It was with great reluctance that the young Queen of Solarine, Belle French, rallied the few able-bodied guards to protect the capital city against the coming invasion.
In her opinion, there was little point in showing opposition to their attackers. The Sith were known for their power and cruelties…if her people fought any longer, they would surely die.
Her trusted advisor, an old Ithorian who had also served both her father and grandfather did not agree with her.
"M'lady, I do not condone this action. If the Sith take the city the loss of life will be considerable."
Belle regarded her old mentor, calmly, before speaking," Your fear has clouded your judgment, Aamaw."
Aamaw's T-shaped head bobbed from side to side," And your need to be a hero has clouded your judgment, young Belle."
Belle's voice sounded small and tiny compared to his," We have an hour before they arrive at the palace. I have called the other advisors in for a meeting. Hopefully, we can find a peaceful solution to this problem."
Aamaw continued shaking his head," There can be no peace with them, your highness. The Sith are bringers of evil and death."
Belle did not heed his words. The legends of the Sith and their power were only stories…folk tales, she thought. The Jedi order on Coruscant had destroyed masters of the dark before; they could do it again.
When the four other members of the High Council of Solarine joined them in the throne room, Belle was relieved to find that all but one of them agreed with her.
" At this point, there is little point arguing about whether or not to call the army into battle," Belle explained, pacing along the length of the throne room," Our mission now is to ensure the safety of our people."
The eldest member of the High Council, a Pau'an of high royal descent was always the first to listen to her thoughts. He was Belle's favorite member of the High Council…because of his patience and calmly asserted bravery.
As a child, she had wanted the Pau'an, who her family had affectionately called Timmy (his true name was hard to pronounce), to become her head advisor when she became queen, but had been crushed to discover that he had become the senatorial representative for Solarine in the Galactic Senate.
As usual, he was the first to ask," What would you have the plan of action be, your highness?"
Belle sighed," I would like to make contact with the Jedi Council. We could ask them to send someone to our aide and warn them of the reappearance of the Sith."
Her opposition, a human member of the council named Reyana M'ill, automatically defaced her opinion," What will that matter? We have waited too long to contact them. They will never make it in time."
Belle acknowledged Mi'll's comment with a wave of her hand," I understand. I do not want to call them here to stop the invasion. I merely wish them to protect our people and to, if need be, find a way to stop the Sith from controlling the planet."
'Timmy' nodded," I am in agreement with the queen. How can we even be sure that what we see is the Sith? We are basing our assumption on the word of our people. If the attacker is indeed a Sith Lord, we can be sure that they have come to our capital city to either manipulate or kill the members of this council."
There was a loud crash from the south side of the place, which caused the walls to shake around them.
Belle immediately went into action," Our time is run out. I will contact the JediTemple on Coruscant. As your queen, I order all of you to escape. Find the safest place available and stay there until I have sorted this problem out."
The four lower members of the council bowed their heads," As you wish."
As they headed toward the ship hangar, Belle could only hope that it was not too late.
Aamaw stood his ground," I will not leave you. You cannot hope to survive this encounter."
Belle placed a hand on Aamaw's elongated shoulder," You are right, my old friend, but if you wish to help me, you must not stay here."
He shook his head, looking torn," I will not leave you, Belle. I have protected your family for generations."
"And the time has come for you to protect us again," Belle said," I need you to go to Coruscant and speak with the Jedi council. It is doubtful they will take my word…you must prove to them that Solarine is in desperate need of their help."
"Go, Aamaw. You are my only hope."
Her words seemed to push him into action. With a solemn nod of his head, her closest advisor left the throne room, vowing to do all in his power to save his queen.
Belle, for her part, was resolute.
She waited patiently for the arrival of the Sith Lord. It took longer than she had expected, giving her enough time to send a distress call to Coruscant and to check on the location of her High council members. All but one made it off planet.
It did not take long after that. Belle could almost feel the darkness in the air as the Sith drew closer to the throne room. The dark side made everything feel heavy…made the air feel thicker.
Her heart was pounding in her chest. She was not afraid of death, but she was afraid of losing. If she was wrong, how terribly would her people suffer? When, at last, she thought she could stand waiting no longer, the heavy doors of the throne room were thrown open.
Her visitor was a mere man. He was not even an imposing man, but the dark cloak hiding his face and the red light saber in his outstretched hand gave him a menacing air.
Belle smiled at him, trying to appear nonchalant," I have been expecting you."
The Sith seemed momentarily stumped by her lack of reaction to him. His long, curved fingers tightened around the hilt of his saber reflexively…and he remained completely still. For a moment, Belle wondered if she had merely dreamed him into existence.
Finally, he replied to her, in an affected voice," Ahh, yes. You are much…younger than I expected."
Belle stood, brushing the wrinkles out of her dress," And you are much…smaller than I expected."
The Sith closed in on her, his yellow eyes just visible under the cowl of his cloak," This will be easy."
Belle stared him down, reaching for the blaster hidden under her chair," Not as easy as you would expect."
The Sith laughed. The sound was so strange that Belle found herself momentarily flustered. It was the sound of an animal. The high trill was so different that Belle's heart fluttered in her chest. Surely no sentient creature could make such an evil sound?
Belle's fingers trembled as she grasped the blaster firmly in her right hand. She was no match for a fully trained Sith Lord, but confidence was the key. It was the first political lesson she'd ever learned. If you appear confident, then it doesn't matter how afraid you are. Aamaw and her father had both taught her that a person who seems confident can convince people to do anything.
The Sith Lord was no politician…nor was he an ignorant bystander. He moved forward quickly, adjusting his saber as he ran. It was obvious he expected a swift victory.
Belle fired two or three shots from her blaster. All of them would have been fatal for a normal man, but the Sith easily batted them away with his lightsaber.
Belle felt a flash of fear. There was no way for her to defend herself…but then something caught her attention. She had a minimal knowledge of the ways of the Force and Jedi combat…but even she knew that most Jedi initiates could easily deflect blaster bolts back at the person who had fired them. The Sith Lord could have already killed her.
"Tell me what it is you want. If you wanted to kill me, you would have done so already. There is no need to taunt me," Belle let a little pride flow through her words. In the political arena, pride was a terrible sin, but it no longer mattered in the battle at hand.
The Sith was all but humming with anger," You think yourself clever, little girl? There are worse fates than being taunted."
He idly studied his red blade, looking almost peaceful, except for the terrible yellow gleam to his eyes.
Belle sat back upon her throne," Certainly. You seem to be an expert on those…worse fates."
The Sith grinned up at her, and Belle had the strangest urge to smile back. Slowly, tentatively, she allowed her lips to curve.
He was instantly uneasy. He stared up at her, with his brows crinkled in confusion," What kind of strange creature are you? You smile at the Dark One?"
Belle shrugged," I merely wish to greet my fate with a smile, Dark One. I am a politician; I cannot afford to look afraid."
He was silent. So silent and still, that Belle once again thought she had imagined his presence.
She did not like the silence," What are you going to do to me? To my people?"
The Dark One blinked, once. He seemed discombobulated.
Belle fought the urge to smile again. She had obviously stunned the great Lord of the Sith.
"Your people do not concern me, your majesty. I was ordered to bring you to my master."
"The Dark One has a master?" Belle replied, coolly," And all this time, I assumed you were the master."
He was instantly riled," I will be the master. No one can stop me. That old fool will soon whither and die. He does not understand the true meaning of power."
"And you do?" Belle asked, casually.
The Sith waved a crooked finger at her, laughing again," I will not play these games with you, little queen."
Belle glowered down at him," Then what game shall we play?"
"I will make this simple for you. I will take you to my master. If you choose to fight, I will kill all of your people, one by one. I have infinite resources."
Belle nodded," If I go with you willingly, you will spare my people?"
The Dark One smiled, all teeth," You are in no position to negotiate, Miss French."
Belle remained seated, with her arms crossed. She did not smile back at him this time.
"However, if it will put your conscience at rest, you have my word. Your people will not be harmed, so long as you cooperate."
Belle smiled then," Then let's make haste." She stood, holding the tip of her golden dress in one hand.
Without asking, she carelessly used his empty hand as a grip to help herself down and led the way out of the throne room.
The awed expression on the Sith Lord's face kept Belle thoroughly amused all the way to the ship hangar.