Caelian sat quietly in the cockpit of his Kaba-class shuttle alongside his compatriot Sol Kenuk dressed neatly in a clean uniform and with his usual equipment. (@Nevermourn) Ever since Korriban they had found a mutual dislike could turn two otherwise strangers into useful allies, although they had yet to materially speak on the subject. The Echani was rather silent on the events of that fateful day, deciding instead to internalise and brood the resentfulness, but perhaps in time they would understand each other.
Today they were responding to a call for help from a friendly member of Elrood's noble aristocracy, a conservative senator by the name of Ejlaeri Winsone. It seemed that there was trouble brewing between the two minority factions within the planet's senate as they fought for control over the larger group of moderate senators. The missive stated that the more liberal faction had been working in secret to gain support for an abolishment of the monarchy in favour of a republic, led by the staunchly anti-Sith senator by the name of Rhyius Tollard.
This of course would disrupt the delicate balance of power that the ageing King Hjann Auris had managed over the course of his reign. His only heir, Prince Turin Auris, was your typical party boy young royal and frequently found himself in trouble with authorities. Although he has yet to voice his support on the political matter, our senate ally believes that the prince would welcome the Jedi to the planet should he ascend the throne after his father passed, something his father refused to do for obvious reasons. Removing these threats would be the top priority for the Sith, however great care would need to be taken to ensure the right groups were blamed to ensure support for the empire remained, if not increased.
Both Sith understood the mission at hand and the gravity of the situation, so much so that they had been given a rather large amount of discretion as to how they executed it, so long as it was done. The empire expected results and Caelian wasn't about to give Darth Raze another reason to visit, himself he preferred to settle the matter decisively, and he suspected Sol would as well. "We can't afford to let either event occur, but neither will our help be free. If our intel is correct, the princeling cannot be allowed to ascend the throne, as it would destabilise our borders and only invite discord. Likewise, the troublesome senators must also be dealt with to ensure Elrood supports the Empire."
Caelian let the moments pass by quickly before continuing with his part of the plan. "I'll meet with our ally in the senate and find out details about the prince's whereabouts, while you look into how to deal with the liberal faction causing us trouble. Be as creative as you like, the only goal is their removal or compliance. Anything you want to add to the plan?"
There were a literal arsenal of weapons and explosives on board the shuttle, fortunately their diplomatic status would save themselves the trouble of being searched by the normally proactive port agents. They would certainly have their pick to ensure the mission was completed before any real damage was done.
The shuttle was a fine vessel, sleek and swift, and far grander than his personal Interceptor. As he sits relaxed within his seat, his hands are clasped together, and his pointed talons drift against one another, an idle gesture of contemplation. The distress call that they had received was not one expected by the Kel'dor, but nonetheless, he finds himself grateful at the opportunities that it presented. Political turmoil could be such a delight, when one side wasn't afraid to commit atrocities against the other. With the Sith en route, it was only a matter of time before the vocal dissenters were silenced, one way or another.
Behind his goggles, his eyes glowed with cold fire as they shifted upon the other Sith in silence. For a time, the Kel'dor merely looks at him, thoughtful. Then, finally, with a wintry drawl, "To prevent the prince from obtaining the throne, that is a simple matter." Spoken as if it were merely a fact, as if what he was implying was not some cruel act against another. "Locate the prince, and tell me his whereabouts. In the meantime, I will gain access to the office of our dear Rhyius, and lift a few prints. When you have the location, notify me. Killing the prince will be easy enough, unless you prefer to do it yourself. Regardless, I'll need the murder weapon. Not a lightsaber." That should be obvious, but Sol states it anyways. Force forbid that Caelian used such a weapon, or Darth Raze would be the least of his concerns.
"I might be inclined to stage a bombing, while I'm in the area." Such a heavy threat, spoken with such callous disregard. "Plant a bomb in the office of one of the pro-Sith. Ultimately, the senators fighting so hard for their republic would be blamed for both deaths. A coup, stopped in it's tracks. At least from the perspective of the locals." He pauses, shifts his focus back to his fellow Sith with a tilt of his head. "Too much?" Sol inquires deviously, a conniving grin spread behind his fanged mask. Ultimately, the bombing would be extra. The assassination of the prince himself, pinned upon the dissenting senators, would be more than enough.
Caelian listened intently as Sol went on with his own thoughts on the mission, and some interesting suggestions that made the champion pause, initially, before pondering their use. There were definitely a few things that the Echani could learn from the cunning and brutally efficient Kel'dor, but for now their little plot would develop and, with any luck, pay off big time.
"Ejlaeri should be able to help us with the former, and perhaps gain myself an audience with the King himself. A shooting might be too logistically difficult with security around the city, but once you're inside the senate building you should be fine." Sol suggested a bombing which would certainly catch the attention of the King and remaining senators, if they did it right, perhaps they could kill two birds with one stone as they say.
"What if you could find a way to sneak a bomb into senate offices, we can arrange for the prince to meet a prominent senator that we can afford to lose and then all you have to do is leave evidence that points everyone in the right direction and boom. Problem solved. Perhaps you might even find yourself at the scene, heroically surviving and becoming a witness to a most heinous crime."
Assuming of course that the Kel'dor didn't accidentally blow himself up in the process, it would prove quite useful to ensure both targets went down and also conveniently give the impression that the Sith were also potentially a target. Meanwhile, Caelian would be perched with Ejlaeri and the King, ready to whisper in his ear when the time came and ensure the plot proceeded as planned.
Checking his phone, the Echani would see that their flight would arrive on schedule. He tapped away, corresponding with the friendly Ejlaeri to make arrangements for the day. Sol would receive a tour of the senate, or any other place he so chose, and enjoy diplomatic privileges past any security.
"You'll be able to pass through security without being checked, but as long as you don't draw attention to yourself, they should leave you alone. I wouldn't be surprised if they were terrified of you, no offence, of course. Once security figures out the plot, you'll be perfectly placed to, uh, ensure they confess."
A short while later, the luxurious Kaba-class shuttle pulled into restricted airspace, landing without fuss. A small delegation was waiting to receive them, including the now familiar face that they had been in contact with. Caelian took the lead exiting, respectfully nodding to the lead man, who then introduced himself. "Greetings, the good people of Elrooden welcome representatives of the Sith to our humble world. I am Senator Ejlaeri Winsone and this is my staff, we have prepared a land speeder for yourself and your colleague, but we must depart immediately as there is much to discuss if you'll come with me."
Caelian turned to Sol momentarily, nodding in agreement, before turning to join the senator's group.
He cocks his head, listening, wintry eyes cold as they gazed upon the other with intensity. It seemed that the more they spoke, the more their plan came to blossom, a sickly bloom from a thorny rose tipped within inky poison. Such nefarious plans were not so unusual among the Sith, but in recent days, they seemed to be far less common than the Kel'dor would have liked. Sneaking explosives into the senate office would be easy enough, so long as Caelian spoke true that the Kel'dor would not be searched. A few timed thermal detonators would seal the deal easily enough. Of course, that was provided that the other Champion managed to get the meeting into position in time. Regardless, the detonators were very small, hard to notice, and would undoubtedly get the job done, should all the chess pieces be on the board.
"We'll stay in contact. Keep a comlink on you, just make sure nobody notices. Best to avoid suspicion altogether." It was a bit stealthier than using a handheld holoprojector. Nobody needed any fuel for their suspicion that the Sith might be involved, including proof that they were maintaining contact throughout the bombing. "I'll handle the explosives. Just make sure you can get that meeting put into place." He'd take several detonators. Only one was needed for the assassination, but the others would be planted as evidence to frame the dissenters. Given that thermal detonators were commonplace in the underworld of virtually any civilization, there would be no real way to tie them back to the Sith, provided Sol didn't end up getting caught with them.
The comment on causing fear prompted only a sly smile behind his mask. Better still, with Caelian insuring that he would be in place for the interrogation, success was all but guaranteed. The Kel'dor knew exactly how to force the unfortunate senators to admit to a crime that they had no knowledge of. Grim thinking, perhaps, but Sol feels nothing. No pity, no shame, no concern. They were here to do a job, no matter the number of atrocities required. Nothing mattered more than the mission. Elrood would be brought into the Empire once more, and the southern territory would expand. Elrood had an assortment of valuable resources, including shipyards. No more would the southern regions of the Empire be left with only a skeletal crew's worth of a presence.
"You'll have your confessions." Sol promised with cruel vocals, as they finally seemed to pull into the world's pleasant atmosphere. The world seemed nice enough from above. Not an inhospitable desert, or a frigid wasteland. It almost looked akin to a utopia, sleek and technological.
Rising from his seat, Sol makes his way deeper into the shuttle to retrieve the supplies he'd need, insuring that everything was tucked away beneath his robes, and out of sight. When the vessel touched down, the Kel'dor is quiet as they make their way out of the shuttle and down the ramp. His eyes, hidden behind his goggles, glow with corruption like the entrappings of a cruel disease. Both Sith dip their heads to the awaiting delegation, a simple gesture of respect. It seemed for now, everything was settled. A land-speeder would be their transportation into the heart of the grand city. Gracefully, the Kel'dor stalks after the group, his eyes wandering across pristine surroundings with a bit of appreciation. The locals certainly valued the appearances of their capitol to outsiders.
"Elrood is a beautiful world." A simple comment, polite and professional, seeping past the fanged mask of the Sith. "Impressive design." Because, after all, a bit of sweet talk never hurt anyone. Particularly when you had no desire to tip the delegation off to a deeper, and far more menacing, nature.
The distance from the star port to the royal keep was far enough that Caelian was able to gain valuable intelligence from the small group of conservative senators that were accompanying him to meet the King. The most senior of them, Ejlaeri, was eager to speak on their latest woes. "The liberals have clawed the senate into deadlock and have continued to incite unrest and uncomfortable conditions for our citizens to score cheap political points. So far it has only been rhetoric, but the younger members of their caucus have been radicalised and do not play by the rules, it's only a matter of time before things escalate."
It was clear they had come to the Sith for help, but it was unlikely they could really fathom the true cost of their mistake, at least not yet. The whining continued, this time from another unnamed senator. "My industrial conglomerate earns more credits than I could spend in several lifetimes, but yet the disastrous liberals insist on protecting so-called workers rights with little regard to how it effects my bottom line! If nothing changes soon, no doubt I will be forced to close down the business and move off the world. You have to do something."
Caelian sat silent for a few moments to take in the scenery, whilst listening to their list of irrelevant problems. Although he didn't specifically care for them, they did provide an interesting way for the mission to proceed. Little did they realise that they were baiting the very hook that they would find themselves caught upon in the very near future. "My compatriot is visiting your senate this afternoon, is he not? He has a reputation for persuasion, perhaps you would like to use his services while we are here?"
The four senators looked amongst themselves before nodding and returning their glances to Caelian. "Of course, but what did you have in mind?". There were already seeds of distrust between the two main factions and everyone, including the moderates and the civilian population, knew that trouble was brewing. All they had to do was make sure that the Sith were positioned to capitalise on the violence once it broke out and be the ones with a solution.
"Set a meeting between respected senators on each of the three sides, and have them negotiate a compromise that will break through and end this struggle that you've been having. My colleague will mediate and ensure that the outcome is favourable to your causes. Of course, it would be a show of strength if the Royal house was seen to be behind it."
The four senators broke out in a muted conversation between themselves, he could only overhear partial bits of information - there were some doubts that the liberals would even attend or even attempt to compromise, but at the end of it they all agreed to try. Ejlaeri, being the most prestigious and senior senator, offered to extend the olive branch and ordered his aid to organise the meet that afternoon.
By the time they arrived at the royal quarters, Caelian had relayed the gist of the plan to Sol. A small group of approximately five junior senators from the liberals, seven moderates and five conservatives had agreed to attend the little impromptu summit. The King was far too busy in intense foreign diplomatic negotiations to attend himself and instead had chosen to send his heir, Prince Turin in his stead.
There were numerous plays the Kel'dor could make, ranging from the simplest being blowing them all up in the same room to catching a conspirator with the goods on him. Another classic misdirection could be to have the liberals believe the meeting to be in a separate room, conveniently placing them in a safe and secure location for after the deed had been done. But Caelian trusted that Sol would be quite capable of handling the next part of their task.
The tough part for himself was coming next, but with large risks came large rewards.
Sol is quiet, studious as he listens, allowing young Caelian to do the bulk of the talking. Sol could be polite, but he wasn't much of an ambassador. Diplomacy was more akin to manipulation, when it came to the Kel'dor. He didn't argue politics in good faith, but then, most other Sith probably didn't either. In the end it didn't matter, so long as the Empire succeeded in it's goals. As for Sol, this was just another opportunity at furthering his own progression within the order. The Kel'dor wanted power, wanted authority and dominion. Conquests were merely a stepping point in that direction. Sol knew the feeling of weakness, knew what it was like to lack the strength to fight back. He would never let it happen again, and one day, few would be capable of challenging his might.
Sol sits back, entwines his fingers against one another as talons glisten beneath the sun. His eyes are upon the pristine structures of the magnificent capital, but his ears are still firmly attuned to the conversation at hand. The liberals sounded straight out of the New Republic, or perhaps the Free Worlds. Regardless, there was no room for such nonsense in the Empire, at least not in the one that the Kel'dor envisioned. Finally, it seemed, his companion was making a move. Sol's gaze snaps back to the group in the speeder, his head inclined and his expression thoughtful.
"I would be happy to discuss gainful terms at this meeting. Rest assured, I am certain we can work out an agreement." Simple, professional, and decisive. Sol agreed to the summit without much concern. It would get him into the senate building itself. From there, it was only a matter of planting the evidence in the liberal offices before the meeting itself. Then, he'd insure that the detonator was in place and primed, right where he and the Sith allies would be standing. The Kel'dor would insure that he bore some of the impact for himself. Just as the other Sith had stated, it would look better if Sol was wounded in the blast. After all, why would a Sith bomb himself and his own allies? With the liberals taking the fall, Elrood was all but secured for the Empire.
Caelian secures the meeting once they reach the royal quarters, and from there, the two would finally part ways. It seemed the deal was set, and the plan in place. So long as everyone was where they were supposed to be, nothing should go too wrong. Sol's first order of business was to plant a few detonators in the liberal offices. Afterward, he'd discreetly direct them to a separate room, where they would be conveniently missing for the explosion which would undoubtedly kill the prince, and injure several more, Sol included. With that done, it was just a matter of pointing the finger. For now, though, the Kel'dor wouldn't get too ahead of himself. He makes his way to the senate chambers with a graceful stride, occasionally stopping to politely chatter with senators that wanted to greet him.
It was a façade, but it was one that would undoubtedly benefit him later. For better, or for worse, Sol was making friends.
Their short ride came to an end and the pair separated to begin their own aspects of the mission, Caelian would prepare the anvil and Sol would be the hammer. The remaining senators walked with the Echani as they entered the outer area of the royal court. It was striking for its modern architecture styles and beautiful gardens that branched out in all directions, granting a feeling that one could quite easily get lost within it, but that also you would likely have the time of your life in doing so.
Ejlaeri broke the silence as the small group walked along the stone path, with a slight muse of optimism heard in his voice. "His majesty the King has attempted to avoid involving himself in the affairs of the senate lest he be accused of taking sides, but behind closed doors he has been a staunch supporter of our party. Whether he backs any plan that you propose in private, he is unlikely to do so in public, unless it is blatantly drawing the support of the senate and by extension, the people."
Caelian continued to walk alongside the elder senator, taking in the breathtaking view while paying attention to what the venerable senator had to say. "His majesty has a task that I do not envy, senator. To maintain such a balance must be a stressful endeavour, how does one thrive in such a hostile environment."
The senator sighed and shrugged his weathered shoulders. "There was a time when the king's word was law and unchallenged without consequence. Over the centuries, the people have extracted concessions from the monarchy, and they have become accustomed to ruling themselves. In some ways this eases the burden our king faces as he can deflect much more onto the senate, but with the more recent radicals joining, he may not have such luxuries for long. Look there, ahead, in the pavilion by the lake, the king awaits, let us not keep him waiting."
Applying all the statecraft that he had absorbed back home and in the academy might not entirely be enough for this mission, he thought. The Echani needed to not only secure the support of the senate, but this ageing and cautious monarch, before they would be able to enact their plan for Elrood. With any luck the king would be receptive of the planets joining to the empire, but whether there would be any complications, or concessions extracted, would be another matter.
Approaching slowly and respectfully, Caelian positioned himself just in eyesight and without interruption until one of the king's servants announced their presence. The king turned his gaze in the Echani's direction and sighed slightly under his breath. His nice relaxing outing would have to wait and be ruined by more politics, as was usually the case for the realm. "Come forward, representatives of the Empire. My senators believe that you have a way for us to break the senate deadlock and restore some semblance of normalcy there?"
Caelian bowed his head respectfully in recognition of the monarch's station, before agreeing with him. "I do, your majesty. We empathise with your position and feel that supporting you against these reactionary, would be usurpers, is in the best interests of all. We have already organised a sit down between the various senate parties, as you know, which form the basis of our strategy. From there we will identify the threats to your system and deliberate on a plan of action which, with your approval, we can implement and restore the senate to working order."
The king sat still in his chair for a few moments, hand scrunching against his grey beard while reflecting upon what had been said.
The senate chambers were grand, towering ceilings and billowing banners, rows of seats and floors worth of offices. There were even smaller rooms, perfect for meetings of a less gargantuan size. They would be perfect for the Kel'dor's ruthless ploy. The building was not without it's security, though. Sol knows that he's being watched, but none have been so bold to stop him. It seemed that Caelian had been right about his status as a diplomat. Perhaps not everyone was aware that he was a Sith, or perhaps the supporters of the Empire had pulled their own strings. Regardless, it worked out rather perfectly, as Sol mingles amidst the crowds of both senators and tourists alike. He's certain that he even notices a few ambassadors from other governments. The Empire wasn't so kind to competition though, and neither was Sol.
"Excuse me," A young and feminine voice tugs at the Sith's focus. He stops, turns on his heel to peer down upon the woman with wintry eyes. She was dressed well, and he could see her identification card easily enough. This was a senator, but on which side she argued for, he did not yet know. "You're with the representatives for the Empire, right?" Ah. Rumors were already spreading. Undoubtedly, the people were gossiping to one another. Sol maintains his icy composure, though, betrays nothing but professionalism as he dips his head.
"I am. Sol Kenuk, a pleasure to meet you." Such sweet words and honeyed vocals almost felt wrong to the brutal man, but he manages fine nonetheless, even smiles at the woman, an expression half hidden behind his fanged mask. "This is a grand establishment. Your people impress me." A compliment, rolled so smoothly off his tongue, but the Sith senses her unrest.
"I don't mean to be rude, but you should know that I don't think talks are going to go well for you. We have the majority in the chamber and, well... most people aren't very fond of your Empire." She says it so sweetly, and Sol can sense the underlying fear that her unwavering voice hides. Still, though, he remains polite.
"Then so be it. But at the very least, we will attempt negotiation. Is there something particular about the Empire that is so bothersome? Perhaps we can come to an agreement with the people of Elrood." Sol insists pleasantly, as if there wasn't anything cruel or ruthless tangled within his thoughts. As if there wasn't an ice covered heart beating within his chest. Sol could almost feel bad for the poor girl, she seemed like a kind woman. The Champion did not kill for sport, did not kill for fun, but there was no room for mercy when it came to such missions. The world would belong to the Sith, no matter how many had to suffer to achieve it. It was just how it had to be, even if Sol didn't always like it.
"I'm sorry but, well. We just- the Empire doesn't have a good reputation. Forcefully taking planets through violence, waging war against people who aren't really doing anything wrong? I mean, you guys like to slaughter the Jedi, right? And for what reason? Just to be cruel. That's what it seems like." Nervous, it seemed that the more she spoke, the more her voice began to shake. Sol tilted his head at her, stared at her for a few quiet moments.
"Every government makes mistakes. It's true that the Empire has made quite a few more than others. I can promise you one thing, though. We would not take your democracy away from you. Empire or not, Elrood will still have it's senate, and it's laws." The young senator seems surprised, but Sol knows that she doesn't believe him, and perhaps for good reason. Sol was a snake.
He bid the woman a polite farewell, and she shuffled off with sweat on her brow. It took guts, to be sure, but ultimately, the woman did not matter. Sol discarded the image of her without a second though, and continued on through the crowd. He makes his way through the senate without much more issue, reaching one of the lifts that shot up through the many floors of private offices that dotted the grand structure.
The delegation found themselves being offered seating nearby the king as refreshments begun to be offered, first to the monarch and then his guests. There was much to discuss, but subjugating a planet in secret on an empty stomach seemed like a fool's errand, he amusingly thought to himself. The king himself re-opened the discussion and voiced his own concerns.
"We of course welcome your assistance, but we have tried negotiating with the liberals, and they continually refuse to compromise. I have ruled this planet a long time, I have seen many governments rise and fall with scandal or gaffes, but this is the first time that I have seen a party so recklessly abandon political norms for personal gain."
Taking the opportunity to eat while the king spoke, Caelian kept the occasional eye contact and listened as he spoke about their political woes. Little did he know there was already a plan in place to permanently remove the troublesome group of senators, and with any luck, Sol along with them. It would be with such a heavy heart that the Echani would have to report back to Master Draugr that the Kel'dor fell in service to the empire, although perhaps not the right end for such a tortured soul. As long as the mission was completed, it mattered not, after all.
"What has sparked such a change? Surely they cannot expect to remain in power by obstructing and destroying the very institution that has provided stability to Elrood for centuries? I can respect your efforts to maintain a political separation between the monarchy and the state, your majesty, but you wield enormous influence in this world and yet you hold back. From the accounts I have heard, your people love and respect you, if you made a statement, how could they refuse?"
The king maintained an agreeable composure during most of what the Echani had to say, until near the end, where he groaned in frustration and responded, voice raised. "My influence is currency to be spent, if I weigh in then yes perhaps I will solve one issue, but perhaps I create two more. Those opposed to a monarchy will beat drums and use every word to proclaim an overreach by my hand, or some other way to twist it. Will no one rid me of this turbulent faction?"
A few moments passed in silence as the king calmed himself down after that outburst.
"It is a recent phenomenon, the younger members elected to the senate have been radicalised and do not consider political compromise to be an honourable thing but something to be avoided at all costs. They make demands of everything and will not consider an opposing view, except to maybe ridicule it. We had hoped that with a deadlock in the senate, they would realise that there was an established order to such things and come to the table, but alas, it has only served to inflame tensions."
Hmm, Caelian thought. It didn't seem that far from a stretch that the king would accept an attack in the senate as being from the more radical liberals themselves, providing everything went to plan. There was still the issue of convincing the larger moderate faction but if he could get the king on side, that would hopefully go much more smoothly.
Once inside the lift, Sol is pleased to know that he'll have a few moments to himself. There was nobody else but him, and the reflection of the grand city beyond. Even better, the floors appeared to be labeled, and he could pick from several that held offices. It was merely a matter of finding the correct ones. The Kel'dor rubs at his talons, an idle gesture as the elevator rises several floors in mere seconds. When the doors finally open, he is welcomed by a new sight, a quieter floor with only the gentle mumblings of those mulling about. Lines of doors dotted the hall in both directions, each labeled with a number and a name.
Sol steps out of the lift, lets his eyes roam the rooms and the soft benches that lines the halls. Windows displayed the glorious capital beyond in all it's beauty, and the sight of birds cutting through the clouds is almost picturesque. The Kel'dor walks on, but he doesn't recognize the names on the doorways, isn't entirely certain which one was which when it came to party lines. That was until a younger looking human approached him, her smile glowing in the bright light of the hall.
"You look lost." She seemed to be on the verge of laughter, her amused tongue filling the air to soften the tension. Sol tilts his head as he looks down at her, allowing a humored grin to spread his cheeks.
"Is it that obvious?" He responds smoothly. "I'm looking for, ah- forgive me if I say it incorrectly. Rhyius Tollard? He and I are supposed to be meeting about a compromise. Pleasantries, more likely, but nonetheless, I'd hoped to be on time." She doesn't seem to recognize him as Sith, or know for which party he stood for, but either way, the fact that Sol had given her a name seemed to be well and good enough. She smiles politely at him.
"Oh, one more floor up, down the hall to the left. You can't miss it. All of the liberal offices are up there." She responded cheerfully. The Kel'dor dips his head, prepares to turn away and leave, but it seemed she wasn't quite done with him yet. "I haven't met a Kel'dor in person before." She comments sweetly. "Do you think you and I could chat later? I'd love to learn more about you."Oh, Sol thinks, admittedly flabbergasted at the inquiry. Still, he smiles, inclines his head once more.
"That sounds wonderful. I was hoping to see more of the city in the coming days." His words are honeyed and sweet, and it sounds almost foreign upon his tongue. "Ah, but I really shouldn't be late. Thank you, miss-?"
"Delilah. But don't worry about me, that's not nearly as important as your meeting! Don't be late, I'll find you later." She giggles, a strange noise. Sol's not interested, but he'll entertain it for now if it meant getting what he wanted. He turns around and makes his way back to the lift, punching in the number for the next floor up. This time, the hall appears almost empty. Silent, in an eerie sort of way. He can still hear activity in the offices, but the hall-way was clear. Sol makes his way to the left, as instructed, passing through the long shadows of the hall as he reads the names upon the doors. There, finally. Any one of these offices would do, but this one was a more specific target.
Sol finds the door unlocked, peeks inside to find only darkness. It seemed that poor Rhyius was busy elsewhere. All the better for the Kel'dor.
A small family of royal swans swam by in the nearby garden lake, just another small symbol amongst the many other things that added to his majesty's prestige. Another thing that might someday belong to the Echani, he thought. Before any of that could come to fruition, they would first need to bring the planet within the Empire's orbit. When the right time to broach the idea, however, was never certain.
"I see. How disappointing to hear that they insist on taking this self-defeating path, perhaps they delay your parties' agenda in the short term but over the longer period of time they would only erode the people's trust in governance and its structures that have provided such stability for centuries. Such actions can only lead to chaos, in a futile attempt to resist the natural order of things."
The king and the delegation hummed in agreement, although such sentiment was well received, there was an apparent lack of appetite for enacting anything significant that would tip the balance in their favour. Instead, they sought to maintain a balance, albeit in their favour, to subtly control things from the side lines.
If Caelian wanted a distant play thing to practice intrigue and diplomatic efforts through over decades, then perhaps he would agree also, but the Echani held little interest in these intricate acts and instead preferred the more direct approach that the Sith were embarked on. Removing the troublesome senators would give them significant leverage with the remaining power brokers, all with the click of a button.
"This talk of politics in the sun tires me, I am afraid. Perhaps we can discuss this later? We are hosting a dinner tonight with some local nobility, it may do your efforts well to seek their input on the matter. It will make them feel most self-important, but most importantly, save me from this conversation." The king chuckled at his own joke, quickly followed by the delegation joining him. Caelian feigned reciprocating laughter, holding his cards close to his chest.
Ejlaeri interjected and promptly asked for permission to give the Sith a tour of the royal court and keep, the ageing king agreed without much thought as he picked himself up and made his way to his nearby land speeder, trailed by a horde of servants and guards.
"We have a little bit of time to kill, the royal keep is a formidable fortress, although it may not look it. The engineers designed it aeons ago and over time it has been modernised with new technology, but they have also tried to maintain the original aesthetic as much as possible. It certainly lacks the modern sleek feel the rest of the capital enjoys, but I think the monarchy, of all people, can keep a little nostalgia for the past, no? "
The shadows of the office beckon to the Kel'dor, and he slithers inside like a venomous snake. It was a grand room, dominated by a window that displayed the futuristic city beyond. A massive bookshelf lined one wall, and the Kel'dor finds his vision drawn to it, sights many volumes about Elrood and it's policies specifically. Had he come here for reading, Sol thinks he might have been delighted by the assortment of material available to him. He couldn't really afford such distractions right now, though.
So instead, he makes his way through the dark, past a snarling statue, and finally reaches the desk. For a time, he simply looks through what was on display, before he finally reaches into his robes.
The first thing he removes is a thermal detonator, held gently within the Kel'dor's claws as to avoid his own fingerprints. Then, something a bit less advanced, considerably so, in fact. The top of the desk was covered by polished glass, and Sol could easily see the smudged fingerprints of the senator scattered across it's surface. What happened next was as conniving as it was simple. He lifts the prints with little more than a piece of tape, before then using that same strip to press the prints onto the explosive.
Carefully, he peels the tape away, discards it with a small burst of flame that materializes within his hand. Not enough to trigger the sprinklers or the alarms, of course, just enough to insure that the tape was well and truly destroyed. Better safe than sorry, after all.
The detonator is hidden within one of the desk's drawers, tucked beneath paperwork that, at first glance, would hide the detonator well. In other words, it wasn't planted in plain view. The explosive was illegal on Elrood, and so it made sense that it would be well hidden. At least, as well hidden as such a thing could be in an office such as this. With the evidence planted, Sol slips back toward the hallway.
He stops at the door, reaches out with the force to probe the long hall beyond. There was nobody else out there, so he slipped out of the room without much issue. Unseen, and unheard. Sol's not interested in getting dragged into another chat, especially not on this floor, so he heads swiftly back toward the lift, closes himself inside and breathes in the silence that settles his adrenaline.
The lift descends. Sol can see the time projected in the upper right of the elevator. It was almost time for the meeting.
The entrance to the royal keep was magnificent, regal in every essence and yet preserving the very real ancient feeling that encapsulated such an original, venerable design. If one were close enough and with the aid of the force, you could see the intricate deception and the watchful eye would spot the more modern materials used in its construction.
Hidden but still potent lay powerful weapons of war and soldiers to man them in defence of the castle. Any would be attacker might find themselves overconfident of victory before finding their vehicle suddenly turned into slag, assuming they survived, that is. For sure the keep was well defended from outside attack, the king was no fool, but once on the inside would it be so well defended?
Their guide spoke softly "Originally this valley was a fertile plain with only a narrow river running through it, the various kings over the years made their own improvements to the fortifications and surrounding moat before eventually diverting several smaller rivers into what you see today. You see, an angry rabble might be willing to throw stones at a castle door, but perhaps not if they have to swim there first. In any case, there hasn't been any real domestic turmoil in over a century, so it really is a moot point."
Stained-glass windows told a story each, as they walked on through the courtyard. Some represented a famous battle or lord, doing something heroic or giving a rousing speech. So much care was taken to highlight the history of their people and maintain it, it was admirable, but did not speak to the Echani like it might a native.
They continued past the various fountains and numerous small garden patches that dotted the walls and corners. The gardener had taken care to hide the most unseemly parts of the castle and present a welcoming view for all those who may visit. From there they entered the first hall, mighty it was. There were many rooms and passages they would navigate as they made the way around. Ejlaeri would always stop to point out a historical artifact or interesting titbit once encountered.
The day drew nearer to the evening and the tour to its end. Caelian had by now become moderately acquainted with the interior and had studiously attempted to memorise its many paths that snaked about. Fortunately, the dinner guests began to arrive and collect themselves in the hall, Ejlaeri accompanied the Echani and briefly advised him who they were and whether they were friend or foe of the crown's interests.
Many here assembled might represent some of the most powerful families in the lands, their representation in the senate assured by birthright or purchase. Most importantly, they would be here to witness something truly great, as the time for action approached.
He's quiet as the doors to the lift open once more, depositing the Kel'dor upon the floor where various smaller meeting rooms were situated. As they wouldn't be meeting with the full senate, the senate chamber itself was unnecessary. Ultimately, that made things easier for the Sith. He does wonder how his fellow Champion is doing. With any luck, he was sweet talking the king and his companions like a true diplomat, all while the Kel'dor did all of the work.
Really, Caelian got the easy job. Sol was the one putting his own life in danger. Sol was the one completing the majority of the mission. It almost made him feel rather paranoid, in a way. On the other hand, since Sol was doing all of the heavy lifting, perhaps he should be the one to take charge of Elrood. Caelian should consider himself lucky that Sol was no big fan of politics. Such work was bland and menial, and it took time away from his experiments.
Still, Sol can't help the bitter taste in his mouth. As much as he enjoyed his work as a Sith, having a dead weight for a partner was hardly welcome. He knows that the other Champion makes a good diplomat, but with young Caelian having already done his work in getting the prince and his supporters into position, all the Kel'dor can think about was how the other Sith was probably enjoying a pleasant dinner while Sol actively worked to blow himself up.
Perhaps Caelian would make himself useful later. If not, did it really matter? Sol still got his laboratory in the end. He still got a base of operations on Elrood. Ultimately, it was his own benefit that drove him to do all the dirty work. In any case, the Kel'dor was far more efficient at such nefarious plots. While his friend worked on being a typical politician, Sol was staging an assassination. Everyone had their own strengths, he supposed. Even still, he knows better than to dwell on such things. The Kel'dor wasn't going to risk losing Elrood because he decided to instead throw a tantrum over who did the most work. That was silly, and entirely childish.
It was quite normal for Sith to feel a sense of paranoia and jealousy towards one another, given their history, but ultimately, feeling was different from acting.
Now, as he walks down the hall of the senate building, he notes an individual moving closer. At first, Sol doesn't even notice who it is. One glance at the name tag causes a double-take, though. Rhyius Tollard. Truly, it was the big man himself, and a few of his fellow liberals close behind. What a delight. It would certainly save the Sith the time of hunting them down. Sol steps in front of him, smiles politely behind his mask, and as the other man looks him over, he's certain that he can see the flash of recognition within the other man's eyes. Word spread fast among politicians.
"Ah, hello there! You're all going to the meeting this evening, right?" Sol's vocals are honeyed and professional. Rhyius stares him down for a few moments, and the Kel'dor's certain that he detects an expression of thinly veiled disgust.
"Some of us. Now, I apologize, but I'd rather not have a conversation beforehand. We can talk business at the meeting." He states dismissively.
"Well, you're in luck! I was just about to head down to the senate chambers myself. Perhaps we could all walk together?" Sol deliberately adds that last question, knowing full well by the other man's attitude that Rhyius would disagree to such an arrangement. He didn't trust the Sith, and for good reason. Even now, suspicion sparked within his eyes, and the other senators with him looked equally wary of the Kel'dor.
"The senate chamber?" The senator questions stiffly. But even despite his wariness of the Sith, it seemed that the poor guy couldn't think of any reason why he'd be purposefully misdirected. Perhaps it was because Sol had tapped into the force, and while he made no gestures, nor any attempt at outright mental manipulation, he does influence the other's mind to accept the change in a more subtle way, regardless. "I can walk there myself, thank you. I'm going to grab some coffee first." An excuse, and one that the Kel'dor would happily oblige. He bows, and allows the group to pass, noting how they headed toward the lift now.
Without another word, Sol makes his way to the actual room that the group would be meeting in, just as he had been told not long after his arrival within the senate building itself. Given that he's rather early, there's plenty of time to position himself in a favorable position. Even better, the room was split by a long table draped in a low hanging and luxurious red tablecloth that would conceal the Sith's detonator for the time needed. So long as everything went according to plan, the Kel'dor would be able to position himself, the prince, and a few of the conservatives within a blast radius of his choice.
He primes the detonator with a timer, set to go off not long after the meeting was scheduled the start, and then he was out of the room once more, taking a seat upon one of the benches in the hall to wait for the rest of his party. So far so good. Sol just had to make sure that he was far enough away that he wouldn't get killed by the blast. Easier said than done.
What was that old saying again? Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer? A tenet Caelian sought to follow, and perhaps the king should have as well. The circle of servants whisked about making their last minute preparations for dinner as the last of the guests arrived into the large dining hall and begun mingling with their peers. The conservatives held a strong majority in the room, with a reasonable number of moderate landowners.
The king could be seen swarmed by the lesser nobility, each scratching out their own short audience to curry whatever favour they could before being shuffled away. It seemed like a chore, one that had to be endured to maintain support, rather than a show of respect and obedience. The king should be the top of the pecking order, but it seemed that with centuries of democracy had withered and rued the seat's centralised authority, making it seem more like a figurehead than a powerful head of state.
Gradually, the king made his way to the head of the long, well decorated table, signalling each guest to make their way to their seats. His staunchest allies sat close and everyone else in descending order, Caelian stood second from the front on one side next to Ejlaeri which was about as good as could be expected in the current climate. Each, taking their own goblet in hand, raised to the continued prosperity of Elrood and the success of the Sith mission.
The king spoke at last, "We welcome our imperial friends to Elrood, who have come to assist in breaking the political deadlock that has plagued our senate for far too long. This essential body should be a place of healthy debate and honest criticism, and yet it has been turned into a chamber of malaise and fearmongering. Our people expect their leaders to lead, not bicker and waste time speaking in circles, making no progress and wasting both time and funds. As we speak, our esteemed guests will be bringing representatives of all major parties together in an effort to establish mutual grounds and a path forward for our world. Let us toast our guests and to their success."
The room roared in mutual agreement and quickly delved into the bottom of their fancifully coloured glasses, save for Caelian. The Echani certainly put on a show, but ultimately refrained from drinking from the opaque vessel. Ejlaeri leaned in and whispered that he should speak to the assembly, although he had not prepared a speech, now might be the last time that he could do, before events kicked off rather drastically.
"Your majesty, senators and esteemed guests, thank you. The task set before us is mighty, yet it is one that we wholeheartedly accept and intend to fulfil. It is simply unacceptable for one party to hold the people of Elrood hostage for political purposes, those responsible do not share your values nor do they respect their oaths of office. There should be no acceptance of this chicanery, they should resign in shame for their crimes against your peoples. The empire supports your king and your senators plan to end this senseless blockade and ensure that it never happens again."
Caelian raised his glass once more to numerous cheers, less than the king commanded, but there was a general support for the idea. Taking his seat with the rest, the Echani held his communicator close, watching the time tick away as they waited.
He was silent where he sat in the looming shadow of the hall, his fiery eyes closed and his mind churning with thoughtfulness. The force coiled around his figure like an inky snake, and the Kel'dor allowed it to squeeze his spirit in it's vice, crushing grip. Chills like ice slithered through his veins, and the darkness swelled within his heart. Sol was meditating. Time passes, however brief, and the peace is shattered by the approach of footsteps.
He hadn't even been waiting very long. As he looks up to peer at his guests, he's delighted to see one thing, and not another. The liberals were nowhere to be found. The junior senators had followed the word of their leader into the senate chamber below, cruelly misdirected by the Champion. The Prince and several senators, however, are striding through the hall for all to see.
Now, Sol can't be certain the man is the Prince, but he was dressed in regal attire, vibrant red like the multitude of banners with golden accents tracing sleek black. These were the colors of power and royalty. Even the fabric seemed far more expensive than any the Sith had yet to see since arriving on Elrood. Just as Sol had guessed, the other man stops short of the Kel'dor, inclines his head with a bold smile and twinkling green eyes.
"You must be our Sith friend. I think you're the only Kel'dor I've ever seen." Well, it certainly explained just how quickly the Prince had recognized him. Sol offers the other man a small smile. "I'm Prince Turin. It's a pleasure to meet you." And so the man reached out to shake Sol's hand, and the Champion was mindful of his claws during the exchange. He can sense that the Prince is distrustful and wary of the Kel'dor, but at the very least, the man is professional.
Five conservatives hovered nearby, and not too far down the hall, Sol sights a group of seven. Those had to be moderates.
"Sol Kenuk. I'm pleased to finally meet you as well. Should we head on inside?" The Kel'dor questions politely, rising from where he sat on the bench. The Prince seems to peer down the halls for a few moments, before his glistening eyes finally found Sol once again. He can swear that he senses annoyance within the other man.
"I see the rest of our meeting is late. That's rather unexpected." It's a sour note, but he almost seemed disappointed. The poor Prince seemed to have hoped that the liberals wouldn't be late. "I apologize. They're not usually like this." There's a few rumbles of disagreement through the assembled conservatives. Sol snorts his own amusement.
"No sense in lollygagging around the hall. Let's get seated. If they don't show up in good faith, then I'll have to speak with them myself." Prince Turin ushered a sigh from his lips. Sol wonders if the prince even had the authority to a damn thing about it, but it didn't matter.
They all headed into the room, and Sol took the lead, headed to the opposite side of the table, where he knew his detonators were silently ticking. The Prince doesn't seem to mind taking a seat across from the Kel'dor, and the conservatives all file in on the same side as Sol, with the moderates filling in wherever they pleased. On the other end, empty chairs where the liberals would have been, if only they weren't stuck in the senate chambers below. Of course, it was only a matter of time before they realized their mistake.