The Whimpering Worm Turns
Disclaimer: I don't own The Dark Crystal Age of Resistance.
Summary: The Chamberlain tries to convince the Scientist to help him take down the General. It doesn't go well... Set during Episode 1x07.
skekSil furiously paced back and forth in his chambers, his robes still smelling of rotten peachberries. The smell was one thing. He could ignore it. The humiliation he'd been subjected to lately, however, could not be so easily ignored.
"Bah!" he growled. "Foolish Emperor! Idiot General! Ignorant Skeksis! Do they not realize what they have done? Can they not see what is coming?!"
Unable to contain his rage any longer, he slapped a ceramic bowl off a nearby table. It shattered to pieces on the floor.
Embarrassed by his outburst, he scowled and shook his head. "Chamberlain must control self. Not act rashly," he admonished. "Cannot control anything if not in control of self, yes? Hmmm..."
Eventually, his anger subsided and the gears in his mind began turning.
"All is not lost. Just need new plan..." he murmured to himself. "Hmmmm... Perhaps I go visit Scientist, yes?"
A short while later, skekSil - having changed into identical, but clean robes - walked into the lab. There he found the Scientist making some adjustments to the essence-draining machine.
"Scientist," he greeted in his usual overly-pleasant manner.
skekTek looked up from his work. "What do you want, skekSil?" he asked, very annoyed by the interruption. "If you've come for essence, you can forget about it. There's no more left."
skekSil held up his hands and shook his head. "No, no, no. Am not here for essence. Am just here to talk. That is all. Talk."
"Talk about what?" skekTek growled, glaring at the Chamberlain suspiciously.
"About important things. Things that require Friend Scientist's great intellect."
"First of all, we are not friends," the Scientist practically sneered. "And second, I have no time for this, Chamberlain. I'm very busy-"
"No, please, please, listen," pleaded the Chamberlain, deploying his typical whiny, pathetic-sounding voice. "Will make it worthwhile. Will not take long. I leave you alone when finished. Please, just hear what Chamberlain has to say. Yes?"
The Scientist scowled. "Fine. If you leave me alone for the rest of the day."
The Chamberlain smirked. One of the simplest tactics to getting what one wanted was to wear the audience down until they agreed to listen, if only to make him go away.
"Of course, of course," he said, in his humblest manner. "Now then, Scientist must see situation with Gelfling is getting out of hand. Rian still free. All-Maudra dead. Guards try to seize Castle. Gelfling of Stone-In-Wood rebel. Perilous and untenable situation, yes?"
skekTek nodded. "Things certainly have been better..."
"Emperor not being served well by skekVar," the Chamberlain continued. "General is too aggressive. Too thick-headed. Sees violence as first solution to every problem."
Again, skekTek nodded. "I won't disagree with you about that."
"General has put Skeksis on path to war with Gelfling. If there is war, then only two outcomes possible: Skeksis lose, or all Gelfling die. And if all Gelfling dead, no more essence. If no more essence then-"
skekTek interrupted, "I know exactly what that means. Get to the point."
The Chamberlain tapped his claws together. "All is not lost. Still time to salvage situation, hmmmm. Not all Gelfling have turned against Skeksis yet. Skeksis can still make peace and harvest essence quietly without trouble."
The Scientist stared at him quizzically. "How exactly are we suppose to make peace after the All-Maudra's death? After the revolt at Stone-In-The-Wood?"
"Tell Gelfling this is all tragic misunderstanding," the Chamberlain said in a matter-of-fact tone. "Tell them we, eh, regret terrible events that have happened."
skekTek scoffed. "You think anyone will actually believe such nonsense?"
"Has worked before, yes?" the Chamberlain replied. "Remember - when Skeksis first shattered Crystal of Truth, Mother Aughra was angry with us. Very angry. But we told Mother Aughra how sorry we were. We promised to fix Crystal. To look after it. Scientist was key to winning Mother Aughra's trust, remember? Hmmmm... Built her new orrery. Magnificent gift. Even better than one built by urSkeks. Scientist remembers, yes?"
"Of course, I remember. I remember everything I've built," snapped the Scientist, growing very impatient. "Where are you going with all of this, skekSil?"
"Skeksis did not take Thra by simple brute force as General believes," explained skekSil. "Skeksis took Thra through words and gifts. Made small concessions when necessary. Made Mother Aughra and Gelfling believe what we needed them to believe. Told them what they wanted to hear. Made sure they never had to make hard choices. Instead, always made sure their choices were easy to make. Scientist understands, yes?"
"Yes, I understand," skekTek acknowledged. "But that was then. Do you really think such tricks can still work now?"
"Yes, yes!" skekSil replied enthusiastically. "Can still work! Will still work! Eventually, Gelfling shall willingly give essence to us every trine, just as they offer tithing to us every trine."
The Scientist could barely stifle his laughter. "You think we can convince the Gelfling to voluntarily sacrifice themselves? That they'll just happily line themselves up outside my lab to be drained?"
The Chamberlain shook his head. "No, no, no. Not sacrifice. Reward. Chance for Gelfling to ascend. Become one with Lords of Crystal. Rule Thra by our side forever."
skekTek stared at him in disbelief. "Reward? Ascend? What sort of nonsense are you blathering-"
skekSil held up a hand, cutting him off. "Nonsense, yes. But sounds better than truth. Hmmmm?"
The Scientist scratched his beak. "Well, it certainly is a... unique way of putting things. Do you think the Gelfling will actually believe it?"
The Chamberlain nodded. "Is something that Gelfling can be made to believe. With time. Patience. Correct words." He paused. "But not if General stays Emperor's counsel. skekVar wants war. Will turn all Gelfling against us. Yes?"
"I guess you have a point there," the Scientist admitted. "But what do you intend to do about it?"
"Intend to remove General from power," the Chamberlain answered, his tone suddenly turning harsh. "skekVar must be shamed. Discredited. Disgraced."
"And I presume you will retake your place as the Emperor's counsel?"
"Of course. Will take place at Emperor's side once again. Put Skeksis back on correct path. Bring back order. Peace."
"Uh huh. And how exactly do you plan to get rid of the General?"
skekSil lowered his voice. "Will challenge him directly. Declare Haakskeekah."
"Haakskeekah? Trial By Stone?" The Scientist blinked his real eye. "Against skekVar? Are you mad? He'll crush you!"
The Chamberlain smiled. "Normally, yes. But am not mad. Do not intend to make challenge without certain... preparations. That is why I come to you, skekTek. I need your help."
"Do you? Pah! I am not interested," skekTek said dismissively.
"If you help me bring down General, I will ensure you are rewarded."
"Rewarded? Ha! You mean like I was rewarded the last time?" skekTek spat, pointing at his mechanical eye.
The Chamberlain laughed playfully. "Oh dear... Still upset about eye? Hmmmm?"
"It's more than my eye!" snarled skekTek. "Do you know how it felt to be laughed at while that peeper beetle was eating my eye?"
"Well... must have been quite distressing," the Chamberlain conceded.
"It's something I never wish to experience again!"
"Yes, yes, of course. And reluctance to help is understandable," skekSil said, trying to sound as sympathetic as possible. "But surely, Scientist must see this is about more than petty squabbles between us. This is about all Skeksis. Future of whole race! Please, skekTek. I need your help. Skeksis need your help."
"I am helping all Skeksis," the Scientist snapped. "The Emperor has tasked me with producing essence so that we may live for all eternity. That is what I will do. I will not risk being subjected to more torment by deviating from that task. And please, spare me this tripe about the good of all Skeksis. As if you actually cared."
"But do care about Skeksis," skekSil protested. "Have always cared about Skeksis. Have spent last thousand trine ensuring peaceful and strong Skeksis rule. Without Chamberlain, Thra would have fallen into chaos long ago."
"Is that so?" skekTek glowered at him. "Well, I'll tell you what: Why don't you tell the Emperor what really happened the night Rian took the vial. Tell him how it was really your fault the Gelfling escaped. Do that, and maybe I'll help you."
For several long seconds, there were no sounds except for those of the creatures in skekTek's cages.
"Hmmmm... Would not be wise," skekSil said at last. "Emperor is already unhappy with me. Do not wish to antagonize him any further."
"Hmph! I thought so," the Scientist sneered, giving the Chamberlain a look of pure scorn. "You've spent the last thousand trine scheming and plotting and tending to your precious seat. Maintaining your perfect little world. But the world is now changing. Your failure to adapt is neither my fault, nor is it my problem."
He sighed. "I confess I do not approve entirely of all that we are doing. There are too many variables. Too much uncertainty. Perhaps you are right. It will end badly for us. I do not know for certain. But this, I do know: Helping you will not end well for me. I have no love for the General, so I will do you a small favor and not tell him about this conversation. But if you want to take down skekVar, do it yourself. I will not put my neck on the line. Not for you."
Taken aback by the Scientist's outright rejection, the Chamberlain began pleading desperately, "But surely you must see folly of Emperor's current plans-"
"Of course I see!" the Scientist all but shouted. "I saw it long before you did! Do you think I actually meant for us to drink Gelfling essence forever? Do you think this was actually intended to be a long-term solution? Of course not! This was always meant to be a temporary measure. A means to keep us alive long enough for me to find a more self-sustaining source of life. I already tried warning the Emperor of the risks of consuming too much essence. He wouldn't listen to me then. He certainly won't listen to me now."
"Only because you are alone," reasoned skekSil. "If we work together, then we can-"
"You're the one who is alone. Not me. Not anymore," skekTek retorted, with a gloating look. "This morning I sat at the table, feasting and drinking essence with the Emperor and the others. It felt glorious. And do you know what was even better? Hearing everyone laugh at someone other than me for once. If carrying out the Emperor's orders - no matter how impractical or self-defeating they may be - means I am not treated worse than a Podling, then so be it!"
The Chamberlain sputtered. "But-but, Scientist, please-"
"I have said all I care to say. Now get out of my lab."
"OUT!" skekTek thrust a talon at the exit.
For a moment, the Chamberlain just stared blankly, frozen in disbelief. Then he threw up his arms. "Bah!" he scowled. Frustrated, he turned and stormed out of the lab.
"If Scientist will not help," he growled to himself, his hands shaking with anger as he stalked down the corridor, "then Chamberlain will do it alone. Yes... I will get rid of General, myself. Even if it is very last thing I ever do-"
He stopped as he rounded the corner, where he found skekVar in deep conversation with the Scroll-Keeper and the Ritual Master.
"The Emperor has actually enlisted the Arathim to aid us?" the Scroll-Keeper was saying. "Goodness me! I never thought I'd see the day..."
"Ugh, Arathim..." groaned the Ritual Master. "They're even more ugly than the Gelfling."
"Don't worry," said the General. "The alliance will be short-lived. The Emperor already has a plan to dispose of the Arathim once the Gelfling of Stone-In-The-Wood are dealt with. Trust me. It'll be like catching two Crawlies with one hand."
He suddenly noticed the Chamberlain. "What are you doing skulking around here?" he asked, giving the Chamberlain a withering stare.
"Hmmmm? Nothing. Nothing at all," replied the Chamberlain as innocently as possible. "Just out for walk."
"Well, keeping walking," the General sneered.
skekSil bowed his head meekly. "Hmmmmm... Whatever you say, General."
He turned and headed back the way he came. The General and the others laughed derisively, then resumed their conversation.
Now out of sight, the Chamberlain tapped his claws together as he processed everything he'd heard. "Two Crawlies with one hand... Short-lived alliance between foes... Hmmmmmm... Risky? Yes, yes... But as Scientist said: World is changing. Chamberlain must change as well. And as for General..."
"Well... not everything survives change."