The Valkyrie War (Act 2)

With war officially declared on Merope, the tension between the humans and the kree is greater than ever, with Amelia and Ellisia stuck in the middle of it all. They promised to stay together no matter what and without any secrets, but as more secrets are revealed, the pressure mounts and when King James starts his plan in motion, they will find that it's not as easy as they had hoped. With the battle lines forming and sides being chosen, will the two ever have the happy, quiet life they so desire? Or will their differences be far too great to handle and force them to turn against each other? Don't miss the epic second act and conclusion to this beautifully tragic love story, of the star-crossed lovers, born from different worlds.

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4. With the Fall of Tradition, Comes the Rise of Progress and Change

Everyone is silent as they follow Makena away from the direction of the Armenia and seemingly deeper into the woods. However, as they walk, the trees become more broadly spaced and nearby, a stream is heard. Elli finally starts to realize that they are not going deeper into the woods, but in fact out of the woods and towards the wilderness outside of the West Province’s perimeter. Elli remembers coming here many times when she was younger, with Liam, to help him with his fishing. He was given permission to venture out this far due to fishing being his livelihood, but even he never went beyond the limits of the stream, which drained into the river that now lies before them. She watches Makena test the water and then take a step inside.

“The flow isn’t very strong at the moment, so we’re in luck. Mind where you step though, as there are many rocks scattered around the bottom and if you lose your balance, you might be on your way down this raging river with little hope for survival. Stay close.” Makena says this as she holds her hand out to Navi with a smile. Naturally Navi accepts without hesitation.

Makena and Navi start across and Johan follows with Amy, the two also hand in hand. Elli looks skeptically at the river and wonders where they could be going, but she decides it’s best to not ask questions and just roll with it. They cross the river and the lush, grassland that they had just been surrounded by was suddenly gone, replaced by a barren wasteland. The C.G.S.I organization kept a strict control over preserving the clean and free environment, such that the Kree will be unable to flourish above ground, but they only went as far as a set perimeter around each province, but once the boundary was crossed, the land returned to its post-apocalyptic state. You were also more likely to find wild Kree wandering outside the limits, but without adequate nourishment from the humans, they will be crazed and eventually die.

“Uh, we might want to tread lightly Makena. We might encounter wild Kree this far into the wilderness and they’ll likely be crazed with no humans being out here, as far as I know.”

“You don’t have to tell me that Elli, I’m quite aware. There are no wild Kree on this route, I take it almost every day. I’m pretty sure I know this area better than you.” Makena’s reply is curt.

Elli feels herself flare up from Makena’s rude and uncalled for response, but she keeps her cool, simply responding with, “got ya.” Elli can suddenly remember why she hated her so much and regrets the ounce of remorse she briefly had, when she thought she was dead. If only she was.

They finally reach what appears to be an abandoned city. The buildings look old and condemned, cracks all through them and even entire chunks missing from their walls. Trash, rubble and metal lined the streets, or lack thereof. There were strange metal frames scattered, with tattered cushions and a round wheel on the inside. Elli had never seen such things and was mildly fascinated. She thought of asking Makena about them, but changed her mind. However, it seemed Makena may have read her thoughts and began to explain about this strange city.

“This place is all that remains of New York City, the real city, not that conformist society we used to live in. That indeed may have been a part of this city at one time, but only the land. The buildings and structures were all built after the disaster. However, these buildings, these streets and even those cars that you are unfamiliar with, are all authentic. They are ancient, but mighty.”

“How is this still standing though? Wouldn’t the Valkyrie Kingdom have wanted it gone and replaced with something more sustainable? From my perspective, they could’ve easily rebuilt it and converted it to another civilization. It certainly would’ve solved their crowding concerns. I mean, the West Province, between Armenia and Garmin is packed with people. It’s so bad that there are people living with six or eight others just to get by. Due to limited resources, everything is so expensive and so it’s hard for many to even eat every day and there are those who are living on the street. I know that as bad off as we were, Liam and I were still lucky to have a small house to ourselves and three meals a day. If it hadn’t been for the fact that his parents owned the house and left him a security fund, we surely would’ve been on the streets ourselves due to inability to pay rent or extra expenses. It always did boggle me how we could have these problems. But it seems to me that expanding our boarders to here and allowing more space to grow, things would be better.” Elli looks a bit sad. “I’m disappointed in myself for only thinking of this now.”

“Yes, well, it’s easy to ignore the hardships of others when you’re living well. It’s not that you’re a cruel person who doesn’t care, but rather just a victim to the naivety supported by the Kingdom. I was too, so I can’t really fault you on that. You asked why the Kingdom never did anything to better those who were struggling. Well, that’s simple. They just didn’t care. James’ evil intentions aside, the Queen could’ve done more for her people if she’d wanted. She was a good protector and kept us safe, but what good was surviving, if you were going to suffer each day that you were alive? She was very out of touch with her people beyond battle matters and don’t bite my head off, but so was Amelia. All the royals and nobles in the compound were.”

As much as Elli hates it when anyone bad talks Amelia or her family, outside James, she knows that what Makena says is true. Living in the compound is to live a privileged life with few worries. Amelia certainly spent some time down in Armenia and away from the compound, but it was still through the eyes of a noble. She’s never known what suffering was, not really. Elli may not have experienced extreme suffering either, but at least she knows what it means to struggle.

“Anyway,” Makena continues, “with the Queen being all battle hungry and James being power hungry, the poor people of Armenia were going hungry. As for why they didn’t expand, well, how could they maintain the level of power they always enjoyed if the population was expanded? Keeping things concentrated was the best way to make sure things stayed in their favor. It’s a proven fact all through history that humans in large numbers are hard to control and so to keep power, many leaders suppressed their society’s growth and development, while blaming whoever the unfortunate scapegoat happened to be. In this case, it’s the Kree.”

“How do you know so much about all of this? I mean, you’ve been gone for like half a year and are suddenly all knowing about these things? That seems a bit suspicious to me actually.”

“Well, you can be suspicious all you want Elli, but what I say is true and all I’ll say for now is that my sources are quite reliable. Anyway, back to the original point, this city has long been abandoned, to the point where no security forces are even sent here anymore. Therefore, it proved to be the perfect base for us. That’s all I’ll say about things for now. We’re close.”

They finally reach a large building, in fact, it may be the largest in the city, it spanning many floors up into the sky and at the very top, there is the remains of an extension, that may have once been a spear. Of all the buildings, this one seems to be the sturdiest and least damaged, but it wasn’t immune from the cracks and slight damage. “What is this building? It’s massive!” Everyone else had been quiet up till now, but finally Johan speaks, unable to contain his awe.

Makena grins and pats the wall beside what appears to be the doorway. “This baby is basically the namesake of the old New York City and is probably all that remains of its soul. This building is called the Empire State Building and as though to channel the New Yorker Spirit of being strong, it’s the only building that wasn’t severely damaged and is our HQ. Let’s go inside now.”

They enter the building and no sooner than they do, someone shouts out to Makena. “Hey Mak!” A tall and muscular man with amber hair and deep green eyes approaches her and pulls her into a strong bear hug. “There’s my girl! What gives with you going out there alone? We’re partners for a reason, you know? I don’t know what I’d do if I lost my precious little baby.” He laughs.

Makena laughs too, seeming to be enjoying his company very much and how he pats her head. “Don’t call me little you ass! Just because I’m a bit shorter than most girls, doesn’t mean I’m not still badass. I’ll kick yours anytime. I was fine by the way, so stop worrying so much, daddy.”

Navi stands beside them as the scene unfolds and the anger and jealousy on her face is clear. He seems to notice too because he finally lets Makena go and backs up a few steps. “Uh, oh. I think I may have upset someone. Is this her?” Knowing he was referring to her, Navi scowls more.

Makena finally looks back to Navi and takes her hand again, completely disarming her. She smiles and then turns back to the man. “Yes, this is her and she’s a real badass, so be careful. This is Navi.” She turns back to Navi and says, “Navi, this is Dev, my squad partner. He’s cool.”

Dev holds out his hand to Navi. “Nice to finally put a face to the name this girl never shuts up about. She thinks so highly of you, but I’m sure you already know that, since I can tell you care about her deeply too. So, I hope you won’t consider me a threat, because I’ve got no interest in children. Mak is like my daughter, that’s why I call her little or baby girl and she sometimes calls me daddy. It doesn’t mean anything like that and pretty sure Mak really would kick my thirty-year-old butt if I even tried to make any passes at her. They’d be wasted on her anyway, right?”

Navi looks at Makena curiously, but says nothing and Makena’s poker face gives nothing away. “So, now that you’ve been acquainted, we should go meet the commander, she’s expecting us.” Makena continues to lead them along, Dev following behind, matching pace with Elli.

Dev looks at Elli with a polite curiosity and Elli feels uneasy. She decides to state as such. “Um, it’s not very comfortable with you staring at me like that. If you’re curious about something, just ask me. I’m not trying to hide who I am or anything. I’ll tell you whatever you want to know.”

Dev chuckles and then grins. “Yea, you are as much of a firecracker as Mak said you were and very much a straight shooter too. I like that, makes me feel like I can trust you. Trust is an important thing to have out here nowadays. Anyway, I’m sorry I made you uncomfortable, I guess I was just curious about Demikri. I was too scared to steal a glance at Navi because I’m pretty sure she’d have killed me, but you seemed more open. Your eyes are beautiful too.”

Elli looks at him with a raised eyebrow and even snickers lightly. “Was that some attempt at flirting? If so, I’m flattered I guess, but I’m not exactly interested, if you get what I mean.”

“Oh, I know. I wasn’t seriously trying to pick you up. Many people would probably be after my head if I did that. I just wanted you to smile. You seemed very down and uneasy, so I just wanted to lift your spirits a bit. Also, I know everything about Demikri in general, I was just more so interested in you. I wonder if you realize how important you are to all of us?”

“Hey Dev, don’t you go flapping your gums about things you shouldn’t be talking about or the commander will punish you. Things will be explained to her in due time.” Makena chides him.

He laughs, “Oops. Seems I got scolded. Well, it’s a pleasure to meet you Elli, at last.”

“Thanks, I guess. Nice to meet you too. I think I’d find you handsome if I were into guys.”

“Well, I’m flattered. Perhaps in another life then?”

“Who knows?”

The conversation ends there and soon after, they finally reach a large door, guarded by two men, wearing gear like Makena’s. It almost looks like that of the military, but more rebellious. “Hey, we’re here to meet with the commander, she should be expecting us.”

One man nods his head. “Yes, she is expecting you, but she stepped out to check on the-.”

“I’m here!” A women’s voice can be heard from behind them and so they all turn to look at her, but Dev being so tall, blocks Elli’s view. “Thank you, men, you’re dismissed for now. I’ll take them from here.” The men acknowledge her order and leave. Elli wants to see this women’s face, but just as she moves to look at her, the women turns as well, in order to face Makena, so all she sees is the back of the woman’s head. “Makena, you did well bringing them here, thank you. It’s hard to believe that you came to us just over six months ago, and have already become so skilled, without taking the enhancement I might add. That’s very impressive, so be proud of yourself.”

“Thank you, commander. I appreciate you giving me the opportunity and I’ll do my best still.”

“Excellent.” She now turns slightly now to greet Navi. “I’ve heard much about you Navi, it’s nice to meet you. I hope you’ll be good to Makena, so she won’t look so lonesome anymore.”

“Commander!” Makena is clearly flustered, but it seems to be just what Navi needed to perk up.

Navi laughs and says, “I wasn’t aware she was that lonesome without me, but I guess it’s to be expected. God knows how lonely I was without her, especially with her living status uncertain.”

“Navi….” Makena sounds completely swept off her feet and Navi blushes. Elli wants to gag.

“Well, it’s nice to see that the feelings are mutual then. I’ll be sure to give you two ample time to catch up later.” They both become flustered now and the commander turns slightly again, to face Johan and Amy. However, her face is still obscured, so Elli can’t get a good look. “I can’t say I was expecting you two, but if you’re friends of Navi, then I am confident I can trust you to join our community. We’re small, but highly efficient, so you can count on us to protect you. Ok?”

Johan speaks for them both. “I appreciate your willingness to accept us, but I’m sure you can understand if I’m a bit hesitant to trust you. Amy and I have been prisoners for so much of our life, trapped by many others who claimed to want to “protect us”, but really, they exploited us. So, I’ll follow your rules and be on my best behavior, but don’t think I’ll join you so easy. We’re here for Navi and intend to go where she goes. So, just give us our space and we’ll be just fine.”

The commander doesn’t seem angry, but rather understanding. “Very well, I’ll be sure to keep a distance for now, but I also intend to make you guys feel comfortable being here, in whatever way I can.” She nods to them and then finally turns back around, but Dev shifted at just that moment and once again, he was blocking her. Elli finally gave up, no longer trying to see. “Dev, I appreciate you always looking out for Makena and training her well. So, if I may ask it of you, would you be willing to watch out for the rest of them too?”

“Of course, commander, I’ll do anything you ask of me. It’ll be my honor, as I owe you everything. I’d be dead if not for you. So, thank you, as well commander.”

“It was my pleasure Devin.” She pats his shoulder and then navigates around him, to make her way to Elli, who is now looking away, aggravated at the constant failures to catch a glance earlier. However, once she feels the commander place her hands gently on each one of her shoulders, Elli looks up and just as she does, the commander says, “how nice to finally meet you Ellisia. You really are beautiful. I’m fortunate to have you as a daughter. Adoptive, but still….”

Elli is rendered speechless, as she looks at the women before her, with her jet-black hair, ash eyes and pale complexion. She looks almost like, no, practically identical to Liam. “Yo-, you-.”

Unable to handle the stress of seeing a living ghost, Elli faints, falling to the ground, but luckily the commander was close enough to catch her. “Oh dear, I didn’t expect her to be that shocked.”

“She’s always passing out like that when she finds out shocking stuff. Like that time, Navi revealed what she was to her in class. She’s pretty weak despite supposedly being so strong.”

“Well, strengths and weaknesses come in many forms and affect everyone differently, so you can’t judge based on only a small piece of the person. Anyway, I suppose I’ll be making my second trip to the infirmary today, so how about you all go relax a while. I think it might be better if I speak with Elli alone first anyway. We’ll reconvene at 20:00 hours, ok everyone?”

“Yes commander!” Dev answers for the group. “Come, I’ll show you guys around the base.”

“Uh, actually, I think you should show those two around the base, as I think Navi would prefer to catch up a bit, right honey?” Makena smiles widely and Navi looks flustered again.

However, to everyone’s surprise, she declines Makena’s suggestion. “I do want to catch up with you Mak, like you have no idea, but I think I should go with them and learn about the base too. I know those two would be more comfortable that way anyway. We’ll have plenty of time tonight and from now on to be together though, won’t we?” She seems almost afraid to hear the answer.

Makena sighs, but then smiles. “How responsible of you Navi, I’m impressed. Yes, we’ll have all the time in the world to be together, so ok, let’s go have that tour. Dev and I will get you guys so used to this place, you’ll be able to navigate it blindfolded!” Makena leads the charge forward and Navi follows behind with a smile. Johan and Amy follow behind her and Dev catches up to Mak. The commander simply watches them go with a smile, before picking up Elli and carrying her to the medical wing, placing her down on a bed and sitting near her, waiting for her to wake.

*** “The Royal Compound”, Garmin-The West Province, Spring Year 2529 ***

          Amelia sits alone in the garden, in her and Elli’s secret spot, crying softly to herself. She just did something that was harder for her to do than anything she’s ever had to do before and there could be no take backs. She sent Elli away, but it was the last thing she really wanted. She knows Navi didn’t kill her mother, she never even suspected her, because she knows that Navi isn’t that evil. She dislikes her tremendously, but that’s only because of how close she and Elli were. She knew that there were no romantic feelings between them in the slightest, but still….

They shared a common bond that Amelia could never share with Elli, that of both being Demikri of course. Even if they weren’t friends exactly, there’s no doubt that Elli felt a kinship with her for simply that fact. Elli had finally found someone who was just like her and could understand. It was that connection that Amelia hated most. She was jealous that anyone could give Elli something she couldn’t give her. That anyone could share something she couldn’t with Elli. Navi never did anything wrong but exist. Amelia honestly didn’t even care that much about Navi’s hatred for her parents and by extension her as well. She was used to being hated. Even with all of this though, she never doubted Navi’s character. Elli would never be friendly with someone evil enough to kill anyone, even their worst enemy in such cold blood. So, when Elli insisted that Navi was lying about killing her mother, Amelia had no doubts she was telling the truth.

She then had to figure out why Navi would be lying about such a thing, in earshot of not just her, but her father too and she realized it could only be one thing. Navi foresaw the future of what was to come, and it was a future that would be dangerous for Elli. With her mother, having been killed by Kree, there would be no forgiveness, no tolerance, no understanding of the fact that only a small number of Kree are truly dangerous. No one would be willing to accept the idea of good Kree and would be completely opposed to having one reside here in the compound, Demikri or otherwise. They wouldn’t care that it was a lover of their future Queen and even the consideration of having a Demikri rule their kingdom at the Queen’s side was a ground for calling treason. The fact of the matter is, no matter how much they wished it and even if her father had been ok with it, the kingdom would never have accepted Elli and would shun her. She needed to make sure Elli was far away from the Kingdom before that happened and she was hurt.

Therefore, Amelia realized she’d have to put on an act, not to fool her father, but rather Elli. Her father would have no reason to doubt her actions were genuine, considering he didn’t know Amelia knew Navi didn’t kill her mother, but Elli on the other hand, knows her too well. She would’ve seen through her immediately if she’d tried to make her leave by simply telling her she didn’t love her anymore. However, she couldn’t tell her the truth because that would make Elli that much more inclined to stay, to prove that she and her people are not monsters. So, the only thing that would work was to play off the opportunity Navi had given her, even if it wasn’t in her initial plan. She played up the devastation she felt about losing her mother and being so angry at Navi that she could kill her. She knew Elli wouldn’t allow it, nor do it herself.

By abusing Elli’s feelings for her, Amelia was able to convincingly give Elli the ultimatum to kill Navi, or risk betraying her. Despite knowing how much Elli loves her, she knew her moral justice was stronger and so not even for her other half, would she kill an innocent person. It’s one of the things that Amelia loves her so much for. So, she knew that once she refused, she’d have a logical reason to exile her from the Kingdom. She would force Elli out with power, if love was not enough. Having to be so ruthless was difficult for Amelia and she put so much effort into it just to be convincing, she thinks she may have, for even just a moment, actually succumbed to it.

Even now, she’s faintly aware of the power she now possesses. She can now rule this kingdom as she wants and even though she knows her father has his own intentions, she by her birthright, has the executive power to override his desires. He couldn’t stop her, unless he wished to face public ridicule at refusal to follow tradition. The West always did pride itself on its long line of tradition, so to break that now would be terrible for their reputation and for her father’s.

Amelia’s eyes widen with the final realization. “I can change things, I can change everything.”

“You can, and you should.”

Amelia is startled to hear the unexpected deep voice, but instantly recognizes it. “Toby?”

Tobias keeps his indifferent expression and continues to speak. “You’re Queen now, well, almost anyway, so you do have power. It’s time for you to own it, show me that you actually deserve it over me.”

“I don’t though. I wish you could have this title instead Toby, I really do. You are much bet-.”

“Don’t you tell me that load of bull! I don’t want to hear that from you Amelia. We both know it’s impossible for me to have the title, so let’s not keep discussing fantasies. You’re the Queen, for better or worse, so it’s time to grow up and accept the responsibility. No one is going to save you or cuddle you up and make you feel braver. You sent Elli away, so you’re really alone now.”

“Don’t make me seem so heartless. There’s a reason I did that, so don’t judge me!”

“I honestly don’t give a crap about why you sent her away, that’s your issue. I’m simply saying that you’ve always relied on her to fight your battles. You’ve relied on her to come charging in and save you and without her, you’re ready to die. Surely you haven’t forgotten that night.”

“Of course, I haven’t forgotten, but I think we agreed to not talk about it again. That was a rash decision, but I’ll never try something like that again. I already promised Elli as much too.”

“That’s your problem though, you’re impulsive and rash, but it always amounts to nothing. As much as you may have hated her, mom was very calm and collected and made decisions based on practicality rather than how she was feeling. You need to be more like her, like it or not.”

“I know that ok?! I know now that mom wasn’t as bad as I saw her to be. I know that she was a good leader and cared about the kingdom. I know she was equally as strong as a ruler as she was in battle. I know all of it now, but it’s too late for me to tell her that. I can’t go to her and apologize for being such a brat. I can’t tell her that she actually meant so much to me and I never actually hated her. I hated that I couldn’t measure up to what her standards were. What I thought they were at least. I thought she’d been looking down on me all this time, thinking I was a disappointment, but now I realize that she really did love me and that she just wanted me to get stronger. I understand that now, but now it’s too late. I’ll never be able to tell her.” She sobs.

“Then show her.” His voice a bit gentler now. “It may be too late to tell her what you’ve learned, but it’s not too late to show her, to show everyone. Become the girl she’d hoped you be. Become the Queen she tried to make you become. Show her that you can rule, but not just like she did. I’m sure she didn’t want you to copy her every tactic as ruler, but rather she wanted you to use her as a guide, but go beyond. Show her that you can be a powerful and noble ruler in your own right. Show her you can rule this kingdom just fine on your own, you don’t need a Berserker.”

“I don’t need a Berserker? But Toby, the tradition has always been-.”

“Screw tradition! It’s been hundreds of years of the same old tradition of strong and powerful Queens needing to have a Berserker at their side to fight and to rule. However, that’s not needed anymore. The Kree are not like they used to be, the Ancients being all but extinct anyway, so your Valkyrie Blade is really just a relic, if we’re being honest here. The soldiers can fight the Kree now just as well with the proper training. Also, I highly doubt the Kree themselves have some super strong and mighty army just waiting to attack our kingdom and wipe us out. If they did, don’t you think they’d have attacked already? After killing mom, they would’ve stormed our gates, when were most vulnerable, but they didn’t. Honestly, I don’t think they killed mom.”

Amelia is a bit shocked. “You either? Elli also didn’t believe they did, but she felt that it was-.”

“Dad?”

“Yes…how’d you know that?”

“Look Amelia, there’s a lot you don’t know, it’s only natural considering your age, but dad isn’t as good of a guy as you might believe. Listen, I have no doubt he loves us, but he also loves power. He’s greedy and a bit sinister. He probably loved mom too in his own way, but I wouldn’t put it passed him to have been involved somehow in her death. I doubt he killed her himself, but I bet who knows who really did. He’d do anything to get control over the kingdom, which is all he’s ever wanted. Even get rid of mom and send you off somewhere far away where no one would find you. I know your love for him has blinded you, but you can’t tell me you don’t feel it. You at least can sense something is a bit off about all this and with dad?”

She hates to admit it, but she really has been seeing the signs, but choosing to ignore them. “Even if that’s true, we’d have no way to prove that and I’m not going to point fingers at him either until I have that proof. He’s still my father no matter what, so I won’t crucify him.”

“You don’t have to crucify him, I don’t want that either, he’s my dad too you know. But, he can’t be allowed to keep pulling the strings behind the scenes like he did with mom. I know you thought that mom simply gave him the responsibilities so she didn’t have to be bothered, but there’s more to it than that. Mom let him handle a lot of the diplomatic aspects and let a lot of his more suspicious actions slide because she didn’t want to lose you.”

“Lose me? What do you mean? How could she have ever lost me? She’d lose you, too right?”

“Yes, technically she’d have lost me too, but that wasn’t as big of a blow believe it or not. She would’ve been sad, but could’ve tolerated losing me because as far as she was concerned, I’d always have dad to look out for me and raise me well. However, she knew that you were far too delicate and would’ve crumbled under all of dad’s pressure. He would’ve made you into his perfect puppet and it’d ultimately destroy you. She couldn’t bear the thought of you meeting such a fate all because of her mistake. So, she endured dad’s blackmail.”

“Blackmail over what though? What could mom have done that would cause her to lose us?”

“That doesn’t matter right now, what does is that dad is going to try and do what mom always feared now. He’s going to try and manipulate you and convince you to do his bidding.”

“But I’m Queen, so I could always refuse something if I don’t agree with it.”

“That’s right, but you haven’t been acting much like one have you? Be honest, you have no idea what you’re doing, you don’t want to do this in the first place and you’re still scared of having such responsibility, so wouldn’t it feel mighty reassuring to have dad offer to do the hard work in your place while you just rest easy on the throne?”

She can’t deny, that’s the most comforting outcome she can think of. “Yes, I’ll admit that.”

“Exactly, but you can’t accept that. You also can’t accept this temporary status. Protocol calls for the Valkyrie Princess to be coronated immediately at the time of the Queen’s death. This temporary thing just allows dad to retain some executive power. However, once you are coronated under the law, dad will be fully retired as King and lose his ability to sway anything towards his direction. You will have full power and that’s what you must have to really make changes. You’ve got nothing he can use anymore to steal that power from you, now that Elli is gone and you’ve got no other scandals to your name. You are free to act as you please now.”

She lets everything Toby just said sink in and then responds. “You’re right. I promised the people that I would do my best to be a ruler at least as good as my mother, but if I just hide behind dad, I can’t do that. I’ll never be able to face mom again one day knowing I took the easy way out. I need to rise up and get stronger and become a leader mom could really be proud of. I need to show Elli that I’m not just my father’s pawn and that I will not be corrupted by him or anyone. I am my own person, with my own thoughts and my own vision for the future. I don’t want to be Queen, but it’s my birthright and my duty, so I’m not going to run from it anymore. I will claim this title, make the best of it and make a change for the better. I’ll make them proud.”

“Don’t tell me that, go tell dad. Make him listen to you, his Queen. Prove me wrong.”

Amelia smiles at her brother, never feeling more thankful to him than now. “I know you’re going to hate this but, just let me have it.” She runs to him and hugs him tightly in her arms. She expects him to push her away, but to her surprise, he hugs her back. The gesture was small, but so impacting, that she suddenly felt emotional. She thought about their mother and how much she missed her and then began to cry. “I miss mom so much Toby. I want her to come back.”

“I know.” His voice is slightly horse as he struggles to hold back his own tears. “I miss her too.”

They cry together for a while, the exchange simple, yet extremely profound and heartfelt.

*** “HQ Health Clinic”, Outer District-The West Province, Spring Year 2529 ***

          Elli finally wakes up, to find the commander asleep beside her bed. She stares at her face, looking just like Liam’s and is still floored that she’s even looking at it. If she looks just like Liam, then that leaves only one obvious conclusion, she’s his mother. So, by extension, she is also her mother, through adoption of course, but still none the less meaningful. “Are you Clara?”

The commander awakes with a start, but quickly orients herself to her surroundings and to Elli’s words. “You’re awake, I’m glad.” She sits up straight and faces Elli directly, so that she can look into her eyes. “Allow me to officially introduce myself. My name is Clara Lee Almont, Commander of the rebel forces and mother to Liam and of course, you Elli. Nice to meet you.”

Elli is slightly awestruck and hesitates to take her hand, but she finally wakes up and offers her hand in return. “Ellisia and it’s a pleasure to meet you to, um…what do I call you?”

Clara laughs out loud. “You can call me as you wish Elli, though would it be too presumptuous of me to hope you might call me mom? I know you have a wonderful mother, but still….”

Now Elli laughs. “It’s ok, totally. My mother is Mama to me, so I can call you mom. She won’t mind either I’m sure. It’s true by legal standards anyway. But this is still so crazy! You’re alive. Oh, my god, Liam would be so happy if he knew. But wait, if you’ve been alive all this time, why weren’t you with us? Why’d you let him think you were dead? Isn’t that too cruel?”

“Believe me Elli, I’ve been wanting to return to Liam and hold him in my arms every day since the day I had to leave him, but it was a necessary thing. You see, my death was not in the line of duty, but rather of vengeance. James resented me for being the one Almyra truly loved and felt that I was interfering with their marriage. I suppose that’s not a lie, but not exactly true either. The bottom line is, he wanted me dead, so he staged an attack and after getting me alone, he tried to kill me in cold blood. He almost succeeded, but I feel into the stream and feigned my death. I let it carry me away and he was so sure of himself, he didn’t bother to check of try to recover my body. I ended up being pulled downstream to the river and was found by a small group of survivors out here in the outer district. They would become my team and we would spend the next twenty years building up our army with fellow survivors or those who could escape.”

“So, James is responsible.” Elli balls her fists. “He really has ruined my life and those of the ones I love too many times. I hate him so much. I swear if I didn’t know how much it would devastate Amelia, I’d drive a blade through him myself. He’s a tyrant and he must be stopped. I’m terrified for Amelia because I know she’ll be corrupted by him. She’s too pure for that.” Elli looks as though she might cry. “Why isn’t there anything I can do? Is there no way to stop him?”

“There is, but it’s going to take a lot of self-sacrifice and determination. Are you prepared?”

Elli freezes, thinking that she must be going insane, as it sounded as though she just heard the Queen’s voice.

“Almyra! What are you doing out of bed? You’re always pushing yourself, this is why you’ll never heal.” Clara supports her against her arms and leads her to the seat she’d been sitting in up to now. “I guess you must be feeling much better if you could get all the way out of bed, huh?”

“I am, but mostly I was tired of laying in that small and bumpy bed. How can I heal in that?”

Clara laughs and pinches her cheek playfully. “No, you’re just too pompous to accept it.”

“Well, it’s how I was raised. Don’t blame me, blame my parents. Besides, you used to like it.”

“Used to?” She looks into Almyra’s eyes with a playful passion. “I still love it, sweetheart.”

Elli suddenly feels as though she’s intruding on a private moment and turns her head away as she blushes. The two chuckle together, but it’s Almyra who says, “I think we lost ourselves a bit in the moment there darling, we’re embarrassing Elli here.” She faces Elli. “We’re sorry Elli.”

“No, it’s fine! I’m just…well, I’m more surprised that you’re even alive. How are you alive?”

“That is quite the story dear Elli, but for the sake of time, I’ll keep it simple. James found out that I’d started seeing Clara again and that she was alive, so this made him upset, naturally. This was at the same time as he intended to put his plans into motion, which I found out about at the time. I couldn’t turn a blind eye any longer, as not only the Kree, but all of humanity was at risk. So, I told him I would expose him and that I wouldn’t allow him to use my fear of losing Amelia keep me silent anymore. I was ready to kill him myself if I had to, to keep my children and our kingdom safe. However, he beat me to the punch. He set up a fake attack, just to lure me out on the night of Amelia’s birthday and had the men he sent along with me try and kill me.”

“So, I was right! He did try to have you taken out. He’s such an evil bastard!”

“Yes, he’s always been evil, I can see that now. However, he’s now become completely depraved to the point that the devil himself might be his patron. He’s become very power hungry and has even developed a sort of god complex. He thinks he’s unstoppable and that the world should bow down to him. He’s willing to anything it takes to do that, including killing thousands of innocent humans. He doesn’t just want to take down the Kree anymore, that’s a minor goal. His true aim is to achieve world domination, and he’s teamed up with a very crooked guy to do it. There’s so much to explain, but it’ll have to wait until we brief everyone later.”

“I understand. I’ll wait for that time then, but I’m curious, if I may ask, have you two been seeing each other all these years in secret? Did you know she was alive from the very start?”

They look at each other, and then Almyra responds. “Not the whole time. I honestly believed she was dead when it was first reported and it wasn’t until around six months ago that she presented herself to me in secret. It was then that I began to plot against James, after discovering just what horrible things he’d been up to over the years. However, before her death, we really were living separate lives. She and I remained true to our respective husbands and we maintained a strictly professional working relationship. It was only when we met again six months ago, that we could no longer resist the temptation. We were forced to part when we were just a year older than you and Amelia and had to stifle lingering feelings for so many years after and then I thought she’d died. It was only natural that we’d be unable to hold our feelings back any longer once we met again. I felt shame for breaking my vows to James, but I’d decided that I put the duties of being a Valkyrie above my personal desires for so long already, I just wanted to live as I wanted for a change. So, you can understand now, I’m sure, that I knew just how Amelia felt.”

“I can. I just wish Amelia could’ve learned that too, before it was too late. She thinks you’re dead now and surely, she will have to continue to think that for now, so that James continues to think that, but it’s hard on her. She thought you hated her for so long, just to find out you didn’t at all after you’re already gone. She wants to avenge your death. The fact that I refused to kill Navi for a crime I knew she didn’t commit is what got me exiled from the compound. So, she doesn’t have anyone to be her voice of reason anymore or to hold her back. She’ll fall right into James’ hands and that makes me so sad and disgusted at the same time. What can I do?”

“Don’t be so sure that she’ll fall into his trap Elli. Have a little more faith in her than that. Also, believe it or not, Tobias is far more astute than you’d believe at first glance and he’s not a fool. He could see through his father in some ways even I didn’t at first. He’s not good at showing it, but he’s very morally sound and he knows how to manage certain situations. He also loves his sister, even if no one else believes it, I know. So, between his oversight and Amelia’s own determination, I’m sure the kingdom will not fall to James so easily. Not without opposition.”

“I hope you’re right. I do believe in Amelia though, I always have. She needs to believe in herself now. But I have faith that she will be able to do that, even without me there. Especially now that she hates me and we are probably enemies. She promised to kill me next time.”

“Amelia doesn’t hate you Elli, she never could. Also, I don’t think things are quite how she may have wanted them to seem either, but I guess I’ll leave that for now. I think it’s about time?”

Clara looks at her watch. “Oh yes, it’s ten to, we should head to the briefing room. Let me get the wheelchair for you sweetheart.” Clara starts to grab one, but Almyra pulls her back.

“No, I’m not a cripple, I’ll walk myself. I won’t say no to your shoulder support however.”

Clara smiles. “Oh you, what am I going to do with you? Very well, I’ll escort you then.” She offers her arm, which Almyra happily accepts and even though Almyra wears a simple pair of pants and shirt, the two-standing side by side look quite majestic and truly in love.

“Will Amelia and I have that one day?” Elli whispers beneath her breath so only she can hear.

“Did you say something Elli? Are you ready to go?”

“No, I just thought you two looked really cute. I’m ready mom, please lead the way.”

“I could definitely get used to that.” Cara says with a laugh and walks them out. They walk down the hall and up a few flights of stairs, until they finally reach the room. “Ok everyone, here we are. Is everyone here?” Clara helps Almyra to her seat and then looks around as she waits.

“We’re all here commander, us and one more special guest.” Dev again speaks for the group.

Elli turns to look and is surprised at who she sees, but also quite happy. “Mama!” She runs into her arms and they embrace for about a minute. “I missed you so much Mama.” She looks at her face, and sees she looks much paler than before. “Mama, are you ok?” Evani’s smile is grim.

“Don’t worry about me love, right now there are far more pressing matters to discuss. We can catch up later. Commander, if you will, please begin.” She gestures to Clara, who nods.

Elli isn’t happy, but she realizes she must do as she was asked, at least for now. Clara clears her throat, and says, “I know that everyone has things they wish to do and other matters to discuss with their loved ones, so I’ll try and keep this as brief as possible.”

Dev and Makena laugh, like some kind of inside joke has transpired between them and then Makena says, “you always say you’ll be quick commander, but then we’re here for hours.”

Clara scowls playfully. “Yes, yes, I’m aware that I often get carried away, but I mean it this time. I also have other things to do, so I want to wrap this up as soon as possible.” She seems to blush.

Almyra laughs and adds in commentary of her own. “Clara is being subtle, but I don’t have quite the same reservations she has and besides, we’re all adults here. Well, close enough. The fact of the matter is, multiple pairs in this room haven’t been together freely for quite some time, so we’d all like to enjoy the chance to catch up, among other things. So, we’ll be quick.”

“Myra….” Clara calls her under her breath as her face becomes more flustered. Almyra simply grins. Everyone catches her drift and display various expressions, but they all understand.

Elli glances around the room, noticing that almost everyone is paired off and she feels sad, missing Amelia. She knows that while the others will be happily together with the people they love tonight, she won’t be, possibly ever again and it hurts so much she could cry. She feels her mother place a hand on her shoulder in support and just that small gesture is enough to ease her pain. It’s true what they say, a mother’s love really is the best thing you can have.

Having recovered from her embarrassment, Clara finally begins her briefing. “Ok, so as some of you already know, we’d gotten some intel from our spies that suggested that the King was planning something big, but he was keeping very hush about it to everyone but himself and a handful of others our spies had no ability to shadow. However, as fate would have it, he got sloppy with his attempt on Almyra’s life and having revealed everything to her before he did.”

“That shows how confident that bastard was that his men would be successful. I should’ve known however, that I was being set up, as he’s never so forthcoming about his plans even if I ask. I guess I still had some measure of faith in him, shame on me I guess.” She looks regretful.

Clara places a hand on her arm in support. “Don’t feel like that, it was only natural. Despite his flaws, he was still your husband for almost thirty-six years. It’s hard to completely turn away.”

“Thirty-six years! How old are you guys?” Makena blurts this out, making everyone look at her and Navi facepalm in second hand embarrassment. “What? I think it’s a reasonable question.”

The two women are surprisingly lighthearted about her outburst and Almyra says, “yes, I know we probably look much younger than we are, but the truth is we are fifty-two, though I’ll be fifty-three in a couple of weeks. I was married to James at 18, hence the thirty-six years.”

“I’m sure I look much closer to that than she does however, with all that pampering she got living cozy in the compound for all that time.” Clara says this smugly, but in good fun.

“Don’t be jealous, it wasn’t as lavish as you might think.” They laugh and then get serious.

“Anyhow, don’t blame yourself for being tricked Almyra, it would’ve been the same for anyone. The point is, he told you everything, so I consider that good luck. That and the fact that you fled your attackers right into my path, so that I was able to rescue you. So, don’t regret a thing.”

“Yes, you’re right. It was a lucky break, so I will be grateful for it if I can be with you openly.”

“Yes, me too.” She smiles and then continues. “So, James has been speaking with some shady people, namely a man who simply goes by the Author. He apparently has been corresponding with everyone, not just James and setting things up to pit us all against each other.”

Navi suddenly recalls when James had abducted her and she met this so-called Author and the fact that he was Makena’s father. She looks at Makena, who looks at her curiously, wondering why she was suddenly so deep in though. Navi shook her head, as though to say it was nothing.

“He tried to reel Evani into his twisted schemes some time ago, but she turned him down, sensing he was up to no good. However, James has been working with him for quite some time, and through this Author, he learned of the existence of the Smee and has since been corresponding with their ruler.”

“The Smee?” Elli asks in genuine curiosity. “Who are they? Or what are they?”

Evani steps forward now and Clara gives her the floor. “The Smee are our distant cousins, of the Kree, however, where we desired peace and harmony with the humans, The Smee desire only destruction and control. They believe that living among humans as equals is preposterous and foolish, which is why our races have been divided for centuries. We come from the same solar system, but different planets and do not interact. However, they’d been planning an invasion of earth around the same time we were, but we beat them to it. We knew that if they had come first, the humans would’ve had no chance, so my ancestors invaded earth first, however as I told you already Elli, it was a peaceful invasion. We, for a time were harmonious with the humans, but then they betrayed us and led to the war that took so many lives, both human and Kree. The Smee however, have continued to resent the Kree for stealing their thunder and the humans for their betrayal. Even though the Smee didn’t share the same ideals as the Kree, they still had a certain level of pride for our races as we stem from the same common origins and so a betrayal against us is a betrayal against the Smee as well. So, desiring to take both Kree and Humans down, the Smee made contact with this Author, as he apparently knew much of all supernatural beings and he has since been trying to goad me into joining forces with The Smee and take over the earth, while preserving our race, which is rapidly dying out. It was tempting of course, as our decline has been a running concern even since my parent’s rule, however, I refused. I’m not very keen on humans myself, but I don’t wish to destroy them. I simply wished for our race to be left alone and to enjoy peaceful commerce between us as we had been. However, to the Smee, if I wasn’t with them, then I was against them and so we became their enemies too. The Author then decided that he’d flip the script and get the humans on the side of The Smee and they’d turn against us together. Naturally, this was James’ desire, so he was receptive to the Author’s suggestions and he played mediator between the two sides. They came up with an elaborate scheme, which included James creating his Demikri army. He’d use them to weaken us and then the Smee would arrive to finish the job. They are on their way here as we speak, and will arrive in about the span of a year, perhaps a bit more. So, we have only a year to figure out a way to counter both James’ forces and The Smee. Furthermore, James is a power-hungry fool, so he won’t realize it, but The Smee hate humans even more than Kree do at this point. They may be working with him now, but once we’ve been taken out, The Smee will surely turn against James and with the full force of The Smee, James stands no chance, even with a million of his Demikri soldiers. Humans will be wiped out next and the Smee will inherit the earth, turning it into a new planet for themselves. You see, almost a counter to the Kree, The Smee produce toxic elements, rather than ingest them to survive as Kree do. All life will be snuffed out if they are successful.”

Everyone in the room becomes tense, the weight of what they just heard astounding. “So, these monsters will be here in only a year? The earth as we know it could be destroyed by then?”

“They arrive in a year Devlin, but that doesn’t mean they will have won at that point. We just need to be ready for them and more importantly, weaken James’ forces so he’s less of a threat when they do arrive. That army of his will probably be the biggest hindrance of all.”

“Uh, well about that.” Navi raises her hand to speak, as though in class. “I actually took care of that. I-.” She looks at Amy and realizes that’s still probably a sore wound. “Well, let’s just say they won’t be a problem anymore. Though he’s still got some other shady looking things that might be a bit troublesome. Nothing the Kree can’t handle though, I’m sure.”

“Oh, well this is pleasantly surprising news. Thank you, Navi, you’ve been a huge help.”

“I just did what I felt was best, so please, don’t thank me.” She’s afraid to look at Amy.

“Ok then, so now that we have one less thing to worry about, we can focus on weakening James further. It’s a shame we’ve lost out chance to get to Amelia before this all happened, as now she’s got a further stigma against the Kree, feeling they’ve killed her mother and surely James will exploit that. I heard that she returned to the compound against his wishes, which seemed promising, but sadly it was before we could intercept the carriage and inform her that her mother’s death was a sham. Now she’s going to be out for Kree blood. James has no choice but to acknowledge her as the new Queen, but I’m certain he will be whispering in her ear the entire time and through Amelia, he will still command the kingdom as he sees fit.”

“It seems I’m the only one who has any faith in Amelia at this moment.” Almyra speaks frankly.

Elli looks down in shame, feeling that was a direct blow to her feelings for Amelia. She feels the need to defend herself. “I do believe in Amelia! I do, but I also know how fragile she is, especially in painful times such as these. The fact that she cast me out is proof of that. The Amelia I know and love would’ve never done that. She loves me too much to see me hurt.”

“Yes, and perhaps that’s exactly why.” Almyra quickly counters, surprising even Clara.

“Uh, the fact of the matter is we don’t have that opportunity.” Clara quickly tries to shift the conversation. “So, we have to act knowing that the entire Kingdom is against us and will be out for Kree blood. Our war with them is inevitable, but I believe there’s a way to persevere.”

“There is a way.” Evani speaks again, directly to Almyra now. “You have a lot of faith in your daughter, it’s to be expected and you should. However, I also have faith in mine. We obviously are not on the best terms, you and I and I doubt I’ll ever look favorably on you, but the one thing we do agree on is that we want what’s best for our daughters. We both know how deeply their love runs and I believe nothing can come between that. No doubt, they will be on opposite sides and will have to face each other in battle, such is the nature of their impossibly tragic love. However, love as pure as theirs can never be tamed and with it, I think they can overcome even death itself. It has been the mistakes of our ancestors before us as well as our own, that have led to the current circumstances we face and now our children must pay for them and fight in our stead. The least we can do, is believe in them to bring this conflict, which has been going on for far too long to an end. I hope I will last long enough to see it.” She finishes with strong words.

The room is tense again, as everyone waits for Almyra’s reply, but it’s surprisingly a very calm one. “I couldn’t agree with you more Evani. It pains me that we must leave the resolution to a conflict we started to our children, but I do believe in them. They are our only hope now.”

With that, the room relaxes and the briefing comes to a natural end. “That’s all I have to say for now. We will begin putting a plan in motion first thing tomorrow morning, but for now, you are free to enjoy your night as you desire. You are all dismissed.”

“Yes commander!” Dev says and together with Makena they salute. “I will show you to your room you two.” He addresses Johan and Amy, who simply nod. “You handle Navi Mak.”

He winks and she pushes him playfully and says, “you don’t have to tell me pop. Come on Navi, let’s go.” She grabs Navi’s hand and whisks her away to what is sure to be a fulfilling night.

Clara and Almyra approach Elli and Clara first says, “I hope we can talk more tomorrow Elli.”

“Of course, I’d love to, Mom.” Clara smiles and looks at Almyra to see if she’s ready.

“Have a goodnight Elli. I’m sorry as well, if I offended you. I have never doubted your love.”

“I know, it’s ok. Forgive me for not having more faith in Amelia. I will trust her judgement.” Almyra nods and smiles and they leave together. “It’s just us now Mama, what’s going on?”

She strokes her face and says, “I’m dying Elli, and so, in my place, you shall become Empress.” Elli feels as if she was struck with a final blow and as the last thread snaps, she breaks down.

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