((Continuation of the story started here. Told from Kyriaki's point of view))

Many corridors follow. I smooth my raven dress a bit before I step into a hall even grander than the last one. It is a massive baroque gallery built to impress and show off. A gigantic, panoramic window shows off the grounds of the estate. There stands the Supreme Leader. He is dressed in flamboyant gold and scarlet robes that make him look like a wizard of old. The robe does nothing to obfuscate the fact that he is very corpulent. His cheeks are fleshy and rouged. Jewels grace his fat fingers with the painted fingernails. It all looks very campy. He is feeding a huge beast. The Akk Dog greedily swallows the scraps, then suddenly howls, having heard of me.

Without missing a beat, I immediately raise my right arm. So do the guards. “Praise Vader! Praise Eisen!” The Supreme Leader returns the salute lazily, bending his right arm. I curtsey. “My Leader, your humble servant greets you. I am honoured that you receive me in your home.” My twin can rain down fire and brimstone upon her foes. She is a warrior forged in the crucible of battle. But my body is frail and my flame does not burn as brightly. However, I have other weapons. Courtesy is my armour. Let them believe that I will sing whatever pretty song they want.

“Oh, my dear girl, come closer, Kyriaki,” he bellows. He has a strong, powerful voice that can carry across a large hall. “It has been so long. Look at you. You remember Cesar, don’t you?” he asks with a chuckle. As if to refresh my memory, the huge reptomammal rushes towards me.
“How could I forget that moment when he devoured that foolish Jedi assassin?” I ask playfully. He laughs. It is actual laughter, not a mad cackle. Eisen is...very human. It is what makes him popular among the masses. More relatable. So they follow him when he sends the fools into the meat grinder to die by the thousands for his self-aggrandisement. “Indeed! And when you immolated that foolish Jedi’s comrade. I do hope you won’t be incinerating my carpet again though.”
I’ll admit...sometimes I almost like him. “I assure you, my Leader.” I manage to maintain composure while the Akk Dog is all over me – licking and sniffing. I pet his head. “My, my, he’s grown.”
“They grow up so fast and become as strong as durasteel. I’m afraid he hasn’t that much excitement as of late, though he did get to devour some poachers. Can you imagine? The scum trespassed on my forest and tortured innocent animals for sport.”
“Scandalous. Anyone who torments a being weaker than himself is the lowest piece of scum.” Hopefully the double meaning is not too obvious. “I hope they suffered.”
“They were well and truly punished for hurting the feelings of the Tephriki people.” Then his expression shifts. “I have been following your progress, my dear. It seems that fire in you served you well at the academy.”
I incline my head slightly. “I owe it all to your training, my Leader. By the grace of your wisdom, I was given the opportunity to rise beyond my origins.”
“A wise craftsman recognises good material and moulds it the way it is meant to be.” His tone is smug. Then he points a fleshy ringer, with a golden ring and a heavy-set diamond, at the package. “Now what have we here?”

“A small token, my Leader. My efforts are humble and my skills meagre, but I wanted to convey my gratitude for giving me the chance to prove myself worthy,” I say modestly and sycophantically. I remove my hand from his pet, take the package and present it to him. His mouth curls into a thin smile as she opens it. The Supreme Leader already has everything. Perhaps he simply enjoys watching others supplicate themselves before and shower him with gifts in the hope that he will toss them a few scraps. “Oh, my dear, this is beautiful,” he declares when he sees the cloak. “And I must say that is a nice sigil. I sense the Force flow through it. It has been alchemised, hasn’t it?”

“I am glad it pleases you, my Leader. I enjoy making things. It is soothing.” I am not even making this up. “And yes, it has. I am not as well-versed in the craft as you, my Leader, but it should offer some protection against lightning and withstand the elements well. I believe it would go well with your robes.” He slips the cloak on. I help fasten it and make sure it fits well.

“I think so indeed. I see you have put your studies to good use,” he declares with an air of self-satisfaction. “They are modelled on the robes of an ancient Sith king who ruled millennia before the Great One. We Humanists are boldly building a new future, but we must not forget the roots of our order.” He chuckled. “Can you imagine that just a few days ago, the police arrested a soubrette because she made jokes about my medals and outfits?” He shakes his head. “Fools. If they make jokes about, it only proves how popular I am! Ha. Did you know that Furcht had people sent to the camps because they made fun of his high-pitched voice? ‘Lord of Fear’? Pa!”
“He was a weak, cruel man and he produced an even more degenerate son.” His death was too kind. Too gentle. As was his mother’s. But they are dead regardless. Other monsters have taken their place. And my chains have become less visible.

He jabs a finger at me. “I’ll give the old bastard credit where it is due. He was cunning. He had strength. But his purism would have been our undoing.” His expression shifts from playful to serious. “The masses are sheep, my dear. Promise them everything and give them an enemy to fear and hate, and they will follow you to the ends of the world. You must make them feel you are delivering on your promises, but always make sure they don’t get too complacent, too sure of themselves. They must always hunger for more – and see you as the only one who can give it to them.”

“I will remember, my Leader. Should I ever rule, I will make them love me – and fear me.”
He laughs. “Do an old man a favour and wait a couple years before you stage your coup.” Is there a dark undertone to his words? Have I said something wrong?”
“My Leader, I...”
He cuts me off and slaps me on the shoulder. Hard enough that I almost keel over. “I spoke in jest, my dear.”
“Of course, my Leader. I could not imagine the Disciples without your guidance.” I breathe more evenly. Trying to make light of things, I add: “Truth be told, I was more thinking about Harmony. After all the destruction the xenos Jedi and the anarchist Guard have wrought, what good humans remain must be crying out for Humanist guidance.”

His eyes gleam. “One day it will be human living space – just like all of Tephrike. It will all belong to mankind, for it is our birthright. Even the xenos will realise that they are far better off with us assuming the mantle of responsibility. Their primitive faculties aren’t made for ruling anymore than those of the beasts of the jungle. But the Vong savages and the Jedi are not our only threat. Many enemies lurk within the Imperium. False Disciples, rebels, backstabbers - the lot of them. That’s why I summoned you. Are you ready to do your duty to the Imperium?”
“Leader command, and I shall follow.”
“Then come with me. There are some people you must meet. Prominent figures in Party and State. The old guard. Watch them carefully. None of us get this far without getting blood on our hands. And they all want power.”
“My Leader does not trust them,“ I observe.
“Then the most obvious question is: why don’t I eliminate them?” When I hesitate, he prods. “Come on, girl, answer. I am not trying to trick you.”
“Because without powerful minions, my Leader would be a master of nothing.”
The gleam in his eyes is fierce and predatory. For a moment I believe I see the ace pilot who stalked the skies in search of game to hunt, before he began his maniacal drive to power. He has never stopped hungering for more. “Exactly. Anyone can master weaklings. But it takes strength to bend the powerful to your will.” Cesar trots after us.