It was mid day on the home planet of Dathomir. It had been since his duel with Artorigas that he had been here. He came back a far changed man. His attack on Dantooine left him with a mechanical leg to match the mechanical arm. Both of which are on his left side. It showed his failure. He was never one to give up though, he had fought until he physically could not once more. This was all that mattered in the end for the Sith. He showed in that battle he could hold his own even if he was bested in combat.
Now was the day Darth Draugr would meet with the Empress. He was here to give a proposal to the Empress of what he would be able to offer as the Warden of Dathomir.
"My Lord, Welcome home. May I assist you?"
Xeno would move his eyes from looking on to the Empress' castle and then back to the soldier who spoke to him. The only thing he needed to know was if the Empress was on Dathomir at this moment.
"Where is our Empress?"
The troop would point to the castle and then continue to speak,
"She's here, but it depends on her location. Sometimes the throne room, sometimes the gardens. Many places she could be but I imagine she would catch word a Lord was looking for her should you enter and find her."
"Thank you.. for your cooperation.."
Xeno would hand over a small portion of Crowns that he acquired back on Tatooine. It wasn't a lot but it wasn't a little. If there was ever a place in the galaxy Xeno would feel himself be selfish, it was home. Now he must find the Empress and give her a proper greeting before continuing with his proposal. Walking towards the castle he watched as soldiers and civilians stood and walked by. The sight of the Dathomirian people brandishing their tribal tattoos and their attire. It was wonderful to see again. Xeno himself had worn attire that was close to Dathomirian style as well as of a higher class standard. He wanted to look presentable.
As the doors opened to the castle he walked in and would make way through the halls towards the throne room. The Royal Guard stood by the entrance to keep those not intended to enter out. When they noticed Lord Draugr coming they had stepped to the side allowing for him to enter. It was time to find the Empress. Surely it should not be too busy for a Lord of the Sith to be able to speak with her.
Despite being Empress, there was not even a hint of question in her own mind that Dathomir was and always would be her chief priority. Though her time away from home was more common than time here these days, her mind was often drawn back home.
Xeno - or rather Darth Druagr as he was now so named - was an individual she had never actually met before despite his being from Dathomir. He'd made his name in the Sith rather than on Dathomir, and his recent challenge with and bad blood against Artorigas left her with less than an outstanding taste in her mouth. But he had invoked tradition, and the duel had unfolded. If anything it left her wondering if perhaps the Kesh was an archaic tradition that needed to go.
She pushed the thoughts from her mind as she sensed him approaching. Despite the incredibly matriarchal society of Dathomir where malelings were looked on with disdain, Renfry had largely surrounded herself with slightly more progressive members of the Clans. Even so, he received more than a few sideways glances and dirty looks as he entered. And yet the will of the Queen meant that not a single one stepped in his path.
Renfry was in the throne room, but not sitting on her throne. Instead, she was sitting at a table at the far side of the room, several books and many crumbled pieces of paper around her. As he entered, he would see her crumple another and shake her head, tossing it on the table before standing and turning toward him.
Lord Draugr, she said. What brings you back home? she said. She didn't actually know if he came back often, but the two had never crossed paths before so it might have been a fair assumption.
Walking through the room he would look up to see the Empress crumpling and throwing papers. So many books, and crumpled balls. Perhaps this may have been a bad time. They when she caught notice of his presence she stood and referred to him by his new Lord name Draugr. It was weird to hear, and this was the first time he had ever actually been face to face with the Empress, the Queen of Dathomir. He was humbled by it. So much respect for her very successions. A worthy leader.
When she called to him by his name he was standing back around ten feet away from her, and he immediately knelt to the ground. His head bowed to show his respect to her power and her rank. She was the leader and should be shown the respect with the title that came with it. She had earned it fairly, and shown nothing but political success among the Sith. Not to mention she gave him the opportunity to settle his problems with the fellow Lord Caelestis.
"My Empress, My Queen. I have returned home for a plethora of reasons."
When he would look back up he would wait for himself to be told he can stand before her presence, and then continue to speak of the reasons that he had returned to his home world Dathomir.
"If you'll have me today, I returned to speak of the keep on Dathomir. You have a lot of responsibility. Taking to the political actions then being at meetings on various other planets. I guess what I am trying to say is that, I propose that Dathomir have a keeper for when the Queen is away. A protector if you will. A Warden."
He wanted to keep it brief but also explain as best he could. He hadn't meant to disturb the Empress, or interrupt her work. He would look to the ground at the papers and then back up to her. Could just be a really disappointing book for all he knew, but it seemed to be a more frustrating matter. Maybe he could ask about it after his initial business is finished.
"I want the best for Dathomir and I would give my life to protect our home. Which is why I propose to be your Warden. The protector of the people and the keeper of Dathomir. Second to yourself of course my Queen."
He has no anger in his expression more of a face of concern. If there was anything he truly loved in this galaxy it was his home world. He had not wished for it to have any wrong done to it and has caught word of Jedi intrusions on the planet in the past, it would not surprise him if they had chosen this planet as a target. Though he would wait for the response of the Queen Empress.
She motioned for him to rise after only a moment, not typically one for prolonged displays of servitude. Actual loyalty was far more important than semi-empty displays.
He mentioned the things she had to do and she glanced back at the papers before waving a hand dismissively to indicate it wasn't pressing. Just some research and development, she said. Despite being the ruler of one of the largest governments in the galaxy, her love would always be for studying the mysteries of the Force and developing new techniques.
He presented his request and intent and there were a myriad of things that went through her mind. Several questions about him and his history were among them, but there was one predominant issue above all others: he was a male. The Nightsisters would never accept him as a ruler in a society that was so absolutely matriarchal.
The Nightsisters will never accept a male as a ruler or even a second, she said honestly. There was a reason the temple was filled almost entirely with women and why Síle had run things in Renfry's absence. It would simply never happen, however, that didn't mean there weren't still paths to elements of what he sought. If she so deemed it.
But if your interest is in protecting Dathomir, then you may be able to unite the Nightbrothers and train them into a more cohesive unit, she said. When the Nightsisters had been brought together under her rule, it had technically brought the Nightbrothers together as well, but they were still very... savage and animalistic. Driven by their more primal urges, keeping them focused when they were on any sort of inter-Clan operation was tenuous at best.
But I barely know you, she said. Handing over such power wasn't something that ever came lightly to her even if she did have the means of keeping other Sith and Clan members alike in line.
I have no doubt you can fight, she said, her eyes momentarily flicking down to his mechanical limbs. Perhaps he wasn't always victorious, but Dantooine had been his show and a large portion of the reason he had been given a promotion.
But ruling requires much more than that, she said. So perhaps we should talk first, she said. It was quite clear she wished to grasp his mind and, yes, to test him.
Who is Xeno? she asked, no longer using his title. Here on Dathomir she was not really Andruil, she was Renfry. It was the name that most of the Nightsisters knew her by despite most having heard her other titles before as well.
The Queen had a point when it came down to the matriarchy. The males of Dathomir were always seen as inferior, though Draugr would be happy to show that he is inferior to only the Queen when it came to Dathomir, seeing as how he had beaten the last Dathomirian he faced in Darth Veles, Cinere Autem. Though to avoid conflict, he decided to hold his tongue when it came to speaking of him being a male. Perhaps showing that the males are equal would be the way to make his goal happen.
"Yes, my Queen I do understand the Nightsisters rule here."
Then she spoke of training the Nightbrothers to be cohesive. That would be no easy task. They Nightbrothers were chaotic at times, very territorial against each other's clans. He remembered what it was like as a child. Though, he was far older, and more powerful than he was then. Teaching through fear would be easiest, but teaching through the strategy of making the Nightbrothers even stronger by becoming one Clan. Now that would be the way to impress the Nightsister's and perhaps even the Queen herself. It would be a grueling task though. He would need to have time.
Her eyes looked to his arm, and his leg. She noticed his failures. A sudden embarrassment washed through his core as he stood with the same genuine look he kept. It was hard to see that she found flaws within him. Shame was something the Zabrak wanted to avoid, but in this moment it was the feeling he felt. She complimented that he can fight, but it was clear she knew he wasn't a guarantee for safety. The feeling faded after a second, he needed to keep a level head and stay focused on the task at hand. Showing he was here for the right reasons.
Then she asked who is Xeno. Not as in what his name was that was clear. A deeper, more meaningful explanation of who Xeno truly was. A stunned confusing feeling filled him for a moment. He hadn't really thought too much on this. Who was Xeno?
"My Queen.. I.. I am Dathomiri. A warrior bred from the mountains of Dathomir. Lord of the Sith, former Champion. Former Acolyte. Served as the apprentice of Saragnayan, Sith Champion. Defender of Felucia, Invader of Taris as well as Dantooine. Master of Acolyte Senin Ravelo. Titles go on my Queen."
Then he sat quiet for a moment as his face should a look of a thinking man. Trying to explain how he seen himself. Then it hit..
"A man that would fight to the very end for the glory of Dathomir and it's Queen. A warrior that shows no fear in combat, even when it is not the brightest of times."
Referring to Lord Raze..
"I am prideful, and confident in myself. I never back down, and I will do what it takes succeed, even though I may fail in the process. When most would quit and flee from battle, I stand tall and look death in the face with a leader's bravery. My Queen, if I may.. what I see in myself is far different than what other's would see.."
The Zabrak would look to the ground for a moment then back to the Queen, his eyes softer than usual and his face less tense.
"Some say I am a coward for that night at the masquerade. Some say I am a defender of the lower rank. Some even call me an opportunist. I suppose they were all right in their own ways. I can only take what other's think for granted and believe in myself as how I think. Many different truths, many different opinions.. What would your opinion be my Queen?"
She listened to everything he said without interruption. There was a great deal to unpack there, and all of it was layered with formality on at least some level. She didn't expect any less. She was an odd and sometimes contradictory ruler who wanted respect but also the truth. The facts and not people who simply told her what she wanted to hear.
There was a single word that tied together almost everything he said, though. Warrior. That was how he saw himself, and that was a useful piece of information for her to have.
He went on to talk about the night of the masquerade, and her countenance darkened ever so slightly. She still said nothing about it as he went on. The events of that party were something she was still unhappy about.
Then why don't you tell me what happened, she said, not actually answering his question. You've told me what others say, but not what you say, she said. He had opened the door to this topic and maybe he did it intentionally because he knew she was likely to bring it up or perhaps it was mere coincidence.
Tell her about the incident during the masquerade? Well he supposed he could go along with doing just that. She was telling him to give her the explanation, and so of course Xeno would oblige by going on to speak of what all had exactly unfolded that night on Serenno in Castle Wessex.
"Well, I had come to the event since I was invited, and wanted to speak with Lady D'Amaris about her and my apprentice's friendship. They seemed close enough. Then I noticed Artor- Lord.. Caelestis, was eyeing yourself like prey. Lord Stepped in front of his line of sight. Then he grew angry and pulled a sword to his hand. Cutting my apprentice in the process."
Xeno would then be reminded of the sights of what had happened. Anger in the back of his mind wanting to come out, but this was not the time nor place for that. The Queen wanted his perspective so now he would give her exactly that.
"So when Lord Raze defended you as your back was turned, and Lord.. Caelestis had attacked him, I wanted to avenge the damage done to my apprentice as well as keep a homicidal maniac away from the Empress. So I ensured the safest passage to end the fight by ending Caelestis. Then of course Lady D'Amaris had foiled that plan and proceeded to name me a coward. My apprentice named me a defender. I could see it in Lord Raze's eyes, he found me to be a brave opportunist. If I am honest though.."
Xeno had explained his perspective in a formal sense. It was to make him sound right for what he had done. Was he wrong? No. But he wasn't fully right for it either.
"I tried to kill Caelestis for personal reasons mostly. I just hadn't the right opportunity until that night. When I failed I planed for no other actions but I was enraged and hungry for battle with him.. So I challenged him.."
An Aurekesh was tradition but a dying one. It was rare these days. Only two in the past century. Barbaric of course, but it served it's purpose. The Zabrak had fully explained what he experienced. Then he was truthful as well. It was not often someone could get him to open up to them, but he Queen of his home world is one that will be able to unearth the truth of himself. Especially when he looked to make change on Dathomir.
"Do you not have an input on the incident my Queen?"
She listened and thought about what he said. That seemed to be what she did most of the time these days: listening and thinking. That was what it meant to be Empress.
His account wasn't so very different from what she had heard from the others. Morgan and Emryc had both given her accounts of the evening, but they hadn't been in Draugr's head at the time, and while she understood the role that both Art and Emryc played, Xeno was still largely an unknown entity to her.
I appreciate your honesty about your motives, she said. It wasn't a lie or a manipulation: she valued honesty in others more than most other attributes. If she couldn't trust those beneath her they were useless to her.
She considered for a moment whether or not to inquire about the nature of the "personal reasons" and didn't rule it out as a possibility, but for the moment she did not do so.
She called you a coward because you chose to stab him in the back when he was distracted rather than challenging him directly, she said. He had little choice but a direct challenge after that to gain his honor. She said nothing about her own opinions on the topic, and this was intentional.
The Empire can't afford to fight a three sided war if we're fighting each other as well, she said. It was something she had gone to great efforts to do: unifying the Sith Empire. The Eternal had driven wedges all throughout the Order, and it couldn't last.
Speaking to the Empress of the Sith, as well as the Queen of Dathomir was intimidating. She seemed to show interest but none at the same time. The Zabrak felt she already had an opinion of him as he was fairly known in the Sith Order for accomplishments and failures. The only thing Xeno could hope for was that she did not only seek to rid him for the sake of not liking him. He was looking to make an everlasting mark in Dathomirian and Sith history.
When the Queen ad then explained why Malou had called Xeno a coward, and irritated feeling rushed through his body and his eyes turned away. It was so easy to call the one everyone sees in a negative light the coward, but when it was Artorigas eyeing the Empress like a piece of meat and he was the hungry predator, it was just fine. Everyone is quick to dismiss the Zabrak because he isn't noble. He isn't wealthy. He doesn't tuck his tail between his legs and bow down to others simply because they expect it.
"My Queen.. might I bring back back up the reason why I had done what I did? Caelestis looked to take advantage of your back being turned to him. Hungry for power and looking to take your life. It doesn't take a psychologist to know what his intentions were, yet when I assist in diffusing the situation by getting rid of the problem.. I'm the coward."
Xeno's eyes finding their way back to the Empress. He was frustrated. Not something he intended to become this day. It was supposed to be a relaxed conversation yet here he was.. then when she spoke about Sith fighting themselves, she was right. The Sith needed to be one. Even if that meant he had to become unified as one with Artorigas and Malou. It needed to be done for the sake of defeating their enemies.
"You are right about this though.. I agree more than ever. I do give my word that I will do my best to stay on good terms with my Sith brethren. For the Empire."
Xeno stood with his arms crossed as he would listen to the response coming from the Empress.
She could sense he was getting angry, and in part for that reason she continued to press him on the topic. Knowing how others reacted to anger was important when it came to the leadership of the Empire: an organization with a long history of people being driven by emotions often for the worse.
“Ah yes, but you just told me you did it for your own personal reasons,” she said, knowing Lord Raze had already stepped in. The truth was that her opinion on Xeno’s actions were not particularly strong, but she pressed him for a purpose.
She paused a moment, sensing his emotions as she did so. It was very possible he would see it as her toying with him and in a level it was, but he was here to be tested whether he recognized it or not.
“Ultimately, I’m aware of what unfolded and haven’t made moves against you,” she said, not offering further explanation and allowing him to draw his own conclusions.
“Tell me: if you were in my shoes what would the Empire look like? What would Dathomir look like?” she asked, moving on seemingly altogether from the previous topic.
There she went again, making him out to be the only one in the wrong. It was frustrating but what could he do? She was his Queen, and Empress. She possessed much more power than he did, and she has the support of not only an entire empire but the world of Dathomir as well. Even if he wanted to do something about this it would end in tragedy for himself. The need to prove her wrong was dwindled away after he thought for a moment. He could not betray her, and he would not. He was a loyal warrior, and servant to the Queen Empress.
"Yes my actions had personal feeling within them, but they were not the only reason."
Then she wanted to speak about not taking action against Xeno? There would be little action to take. His fate was sealed after his challenge of Aurakesh against Artorigas. The equivalent of a trial by combat in most other forms of government. Maybe more of a parallel but holds the same fates. Xeno's survival in the battle proved him right, though Artorigas still lives, so he had to accept that the xenophobic Sith Lord was a decent warrior.
A new question sparked through the room though. What would Xeno do if he were the Emperor? What would the Sith Empire look like, Dathomir even? It was a hard question. The Zabrak never really thought too hard on this topic. Becoming a Sith Lord was his goal, now he only seeks out to become a Council Member. Short hand goals are how he makes it through the galaxy. Aim for something in particular and keep working on it until it gets done. So the thought of becoming an Emperor may have crossed his mind but it was not where he aims to be just yet.
"Well.. I assume I would see the Empire as a strong force much like it is now, though it is not always the easiest task."
It was true, being in charge of just one Acolyte can be grueling at times, leading an entire Empire would be mind bobbling for more than most.
"Dathomir though would be different. The Nightsisters have lead for centuries. They have done good and they have done bad. This world runs on the Nightsister magicks as well. Very impress works, even I would want to learn to wield these magicks but in due time."
It was no secret how much power one could possess knowing the magick the Nightsisters knew, and being able to wield the force. Impressive powers they are. It was no wonder how Andruil had become the Queen, and then Empress. Xeno seeks to become as powerful as she, it would be an honor to stand by her as an equal rather than servant.
"I suppose I would educate the Nightbrothers, and teach them the ways of leadership, unity, and even the powers the Nightsisters possess. It has been a matriarchy here for as long as I can remember. Now it is time to bring equality for the brothers. They are hard working, and loyal to a leader they trust. They are successful in their missions when they need to be. If you do not believe me, then please take a look at my success. At Lord Veles' success. The men of Dathomir may be men, but we are not inferior by any means. To you? Yes of course, you are our leader and the Empress of the Sith. One would have to be foolish to think they can stand against you without consequence, but as warriors, as builders, and leaders, and as successors. The men are equal."
It felt weird fighting for equality rather than superiority, but this was for a just cause. The night brothers never receive the chances they are due, because they were never given the tools they needed to become successful. Now would be his opportunity to show her the nightbrothers can be just as good as the nightsisters.
"I will show when I go to teach them. I do wish to learn the magick the nightsisters possess. I believe learning this and then bringing it to them would be ideal in the future."
Why wouldn't she teach him? Clearly outsiders are able to learn these abilities seeing as how Lord Raze knows and wields the powers. The masquerade showed that true enough.
She considered all that he had to say, nodding a few times throughout as she thought about what he said. There were many things on Dathomir that were difficult to overcome and tradition was one of them. By most people's standards, she was quite a progressive ruler, but she'd never risked war within the Clans by trying to change the type of society they lived in. She was wary of the Nightbrother doing it for a variety of reasons.
Most haven't shown a great deal of propensity for magick when trained, though I see potential in you, she said, and it was true. For better or worse, the Nightbrothers had been practically bred for aggression and warfare, and while they excelled at that, most of them lacked the patience required to learn the subtleties of magick. Though this was, of course, a generalization more than a hard and fast fact. She had no doubt that some among them could make quite exceptional practitioners.
If you opt to learn the ways of our people, I won't stop you, she said. But my support comes at a cost. Namely a vial of your blood, she warned. He was making moves for power, and she wouldn't stand in his way, but this was Dathomir and it was the Sith. People gave loyalty with their mouths while scheming something else. Many over the years she had required blood and hair from in exchange for her services and knowledge. The same would hold true for him.
And how do you intend to insure that the Nightbrothers don't seek revenge for their prior position? Or try to overthrow the Nightsisters? she asked. To say she was skeptical was an understatement, but the fact that she was having a dialogue at all was a monumental step. I will not have a civil war on my hands. Not to mention changes like this will likely take our entire lifetimes, she said.
The words she expressed about seeing potential within himself. It was fulfilling. Something he wasn't used to, and he did appreciate the gesture. About the rest of the Nightbrothers on the other hand, it was annoying but it was true. At least currently. It would only take time for them to become valuable assets aside from brute strength and hunger for violence. Xeno knew this was going to be a point brought up as it has been, and he wanted to be able to change that. Now he was granted that opportunity.
Then the Queen mentioned needing a vial of his blood. It was clear there was blood magick that would be used against him should he try to betray her, it made sense. An insurance policy on giving the Nightbrother this level of power. He could respect it, but it was definitely going to make this decision slightly harder for him. There were no intentions of betrayal, especially since she was granting him his wishes. Well most. The next decision he would make would be putting his life in the hands of the Queen. If she decided one day to rid Xeno of the galaxy she would have the means to do it. Whether he was a threat or not. He could be offed without being slain by a blade in combat. A scary thought.
Now it was time to speak of what his assurance of stopping the Nightbrothers from a possible revenge tactic, to prevent any such thing to occur. It was a possibility she wasn't wrong, but she wasn't entirely right either.
"How do you know they would seek revenge? Is it not possible that they would see this as the Nightsisters finally seeing them as equal? As a valued asset to our kingdom? My Queen, these are all possibilities.. not necessarily probabilities. I will be sure to let them know who wishes for them to become one with the sisters. And you're right about the time. It may very well take an entire generation. Multiple even. But if we take this on with right attitude, and the right motivation. This could be the greatest thing to happen in Dathomir history. Think of the history that would be made not only on Dathomir, but in the Galaxy. It would show that the Empress, Queen of Dathomir, has so much love for her own people that she sees them all as equal. That she can bring peace and equality to not just her own planet, but to the entire galaxy that sides with the Sith Empire."
Xeno has never made a pitch in his life. But he must say, he felt good about this one. The best part is, he hadn't lied to her. He had seen this as a truth. Empress Andruil could become the very best Empress to have ever led the Sith. The very greatest Sith in all of history. She would only need to take these few small steps to glory. After he had let her think about what he said he would then remember the vial of blood.
"I will agree to give you my blood if the terms are met my Queen. I will take this chance, if you can take the chance on your own people."
I don't know and I'm not in the habit of taking unknown risks, she said. Well, that was actually not entirely true. She took risks with herself quite often, but not with her kingdom. Being unprepared for the worst to happen was asking to lose or die a violent death.
It could be, she said, agreeing with what he said. She reserved her enthusiasm, but she was also doing far more for him than anyone else before her had done and perhaps more than anyone after her would if he failed. It was a singular opportunity to create something better for Dathomir. She had done it in establishing defenses on the world and many had stood against that as well. She had done it because she loved her world and she could still maintain the essence of it after what she had done. She hoped the same could be said of what he was doing.
She reached out a hand and a vial flew to her hand. She held it out and her own hunting knife out to him. Over the years, the knife had gained a quality all its own, less for being around her and more for the fact that it was the very tool that had slain the Eternal only a few meters from where they now stood.
You'll have your work cut out for you, she said though there was no hostility in the words. She knew what it was like, but she almost hoped he was successful. At least part of her did and she hoped her hesitations were misplaced. Time would tell.
After a couple vague answers it seemed she was accepting the offer. Of course without actually saying yes that is. Which didn't really bother Xeno, he was thankful she had agreed to allow him to teach the Nightbrothers after he learns the magick himself. All that needed to be done now was the spilling of blood into the vial for the Queen's insurance policy on Xeno.
The vial and knife awaited for the hands of the Zabrak to take them. In the moment he felt mixed emotions about it. What was her reason for this? He had only assumed. He hadn't truly known. The only thing he truly knew was once he does this Dathomir will have it's chance to change for the better. To become stronger. To become the very threat it should always have been. A deep breath had drawn through Xeno as he reached out for the knife, gently taking it from the hand of the Queen, and placing the knife's edge on the palm of his right hand, the organic hand. Then he wrapped his hand around the blade to have a grip on it. While looking into the eyes of his Queen, he would rip the blade downward forcefully as it would slice the palm of his right hand open, blood already falling out.
Then returning the knife to the Queen, he would grab the vial and place the open end under his right hand to catch the dripping blood. The Zabrak started squeezing his hand to make the blood pour faster, after a few moments the vial was full. Xeno relaxed his right hand and handed the vial over to the Queen. The deal had been made. Now it was time to get the job done.
"Thank you my Queen. I will not disappoint you."
The Zabrak would nod his head slowly downward to show respect before he would leave. Turning away he would make his way out of the Throne room, now to find a cloth to wrap his hand..