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PROLOGUE

In the last days of the Old Republic, the Sith-followers of the Force's dark side and ancient enemies of the Jedi order-numbered only two: one Master and one apprentice. Yet it was not always so. A thousand years before the Republic's collapse and Emperor Palpatine's rise to power, the Sith were legion . . .

Lord Kaan, Sith Master and founder of the Brotherhood of Darkness, strode through the gore of the battlefield, a tall shadow in the night's gloom. Thousands of Republic troops and nearly a hundred Jedi had given their lives trying to defend this world against his army-and they had lost. He relished their suffering and despair; even now he could sense it rising up like the stench from the broken corpses scattered about the valley.

In the distance a storm was brewing. As each flash of lightning illuminated the sky, Korriban's great Sith temple was momentarily visible in the distance, a stark silhouette towering over the barren horizon.

A pair of figures waited in the center of the slaughter, one human and the other Twi'lek. He recognized them despite the darkness: Qordis and Kopecz, two of the more powerful Sith Lords. Once they had been bitter rivals, but now they served together in Kaan's Brotherhood. He approached them quickly, smiling.

Qordis, tall and so lean as to appear almost skeletal, smiled back. "This is a great victory, Lord Kaan. It has been far too long since the Sith have had an academy on Korriban."

"I sense you are eager to begin training the new apprentices here," Kaan replied. "I expect you will provide me with many more powerful-and loyal-Sith adepts and Masters in the coming years."

"Provide you?" Kopecz asked pointedly. "Don't you mean provide us? Are we not all part of the Brotherhood of Darkness?"

His question was met with an easy laugh. "Of course, Kopecz. A mere slip of the tongue?'

"Kopecz refuses to celebrate in our triumph," Qordis noted. "He has been like this all night."

Kaan clasped a hand on the hefty Twi'lek's shoulder. "This is a great victory for us," he said. "Korriban is more than just another world: it is a symbol. The birthplace of the Sith. This victory sends a message to the Republic and the Jedi. Now they will truly know and fear the Brotherhood."

Kopecz shrugged free of Kaan's hand and turned away with a flick of the tips of the long lekku wound around his neck. "Celebrate if you wish," he called over his shoulder as he walked away. "But the real war has only just begun."

Three Years Later…