Part Five: Revenge of the Sith

Unable to resist the seemingly mythical powers of the Jedi Knights, and the armies of loyal soldiers they commanded, in desperation the ambitious leader of the Galactic Senate, the ageing Senator Palpatine, convinced the Republic President to turn to the only force capable of resisting the Jedi: their long-exiled heretic brothers, the Sith Order.

Once merely the political faction of the Jedi, granted unique freedoms from their strict code, the Knights of the Sith grew into a shadowy organisation separate from the main body, acting often under their own direction and energies, engaged in operations for which the Jedi themselves had no stomach.

Yet even the Jedi were not entirely immune from scandal, and when a string of failed Sith suppressions and assassinations became publicly known, the Sith Order, as they had since become, were stricken from the Core Worlds - the Republic itself - on pain of death, banished to insignificance in the furthest reaches of space.

For centuries the Sith lurked on the fringes of the Outer Rim, from their shrine-worlds of Korriban and Ossus. Ever they plotted their return to the Core World of Had Abaddon, where they had once, many hundreds of years ago, been as influential as the Jedi.

Yet the vanishment of the Sith had even at that time caused a great scission within the Jedi Order itself. While few on the Council legitimately mourned their exile, many of the Jedi whose task saw them overseeing planets with powerful Senators, wealthy corporations, or ties to underhanded criminal syndicates, recognised the true value of the Sith and regretted the loss. For all their maligned darkness and stealth, the Sith could unleash their capabilities against hostile forces who did not adhere to the same code as the Jedi or, worse, whose own ethics specifically undermined the strengths of Jedi strategy. After all, the Sith had been created as an aberration to the Code precisely that they might counter the presence of particularly brutal or underhanded opponents, so that the rest of the Jedi Order would not have to compromise their ideals.

As the ranks of the Jedi had shrunk throughout the war, so had the Sith expanded over time. In times past never as numerous as the Jedi, the Sith were now of a similar strength to their depleted kin, a legitimate force to be reckoned with, even after the recent experiments with clone technology. Formally recognised by the Republic once more, the Sith returned.

And burned upon their every thought was one solitary, raging mission: vengeance.

From the resurgent fortress-world of Had Abaddon, homeworld of their ancestors and recently bestowed upon them by grateful Republic leaders, the Sith fought back against the Jedi at the head of the Republic armies. Where once a solitary Jedi could turn the tide, now they stood not only against superior numbers but also enemies of their own calibre.

Yet even as the galaxy slipped further into the chaos of war, politicians continued to bicker and jockey for position with little regard to the welfare of those they were sworn to represent. Senator Palpatine grasped an opportunity to usurp the Presidency and solidify his own personal power. As architect of the expulsion of the Jedi, his was a populist platform that had become irresistible amidst the throes of the Clone Wars. To great applause, he sowed the seeds of a Republic’s end.

Losing little time, the President turned his attention to removing the last legal vestiges of the Jedi and their once-vast influence over galactic law and order. The Senate, in its haste to be done with the terrible Clone Wars, recreated the Jedi as criminals and heretics, terrorists against the great Republic. Magicians and witches, they became quickly despised, figureheads of ridicule, scapegoats for every social ill that swept the Republic. Further increases to the strength of Republic navies, the swelling of armies, and increases to surveillance and security followed. Bloated with pride, the Republic saw the end to all its ills in the shape of the Jedi Order, welcomed the much-maligned Sith as saviours, and for the briefest time truly believed the hubris of the expulsion would bring peace once more. For a time, it seemed a brilliant tactical manoeuvre; the corpus of cost sacrificed upon the grand altar of expediency.

Within the space of a few years, the entire doctrinal foundation of the Republic, based as it was upon the rule of law and justice and the enforcement of that law by its elite champions, the Jedi, was irrevocably altered.

The Galactic Empire was born.

From the ashes of the Second Clone War arose a great shadow, and its name was Darth Vader. Among the mightiest of the Sith Lords, Vader held a special place in the history of both ancient Orders, for he had once been apprenticed to the Jedi – then exiled – and latterly become a Dark Lord of the Sith. Reviled by many on both sides as a traitor, an unreliable actor whose half-mechanical body was the perfect symbol of his inhumanity and inconstancy, Vader might have himself become a pariah but for the nature of his unique talents and the means by which he deployed them.

A military commander without peer, Vader oversaw the turning of the tide. Most Imperial scholars would later identify the Battle of Hoth as the final defeat which broke the will of the Jedi Order, yet in truth it was a succession of brilliant victories which allowed Vader, among other Sith Lords, to bring the Jedi to their knees.

In full retreat, the Jedi gathered at Tython for one final stand, where they desperately attempted to manufacture a literal means of retaliation. To no avail, an enormous Imperial Star Fleet arrived at the planet, and left it in ruins.

For the galaxy at large, that moment heralded the end of the Clone Wars. With the extinction of the Jedi, the New Order was established and peace returned to the Core Worlds of the Old Republic, now the Galactic Empire.

Celebrations began across the wealthy inner worlds of the new Empire, and its new ruler and Emperor, Palpatine, became a hero – the man who, as bureaucratic propaganda would have it, single-handedly ended the war. The people of the Old Republic turned a blind eye to his abuses of privilege and law during the crisis, and embraced the new safety and order of the Empire.

Part One: The Jedi Knights and the Fall of the Old Republic

The Jedi Knights were once known as the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy, the reason for the Republic's moral strength and the stability of a thousand generations: that is the legend which precedes their downfall. Yet it obscures a terrible truth; that the fall of the Old Republic was mirrored by the implosion of the Jedi Order itself.

For centuries before the Clone Wars, the Jedi had become the arbiters of all judicial forums in the Republic. Law-keepers, judges and juries both, they held a powerful sway over all the systems which were a part of the Old Republic. Where they went, their word was law - their mystical powers and legend always preceded them, and none dared question their decisions. Nor their judgements.

Those few who did paid a terrible price for their defiance against the most powerful arbiters of galactic law and order.

Most of the planets of the Core Worlds were governed by a Jedi Knight, or perhaps a council of several Jedi, who enacted justice through the imposition of a rigid code of laws which stifled freedoms and demanded codified behaviour.

Legend speaks of their great arbitrations, of their love for justice, but in practice many Jedi were ruthless, and tolerated neither dissent nor opposition to their decrees. Yet this is the way of strict order, of a guarantee of peace by force, and for those thousand generations the Jedi held the Republic together by the strength of their law, and the absolute belief in their moral righteousness.

The Jedi Council on Coruscant dominated galactic politics, and while they remained ostensibly and legally removed from the Senate and the corporate guilds, their fealty was to the Republic and the Republic alone. Most Jedi were, nevertheless, highly influential figures, and were unafraid of flaunting that influence. Eventually though, even the Jedi Code could not prevent internal strife among the guardians themselves, and much like the Republic as a whole, the once-disciplined Jedi Order began to eat itself alive.

Outwardly powerful, they became inwardly brittle. While each individual Jedi thought himself above the rabble of politics and believed he or she was fighting for ideals like truth and justice, such things are often clearer in theory but hopelessly muddied and complex in practice. The strictures of the Jedi allowed no fluid interpretation of their doctrine. Inevitably there came to be several competing factions among the Jedi, each of whom defined such concepts differently.

The most notable dogmatic differences revolved around the structure and hierarchy of the Order itself, as well as its place within galactic politics and the extent to which individual Jedi should become involved in particularly grey areas such as class conflict and economic events within the galaxy.

Several of these issues came to a head when a group of Jedi, who would later form the core of the Immersion faction, acted against a supposed terrorist threat in the mid-rim, on behalf of the Cybot Galactica corporation, who, they claimed, would have faced severe financial strain and unrecoverable year-end deficits should the facility they defended have been damaged; this fed into galaxy-wide fears of recession, and any corporation as large as Cybot Galactica was by default a lynchpin of economic stability.

Yet the faction did not consult with the Jedi Council in this regard which, while not explicitly mandated within the Code, was a tradition typically followed out of respect. That the group acted unilaterally against the threat was something they felt necessary, and the danger to the corporation was effectively nullified; their success was an early shield against criticism.

Opponents of the Immersion faction claimed they, in protecting the corporation, had acted only to shore up funding for their own interests against their rivals in the Jedi Council, who were due to face election within the year. Factions as a whole, as well as individual Jedi, often sought what many saw as corporate sponsorship for their political ambitions; a process reviled by many of the so-called 'apolitical' Jedi and yet utterly necessary for those who wished to serve on the Council. Several other factions, led by Purity on Serenno, went so far as to demand the rogue Jedi be expelled from the Order entirely, and stripped of all their privileges.

The mere suggestion of exile raised the spectre of previous division within the Jedi, which had sown both dissent and, inevitably, terrible conflict in the past; the result being a great schism and resulting war. This was, naturally, a situation most Jedi were desperate to avoid repeating, no matter their ostensible disagreements with other factions.

So the Council withheld its verdict, waiting for the current crisis to resolve itself before exerting their influence by alternative means, designed to avoid direct conflict. At this time, the One Spirit faction began manoeuvring to make the Council subservient to a single Supreme Jedi Master, and enshrine a more formal hierarchy throughout the Order itself.

For many Jedi, the very idea of the Council's power being held by an individual was repugnant, and yet the nature of the Council's recent deliberations had become - just like the Galactic Senate - hopelessly mired in endless discussions and arguments, designed to pacify often contradictory agendas, resulting in largely inefficient and bloated processes and outcomes, most of which neither offended nor satisfied.

Hence, the concept of a more directly accountable and effective leadership of the Jedi had garnered a great deal of popular support across multiple factions, despite its vehement resistance by noted opponents. The instruments of careful deliberation and organisation that had served the Order well in the days when its numbers were few, had failed them once their reach had spanned a galaxy. Both the Jedi Order and the Republic Senate had reached the bounds of their ability to control the very processes they had put in place to ensure the smooth administration of enormously powerful bodies peopled with ambitious individuals who spoke with half a mind upon the interests of influential allies and rivals alike.

In fact, the prelude to the Clone Wars was neither the first time the Jedi had internally warred, nor the first time they had suffered a crisis of belief within their Order.

For centuries the factions among the Jedi had debated their role in the galaxy, with one side or the other spending its time in the spotlight, counselling their kin as to how best interpret the Code and in what manner the Order should act unilaterally against perceived threats against the Republic, or how much of their independence to surrender to the will of the citizens of the galaxy. During eras when the Order remained tightly controlled by a single powerful faction, or when the balance of power between most or all of the factions remained such that no one group could defy the will of the collective, the Jedi Order remained at peace.

Over a century before the crisis of the Clone Wars, the Third Jedi Schism, also called the Great Scission, had separated the faction later known colloquially as 'dark Jedi' from the politically dominant 'light Jedi', and had seen the former exiled from the boundaries of the Republic entirely. This was what Purity were now seeking from Immersion; to essentially banish them from the politics of the Council and its codified restrictions just as the Sith faction had once become political pariahs and a mechanism for cathartic restoration within the Order itself.

Should they have succeeded, many of the exiled Jedi would have become gifted mercenaries for hire; which Purity had already suggested Immersion had essentially become. The Purity faction did not want the rest of the Order tainted by these beliefs, which argued for pragmatism and the integration - or, immersion - of the Order into a greater range of galactic activities without the appearance of financial benefit.

Others in the Order naturally viewed this position as hypocritical, given that the Order could not survive without material support unless they turned a portion of their numbers from monastic studies and training their fantastic abilities simply to undertake menial tasks like tending to agriculture or engaging in trade. That was the business of the galaxy as a whole - the Jedi were above the fray, but to remain so meant garnering support by other means. Those among the Purity faction often touted tithes and taxes imposed on various bodies from the average galactic citizen to corporations to the Republic bureaucracy itself, as one such solution.

Perhaps because of the existing tensions between notable Council members, between the factions themselves, the dredging up of painful memories and a heightened sense of urgency surrounding the matter of the Council's effectiveness brought the situation to a head sooner and with more vitriol than any among on the Council could have predicted. This new conflict was, therefore, quite different to previous iterations in scope and intensity, and quickly drew multiple factions into direct conflict.

Consequently, the multiple causes of conflict and the uniquely fractured nature of the Order itself resulted in a sequence of events which created a vastly greater consequence for the galaxy as a whole than almost any rupture which had come before it.