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Chandrila


Tarrian Skywalker
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Kirlocca watched for a bit longer than Leena did as the Mandalorians left. It wasn't until they had their ship in the air that the Wookiee finally deactivated his lightsaber and turned around to join Leena and Genesis at the speeder. He said nothing to either Jedi, he just simply got the speeder up and running and took the crew back to the city. He let Leena take the main lead role with Genesis and his healing as the Jedi Master spent his time helping out the locals quickly with last minute stuff that needed his muscles. It was only after a few hours of work that he decided to check in on Genesis at the hospital before he took off. He didn't get a chance to say anything to the Mon Calamari Jedi, but he felt confident that the two would indeed see each other again soon. As the Wookiee walked into the room, he placed his paw upon Genesis' shoulder. 

 

<< You gave many people quite a fright. Your wounds look strong enough to heal and leave a story upon you. >> 

 

The Jedi Master gave a smile and with his paw giving a few pats upon the shoulder of Genesis. He then began to walk out the door, but stopped to give a final word to Genesis. 

 

<< A word of wisdom from someone who has had many failures in my past. How you respond and react to mistakes and failures is far more important than being successful. >>

 

Kirlocca then turned and walked out of the room and headed towards the docks. From there, he was able to find transport to take him to Ossus, where he felt the Force calling him towards. 

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  • 1 year later...

The Curich-class shuttle known as Heaven's Taint made its entry into the main port of Hanna City. Beck Pilon sat in the main hold of the ship along with a junior officer, one of Alliance background and six of his commandos he had trained. The junior officer sat with eyes closed, almost hiding the panic within his face. Beck sat with his black naval uniform and white cloak, a very typical attire for him when he was being presented before others. He always felt like the darkness of the uniform reminded people of the Empire's might, yet the white helped others to see the adoption of the new era under Empress Raven. The officer, Juhn Chilcaot with his shaggy brown hair and the grey/bluish uniform sat fidgeting with his fingers as the ship slowly began it's landing procedure. 

 

"Why are you nervous?" "I'm not nervous-" the younger man spat out rather quickly. "I'm worried and feel stressed over the political atmosphere here..." Beck closed his eyes in slight annoyance. While it was true that Chandrila was becoming a pivotal point and a focus for everything right now, it was not their purpose in coming. Looking over a datapad for a moment, he calmly address the concerns. "The political atmosphere is of no concern to us during this trip. Our job is secure a hub for smaller ships and offer up an exchange of resources that Tor Blatheuld think we may need to offer up her planet. The politics are reserved for someone else. We have not been asked to step in outside of that yet."

 

He cared little for the tensions that arose from such political questions when he entered into situations like these. He always preferred to have someone point a blaster at him versus battling him with words. Granted, they were invited to attend the Gala being hosted in two days time, but his orders left it open for him to make the decision on his own. And if things were as tense as expected, he felt like it would be the last place he would want to be. Many recently have expressed their own discomfort in the fact that the Alliance and Imperials have come together and that the imperialist designs took over the majority of the public image. The general fear was that it would bring forth a new regime of the old Empire. His own eyes moved up to look at lieutenant Chilcaot after he finished the thought of the tension to see him being very expressive with his eyes. 

 

"You have an opinion on that?" The words struck the boy as he looked up and saw the Admiral staring at him. He took a second to gather his composure before responding. "I just feel like it's a mistake to let it rest if we're in a position to help change that course." He let out a heavy sigh and stood up as the ship began to power down. His standing brought forth the commandos to attention to stand up with him. "We haven't been given that position." He took a second to lock eyes with the young lieutenant before turning to walk down the ramp. Too many of the Alliance officer thought that way. That they were to do far more than what they were assigned to do. While he did appreciate the eagerness to make a mark, it was overshadowed by ego or morality, both of which served no purpose in any of the branches he served under. 

 

The two walked down the ramp to be greet with three Chandrilans, two males, one in military uniform and the other in more formal garments. In the center stood Tor Blatheuld, the female public governor of Hanna City. She had six of her own armed guards with her and greeted Beck and his team with a very slight bow. "Welcome to Chandrila Admiral Pilon. We have been looking forward to getting to met with you and discuss the best avenues forward for our two parties." Beck returned the bow with a head nod. "Thank you for taking us in. I have brought with me Lieutenant Commander Juhn Chilcaot of the Alliance Naval branch. We are both very excited to see the city and to see what help we are able to provide to you as well."

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It was strange in a way how little the comforts of youth now did for his soul. He had always found the great palace and the eons of history that were etched on its walls a comfort to his wandering heart. Now after a decade of war, a war that had nearly destroyed much of Chandrila’s great architecture, the house and grounds felt soulless. It had not borne the scars of war, it had not borne the devastation and starvation of the thousand worlds subjected under the Sith Lords. It had stayed aloof, its great white marble buildings standing tall while a galaxy mourned.  The grounds had lost their character. 

 

But still there was a comfort here, and he scooped his nephew up in a great hug that left the child laughing, his small hands pulling at the edges of Raphanel’s beard. He carried the young boy into the dining room, setting him on his highchair next to his mother. The young woman gave him a wane smile. Eyes looking at the military uniform which still carried its worn and charred edges from the last few weeks of combat. 

 

“Raphanel, a pleasure as always to receive you.” 

 

He inclined his head in return and sat down beside his brother and let the polite conversation wash over him. As the three dozen members of the high family began their meal together.

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Lord Commander Raphenel Karlovci Contispex- Imperial Warden

 

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The harlequin sat, or rather perched on the edge of the transport ship’s meager seating as the haunting embrace of hyperspace yawned into a starburst that narrowed into simple points of light. Before them hung Chandrila, an emerald jewel dangling alone upon a spread of dark canvas. The Kaz Ampercat had been diverted onto the Hydian and from there by direct Imperial order until the crown jewel of Northern Dependencies itself. The Devorian girl turned a smile towards Piotr, her lilting, soft accent twisting the words into a playful tone.

 

“The Jedi and the rebellion has indeed won… But the nature of sentience itself has not changed.”

 

Roncevaux flashed in the reflected light, the nyix alloy glittering blue as the Harlequin flipped the poignard from hand to hand.

 

“The line separating good from evil, Jedi from Sith, passes not through governments, or classes, or political parties—but right through every heart.”

 

The girl’s dark eyes seemed to grow bright from an internal, white flame. The air about them became fresh, as if passed through a grove of sweet-smelling Laurval-trees, taking with it a spiced nostalgic warmth. She seemed older as if by decades, in soul alone.

 

“So yes, we did win. The Sith have lost control. For now. The nature of sentience is that evil rises again, even from the ranks of the self-proclaimed good.”

 

The blade stilled, the warmth spreading from it with the sparkling, reflected light of Chandrila. These next words were spoken harder, with an edge found only in complete faith.

 

“For the Imperial Knights, from the highest Lords to us lowly Harlequins, our ‘Rebellion’ is never done. We prepare.”

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Piotr was silent for a while after she spoke, contemplating her words. It hadn't occurred to him that the Imperial Knights might take their jobs so seriously. He wondered if they were all this steadfast in their beliefs, or if he had just happened upon one of their zealots. Either way, for the time being at least, he was stuck with her. It was worth seeing what made her tick. 

 

"But that seems rather ineffective, doesn't it? How much manpower is wasted on the off chance someone decides to be a Sith or start killing people with the Dark Side?"

 

In truth he knew the ignorance of his words- It was like suggesting a sovereign power shouldn't maintain a military because who would want to hurt them? But that didn't matter- Some of the best and most genuine reactions he got out of people were from the times he was being intentionally dense with the worst takes imaginable. Would she respond with anger that he be so insolent? Pity at his apparent stupidity? Understanding of his ignorance? Much could be gleaned from how someone responded to ignorance.

"I think we'd be better off leaving the Force shenanigans to the Jedi and the Sith. It's not our business."

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“I cannot marry, what life could I give a woman?” Raphanel’s voice was elevated enough to carry from one edge of the family table to the other. Answering his father’s barbed question as calmly as he was able to. “What woman would want to wait the weeks away, hoping and praying that her husband did not die in some secret mission he cannot even talk to his wife about? What life would that give my children? I cannot be an absentee father in good conscience.” Here he looked again to the family patriarch, who glowered at him through gray white eyebrows. 

 

But he knew the questions were good ones. He had brought his family much honour in ascending to the rank of Lord Commander, and as a bachelor he was likely to bring several dozen offers from the high families of the Imperial Court. It would only be a matter of time until some cute imperial girl, likely from Kuat, Carida, or Bastion showed up at the table to attempt to win his hand. All Raphanel could do is pray that she was smart, intelligent, and at least a little pretty. So that cut out much of the Kuati girls at least. 

 

But for now he would continue the pointless debate. It was fun afterall and it kept his brother’s and sisters laughing.

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Lord Commander Raphenel Karlovci Contispex- Imperial Warden

 

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The Harlequin took the measure of the noble son’s words, the fire alighting her hazel eyes implacable. Did he truly not know the weight of what was at stake? Her words were soft, yet held a stern conviction.

 

“I’m not sure you’ve been exposed to enough of these Force Shenanigans, Piotr, to truly judge.”

 

Reaching across the Kaz Ampercat’s loading bay, she held the glittering Roncevaux towards him, and from the spice-smelling metal crawled a scene, pulled from a broken, sterile world. Twisted, broken buildings, the former heart of an industrial empire shattered and extracted in volcanic toil.

 

A strange, foreign heartbeat had replaced it. Each pulse bringing with it a flood of agony and terror. The lifeblood of a world stricken of its population in a single day. The crystalized horror of flesh devoured and life absorbed, from that of the smallest microbacteria, to that of women and children; their pain swelling into the cabin as they tore their own flesh to devour it as an ouroboros, driven mad by the heartbeat of the revel.

 

Jedi, younglings, apprentices falling with the world in its danse macabre. Fighting, but losing to the atrocity at the heart of the storm. Fierce, hungry eyes stared from the center of the vision as it collapsed back into the glittering Roncevaux. The stench of a dying world, of rot and sulphur, cloyed at their senses, trying to drive its madness into their flesh.

 

“Sheog the Mad. One Sith Master, a single Sith, destroyed the planet Sullust in a single day. It’s entire population and numerous forces arrayed against him. Gone.”

 

Montjoy breathed out a sigh, and the demonic traces of the vision burned away in white fire. The ship shuddered as it touched down, and she smiled at Piotr, sharpened teeth gleaming in the dazzling sunlight as the access hatchway yawned open.

 

“The war between good and evil does not simply involve political factions, of one religious order or another. We stand in the gap, fighting so no more shenanigans wipe a planet from existence.”

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He smiled- It had worked. She spoke her mind, beyond the mantras and doctrines of the Imperial Knights. She was a protector. She wanted to keep everybody safe, and he would wager that if she didn't reign in those ideals, she would wear herself thin. Still, it gave him something to work with. He shrugged earnestly, coming clean to his actions.

 

"I must admit, the things I said were purposely inflammatory. You don't get a reputation for garnering reactions in the Imperial court without knowing what to say to get such a reaction. But even if I wanted to serve on the line for as long as it took, it must get tiring being forever wwdatchful. Surely, the fight must end eventually. You must aim for a time you can lay down your weapons and return home, otherwise what's the point?"

 

He stood, gazing at the remnants of her projections, shaking his head. "What's more, if numerous Jedi couldn't stop such beasts from ravaging entire worlds, what am I going to do? What are you going to do? Do you believe that you could do better than Jedi Masters and entire planetary defense forces? That's the height of arrogance, even more so, it's dangerous to assume I, unarmed and untrained in the ways of the Force, could do any better than merely be a speedbump on the Sith road to victory."

 

"Make no mistake, I'm here to clear my name, to return home and live a humble life next to my family on Carida, but it's been made clear to me that won't happen until I serve with distinction in the Imperial Knights. So I won't resist your training, but if you expect me to meaninglessly throw myself against eldritch horrors so that I can be added to their body count, you're wrong."

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Beck kept his hands clasped behind his back as he walked through the city with Tor Blatheuld and her crew as they showed off the city. Much of the grand design was almost fully rebuilt since the Mandalorians of Crusaders had almost burnt it to the ground on their own personal rampage of the galaxy. While short lived, the damage caused by them was strong enough to still feel the impacts. Part of the Admiral felt like during the height of his commando career under Emperor Denton, he would have torn the city further down than the what the Crusaders did. Tor was elaborating on the rework of the art district area for the smaller crew of Imperium Alliance as they toured the city. 

 

"As you can see, it has already generated some interest with the locals, but we'd love to attract more off planet artists to come a contribute. But majority feel as if the city is still unsafe from the last invasion." Beck narrowed his eyes as he looked over two local shops that held artwork of their own on the outside that was almost as outlandish as what could be found inside. "Weren't the Jedi and others just here a few months back? Or was that only a basic cleanup?" Tor turned and offered up a smile that suggested she didn't really want to respond to the question directly. "There are some who would rather have a different display of strength of cleanup. Local cleanup is important, far more so than any outsider involvement. Revenue is the main draw of outsiders and Jedi tend not to bring such tag with them." Beck raised both eyebrows in acknowledgement of the statement. He found it to be very true. Juhn Chilcaot however did not fully agree, and spoke up. "Their presence alone helps bring forth a sense of peace sometimes. Revenue is for the greedy alone." Beck turned and stopped the small tour, letting Tor know where Beck stood on things. 

 

"Jedi are not political. Their involvement in anything is strictly peacekeeping. Their time of warriors has come to an end. They have not been relevant to the whole galaxy in almost seven years. They're dying off. What Chandrila needs is supplies and resources that help attract others." Beck turned around and gave a small bow to Tor. "I also heard that there is a Gala coming up. Would it help or hinder the overall situation for the Imperium Alliance to show up?" He paused and waited upon Tor's response. He knew that the  younger officer would be excited for the chance to stir up the political scene on the planet, and he himself would absolutely hate it. But the very fact that the young boy might learn what is truly driving the galaxy by them going would be a benefit to him. Plus, he didn't truly want to return to the incompetent crew at the War College. 

 

Tor gave a smile. "Why yes we are. It's a Gala for everyone about to invest heavily the project areas to really build Hanna City back up into a talking point around the galaxy. Since you will be providing us with a hub for trading and receiving goods from the core worlds again, you are apart of the bill that is coming to the senate floor soon!" Beck gave another bow as he offered her a smile. "We look forward to being there." Tor gave a smile of her own in return and continued the tour. As she turned away, Beck's face dropped the smile and revealed an annoyed face. He hated what he was about to do, but knew it was needed. Hopefully everything would work out and he could return to something he was more comfortable doing soon. 

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He took another bite of the boiled muja dish, letting the harsh Kelmar spices mix with the aftertaste of sweet wine in his mouth. Every time he visited home he was always reminded of such heights of civilian life.  A life he had pretty much not known for the last three years of warfare. Three years of constant battle against the sith, trenches, starships, bitter, broken worlds. All of them fought with little distinction from the next. the only subtle joys the five or so minutes one took to cook a field ration. That subtle warm blandness as a congealed egg that had been cooked 100 years ago finally was eaten. Some of those rations, at least in the old outposts of the war like Sannagar or Thronsis, dated to pre-imperial years. Their Aluminum covers imprinted with insignias and inspection dates that had nearly covered them. 

 

And now here he was, eating lab grown steak along side of family that had never really seen the war. Sure the old vacation home at Rexour ridge had been destroyed by the Mandalorian starships, but who at this table had even thought to go there outside of old summer years of childhood?

 

Dangerous waters. And Raphanel could harken a darkness looming over him. A silent and viscous bitterness that had crept upon him like the evening shadows. Now it stretched long across the table, covering smiling faces with a masque of twisted and unfeeling pride. A martyrs pride that looked to the crowd around the pyre to be remembered with appreciation. To be thanked and blessed for long service, to be rewarded. And when no such reward came to begin to hate those faces beyond the rising flames. 

 

How could he hold onto such a bitter grudge against a family he was glad had not been slaughtered like a trillion others? Had he not fought to preserve them from such a fate? Was that not the reason he joined the old order? That he had pledged his life, his youth, and his hope upon? So that those he cared about would not suffer as he did? And now he begrudged them such a thing? It was a strange revelation to see one’s self as this. To be bitter and angry at those that he sacrificed himself for would be to throw the entire journey on its face. Bitterness held no place here. There could only be gladness. Gladness for a life lived In service. A peace hard won. And the sweet memory of those left behind in dark trenches that stank of foul blood. 

 

He raised the glass of sweet wine to his lips again, saying the silent prayer of thanksgiving. 

 

For Kyrie Eleison of eternal memory. Who had sparked the hearts of the revanchists to action while the Jedi slept in their towers of ivory. 

 

For the holy emperors of eternal memory. For Dagon the bold, who had turned the wheels of fate. Who had begun to turn the Emprire from evil. And for Raven Nasra who had finished the quest of her predecessors. Who had bought galactic peace with tears and blood. Twice. 

 

He took another long draught of the wine when he realized that silence had fallen upon the table. His haze found the steel ward of the house who was about to speak.

 

“Lady Contispex, may I admit one Sir Piotr of the house Malczewski-”

 

A lesser house recently devoted as stewards of Carida. A lofty position and one that his mother would not mind in the least-

 

“-and one…” here the stewards voice seemed to choke. “…Brenna of the house of Montjoye.”

 

A harlequin. A non human hybrid of no stature in the imperial thrones. But an apprentice of a saint. And Raphanel could not be more glad as the two of them walked into the dining room. The party would be interesting indeed. 

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Lord Commander Raphenel Karlovci Contispex- Imperial Warden

 

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Zalis found herself inhaling the saltiness of the ocean that stood on the banks of Hanna City. The air carried it in and almost fully removed all typical smells associated with ports and ships. Wess Zis stood at the bottom of the ramp, offering up Zalis a smile and bow as her and Ve Livan, her Yarkora bodyguard walked down. She was already in her dress for the Gala that was requested by Wess. The white overall dress, with silver and lace designs entwined all throughout it, along with hints of gold trim. The natural flow of it made it seem like the extra lace was almost ocean like in its movement, projecting an image and feeling of something angelic within others. As she got to the bottom of the ramp, she gave a slight head bow to Wess in return. 

 

"Hello Wess, it has been sometime since we last saw each other." She made sure that her voice carried with it a lightness to it, to add to the overall provoking feeling she knew she projecting already. "Lady Zalis, it's so good to see you. Your last shipment of goods to me on top of what Czerka sent was something that was awe inspiring." Zalis smiled as she let him take her hand and give it a kiss. She had almost forgotten that she sent sweets and wine to the Zis family with the last shipment. It was another way for her to tie into the hearts and minds of powerful people that she was on their side. "I sure hope what I sent was okay? Sometimes I just don't know what wine others like." Wess offered up a laugh of good joy. "it's all good. My wife enjoyed it, to which I am hoping that you will get to meet her tonight at the Gala. She's been looking forward to it."

 

Zalis gave a smile and nod in return. The Gala was something she was looking forward to heavily, as it would help lock in her vital role moving forward, as Chandrila would then be the fourth major planet to let her have a foothold. "I am looking forward to it Wess. I am beyond happy to help lock in support for the Business Stimulus Act." Wess escorted them to their place of stay, a royal suite near the Brionelle Memorial Military Academy, where the Gala was being held. 

 

Zalis stood in front of a mirror, not really looking at herself, but mentally having a conversation with herself within her head as Ve was attempting to get dressed. He was making a lot of noise before he just let his frustration out. "This vest is stupid. Why do I also have to dress up." Zalis slowly turned her head to look at the Yarkora, who was struggling with a black vest over his white shirt. "It's a weapon free zone. Politically neutral, so the goal is to play nice with everyone present. I won't need your weapons or your muscles... so take this as a time to really enjoy the perks of being so close to me. Drink heavily and enjoy yourself." She then turned back towards the mirror and continued to hold a private conversation within her head. 

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Admiral Beck Pilon walked into the main hall of the Brionelle Memorial Military Academy with eyes darting from left to right at every person within the room. Security was tight, but somehow the very fact that the room was crowded made him feel less secured. He turned to acknowledge the younger man, Juhn Chilcaot who wore a very formal looking grey and blue uniform, absent of any sign of rank to the Gala. His face was eager and ready to mingle around, to the point of almost looking at the Admiral was puppy eyes. He took his eyes off him for a moment and observed the crowd again. "You may mingle-" He turned back towards the young man faster than he had ever moved before and held up a finger towards Juhn as he moved to lean in towards him. "-No political discussions. You may hear and be around it, but zero input." He slowly withdrew from the boy and let his words sink in as the younger officer slowly nodded his head and then began to move away from him. 

 

As Beck was left alone, the moment of getting to breath in without having to either babysit or play a role was quickly dispersed by Tor Blatheuld moving rather quickly towards him. The brunette woman, wearing a gold dress with white and beige colors as accents closed the gap. By the time she stood right before him left the Admiral with only three point four seconds of alone time. He smiled at her, but even as he did, it felt more forced than what he normally does. This atmosphere really isn't my liking. "Admiral Pilon, I'm so glad that you came tonight. Having a military leader present to help back the Business Stimulus Act will really help lock things in for the senate proceedings." He did his best to remove the forced look upon his face as he offered her up a small head nod. Whether or not she took notice of his forced smile was not yet evident, as she jumped from one thing to another. "I'm also so glad you choose to wear the gold and white colors of Chandrila!" Beck looked at his shoulders. He wore his preferred black uniform, but adorned the gold patches normally worn by Grand Admirals. They were used to help hold his white cap on, to which he only now realized they did indeed match the colors of the night. 

 

"Happy accident, I assure you. These Gala's are not my strong suite, nor is dressing to impress." She let out a small giggle like laugh at his response as she touched his arm in a very over the top playful way. "Oh Beck Pilon, I think you may fit in all too well with the company here then you realize." Great. "The place seems busy." She grabbed his arm and began to pull him more inwards and towards the more crowded locations. "Oh yes, many different reps from all sorts of business, all of which are here to see how the rebuilding has taken place and to see some of the more visible leaders behind the bill we are hoping to push." She picked up two glasses of some kind of champagne off a tray from a waiter walking by. "From Sienar, Karrel and Blethern Gas have all come in massive support." She offered up one glass to the Admiral. "But many want to see the major ground worker behind the scenes who has really helped get Chandrila on its feet, Czerka head-" As the two came to a larger crowd, Beck knew the name before Tor said it. He knew the woman from looking at her back. The red hair, the white dress. 

 

"Zalis Krales..." The woman turned around and gave a smile to the man. "Admiral Pilon. I've heard rumors you'd be here. I've been dying to meet you. Heard of many tales about you." He did his best to not let his boiling blood over take him and allow for the anger to seep through his words. The woman before him was responsible for many atrocities that his Empress Raven went through. She stood with a smile that was designed to make people like her. It made him more upset that she used it on him. She was beyond lucky that he wasn't armed for this event, otherwise he would have already pulled his blaster and shot her. "The tales I've heard of you make you more war criminal than anything." Tor quickly jumped in between the two. "That's enough of that you two. We're not here to bring up past stuff, only to build towards the future." Beck clenched his fist even tighter for a moment as Zalis continued to smile at him. His eyes never left Zalis as responded directly towards Tor.

 

"Not sure many who back the Empire would support this bill if she's involved." Tor felt flustered, even from where he stood without looking at her. She uttered a few syllables attempting to find some footing to speak when Zalis cut in. "No need to worry Tor. Perhaps maybe the Admiral and I could take a small stroll to discuss the differences he may have with me?" Tor turned to protest but the redhead quickly touched the others arm and calmed her down. "Relax Tor, there are no weapons allowed in the Gala, and I feel maybe the man might just not like crowds." His own eyes flickered at the sense that she picked up on something about him so quickly. He didn't know her game or angle yet, but he was bound and determined to figure it out. She moved the same way Tor did earlier when she took him by the arm, and Beck pulled his arm out of the way. The move however backfired on him, as her own movement ended up going for a drink next to him instead, which made him look beyond paranoid with her. 

 

He quickly looked around to observe the room, as he was now aware of the amount of eyes being drawn towards him. I need to be careful, otherwise I could damage the public view of this new Imperium Alliance. Zalis walked past him with her drink in her hand now and gave a slight nod for him to follow her. With eyes still on him, he decided to follow. There wouldn't be much gained if he refused, and everyone else in the room seemed to like her. He was the odd man out. Letting out a heavy sigh, he followed her, matching her steps and he began to become aware that she had already worked the room before he got in and was playing a game against him. If he wanted to take her, he'd have to play it his way, not hers. 

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“The fight against sentient nature is a fight against the divine, true. Evil is always lurking, corrupting. Passions unbound into degeneracy, the corruption of Sin. It’s a complex fight, and an even more difficult debate.”

 

The Harlequin smiled ruefully as the two of them walked past the elegant façade of a party in full swing, the smell of fine wine on the air. She could taste the excesses of gluttony and it wrinkled her nose with revulsion.

 

“As for the fight against the Sith themselves, we strive to protect the innocent. You may one day return to Cardia and your noble life, but I trust the exposure to such a fight, that against corruption itself, will leave such a mark on you that you cannot simply give it up, no matter how hopeless it might currently feel.

 

Their names announced, one with far less grace; a sting to her pride that had never truly faded despite the repetition of it across a hundred worlds. The reality remained as an unhealed sore, ever painful; she would never truly fit into the society she had pledged herself to. Always second fiddle to a second son, nothing beyond the child of a whore, the distasteful much upon their bootheel-

 

Brenna breathed in a lungful of the spiced air, and centered herself, draining the deeper hue that had risen to stain the orange of her flesh. Pride was a sin. A servant, a slave, there was no better way to move unseen. But at this time, the hundred scornful eyes that drilled into her seemed to burn away her composure. Her pulse quickened into a rapid pounding that filled her ears. Her widening eyes found those of Raphanel, the current Lord Commander of the order, a man she had only met through reputation, and she grabbed her apprentice’s arm and hauled him hurriedly to the Warden’s side. Being of short stature, she stared up at the Chandrilian, her pounding heart driving the two large dark spots of her hornbeds into a shallow purple. Her voice seemed horse, raspy, not her own

 

“Lord-Commander, we are at your service”

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His voice was quiet as to not alert those fixated on them of their conversation as they were introduced.

 

"Is that truly your hope? That I see such horrors that I cannot go back to a normal life? If that's what the knights rely on for retention, then we live in a sorry galaxy indeed."

 

Piotr chuckled, nodding humbly as they were introduced, stepping forward in sync with his new guardian as his demeanor shifted. This was his domain. She was visibly uncomfortable- It hadn't occurred to him that she might not have been acclimated to such things, or that her station, even as a knight, might be considered below such occasions. He felt a twinge of pity. It was always a sharp contrast to his own life, witnessing how the court treated those outside of it.

 

"Don't worry, as soon as they know why I'm here, I'll likely quickly overtake you in the topics of conversation. It's not often the heir of a house is forcibly conscripted into the Imperial Knights."

 

As they approached the Lord Commander, Piotr straightened his posture. "Lord-Commander, it's a pleasure to meet you. My father has told me of your heroism at Kuat. You do your station justice."

 

In truth, he wanted nothing more than to slink off and listen into court gossip, stirring the pot where he could. But he knew that would only make his current predicament worse. Badmouthing a lesser district governor was much less harmful than speaking out of turn to the Lord-Commander of the Imperial Knights, someone who could actively make his family's life difficult if he was offended.

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His mother’s smile seemed to be plastered over her face and painted over with the garish makeup that the only most elderly of Chandrila thought fashionable. She held the smile as elegantly as she could as she curtsied to Montjoye, but when she saw the young man that followed her an actual smile broke out. Nearly cracking the makeup powder on her face as she seemed to light up like a beacon with happiness. Seemed was the word for it at least, and Raphanel had seen the masks his mother put on to deceive or to guide, and this was certainly one of them. 

 

“Oh the house of Malczewski!” 

 

A political power move it would be then. And upon seeing one of his many sisters ushered forwards up the long table, he knew exactly what would come next. Adrienne, towheaded and not yet nineteen, cutsied low before the young heir of the house of Malczewski. She was a charming girl, even if the heavy dash of freckles across her face and nose spoiled her looks. 

 

Raphanel gave her a charming grin then looked to Montjoye. He embraced her fully, giving her the kiss of peace on each cheek, before doing the same to Malczewski. 

 

“You both are very welcome at our table. Please take the seats beside me. Eat what you wish. And after dinner we can talk business.” 

 

Both places were cleared of food, and the opposite seat beside Piotr was also cleared for Adrienne, who looked to him with wide eyes and a little apprehension. 

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Lord Commander Raphenel Karlovci Contispex- Imperial Warden

 

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The atmosphere was buzzing with so much excitement that Zalis was almost thriving upon it like a rancor ready to eat captured prey. She was enjoying herself, playing up contacts and working the room to help her reinforce her stance and lock herself into the role she needed to play that she was even at all surprised by the strong disdain ebbing from the voice of Beck Pilon. The man was well known to be heavy Imperial fanboy, and got close to the inner circle of Empress Raven. She knew he'd be here, as the man would be traveling with others within the Alliance and with his reputation that echoed out from within the halls of the Imperial side of the Alliance, he wouldn't miss the chance to prove to others that the Imperial Military ways was the best way. She had done her full research on him, as she did with everyone within the room. The Queen of Vice knew he would be the challenge to overcome at the Gala, or more the one to keep pinned down. He couldn't touch her tonight, and she had the resources to keep him pinned down. His weakness was one that would be easy to exploit. 

 

Even now as the two walked towards an open balcony in the hall, she could feel eyes darting her way as many liked the way she looked, but the eyes upon her back from the Admiral were like burning daggers. It was a rewarding feeling to know that he so easily walked into her play. As she walked onto the balcony, she turned and rested the right side of her body on a railing and held her drink closer to her mouth. As she did, she narrowed one eye and opened the other a bit more. "You can be blunt out here with me, neither of us are like those damn Jedi." There, his shoulder tensed up just slightly at the mentioned of Jedi, to which told her he was both annoyed with the fact that she held some common ground with him, but also the fact the she even knew it made him upset. He stood his ground and refused to move any further upon her making the statement. "We're not the same, don't put on us on equal ground." Those very words were a self made trap, but he couldn't see it. It would only help her case that she was about to make. "Never said that we were. But we do have far more common ground than maybe even you'd like to admit." She stood up and moved a step closer to him, not letting him feel comfortable or even getting a chance to cut in. "And what does separate us would actually surprise most people." She made her face readable to him. She wondered openly if he even knew the difference between them.

 

The flush on his face was clear, he was getting angry, which meant he would either make a mistake or withdraw. Even Jedi when pushed into such situations made one or the other. "I didn't torture a political leader after kidnaping them." His words carried such anger and bitterness. But Zalis knew he didn't truly hold loyalty to Raven, just to the position that she held. His stance he was taking was purely from a misguided moral high ground that didn't exist. Her eyes narrowed as she took another step towards him and leaned in. "...Neither did I..." She then turned and took three steps towards the railing of the balcony before turning around. Beck didn't respond mainly due to him attempting to choose his words carefully as he tried to check anger. It gave her more room to cut off ground in the conversation. "I've read the public reports of what you're insinuating here. Lack of actual video footage at Kuat doesn't give much ground outside of her word versus mine if you were to push a trial. And last I checked... the words of the dead don't hold up that strongly, especially against someone who has already done so much to repair what was lost..." She now put her drink down and took a step forward. Beck quickly interjected. "But your deeds you've committed over the years speak for you."

 

"However, if you did have something worthy of putting me on trial, I will happily comply. Unless you don't want a trial. But that would remove all moral high ground. Especially seeing as I am the one who worked so hard to give out free money to those families who lost their spouses from the Jedi who decided to blow up a bank in order to 'save one'. I have given many planets the joys of having commerce return to their ports through establishing Czerka locations through the galaxy." She took yet another step forward. "I have worked so hard to lay the groundwork for the Business Stimulus Act to present a way forward to get many planets like Chandrila back to being relevant. My face and name have become tied to the galaxy with hope of something brighter." She took a step back now. "Yet somehow, my old deeds from the past can't be overlooked, yet every single Jedi who committed acts far worse than me are forgiven immediately by those who hold the righteous seats of power... that doesn't seem fair."

 

Beck Pilon tensed up even more. She could tell from looking at his eyes that he was beginning to see what sort groundwork she had already laid down. His lips quivered as he struggled to hold his anger in check. "If I hold no moral high ground, then neither do you. We both from this point on build upon what we want the galaxy to be." His words on the surface would seem matter of fact to anyone, but she knew them for what they were. A threat. He was promising to make the Galactic Alliance hunt crime down harder, which in turn, at least in his mind, would mean capturing her latter on. She offered him a smile at his words. "If you feel like you have enough to pin something on me, You can always find me at Czerka HQ on Taris, or on the Titan." She then lifted her glass, emptying the entire glass of its liquid into her mouth. The gesture caught the eye on Tor  Blatheuld and Wess Zis, who felt like they now could move towards the two. She lifted her hand to allow for them to approach. Even as she did, Admiral Pilon stood with eyes locked on her. She could tell that his own mind was racing with thoughts on what do next. Much to her own surprise, he handled himself very well for someone who didn't have a background in politics. She wondered if he picked up the skills due to his clone background. Much around Emperor Denton's clone commando project was kept closed tight, that not even her best hackers couldn't get those files. 

 

As the crowd came around again, they were also joined by another who wore more formal Galactic Alliance military uniform. Zalis immediately assumed it was whomever came with the Admiral. She didn't know his rank, as it wasn't on his uniform. "I hope you two have reached an understanding that would allow for us to continue our fun little Gala tonight." Wess offered up an inquisitive smile to both. Much to her own surprise, Beck responded before she could. "Why yes. I'm very much now looking forward with great anticipation on how Zalis handles herself moving forward, along with how much she fully separates herself from her past associates." Only after he finished speaking did he turn towards Tor and offer up a bow to her. "But unfortunately, like I have already stated, by skill set for Galas is limited and Lady Zalis Krales was indeed correct. I am not a fan crowds. I think I will retire for the night. I appreciate the offer to come and the hospitality you have shown the Galactic Alliance in our time. I will make sure we honor everything we agreed to, along with seeing what more the Galactic Alliance can offer you." He then turned towards everyone and gave a slight head nod, locking eyes on Zalis for a moment before turning to leave. 

 

As the Admiral left the scene, Zalis let her smile turn into a smirk. "So tell me Tor, Wess said that you have someone who could make me an exclusive outfit. I'd love to pour the credits into your beautiful city. But as we do, I think I have been deprived long enough of trying Chandrilan Squigs. Could we maybe get some?"

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Annoyed and feeling beyond flustered, Beck made his way out of the Brionelle Memorial Military Academy Grand Hall, Juhn Chilcaot joined him quickly on the walk out. Only once the younger officer felt certain that they were out of range from the listening ears of Zalis did he speak up. “Is it wise to not take her in? I mean, the conseque-” A finger was lifted to silence the younger lad. 

 

“Not here. Not yet.” It was all Beck would utter still, as he just didn’t trust the ears still within listening range. The two of them walked rather briskly and quietly back to his shuttle that was awaiting them at the port. It was a very long walk and the silence was making Juhn anxious. But he didn’t want to speak about the situation until he knew no such ears that could influence Zalis were present. And with the way she handled herself at the Gala suggested that she was far more connected then he realized. Maybe even more so than what others realized as well. 

 

Upon entering the ship, Beck quickly closed the ramp and gave the order. “Get us to Empress Teta now.” The flight officer looked at him for a second, but started to move without letting the Admiral get to a point of shouting. Juhn was the one who began to question things. “Not back to Anaxes?” Beck took a look at the young man as he walked towards his seat in the main hold. Only upon sitting did he reply, but kept his voice on the lower side. It was shaking with both fear and anger. 

 

“Zalis has moved herself into a position of power, she made that clear. She played a game with me and already had it stacked against me. Somehow, even without knowing I’d actually be there, she knew to have those cards ready. She knew the PR position we'd be in. She also knew the financial and the ground we’d need to cover for going after her this late in the game.” Both of his hands slowly moved to rest upon his thighs, which were heavily moving from the steady tapping he was doing with both of his feet. “And I’m pretty sure she did so through our own relaxed state we’ve taken due to the war.” He looked up again at Juhn. 

 

“Moff Longfang, current head of our Alliance needs to know. We need to act quickly to not let her gain any more advantage.” The words were strong, and carried with them the sense of the conversation was over. Admiral Pilon would hear nothing more except for the Alliance making strong actions against the Black Sun and all of its secretive avenues of poisoning the galaxy. Whatever Zalis had intended from her game with him, the one she maybe didn't know was this; she made it personal for Beck Pilon to see her end. So now, Beck just needed to get the head of the Galactic Alliance to fully support the move to tighten the grip, and the only way such a thing would happen successfully would be through legislation. The one style of war Beck never bothered to learn. But he trusted those in place to make such movements where he could not.

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Montjoy stepped back from the embrace returning the kisses as was custom. The Lord Commander had always been an accepting soul, even to the oft-cursed Harlequins and for that the Devaronian was thankful. She gave him a rueful smile, one that held little joy beyond that which a façade requires. She spoke to her apprentice with an equal tone that carried a gentle firmness

 

“We stand in the gap between the innocents and those horrors who would prey upon them. Give a few months working with us peasants, perhaps your ivory towers will grow tarnished and your lotuses rotten within your mind.”

 

She pulled a chair out for the man, as nimbly as the highest paid Valets, a face she had worn often, and watched him sit. The Harlequin took up her seat with a trained nonchalance, her posture a careful patchwork to not offend those about her in higher office about her. her manners could not be too refined, or the nobles would feel it out of place. Brenna let the conversation play between the two, her commander and her apprentice, her eyes wandering across the crowd, her face holding no emotion. She cared little for table games and diplomacy, she was more comfortable in the field. 

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Whatever feelings the Admiral had, Zalis was feeling the opposite, and even more so since his departure from the group. She flirted and worked the room, connecting with so many others until she finally called it a night after being at the Gala for over four hours. Only the clean up crew and the hosts remained by the time she returned to her hotel room, where the Yarkora was half asleep on a bed. She slowly undressed from the night, thinking about her next logical steps, only to realize Ve was more awake then thought. “That Admiral seemed rather upset at you even being present.” She turned around and saw him now sitting up in bed. His blue eyes next to his black hair made his stare feel like he was on the verge of knowing something he shouldn’t. 

 

Luckily she knew him enough to know that he was simply just inquisitive at best. “He’s harmless Ve. I gave him what he wanted in exchange for me getting exactly what I wanted.” She turned back around to pull her night slip on before turning around again to climb into bed. “Besides, no one has ever been willing to catch me at the true cost.” Pulling the covers over herself, she turned to face the window, which faced the Silver Sea. “And even if they did, who could truly play the long game with me?”  Even as she said the words, she did wonder if Beck Pilon was that type of man to go full throttle against her. He held himself with much more dignity than others. And the longer the two talked, the more he picked up. If anyone could do it, it would be him. But for the moment, she couldn't afford any more thoughts to what ifs. Without much other words spoken, both fell asleep and after a quick morning of pleasantries, were back in space themselves the next morning on their way to the next step of their adventure.

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  • 2 weeks later...

It felt good, after what felt like an eternity, to be in the cockpit of an X-wing again. Sure, the luxury of the Viper’s Rest had its appeal, but there was something truly freeing about piloting a ship without crew or guests. At any moment, the vagabond spirit could exert its influence and he could be in another system with none the wiser, another mote of cosmic dust blown by the winds of whimsy and libertine pursuits. Today, however, was not a day for idle deviancy and carousing. 

 

Traversato cut through idyllic clouds just as they were beginning to adopt tinges of sunset colors, with the sky’s dominant blue yielding ever so slightly to a restful golden orange. Beneath him stretched pastoral fields that spoke of Chandrila’s continued preservation of the balance between civilization and nature. It was a far cry from what Tygo was used to, and on some levels disconcerting. What sort of devil’s bargain did it take to have such preserved innocence in a galaxy so consumed by war? Would the masters of such a place flinch in the midnight hours of what was to come when the bravado faded and the costs became all too real?

 

Tygo’s family knew all about costs, both from sin and more recently virtue, though many only commented on the former. When he was hunting crazed cultists and lunatic sorcerers, the dark stains of his family’s past had their uses, but in the eyes of lords and ladies who lived safely in pristine towers and manses overlooking verdant greenery, it was a vulnerability to be needled at and leveraged for their idle sadism. The sneers and comments weren’t even particularly biting anymore, instead the banality of every single noble and courtier thinking that their particular jab was nuanced and original turned many events into trudging through a slurry of tired comments and tepid insults.

 

He landed at the estate’s private hangar, cycling the ship through the shutdown process before hauling himself over the rim of the opened cockpit. He was extremely nimble, but several hours in a tight enclosed space would make anyone stiff until they could stretch out. Of course, he could have called upon the Force, but the prince had found that keeping an awareness of the physical allowed him to be better connected to the spiritual, while also avoiding over reliance. He paused his stride for a moment to limber up as an attache moved from the edge of the hangar to greet him. The usual formalities cascaded forward in rote performance, a necessary but boring dance. 

 

It wasn’t long before he was being presented to another room of his peers and their assorted hangers on, and while the faces were largely unknown to him, the reactions were all too familiar. Primarily disdain, even from those who were largely beneath him in standing, a few curious glances from the sorts of people who wanted to upset mommy and daddy, and knowing nods from the veterans who knew what the scarlet scarf he wore meant. One of those veterans was the venerable Lord Commander Constipex, a man whose eyes seemed to have wandered far from his home, iron and haunted in contrast to the peaceful elegance of the estate. 

 

He moved with mercurial grace towards Raphanel, sidestepping a would be heckler and producing a datapad directly for the Lord Commander’s eyes. It showed the butchers’ work that had concluded his last assignment, an outer rim cult that had a penchant for sacrificing youths to some deranged fairy tale demon. It was the conclusion of several months of investigative work, looking into the disappearances, staking out the cult’s procurer’s, and verifying the information before launching a surgical strike. The cult leader had tried to scream his idea of an esoteric ill omen at him, they always try to project this aura of occult fatalism, just before going limp as their cries die into gurgling silence. 

 

“Apologies for my tardiness, Lord Commander. The Wardens always like to be thorough after anything cult related to make sure that we don’t get any dark ritual on our boots and go spreading it everywhere.”

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An Anzat, her hair flowing in long, unkempt plaits stepped through the crowded room, the firelight reflecting across the streaks of white within the dark hair. The plaits were accented by a circlet of silvered metal adorned with a sunstone of crystalline yellow within which a pale flame seemed to blaze. Her features were scarred and the thin needle-like proboscis seemed to twitch as she walked. They weaved and bounced, flashing at the air, tasting the scents of a gala in full swing. A dozen Imperial Houses were there in full regalia, and most stared disapproving at the uniform of the young woman.

 

The woman wore plasteel-bound armor in a much older style than that of the Imperial Knights now present, with black robes. It was unconstrained, flexible, like that of a hunter in the field. Upon her back was a long-handled, extinguished lightsaber made from briarwood and cortosis, wrapped in black leather, which drew several glares of disapproval; for it was far from an elegant weapon for the honor-duels of an Imperial House. About her burn-scarred neck lay the symbol of the Harlequins, a twisting maze of knots and flames. The Lords of the Imperial Houses seemed to turn away from her as soon as it was apparent, her lack of nobility. She walked with no noble grace, but of that of a trained warrior and duelist.

 

Without a word, she slipped unbidden into an empty seat beside Raphoneal, the leader of the Imperial Knights. Fire-filled eyes glanced about the table, taking in Montjoy, and Piotr, and the Edsbryder Princeling. How greatly the Imperial Knights order had changed over the years, from tattered remnants of warsworn revanchists to high princes and their spoiled children. When she spoke, the woman had a strong stutter that cursed a tongue unused to basic. Despite the stutter it carried with it an Ord Mantallian drawl and a sly smile

 

“W-What a nice d-dinner. Ap-pologies for spoiling it w-with my lack of decorum, and l-low birth.”

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Piotr grinned as their company drew more Imperial Knights- a welcome distraction from the Lord Commander's family attempting to wed him to their daughter. It would hardly do him any good to return in a week with a woman on his arms, proclaiming himself a changed man, as humorous as the idea was. No, he was much more intrigued by the two new arrivals. A man of clearly noble birth, but with table manners nearly as poor as his own, and another Harlequin, an alien, one who seemed unsure of her place here. Another opportunity to test his newfound allies, and his current host.

 

"Please, don't apologize. We're all allies here, there's no reason you shouldn't join us for a meal. I believe this gentleman was just about to regale us with stories of his valor?" He shot a glance at the other newcomer as he spoke.

 

He was vastly overstepping his bounds- The Empire had a relatively strict caste system, one that lowborn aliens often found themselves at the bottom of. Even outside of that, he was not the host, and to invite a guest to the host's table could be considered a massive faux pas. He glanced at Montjoye- She could probably put together what he was doing. He'd done it to her not a few hours ago, feigning ignorance for an honest look at her character. She had every opportunity to spoil this attempt, but would she?

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High above the planet’s surface, at the very touches of space and atmosphere, appeared two very distinctive dagger-like warships. Nasra and Ardell, sister ships of the newest line of Imperial Class Star Destroyer. Recently acquired and off the line from Kuat Drive Yards, painted in a pearl white paint. The Shipyards itself had swiftly and without ill will laid down its Sith banners and assumed the banners of the Sovereign Alliance upon the news broadcast from Nar Shaddaa, and was now pumping out Alliance designs as fast as its yards could complete them. 

____

 

There at last came the valiant prince of the house of Edsbryder, his vampiric demeanor giving half the household a shiver down their spines. Some grew silent or turned primarily to their meals, but Raphanel did not. He stood immediately and after taking the datapad gave the man a hearty embrace and the Chandrilian kiss on each cheek. Ignoring his mothers loathsome stare and his father’s grimace of disgust. 

 

“Do not apologize, this is a feast after all, and you may come and go as you like.” He glanced at the datapads contents before hurriedly putting it into a pocket of his coat.  Though watching cultists meet their grisly end may have excited several of the guests at the gala, it was very unlikely it would brace his own appetite. He gestured for the man to take a seat and was about to take a seat himself when another figure appeared. 

 

A diminutive figure, and one he had not seen since long before Nar Shaddaa. A face that caused his own to break into a great grin. He threw his chair out of the way and embraced her fully, kissing her on each cheek and beckoning her to the table. “Knight Elieson. Most of us had feared you long dead, what a pleasure it does my heart to see you here. Your birth is of no matter.” He would have cried had he not been in the presence of so many that looked up to him. It was undoubted that the very heart of the Imperial Knights, its strongest and greatest future, lay in this room. A multitude of great houses, old veterans, and the newest members. He took a moment to say a thankful prayer for the blessing that had been hard won in blood. 

 

He smiled widely as they all took their seats again. He waved to one of the young women who stood beside the wall who approached and handed each of the many knights a small disposable datapad. This was no beyond top secret mission, and those of the Imperial houses knew that to speak of Knight business outside this room was to sign their name under ‘exiled’ in the family tree. It was safe enough to speak openly though in undertones. 

 

“My dear friends and new acquaintances, this may be no tales of valour, however...” Here he looked at Malczewski and Adrienne who was busy trying to catch his eye before continuing. “I think many of you here already know what I am going to say, but I shall go ahead.” He opened the plastine cover of one of the datapads, and the glowing crimson planet appeared, outlined in the ghostly blue of Holo. “We as a united force have cleared most of the inner core and midrim of the Sith Plague. However, one bastion is outstanding. The world of Falleen. A world that has been gripped by slavery, brainwashing, and evil. I need not explain more for the sake of our dinner guests, other than to say that a Jedi strike team has already been dispatched to this world.” He smiled and ran a hand across his bearded chin. 

 

“I do not think the Jedi are capable of such a test of their might, and have asked you all here to assist in the redemption of this world. I know that many of us have been bathed in the darkness of warfare for many years, but we are needed. Not only for the good of Falleen itself, but to show the galaxy that they are never without our Justice." 

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Lord Commander Raphenel Karlovci Contispex- Imperial Warden

 

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Their esteemed company was joined by another, the legendary hunter of Sith Kyrie. Tygo had never met the woman until now, but her prowess was often spoken of in hushed and reverent tones amongst the Redcloaks. She wasn't highborn, but her talents in slaying Sith spoke on their own, and it would be an honor to draw steel by her side. A lesser noble whose dress suggested Caridan nobility spoke out of turn, but the Lord Commander dismissed the poorly crafted jeer offhandedly. Acting out as such was a great way to end up on the vanguard in times when lives needed to be spent for the good of the galaxy.

 

"The Falleen are an aristocratic and rational people, they will be both well suited allies and an example that we are not beholden to any xenophobic beliefs of the old empire. We'd best move with haste though, the purity and virginal innocence of the Jedi is at risk, and if we let dust gather they are in great danger of actually having fun."

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