2. That Which was Immoral

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The End

The prisoners awaiting execution were hidden away in a chamber full of cells below the palace, surrounded by a maze of hallways, two guards per hallway. Torches illuminated the halls in the dark, as well as anyone in them. It would have been far too difficult to sneak by her cell and do what I needed to do immediately; there were far too many guards, far too many minds, far too many minds that would remember me. Instead, I laid in wait for her to be transferred from the halls to the garden, my back pressed to the limestone wall of a nearby shadowed hall, my robes camouflaged to it, my headscarf concealing my face.

I only had a narrow time frame to get inside Takehiko's mother's mind and shift things to where they needed to be. If I failed, Takehiko would lash out, destroying his life trying to save her, and probably jeopardizing Abu's and mine along with it. Still, I felt no nerves as the time ticked closer and closer. I was confident I could do it; it was only a matter of completing the action itself.

We couldn't control minds - only build on thoughts already in minds and lend or take energy from them. So I'd lied before, when I'd told Abu that I would kill her. It wouldn't be me who did the actual killing.


Though still out of my range, Takehiko's mother and the eight guards surrounding her were close enough to make my fingertips tingle with their energies. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, steeling myself. Then I really felt her - I felt her in the acute pressure of my temples like pin needles in my mind. My short window of time had begun.

I shot my influence into her consciousness, through and under her thoughts, to her emotions. She was in a total panic, whirling and turning with fear and desperation and energy that swept over me like a wave, threatening to pull me down into its ocean. For an unnerving moment, I was unable to swim through the powerful currents of her mind, and it pushed me under.

It was the panic more than the pressure of her ocean, than the burn of my lungs. My mind grasped for anything solid and pushed desperately against her water, but there was just nothing left to hold onto. I wanted to scream at myself. My only concern was being discovered - I never even considered the possibility that she could drag me down to the brinks of her mental chaos. A dark, ferocious wave greater than anything I'd seen in the physical world crashed onto me, and its force sent me further under. I stopped struggling. 

Calm down.

I was doing myself no favors by allowing myself to get so worked up. If Takehiko's mother's mind truly was an ocean, there was no way I could fight against it. I knew no power in comparison. I needed to relax, to move along with and strengthen the already existing currents. Breathing out long and low, I managed to grab ahold of her fear and clung to it for dear life.

All I had to do was accentuate what was already there.

I focused on the pain of the flames, what it would feel like to burn alive, and what it would feel like afterward when she was dead and burning in hell for all eternity. I made sure it wasn't just an abstract concept - the pain - but real, I made it so that she could almost feel it on her skin, bubbling over it like blisters, crawling under it like parasites. When she returned to the sun, she would join its wrath rather than its warmth. And she would return - her death would happen, and it would happen soon.

Then I thought about what was more than physical: she would die in vain. Her only son would never take the throne, his honor and reputation irreparably tainted by her sin, and her only legacy would be over. I let her feel the shame, the disgrace, the embarrassment she would suffer in front of the most important people in the world, against the people she loved, the people that raised her.

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