Darth Ruin opened his yellow eyes upon them. His mind found his form; a body built around an almost obsessive vanity; strength coiled within him, both muscular and Forceful. The Force was the avenue through which his mind reached further than his flesh, touching upon the stone, upon robes, upon skin and then deeper upon other kinds – all of which were indistinct to him through what their owners considered spells and concealments and shadows. He imagined his surroundings; the room itself had an obsidian floor; his throne matched it, elevated slightly on a dais. He sensed a rustling; before him, and behind him.

The latter were the Jedi who had joined his cause, in what he privately referred to as the Fourth Great Schism. He followed such names as Xendor, Ku’ar Danar and Exar Kun, who led the First, Second and Third Great Schisms respectively. He was known as the First Lost – the first Jedi Master to leave the Jedi Order for over a millennia. The Jedi gave him special deference for him not succumbing to the dark side so much as simply departing on philosophical grounds – they knew not that Phanius had became Ruin; nor would they know the truth, for he willed it and it would be so.

The former personages within the room were more varied in creed than Darth Ruin and his Sith, who even now represented the larger of the groups present. That is not to say that Ruin’s faction was the largest in all the Empire, but it was to say that it was the newest, and as such was not tied down in the enmities between those gathered between them; he could choose any one of them and elevate them so; bequeath his strength; share the knowledge of the Sith Holocron in his possession; destroy a rival at the request of an ally.

Thus they had all came, from across the length and breadth of the Empire, to listen to what he had to say – the so-called tribes of the Sith, reflecting the lack of central authority across the Empire for more than a millennium. Darth Ruin recounted the names he had given them.

The Disciples of Ragnos; the Cult of Exar Kun; the Bladeborn; the Mecrosa Order; the Cult of Darth Phobos, itself the successor to the Dread Horde; the Malevolence; the Krath; the Cult of Veroleem; the Heinsnake; the Screaming Blade; the Sionists; the Cult of Ki Sazen; the Frangawl Clan; the Order of Revan; the Sorcerors of Tund.

Not all of them were truly Sith; not all of them were human, either. The Sionists were Kel’Dor, those who pledged themselves to Sazen were Nikto, by and large, and among the human members were a smattering of the traditional galactically evident species; Twi’leks, Rodians, Weequays, Zabraks and so forth. Ruin allowed such vagaries to exist because the shape of others was simply unimportant to him. Not all of them would bend to his view of reality, either, and they, too, would be unimportant to him.

“By design, you have come to me, to see what I have to offer.” He eyed them in their various attires – the High Lords of the Tapani were among the Mecrosa; a multi-coloured offering among the Disciples; tattooed shoulders evident among the Heinsnake; Sith assassin robes and masks for the Bladeborn, while his own kin adopted darker versions of the Jedi mantle.

“Maybe some of us just came to wrestle that Holocron from you,” a voice snarked, and Ruin smiled. “You know there are none that pre-date Vitiate left among the Empire.”

“If you could do that,” Ruin replied, “You would have taken the ones that have been hidden among your rivals,” The Umbaran glanced at the Malevolence, at the Mecrosa, and refocused upon the Frangawl who had spoken. “But I would consider it more useful for you to just listen.”

Darth Ruin stood. “You know who I am; know that I have seized the title of Darth – the first Sith in nearly a millennium and a half to do so. My Knights exist to serve me, and I percolate the Sith ways among them. I come offering to spread the knowledge that I have gathered among you all, among the Empire.”

A snort. “The Empire is dead. We have no ruler, no leader – haven’t since the Dark Council ran out of members to put on the throne.”

“Of course,” Ruin allowed. “We have been without an Emperor for many years, indeed, without a Dark Lord of the Sith, and eventually, the title of Darth was abandoned by you all entirely. For we could not agree upon an Emperor, nor a Dark Lord, nor a Darth, following the death of Darth Desolous.”

He spread his fingers to the air above them and allowed the galactic map to emerge above them in the gloom. The hologram showed the Unknown Regions to the galactic west, covering more than half of that point of the compass. The majority was covered by blue – the Galactic Republic; the Core through to the Inner Rim, but in the north it went no further than the Inner Rim, and was met with red, which spread around the galaxy with various interruptions to its continuity – the Empire. In the east, the blue drew down to Mid Rim, and in the south, similarly, with both the north and south interrupted by salient which anyone with half a grasp of galactic cartography would recognize as the Hydian Way, Perlemian Trade Route, Corellian Run, Rimma Trade Route and Corellian Trade Spine – though the latter two both terminated at the Mid Rim borders at Javin and Eriadu respectively. Throughout the red and blue were islands of green – independent nations across the Empire and Republic; some of those neutral spots had representatives at this very meeting.

“This is broad strokes, certainly,” Darth Ruin added across the general mumblings. “Much of the territory that nominally falls within the Empire is purely worlds the Republic have abandoned or not yet surveyed,” a hand turned to the north. “The Republic border retreated to Ord Mantell, Iridonia and Ithor in the wake of the Galactic Wars, but,” his hand nudged to the territory between the Hydian and Perlemian in the same area, “the Republic has sought to maintain a foothold here over the former Seat of the Empire. This includes the various throneworlds of the Empire and has contributed to our inability to focus its efforts… but also allowed a general malaise within the Republic to committing to our destruction.”

“Not that they’re strong enough to do even that,” snorted an orange-garbed Disciple.

“With all the corporations doing whatever they wish across the Expansion Region, and the separatist movements at Devaron and Hiit, the Republic could not put together a unified effort against us even if they tried,” a Kunite Senator spoke up.

A High Lord expressed disdain as she interjected. “An unintended consequence of Corellia ending the Alsakan Conflicts and Alsakan itself disarming – the corporations that were nominally under the control of them and Coruscant have been freed to do as they wish.”

“Which has enabled us to strengthen ourselves with all these corporations breaking the rules around trade with the Empire,” added the original Disciple, adding a sense of challenge to what Ruin had initially seen as a meeting of thoughts and minds.

“Those of us who have territories to control and have not been abandoned to hide in the shadows of our own worlds,” ground out a Sionist.

Before Ruin could interject, the Krath Senator chuckled. “Some of us have seized power from those shadows, rather than ‘hid’ in them. 

“Until the Jedi notice you!” The Kel’Dor bit back.

There it was. Ruin raised a hand to draw attention back to himself. “Exactly,” agreed Ruin. “Until the Jedi notice you. The Republic may not be strong enough to act against the Empire as a whole, but the Jedi are indeed powerful enough to strike down a Sith clan acting alone.” He gestured, illuminating a variety of locations as he spoke. “The original Empire numbered a smattering of sectors to the extreme Rim of the galaxy, centered around Twelve Thrones, with a mythical Thirteenth somewhere in the Inner Rim. The Republic had drawn its borders back to the Colonies in the north, in part because the Twelfth Alsakan Conflict had gone so poorly for Alsakan, much as they have pulled their northern borders back today. This original Empire lasted for nearly two millennia in the shadows, having usurped and crushed the Sith Kingdom the Dark Jedi exiles found within the Stygian Caldera.”

The Sith grew silent. Not everyone knew their history in full. Others had glimpsed upon it, but Ruin was about to demonstrate mastery of it. For he knew it as he knew himself. Of course, he did not have access to the knowledge of the entirety of the past, for the purposes of Darth Ruin, he may as well have and he would frame it as such.

“The original Kingdom had percolated for some twenty millennia before the exiles arrived, in varying states of civil war and reunification under a host of Kings, with an initial possible expansion around the Rim as far as Belsavis, in spite of the Infinite Empire,” - he knew the Order of Revan would pay attention here – “before settling on making use of the Rakatan hyperspace to maintain connections with worlds as far-flung as Ambria, Malachor and Tund,” – thus drawing the attention of the Bladeborn and Sorcerors of the latter world. “When the Exiles arrived, the Kingdom was undergoing a brief reunification, making it all the easier for the Exiles to seize control.”

Ruin continued onwards with the referencing and name-drops to draw together the weaving fragments of the Empire into one – the important bits, anyway. “Come those two millennia, and a Golden Age under Marka Ragnos, the Empire met the Republic and was defeated, having opted for a series of coups following the death of Ragnos. The reining Dark Lord, Naga Sadow, fled to Yavin 4, even as Korriban fell. However, it was Lord Vitiate, a surviving member of the Council, who struck the death blow upon the Empire in its present form, luring and killing thousands of Sith in a ritual which granted him incredible power and longevity.”

As he spoke, the map seemed to alight with his words, programmed as it was to respond to certain phrases as he spoke them. “The Empire split into a dozen fragments, but the Republic did not draw deeply enough into the Caldera, and more than half the worlds within the sinkhole, including the former capital Ziost, escaped their gaze. These worlds, with the new capital of Dromund Kaas, formed the basis of the reconstituted First Sith Empire. Quietly spreading in the galactic north, the Empire rebuilt and worked to expand into the Unknown Regions for the following millennium.”

A hand turned to the Republic. “However, the Sith ways found fertile soul within the known. The Sith went underground, and their teachings spread upwards through society as forbidden fruit, birthing the Mecrosa and Krath movements, and when Freedon Nadd and then Exar Kun fell to the dark side from the Jedi Order, Sadow’s legacy moved through them and they brought the Mandalorians to heel, wove the Mecrosa and Krath into the Second Sith Empire, and with a deft neutrality pact with the Hutts, brought wholesale chaos and devastation to the Republic in the Great Sith War, ushering in the Old Sith Wars as the Mandalorians continued the era onwards while the Sith were defeated and the Second Empire expanded into the Republic-known portions of the Caldera, before being usurped by the Jedi Revanchists, who had found the hooks to the dark side via the academy on Malachor while fighting the Mandalorians, and they revitalized the Second Empire and turned it back against the Republic during the aptly-named Jedi Civil War – for they were the remnants of the Jedi Order turned to the dark, and the reconstituted First Empire waited in the shadows, secretly wrestling with the spirits of Korriban for the legacy of the Order. The Second Empire collapsed into civil war for a time, and while it destroyed the Jedi Order during the subsequent Dark Wars, the Sith had done too much damage to themselves and the Second Empire eventually collapsed when its Dark Lords turned on each other.”

He had thus referenced the import of others present and drove the point home that the Sith had co-opted both the Hutts and Mandalorians during their era – and even been used themselves by the First Empire and the spirits of Korriban.

“Within three hundred years however, the reconstituted Empire had amassed enough strength to challenge the Republic proper, having crossed the Unknown Regions, allied with a species of blue skin and red eyes, and poised to invade from north and south.” The map shifted and acknowledged the smattering of Sith worlds in the Unknown Regions as they were still today, with a mass of red in the north brushing up against the Republic blue, which was reaching as far rimward as the Corva Sector, with salient reaching north to Dathomir and Agamar.

There was a rude snort from one of those present, and by the time Ruin looked down, someone had already stabbed the offending person, and he dropped to the floor. The crowd, entranced, looked back as almost one. Ruin smiled at that.

“The Empire invaded some sixteen hundred years ago and triggered the Galactic Wars, the Sith Emperor and his twelve Dark Lords of the Sith bringing the territory under their control up to a full half of the Republic, seizing the Outer Rim save for the Tionese Cluster – which was considered too irrelevant – and advancing on the Mid Rim, their avenue of assault growing narrower as Bothawui held firm and the Republic defended Alderaan and Balmorra, even as continued fighting in the Minos Cluster kept the Empire’s southern forces committed.” A sea of crimson encompassed whole worlds and sectors, and green independent powers turned lighter shades of red. “The Hutts and Mandalorians joined our cause, and the Republic was on the verge of defeat – but so too was the Empire unable to maintain the pace, requiring more gains to support the ones it had already made. Eventually a stalemate occurred, with the galaxy divided fully in half, but the Empire sacked and held hostage Coruscant demanding the withdrawal of the Republic from the Minos Cluster, Balmorra, Bothawui and other key systems. Secessionist movements weakened the Republic furthermore as the Empire prepared for the next Galactic War, and a Cold War raged until the inevitable occurred.”

Darth Ruin scratched his chin. “However, it became apparent that the Sith Emperor had judged his Empire lacking. The single most powerful Sith Empire in history had failed to win the war with brute force alone, and he turned his attention to building up Zakuul, in the Unknown Regions, and an Eternal Empire. His first intention was to use the Empire when the war began anew to complete a larger version of the ritual he had used to seize control of the Empire, but he was resoundingly foiled by Jedi and Sith alike, who did not wish to become food for the Emperor’s godhood. The Galactic War continued, and the Republic repulsed the Empire from the Core and Colonies, reinforced by the return of many former separatist worlds as knowledge of the Emperor’s mad schemes undermined the Empire – which itself fractured as the Emperor vanished from sight – rumored dead, by some. The Empire managed to regain a measure of stability by crushing the usurpers, but it was weakened, dramatically so, and the Republic was poised to press onwards.”

“The Empire managed to retain its alliance with the Hutts, Mandalorians and the blue skins, even adding the Killiks to the fold when a Nest approached the Empire. This may have been enough to stem the tide, but the Eternal Empire erased many Imperial outposts in the Unknown Regions, even going as far as raiding Korriban and Tython, as a precursor to an invasion. The Emperor had managed to reach his Eternal Empire following confrontations between the Order of Revan and the selfsame Jedi and Sith coalition which had defeated the Emperor and the usurpers, and though he was trapped in carbonite by his son, the Eternal War saw the Republic and Empire both defeated and forced to sign treaties offering tribute to Zakuul within a year. Still, however, the Eternal Empire allowed the Galactic War to drag on, both sides scrambling for resources, and both sides almost unidentifiable – a corrupt Chancellor ruled against a treacherous Sith Empress, even as the Empire was reduced to a rump state when it lost its allies, in spite of the Republic theoretically being the democracy!” Ruin chortled, slightly, as the others in the room shifted uncomfortably. He pressed on, paying no heed to them, especially the murmurings among the Order of Revan.

“But the Jedi and Sith allies formed their own Alliance to oppose the Eternal Empire some five years after the Eternal Fleet began its campaigns, and within three years had both seized control of Zakuul and killed or co-opted the family of the Sith Emperor, only to lose all the superior technology the Eternal Empire had amassed and render the Eternal Alliance moot. The Galactic War continued, and though the Eternal Alliance joined the conflict, proprietorial knowledge of the Unknown Regions was lost, and the Empire was forced to continue on with a weak bridge between its northern and southern halves across an embattled territory in the Expansion Region.”

Ruin shrugged. “We all know what followed. The Empire could not continue on – its Emperor was dead, its Dark Council had lost most of its cohesion when the Galactic War began anew, and most of its membership by the time the Eternal Alliance collapsed. Sith Empress Acina, who had held the Empire together against the Eternal Empire, was dead, and Sith Emperor Vowrawn led the Empire all but alone; this fellow Dark Lords were all dead, and with his passing the Empire’s central apparatus ceased to be, especially when the Caldera fell to the Republic – the Seat of the Empire was no more, even if the Empire still existed.”

The map evolved. Bothan, Mandalorian and Hutt Space isolated themselves from the Empire, even as a surge of blue drove into the space between the Hydian and Perlemian, with those hyperlanes also falling blue. Crimson remained in the north but in two segments, with an isolated crimson territory slightly north of Hutt Space. To the south, a crimson territory formed rimward of Bothawui as it went independent, even as the Empire withdrew more southerly. “There were conflicts between the Empire, Republic, Jedi and Sith, but these were minor engagements. Just as likely to occur was a battle between those elements as an internal conflict, be it secession or otherwise. Darth Desolous skirmished along the Mid and Outer Rim borders, reaching Yaga Minor from Utapau before being defeated; the Paecian Empire emerged in the north for a time; Hapes seceded from the Republic; the Centrality formed around Tund; and Alsakan was bloodied one last time by Coruscant and Corellia, all within the next five centuries after the Galactic Wars ground to a halt. There were not the resources to continue the war, nor the willpower. The Jedi and Sith enmity was not enough to liven the hearts of men and women to fight, and the fact that the two had cooperated for the latter decade of the Galactic War only added to the overall perception that the war had became unnecessary.”

Darth Ruin sat back down, as if crestfallen. “But without that conflict, the Empire and Republic grew weaker. The Empire, isolated from the galactic community, split into clans and tribes even more than before, even as the Republic lost control of the corporations formerly under its sway. The Jedi and Sith grew only more numerous over time, but to what end? Formal hostilities between the Empire and Republic ended fifteen centuries ago; informal ones ended nearly half a millennium after that with Dark Lord Saalo Morn, who amassed enough power to place the key in the lock, but not a successor or following with which to turn the key on the New Sith.”

“The answer I bring to you all today is the fact that I intend to turn that key. I intend to be the beginning and end of this Empire, for all is I, and I will be you all. There is nothing more than self in the Empire, and expressing it to achieve more. I tell you to acknowledge that your selves are nothing more than an extension of me, and that I will lead us out of the shadows of peace, break the chains of decadence that walks the lost halls of my Empire. With a lightning strike, I will seize back our throne worlds, I will make our Empire anew.”

Silence responded to him. Some of them looked to each other; there was even a slight uncertainty among his own Sith.

“What is the question, you wonder?”

Darth Ruin, you see, did not believe in anyone else. While on some intellectual level he acknowledged that his sheer force of personality – his confidence, his charisma, his presence – carried many among him, he had reached the philosophical point that he simply believed that everything else in reality was conjured by his mind, and anything he encountered that he did not recognize, that was purely a part of his unconscious expressing itself and him giving it form in the real world. But that belief that all of reality was nothing than of extension of Darth Ruin – it empowered him, it enabled him, and it enshrined him in an aura of deification that simply drove people to have faith in him.

Thus had occurred with the fifty Jedi Knights which had joined him.

Thus had occurred during his individual discussions with many of the leaders of the Sith here.

Thus would drive a variety of them away from him, to retreat back to their shadowed worlds.

Thus he would convince others to support him tacitly and undermine the Republic from within, all the while funneling resources into the Outer Rim.

Thus some of the Sith among him would throw themselves into his New Sith movement and reconstitute the First Empire for a second time, starting the war against the Republic and Jedi yet again.

“The question, my friends, is this,” Darth Ruin the One said, with a smile to his lips. “How could you possibly not join me, and my Empire?”

Thus, many of them would realise, in a matter of years, that Darth Ruin was mad.

Thus, several of the cults present here today would never be heard from again.

Thus, the New Sith Wars would drive the Republic into retreat, and enflame the conflicts between the existing Sith clans – but resurgent, reformed, and rearmed.

Thus, the New Sith Wars would begin between the Republic and the Empire, but continue as a series of wars amongst themselves, a formal and informal series of Kaggaths until the word lost all meaning, and was lost itself.

Thus, the Republic would merely acquire breathing room until the Empire, by now far stronger than the Republic, decided who would lead it.

Thus, the Republic would collapse, and the Jedi, much as the Sith, create a theocracy to survive.

Thus, the Sith would not seek to chain their conflicts, but to embrace them, reinventing the Empire’s governing philosophy under successive Dark Lords of the Sith, eternally New Sith, for no one belief would ever entrench itself in the heart of the Empire.

Fifty lightsabers ignited behind Darth Ruin’s chair.

Quickly, Lords drew their lightfoils; Screamers would withdrew blades from their scabbards; Cultists would ready cortosis swords, light ancient lightsabers, and activate force pikes. They did not to defend themselves, but to rush to announce their support.

Most of them. The Malevolence; the Veroleem; they faded into the shadows cast by the lightsabers and vanished from the gathering. Some, such as the Sionists, acted to defend themselves and were struck down swiftly. The majority, however, joined the New Sith, and reconstituted the First Sith Empire once more.

He bared his teeth. “You could not.”

The New Sith Wars had begun.