While Arkania was a cold ball of ice, Caerllion needed to agree that the sight wasn’t so bad. The frozen lake in the outskirts of Kanti city was beautiful. Together with the icy mountains in the horizon, the scene seemed to be something that came out of a painting.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t here to play as a tourist. The Acolyte had learned of a particular individual in the planet that was capable of finding any Arkanian item that someone wanted to buy. Due to their ways of obtaining such items not being exactly licit, this person operated outside of Kanti city, near the mountains.
Caerllion’s interest with such an individual was to buy some Arkanian technology to be used in the secret base in Annwfyn. The Sith agents needed the best technology to work in the infiltration of the government. Besides that, he also had arranged to buy from this person a rarer and more expensive item.
For this small trip, Caerllion had invited a fellow Acolyte, Alexios Deja’al. “Are you prepared? We will need to climb a good part of the mountain before reaching the meeting place.” he said, while watching the other Sith. Beyond knowing that he was part of the Brentaalan nobility, the Annfyn didn’t have much idea of how the boy worked on a mission. Hopefully it would go well.
Then, he remembered that no Sith related mission went well to him and immediately regretted having said that. He probably had jinxed the entire thing.
Field missions had never really been Alexios' strength, though to call this a "mission" would be a bit of a misnomer. As far as he was concerned, this hadn't been an assignment ordered down by one of his superiors. It seemed to be a personal project of one of his "colleagues" who he'd only recently become familiar with. Naturally, he'd accepted the offer-- he had been sent to build connections and influence, and while Caer might not have been of import rank just yet, he seemed of high stock. It was the natural course of things that he would rise through the ranks of the Sith, and when he did, he'd remember Alexios De'jaal.
"I suppose I'm as ready as a beginner can be." He answered, glancing down. Aside from his usual robes, he wore a heavy jacket to shield him from the mountain cold. Cormond, the city he'd grown up in, had an especially warm climate, and the cold had always disagreed with him.
"I must admit, the scenery's quite... picturesque."He observed, looking out across the ice at the mountains and the trail upwards. "I'll have to tell my brother about this world-- he's been righting to me nonstop about the vacation he's planning to take his wife on since she came to term." He said, "They've been wanting to see the galaxy, and I can't think of a better place to start."
The small talk was a habit he'd carried from back home. A Brentaalan aristocrat was always taught to have presence in any social situation, to let themselves be seen and heard by all around them. "Men and women of few words are neither men, nor women-- they are nothing." His mother had said. "If you have no voice, you do not exist-- remind all around you of your presence. Let them know a De'jaal stands before them, and let them know what that means."
In this case, being a De'jaal meant that he was interested in making conversation with his colleague before their "mission" really started. "What of your world, Caerllion? I'm not very familiar with... Annwfyn?" He asked, pursing his lips as he finished. "I do apologize if I butchered that pronunciation."
Caerllion nodded when Alexios said that he was prepared. In the beginning, the Annfyn wasn’t sure if he did right in inviting the Brentaalan to come with him. The other had said that he rarely went to field missions and the taller boy didn’t had time to stay taking care of him.
However, Caerllion was going to give the other Acolyte a chance before judging him. He had dressed well enough to survive the cold of Arkania and did nothing wrong that could cause problems during this mission. If this could be considered as one, because they were only going to buy things. It was still only a visit to a “shop”, one that was part of the black market and was hidden in the mountains.
“Well, I think that your brother and his wife will like it here. My people rarely leave our homeworld, but since I joined the Sith I started to do it more frequently.” with his father being a diplomat, Caerllion’s family wasn’t so opposed to trips away from Annwfyn. “Arkania is a good planet. The Arkanians can be cold and a bit aloof to my taste, but they know how to make tourist traps.” he pointed to the large queue in front of a cable car that went to the top of one of the mountains. Unfortunately they couldn’t use it to reach their target because it went in opposite directions.
“There is a resort at the top. We can stop here later if you want. I heard that I was going to have a party here tonight.” he smiled at the Brentaalan. “It could be a date.” he winked, but continued to watch Alex’s reactions. He wondered if the boy was going to accept his invitation.
While they started to walk through the trail that went to the mountain, Caerllion answered Alex’s question about his homeworld. “No problem. I’m aware that the pronunciation of the name of my homeworld is difficult. Only people that are fluent in Sidhe can say it right.” he wasn’t offended at all. Due to his first language being Sidhe, he also had problems with some words from Galactic Basic.
"Annwfyn is a nice place, very different from Arkania." Caerllion proceeded to explain how his homeworld had a temperate climate and was covered with several forests. "There are also mountains, seas and swamps, but the forests are the most common. We consider nature sacred, so we rarely cut the trees down. Because of that, the production of food is made in space stations around the planet."
"Some of our buildings are even made inside giant trees. The royal palace was made this way." the throne room of his grandaunt was an impressive place, unfortunately few of his fellow Sith would be able to see it due to outsiders being forbidden to visit Annwfyn. At least, the public places. "Maybe you can visit Tir Na Nog, the great space station that floats around the planet." who knows, he could even take his fellow Acolyte in a visit to the secret base in the planet.
"Now tell me, how is Brentaal? I never went there. I heard that it's mostly a desert." Caerllion doesn't have much familiarity with arid worlds, so he was curious to know how Alex's life in such a place.
"I suppose our people have that in common, at least. That, and their apparent understanding of how things ought to be." The Brentaalan said, referencing the other acolyte's own noble background. "I do wish people took to traveling more. I'd thought everything offworld would be mudhuts and gangsters until I traveled. It'd do people well." He went on, before glancing up at the cable car and queue. It was a little pedestrian for his taste, but his brother and sister in law had no such qualms.
Caer's suggestion caused the boy to cock an eyebrow, but other than that his expression didn't change. "Are you trying to court me, Caerllion of Cyfnos?" The Brentaalan asked in an inquisitive, yet utterly plain tone. He remained silent for a few seconds, before speaking up. "Should the mission go smoothly, I wouldn't be opposed to a celebration." Alexios declared, accepting his invitation with the dignified and authoritative tone his mother had drilled into him.
"But," he said, "I should hope that until than, you should act professional."The boy instructed. "I should keep the kind of... silliness we indulged in on that yacht away from our duties." He finished, though his lips twitched upwards at the memory of their tryst a few weeks back. Still, Alexios maintained his composure. He was De'jaal, and it would be unbecoming of one of his stock to distract himself from a task thanks to the company of an exceptionally attractive xeno.
He sighed in relief as Caer accepted his pronunciation. "Our own tongue isn't used for much else besides the liturgy, and some legal documents." The boy replied. "It's... difficult to learn, and harder to say correctly. My sister in law is the only woman I know who's well and truly fluent." He said, before scowling a little. "The commons know a bit of it to, but they butcher it with crass pronunciations, mixing it with basic into some incomprehensible mess unfit to escape any pair of lips!" he exclaimed. He'd only heard how the poors sounded once or twice, and he was shocked to learn that they were technically speaking basic.
He put it aside and continued walking beside the Anfynn, listening to his explanation about his homeworld. It sounded quite different from his own world, and the trees built into buildings sounded absolutely fascinating. "A palace, in a tree? I've never heard of such a thing!" He exclaimed. "We built our palaces from stone-- they were made for the bhasileias and all his subjects to live in. Entire cities built into a single building." He said, regaling a similar tail that he imagined would sound just as ludicrous to the xeno as his story did to him.
"I should like to-- your world and it's people seem an interesting sort, Caerllion." He said, smiling up at the boy, before blinking. Sol give him strength, he was cracking! He was relieved when the boy mentioned Brentaal and it's deserts again, breathing a sigh of relief. "We don't live in the deserts," He explained, "They cover most of the planet, and most of the planet that isn't desert is glacier. There are still some tribes of Eirrenoi and Latiiai who live in the mountains along the glaciers, or the deserts farthest from the equator, but other than that, we mostly live in the canyons and deltas between mountain ranges." He went on.
"Well... they were canyons and deltas, but we built cities over them. With how little hospitable land there is, everything we could live on had to be used."
”I know how it is. Most of my people believe that the Galaxy is full of barbarians and savages. If my father wasn’t a diplomat, I would have grown up thinking this way too.” of course, he still thought that the Annfyn way of life was superior to that of the others. However, he had seen how the other beings of the Galaxy were far more rational than what was preached in Annwfyn.
Alex’s answer to his proposal made the Annfyn smile. The serious tone that the other Acolyte used to talk was amusing in Caerllion’s opinion. “Well, you didn’t think that it was silly when we were in the bedroom. I remember you asking me to not stop.” he was very aware that as nobles they shouldn’t indulge in such things, but he didn’t care for now. There wasn’t any other Annfyn noble to judge him.
“Also, if I wanted to court you, there would be far more things than a simple date.” few individuals in the Galaxy knew how the courtship of the Annfyn was complex. His invitation for a date was only to have fun, nothing serious. Besides, he would never mate with someone that wasn’t of his same species. This would be terrible for his image among his peers in Annwfyn.
Caerllion paid close attention to Alex's explanation about the language of his homeworld. It wasn’t a surprise for him that the people of Brentaal didn’t know how to talk in their ancestral language. Being part of the Core, the planet probably suffered from the same cultural uniformity that plagued this part of the Galaxy. The Annfyn himself would never be capable of distinguishing a Corellian from a Coruscanti. They seemed to be the same.
“We use Sidhe for everything in Annwfyn. The Basic is only used in Tir Na nÓg, the giant space station where outsiders stay.” he couldn’t think of spending all his life using Basic as his only language, it would be like killing a part of him. “Faodaidh Sidhe a bhith na chànan gu math duilich dha coigreach ionnsachadh.” he smiled at the other Acolyte, knowing very well that the Brentaalan didn’t understand what was said by him.
While they walked toward the place where the seller would be, Caerllion was watching Alex’s reaction to his explanation about his homeworld. He noticed how the other Acolyte looked like an excited child, but soon he turned back to a “normal” demeanor. The dark-haired boy wondered why the other was trying to hide his feelings.
Being an Annfyn, doing it was something impensable. Emotions were everything for his species, and they should be expressed in their totality. However, Caerllion decided to remain in silence for now. He would voice this opinion if Alex did it again later.
“I mean, Brentaal is a desert for me because there wasn’t much green here. I heard that all the plants that it once had were removed millenia ago. Is it true? I couldn’t think of living in a place without trees.” walking in the great forests of his homeworld was an amazing experience. There was so much life and beauty there. “Isn't there any small green area in Brentaal? Like a little wood or forest.”
"Oh, well the galaxy certainly is filled with the uncivilized. That alliance of degenerate worlds and the decadent and ruinous Republic certainly qualify." The Brentaalan declared, repeating his mother's talking points that she often railed about in the commerce halls. "But such barbarities will be wiped away soon enough. It's only natural." He went on, a smirk on his lips. The Empire would certainly eliminate the decadent and degenerate farces that cloaked themselves in illusions of freedom-- and his family would take it's place as masters of their world, as it was in millennia past.
His political ruminations were driven from him when that absurdly tall and handsome Xeno brought up their last tryst. Even his skin as dark as cooked bronzium couldn't hide the blush that spread across his face. "I...you..." The boy began, failing to find words. "...we ought to not speak of this until our task is finished. You'll wind up distracting me." He said, trying his best to suppress a smirk. He was tempted to egg the boy on, tease him, but he knew such things were unbecoming of him... for now.
"And don't remind me of that trip! What a mess-- I can't count how many times I nearly died!" He exclaimed, hoping that would put the Anfynn's mentions of it to a close.
Caer seemed more interested in talking about his own language, thankfully enough. The name reminded him of a similar title for the minor nymphs and deities that his people worshipped, and the Anfynn's speech patterns weren't to dissimilar from his own native tongue. It wasn't such a wild proposition to think that the similarities weren't a coincidence-- for Sol had gifted all men with speech, and his gift manifested into the myriad tongues of all thinking beings.
"Do theanga placene este, buchaill ban." The boy replied, a smirk playing across his lips. He couldn't resist a light tease, and it wouldn't matter, seeing as how the taller boy didn't know a word of what he'd just said. "T'would be a great thing if every world held onto it's own language as well as yours has." The boy declared, a genuine smile played across his lips. There were many passages in the old books of Deus going on about how it was his will that people be different and distinct from one another, as he had made the profane distinct from the spiritual, space from the stars, beast from men. It only made sense that all peoples speak differently as well.
Ofcourse, they ought to have their own worlds to-- which was why the Brentaalan would never dream of bringing Caer back to his homeworld.
On that topic, Caer asked about Brentaal's flora a bit more, and the boy shrugged. "In the north, there is shrubland that keeps the snow from meeting the desert. It's the most green region on the entire planet, I'd say." He explained. To caer, it would've still looked like a barren wasteland-- a dry, cold and mountainous terrain with nothing but bushes and moss to sparsely populate the rocky soil. But compared to the thousands of miles of salt flats that banded the equator, the North would look like an Eden.
"Well... perhaps not forests, but plenty lives outside the bounds of cities. Our oceans and lakes evaporate seasonally, waxing and waning every few decades. There's some fish who burry their eggs deep, deep in the mud, letting their burrows fill with sand when the dry comes, so that decades later they might hatch." He explained. "There... isn't much else though, I'll admit. Your own world's waters probably don't have even a tenth of the salt ours do-- they probably teem with life."
”Interesting way of thinking. While my homeworld is part of the FWA, I had no appreciation for it. Being part of it is the same as being alone.” the Alliance was a chaotic aberration that should have already disappeared. When Caerllion finally became King, he would make Annwfyn leave it.
The Annfyn noticed how the Brentaalan reacted to his comment about what they did during the party on the yacht. However, he only smirked. While that night was good, what happened the next day was something that Caerllion also didn’t want to remember. Ending stranded on an island full of nexus wasn’t an experience that he wanted to repeat any time soon.
When Alex started to talk in the original language of his homeworld, Caerllion noticed how it wasn’t so different from the Sidhe. He wondered how it could be if the Annfynes never made contact with Brentaal until discovered by the Galactic Republic. It was a mystery for the linguists to solve.
“It seems that your planet has more life than people give it credit for. Annwfyn is full of several different species of animals and plants. Even the deep caves of the planet are filled with creatures.” he avoided giving details about the things living in these areas. It would be better to change the conversation to other things.
“The most famous plant from there is the golden apple tree. It only grows in Annwfyn and can be used to make several things, from drinks to sweets.” he would continue talking about the products made with the fruit until they reached the place where the Annfyn would pick the things that he had bought. It looked like a simple cottage, but appearances could be deceitful.
"There won't be any room for them in the galaxy the Empire is building." Alex declared, a matter of fact statement in his mind-- it had been drilled into his head by his mother quite often.
"We have more legends about things that might have lived than we do interesting flora or fauna, I'd say. I grew up listening to stories about the Dull'haine, or Dra'oi, or Fhan'shei. All happen to be in the shape of men... well, women, but you get my point." The Brentaalan explained. Stories about lost souls screeching into the night or ancient demons come to drink the blood of innocent children when the sun set were popular stories on Brentaal, often being reimagined and repurposed in it's many theatres. Sol, there were even shows romanticizing the wretched creatures.
"We have a legend about an ancient tree," Alex offered. "It's an old tail, mostly lost. When my ancestors conquered much of Brentaal in the days before the Republic, an evil sorcerer drank the sap of a tree that was said to be the first living thing to ever exist. He was supposedly commanded by Sol, and it was supposedly Eire's blood that he drank, but whatever happened he managed to humble my family, and apparently his sons and daughters married into most of the noble houses." He finished, before he slowly cracked a smile, and began to laugh.
"I'm terribly sorry for making you sit through that ridiculous story." He said, giggling a little more. "I mean, some random sorcerer drinking the blood of a Goddess and singlehandedly conquering an entire world? And apparently he fathered like, a dozen demonspawn?" He said, chuckling again. Alex was fairly devout-- he made weekly sacrifices and sang his hymns to his ancestors and to Deus, but he'd never believed the ancient stories about mythical creatures and conquerors-- not even the ones in which his family supposedly conquered half the planet under divine right.
"I'll let you tell me a horrifically boring story next." Alex offered, smiling before glancing up at the cabin. "Preferably before we get to the actual work."
While Caerllion didn’t say anything about Alex's answer, he had noticed how the boy sounded nearly robotic. His faith in the Empire didn’t seem to be coming from him, but from some type of manthra that he was forced to learn. The Annfyn thought that the Brentaalan needed to work on it, or he could end up having problems if he continued seeing the Empire this way, under someone else's lenses.
The Annfyn listened to Alex’s stories about his homeworld, but never stopped walking. While these myths were interesting, Caerllion wanted to reach the cottage as soon as possible. The wind seemed to be getting worse. “It wasn’t ridiculous. Every culture has these types of elaborate stories.”
“In Annwfyn, there is a legend about how my people arrived for the first time on the planet and met the damháin alla, giant nocturnal creatures with the form of spiders. It says that there was a war with them, because they were sentient and evil. We won after epic battles and the creatures were sent to the underground.” he made a summary of this fairy tale, not wanting to give unnecessary details.
“The damháin alla still exist in the caves of the planet, but no one thinks that there was legendary wars against them. They are simple mindless beasts that cause problems to my people.” the Acolyte wasn’t going to say how one of them killed his mother, he wasn’t in the mood to deal with his childhood trauma today.
“Some myths have a bit of truth, even if very exaggerated. I’ll tell you the boring parts when we are out of the snow. There were fifty battles in this legend, each one told in a fifteen page poem.” he smiled at Alex. The Brentaalan would get tired in the first five pages, even Caerllion disliked reading about them.
When they arrived at the cottage, Caerllion pressed a doorbell. It didn’t take much time for the door to open, with an Arkanian offshoot greeting them. “Hello! You two finally arrived! I thought that you had given up our business.” he said, before allowing them to enter.
Inside it seemed to be a simple cottage, but soon the two Acolytes would see that it wasn’t the truth. The Arkanian offshoot guided them down a trapdoor that went to a great underground deposit, full of different types of items. From rare foodstuff to weapons, all coming from smuggling activities.
“The technology that you asked for is inside these boxes, I only need the payment and my people will deliver wherever you want.” the Arkanian pointed to large boxes, before picking a small chest and giving it to Caerllion. “This is the one that you asked separately. Boy, you are lucky that we found this one. We don’t work killing rare animals, but when we found it in the ship of these hunters that fell last week, we weren't going to pass this opportunity. After all, it would die all alone in the snow. I think that it’ll hatch soon.”
The Acolyte smiled, while picking the box. He could feel how it was warm, maintaining the small life inside it alive. Caerllion opened it, smiling when he saw the scarlet egg with purple shades. It could easily pass off as a stone, but he could feel the baby growing here through the Force.
“Excellent! My friend and I are going to evaluate the state of the technology and the payment for it will be made.” he said, closing the box. Then he picked a datapad from his pocket and paid for the egg, after all it was exactly what he wanted. The Arkhanian nodded when he saw that the credits had arrived. “Come, we need to see if everything is alright.” he said to Alex, before walking toward the boxes.
Giant spiders? Alex suddenly felt grateful for Brentaal's lack of biodiversity. While the vast salt flats and glacial deserts of his homeworld were desolate and miserable, they'd never produce anything as abominable as giant spider people. "They sound like wretched creatures. I hope there comes a day when your kind can be rid of them." Alex declared with a shudder, clearly uncomfortable even just visualizing the creatures that Caer had described.
Caer's follow up comment about there being a layer of truth in the story prompted a nod from the Brentaalan, regarding it with some sense. "I suppose you're right-- my ancestors did rule most of Brentaal at one point, and the Eirenoi did conquer most of Brentaal from them." Alex said, privately musing that what could've been a series of wars of conquests had been highly narrativized and mythologized over the millennia. He knew many histories painted his ancestors as the villains and the evil sorcerer and his followers as heroes after all.
It wasn't long before they made their way into the cottage, the human and Anfynn were greeted by their apparent host and benefactor. Stepping into the basement, the boy would marvel at the various items on display, exotic goods and finery which caught his attention. "I should like this." He said, pointing to a small fresco depicting a family sitting by a lake, obscured by shadow under a large tree. "How much would it be?" Asked the boy, to which the smuggler responded, "Oh, not to steep-- about six hundred credits, or four hundred crowns."
"For a work as finely put together as this I'd have payed ten times that." Alex said, to which the arkanian offshoot frowned. He'd thought that he was being clever, scamming the Brentaalan out of a few hundred credits, but he hadn't had a clue just how little Alex's understanding of money was. "Ah, well, if you feel like paying that much, I certainly wouldn't mind!" He said, giving a halfhearted laugh, to which the Brentaalan just smiled.
After the credits were exchanged the boy had the fresco wrapped up, the box was presented to Caer and Alex would make his way over to get a peak. His eyes lit up as he saw the egg, Scarlet and purple. "Oh, I wish we'd found this before my brother's wedding!"
”I hope so, too. They are horrible creatures.” while he suffered from Arachnophobia, Caerllion also had the desire to clean his planet from all these creatures. The damháin alla were monsters that didn't deserve to exist. When he became King, their destruction would be his first goal. This way he would avenge his mother’s death.
Before they went to check the condition of the equipment, Alexios decided to buy a fresco. Caerllion decided to let his fellow Acolyte settle a price with the smuggler, while he stayed admiring the egg in a corner. He opened the lid of the box and took another look at it, seeing how beautiful the colors of the shell were.
He couldn't believe that he was able to find one of those. Usually people would try to take it directly from a nest, but it went against Caerllion’s principles. As an Annfyn, he would never try to steal from such a rare creature. If the smuggler didn’t mention that he had retrieved the egg from hunters, the Acolyte would have never bought it.
“Would you have bought it for your brother? I don’t think that an Arkanian dragon is a good wedding gift.” Caerllion said to Alex, before closing the box. Even with them being inside a building, there was still a chilly wind. He needed to protect the egg from it, or it could affect the health of the baby.
"Let's see if the machines and devices are working.” after saying that, Caerllion walked toward the boxes that the smuggler had pointed to him. There were large computers, vehicles and other things made with Arkanian technology. The two Sith would find that everything was alright. Now the Annfyn was only going to pay for it and they could have the rest of the day free.
"It would've been for my sister in law," Alex explained, barely registering the "dragon egg" bit of Caer's answer. "Purple is-- was the color of our royalty. Our line goes back to the stock of kings," He said, quoting his mother word for word, "And the red in the egg... well, my sister in law's family is known for that color." The Brentaalan finished, finishing on a much less grand note. Much could be said about their family and their history, but the one thing even the least educated, barely intelligible pauper on the streets of cormond would know of the Tannaras was that "they're red."
"...and did you say that was a dragon egg?"Alex finally asked, seeming to remember the matter at hand. "Those are the giant flying fire breathing lizards native to this world, right?" He asked, scratching his head. "I'd heard of them a few times-- they're... really dangerous, aren't they?" He asked, before glancing down at the egg, eyes widening. The force stirred in the air, and for a moment, he could feel it-- there was a presence, a warmth within the egg.
It was alive.
Alex's eyes began to widen as he realized what it was they came for. "When I thought you wanted to buy something, I assumed it was some heirloom or artifact of some importance. I didn't think... Sol, I never would've guessed this would be it!" He exclaimed with noticeable apprehension-- though Caer might've noticed that there was a hint of excitement in the boy's voice.
Caerllion stared at Alex while the Brentaalan talked about what he would do with the egg and the meaning of its colors. He smiled at the fact that the other didn’t notice that what was inside the box was a live being, only waiting to hatch and see the world.
When Alex finally understood what the egg really was, the Annfyn laughed. The Brentaalan was cute when confused. “Yes, exactly that. Inside this small egg, a baby Arkanian dragon is growing.” he moved his hand over the lid of the box, as if he was caressing its precious cargo.
“A wild Arkanian dragon can be very dangerous, but a baby will imprint on the first thing that they see after leaving the egg. They become very loyal. This is why some people like to steal eggs from the nests, even if the dragons are a critically endangered species.” he explained, trying to reassure Alex that there was no danger in having an Arkanian dragon.
He noticed how Alex was excited about the egg, like a child. It gave an idea to the Annfyn. “Do you know, I heard that people that are bonded to an Arkanian dragon can use them as a mount. When they grow up, I can take you for a ride. We could fly together through my homeworld.” he smiled, winking at the Brentaalan. Of course, he would need to smuggle the other Acolyte to Annwfyn’s surface. However, it wasn’t going to be a problem.
“The technology is for a small Imperial project that I’m helping.” he wasn’t going to reveal that it was for the Sith base in his homeworld. This detail could only be revealed in a safe place. “We need to see if everything is in good condition before giving the money.” he said, while walking toward the boxes.