ethan.

“I’m surprised he wasn’t at the castle to greet his family,” Ethan said, coming to where I was standing.

“Someone had to be here, one of us gone is no problem, but two of us is another matter,” I said.

“It’s not like your work intercedes that often, you all have different tasks to do.”

“Still, we always have to be prepared in case something unexpected happens, the Dominion is a huge place, and there are many scenarios that need the attention of all of the Dominion’s leaders,” Kimball explained.

“We have been lucky, there haven’t been any crisis lately, but that’s not a reason to neglect our responsibilities,” I said, but I couldn’t help but recall all the occasions I had left the Dominion to take care of personal problems, or just because I needed some rest.

We didn’t wait to see William leave, we went directly to the Palace, back to real life.  Even if I wasn’t officially back until the next day, I couldn’t help but go to my office to check my messages and make sure nothing had happened while I was gone.  Even if it had been just a few days, I couldn’t help but feel unease, I wasn’t sure if I was just feeling guilty about leaving, or if it was something else, but I knew that it was better to make sure everything was fine, instead of taking unnecessary risks.

Ethan had been more and more interested in my work, and anything related to the government, so it didn’t surprise me when he asked to go with me, and I didn’t bother trying to tell him no, I knew that any training he could get by my side would be useful for him in the future, no matter what path he decided to take.

Everything was just as I expected, the reports and files were what I would normally find on my desk, nothing out of place, mostly just routine work, but still, that didn’t make me feel better.

“What are you worried about?” Ethan asked.

“Nothing specific, I just had a feeling something was wrong, but maybe I’m just feeling guilty for all the time I was away, leaving my people unattended.”

“Isn’t the Dominion’s advantage the fact that it is just a regulatory body?  Once all the rules are set and the programs are running, most of the work is done by the different countries, you only have to make sure everything is going as planned, just supervising work.”

“That’s a rather simplistic way of explaining it, but you are right, if our work is done well, then sooner or later we reach an equilibrium where everything is fine.  Of course, we still have to be on our guard in case something unexpected happens, like a conflict between nations or a natural disaster, that’s when we really need to work.”

“But right now, everything is fine, right?”

“That’s right.  I think I just needed to make sure by myself to be calm, we only were away for a few days, still the trip was not something planned, and we had only returned from Aquarium, so I feel like I’m not doing my job, that I’m leaving my responsibilities.”

“Have it ever occurred to you that you take on too many responsibilities?” Ethan said, and I could tell he was serious, and even if his words were sincere and his worry was real, I couldn’t help but laugh.

“If you want to rule one day, you can’t think like that.”

“You know I’m not talking about that, I know your main responsibility comes from being the Prime Minister, but still, you worry about things going on in other places, first it was only the Empire, but sometimes is what’s going on with the Allied Clans, and not what happens in the Light Kingdom.”

“I’m a Seeress, Ethan, if I have a vision about something going on in any of those places, then I’m going to worry, but you know that most of the time I don’t even have to interfere.”

“I really admire everything you do, still I think you could take it a little easier.”

“I’ll try,” I said, mostly just to calm him, but in part I knew he was right.

We went back to our side of the Palace and I went to rest, but the next morning I was still feeling uneasy and I knew that it wasn’t my imagination, I couldn’t keep telling myself it was just guilt, what I was feeling was a premonition, and that meant something bad was about to happen.

While we were having breakfast the feeling got worse, and then I noticed that Kimball was receiving messages.  My fears were confirmed when one of my assistants arrived, followed by a couple of my guards.

“I’m so sorry for interrupting your breakfast,” Keith apologized, “but there is a situation that requires your attention.”

“No need to apologize,” I said, as I took one last bite, and got up from my seat, I looked at Kimball, waiting to see his reaction, he didn’t hesitate, he said goodbye to Ethan and got up after me.  “Can this wait until we are in the office?  Or do you want to explain what’s going on right now?”

“I think it would be better if I can explain at the office,” he said.

It didn’t take long to get to the office, and as soon as we arrived, I took my place at the desk, with my guards, who had followed us from the moment we left the Suite, taking their places around the room and outside of the door, while Kimball took his position behind me.

“I think that you can tell me what’s going one now.”

“We got some reports that one country is not paying taxes, when we asked about them, the King said that they are tired of the Dominion taking everything from them, and decided to declare their independence, and war to us.  Everything is here,” he added, giving me a stack of reports with a detailed explanation of everything that had happened.

“Just when William decides to take a few days, this happens,” I said.  “I suppose we will need to call the President, she will want to discuss about what to do, and we can’t agree on a course of action, then we will have to interrupt William’s family reunion, but not until it’s necessary.”

“Do you want me to call the President?” my assistant asked.

“Please, as soon as she can come,” he left the room right away and I was sure that it wouldn’t be long before the President arrived.

“We knew something like that would happen sooner or later,” Kimball said.

“But I didn’t think it would be in such an aggressive way.”

“What are you going to do about this?”

“You know that I had already been thinking about giving them the choice to leave the Dominion if they wanted, so I think I will give them what they want,” I said.

“Something tells me it won’t be that easy” Kimball said, his voice suspicious.

Not long after someone knocked on the door, and a moment later, President Yu walked into the office.

“Good morning,” she greeted me formally.

“Good morning.  I guess you already know what’s going on.”

“Of course, I was informed about it early this morning, in fact, I already programed this issue to be discussed in the Congress.  I know it’s your job to deal with this directly, but we also need to go over the situation and see alternatives.”

“We had already talked about this, when you took over Dante, even if it was superficially.  I think it’s time to change the law to open the possibility of countries leaving the Dominion if they want.”

“Do you really think that’s a good idea?  The Dominion’s power resides in our union.”

“Before Emily took charge, not every country was part of the Dominion, and even those who were, had more freedom than they have now, as far as I know.”

“You’re right, but despite all the problems Emily caused, there were a few good things, and one is that as long as everyone is under the Dominion, they have to follow the same rules as everyone else.  If a country gets outside of the Dominion, then they will be able to do whatever they want and we won’t be able to do anything about it.  All they want right now is independence, but, what would happen if they decide they need more territory?  Or if they start taking what is not theirs?”

“If they do, then they will get exactly what it means to fight the Dominion.  Any aggression against their neighbors will be dealt with all of our force.  Besides, after a while they will realize just how hard it is to be without our support.”

“You might be right, but I don’t like this situation.”

“You said you are going to discuss this on the session today, tell them about my plans, lets see what they say about this.  Give me some time, and I will go and present my point of view directly to them, and if they decide to support me, I will present a series of proposals on how to proceed.  Obviously we can’t use the same rules that were used before Emily, because we are no longer in the same situation, and we need to make sure what the advantages and disadvantages of being part of the Dominion are.”

“That seems fair enough.  I will leave you to your work, I will tell you at what time you can address the Congress.”

“Thank you.”

“Have you talked to William?”

“Not yet, but I will, soon, for the moment he is with Sofia, dealing with some family issues.”

“We don’t need him right now, but we need to keep him updated.”

Yu walked left the room, and Kimball moved to the other side of the desk, to the place that Yu had just left.

“While we work on the situation, we should move our troops to the border, to keep the situation under control,” Kimball suggested.

“That could be taken as an aggression and cause things to escalate.”

“Maybe, but they already declared war, and just the act of leaving the Dominion could be taken as an act of aggression.”

“Not necessarily.  But you are right, we need to take precautions.  Sent some people to make sure they have no surprises waiting for us, they shouldn’t have any weapons, but it’s better if we check on that.  If they want to leave the Dominion, then we will make an example out of them, they will help us show that we won’t force anyone to be part of us, but they will also help us highlight the advantages and disadvantages of the Dominion.”

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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.”

Chapter 37

We were in the middle of an unknown territory, among enemy forces.  From what Melchizedek had told me, the Light ones weren’t as good and sweet as they pretended to be, and I knew that they could cause trouble for us, even if I wasn’t concerned about them hurting us.  I knew that this was not only and important mission, but a chance to see Melchizedek for the first time in years, and even if I couldn’t pretend that this was only a meeting between old friends, I decided to bring Kimball and Ethan with me.

“You should wait here, but if you think there might be trouble or if you think everything is under control and there’s no problem with getting closer, then you can come here, but for now, just try to be discreet,” I asked them.

“I don’t think you can be discreet in this place, there’s no way you won’t be noticed using that uniform.”

I ignored Kimball, mostly because I knew he was right, and kept walking to a point from where I could watch the couple moving through the temple’s gardens.

“There must be another choice,” Mistral was saying, “you can’t leave.”

“You don’t see what I see, every time they speak, I can see the fakeness twirling around their words.  I’m no longer sure this is a good place, and I’m afraid if I stay you could be also in danger.”

“But you can’t leave, where would you even go?  How would you survive?”

Both of them had been distracted while they walked, so none of them had realized they were not alone any longer, nor that they were being followed, but eventually they got too close to me not to notice me.  Charles’ son moved in front of Mistral, trying to protect her.  “Who are you?” he asked, as he started to move back, trying to put more distance between us.

“I don’t recommend moving back, there’s more danger behind you than in front,” after hearing my words, and recognizing the truth in them, they both looked over their shoulders and finally noticed the man that had been following them

“What is going on here?” Mistral asked, to no one in particular, I could see her fear and confusion, but her partner was doing his best to keep her protected from all the threats around them.

“The High Priests asked me to follow you, they are worried about your faithfulness and obedience, and the fact that you are consorting with a Dark one is a sign that they were right to doubt you.”

“Dark one?” Mistral asked, a note of hysterics coming to her voice as she looked at me with distrust and confusion, maybe even a hint of recognition.

“Now it won’t matter who your father, or your protector is, this is enough to send you to the Shadows, maybe even to offer you to the Goddess as a sacrifice.”

“And you call my people barbarians,” I said, “at least we don’t make elaborated lies to justify our actions.  We all know you are only looking for an excuse to do what you already were going to do.”

“Camil?” Mistral was looking at her companion asking for an explanation.

“Everything she says is true, but when he talks his words are full of half truths or outright lies.”

“And how do you know that?” the Light one asked, “Are you being helped by demons?”

I couldn’t help but laugh at his words, the situation was ridiculous, the guy knew the truth about powers and their nature, and still he was buying into his own lies.  “Your hypocrisy is outstanding,” I finally told him.

“My powers come from the Goddess,” he said.

“And why are you so sure his don’t come from the same place?  You know what? I don’t care about your answer, I just want to fix this.  I will give you the chance to leave this place, so you can see I’m not so bad, but if you stay here, I won’t guarantee your safety.”

“Sinners and infidels, I won’t let you get away with this,” from somewhere between his clothes he managed to get a knife out and moved to Camil and Mistral, but using my powers I threw him in the opposite direction, making him hit a column with enough force to knock him out.

“You killed him!” Camil said.

“No, I didn’t, he is still alive, and I think you should remember that if he had gotten away with it, he would have killed you.”

“Who are you?  What do you want?” Mistral asked.

“I thank you for your help,” Camil said, more diplomatically, “but I think it’s time for you to leave here, you are not welcome.”

“I’m afraid I can’t go, not unless you come with me.  You are the main reason I came here today.”

“I won’t let you take him,” Mistral said, turning brave as soon as someone she cared about was threatened.

A feeling of peace and calmness fell like a blanket over us, and I immediately knew that Melchizedek had decided to join us.  After taking a moment to search the surrounding area I realized that he was getting closer, but he wasn’t coming from the same place as Camil and Malkia, he was coming from the other side, from behind me.  I turned around just in time to see him getting out of the tree line, and noticed he wasn’t alone, Ethan was with him, smiling, but also looking a little confused.  Without thinking about it, I started moving towards them, only to have Mistral appearing between us, holding the knife the other guy had used against her, blanding it inexpertly.

“Not another step,” she warned me, but I ignored her, using my powers to take the knife from her and throw it away, then to hold her still while I moved passed her and into Melchizedek’s open arms.

“It’s been so long since I saw you!” I greeted him while I lost myself in his embrace, feeling the safeness and peacefulness that I had missed so much.

“It’s good to see you again, darling,” Melchizedek told me.

I let go of my hold over Mistral, allowing her to turn and see what was going on.  I couldn’t see her, but still I could tell she was confused and even a little bit mad, even with Melchizedek’s influence.

“Sir?” Camil asked, moving closer to where we were.

“Are you ok?” Melchizedek asked him.

“Confused, do you know this… Dark one?  She is a Dark one, isn’t she?”

“Yes dad, what’s going on?”

“I think that deep down, you know what’s going on, my dear.”

“She is getting her powers back, that means her memories must be coming back too,” I agreed with Melchizedek, she had to know more, even if she was refusing to believe it.  “I see you already met my son Ethan,” I said, changing the topic and trying to figure out why they had arrived together.

“I found him on my way here, and he agreed to come with me.”

“You knew who he was,” I was sure, Melchizedek’s powers were far superior from mine, and I was sure he knew all there was to be known about Ethan already.

“He even called me by name,” Ethan confirmed, “but I’m sure I would have known who he was, just by looking at him after all you told me about him.  What I don’t get is why you call him the most powerful empath there is, he has strength, but he lacks control.

“Maybe he doesn’t have the same kind of control as you in how he affects those around him, but he has a lot of control over his own feelings.  Just imagine the kind of damage someone like him could do by being angry or scared and projecting those feelings, imagine the chaos.  You know I’m always going after you to control your emotions because of the kind of damage you could do by projecting all those feelings without control.”

“You may be right,” he accepted.

“Could someone explain to me what’s going on?” Mistral asked, some traces of frustration going over her father’s influence.

“I would also like to know who she is and what’s she doing here.”

“This is Kaiserin, former Empress of the Dark Empire,” Melchizedek introduced me, “and she is here to take you with her.”

“What? No!” Mistral said, moving in front of Camil as if she could protect him.

“You know who he is,” Melchizedek nodded, but I didn’t need the confirmation, I expected him to already know everything about the young man he had taken under his protection.

“I know, and I have done my best to prepare him for his future.  And you arrived just in time, for the High Priests are already suspicious of his powers, and they don’t trust their ability to turn him to their side, they know he is a good person, and one that is not fooled by their lies.”

“He has become a risk, they no longer want to have him around in case he could turn against them or betray their secrets,” I said, getting a better understanding of the situation.

“There’s nothing they fear more than truth, since all their teachings are based on lies and secrets.”

“Daddy, I don’t get what’s going on.  Please, explain to me what this is, how do you know her?”

“Could we have this conversation in another place?” Kimball’s voice reached us.  “A group of people is heading this way.  It would be better to move this conversation to a place where there isn’t a risk of people walking into a Dark one.”

“Of course, that’s a good idea, let’s more to a more secluded place where we can talk without problems,” Melchizedek agreed.  “I promise to explain everything, even if I think you already know the answers, you just have to accept them.”

We walked in silence for a while, with Kimball in the front, guiding us to the place we had already prepared just for this reason, and where Sofia would be waiting for us.  Despite the lack of words, there was plenty of communication going on around us, Camil and Mistral giving each other looks and gestures meant to reassure each other, while Melchizedek’s smile was all I needed to know how glad he was about our meeting.  Kimball also was looking at me, letting me know that everything was alright, while Ethan just looked around, absorbing as much information as he could.  We finally arrived to our destination, an improvised camp with a group of warriors watching us just from out of sight, while Sofia waited in the center.  When we moved closer, I noticed that Sofia was in trance, and I actually felt the vision that had her trapped calling to me.

“I think this is the first time that the three most powerful Seers in the world had been in the same place,” Melchizedek pointed out, “usually this kind of power is placed in different parts of the world.”

“With Sofia and me in the same place, the balance must have been seriously affected a long time ago,” I pointed out.

“Not that much, the Dark Empire has a lot of seers, that helps to keep the equilibrium.”

“Is that how you know each other?  You meet in the Fog of the Future?” Camil asked.

“Not really, in fact, it was Melch who taught me how to walk the fog, he was my teacher.”

“Can we start from the beginning?  I really need to understand what’s going on here,” Mistral asked.

“Of course, that’s only fair.  But I’m pretty sure that you at least have an idea of who I am, deep down.  I saw how you appeared in front of me, that means you are using your powers again, that wouldn’t be possible if you didn’t have at least part of your memories back.”

“How do you know so much?  Who are you?  Tell me, no more evasion, or mores questions.”

“You know that, I’m your godmother.”

Mistral stayed quiet and silent, she didn’t deny my words like I expected her to do.  I could see her going over my words and her memories, trying to find something to confirm or deny my words.

“Sometimes I remember a woman’s voice, but when I try to see her face something else distracts me and I can’t focus on her anymore.  There are some memories, some things and feelings that I can’t get a hold on, like the feeling of getting lost in time, the feeling of moving from one place to another in the blink of an eye.  Sometimes I even see myself in another place with different people.”

“Those are suppressed memories, from a past you no longer remember,” I tried to explain.

“Why can’t I remember?”

“Because a long time ago you asked me to block your powers, and the only way I knew how to do it, was by hiding some of your memories.”

“Are you going to do that again?”

“The first time I did it because you asked me to, and I may do it again if it’s something you really want, but the first time it was because you were too young and impulsive and we were afraid you wouldn’t be able to hide your powers from other people.  But now you are all grown up, you are capable of hiding your powers, and of knowing when it’s ok to use them.  What happened before was your reaction to what you perceived as a threat, but once you have the right tools, you will be able to control that kind of thing from happening if you don’t want it to.”

“I want my memories back,” Mistral asked, “I want to understand what’s going on and see for myself what’s going on, right now I feel like everyone knows something I don’t, I feel I don’t see the whole picture and I hate that.”

“If you are sure about it, then I can help.”

“Wait a minute,” Camil asked, “are you sure you can trust her?  She is a Dark one.”

“You can answer that question better than I can.  What do you see?  Is she lying or telling the truth?”

“She seems to be telling the truth, but I don’t know if it’s a good idea to trust her, besides, she wants to take me with her, and she hadn’t explained why.”

“What do you know about your origins?  Your past?” I asked him.

“There are a lot of rumors and guesses about my past, and something tells me you know more about it than me.”

“There is so much to talk about that I don’t know where to start,” I said.

“What about the beginning?”

“I will, but could you give me a few minutes first?  I would like to work a little on Mistral, try and free some of her memories about the Shadowlands, that way she will understand better what we have to say.”

No one objected to my suggestion, so while Camil and Melchizedek had a private conversation, and Kimball and Ethan moved away, either to give us privacy or make sure we were safe, Mistral and I took some of the free chairs near Sofia.

“What do I have to do?” Mistral asked, looking a little nervous.

“Nothing special, you just need to relax and try not to fight this.  The only reason this worked so well the first time was because you trusted me, and didn’t put any resistance to my influence, and I need that right now.”

“You must be telling the truth, because I feel like I can trust you, sure, my first reaction wasn’t a good one, and all my teachings tell me to run the opposite direction from you, but deep down I feel like I could trust you.  If not in you, at least in my father, he had always guided me in the right direction, and I trust him.”

Feeling a lot better after her words, I went into her mind.  What I had done with her was different from what my father had done to me, he had hidden my memories behind closed doors and inside protected chests, I had gone for a less painful option.  Mistral’s landscape was also different, she wasn’t a telepath, and because of that her mental landscape was very basic, without visual representations, still, a lot of time had gone by since the last time I had been in there, and what I found was very different, I was hard to find my way to where I had hidden her memories.  Instead of locking them up like my father had done, I had put them behind other memories, masking them and distracting her from looking into them with the brighter, happier memories before them.  The attractiveness of those memories had lost its power with time, and I could see some of the memories shining from behind them, trying to get out.  Recovering those memories was extremely easy, all I had to do was move them from behind and leaving them in a place where they could be easily accessed.  She had already been trying to reach them, and some had escaped in their own, making the whole process extremely easy.  The fact that I didn’t find any resistance was a sign that she did trust me.

Hiding her memories and locking her powers had been a long process, but freeing them had taken just a few minutes.  I finished my task and got out of her mind.  She opened her eyes and stared at me for a moment, I could see her wince in pain and realized that despite my best efforts, I haven’t been able to shield her from all the pain, having that much memories dumped on her, had still affected her.  I knew there wasn’t much I could do, so I just waited, and just a moment after her face lighted up in recognition and she threw herself into my arms.

“Nina!  I can’t believe I forgot who you were.  Well, I do, I asked you for this, after all, but it’s incredible someone can forget someone like you.  There are so many things I have to ask, things I need to clarify.  I feel like a big part of me had been hidden, and I feel complete for the first time in forever.”

“That’s exactly what happened, those secrets were necessary, but left you with only half a picture,” Melchizedek said.  “But it’s good to see you have them back and that we can talk freely now.”

I saw the same painful wince in Mistral, and then she looked solemnly at her father.  “You weren’t accepted as a Priest because of your powers, you are not a Blessed one that was guided to them, you are part of that family, you were destined to be a High Priest,” she said.

“That’s right, they are also your family, our family, but their hypocrisy made them reject us and put us to the side.”

“I see everything so differently now, is like the pieces of the puzzle are falling into place, but I don’t see the image I’m putting together,” Mistral said, and I could see she was sad because of that.  “What I still don’t get is why you are here and why are you interested in a Light one,” Mistral said.  “Why do you want to take him away?”

“I’m afraid I’m the reason for that,” Sofia said, finally out of her trance.  “Kaiserin is only helping me getting reunited to my grandson.”

Chapter 36

Aquarium was officially part of the Dominion, even if it was also considered just an extension of Mzansi since it wasn’t big enough to be a nation of its own.  But it was still mine, my refuge when I needed time, or a safe heaven, where my allies and I could get together and just be ourselves.

For a whole weekend I was going to host our allies and enjoy some peace and quiet, even if the assistance list had gotten longer than I anticipated and I was having to deal with logistic problems I had not expected.

“I think that everything is settled,” Kimball said, “we had to ask for some of the permanent residents to let us use their homes, since we didn’t have enough space for everyone.

“This place is huge, I never thought we would be able to fill it like this.”

“It’s not that unexpected, since we are hosting almost all of your old refugees and their families, plus a few new allies.”

“I never that many would accept the invitation.”

“A lot of people love you and respect you, some day you will realize that,” Kimball said, moving closer to me and wrapping me in his arms.  “And this is just because some of them already had previous commitments they couldn’t get out of.”

“Where is Ethan?”

“Where do you think he is?”

I was to be expected that if Ethan and his cousins, and the rest of the young refugees, got together, they would be in the gym competing against each other.

I didn’t need to tell Kimball what I was thinking, he could always read my intentions, so he just moved to offer me his arm and guided me to the gym.  The organized chaos that greeted us would be surprising to anyone who didn’t know this particular group of teens.

Apparently they had decided to form two teams and they were facing each other.  Just as we walked in, we watch as Ethan raises a flag between shouts of joy and people complaining.

“That is not fair!”  one of his cousins was complaining.  “Everyone wants to be on your team, so we get the bad players.”

“There are always situations where you found yourself at a disadvantage,” I said, raising my voice, “so that’s not a valid excuse.  A good warrior will always find a way to succeed no matter the challenge.”

“But it’s impossible to win against Ethan,” another one from the losing team complained.

“Nothing is impossible, it can be difficult, you may not even succeed the first time, but if you work hard enough, you can do it.”

“Mom, you are supposed to support me, tell them I’m invincible, make them fear me, or something.”

“I’m sorry, but another important lesson, one you have to learn, is that no one is invincible, and that you need to be prepared for anything.”

“Why don’t we try an ‘everyone against Kaiserin?'” Joon Hwan suggested.

“Isn’t that a bit unfair?  There’s a lot of you,” I said, “at least let me have Kimball on my team.”

“Somehow I feel we would be the ones at a disadvantage with that arrangement,” someone said.

“I accept the challenge,” Ethan said.  “Who is with me?”

A choir of voices, some more enthusiastic than others, agreed with Ethan, who immediately started to plan and organize his team.

“This will be fun,” Kimball said, “we will be doing a classic capture the flag setting.  I suppose you are going to defend and I should capture?”

“That sounds like a good strategy,” I agreed.

A protective bubble around the flag was the easy choice, but Ethan knew me enough to know how to find and attack my weaknesses.  He also knew his father’s strengths and most of his strategies, and that made the challenge a good one.

His plan was simple, he was attacking from different sides, trying to weaken my bubble, as Ethan used his powers to try and distract hard enough that I would lose concentration, allowing them to go through my bubble.  It was a good plan, and in another setting, it may have been effective, the problem was that with Kimball trying to capture the flag, they didn’t have enough time to make it work.

Ethan had been consistently getting stronger as the years went by, and he was capable of keeping his mind alert enough to go against his father, making counterattacks and changing strategies on the fly, while simultaneously sending psychic attacks against me.  Unfortunately for him, I had fought stronger attacks than his without problems.  Eventually Kimball managed to get past Ethan’s defenses and had taken their flag, the exercise had taken more time than I had expected, and I had to recognize that I was tired after it.

I couldn’t avoid turning the game into a learning opportunity, and I went on to point out the mistakes and the successes of the exercise, while Kimball did the same.

We barely had time to go to our next stop by the time we finished with the young ones.  My people in Aquarium had insisted that we needed a banquet to celebrate the reunion, even if I wanted something simple.  After a quick shower and a change of clothes we went to the hall where the party was going to take place, and most of our guests were already there when we arrived.  I had kept contact with most of them, but there were a few faces I hadn’t had a chance to see in a long time, and those were the first to approach me.

The reunion was pleasant and just what I needed to remember why I was doing what I was doing.  My ulterior motive involved talking to the refugees and see if they could help me decide if it was ok to give the nations of the Dominion more freedom.  Before Emily took control of it, being part of the Dominion was a choice, being part of it provided stability and protection, much like what happened in the Empire with those allied to the Imperial Clan.  Once we had reached new levels of stability in the Dominion, it was time to move things a little closer to what they used to be, and that included letting them decide if they wanted to be part of us, or not.  It wouldn’t be an easy task, but I needed to see if it was possible.  I knew that opening that door could open us to a lot of problems, but I also knew how important it was for people to be able to have a choice.  I doubted that anyone would jump to take the opportunity and leave the Dominion, at least not right away, not when being part of it gave them so many advantages, but I knew that with time, some of them would decide it was a risk worth taking, and I wanted them to have the option.

I needed to talk to Dante and present the proposal to the congress, but from what I had gathered, it would be well received.

“This is a celebration, you need to relax, you look too tense,” Sofia said.  Our relationship had improved a lot since her betrayal, and I didn’t feel as angry as before, still I didn’t feel comfortable with her, especially not when she had cornered me while I was alone.

“Sofia, what are you doing here?”

“Still mad at me?  I don’t know what else can I do to show you how much I regret what happened.”

“I expected you to be able to understand where I was coming from, for you to understand how hard it was for me to trust, and how much a betrayal could hurt me.  You should have known how your decisions would sever our relationship.  I trusted you, you know you could have approached me and talked to me about it, instead of going behind my back.”

“I get that, in retrospect, but you know that my children are my only weakness, and…”  Sofia never finished her thought, because before she could, we both got trapped in a vision.

I couldn’t see Sofia, but I knew she was with me inside the vision, I wasn’t sure if it was mine or hers, but one of us had dragged the other inside it.  We were in the middle of an unfamiliar landscape, a pair of figures approaching.  I thought I recognized one of them, and once I heard her name, I knew who she was.

When we got out of the vision I found Sofia crying, something I wasn’t expecting, especially not if we considered the smile that accompanied the tears.

“Did you see?  Do you recognize…?”

“Yes, that was my goddaughter Mistal.”

“No, that was my grandson, Charles’ son,” she said, leaving me speechless.  “When his mother escaped Emily, I tried to ignore her future and what had happened to her son, I didn’t want Emily to know what had happened to them, and if I couldn’t tell if they were alive, then she wouldn’t either.  I lost their trail, but I did that to keep them safe, and now I know he is ok.”

“But not for long.  I could be wrong, but the vision showed us he is in a difficult situation.  We need to go back to the fog and see more, at least now we will have the vision to guide us in the right direction.  And even if that’s not enough, I think I will be able to find him, his path seems to be connected to someone close to me.  Sofia, it’s possible we will meet with Melchizedek, that was his daughter Mistral with him.”

“Melchizedek, the seer.”

“This could become complicated,” I said, more to myself than to Sofia.

“For the moment you have a party to attend, nothing in that vision suggested this is urgent.  But please, as soon as we can, help me find more information about my grandson.”

“I will,” and not just because of her, that vision could also mean danger for her.

Chapter 11

“Is everything ready?” I asked Fatima, who had been with me all morning.

“Everything it’s ok,” she said, but I could tell she was a little distracted.

“What’s wrong?”

“Something weird was going on in the fog, I couldn’t get a good reading as to what was going to happen today, and I couldn’t contact Sofia to see if she could see something different.”

“I haven’t had a chance to get into the fog, but I talked to Sofia yesterday and she told me that everything would be fine today.”

“I haven’t seen William yet, did you?”

“No, I’m afraid he is late, he decided to go to the old house outside the city where he used to live, he asked to spend the night there.  He should arrive soon, but that’s ok, in a way it will be better if he arrives and surprises everyone.”

“It’s time to go,” David announced, opening the door just far enough for us to hear him.

I just waved Fatima goodbye and stepped outside to head to the Congress room, where all the Representatives, Ambassadors and other government people was already waiting.  As we expected, the universal translators had arrived on time and everyone had one, Kimball had tested them and said they were working perfectly, with their help nothing would be lost in translation.

I could feel the weight of everyone’s stares as I walked inside the room, Kimball was already there, wearing his gala uniform, as general of Mzansi’s army, a look that only helped to keep the idea that he would be the next King of the Dominion.

“Thank you for being here,” I said in a tone just loud enough to be heard.  “I believe that most of you know why I called you here, but for those that don’t know, I want you to know that my mission from the start was to reestablish the old system.  Right now I have the titles of Queen, Prime Minister and President of the Dominion, but today I will relinquish one of those titles and I will return the title of King to its rightful owner.”

“Kimball is not the rightful heir,” someone yelled from the other side of the room.  I couldn’t see who said that, I could easily find out who had, but I wasn’t worried about it.

“Before, the King or Queen was also known as the High Judge, that person was also in charge of applying the law and giving justice.  Emily was not the right person for that position, and all she did with it was abuse the power it gave her and corrupt it.  The new King won’t be like that.”

“Kimball has been covering your crimes for years,” Kozak said, “that makes him an accomplice and the worst person to fill that position.”

“As you know, or should know, when Queen Sofia left her position, she left it to her son Charles, going over Emily.  As Charles died and no one ever found out what had happened to his son, the crown went to Emily, and after Emily’s death, who didn’t have any heirs, the next in line is her brother William.”

“It will take a long time to go over all the succession line until we reach Kimball,” Representative Arctander protested.

“It’s not necessary to go that far,” I said, acknowledging for the first time one of their comments.  I gave David the signal and he opened the door.  William walked in and the room fell into complete silence, only to erupt in noise a second later as people started screaming protests and accusations.  I hit the podium with my palm, using my powers to amplify the noise and with that the room went back to silence.  “Let me introduce to you your next King, the son of former Queen Sofia, and younger brother of Charles and Emily.  The rightful heir of the crown, King William III.”

“William is dead,” someone yelled, breaking the silence.

“Good afternoon everyone.  I know that you are probably surprised by my presence, and I know that most of you heard from my sister that I died in the same accident my brother did.  The truth, that most of you know or at least suspect, is that my sister killed my brother, but left me alive, not because she felt bad about killing a relative or because she liked me, but because she used me, for years, as a tool to control my mother and force her to help her with her nefarious plans.  Once my sister decided my mother was no longer useful, I lost my usefulness too.  I should have died years ago, but Kaiserin saved me, and now she is giving me back my rightful place as King of the Dominion.”

Again the noise went up as people talked and questions were asked all at the same time.  The translators were doing its best to work, but there were too many voices and most of what was being said was getting lost.  A question managed to rise above others.

“Are you willing to work with the woman who killed your mother?”

“I know that Kaiserin is accused of a lot of crimes, and I know that as the Judge it’s my job to go over the evidences and judge if a person is innocent or guilty based on the laws that as King I swear to follow.  Because of that, my first action as King of the Dominion will be to judge Kaiserin and decide if she is fit to keep her position.”

“What the hell are you doing?” I asked William, that was not what we had agreed on.  “This is not part of the plan,” my men looked confused and didn’t know how to act, but a few people weren’t surprised by the turn of events.

“I have a file with all the crimes you have been accused of.  According to the old laws of the Dominion, no person is fit to rule over us unless she is innocent of any crime.”

“I offer my services as a lawyer to defend Kaiserin,” Jean Dupont, Madelaine’s brother-in-law offered.

“Agreed,” William said, and another wave of furious yelling started.

“Are you going to defend the woman who destroyed your brother by killing his wife?” one of the Ambassadors asked.

“Why do you assume she was involved in the death of my sister-in-law?” Jean asked, his voice full of suspicion.

“Maybe because he was involved in my kidnapping,” Madelaine answered, her physical aspect changing in front of everyone, her skin and hair getting lighter, morphing in front of everyone to the aspect we all recognized.  “I’m sure he is still mad that Kaiserin ruined his plans with me when she saved me from Faakhir.”  Madelaine’s presence caused a bigger reaction than William’s.  “Some men can’t take no for an answer, and he helped Faakhir, hoping that once he was done with me he would get his turn.”

“Madelaine, what are you doing?” I asked, still feeling out of control and a little lost.

“I won’t let them blame you for something you didn’t do, you saved me, and I won’t let you try to punish you for my kidnapping, or my supposed death.”

“I will wait until the preliminary trial to present the motion to dismiss the charge for Madelaine’s murder,  and I will present another 54 motions to dismiss other murders.  Some of the murder charges, I will ask to be changed to self-defense,” Jean said.

“Enough!  This has gone too far.  Who do you think you are to do something like this?  I won the right to rule this place, and this game of you is unacceptable.”  I told William, trying to understand what was going on.

“You gave me the right to judge you when you named me the King.  This is the best for everyone.”

“This is not part of the plan, you can’t do this,” by then, most of my men were placed around me, and Kinball had moved to my side.

“It wasn’t part of the plan to kill my sister either, you were supposed to give me the chance to face her.”

“I won’t accept this.  Did you forget who is in control?  Did you forget who saved you from death?  Is this how you pay me?”

“You asked me to come here and do my job.  This is me doing my job, it’s my duty to make sure that no criminal is in charge.  You are not the only one who is going to be facing trial, I will clean this place.  It’s like with the man Madeleine just accused of wrongdoing, he will be charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping and any other charges that my people can find.  But I’m going to start with you.”

“This is for the best,” Sofia said.  I realized that she was being escorted into the room by a very confused Yoweri.  In that moment I understood that Sofia and William had conspired to fool my people, and that only helped to fuel my anger.  “This is the best way to proceed,” she said, her voice so soft only I, and people close to us, would be able to hear her.

Sofia walked to the podium I had used a few minutes ago, and that her son was using, and put her hand on his shoulder, so he would give her space.  Sofia’s sudden appearance had rendered the room silent once again.  Most people in the room had attended her funeral, cried for her, heard the stories of how I had murdered her in her garden, with her daughter’s blessing.  Her death was one of the main reasons people hated me, because even if Sofia had been by her daughter’s side, they didn’t forget how good she had been to them as a Queen, and they all considered her another victim or her daughter, not an accomplice.

“Mother?” William asked, not just confirming her identity, but prompting her to speak.

“Things are not always what they look like,” Sofia said, breaking the silence.  “When my daughter started seeing me as a threat to her rule, she decided to get rid of me, but she sent the wrong assassin to do the job.  She asked Kaiserin to kill me, but instead, Kaisern offered me protection and a second chance.  She also gave me my son back.  I know you all expect this trial to show how unfit she is for the position she took from my daughter, but it will only show how right she is to rule the Dominion.  I’m grateful for the offer from Dupont to represent Kaiserin, and I offer my testimony to prove her innocence in most charges.  And I want to add, that I’m as guilty as her for those charges she is guilty of, because we worked together for years.”

“That’s not possible, she has to be controlling them,” a voice yelled from the back of the room, “they are trying to trick us.”

“No, we are here to try and fix what my sister broke,” William said.  “Kaiserin,” he said, turning to face me, his voice full of power.  “Could you tell me…” he started to say, but I used my powers to grab his neck and cut his words.

“How dare you use your power against me?  Did you forget who taught you to take advantage of your powers?”

“Kaiserin, calm down, we are together in this,” Sofia said, moving closer to me, but I was beyond mad at that point, mad at her betrayal.

“We were,” I said, and as soon as she was near me, I slapped her and sent her to the floor.  “We had a deal, and you broke it when you decided to go behind my back.  Remember that this alliance between us, it’s only valid as long as you are useful to me, when your usefulness runs out, so will our alliance.  I promised you would get to be King, so I will keep my word and let you play your games.  You have a week, in a week I will take control once more.  If this doesn’t work out in my favor, then I will just grab control by force once more, and I will make sure that no one will dare to get involved in my business again.”

“I’m sorry, but that’s not how things work.  I’m afraid that I will have to put you under arrest.  But I promise I will take care of this as soon as possible,” William explained.

“An who is going to arrest me?” I asked.  “The soldiers still loyal to the crown are not match to the ones loyal to me.  Are you going to start a war just a few minutes after assuming your new role as King?”

“Don’t make this more difficult.  You know you need me by your side.”

“That’s not true, I could do what I should have done years ago and kill you and your mother, and take the crown back, keep being a tyrant.”  I moved closer to William and whispered to him.  “Or I could go looking for your nephew, your brother’s son, the true heir to toe crown, I’m sure I can make sure he remains loyal.”

“What? But… What are you talking about?” William asked, confused, waiting for an answer I had no intention to give him.  “Come back here!” he ordered as he noticed I was moving out of the room.

I could feel him moving after me, but my men surrounded me, creating a barrier he couldn’t break, and making me feel better, knowing I still had people on my side.  I couldn’t get over the fact that I had been betrayed once again by people I trusted completely.  I stepped out of the room and found Reka and Konstantinos waiting for me, both of them looked worried and that only made me realize that there were more problems to deal with.  I could hear Kimball discussing back in the room, but I couldn’t focus on what he was saying, I needed to find what had them so worried.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m not sure how it happened,” Konstantinos said, “but we were just informed that the people from Aquarium it’s arriving at the Towers, most going to their old homes or to their relatives.”

“This can’t be happening,” I said out loud, even as I realized that William’s and Sofia’s betrayal was even worse than I originally thought.  “The army is still under my power, that means that we can still act, we need to declare Martial Law immediately if we want to keep control of the situation.  I want the army on the streets, no one gets in or out of the city and I want increased security around the Towers, it’s possible that with the arrival of the refugees some our enemies decide to act, we can’t allow that.”

“Understood,” Reka said, “we will start working on that right away.”

Ivan,‘ I called with my mind, ‘I need you to go pick Ethan from school.  Things can become dangerous and I need to know he is safe.‘  I read an affirmative answer on his mind and I moved to the next step.

“Kaiserin?” Sofia called.

“No!” I yelled as I turned to face her.  “You don’t want to be near me right now, it’s hard enough to control myself right now, all I want right now is to break your neck.  For your own safety, stay away from me.”

“It’s for the best, Sofia, your action today did a lot of damage,” Fatima said.  “We trusted you and you fooled us, you hid your plans from us.  We are supposed to be a team, and you manipulated the situation to stop us from seeing what you were planning.”

“My son thinks this is the best way, the trial will show that all the action taken these years have been for the good of the Dominion, people will see you for who you really are,” Sofia said.

“That was never the plan and you know it.  We looked at all the options and decided that that was not the best way.”

“You said it yourself, plans change.”

I wasn’t in the mood to hear her excuses, so I signaled my people to follow and walked away, heading to my suite.  I knew that I was partly to blame, experience had already taught me that I should trust no one, that no matter how close people were to you, no matter who they were, people could betray you any time.  Even people you could swear would give their lives for you, could change their minds any moment and stab you in the back.

Chapter 9

It was dark by the time I got out of the fog and I was hungry.  I was used to have something to eat waiting for me, but I wasn’t at the palace, and the guard that Kimball had left behind to take care of me wasn’t used to me and didn’t know my habits, it was my own fault for not thinking of ordering food or asking for something beforehand.

I checked the time and decided that food would have to wait, it was early enough that Mbali could still be awake, and I wanted to talk to her and see if she had any news from Kimball.  The call took a while to connect, but eventually I was able to talk to Mbali.

“It’s everything ok?” I asked as soon as he picked up.

“Everything went according to the plan.  Greca is great, I don’t think Kimball had trouble making her believe she had captured him, she put a good fight.  It’s been a while since she got him, I think they should be in their territory by now, he may be even working on saving Malkia by now.”

“So you haven’t had communication with him yet?”

“It’s still too soon for that, he has work to do first, but I expect to hear from him tomorrow.”

“Perfect.”  As time went by, the future where Malkia was alive was getting clearer and becoming the better possibility, I didn’t think I needed to go back to the fog, I knew she would survive, the only difference was how.  I just needed Kimball to know the risks he would be facing, especially from Ivy.  “When you talk to Kimball, tell him not to trust Ivy, if she starts acting weird, or if she gets involved in any way, then it’s time to get out of there.  His powers will catch Ivy’s attention, and that’s not a good thing, she will find the way to take advantage of him, no matter what Dendro or her son promised him.”

“Don’t worry, I will pass your message.  You already told him to be careful with her.  What’s her problem exactly?”

“She never liked me, and I’m sure she will find a way to make my life more difficult.  But, anyway, everything seems to be fine for now.  I will be here if you need anything, just keep me posted.”

“I will.”

We ended the call, and I felt better, even if I hadn’t gotten any new information or learned anything relevant about my daughter.  I decided I needed to find something to eat, and with the help of the guard we found the kitchen.  He apologized for not thinking of getting me something to eat, especially since he had gotten something to eat earlier.  He stayed by the door while I prepared something to eat, I just needed some sustenance, nothing fancy so I could keep my strength and calm my hunger, but my head was already moving on to more important things.

I started to go over my options as soon as I got back to my room.  Despite everything being under control, I felt uneasy, and after trying to find a good options, I decided it was best if I went to the astral planes for a while.  I wanted to try and get inside the Assassins’ territory.  I knew that they would have sentries, after all they were one of the most important clans in the Empire, but I could go higher, and lower than other people, and that would allow me to move undetected.

The distance I had to go was very large, and it was dangerous to go that far, but I didn’t care, I had an objective and no one would be able to stop me from going there.  The Imperialists and Assassins weren’t the only clans with sentries in the astral planes, so I moved to one of the upper planes so they wouldn’t see me.  Time and space were different in the astral planes, and reaching the Assassins’ territory didn’t take as long.

I started going down, looking for a good spot to get inside the territory, but the lower I moved, the more I felt something pulling me down, I knew I had enemies there and that I shouldn’t go there, but there was something about the pull that made me realize someone else was calling me.  I moved fast, crossing the planes as fast as I could.  I felt the pain and desperation and I saw a group of lower beings circling a figure that was becoming smaller and smaller.  I realized they were forcing her to move even lower through the planes, to where the demons and other strong creatures lived.

I thought I had warned you not to come here,‘ I told Malkia’s astral representation.

I wanted to go to the light, but I got lost,‘ she said.  It was clear she was at her limit and she needed help.

Follow me,‘ I told her, and I started moving up, but the lower plane beings noticed me and started moving around me.  I realized that Malkia was running low on energy and it was hard for her to escape.  ‘Keep moving, don’t stop, no matter what,” I warned, letting a little of my own energy out to attract the dark beings that feed on the energy of those that managed to move that further down.

I finally lost Malkia and realized she had moved up, so I did the same, moving to the next plane, but I dragged some of the dark beings with me.  I moved closer to Malkia and helped her move to the next plane, and the next until we arrived to the upper planes.

Thanks,‘ Malkia said, once we reached the second upper plane, a place of light and comfort.

I get it, you felt bad and were in pain, and that dragged you down, but you need to be more careful to avoid that.  Your body is suffering, and you need to mind to be strong or you won’t recover.  Being down there only makes the pain worse, because it takes away the energy you need to recover.

I won’t survive this anyway.  I’m really sick, I don’t think I will make it,‘ Malkia said, and I realized she had already gone over it, and decided she needed to make peace with the idea of dying.  ‘I’m glad that I had a last chance to see you.  If you ever have the chance, could you tell my sister how much I love her and that this wasn’t her fault?

Don’t worry Malkia, you will be fine.  You will feel bad for a few days, and it will take time to go back to your top condition, but you will live.

How can you be so sure?

Because I saw you.  Did I tell you I’m a Seer?  I can see your future and I know you will live a long life, a good life.  But you need to be more careful, what you did was incredibly irresponsible, you could have died.

So… you know what happened?’  I didn’t bother answering, I just stared at her.  ‘We got caught up in the moment, but it wasn’t the first time we kissed and I had never felt that bad afterwards.  Antrax thought I was getting immune to him.

You both should have known better.  You need to be careful, before doing something like that you need to make sure you will be fine.  And you need to understand that the Royal Family’s power is to consume and transform different venoms and toxins, besides, Antrax is a carrier, he doesn’t get sick, but can make others sick.  His system is constantly changing, you can’t become immune to him, you would need to be like him, capable of fighting everything he can give you.

Maybe you think I’m silly, or weak, but I can’t stay away from him.  I guess I will have to ask for a transfer, move away to avoid temptation.

Don’t worry, you may still be able to find a way to be together,‘ it all depended on Kimball, I knew he had the power to change her future, he could give her the power to be with Antrax, to keep exploring the attraction between them, and give them the chance to fall in love.  I knew that if Kimball managed to make her compatible to Antrax, she would be able to be considered as his partner.  Dendro had always resented the fact that his power limited his ability to decide who to be with, and I knew he resented being paired with Ivy, I knew that if Antrax had the option to choose, Dendro would support him.

Are you sure I will be fine?  I felt like my body was falling apart.

Just have faith, everything will be just fine,‘  I couldn’t add that she needed to trust Kimball, a man who loved her as if she was his own daughter.

I spent a while talking to Malkia in the astral planes, but I knew that I needed to return to my body eventually.  I decided I needed a good night of rest after the last few days, I needed to give my body time to recover from everything.  I was still hurt from my last battle and even if my body had been resting, my mind had been overactive, and that left me without energy.

I ended up getting up later than I intended, but I had to admit I had really needed that rest.  At least I woke up to find the guard had remembered to order breakfast, and I had a bowl of fruit waiting for me.  I had a lot going on in my mind, my daughter’s wellbeing my main concern, but I knew there was nothing I could do for her, she was in good hands.  I decided to call my allies and asked for a video conference for later, meanwhile I called Sofia.

“How is your daughter doing?” Sofia asked as soon as the call connected.

“Everything seems to be going just fine.  I’m expecting a full recovery.”

“Glad to hear that.  Fatima and I were working on tomorrow’s attack.  As far as we could see nothing of importance changed from the last we saw.  We expect tomorrow to be a success.”

“It’s good to see you kept working on that, I have been distracted.  I will be talking later with my men to see how is everything going.  I wanted to talk to you first because there’s something we need to talk about.  You know that once things calm down there are a few things we will need to change.  Some groups are getting restless, they think that now that I tasted power, I won’t be able to let it go.  The idea always was to make the transition as fast as possible, and I think the first step will be to give the crown to someone else.  You know I’ve been acting as the sole ruler, but it’s time to start introducing new players.  I only want to know if you are ready to take your old position.”

“You know I don’t want to go back, I think that William is the best choice to take the crown.  Besides, he is the heir, when his father died, he was supposed to take his place.”

“Maybe, but I’m worried that people won’t recognize him, if he just shows up now, people may think he is just a puppet I’m using to impersonate the real heir.”

“I wouldn’t worry about that, you didn’t get the chance to meet him, but William looks exactly as my son, people will recognize him.  Many people still remember my son as a symbol of the good times, I think having William will give them hope, they will symbolize the return to the good old times.  By seeing him, and thinking of his father, they will trust things to get better.”

“If what you say is true, then maybe it could work.  I do know he wants to get involved, he seems affected by the fact that he couldn’t participate in the battle for the Dominion after my hand was forced.”

“He is, but it’s a good lesson for him, things not always go according to plan.  I will talk to my son and prepare him for what’s coming.  Don’t worry, he will be better than his sister.”

“I really hope so.”

I trusted Sofia, so I had to follow her suggestion.  I had always considered William an important part of my plans, and I had worked with him during my visits to Aquarium to make sure he was a good man and that he was ready for the position, but things had changed and I preferred someone like Sofia by my side, not her son.  But I had to adapt.  I needed to focus on other, more pressing issues, so I prepared for my next reunion.

The screen started filling with the faces of my trusted allies, Fatima was in the control center, she was going to coordinate the activities for the different groups.  Ivan, who was in charge of the main group, was already in the field, just like Zhou and Matthew with the two support groups.  Thalia was in charge of the last group, the one who would make sure there were no loose ends, and that no one could escape the first groups.

“Thanks for agreeing to this meeting, I know how busy you are right now,” I greeted them.

“As always, we are ready to serve you,” Ivan said.  “So far, everything has been going according to plan.  The people we posted around the place has reported no changes, and if everything goes according to plan, we will take them down tonight, before they even have the chance to attack.”

“So they are still preparing to attack the palace?  No one has noticed I’m not there?”

“So far no group seems to have noticed that you left,” Thalia said, “but Representative Jeong might suspect.  He has been asking for you, since you asked for the Tech Committe to have a meeting with you, we think he is trying to talk to you about it, even if we had insisted he has to wait for the day of the meeting.”

“Thanks.  I know that me leaving put you in a difficult position.”

“Don’t worry, we have everything under control,” Matthew said.  “After all, family should always come first, none of us is going to question your need to help your family.”

“I know, and I’m grateful for that.  I couldn’t have done this without your support.  I am very thankful for your support, and your work.”

“Remember, we share the same objective,” Ivan said.  “We all want things to go back to how they used to be.  Things weren’t perfect before, but at least they were better.  The problems we had, were our problems, not caused by the whims of a couple of people, but by our own mistakes.  We will finally have the chance to rebuild our countries and recover our freedom.”

“We still have a lot of work to do before we can reach that point, but at least we have taken the first steps.  I wish you good luck in your mission, and I trust you to emerge victorious from it.”

After thanking them again for their help and making sure they had everything under control, I ended the call.  They didn’t have any new information for me, but at least I felt better after talking to them.

After a brief visit to the chief of the base, or more accurately, to the leader of the Shadows Clan, I went back to my room so I could make another astral walk.  I needed to make sure Malkia was ok if she was still there.  I knew it was unfair of me to ask her to go back to her body while it was hurt, but I needed to make sure she was anchored to her body, and keeping to the safer planes.

Bonus 1

Hello

The previous chapter was the last chapter of book 3.  I will take some time off before starting with the new book.  Right now I’m working on getting book 1 ready to be published as an e-book, and it will take me some time, but I will try to get back to regular posting as soon as possible.  In the meanwhile I will try to publish a few bonus stories, mostly about what happened the night that Faakhir and Emily died.

–  –  –

“I can’t understand how you can be so ok with all this,” William said.  “Kaiserin betrayed us, she took things under her own hands and took the Dominion for herself.  She broke her promises once, how can you be so sure she won’t do it again?”

“Kaiserin did what she did because she had no other choice.  And we are here for our safety,” Sofia said.

“I’m not so sure about that.  You can’t keep closing your eyes to what’s in front of you.  It’s just like before, Kaiserin took a taste of power and she doesn’t want to share it with anyone, just like my sister.”

“I think you are misjudging her, you are wrong about this.  You just need to give this some time, you will see, everything is going to be fine.”

William knew it was pointless to keep discussing with his mother, she trusted Kaiserin and nothing he could say would change her mind, but he wasn’t so sure that trust was placed in the right person.  Kaiserin had promised them that they would be part of her effort to take the Dominion back, but she had moved without them, leaving them out of the loop.  He couldn’t help but think she had done that to keep them out.

After living with his sister’s betrayal and all the pain he had to endure after that, William had trouble trusting people.  His power helped him know if a person was being truthful or not, all he had to do was ask a question and the person would be forced to tell him the truth.  Some people avoided him for that reason, but Kaiserin was different, even when he was using his power against her, he had the feeling she wasn’t telling him everything.  That, and the fact that she was avoiding him, told him that she had something to hide, and he wouldn’t be at peace until he knew what had really happened.  For the moment, all he knew was that he couldn’t trust her, but he had no choice but to stay there, because Kaiserin and his mother agreed that he needed to stay in Aquarium, like when he was a prisoner of his sister.

They all thought that Kaiserin was their savior, and that everything would be just fine, just because she was in charge, but he wasn’t sure about that.  But no matter what he thought, only time would show who was right, if him for not trusting Kaiserin, or his mother for trusting her.