STAR WARS: RETROSPECTION- Brothers
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Imperial Academy, Coruscant
The bells trill a deafening note to alert students that classes will be in session shortly.
The Imperial Academy, formerly a university of Coruscant, has been reopened after reformations to fit the Emperor's specifications. It is no longer a glistening jewel with oval shape, but a pyramid of jagged outline, like the Palace itself. Here, the brightest minds of the Empire's youth may be filled with political jargon and the countless ways that citizens can serve their Emperor.
Melkor, this is your first day of attendance at the actual campus, but you have been enrolled in the Imperial Academy for nearly a year. The influence of your mother and your superior intellect has gained you quite a great deal of attention from the professors, though you have not met any of them. Yet.
You are on the steps of the Academy's pyramidal structure, class schedule in hand. First class begins shortly!
Melkor looks at the list last one time, before he firmly starts to ascend the steps. He hesitates slightly just before entering the pyramidical structure, wondering what this new episode in his life will bring. But that moment quickly passes, and he heads for his class, his posture upright and dignified.
First class- Modern Politics! Taught by the esteemed Professor Ichthal, a Coruscanti native and notable supporter of the magnificent Emperor.
The lecture halls are vast, designed to accomodate hundreds for lessons by great minds and teachers. The walls are blood red, while the seating and carpets are done in a dark gray.
Professor Ichthal stands upon a podium, raised up from the rest of the stadium-style seating. Hundreds of students are pouring into the class, some bumping into you.
Melkor scowls as one of the students almost trips over him but he decides that he doesn`t have time to waste with such ill-mannered lot.
He chooses to take a seat in the first row, just in front of the Professor. It is best to be noticed as early as possible.
Each individual seat has sensors that check your genetic material, so as to take roll for attendance (rather than the professor rattling off a list of a thousand names). The moment you sit, there is a warm sensation.
"Melkor Esgabath, present," chimes the datapad that lowers in front of you. "Welcome."
"Esgabath?" Professor Ichthal says, looking up. "Did I hear an Esgabath in attendance?"
"Indeed, Professor." -Melkor stands and bows. -"I am the son of Castellan Moireen of Erengard."
"I taught your father once," Ichthal says, "after his time on Cassilis, when he came to the University of Coruscant. Great man. Glad to make your acquaintance...Melkor, was it?"
"Indeed, I am the second son."- Mellkor nods. -"I will do my best not to disappoint, Professor."- Corner of his lips twitches in a tiny smile.
Ichthal gives you a nod, then returns to his work at the podium.
Another bell rings, signifying that class has begun. Once Ichthal seems ready to speak, the class falls absolutely silent.
"Ladies and gentlemen," Ichthal begins, "welcome to your first day on the new campus of the Imperial Academy. I would thank you all for the patience you have had while the Emperor's funding has redesigned and improved the school facilities, but not all of you were here. Welcome, then, to new students."
Melkor, you heard this speech last year, from different teachers.
"I feel that you will be pleased with the new designs of the school. The Imperial Academy, built on the foundations of the University of Coruscant, will be able to house thousands of additional students, giving us more eager minds to nurture and develop.
"By taking this class, you have expressed great interest in the politics of the Galactic Empire. You will examine, in depth, various systems within the new government- the Imperial Senate, the regional governors, and the Emperor's influence on these and other aspects of the political field.
"Let's begin. Bring up the Introduction on your datapads..."
And so class begins.
Melkor nods at the speech. He likes the new design, properly magnificent and emphasizing the role of this place, academy for the future elite of the Empire.
He studies his datapad, absorbing the knowledge, eager to perform well. Of course, the matters of goverment and politics were always of particular interest to him.
Ichthal speaks for an hour or more, merely introducing the concept of the Galactic Empire, an Empire spanning all of civilized space and maintaining peace through the regional governors and the Navy, and so on and so on.
You're one of the few that does not nod off every now and then.
But then, Ichthal ends his lesson early. A man with thinning, grayed hair and well-defined cheek bones in the uniform of a Moff stands by the door.
"In order to introduce you to the new school and what current events are, we have a guest speaker," Ichthal announces. "I welcome Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin to the podium."
Students applaud as Tarkin leaves the entrance and takes his place behind the podium.
Esgabath applauds as well, looking with great interest at the man that has contributed to creation of the Galactic Empire as much as any but the Emperor himself. There is aura of power and authority surrounding him that dwarfs even the Professor. Still, it is surprising that someone with so many responsibilities found time for mere students.
Tarkin gives a polite wave to the audience.
"Thank you, students," Tarkin begins. His manner of speech is highly refined and elevated.
"As you know, the Emperor has funded for the redesign and improvement of this Academy. I myself participated in the designs, and I am quite pleased to say that I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of its construction.
"Here in these halls you will learn the greatness of the Emperor's vision, the glory of the Galactic Empire, and experience a bountiful age of peace and prosperity. The finest professors and equipment are at your disposal. Make use of them, and you will go far. Very far, indeed. Who here aspires to hold some political office in the future?"
Melkor`s thoughts race in a short moment that seems to last hours. If he miscalculates, it could mean the end for his ambitions. But perhaps it was time to grasp his destiny, as his mother seen he has. He can show his worth to them all, even his brother.
He stands firmly. "I do, Grand Moff."
Tarkin's eyes fall directly on you. Everyone else simply raised their hands, but standing and speaking gets you noticed.
"And you are?" Tarkin asks, amused.
Melkor hopes that he just didn`t make an idiot of himself. Still, he got the attention.
"Melkor of House Esgabath, second year student."- He speaks. If it wasn`t for a years of training to keep composure in such situations, he could well be trembling.
"Esgabath..." Tarkin muses, placing a finger to his mouth. "Son of the Castellan of Erengard?"
"Indeed, second son." -He nods. Not that it was usual for one of the Boyar to seek position of power outside Tasker`s Crown, but it would be rather impossible in case of the heir.
"Ah, second son," Tarkin says. "I take it that you do not seek the title of Castellan, then, young Melkor. You seek an office in the Empire."
"Indeed, why should I limit myself to the confines of the Boyar when entire Galaxy changes, with New Order offering single vision for us all, and great opportunities as well?" -He responds, with serious expression.
"Well spoken," Tarkin replies. "But you would give up your royal status in order to secure an office under the Emperor? You would not seek greater offices than is your limit?"
Melkor hesitates for moment, as Tarkin moved to quite tricky subjects.
"Well, unlike some others I don`t see reason to give my royal status because I wish to serve the Emperor. After all, Tasker`s Crown is now part of the Empire, and its rulers should serve the New Order as much as those holding direct Imperial offices. Of course, my society is quite conservative and not all see the need to apply necessary changes to the ancient ways as clearly as I do."
"I know of Tasker's Crown. They are highly traditional people, Melkor, you have just said so yourself. They would not stand to have one of their own in a political office that does not directly benefit Erengard. But if you became Emperor..."
There are a few gasps from the audience.
"Would go so far, Melkor, as to overthrow the current government?"
Melkor`s eyes widen- what kind of game is this. He takes a breath, trying to think of suitable answer.
"Why would I want to overthrow goverment I support? After all, Boyars are keeping order in their worlds, and Empire has been created to ensure order and prosperity on galactic scale. Central issues have always been the same, it is just the matter of applying a new perspective. Some traditions need to be modified for greater good, just as it happened with recent changes of galactic goverment."- He pauses slightly , straightening himself.
"I believe that Emperor is the only man that can lead galaxy towards greater future."
Tarkin allows his mouth to creak into a smile.
"Impressive," Tarkin says, almost to himself. "Most impressive."
He turns to the rest of the students. "This is the kind of youth you should all aspire to be. Unafraid to stand up and show your support for our glorious Empire and its wise Imperial leader. He is right. Traditions DO need to be changed, in order for peace and order to be brought to us all.
"However, there are those who would seek the old ways, to undo what the Emperor has done."
His focus returns to you. "Melkor, what is your opinion of the Ghorman Massacre?"
(Please remember that Melkor's knowledge is based off of his skills.)
Well, he has high Savoir-Faire skill( and I understand that for simplicity we use the same stats as characters in main game, even that he is much less experienced. though he won`t get the Commisar template skills).
So what does he know about Ghorman Massacre?
(Yes, for simplicity's sake your skills and stats remain the same. However, Melkor currently lacks his Political Terror bonus and is effectively meritless.)
Anyone who's anyone knows about the Ghorman Massacre! Ghorman was the site of many protests around the start of the new Empire. Taxation issues, mostly. Tarkin had been enroute to the world when protestors crowded his landing pad, refusing to let him land.
Tarkin ordered his ship to land anyways.
Hundreds of protestors were crushed to death beneath the ship. For his actions, the Emperor promoted him to Admiral, then Moff, then Grand Moff. It is rumored that the Emperor gave implied permission for Tarkin to land on the protestors, but that's only a rumor.
This happened about two years before this current conversation.
(What was the official justification?)
Melkor watches Tarkin for a moment.
"It was tragedy that could have been avoided if the opponents to New Order acted more reasonably."- He shrugs.
"Since they broke the law and were unwilling to negotiate, rebels brought this upon themselves."
The Emperor declared that the protestors had been disputing a completely fair tax and threatening the peace. He also noted that terrorists and anarchists were amongst the protestors, inciting the incident. Tarkin's actions were justified and noble, ending the problem before it got out of hand.
(Well, I edited and responded before you posted, so go with it).
"Precisely. They behaved rashly and- "
There is an interruption as another student enters the room.
"Can I help you?" Ichthal asks, annoyed.
"I have a note for..." The student reads the paper in his hand. "Melkor Esgabath? The Headmaster wishes to speak with you. It's urgent."
Melkor looks from the student to Tarkin. It seems that the day is going to be eventful.
"I will see Headmaster in few minutes." -He informs.
"Do you not know what urgent means?" asks the student. "Come on, grab your stuff, I don't have all day..."
Ichthal motions for you to follow his directions, as the interruption is, of course, interrupting Tarkin's sweet valuable time.
Melkor bows towards Tarkin and leaves, angry that his conversation with Tarkin was interrupted. Still, it seems like he already made a good impression.
Tarkin has resumed speaking to his audience about terrorism in the Galactic Empire, something that has become increasingly common due to extremist cells spreading lies about the Empire and corrupted politicians becoming jealous of the Emperor's power and wisdom.
The student also bows to Tarkin and Ichthal, then takes his leave, guiding you towards the Headmaster's office.
The high ceilings of the school's corridors are elaborately painted with powerful images, depicting scenes from Palpatine's political career, starting with his position as Senator of Naboo. Columns line one side of the corridor, with transparisteel windows between each one, allowing you to look out over Coruscant's horizon. The other side is a frosted mirror, reflecting the view.
You take a lift up to he top floor, where the Headmaster resides.
"I leave you here," the student says. He vanishes back down the lift.
Melkor ignores the student, wondering if it all is a part of some mad scheme. If this is the test, he is going to pass it, he decides, biting his lip. He heads to the office.
The office of the Headmaster is very simple. It is a pyramidal, pointed room. The point of the ceiling is some sort of black metal, but the walls are made of transparisteel. From there, you would be able to see more of the Coruscanti skyline, but the Headmaster has tinted the glass so that nothing can be seen. The room is lit by glowpanels in the floor, but just barely. They have been dimmed.
The room is large enough for a handful of people to sit comfortably on the chairs before the Headmaster's desk, which is directly opposite the door. There he sits, a sallow-faced old man wearing his Headmaster's robes.
"Welcome, Melkor," the Headmaster greets. "Please, sit."
"Greetings, Headmaster." -He bows and sits, wondering why the room is so dark. Maybe Headmaster enjoys to intimidate his visitors?
(Headmaster of the Imperial Academy is powerful person, right?)
You could say that. He has a great many connections.
The Headmaster waits until you are seated. He does not blink.
"It seems that we have a visitor," the Headmaster says, "who has requested an audience with you."
From the dark corners of the room slinks a man, wearing the clothing of a noble traveler. Not just any traveler, though. An Erengardian traveler. His hair is short and neat, combed to the side. His skin is pale and he has a strong jaw. Blue eyes twinkle from his face.
"Melkor, my friend," the man says.
His name is Janus Pivane, a long-time childhood friend of yours. The Pivanes have always been close to the Esgabaths, a family of nobility, wealth, and influence who support the Castellan and his political views. He, like you, is very scholarly and hardly the soldier, but the Pivanes have never raised decorated soldiers anyhow. Your father's father's father married a Pivane once, as did his mother, to show how close the families are.
"Pivane, good to see you." -Melkor smiles, surprised. But then his expression become stern and he leans back.
"You wouldn`t come uninvited like this. Something happened."
Pivane looks uncomfortable.
"I am afraid so," Pivane says. "Melkor, I am sorry, but...your mother...she is dead."
Silence follows his words like an unwelcome shadow.
Melkor is speachless for a moment, than sits heavily. He feels dizzy, like not fully comprehending the words.
Janus looks to the Headmaster, then back at you.
"I do not think this should be discussed with company," he says. "Headmaster, the Castellan of Erengard seeks a reprieve for Melkor, so that he may return home for the funeral and postpone schooling."
The Headmaster nods, slowly. "Considering the circumstances, I will grant this reprieve. My condolences, Esgabath. Good day to you both."
"Come on," Janus says.
Melkor barely nods to the Headmaster and leaves without speaking. His Mother was the closest person to him.
Janus sets the lift to the bottom floor.
"Your mother was found in her room," Janus says. "As is tradition for the Castellan's family, no autopsy was performed. But...from the looks of it...they found a goblet of Charnelian wine in her room, with...erm...a vial of arrow poison..."
Arrow poison is unpleasant. The Royal Guard of the Castellan still use crossbows, and arrow poison is used to make the arrows completely lethal.
"A poison?! Who could do it?!" -Melkor clenches his fists furiously.
He thinks who could do it. His mother was woman of formidable mind and ambition, she had enemies.
"I'm afraid, considering the circumstances...it appeared to be a suicide," Janus says, struggling to get the words out. "The Castellan has declared it as such, and is in mourning."
The lift arrives on the bottom floor, where Janus leads you towards the waiting airspeeder.
"Suicide?! Impossible!"- He responds, supporting himself over the frame of airspeeder as they reach the entrance, feeling overwhelming numbness.
"Not impossible," Janus replies. "Just improbable. And unfortunate."
"Were there any signs that this would happen?" -Esgabath tries to calm down.
"No," Janus replies, simply.
Melkor doesn`t speak as the ship leaves Coruscant and enters hyperspace. He watches the stars, remembering the person who told him about wonders and possibilities of the endless worlds.
"How did my brother react?" -He speaks finally.
"How else would your brother react? He's an emotionless git."
The airspeeder will take you to the ship that will be entering hyperspace, which is actually one of the many foreign starships that the Pivane family owns. This one was actually a gift from the Torvuelle family on Naboo, before they passed away. It is a silver torpedo, which lifts off fluidly and jumps into hyperspace the moment it leaves Coruscant's gravity well.
"We'll be home soon," Janus says, allowing the navcomp to guide the ship.
"Well, it is good that my father sent you, Janus. You have always been loyal to me. You know of some of mine ambitions and my mother shared many of them." -He looks at him for a moment.
"So you say that my father declared it a suicide? There will be no investigation, despite the tragic death of a royal?"
"Melkor, your father did not send me. He did not want you to be informed. At all. I felt that this was adverse to your mother's last wishes, and have come of my own accord."
It is tradition on Erengard that autopsies do not occur unless the person was killed in combat. Then, and only then, do they receive autopsies, to determine what killed them and what sort of post-mortem medal they should receive.
Needless to say, you find it ridiculous.
"Did not want me to be informed!? What right he had to do it?!" -Melkor raises, furious.
"He will be surprised to see me, then."- He adds after several minutes of silence in which he considers the possible terrible implications, as the graceful ship descends towards mostly white surface of his homeworld.
"He is the Castellan..."
The starship screams silently through hyperspace, covering lightyears with almost no effort. Janus allows the navcomputer to take control. Hyperspace is fast, but lightspeed travel does not take mere minutes to jump from one system to the next. You arrive in Tasker's Crown within an hour or so, and soon you are above the golden globe of Erengard.
Janus' ship descends into the atmosphere, racing over the bronze forests and the fields of golden wheat. A majority of the Erengardian plantlife has a golden or bronze hue to its color. There are few buildings out on the fields of Erengard, but for small farms and privately owned chateaus.
However, you are headed for the mountains, looming like jagged rotting teeth of the planet ahead of you. The Erengardians, noble though they are, did not feel that the golden fields were harsh enough an environment to breed the finest soldiers of their world. So, they settled for the once inhospitable mountains. The rock that makes them is dark and jagged, sometimes even sharp. For whatever reason, it rains far more often over the mountains than the fields; an environmental anomaly. It is not uncommon for hail and snow to beat down on the capitol.
Young Esbabath cannot help but enjoy the sight of his homeworld after a long period of absence. Still, it isn`t the place he planned to spend his life in, especially with his brother as future ruler.
"I think I will talk with my father immediately, catch him off-guard." -He speaks to Pivane firmly as they land.
"Of course. We are going to Maurengard, after all."
The Pivane family does not own anything but a small penthouse in Maurengard. Their actual estate is further down the mountain, closing to the fields.
Is Pivane the heir, and can speak for his family?
"And what others think of this death? Any rumors?"- Melkor tries to focus.
Yes. Janus is the only son and heir. He has a sister, but that means little on Erengard (especially as she is already married to a soldier).
"There are some," Janus says. "But...I do not think we should discuss this now. Your mother's memory must be respected, regardless of rumor or fact. She is gone from us."
The mountains approach rapidly, ominous spectres looming over the golden lands of Erengard. Your mother loved the fields below, but your father and brother rarely leave the mountains but for assembling armies at the cleared base of the mountains.
Melkor stares at the grim mountains.
"Yes, her memory must be respected. There will be time for justice...but later." -He doesn`t speak more.
Amongst the strange jagged mountains, hidden in the darkest cracks between the two tallest, is Maurengard. The City of the Castellans, it is meant to be the shining beacon from which all Erengardian society should take example. It is the basis for all Erengardian culture, having been the first civilized city of this world (and the only ancient city to have been preserved).
However, it is only shining in metaphor. The buildings, while grand in architecture, are far from bright; they are composed of the same dark stone of the mountains. A wall surrounds the city, shaped to the mountains and armed with heavy turrets and a light patrol of soldiers. There is a single path that leads up to the mountain city, but most use airspeeders or starships to reach it. The only bright quality of Maurengard is the snow that currently covers it like a cold blanket.
You spy the Palace of the Castellans, centerpiece of the city. It is the noblest structure. Unlike the other buildings, the Palace is not composed of that terrible rock, but of metal. The structure itself is gray, of course, plated with thick armor to make it a durable fortress. A wall encircles it, patroled constantly by the Castellan's Guard. There is a single entrance into the Palace through that wall, the Main Gate.
Melkor continues watching as they close to the capital. Maurengard is magnificent sight, but seems more like fortess than glorious city it should be. And especially the Palace. Could his mother feel like in prison there?
"Land us as close to Main Gate as possible."- He firmly speaks to Pivane.
The closest available landing site would be the Pivane private platform, just down the main street from the Palace. Janus sets down here with no difficulty.
"Home again," he says as you both leave the craft.
Home indeed. The air is crisp with the scent of dampened rock.
"We will pay the Castellan a surprise visit."- Melkor approaches the palace, wasting no time.
Your march down the street gathers much attention, Melkor. You are recognized as Melkor, son of the Castellan, and people bow in your presence.
However, your charismatic approach stops at the Main Gate. A man in an officer's uniform stands in your path.
"What business do you have with the Palace?" he asks. As he approaches, he lowers a hand towards his pistol. You recognize it as a cautionary action, advised by the military academies.
"Son of the Castellan, coming to the audience on the most urgent matters."- Melkor scowls.
"You dare to point your gun at the member of the royal family?"
His pistol is not actually pointed, since it's not actually in his hand. But still, even the cautionary motion is offensive to royalty.
"Son of the Castellan?" the officer inquires. He pulls out his comlink and moves away, though you do not need to hear him to know whom he is speaking with. Einar handles security of the Palace.
He returns, looking trumped. "My apologies, Melkor. You may proceed."
The Main Gate is an enormous archway, the gate itself actually a slab of a blast shield with ray shielding and all those goodies. It retracts into the ground before the shield fizzles out. The way on is clear.
Melkor ignores the guard and enters, wasting no time to give his his family chance to prepare. He hopes that it will work.
You stride across the Courtyard and towards the heavy Palace doors, when they rather suddenly swing open. From them emerge the Castellan's Guard, all armed with rifles. They are following their leader.
Your brother Einar is not much greater than you in height, but definitely in muscle mass. He has trained all his life for military service and excellence in combat, there is no mistaking that. He currently dons his military uniform, with all its decorations and royal markings. His cold gray eyes pierce you like a thrown electro-pike. He sports a well-groomed goatee.
"Greetings, brother," he says, coldly.
Melkor is actually still in his Academy uniform, not caring to change clothes. He usually like to dress in elegant way, if possible.
"Greetings." -He grudgingly responds, eying Einar warily.
"You care about these manifestations, even in the moment like this?- He points at all the man surrounding him. As you see, I am unarmed and defenseless. You cannot possibly fear me, am I right Einar?"
Einar gives you an incredulous glare.
"You think these are for you?" Einar asks contemptuously. "An insignificant pup like yourself? Nonsense. I march to war, Melkor, against the Creatures of the North. Something you have never done."
Oh, the Creatures of the North. One of the few logical reasons that the Erengardians live in the mountains. These Creatures are deformed and unholy, resembling humans with jagged exoskeletons, survivors of the New Sith War. The Brotherhood of Darkness unleashed them upon Erengard over a thousand years ago, a final desperate act against the world before they were driven off by the perseverance of your ancestors. Despite the defeat of their Sith masters, the Creatures persisted and dwell in the far North, where the golden fields give way to a merciless tundra. Every so often, the Castellan orders for their eradication, in which they are fought against until there is no sign of them. But somehow, they always return.
You have never seen them, having never marched yourself.
"But tell me, brother, why you return to us at this hour," Einar says, more demanding than asking.
"You surely aren`t that of an idiot, brother. And all you can think about is war, even when your mother just died? Is the situation with these pathetic creatures so dire, I wonder?"- Melkor returns the contempt with a dark grin.
"Mother ended her own life," Einar snarls. "Her decision is a blight upon the family. I have no grief for this loss. And as ever, Melkor, you do not understand warfare with the Sithspawn."
He does not return the grin, his face remaining statuesque.
"Mother would have not ended her life like this, her will was strong!" -Melkor snaps, now furious.
"I am wasting time with you, is father in his chambers?!"
"Apparently not," Einar replies, "and yes. Now step aside, or I'll have my soldiers arrest you for impeding them."
The silly thing is that he actually could. Conscientious objectors to warfare on Erengard have long since learned that all they can receive for their troubles is death by firing squad. This being Einar, he can do whatever he wants, even to you.
Melkor just scowls at him as he enters the Palace. He long ago learned that there is no point in arguing with his stubborn foul of a brother.
Of course, the Sithspawn are not that serious threat that all efforts need to be focused on fighting them? At least usually?
It has become more of a ritual for the capitol to send soldiers to fight them. The cities farther North could probably fight them on their own.
That isn't to say that the Sithspawn aren't dangerous. You've heard stories of them, and they're all terrible myths to behold.
The Palace entrance is just as you remember it, though maybe colder without your mother's touch. Through the massive double doors, the Grand Staircase is accessed. The room is immense, with several doors leading off to other parts of the Palace. The Grand Staircase, however, a singular flight of stairs richly decorated, is where you want to go.
Melkor ascends the stairs, completely focussed on his destination.
Actually, is Pivane following?
Yes, so far. He is not at all amazed by the splendor of the Palace; he, like you, has been here too many times.
Melkor looks at him for the first time they left the ship.
"Good that you are still with me, I need your support Pivane. Talking with that idiot Einar is like usually a waste of time, so I am going straight to Castellan. Perhaps it would be better if I see him alone, though." -He adds.
Up the stairs you go, into the Chamber of Patience. Here, guests of the Palace await their audience with the Castellan, sometimes waiting for days before the Castellan is willing or able to see them, depending on his duties or whims. You are an exception.
"I understand," Janus says. "I will wait."
The Chamber of Patience is a square room, with stairs beginning halfway through and lightly ascending up to the immense double doors, inlaid with precious metals and engraved with the Sigil of the Castellan, two rifles crossed over a shield bearing the head of the Krresh, the large white wolf.
(My apologies, I have been calling the capitol Maurengard, when it is Maurenburg...d'oh...)
Melkor barely nod to Pivane, approaching the double door. For split second he looks at the sigil at seems uncertain, but his conviction quickly returns and he enters.
Pushing open the door, you slide into the darkness of the Throne Room. Normally it is filled with great light and wintery colors by the stained glass windows that adorn each wall. But the curtains have been pulled, leaving the Throne Room in darkness.
Shutting the door behind you, you can see a source of light. A few sets of candles burn, dim and quiet, on the far side of the room, illuminating the Throne itself. Upon it sits your father.
He has aged much in recent years, but he still retains his handsome features. His hair is still thick, though thinning and flecked with gray at the temples. Slouching, he leans his head on his hands.
"Who is there?" the Castellan Mauren Esgabath asks. His voice...bitter. More so than you think you have ever heard. "I requested no visitors!"
"It is me father." -Melkor speaks flatly as he enters.
He raises his head and sinks back into his throne, as if to fall through it and escape.
"Melkor," he says, hoarsely. "You have returned, then."
Melkor stares at him for a moment. He never saw his father looking so weak.....but then his anger returns.
"Why you didn`t inform me of what happened?"- He demands.
"I did not want you to return, my son," Mauren replies. The reply should have carried great anger and wrath, but instead it is frail and pitiful. "Too much your mother's son, you have no potential on Erengard. You should have stayed away..."
His head sags.
"Your mother...should have stayed away."
"But she didn`t want to, father! And I had right to be informed what happened..... I cannot believe in this suicide story!" -Melkor is towering over the grieving Castelllan.
"Believe it or not, it is what happened," your father replies, maintaing his gloomy demeanor. "Your mother never did love our world or way of life. It is a far cry from the glories of Alderaan."
"She wanted to make it a better place. And she came here for you!" -Melkor snaps back.
"Yes, but I had driven her away, Melkor. You know that."
That is true; you do recall the relationship between your mother and father being strained, especially once your father began to devote his attention to Einar and shunned you.
The Castellan sighs. "I drove her too far, it seems."
"You betrayed her and caused her death! My mother had too much pride to be simply driven away, you knew of it!"- Melkor clenches his fists, his stare accusing the Castelllan.
"Did she leave any note or letter?"
Castellan Mauren flinches at the accusation.
"How dare you presume such things!" he snarls, the weakness in his voice fading. His hands clench the armrests of his throne and the sorrow leaves his face. "So prideful she was, yes, but delicate! Fragile! Our ways crushed her spirit. You think she consulted me in this? Nay, she left no letter! No signal was given!"
"Perhaps you were just blind, father."- Melkor shakes his head, meeting his gaze.
"Where is her body?"
"Being prepared for her funeral," Mauren says. "She will be placed in the Mausoleum."
The Esgabathian Mausoleum is a large cave crafted into the mountain, designed for the interring of deceased Castellans and their families. There are other Mausoleums from times when the Esgabaths did not rule Erengard, similarly designed. The reigning Castellan may choose to refuse the dead access to their respective Mausoleum, but it is considered to be bad luck.
All bodies are preserved and placed on display, though the Mausoleums are not open to the public, with the exception of funerals.
Melkor shakes his head, no longer having strenght to argue
"I want to go and see her..... was it her wish to be buried here?"
"She did not express otherwise," Mauren says, "so we are following tradition."
Very rarely in Castellan history has any member of the Castellan's family been buried anywhere but Erengard.
"Tradition.....Anyway, I intend to leave after the funeral, you are right that this world is not for me." -His face twists.
"I only wanted to make sure that everything is as I was told about this death...."
Tradition indeed. With your glorious experiences thus far in the Galactic Empire, you know that tradition is not the way of the future. The Republic was mired in tradition, so stuck in its ways that they could not prevent something so terrible as the Clone Wars. The Emperor has started anew.
"You have been told," Mauren says, sinking back into his throne. He doesn't look at you.
Melkor leaves, not looking back as well.
He walks to his mother`s apartments, looking if any of her servants or courtiers will be nearby.
The heavy doors are closed behind you with a resonating boom.
Other than sleeping quarters- which your mother shared with your father, obviously- your mother was given several rooms for herself, such as an up-to-date library, a greenhouse (the warmest place in the palace), and various other such places.
None of her former servants are about. They have been released from service, or opted to work for the Castellan or Einar.
Melkor shakes his head, shocked that everything is empty now. He stares at the greenhouse for a moment, noticing that the plants already show sings of neglection.
He will try to find a servant that was close to Countess Milena.
You spent a great deal of your youth in this wing of the Palace, accompanying your mother as she tended to her exotic plants from Alderaan and other beautiful worlds...
It is all too eerie that you cannot find anyone in this part of the palace. These halls have been drained of the life that once pulsed through them, the bustling servant girls and your mother's visitors from Alderaan. Bail Organa himself has borrowed books from your mother's library.
It is deafeningly quiet.
"I'm so sorry, Melkor," Janus says, behind you.
"Now this place feels so....dead." -He shakes his head in loss, slowly turning over.
"At least my father seems to be affected. Are you sure that what I was told about her death was truth?" -He looks at Janus intently with the last words.
Janus weighs this.
"It is the official story," Janus says. "It may or may not be true..."
"If it wasn`t true, I couldn`t just leave it like this."
Janus looks up and down the corridors. As before, no-one in sight.
"There are rumors, friend," Janus says. "Dark, terrible rumors. I have heard them and I must say, they are truly vile implications indeed..."
Melkor`s stare seems to pierce Janus.
"Than tell me everything you heard, please. I must know."
Janus begins his terrible tale.
"Your mother has always been a controversial figure since her arrival on Erengard, you know that. The Castellan, the Commander Supreme of Erengard, marrying a pacifistic woman of Alderaan? Unheard of. It has been said that her influence has weakened the Castellan and made him an impotent Grand Warmaster. Her cultural contributions must not go unmentioned, but what do the masses care for culture when they are training for military service? A Countess of Erengard must be the Lieutenant Commander, not a gardener or a reader.
"In recent months, your mother and father have grown farther apart. The nobility is convinced that Mauren's time as Castellan is coming to an end. He has already passed on the leadership of the armies to Einar and given him greater responsibilities in the government. Who is to say that the title of Castellan will not be passed soon?
"But Einar knows what people have thought of your father. Weakness is a sin, as far as he is concerned. The weak perish! Your father's health is slipping, he has lost his respect and presence. Einar is afraid of becoming so disgustingly weak..."
"Typical Einar....he doesn`t understand what the true weakness or strenght is." -Melkor speaks angrilly. -"Culture and subtlety can as useful instruments as armies..."- He pauses for a moment, looking even more distressed.
"I really don`t like where it is heading.... but please continue."
"Einar is destined for the throne, as Erengardian law dictates. He is the first-born. But that does not mean that he will rule successfully. Gaining the title of Castellan does not mean you are respected and powerful automatically. Your father earned all that he has lost. Einar, thus far, as accumulated little, but he will gain more prestige as he continues... existing.
"But what could stop him from gaining recognition and respect more than being the son of a pacifist?"
"Mauren is not pacifist, this is ridicolous.... pacifist cannot rule Erengard. My father just had a wider perspective than some, mainly thanks to my mother."
"Mauren is far from pacifistic, Melkor. Your mother, on the other hand, has never held a weapon in her life, nor looked at anyone the wrong way. What would people think of a Castellan who had been raised by someone so peaceful and good-natured? The people of Erengard do not have the perspective that you do."
"This is why Einar leads forces into battle so much... but I know what you are implying, say it straight....."
"It is rumored that Einar killed your mother, so that her influence would not mar his image."
Melkor is silent for some time, his face very pale.
"I can see the motive..... but Einar follows his outdated "honorable" ways, and to kill your own blood is perhaps the greatest sin... unless he changed as I was away, I don`t think he would do it, but one of his flunkies could....we need evidence, not rumors. I planned to speak with some of my mother`s servants."
"Nothing has been done in the way of detective work," Janus says. "It is forbidden, but...you are not one for tradition, are you?"
Janus looks up and down the hallway again.
"I seem to recall that her servants have all been discharged."
"Well, they most likely are still in the city."
"Possibly. Where do you propose we start?"
"Some of them had to move to serve other Nobles. My mother had good relations with some of more....open-minded Houses, including yours."
"Indeed, she did."
Janus checks his watch.
"Speaking of my House, I should return to it. What are your plans?"
"I will stay in the Palace and ask a bit, I would be grateful if you could do the same in your House, my friend. Do you think that we could arrange meeting with some of our friends." -Melkor wonders on whom else he can count for help.
He still has his old quaters in the Palace?
You can recall several friends within Maurenburg that would side with you. The students on Erengard are open-minded, though not so much as you.
"I will, friend."
He starts to walk away, then turns back to you and comes close.
"Listen, Melkor. I'm not one for tradition, but I think that our investigating should wait until after your mother's funeral, in order to respect her memory."
He pauses, examining your face.
"Should you find yourself...'removed' from the palace, either by your brother's will or your father's orders..."
He presses an old brass key into your hand.
"...my apartment in the city is just down the street. You remember where it is."
Melkor looks at him solemnly.
"I understand Janus, and again I am grateful for your help. We shall meet again soon."- He nods respectfully.
Janus takes his leave of you.
After his footsteps fade, you shiver as you realize that you cannot hear a single sound in your mother's wing.
It is evening.
Wearied by the travel to Erengard and the shock of your mother's death, you managed to find the Library of the Countess and succumb to sleep in a high-backed chair by the auto-light fireplace. Never before has the study felt so awkward and despairing.
Thunder crackles outside, startling you from your restless sleep.
Melkor awakes from a nightmare that involved Einar killing his mother. Sweating, he walks to the window, seeing the storm outside. It doesn`t improve his mood at all.
Erengardian storms are very fierce, especially in Maurenburg. Thunder and lightning batter the mountainside for hours at a time, relenting only when it has rained itself out or given way to a snow storm. Unpleasant...
When you started, you knocked a silver platter from your lap. You don't remember it being there when you nodded off.
Surprised, Melkor will check the platter carefully.
A envelope had been on the silver platter, sealed with wax pressed with the family crest.
I will read it, of course.
It is a letter, written on parchment in black ink.
Your room is available, if you so choose
to stay within our walls. It has been
maintained by your mother's maids
since you departed for Coruscant.
In addition, you have inherited
your mother's wing of the house,
meaning that it will be your
responsibility to keep it maintained.
The greenhouse, particularly.
Her belongings may not leave
these halls, however. They are
not trinkets to accompany you
to Coruscant. Keep this in mind.
The funeral of Countess Milena
will be held in a few days.
It ends with your father's signature, written in gold ink.
Melkor sighs. Indeed, his mother wouldn`t like to see her greenhouse destroyed like this....or maybe she would? If she really killed herself....could she did it to herself, and him?
He decides to check his old room.
As the letter said, your room is just as you left. Perhaps cleaner than you left it, maybe.
I am royalty, surely I can order some servants around to take care of my mother`s wing? I will speak with chiel servant, or someone like this.
You have to go elsewhere in the house, out of your mother's wing, before you can find servants. It becomes painfully obvious that Einar has forced them all to sign over their souls in loyalty to him, for they do not even look at you.
Frustrating. You may have to search outside of the Palace walls for more servants.
Okay, I quess than Esgabath will go and look for them.
The thunder storm has become a snow storm, the wind whistling through the peaks of the mountains and the towers of buildings as it rushes through, carrying snowflakes and hail on its wings. It is very early morning, still dark, when you set out to search for an old servant of your mother, one you remember well.
Her name is Gurthka, an elderly women that attended to your mother since her infancy on Alderaan. She followed Countess Milena to Erengard to continue her service, but having sworn an oath of loyalty to the Countess and none other, she left the Palace to take up a dwelling in the city.
Obviously, Melkor will take some transport, he in no mood for walking through such terrible weather.
Landspeeders and speederbikes are available. Any preference?
Neither are enclosed.
Landspeeder seems more solid...
The gun metal gray Erengardian landspeeders are very solid. They sacrifice grace for durability and speed, completely armor-plated and equipped with a single powerful engine. It has seating for the pilot, the gunner, two passengers, and the rear gunner. It must be said, it does not appeal to you at all in terms of glamor; the hull is bulky and square.
And so you set off into the night. The streets of Maurenburg steam in the frigid night. Heating plates reside underneath the cobblestones, melting the snow in order to keep the streets clear for the military.
Gurthka lives on the outskirts, near the walls.
Melkor shrugs as drives to the outskirts. It doesn`t feel like he missed his gloomy home much...
If Coruscant weren't so glorious to your eyes, you might have missed Erengard more.
It is does not take long to reach the outskirts, where the thickly armored walls of Maurenburg mark the city limits. Gurthka's home is small and humble, pressed up against the walls.
Lights are off; it is still early.
Oh, Erengard has its beauty.... but Melkor is in no mood to appreciate it.
He parks the landspeeder and approaches her home.
It seems to shrink as you approach it. It is not even as big as your bedroom.
It has a single heavy metal door and a window to the side of it.
Just going to knock?
Yes, unless there is a bell.... and shouldn`t she live in better place, being the important servant?
It may have been up to her. Could even be a temporary lodging; she is not from Erengard, after all.
You knock on the door with a hollow bang. It takes a few tries before the door is answered, opened by a short, bent old woman in a night gown.
"Do you know what time it is?" she hisses.
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