The High Republic: Fallen Order

Chapter Two

Excerpt from “The Ruusan Reformations: A Republic Redeemed?” by Valkorion Ch’ien:

“The end of the New Sith Wars proved a great challenge to the Republic. Though they had won their Jedi-led crusade against the various Sith Warlords who occupied its rightful territory, they were now faced with the task of reintegrating all these regions, including its thoroughly brainwashed and enslaved populations. The solution to this great conundrum ultimately came to be known as the Ruusan Reformations, a wide set of social and constitutional reforms promulgated by Chancellor Tarsus Valorum.

[…]

Along with limiting his own power and consolidating the Senate’s constituencies, Valorum would also instruct the Jedi Order to ‘deal with’ the Sith Lords who remained in Republic custody. This latter issue would be resolved through the wholesale incorporation of the Sith Order into the ranks of the Jedi. A Force Schism that had lasted five thousand years was now healed, though this reconciliation was not entirely voluntary. As a final sign of dishonor, the Sith Lords themselves were stripped of their titles, reduced to the ignoble label of ‘Dark Jedi’. It was a dark time to be a Dark Sider, and it would take until the end of the High Republic Era before their former status was restored…”

The Great Hall of Tython was a place of history, now filled with the living relics of a functionally dead religion. It was here that the last ‘Dark Jedi’ of the galaxy officially gathered, utterly bereft of their former honor as Sith Lords. Yes, they were a sorry bunch, an unlucky residue which only survived because of a treaty that had dissolved their Order otherwise. Now they were effectively pets of the Jedi, a nigh-extinct species that was only kept around to show the galaxy how evil and dangerous they were. In truth, most Jedi found this a rather pathetic affair, but none could muster the effort to finally abolish it. And so the remnant festered.

Still, the School of Dark Jedi made use of the minimal power afforded to them, meeting regularly on Tython to plan the rise to power some of them yet hoped for. The vast majority of them didn’t have to travel far, since the same treaty that restricted their status also bound them to this planet. Only a handful of emissaries were allowed to be stationed on other worlds, and planning this dispatch was an important part of the meetings themselves. All in all, about fifty Force users were now gathered in the Great Hall, though this number included the handful of ‘regular’ Jedi who customarily guarded this conclave. Purely to protect them, of course.

The Great Hall itself was a circular space, with tiered semicircular rows of benches set against the back of the room, right across from its imposing dual-doored entrance. Once, it had been a more sparse and ostentatious place, the traditional meeting grounds of the Galactic Jedi Council. However, when the latter had moved to Coruscant at the founding of the Third Republic, this second-hand temple had partly been given over to the Dark Jedi. The Great Hall had been refitted to seat all of the quota-controlled heretics, and the rest was history.

In the time since the Ruusan Reformations, this room had seen only a few changes in layout, the most important being the addition of a small row of luxurious chairs, which stood within the semicircle created by the austere benches. These seats were the exclusive privilege of the few Masters among the Dark Jedi, who had arranged this setup so as to create some semblance of a proper hierarchy. The ancient Sith had rarely done well without a clear chain of command, or so their present leaders claimed. And, to give them their due credit, it did make these meetings easier to direct; one could not fathom the pettiness which tended to arise from Dark Jedi squabbling amid the benches. Considering what little power they held, this had to be an orderly affair.

The center seat of the Masters’ row was set on a small dais, informally marking the most supreme individual among them, as well as the person who chaired these meetings. While this position usually rotated between the Masters present, the last few selectees had willingly relinquished the spot to their clear superior: Lord-Director Naga Menander, keeper of the School’s financial assets. Besides their considerable skill in business management, Naga had also rekindled some of the Dark Jedi’s political influence through their emissarial station on Coruscant. Even if some of the other Masters were more in tune with the Dark Side of the Force, nothing would come of their designs without the means which Naga provided. To this they owed their present chairpersonship.

In appearance, Naga was both inconspicuous in their attire—which resembled that of the average Core World businessperson—and indeterminate in their gender—which did not resemble much of anyone. This allowed them to be who they needed to be in their dealings with the rich and powerful of Coruscant, an identity as fluid as the capital they represented. And with the recent deregulation of the Republic’s economy, that capital was more fluid than ever. Much like everyone else who mattered in this financial world, the Dark Jedi were investing their assets into the frontier. Whether they sold ships to get there, homes to build there, or weapons to shoot there, all of their enterprises revolved around the colonial business. Indeed, with their latest emissarial mission in progress, the Outer Rim was about to be the main topic at this meeting. As Naga raised their voice to calm a yet rowdy audience, their conclave could begin.  

“Fellow Jedi,” they began, immediately creating more clamoring from the benches. However, this was a customary back-and-forth, and Naga quickly followed it up with “…soon to be Sith!” An even greater cheer now rang out among them. As usual, their Jedi guardians reacted to this display with some degree of consternation. However, their Dark comrades had been making this claim to renaissance for the past five centuries, and so a neglectful complacency had long since set in. These were not Sith, nor were they going to be.

Naga obviously disagreed, for they continued their speech with great optimism. “We live in a golden age, my friends! Moraband Holdings has made some record profits in the last quarter, and all of it is being dedicated to the furtherance of our cause. But there is more, for I have it on good authority that our fellow Knight Sava Trebizon is presently on her way to the Frontier Jedi of the Outer Rim. As Master Dol’Bok has assured me, she should have no trouble infiltrating this ignorant clique of dim Light Siders. With no offense to our Jedi guardians, of course.” The latter didn’t seem to be paying much attention.

“Anyway, this brings me to a question which tends to come up in these discussions, and which I have decided to pre-empt. The question is this: why the frontier? With so many of us confined to the Deep Core here on Tython, why should we bother with the affairs of the colonial border worlds? I have several replies to this, the first of which is to excoriate you all for forgetting your heritage. For indeed, how dare you ignore your ancestral home? Did you assume the name ‘Moraband’ was merely ceremonial? No, it is a recognition of the power we have lost. If we are ever to be worthy of our Sith inheritance, we must recognize that the Core Worlds could never harbor a new Order. It is true, our dark forebears first split from the Jedi on the world which now imprisons us, this wretched Tython. But our golden age came only when we found the clean-blooded race of the Sith, an ancient nobility which still flows through our veins. Thus, let us not bother with the malformed mess of the Core Worlds, this teeming cesspool of ten-thousand creatures and creeds. Purity is found in the combination of isolation and domination, and only the power base of a distant world like Moraband could return us to such glory. Have I made myself clear?”

A general murmuring of assent arose from the benches, though the lack of enthusiasm displeased Naga. Had the Dark Jedi grown as complacent as their keepers? Right as they were about to resume their speaking, a voice broke in from the seat to their immediate right. Here sat Master Dol’Bok, Outer Rim specialist and Naga’s greatest rival on this fractious council. Whatever they were going to say, it wouldn’t be good.

“Fine words, Master Menander. As you say, our purity cannot be guaranteed as long as we dwell in the Core Worlds. However, this makes me question your own position on our council. It is true that you are a most valued political and financial operative, and your work on Coruscant is key to our revival. However, once we have regained our strength, would your present eminence still be of any use to us? Yes, I gave up my own chairpersonship to see you speak to us today; but what of the metaphorical tomorrow, when we will live on blessed Moraband once more? You have associated its name with your business trickery, whereas I keep the secrets of its true glory! Even now, my agents are headed to regions you can only dream of. If Sava Trebizon proves the key to our salvation, will you finally yield to the advice of your betters, and organize the long-prophesied resurrection of our Order? Many of us are asking this! Will you?”

This was a tricky, but entirely predictable retort. Indeed, Naga had prepared themself for it. Obo Dol’Bok had long been agitating for the swift and merciless revenge of the Sith, the kind of internal Jedi coup that would likely see the Dark Jedi killed and their residual School disbanded. Naga took the long view, knowing that a more subtle opportunity was needed to restore their ancient prestige. Still, Dol’bok’s sentiment was shared by many of those who sat across from them, and they needed to respond to his accusations of cowardice in a total and decisive manner. Luckily, they knew exactly what to say.

“Oh, Master Dol’Bok, such bold claims! Yet almost entirely without merit. You see, I received a missive from Taris just earlier, bringing word of events which fatally undermine your present position. I had hoped to spare you this embarrassment, but now you leave me no choice. To put it simply, Sava Trebizon will not become our primary agent among the Jedi on the Outer Rim. As my own intelligence operatives have told me, her identity was seriously compromised on Taris, and she has been summarily confined there until the local Temple decides on what to do with her. I’m willing to put a good word in through my connections on Coruscant, but we all know this mission was your idea to begin with. Her failure is therefore your own. And if anything can be salvaged from it, it will be because of me. So no, Obo, I will not yield to my superiors on this council, for there are none among us. Am I understood?”

By now, Dol’Bok was positively fuming, but a nervous glance around the room revealed to him the futility of any protest. Based on the demeanor of the other Dark Jedi, it was clear that Naga’s triumph had already been acknowledged. Only a stoic silence could help him preserve some of his remaining dignity. Thus, the belligerent Master wisely kept his mouths shut. Naga was grateful for that, for now they could resume the speech he had so rudely interrupted.

“Alright then. This brings me to my second answer to that all-important question: why focus on the frontier? While our heritage certainly plays into it, my main reason is much simpler: conflict! As you saw in that farcical display just now, conflict is an inherent part of our existence. Struggle reveals true strength, and this is as true for individuals as it is for political systems. If we mean to test the resilience of the Republic, to see if it can hold fast against the various corruptions which plague it within and without, then the creation of conflict becomes a political necessity. And remember, such a test is not merely an ideological imperative; it is the only way to keep the Republic strong! The Jedi believe that any war on the frontier can be held off indefinitely, but we recognize this as a fool’s errand. If anything, this struggle should be accelerated. Every moment we wait is one our enemies can use against us. As long as the Republic is in a position of martial superiority, we should be ready to strike first. And who better to lead the charge than those warriors long neglected? As our Order was founded in conflict, so might we remake ourselves in the purifying flame of battle! So, my friends, tell me: who among you wants to fight? Who among you wants be Sith?”

A great cheer drowned out their final words, and almost all of the Dark Jedi rose to give a standing ovation. Even the Council members joined in the applause. All except for one. Master Dol’Bok remained seated, stewing in their own failure. As they basked in the glory of this moment, Naga was already planning their next move. They were determined to turn the frontier into their masterpiece, a great canvas upon which to paint the legends of a new Sith Order. Ironically though, if the Outer Rim was really to fall into conflict, they would have to effect this war on Coruscant. It seemed that no matter how much they tried to get away from it, the gravity of politics was always pulling them back to the Core. It was truly the Sarlacc Pit of the universe, slowly mixing and digesting everything into a homogenized filth. Naga longed to see it in ruins. But for now, it would do.

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