Elm Caden is a Shard of the Empress, an operative who works outside the military hierarchies and carries the authority of the Throne.
Although he hails from the city of Galloi on the affluent world Damastion, and was born into a wealthy family, Caden comes from what could be considered a broken home. His father Modim was killed in combat at the end of the Perseus conflict, and his brother Lau — born shortly after their father's death — now spends his days looking after their ailing mother Chia.
Like most Shards, Caden was identified early on in life as a potential candidate for the programme. After selection he was essentially adopted by the Imperial Court, and his family started to receive a stipend from the Imperial Combine when he left to attend the War College on Kelvestyr.
As a Shard Caden is afforded extraordinary latitude. He has traveled farther even than many in the Imperial Navy, and seen things few others ever will. His missions are varied, and his many strange, fascinating, and horrifying experiences have made him a reserved and perceptive person.
Caden values core principles such as loyalty and dedication. He appreciates people who are genuine and forthright, even if they do not share his views.
He is honest with others — insofar as he is able — and treats others as he would have them treat him. He is pensive and often thinks things through in great detail, which can lead others to see him as being aloof. This is not the case; although he is hardly the most outgoing person in the galaxy, he is good-humoured and sociable. He can however often be impatient and quick to form his views.
Caden despises two-faced people and the dishonest. He cannot stand deceit, and his big red button is pressed by people or organisations using misinformation or outright lies to advance their own agenda. Caden has a solid set of ethical principles and understands that moral perspectives may be different depending on circumstances or social contexts. He is frustrated when others fail to share this understanding.
Caden believes that people should "do their best to be their best". That living should be done for others and for society, not just for selfish ends. He cannot abide sloth, gluttony, or unbridled hatred. He has no religious views.
As a Shard, Caden tends to simply accept the political landscape of the Empire. He views those citizens who are disgruntled with it as being malcontents and complainers, believing they only need to understand in order to accept. He is somewhat naïve in this respect.
Elm Caden's life started to go wrong at a young age. The idyllic childhood he vaguely remembers — that of him, his mother Chia, and his father Modim; all living together in blissful harmony on the family estate — was torn apart by a series of events which all seemed to blend together.
With Modim Caden serving on the front lines during the Perseus conflict, Chia developed a drinking problem. When Modim did finally return, on rotation, Chia's reliance on alcohol made her irascible and she piled resentment upon him. A feedback loop began, until Chia was headed for full-blown alcoholism and Modim pledged not to return. He never did — he was killed during the Siege of Laeara.
With her husband dead, and his second son Lau on the way, Chia descended into depression. It was not long before the Svelengarth estate had to be sold. By the time the teenaged Elm was leaving for the Imperial War College, his mother and brother were residing in modest lodgings in the busiest district of Galloi.
In parallel with all of this, Elm had already begun to struggle with his own emotions. He was subconsciously aware of much of the tension between his parents, as well as the conflict which resulted, and he experienced a wide range of emotional responses. Few of those emotions were ones he enjoyed. He taught himself at a young age to catch hold of the less pleasant thoughts and push them down into a void space he called the Emptiness, where he could tell himself they were trapped and harmless.
Over time the Emptiness began to assert new thoughts in his head, pushing him to reintegrate the emotional qualities he had sought to live without. By their very nature, of course, these were all negative emotions. Since late childhood Caden has fought mental battles with himself on a sporadic basis, and the frequency of those episodes has increased with time.
Elm Caden was educated at the School of Galloi, Eastern District, where it quickly became obvious that he was capable of understanding matters well outside the mandated curriculum. He was identified early on as being an exceptional case, and by the age of fourteen had already been offered a full scholarship at the Imperial War College on Kelvestyr. Although reluctant at first, due to his family situation, he was pressed to accept by none other than the Proconsul of Damastion.
At the War College he exceeded all expectations and became one of the most successful students of his generation. He was encouraged to apply to the Shard Academy, and supported by the entire faculty.
Caden essentially reports to the Empress. He idolises her, and this is possibly as a surrogate mother figure. He will go wherever he is sent, regardless of the risks. He is not easily convinced that her decisions or orders could be questionable.
Caden is not a part of the chain of command of any of the three major agencies, and as such he has had a fairly insular working relationship with Rendir Throam. As a newcomer, Euryce Eilentes often reminded him that there was life outside their unit.
Caden takes his job very seriously, to the point that he almost sees the Imperial mandate as being synonymous with his own.