By Silver2467 21 Comments
To continue onto another subject of the Force, the topic at hand is the Dark.
Spoiler Alert: This article contains spoilers to Yoda: Dark Rendezvous, Revenge of the Sith, Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor, Dark Empire, and The New Rebellion below.
In some Star Wars stories, there is a narrative concept which Matthew Stover named the Dark. But there is question as to the relationship between the Dark and the Force; one common misconception held is that the Dark is tantamount to or, in some way, is the dark side of the Force. Another misconception is that the Dark may not even exist but is simply a metaphor. This is not so. For me to refute these misconceptions, I need to define its characteristics, but that is no easy task. The Dark is...complicated.
Were I to summarize its key definition in only a few words, my summary would be this: final, perpetual, ineluctable nonexistence. Referring to the Dark as an abstraction, the Dark embodies the eventual end of an existence. The laws that govern the universe point to the fact that nothing is permanent. All inorganic matter degrades, and all organic matter dies. This can require practically incomprehensibly long periods of time to happen for some natural phenomena (celestial bodies, for instance, can endure for countless years), but ultimately, everything expires. As a metaphysical power though, the Dark is, once again, more complicated.
For background on the Dark, let’s discuss which stories it has appeared in. The Dark was primarily a concept integrated and developed by Matthew Stover in his novels, mostly Shatterpoint, Revenge of the Sith, and Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor, and “the Dark” is one of the names he ascribed to it, another name being “the jungle” from Shatterpoint. This idea has been present in other novels though, such as Sean Stewart’s Yoda: Dark Rendezvous. However, the Dark adds dimensions even to themes prevalent in stories such as Return of the Jedi, and one of the primary sources for the Dark, as I said above, is Revenge of the Sith. While it may never be outright discussed in the films, the fact that the Dark can be traced into the plots of Lucas’ stories exhibits huge significance.
To give a complete overview of the Dark, I will post the descriptive intervals between section divisions in Revenge of the Sith and analyze their meaning.
--Taken from Revenge of the Sith
The dark is generous.
Its first gift is concealment: our true faces lie in the dark beneath our skins, our true hearts remain shadowed deeper still. But the greatest concealment lies not in protecting our secret truths, but in hiding from us the truths of others.
The dark protects us from what we dare not know.
Its second gift is comforting illusion: the ease of gentle dreams in night's embrace, the beauty that imagination brings to what would repel in day's harsh light. But the greatest of its comforts is the illusion that the dark is temporary: that every night brings a new day. Because it is day that is temporary.
Day is the illusion.
Its third gift is the light itself: as days are defined by the nights that divide them, as stars are defined by the infinite black through which they wheel, the dark embraces the light, and brings it forth from the center of its own self.
With each victory of the light, it is the dark that wins.
This exposition describes multiple facets of the Dark. It begins with the statement that the Dark is generous, due to its various “gifts.” The gift of concealment “protects” people from a reality they would rather be ignorant of. The gift of illusion bears the deception that between the Dark and the Light, the Dark is the weaker force. The Dark allows people to believe its alleged frailty and to champion the ideals of the Light. Lastly, the gift of the Light is the suggestion that the Dark produced the Light from within itself in accordance with its will, but the gift of the Light is apparently meaningless, as the Dark always overpowers the Light.
On a philosophical note, this section establishes that the Dark is the underlying truth, not the Light; the Light is a “gift” that masks the undesirable truth. The Dark precedes the Light. Where the Light is an artificial construct, the Dark is the universal constant. In a paradoxical sense, the Dark always existed because it is nonexistence. Therefore, if nothing predates something, the Light is the illusion, not the Dark. The Light had to be generated, had to have an origin, while the Dark was simply there. The Dark is a grim truth that presides over the illusions of Light that all beings willingly and blithely live under.
--Taken from Revenge of the Sith
The dark is generous, and it is patient.
It is the dark that seeds cruelty into justice, that drips contempt into compassion, that poisons love with grains of doubt.
The dark can be patient, because the slightest drop of rain will cause those seeds to sprout.
The rain will come, and the seeds will sprout, for the dark is the soil in which they grow, and it is the clouds above them, and it waits behind the star that gives them light.
The dark's patience is infinite.
Eventually, even stars burn out.
The Dark is patient as it engenders cruelty, contempt, and doubt and waits for the consummation of these traits. The purpose of this is to feed itself. The Dark is ultimate destruction that preludes oblivion. To advance the cause of destruction, the Dark can often dispense attitudes of discontent and unease which can motivate beings to act after their baser natures and damage or kill whatever or whoever their disdain is targeted at. Any destruction feeds (but does not sate) the Dark.
Metaphorically, the Dark is further described as the “soil” in which these seeds grow and the “clouds” that rain on them. Literally, the Dark exists in every being, as every being possesses the capacity to experience the Dark’s seeds and as the Dark masks itself within the core of every being.
Of even more titanic weight is the Dark’s wait for stars to die. The immeasurably protracted periods required to simply wait for a star to extinguish is a demonstration of the Dark’s patience and longevity. If the Dark is self-existent, it is therefore permanent, and waiting the years for a star to die is nothing compared to infinity. When the Light goes out, it appears to leave behind the Dark, but in actuality, the Dark was there first, waiting for the Light to burn out. Ultimately, this settles concretely that the Light is transient; the Dark is permanent.
--Taken from Revenge of the Sith
The dark is generous, and it is patient, and it always wins.
It always wins because it is everywhere.
It is in the wood that burns in your hearth, and in the kettle on the fire; it is under your chair and under your table and under the sheets on your bed. Walk in the midday sun and the dark is with you, attached to the soles of your feet.
The brightest light casts the darkest shadow.
The Dark will always be the victor. This has to be so because the Dark exists in all places. Even in the light of a fire, there is darkness around or under it or within a kettle heated by it. The Dark travels with a person wherever they go. If a person walks in the night, then the Dark surrounds them; if a person walks in the daylight, then the Dark is concentrated into a definable outline of that person. If the Dark is the fundamental truth, then it could be said that the shadow is the real being, not the person themselves.
Worse, the Light can strengthen the Dark: the brighter the Light, the Darker the shadow. A star lighting a world illuminates the days but leaves shadows during those days, never able to wholly send away all Darkness, and when the day ends, the Dark rules for the night. The Light itself intensifying the Dark accentuates the Dark’s invulnerability.
--Taken from Revenge of the Sith
The dark is generous, and it is patient, and it always wins—but in the heart of its strength lies weakness: one lone candle is enough to hold it back.
Love is more than a candle. Love can ignite the stars.
But now we meet a deficiency. If the Dark is so unbeatable and so omnipotent, why does it retreat from the smallest Light? If the Dark is so all-consuming and so everlasting, how can life persist? If the Dark is so inescapable and so compelling, how can anyone experience love? Why does the Dark need to wait for stars to die? If its power was so immense, why couldn’t it consume the star instantaneously? It is noted that the brightest Light casts the Darkest shadow. During the night, the Dark subsumes everything, but during the day, the Dark is compressed into shaded spaces. But why is that? Why is it the Dark is held back by Light at all?
To further illustrate the facets of the Dark, let’s consider its narrative uses. As I said, the Dark has been used as a narrative device in many prominent story lines. In Shatterpoint, Mace Windu struggles with the idea that the Dark is the underlying truth and governs the war efforts of the Clone Wars. He refers to it as the law of the jungle, but he addresses it on a lower scale. In Yoda: Dark Rendezvous, Jai Maruk and Whie Malreaux especially, as well as Scout and Yoda, contemplate an ulterior meaning, even possibly transcending the Force’s light and dark sides.
--Taken from Yoda: Dark Rendezvous
Master Yoda held up his bowl. "Asked the toaster to make this feast I did," he said, nodding benevolently at Fidelis, "that we might share our food, and remember our lost Master Leem and Master Maruk."
Fidelis handed the Padawans beakers of a rich purple liquid that tasted like candleberries and rainwater and the smell of sweet stuff. It fizzed on Scout's tongue as she drank a toast. "Master Leem and Master Maruk."
"That's it?" Whie said angrily. "That's what you want to do? Eat? Maks and Jai Maruk dead, and all you can think about is filling your bellies?"
Scout looked up guiltily, licking cracker crumbs off the edge of her mouth.
"What about finding Ventress?" Whie demanded. "What about making her pay for what she did? Are the Jedi about justice, or dessert?"
"Profiteroles Ukio," Fidelis said quietly. "With a caramel ganache filling."
Yoda savored a spoonful of gumbo. "Honor life by living, Padawan. Killing honors only death: only the dark side."
"Well, much has the dark side been honored, then," Whie said bitterly.
"Kid, it's been way too many hours since you've slept," Scout said.
"Don't call me kid," Whie said dangerously. "I am not your little brother. I look out for you, not the other way around, Tallisibeth. Jai Maruk was right about you. If I hadn't been taking care of you back in the spaceport, I might have been able to get down to the floor in time to stop her from killing them both."
"Taking care of me!" Scout cried, outraged. "Who was pinned to the railing by his butler droid while I was trying to get down there? Who snuck off to hear stories about his so-called real family in the first place?" she said, white with anger.
Yoda set his bowl of gumbo regretfully aside. "Hear it working, do you?"
"Hear what?" Whie snapped.
"The dark side. Always it speaks to us, from our pain. Our grief. It connects our pain to all pain, our hurt to all hurt."
"Maybe it has a lot to say." Whie stared at the starscape hovering over the projector table. "It's so easy for you. What do you care? You are unattached, aren't you? You'll probably never die. What was Maks Leem to you? Another pupil. After all these centuries, who could blame you if you could hardly keep track of them? Well, she was more than that to me." He looked up challengingly. Tear tracks were shining on his face, but his eyes were still hard and angry. "She was the closest thing I had to a mother, since you took me away from my real mother. She chose me to be her Padawan and I let her down, I let her die, and I'm not going to sit here and stuff myself and get over it!" He finished with a yell, sweeping the plate of crêpes off the projection table, so the platter went sailing toward the floor.
Yoda's eyes, heavy-lidded and half closed like a drowsing dragon's, gleamed, and one finger twitched. Food, platter, drinks, and all hung suspended in the air. The platter settled; the crêpes returned to it; Whie's overturned cup righted itself, and rich purple liquid trickled back into it. All settled back onto the table. Another twitch of Yoda's fingers, the merest flicker, and Whie's head jerked around as if on a string, until he found himself looking into the old Jedi's eyes. They were green, green as swamp water. He had never quite realized before how terrifying those eyes could be. One could drown in them. One could be pulled under.
"Teach me about pain, think you can?" Yoda said softly. "Think the old Master cannot care, mmm? Forgotten who I am, have you? Old am I, yes. Mm. Loved more than you, have I, Padawan. Lost more. Hated more. Killed more." The green eyes narrowed to gleaming slits under heavy lids. Dragon eyes, old and terrible. "Think wisdom comes at no cost? The dark side, yes—it is easier for them. The pain grows too great, and they eat the darkness to flee from it. Not Yoda. Yoda loves and suffers for it, loves and suffers."
One could have heard a feather hit the floor.
"The price of Yoda's wisdom, high it is, very high, and the cost goes on forever. But teach me about pain, will you?"
"I..." Whie's mouth worked. "I am sorry, Master. I was angry. But...what if they're right?" he cried out in anguish. "What if the galaxy is dark. What if it's like Ventress says: we are born, we suffer, we die, and that is all. What if there is no plan, what if there is no 'goodness'? What if we suffer blindly, trying to find a reason for the suffering, but we're just fooling ourselves, looking for hope that isn't there? What if there is nothing but stars and the black space between them and the galaxy does not care if we live or die?"
Yoda said, "It's true."
The Padawans looked at him in shock. The Master's short legs swung forth and back, forth and back.
"Perhaps," he added. He sighed. "Many days, feel certain of a greater hope, I do. Some days, not so." He shrugged. "What difference does it make?"
"Ventress was right?" Whie said, shocked out of his anger.
"No! Wrong she is! As wrong as she can be!" Yoda snorted. "Grief in the galaxy, is there? Oh, yes. Oceans of it. Worlds. And darkness?" Yoda pointed to the starscape on the projection table. "There you see: darkness, darkness everywhere, and a few stars. A few points of light. If no plan there is, no fate, no destiny, no providence, no Force: then what is left?" He looked at each of them in turn. "Nothing but our choices, hmm?
“Asajj eats the darkness, and the darkness eats her back. Do that if you wish, Whie. Do that if you wish."
The old Jedi looked deep into the starscape, suns and planets and nebulae dancing, tiny points of light blazing in the darkness.
"To be Jedi is to face the truth, and choose. Give off light, or darkness, Padawan." His matted eyebrows rose high over his swamp-colored eyes, and he poked Whie with the end of his stick. Poke, poke. "Be a candle, or the night, Padawan: but choose!"
Whie cried for what seemed like a long time. Scout ate. Fidelis served. Master Yoda told stories of Maks Leem and Jai Maruk: tales of their most exciting adventures, of course, but also comical anecdotes from the days when they were only children in the Temple. They drank together. Many toasts.
Scout cried. Whie ate. Fidelis served.
Yoda told stories, and ate, and cried, and laughed: and the Padawans saw that life itself was a lightsaber in his hands; even in the face of treachery and death and hopes gone cold, he burned like a candle in the darkness. Like a star shining in the black eternity of space.
Yoda and Whie’s conversation underscores the nature of the Dark: most of the universe is dark, and everything eventually dies. So what if there is no point to life at all? In terms of story structure, Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor and Revenge of the Sith expound most on the Dark, and those will be our most prominent sources from here on out.
In Revenge of the Sith, certain major characters have second-person descriptive sections that introduce their characters. In Anakin’s character introduction, it is revealed that Anakin battles with the idea that everything, even stars, die, a prospect he fears. He fears it because he believes it is his responsibility to save people, and despite being quite possibly the greatest Jedi who ever lived, he might not be great enough to stop the Dark.
--Taken from Revenge of the Sith
This is Anakin Skywalker:
The most powerful Jedi of his generation. Perhaps of any generation. The fastest. The strongest. An unbeatable pilot. An unstoppable warrior. On the ground, in the air or sea or space, there is no one even close. He has not just power, not just skill, but dash: that rare, invaluable combination of boldness and grace. He is the best there is at what he does. The best there has ever been. And he knows it.
HoloNet features call him the Hero With No Fear. And why not? What should he be afraid of?
Fear lives inside him anyway, chewing away the firewalls around his heart. Anakin sometimes thinks of the dread that eats at his heart as a dragon. Children on Tatooine tell each other of the dragons that live inside the suns; smaller cousins of the sun-dragons are supposed to live inside the fusion furnaces that power everything from starships to Podracers.
But Anakin's fear is another kind of dragon. A cold kind. A dead kind.
Not nearly dead enough.
Not long after he became Obi-Wan's Padawan, all those years ago, a minor mission had brought them to a dead system: one so immeasurably old that its star had long ago turned to a frigid dwarf of hypercompacted trace metals, hovering a quantum fraction of a degree above absolute zero. Anakin couldn't even remember what the mission might have been, but he'd never forgotten that dead star.
It had scared him.
"Stars can die—?”
"It is the way of the universe, which is another manner of saying that it is the will of the Force," Obi-Wan had told him. "Everything dies. In time, even stars burn out. This is why Jedi form no attachments: all things pass. To hold on to something— or someone—beyond its time is to set your selfish desires against the Force. That is a path of misery, Anakin; the Jedi do not walk it."
That is the kind of fear that lives inside Anakin Skywalker: the dragon of that dead star. It is an ancient, cold dead voice within his heart that whispers all things die...
In bright day he can't hear it; battle, a mission, even a report before the Jedi Council, can make him forget it's even there. But at night—
At night, the walls he has built sometimes start to frost over. Sometimes they start to crack. At night, the dead-star dragon sometimes sneaks through the cracks and crawls up into his brain and chews at the inside of his skull. The dragon whispers of what Anakin has lost. And what he will lose.
The dragon reminds him, every night, of how he held his dying mother in his arms, of how she had spent her last strength to say I knew you would come for me, Anakin...
The dragon reminds him, every night, that someday he will lose Obi-Wan. He will lose Padmé. Or they will lose him.
All things die, Anakin Skywalker. Even stars burn out...
And the only answers he ever has for these dead cold whispers are his memories of Obi-Wan's voice, or Yoda's. But sometimes he can't quite remember them.
all things die...
He can barely even think about it.
But right now he doesn't have a choice: the man he flies to rescue is a closer friend than he'd ever hoped to have. That's what puts the edge in his voice when he tries to make a joke; that's what flattens his mouth and tightens the burn-scar high on his right cheek.
The Supreme Chancellor has been family to Anakin: always there, always caring, always free with advice and unstinting aid. A sympathetic ear and a kindly, loving, unconditional acceptance of Anakin exactly as he is—the sort of acceptance Anakin could never get from another Jedi. Not even from Obi-Wan. He can tell Palpatine things he could never share with his Master.
He can tell Palpatine things he can't even tell Padmé.
Now the Supreme Chancellor is in the worst kind of danger. And Anakin is on his way despite the dread boiling through his blood. That's what makes him a real hero. Not the way the HoloNet labels him; not without fear, but stronger than fear.
He looks the dragon in the eye and doesn't even slow down.
If anyone can save Palpatine, Anakin will. Because he's already the best, and he's still getting better. But locked away behind the walls of his heart, the dragon that is his fear coils and squirms and hisses.
Because his real fear, in a universe where even stars can die, is that being the best will never be quite good enough.
This fear, as stated above, stems from an early experience of his with a dead star and was exacerbated by the loss of his mother. As the story progressed, Anakin’s fear increased when he began having visions of Padme dying, and this fear lends itself to Anakin’s fall. Part of the interest to Anakin in the dark side is what it can offer him. Among things he wants, the supreme thing being Padme and his unborn child’s survival, Anakin wants his fear to leave him. As Darth Vader, he thought he had discovered a means to eliminate his fear.
--Taken from Revenge of the Sith
The Sith Lord who once had been a Jedi hero called Anakin Skywalker stood, drawing himself up to his full height, but he looked not outward upon his new Master, nor upon the planet-city beyond, nor out into the galaxy that they would soon rule. He instead turned his gaze inward: he unlocked the furnace gate within his heart and stepped forth to regard with new eyes the cold freezing dread of the dead-star dragon that had haunted his life.
I am Darth Vader, he said within himself.
The dragon tried again to whisper of failure, and weakness, and inevitable death, but with one hand the Sith Lord caught it, crushed away its voice; it tried to rise then, to coil and rear and strike, but the Sith Lord laid his other hand upon it and broke its power with a single effortless twist.
I am Darth Vader, he repeated as he ground the dragon's corpse to dust beneath his mental heel, as he watched the dragon's dust and ashes scatter before the blast from his furnace heart, and you—
You are nothing at all.
He had become, finally, what they all called him.
The Hero With No Fear.
However, Anakin quickly came to discover that he had not completely removed his fear, and after his duel with Obi-Wan on Mustafar and after nearly strangling Padme to death, when Vader awakens on the operating table, he finds that his fear was not some inward dragon that was defeated by a being called Vader. It was simply him and his fearful thoughts that resulted in where he is.
--Taken from Revenge of the Sith
This is how it feels to be Anakin Skywalker, forever:
The first dawn of light in your universe brings pain.
The light burns you. It will always burn you. Part of you will always lie upon black glass sand beside a lake of fire while flames chew upon your flesh.
You can hear yourself breathing. It comes hard, and harsh, and it scrapes nerves already raw, but you cannot stop it. You can never stop it. You cannot even slow it down. You don't even have lungs anymore. Mechanisms hardwired into your chest breathe for you. They will pump oxygen into your bloodstream forever.
Lord Vader? Lord Vader, can you hear me?
And you can't, not in the way you once did. Sensors in the shell that prisons your head trickle meaning directly into your brain.
You open your scorched-pale eyes; optical sensors integrate light and shadow into a hideous simulacrum of the world around you. Or perhaps the simulacrum is perfect, and it is the world that is hideous.
Padmé? Are you here? Are you all right? you try to say, but another voice speaks for you, out from the vocabulator that serves you for burned-away lips and tongue and throat.
"Padmé? Are you here? Are you all right?"
I'm very sorry, Lord Vader. I'm afraid she died. It seems in your anger, you killed her.
This burns hotter than the lava had.
"No...no, it is not possible!"
You loved her. You will always love her. You could never will her death.
But you remember...
You remember all of it.
You remember the dragon that you brought Vader forth from your heart to slay. You remember the cold venom in Vader's blood. You remember the furnace of Vader's fury, and the black hatred of seizing her throat to silence her lying mouth—
And there is one blazing moment in which you finally understand that there was no dragon. That there was no Vader. That there was only you. Only Anakin Skywalker.
That it was all you. Is you.
You did it.
You killed her.
You killed her because, finally, when you could have saved her, when you could have gone away with her, when you could have been thinking about her, you were thinking about yourself...
It is in this blazing moment that you finally understand the trap of the dark side, the final cruelty of the Sith—
Because now your self is all you will ever have.
And you rage and scream and reach through the Force to crush the shadow who has destroyed you, but you are so far less now than what you were, you are more than half machine, you are like a painter gone blind, a composer gone deaf, you can remember where the power was but the power you can touch is only a memory, and so with all your world-destroying fury it is only droids around you that implode, and equipment, and the table on which you were strapped shatters, and in the end, you cannot touch the shadow.
In the end, you do not even want to.
In the end, the shadow is all you have left.
Because the shadow understands you, the shadow forgives you, the shadow gathers you unto itself—
And within your furnace heart, you burn in your own flame.
This is how it feels to be Anakin Skywalker.
But why is fear such a preeminent issue? Because as Mace Windu discovered in the battles in the jungles on Haruun Kal:
--Taken from Revenge of the Sith
There was a time when Mace Windu had feared the power of the dark; there was a time when he had feared the darkness in himself. But the Clone Wars had given him a gift of understanding: on a world called Haruun Kal, he had faced his darkness and had learned that the power of darkness is not to be feared. He had learned that it is fear that gives the darkness power.
“It is fear that gives the darkness power.” An important revelation in understanding it. Why does fear strengthen the Dark? Because fear is egocentric. Self-aggrandizement is the ideal motive (excluding outright knowing servitude to the Dark) for furthering the causes of the Dark. If the Dark’s end is absolute annihilation, then people with self-interested goals with no regard for the sake of others’ lives can assist the ambitions of the Dark. The Sith fit that profile.
In Revenge of the Sith, Darth Sidious characterizes the intricacies of the Dark. Everything he does corresponds to a particular feature of the Dark discussed in the interims. First, Sidious is generous. He lives under a Force Concealment that hides his true face, a face that Anakin and the rest of the galaxy would rather not know. He presents the illusion that day, or the Republic, is infinite by first championing its ideals but then abolishing the Republic and reforming it into the Galactic Empire, or the night, which he intended to be eternal. And he allowed the Jedi Order to police the galaxy and defend it in the Clone Wars, bringing them out from the center of himself, so to speak, as the Jedi serve the Republic, and the Republic is led by the Supreme Chancellor. But with each victory of the Jedi over the CIS, Sidious ultimately wins, because no matter who wins the Clone Wars, a Sith controls both sides.
Now the scene below subtly altered, though to the physical eye there was no change. Powered by the dark side, Dooku's perception took the measure of those below him with exhilarating precision.
Kenobi was luminous, a transparent being, a window onto a sunlit meadow of the Force.
Skywalker was a storm cloud, flickering with dangerous lightning, building the rotation that threatens a tornado.
And then there was Palpatine, of course: he was beyond power. He showed nothing of what might be within. Though seen with the eyes of the dark side itself, Palpatine was an event horizon. Beneath his entirely ordinary surface was absolute, perfect nothingness. Darkness beyond darkness.
A black hole of the Force.
"Darth Plagueis was my Master. He taught me the key to his power," the shadow said, dryly matter-of-fact, "before I killed him."
Without understanding how he had moved, without even intending to move, without any transition of realization or dawning understanding, Anakin found himself on his feet. A blue bar of sizzling energy terminated a centimeter from Palpatine's chin, its glow casting red-edged shadows up his face and across the ceiling. Only gradually did Anakin come to understand that this was his lightsaber, and that it was in his hand.
"You," he said. Suddenly he was neither dizzy nor tired.
Suddenly everything made sense.
"It's you. It's been you all along!"
In the clean blue light of his blade he stared into the face of a man whose features were as familiar to him as his own, but now seemed as alien as an extragalactic comet—because now he finally understood that those familiar features were only a mask.
He had never seen this man's real face.
Because Mace, too, has an attachment. Mace has a secret love. Mace Windu loves the Republic.
Many of his students quote him to students of their own: "Jedi do not fight for peace. That's only a slogan, and is as misleading as slogans always are. Jedi fight for civilization, because only civilization creates peace."
For Mace Windu, for all his life, for all the lives of a thousand years of Jedi before him, true civilization has had only one true name: the Republic.
He has given his life in the service of his love. He has taken lives in its service, and lost the lives of innocents. He has seen beings that he cares for maimed, and killed, and sometimes worse: sometimes so broken by the horror of the struggle that their only answer was to commit horrors greater still.
And because of that love now, here, in this instant, Anakin Skywalker has nine words for him that shred his heart, burn its pieces, and feed him its smoking ashes.
Palpatine is Sidious. The Chancellor is the Sith Lord.
He doesn't even hear the words, not really; their true meaning is too large for his mind gather in all at once.
They mean that all he's done, and all that has been done to him—
That all the Order has accomplished, all it has suffered—
All the Galaxy itself has gone through, all the years of suffering and slaughter, the death of entire planets—
Has all been for nothing.
Because it was all done to save the Republic.
Which was already gone.
Which had already fallen.
The corpse of which had been defended only by a Jedi Order that was now under the command of a Dark Lord of the Sith. Mace Windu's entire existence has become crystal so shot-through with flaws that the hammer of those nine words has crushed him to sand.
Anakin Skywaker knelt in the rain. He was looking at a hand. The hand had brown skin. The hand held a lightsaber. The hand had a charred oval of tissue where it should have been attached to an arm.
"What have I done?"
Was it his voice? It must have been. Because it was his question.
"What have I done?"
Another hand, a warm and human hand, laid itself softly on his shoulder.
"You're following your destiny, Anakin," said a familiar gentle voice. "The Jedi are traitors. You saved the Republic from their treachery. You can see that, can't you?"
"You were right," Anakin heard himself saying. "Why didn't I know?"
"You couldn't have. They cloaked themselves in deception, my boy. Because they feared your power, they could never trust you."
Anakin stared at the hand, but he no longer saw it. "Obi-Wan—Obi-Wan trusts me..."
"Not enough to tell you of their plot."
Treason echoed in his memory.
...this is not an assignment for the record...
That warm and human hand gave his shoulder a warm and human squeeze. "I do not fear your power, Anakin, I embrace it. You are the greatest of the Jedi. You can be the greatest of the Sith. I believe that, Anakin. I believe in you. I trust you. I trust you. I trust you."
Anakin looked from the dead hand on the ledge to the living one on his shoulder, then up to the face of the man who stood above him, and what he saw there choked him like an invisible fist crushing his throat. The hand on his shoulder was human. The face...wasn't.
The eyes were a cold and feral yellow, and they gleamed like those of a predator lurking beyond a fringe of firelight; the bone around those feral eyes had swollen and melted and flowed like durasteel spilled from a fusion smelter, and the flesh that blanketed it had gone corpse-gray and coarse as rotten synthplast. Stunned with horror, stunned with revulsion, Anakin could only stare at the creature. At the shadow. Looking into the face of the darkness, he saw his future.
"Now come inside," the darkness said.
After a moment, he did.
Anakin stood just within the office. Motionless. Palpatine examined the damage to his face in a broad expanse of wall mirror. Anakin couldn't tell if his expression might be revulsion, or if this were merely the new shape of his features. Palpatine lifted one tentative hand to the misshapen horror that he now saw in the mirror, then simply shrugged.
"And so the mask becomes the man," he sighed with a hint of philosophical melancholy. "I shall miss the face of Palpatine, I think; but for our purpose, the face of Sidious will serve. Yes, it will serve."
--Taken from Revenge of the Sith
Order Sixty-Six is the climax of the Clone Wars.
Not the end—the Clone Wars will end some few hours from now, when a coded signal, sent by Nute Gunray from the secret Separatist bunker on Mustafar, deactivates every combat droid in the galaxy at once—but the climax.
It’s not a thrilling climax; it’s not the culmination of an epic struggle. Just the opposite, in fact. The Clone Wars were never an epic struggle. They were never intended to be. What is happening right now is why the Clone Wars were fought in the first place. It is their reason for existence. The Clone Wars have always been, in and of themselves, from their very inception, the revenge of the Sith.
They were irresistible bait. They took place in remote locations, on planets that belonged, primarily, to “somebody else.” They were fought by expendable proxies. And they were constructed as a win-win situation.
The Clone Wars were the perfect Jedi trap.
By fighting at all, the Jedi lost.
With the Jedi Order overextended, spread thin across the galaxy, each Jedi is alone, surrounded only by whatever clone troops he, she, or it commands. War itself pours darkness into the Force, deepening the cloud that limits Jedi perception. And the clones have no malice, no hatred, not the slightest ill intent that might give warning. They are only following orders.
In this case, Order Sixty-Six.
Hold-out blasters appear in clone hands. ARC-170s drop back onto the trails of Jedi starfighters. AT-STs swivel their guns. Turrets on hovertanks swung silently.
Clones open fire, and Jedi die.
All across the galaxy. All at once.
Sidious is patient. He foments corruption in the Republic Senate, unrest in the Jedi Order, and war across the galaxy. Because a Sith rules over the Republic, there is little way to avoid his influence of debasement. And he waits for the star that is Anakin Skywalker to succumb to his fear and burn out. He waits for Darth Vader to freeze over the furnace heart of Anakin Skywalker.
Dooku could not argue. Not only had the Dark Lord introduced Dooku to realms of power beyond his most spectacular fantasies, but Sidious was also a political manipulator so subtle that his abilities might be considered to dwarf even the power of the dark side itself. It was said that whenever the Force closes a hatch, it opens a viewport...and every viewport that had so much as cracked in this past thirteen standard years had found a Dark Lord of the Sith already at the rim, peering in, calculating how best to slip through.
Improving upon his Master's plan was near to impossible; his own idea, of substituting Kenobi for Skywalker, he had to admit was only the product of a certain misplaced sentimentality. Skywalker was almost certainly the man for the job.
He should be; Darth Sidious had spent a considerable number of years making him so.
Today's test would remove the almost.
Dooku derived a certain melancholy satisfaction—a pleasurably lonely contemplation of his own unrecognized greatness—from a brief reflection that Skywalker would never understand how much thought and planning, how much work, Lord Sidious had invested in so hastily orchestrating his sham victory.
--Taken from Revenge of the Sith
Anakin stared at his hands. The left one was shaking. He hid it behind him.
"It's them or me, Anakin. Or perhaps I should put it more plainly: It's them or Padmé."
Anakin made his right hand—his black-gloved hand of durasteel and electrodrivers—into a fist.
"It's just—it's not...easy, that's all. I have—I've been a Jedi for so long—"
Sidious offered an appalling smile. "There is a place within you, my boy, a place as briskly clean as ice on a mountaintop, cool and remote. Find that high place, and look down within yourself; breathe that clean, icy air as you regard your guilt and shame. Do not deny them; observe them. Take your horror in your hands and look at it. Examine it as a phenomenon. Smell it. Taste it. Come to know it as only you can, for it is yours, and it is precious."
As the shadow beside him spoke, its words became true. From a remote, frozen distance that was at the same time more extravagantly, hotly intimate than he could have ever dreamed, Anakin handled his emotions. He dissected them. He reassembled them and pulled them apart again. He still felt them—if anything, they burned hotter than before—but they no longer had the power to cloud his mind.
"You have found it, my boy: I can feel you there. That cold distance—that mountaintop within yourself—that is the first key to the power of the Sith."
Anakin opened his eyes and turned his gaze fully upon the grotesque features of Darth Sidious.
He didn't even blink.
As he looked upon that mask of corruption, the revulsion he felt was real, and it was powerful, and it was—
Anakin lifted his hand of durasteel and electrodrivers and cupped it, staring into its palm as though he held there the fear that had haunted his dreams for his whole life, and it was no larger than the piece of shuura he'd once stolen from Padmé's plate.
On the mountain peak within himself, he weighed Padmé's life against the Jedi Order.
It was no contest.
He said, "Yes."
"Yes to what, my boy?"
"Yes, I want your knowledge."
"I want your power. I want the power to stop death."
"That power only my Master truly achieved, but together we will find it. The Force is strong with you, my boy. You can do anything.”
"The Jedi betrayed you," Anakin said. "The Jedi betrayed both of us."
"As you say. Are you ready?"
"I am," he said, and meant it. "I give myself to you. I pledge myself to the ways of the Sith. Take me as your apprentice. Teach me. Lead me. Be my Master."
Sidious raised the hood of his robe and draped it to shadow the ruin of his face.
"Kneel before me, Anakin Skywalker."
Anakin dropped to one knee. He lowered his head.
"It is your will to join your destiny forever with the Order of the Sith Lords?"
There was no hesitation. "Yes."
Darth Sidious laid a pale hand on Anakin's brow. "Then it is done. You are now one with the Order of the Dark Lords of the Sith. From this day forward, the truth of you, my apprentice, now and forevermore, will be Darth..."
A pause; a questioning in the Force—
An answer, dark as the gap between galaxies—
He heard Sidious say it: his new name.
A pair of syllables that meant him.
Vader, he said to himself. Vader.
"Thank you, my Master."
Sidious always wins. He always wins because his reach spans the galaxy. He is the reigning Dark Lord of the Sith and currently embodies the dark side of the Force, and the dark side’s imbalanced growth overshadows the perception of the Jedi. His darkness has saturated the entire galaxy because the Force has lost its balance. And even the Jedi in their numbered thousands are not a potent enough light to press back the dark side-ascendant Sith Lords. Sidious is a shadow of the Dark.
Dooku could only shake his head in awe. And to think that only days earlier, the Jedi had seemed so close to uncovering, even destroying, all he and his Master had worked for. But he should never have feared. His Master never lost. He would never lose. He was the definition of unbeatable.
How can one defeat an enemy one thinks is a friend?
The Coruscant nightfall was spreading through the galaxy. The darkness in the Force was no hindrance to the shadow in the Chancellor's office; it was the darkness. Wherever darkness dwelled, the shadow could send perception.
--Taken from Revenge of the Sith
There came a turning point in the clash of the light against the dark. It did not come from a flash of lightning or slash of energy blade, though there were these in plenty; it did not come from a flying kick or a surgically precise punch, though these were traded, too.
It came as the battle shifted from the holding office to the great Chancellor's Podium; it came as the hydraulic lift beneath the Podium raised it on its tower of durasteel a hundred meters and more, so that it became a laserpoint of battle flaring at the focus of the vast emptiness of the Senate Arena; it came as the Force and the podium's controls ripped delegation pods free of the curving walls and made of them hammers, battering rams, catapult stones crashing and crushing against each other in a rolling thunder-roar that echoed the Senate's cheers for the galaxy's new Emperor.
It came when the avatar of light resolved into the lineage of the Jedi; when the lineage of the Jedi refined into one single Jedi. It came when Yoda found himself alone against the dark.
In that lightning-speared tornado of feet and fists and blades and bashing machines, his vision finally pierced the darkness that had clouded the Force. Finally, he saw the truth.
This truth: that he, the avatar of light, Supreme Master of the Jedi Order, the fiercest, most implacable, most devastatingly powerful foe the darkness had ever known...
He'd never had it. He had lost before he started. He had lost before he was born. The Sith had changed. The Sith had grown, had adapted, had invested a thousand years' intensive study into every aspect of not only the Force but Jedi lore itself, in preparation for exactly this day. The Sith had remade themselves. They had become new.
While the Jedi—
The Jedi had spent that same millennium training to refight the last war. The new Sith could not be destroyed with a lightsaber; they could not be burned away by any torch of the Force. The brighter his light, the darker their shadow. How could one win a war against the dark, when war itself had become the dark's own weapon?
He knew, at that instant, that this insight held the hope of the galaxy. But if he fell here, that hope would die with him. Hmmm, Yoda thought. A problem this is...
And this is the core narrative dynamic of the Dark: the Sith at the time are unbeatable. So how is it then that Obi-Wan and Yoda planned to raise up Luke and Leia to defeat the Sith and the Empire? How is it that the Rebel Alliance was formed? How is it that the Sith were defeated and the Empire crumbled? The answer to that question lies in Luke’s choice in Return of the Jedi: How did Luke defeat the Sith? Answer: He didn’t.
While Luke was confronting Darth Vader and Palpatine, he was gradually drifting closer to his dark side. Naturally, his unsteady relationship (to put it mildly) with his father, his concern for his friends in the Battle of Endor, and his intention to somehow stop the Emperor would motivate him to exploit what seems to be an obvious resource, a resource which could actually be successful. But if Luke submitted to the dark side, he could end up rendering himself a servant to the Emperor. All he would accomplish would be to destroy his father. Or, if he did access enough power to destroy Palpatine as well, he could end up replacing Palpatine as Emperor. No matter where he went with his decisions, the dark side would lead him to further corruption, but the light seemed too weak to stop the Sith. He couldn’t win. Even if he won the fight, he would lose.
Vader’s shuttle settled onto the docking bay of the Death Star, like a black, wingless, carrion-eating bird; like a nightmare insect. Luke and the Dark Lord emerged from the snout of the beast with a small escort of stormtroopers, and walked rapidly across the cavernous main bay to the Emperor’s tower elevator. Royal guards awaited them there, flanking the shaft, bathed in a carmine glow. They opened the elevator door. Luke stepped forward.
His mind was buzzing with what to do. It was the Emperor he was being taken to now. The Emperor! If Luke could but focus, keep his mind clear to see what must be done—and do it. A great noise filled his head though, like an underground wind.
He hoped Leia deactivated the deflector shield quickly, and destroyed the Death Star—now, while all three of them were here. Before anything else happened. For the closer Luke came to the Emperor, the more anythings he feared would happen. A black storm raged inside him. He wanted to kill the Emperor, but then what? Confront Vader? What would his father do? And what if Luke faced his father first, faced him and—destroyed him. The thought was at once repugnant and compelling. Destroy Vader—and then what. For the first time, Luke had a brief murky image of himself, standing on his father’s body, holding his father’s blazing power, and sitting at the Emperor’s right hand.
He squeezed his eyes shut against this thought, but it left a cold sweat on his brow, as if Death’s hand had brushed him there and left its shallow imprint.
The elevator door opened. Luke and Vader walked out into the throne room alone, across the unlit antechamber, up the grated stairs, to stand before the throne: father and son, side by side, both dressed in black, one masked and one exposed, beneath the gaze of the malignant Emperor.
Vader bowed to his master. The Emperor motioned him to rise, though; the Dark Lord did his master’s bidding.
“Welcome, young Skywalker.” The Evil One smiled graciously. “I have been expecting you.”
Luke stared back brazenly at the bent, hooded figure. Defiantly. The Emperor’s smile grew even softer, though; even more fatherly. He looked at Luke’s manacles.
“You no longer need those,” he added with no-bless oblige—and made the slightest motion with his finger in the direction of Luke’s wrists. At that, Luke’s binders simply fell away, clattering noisily to the floor. Luke looked at his own hands—free, now, to reach out for the Emperor’s throat, to crush his windpipe in an instant...
Yet the Emperor seemed gentle. Had he not just let Luke free? But he was devious, too, Luke knew. Do not be fooled by appearances, Ben had told him. The Emperor was unarmed. He could still strike. But wasn’t aggression part of the dark side? Mustn’t he avoid that at all costs? Or could he use darkness judiciously, and then put it away? He stared at his free hands...he could have ended it all right there—or could he? He had total freedom to choose what to do now; yet he could not choose. Choice, the double-edged sword. He could kill the Emperor, he could succumb to the Emperor’s arguments. He could kill Vader...and then he could even become Vader. Again this thought laughed at him like a broken clown, until he pushed it back into a black corner of his brain.
The Emperor sat before him, smiling. The moment was convulsive with possibilities...
The moment passed. He did nothing.
--Taken from Return of the Jedi
Slowly, Luke and Vader circled. Lightsaber high above his head, Luke readied his attack from classic first-position; the Dark Lord held a lateral stance, in classic answer. Without announcement, Luke brought his blade straight down—then, when Vader moved to parry, Luke feinted and cut low. Vader counterparried, let the impact direct his sword toward Luke's throat... but Luke met the riposte and stepped back. The first blows, traded without injury. Again, they circled.
Vader was impressed with Luke's speed. Pleased, even. It was a pity, almost, he couldn't let the boy kill the Emperor yet. Luke wasn't ready for that, emotionally. There was still a chance Luke would return to his friends if he destroyed the Emperor now. He needed more extensive tutelage, first—training by both Vader and Palpatine—before he'd be ready to assume his place at Vader's right hand, ruling the galaxy. So Vader had to shepherd the boy through periods like this, stop him from doing damage in the wrong places—or in the right places prematurely.
Before Vader could gather his thoughts much further, though, Luke attacked again—much more aggressively. He advanced in a flurry of lunges, each met with a loud crack of Vader's phosphorescent saber. The Dark Lord retreated a step at every slash, swiveling once to bring his cutting beam up viciously—but Luke batted it away, pushing Vader back yet again. The Lord of the Sith momentarily lost his footing on the stairs and tumbled to his knees.
Luke stood above him, at the top of the staircase, heady with his own power. It was in his hands, now, he knew it was: he could take Vader. Take his blade, take his life. Take his place at the Emperor's side. Yes, even that. Luke didn't bury the thought, this time; he gloried in it. He engorged himself with its juices, felt its power tingle his cheeks. It made him feverish, this thought, with lust so overpowering as to totally obliterate all other considerations.
He had the power; the choice was his.
And then another thought emerged, slowly compulsive as an ardent lover: he could destroy the Emperor, too. Destroy them both, and rule the galaxy. Avenge and conquer.
It was a profound moment for Luke. Dizzying. Yet he did not swoon. Nor did he recoil.
He took one step forward.
For the first time, the thought entered Vader's consciousness that his son might best him. He was astounded by the strength Luke had acquired since their last duel, in the Cloud City—not to mention the boy's timing, which was honed to a thought's-breadth. This was an unexpected circumstance. Unexpected and unwelcome. Vader felt humiliation crawling in on the tail of his first reaction, which was surprise, and his second, which was fear. And then the edge of the humiliation curled up, to reveal bald anger. And now he wanted revenge.
These things were mirrored, each facet, by the young Jedi who now towered above him. The Emperor, watching joyously, saw this, and goaded Luke on to revel in his Darkness. “Use your aggressive feelings, boy! Yes! Let the hate flow through you! Become one with it, let it nourish you!”
Luke faltered a moment—then realized what was happening. He was suddenly confused again. What did he want? What should he do? His brief exultation, his microsecond of dark clarity—gone, now, in a wash of indecision, veiled enigma. Cold awakening from a passionate flirtation. He took a step back, lowered his sword, relaxed, and tried to drive the hatred from his being.
In that instant, Vader attacked. He lunged half up the stairs, forcing Luke to reverse defensively. He bound the boy's blade with his own, but Luke disengaged and leaped to the safety of an overhead gantry. Vader jumped over the railing to the floor beneath the platform on which Luke stood.
“I will not fight you, Father,” Luke stated.
“You are unwise to lower your defenses,” Vader warned. His anger was layered, now—he did not want to win if the boy was not battling to the fullest. But if winning meant he had to kill a boy who wouldn't fight...then he could do that, too. Only he wanted Luke to be aware of those consequences. He wanted Luke to know this was no longer just a game. This was Darkness.
Every option Luke had to win led to the dark side, and no matter who won, someone lost, someone would die, feeding the Dark. For Luke to defeat the Sith, he would have to use the Sith’s own power against them; in killing the Sith, he would become a Sith. And the Sith would continue to perpetuate goals that undermined and ultimately destroyed life if that would actuate their imperatives. In essence, as the Revenge of the Sith intervals pointed out, “With each victory of the light, it is the dark that wins.” So if every path to victory Luke had resulted in the Dark winning ethereally and the Sith winning practically, then what is the one thing that Luke as a Jedi in the Light could do that the Sith could not do? He could lose. So he did. He cast aside his lightsaber, knowing that would forfeit his life, and decided not to kill Vader or Palpatine but instead allowed the Emperor to attempt to kill him. And the result? Anakin arose from out of Vader and outshone Palpatine, ending the Sith’s dominion.
Luke heard something else, though. “Your thoughts betray you, Father. I feel the good in you...the conflict. You could not bring yourself to kill me before—and you won't destroy me now.” Twice before, in fact—to Luke's recollection—Vader could have killed him, but didn't. In the dogfight over the first Death Star, and later in the lightsaber duel on Bespin. He thought of Leia, briefly now, too—of how Vader had had her in his clutches once, had even tortured her...but didn't kill her. He winced to think of her agony, but quickly pushed that from his mind. The point was clear to him, now, though so often so murky: there was still good in his father.
This accusation really made Vader angry. He could tolerate much from the insolent child, but this was insufferable. He must teach this boy a lesson he would never forget, or die learning. “Once again, you underestimate the power of the dark side...”
Vader threw his scintillating blade—it sliced through the supports holding up the gantry on which Luke was perched, then swept around and flew back into Vader's hand. Luke tumbled to the ground, then rolled down another level, under the tilting platform. In the shadow of the darkened overhang, he was out of sight. Vader paced the area like a cat, seeking the boy; but he wouldn't enter the shadows of the overhang.
“You cannot hide forever, Luke.”
“You'll have to come in and get me,” replied the disembodied voice.
“I will not give you the advantage that easily.” Vader felt his intentions increasingly ambiguous in this conflict; the purity of his evil was being compromised. The boy was clever indeed—Vader knew he must move with extreme caution now.
“I wish no advantage, Father. I will not fight you. Here...take my weapon.” Luke knew full well this might be his end, but so be it. He would not use Darkness to fight Darkness. Perhaps it would be left to Leia, after all, to carry on the struggle, without him. Perhaps she would know a way he didn't know; perhaps she could find a path. For now, though, he could see only two paths, and one was into Darkness; and one was not.
Luke put his lightsaber on the ground, and rolled it along the floor toward Vader. It stopped halfway between them, in the middle of the low overhead area. The Dark Lord reached out his hand—Luke's lightsaber jumped into it. He hooked it to his belt and, with grave uncertainty, entered the shadowy overhang.
He was picking up additional feelings from Luke, now, new crosscurrents of doubt. Remorse, regret, abandonment. Shades of pain. But somehow not directly related to Vader. To others, to...Endor. Ah, that was it—the Sanctuary Moon where his friends would soon die. Luke would learn soon enough: friendship was different on the dark side. A different thing altogether.
“Give yourself to the dark side, Luke,” he entreated. “It is the only way you can save your friends. Yes, your thoughts betray you, son. Your feelings for them are strong, especially for—“
Vader stopped. He sensed something.
Luke withdrew further into shadow. He tried to hide, but there was no way to hide what was in his mind—Leia was in pain. Her agony cried to him now, and his spirit cried with her. He tried to shut it out, to shut it up, but the cry was loud, and he couldn't stifle it, couldn't leave it alone, had to cradle it openly, to give it solace.
Vader's consciousness invaded that private place.
“No!” screamed Luke.
Vader was incredulous. “Sister? Sister!” he bellowed. “Your feelings have now betrayed her, too... Twins!” he roared triumphantly. “Obi-Wan was wise to hide her, but now his failure is complete.” His smile was clear to Luke, through the mask, through the shadows, through all the realms of Darkness. “If you will not turn to the Dark Side, perhaps she will.”
This, then, was Luke's breaking point. For Leia was everyone's last unflagging hope. If Vader turned his twisted, misguided cravings on her...
“Never!” he screamed. His lightsaber flew off Vader's belt into his own hand, igniting as it came to him. He rushed to his father with a frenzy he'd never known. Nor had Vader. The gladiators battled fiercely, sparks flying from the clash of their radiant weapons, but it was soon evident that the advantage was all Luke's. And he was pressing it. They locked swords, body to body. When Luke pushed Vader back to break the clinch, the Dark Lord hit his head on an overhanging beam in the cramped space. He stumbled backward even farther, out of the low-hanging area. Luke pursued him relentlessly.
Blow upon blow, Luke forced Vader to retreat—back, onto the bridge that crossed the vast, seemingly bottomless shaft to the power core. Each stroke of Luke's saber pummeled Vader, like accusations, like screams, like shards of hate.
The Dark Lord was driven to his knees. He raised his blade to block yet another onslaught—and Luke slashed Vader's right hand off at the wrist. The hand, along with bits of metal, wires, and electronic devices, clattered uselessly away while Vader's lightsaber tumbled over the edge of the span, into the endless shaft below, without a trace.
Luke stared at his father's twitching, severed, mechanical hand—and then at his own black-gloved artificial part—and realized suddenly just how much he'd become like his father. Like the man he hated. Trembling, he stood above Vader, the point of his glowing blade at the Dark Lord's throat. He wanted to destroy this thing of Darkness, this thing that was once his father, this thing that was...him.
Suddenly the Emperor was there, looking on, chuckling with uncontrollable, pleased agitation. “Good! Kill him! Your hate has made you powerful! Now, fulfill your destiny and take your father's place at my side!”
Luke stared at his father beneath him, then at the Emperor, then back at Vader. This was Darkness—and it was the Darkness he hated. Not his father, not even the Emperor. But the Darkness in them. In them, and in himself. And the only way to destroy the Darkness was to renounce it. For good and all. He stood suddenly erect, and made the decision for which he'd spent his life in preparation. He hurled his lightsaber away. “Never! Never will I turn to the dark side! You have failed, Palpatine. I am a Jedi, as my father was before me.”
The Emperor's glee turned to a sullen rage. “So be it, Jedi. If you will not be turned, you will be destroyed.”
Palpatine raised his spidery arms toward Luke: blinding white bolts of energy coruscated from his fingers, shot across the room like sorcerous lightning, and tore through the boy's insides, looking for ground. The young Jedi was at once confounded and in agony—he’d never heard of such a power, such a corruption of the Force, let alone experienced it.
But if it was Force-generated, it could be Force-repelled. Luke raised his arms to deflect the bolts. Initially, he was successful—the lightning rebounded from his touch, harmlessly into the walls. Soon, though, the shocks came with such speed and power, they coursed over and into him, and he could only shrink before them, convulsed with pain, his knees buckling, his powers at ebb.
Vader crawled, like a wounded animal, to his Emperor's side.
--Taken from Return of the Jedi
On the Death Star, Luke was nearly unconscious beneath the continuing assault of the Emperor's lightning. Tormented beyond reason, betaken of a weakness that drained his very essence, he hoped for nothing more than to submit to the nothingness toward which he was drifting. The Emperor smiled down at the enfeebled young Jedi, as Vader struggled to his feet beside his master.
“Young fool!” Palpatine rasped at Luke. “Only now at the end, do you understand. Your puerile skills are no match for the power of the dark side. You have paid a price for your lack of vision. Now, young Skywalker, you will pay the price in full. You will die!”
He laughed maniacally; and although it would not have seemed possible to Luke, the outpouring of bolts from the Emperor's fingers actually increased in intensity. The sound screamed through the room, the murderous brightness of the flashes was overwhelming.
Luke's body slowed, wilted, finally crumpled under the hideous barrage. He stopped moving altogether. At last, he appeared totally lifeless. The Emperor hissed maliciously.
At that instant, Vader sprang up and grabbed the Emperor from behind, pinning Palpatine's upper arras to his torso. Weaker than he'd ever been, Vader had lain still these last few minutes, focusing his every fiber of being on this one, concentrated act—the only action possible; his last, if he failed. Ignoring pain, ignoring his shame and his weaknesses, ignoring the bone-crushing noise in his head, he focused solely and sightlessly on his will—his will to defeat the evil embodied in the Emperor.
Palpatine struggled in the grip of Vader's unfeeling embrace, his hands still shooting bolts of malign energy out in all directions. In his wild flailing, the lightning ripped across the room, tearing into Vader. The Dark Lord fell again, electric currents crackling down his helmet, over his cape, into his heart.
Vader stumbled with his load to the middle of the bridge over the black chasm leading to the power core. He held the wailing despot high over his head, and with a final spasm of strength, hurled him into the abyss. Palpatine's body, still spewing bolts of light, spun out of control, into the void, bouncing back and forth off the sides of the shaft as it fell. It disappeared at last; but then, a few seconds later, a distant explosion could be heard, far down at the core. A rush of air billowed out the shaft, into the throne room.
The wind whipped at Lord Vader's cape, as he staggered and collapsed toward the hole, trying to follow his master to the end. Luke crawled to his father's side, though, and pulled the Dark Lord away from the edge of the chasm, to safety.
Both of them lay on the floor, entwined in each other, too weak to move, too moved to speak.
But how did this happen? How did the supposedly unbeatable Sith lose? The answer is hinted at in a memory of Luke’s of a lesson from Obi-Wan and Yoda.
--Taken from Return of the Jedi
Luke waited—but a moment. In the very faltering, he found strength. Thus had Ben and Yoda both instructed him: when you are attacked, fall. Let your opponent’s power buffet you as a strong wind topples the grass. In time, he will expend himself, and you will still be upright.
For a more direct answer, consider what the most all-powerful aspect of the Dark seems to be: that it always wins. But for that to be true, then the Dark has a very distinct, very compromising limitation. For the Dark to be the Dark, it has to be unbeatable, and for it to be unbeatable, it can never lose, even once. If the Dark wins a million times but loses just once, its claim on invincibility is shattered completely, and it ceases to be the Dark. So if the Dark always, compulsively, absolutely has to win, then what can the Light do that the Dark can’t? The Light can choose to die. The Light can lose. In other words, let the Dark win. But if the Light loses, how will the Dark be stopped?
“Love is more than a candle. Love can ignite the stars.” Therein lies the Dark’s final weakness, and the source of Sidious’ defeat. Love can ignite a star; when Luke elected not to kill Vader, he evinced a care for Vader despite everything he did. One of the core traits of Vader’s character is that he hates himself because of his guilt over the atrocities he's committed, the most shameful one for him being his contributing to Padme's death, but Luke loved him. This simple gift on behalf of his son dissolved the frozen heart of Vader and restored the fire, the star, of Anakin Skywalker. Anakin defeated both Sith Lords, Sidious and Vader, saved the galaxy, and restored balance to the Force.
--Taken from Return of the Jedi
For the first time, the Death Star rocked. The collision with the exploding destroyer was only the beginning, leading to various systems breakdowns, which led to reactor meltdowns, which led to personnel panic, abandonment of posts, further malfunctions, and general chaos. Smoke was everywhere, substantial rumblings came from all directions at once, people were running and shouting. Electrical fires, steam explosions, cabin depressurizations, disruption of chain-of-command. Added to this, the continued bombardments by Rebel Cruisers—smelling fear in the enemy—merely heightened the sense of hysteria that was already pervasive. For the Emperor was dead. The central, powerful evil that had been the cohesive force to the Empire was gone; and when the dark side was this diffused, this nondirected—this was simply where it led.
In the midst of this uproar, Luke had made it, somehow, to the main docking bay—where he was trying to carry the hulking deadweight of his father's weakening body toward an Imperial shuttle. Halfway there, his strength finally gave out, though; and he collapsed under the strain. Slowly he rose again. Like an automaton, he hoisted his father's body over his shoulder and stumbled toward one of the last remaining shuttles. Luke rested his father on the ground, trying to collect strength one last time, as explosions grew louder all around them. Sparks hissed in the rafters; one of the walls buckled, and smoke poured through a gaping fissure. The floor shook.
Vader motioned Luke closer to him. "Luke, help me take this mask off."
Luke shook his head. "You'll die."
The Dark Lord's voice was weary. "Nothing can stop that now. Just once let me face you without it. Let me look on you with my own eyes."
Luke was afraid. Afraid to see his father as he really was. Afraid to see what person could have become so dark—the same person who'd fathered Luke, and Leia. Afraid to know the Anakin Skywalker who lived inside Darth Vader.
Vader, too, was afraid—to let his son see him, to remove this armored mask that had been between them so long. The black, armored mask that had been his only means of existing for over twenty years. It had been his voice, and his breath, and his invisibility—his shield against all human contact. But now he would remove it; for he would see his son before he died.
Together they lifted the heavy helmet from Vader's head—inside the mask portion, a complicated breathing apparatus had to be disentangled, a speaking modulator and view-screen detached from the power unit in back. But when the mask was finally off and set aside, Luke gazed on his father's face. It was the sad, benign face of an old man. Bald, beardless, with a mighty scar running from the top of his head to the back of the scalp, he had unfocused, deepset, dark eyes, and his skin was pasty white, for it had not seen the sun in two decades. The old man smiled weakly; tears glazed his eyes, now. For a moment, he looked not too unlike Ben.
It was a face full of meanings, that Luke would forever recall. Regret, he saw most plainly. And shame. Memories could be seen flashing across it... memories of rich times. And horrors. And love, too.
It was a face that hadn't touched the world in a lifetime. In Luke's lifetime. He saw the wizened nostrils twitch, as they tested a first, tentative smell. He saw the head tilt imperceptibly to listen—for the first time without electronic auditory amplification. Luke felt a pang of remorse that the only sounds now to be heard were those of explosions, the only smells, the pungent sting of electrical fires. Still, it was a touch. Palpable, unfiltered.
He saw the old eyes focus on him. Tears burned Luke's cheeks, fell on his father's lips. His father smiled at the taste.
It was a face that had not seen itself in twenty years.
Vader saw his son crying, and knew it must have been at the horror of the face the boy beheld. It intensified, momentarily, Vader's own sense of anguish—to his crimes, now, he added guilt at the imagined repugnance of his appearance. But then this brought him to mind of the way he used to look—striking, and grand, with a wry tilt to his brow that hinted of invincibility and took in all of life with a wink. Yes, that was how he'd looked once. And this memory brought a wave of other memories with it. Memories of brotherhood, and home. His dear wife. The freedom of deep space. Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan, his friend...and how that friendship had turned. Turned, he knew not how—but got injected, nonetheless, with some uncaring virulence that festered, until...hold. These were memories he wanted none of, not now. Memories of molten lava, crawling up his back...no.
This boy had pulled him from that pit—here, now, with this act. This boy was good.
The boy was good, and the boy had come from him—so there must have been good in him, too. He smiled up again at his son, and for the first time, loved him. And for the first time in many long years, loved himself again, as well.
Suddenly he smelled something—flared his nostrils, sniffed once more. Wildflowers, that was what it was. Just blooming; it must be spring. And there was thunder—he cocked his head, strained his ears. Yes, spring thunder, for a spring rain. To make the flowers bloom. Yes, there...he felt a raindrop on his lips. He licked the delicate droplet...but wait, it wasn't sweet water, it was salty, it was...a teardrop.
He focused on Luke once again, and saw his son was crying. Yes, that was it, he was tasting his boy's grief—because he looked so horrible; because he was so horrible. But he wanted to make it all right for Luke, he wanted Luke to know he wasn't really ugly like this, not deep inside, not all together. With a little self-deprecatory smile, he shook his head at Luke, explaining away the unsightly beast his son saw. "Luminous beings are we, Luke—not this crude matter."
Luke shook his head, too—to tell his father it was all right, to dismiss the old man's shame, to tell him nothing mattered now. And everything—but he couldn't talk.
Vader spoke again, even weaker—almost inaudible. "Go, my son. Leave me."
At that, Luke found his voice. "No. You're coming with me. I'll not leave you here. I've got to save you."
"You already have, Luke," he whispered. He wished, briefly, he'd met Yoda, to thank the old Jedi for the training he'd given Luke...but perhaps he'd be with Yoda soon, now, in the ethereal oneness of the Force. And with Obi-Wan.
"Father, I won't leave you," Luke protested. Explosions jarred the docking bay in earnest, crumbling one entire wall, splitting the ceiling. A jet of blue flame shot from a gas nozzle nearby. Just beneath it the floor began to melt.
Vader pulled Luke very close, spoke into his ear. "Luke, you were right...and you were right about me... Tell your sister...you were right."
With that, he closed his eyes, and Darth Vader—Anakin Skywalker—died.
A tremendous explosion filled the back of the bay with fire, knocking Luke flat to the ground. Slowly, he rose again; and like an automaton, stumbled toward one of the last remaining shuttles.
“With each victory of the light, it is the dark that wins,” but the inverse of that precept seems to apply as well. When Yoda fought Sidious in Revenge of the Sith, he realized that he was overmatched. He could not beat the Sith by fighting against them. Fighting itself served the Dark, because no matter who won, someone lost. Someone died. And the Sith were simply better at war than the Jedi were. They prepared themselves to be.
But Luke found a different way. He found that if the Dark could not be defeated head-on, it could be defeated by its own strength. The Dark can never lose, but a Jedi can. A Jedi can lose a million times and win once, and that one victory will be enough. Yoda may not have been able to defeat the Emperor; Luke may not have been able to defeat the Emperor. But Anakin could. Despite how many victories Sidious had and how long he retained power, if he lost once, he lost it all. All of his previous victories, no matter how numerous they may be, and all of his amassed power, no matter how expansive it may be, all means nothing if Anakin Skywalker sacrifices himself to defeat the Sith and restore balance to the Force. Palpatine designed the Empire in such a way that without him, it could not function. He did this because he never wanted to be succeeded, but he was also confident he never could be. He believed he was unbeatable. He was wrong.
Sidious characterizes the Dark in Revenge of the Sith, and the last expository section on the Dark applies to him as well. His strength is his alleged invincibility, but in the heart of that strength lies a weakness. One lone candle can hold him back; Luke is that candle. And Luke’s love for his father could ignite the star that is Anakin Skywalker. The star that is Anakin Skywalker could defeat the Sith.
Following these events however, the simple fact that the Empire had been fragmented without the Sith overseeing it and the New Republic had been founded does not end the struggle with the Dark. The Sith may have been defeated, but that does not answer the concept of the Dark itself. Luke still had more to learn about it, and in Return of the Jedi, he learned very little. He only had a glimpse of it, similar to Mace or Yoda or Anakin. Although he may have uncovered a truth that other Jedi failed to, Luke never grasped the full implications of what he did until a year later at the Battle of Mindor. At the Battle of Mindor, the New Republic fought Imperial forces led by a former Emperor’s Hand Blackhole. Before working for the Empire, Blackhole was trained as a Sorcerer of Rhand.
The Sorcerer’s of Rhand follow an existential nihilistic and absurdist philosophy that dictates that the only true reality is the lasting reality, and the only lasting reality is the Dark. They believe that the universe is subjugated to what they label the Way of the Dark. The Force, to them, is insignificant. It is merely one part of existing reality, a part that, along with everything else that is, enters oblivion in the infinite Dark. Because of this outlook, the Sorcerers of Rhand devote themselves to absolute destruction, and Blackhole fashioned himself as something of a universal terrorist, planning to survive until he has ushered all life in the universe to the Dark, after which he will enter the Dark himself. Blackhole’s musings also dispense the most basic definition of the Dark taken from one of the Rhandite dictums: “Existence is fleeting. Destruction is eternal.”
--Taken from Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor
Cronal's rise to power had started with a vision: a vision of the Dark.
More than a vision, in fact; more than a simple prophecy, or precognition. To the Nightsisters of Dathomir, it was the Heartshadow.
Other Force users had other names for it.
But Cronal called it simply Darksight.
Deep in the area ignorantly described by the Old Republic, and later the Empire, as the "Unknown Regions," there was a vast cloud of dust and rock and interstellar gas that pulsed with a bloody and forbidding scarlet glow as it radiated away the energy of twelve stellar clusters within. This was the Perann Nebula; the twelve clusters that it surrounded were known collectively as the Nihil Retreat. The absolute rulers of the Nihil Retreat, dreaded masters of darkmagicks beyond the grasp of even the Sith, were the Sorcerers of Rhand.
The Sorcerers of Rhand were the only family Cronal would ever know. The Rhandites had plucked him from the arms of the nameless woman who had borne him, and had forged him as a weapon is forged, awakening his insight, refining his will, opening his mind to the One Truth:
Only power is real, and the only real power is the power to destroy. Existence is fleeting. Destruction is eternal.
Every child was born waiting for death. Civilizations fell, and their very ashes were swallowed by time. The stars themselves burned out. Destruction, on the other hand...
Destruction was the will of the universe.
Some called it entropy, and tried to quantify and constrain it with the laws of thermodynamics. Some expressed it with a simple poetic declarative: Things fall apart. Some even tried to dismiss it with a joke: Anything that can go wrong will. But it was not a joke, or poetry; it was not science, nor was it subject to any law.
It was the Way of the Dark.
Destruction was easy...and permanent. When a being was killed, everything he or she would have ever done or possessed, seen or felt, was murdered. And that murder made a permanent change in the structure of the universe—it emptied the universe of an entire life, and left behind only a void.
That void was the foundation of truth.
That was why the Jedi and the Sith would remain forever locked in their pointless battle: because all their philosophy of light versus dark, of service versus mastery, was as meaningless as the whistle of wind through desert rocks. Service and mastery were equally futile, even illusory, in the face of the One Truth. All the endless Jedi vs. Sith nattering of "the dark side of the Force" blinded them one and all to the bare reality that there was nothing but the Dark.
The Dark was not a side of the Force, and it was no mere portion of reality. It was reality. The Sorcerers of Rhand had never spoken of the Force, and Cronal was to this day unsure whether they would have had any understanding of how the Force was viewed and spoken of in the rest of the galaxy. To the Rhandites, it was only the Dark, and the only pertinent feature of the Dark was that it would respond to the will of a properly trained being, so long as that being's will was in line with the Way of the Dark.
It was the Dark that set world against world, nation against nation, sibling against sibling, child against parent. It was the Dark that brought pestilence and starvation, hatred and war. The Dark was the hidden energy of the cosmos itself: that which pressed galaxy away from galaxy, star away from star until finally each and every world would fade within its own private black hole, moving too swiftly from its neighbors for their light to overtake it.
This was why Cronal had chosen the code name Blackhole: because he had willed himself to become an event horizon of the Dark.
And of all the powers the Dark granted its adepts, the greatest was Darksight. It was Darksight that had led Cronal far from the Nihil Retreat, beyond the Perann Nebula and out of the Unknown Regions altogether, in search of the truth of his visions. It was Darksight that had led him to Dromund Kaas, where he had easily infiltrated and come to dominate that pack of pathetic, self-deluded fools who styled themselves Prophets of the Dark Side. Imagine, to waste one's brief foray in life, the fleeting bright instant between the infinite dark before and the eternal dark beyond, in mere study—in trying to learn to use the "dark side of the Force" to merely predict the future.
With Darksight, Cronal could create the future. He was familiar, in concept, with the pale shadow-imitation of Darksight that had supposedly been employed by some exceptional Jedi and certain among the Sith—the pathetic conjuror's trick they called battle meditation. Through massive concentration and expenditure of energy, they claimed to subtly influence the course of a single combat, or, for the most powerful among them, an engagement of greater forces, like armies in collision or fleet-to-fleet battles. They claimed that their simplistic Force-powered visualization of a desired outcome would subtly shift probabilities and grant them luck, that it would inspire their allies and demoralize their enemies. Of course, these claims could never be proven, or disproven; any charlatan might simply take credit for any random victory, or ascribe a defeat to the will of the Force—or a supposedly more powerful Force-user practicing his or her own "battle meditation" in service to the opposite side...
Battle meditation. Idiots.
Anyone trained by the Rhandites could have told them: any and all battles, all wars, the very concept of battle itself, served but a single end. Their only function was destruction. Only by setting one's will upon pure destruction could victory be achieved. When your will was fixed steadily upon the Way of the Dark, the Dark itself became your partner in all that you did.
Cronal was living proof of this truth. It was Cronal's Darksight that had attracted the attention of Palpatine and brought Vader to Dromund Kaas; even Kadann, the fool who pretended to be the Supreme Prophet of the Dark Side, never suspected how entirely his order served not some fantasy of Sith power, but the Dark itself…because Cronal had made it so. Palpatine had plucked Cronal from the Prophets and set him apart from even the other elite Emperor's Hands, for Palpatine had been swift to recognize that his was a gift that transcended mere prophecy. Any fool with a trace of ability could see echoes of the future—Palpatine himself was rather good at it—but Cronal's ability transcended mere prophecy as hyperdrive transcends the wings of a shadowmoth.
Palpatine had been impressed with the "accuracy" of Cronal's "predictions"...yet not even the great Darth Sidious had ever suspected that Cronal's predictions were accurate not because Cronal had seen the future, but because he had chosen that future. That exact future.
He had decided, and his choice had molded all of history to his will. That was the power of Darksight: to search among all the possible futures for the one that best suited your own desire and the Way of the Dark...and then to map each step that must be taken to bring you to that future, and bring that future to you. But to make it happen, you had to bind your desire to the Dark, and dream only of destruction.
Palpatine had been a fool. He had thought he could make the Dark serve him, instead of the opposite. In the days of the Old Republic, before he had revealed his Sith identity, Palpatine literally could not fail. Every blind flailing gesture of every Jedi who'd set himself against him had turned to his advantage, and even the sheerest accidents of fortune had served his goal...because that goal had been the destruction of the Jedi Order, and the death of the Republic. He'd served the Dark unknowingly, all the while believing that the Dark was only a means to an end, a tool to help him destroy his enemies and clear his path to absolute power.
What he'd never understood was that destruction was his power. As soon as he'd turned his will to rulership, to building instead of destroying, he had forsaken the Way of the Dark...and everything had begun to go wrong for him. Where before he could not fail, now he'd had no chance of succeeding, because when you turn your back on the Dark, the Dark turns its back on you.
Only days after the Battle of Yavin, Cronal had cast his mind deep into the void, seeking the future of the young Rebel pilot who had destroyed the Death Star, and had found him as an older, more seasoned man, dressed in dark robes—and bearing a lightsaber.
Kneeling before the Emperor, to swear his allegiance to the dark side.
My fate...will be the same as my father’s.
Which was when Cronal finally understood who Darth Vader was, and saw the terrible flaw that would bring the Order of the Sith to its ultimate destruction. A destruction that Cronal not only was determined to survive, but was certain he could transform into an eternal victory for the Dark. And, not incidentally, eternal life for himself.
Near to eternal, anyway; as long as a single living thing struggled and suffered and fed the Dark with killing and dying, Cronal would be here. His ultimate sacrifice to the Dark would be the survival of his consciousness until the heat death of the Universe...when he would be joined forever with the final oblivion of all that had ever been. All that will ever be.
He would be the last.
Slowly, subtly, through the months and years from Yavin to Endor, Cronal had served his vision. A delicate balance had had to be meticulously maintained, to navigate the intricacies of the relationship between Palpatine and Vader...to inculcate a rivalry with the half-mechanical terror that Palpatine had elevated to the rank of Lord of the Sith. For all his undoubted physical power, Vader had never been more than a blunt instrument, with no real understanding of the truth of the Dark, nor of the uses of real power. He had been, all in all, only a thug with a lightsaber...and, as it proved, a weakhearted, emotionally crippled, impulsively treasonous thug at that.
Though Vader could never have been Cronal's equal in coursing the mazy paths of dark power, it had served Cronal's purpose to pretend jealousy—even to appear to fail, more than once, and to openly bridle under Vader's supposed authority, so that Palpatine had begun to suspect that Cronal might deliberately sabotage the monster's operations. Thus it was that he had persuaded Palpatine—subtly, oh-so-delicately, so that the Emperor believed to the day of his death that it had all been his own idea—that Cronal could better serve the Empire from afar, away from Coruscant, away from the prying optical receptors of Vader's ridiculous helmet. Away from the entirely too keen vision, both physical and mystic, of Palpatine himself.
Out among the forgotten fringes of the galaxy, Cronal had appeared to merely bide his time, running minor operations through his private networks of agents, while in truth he had devoted his life to searching out forgotten lore of the ancient Sith and other supposed masters of the Dark. If they had done so much damage even with their limited understanding of the Dark, how much greater destruction might be wrought by one who knew all their secrets, and also knew the One Truth?
He traveled in secret, deep into the Unknown Regions, following his Darksight vision to worlds so ancient that even legend had no memory of them. Among the drifting moon trees that flowered in the interstellar space of the Gunninga Gap, he was able to discover and assemble scraps of the Taurannik Codex, which had been destroyed in the Muurshantre Extinction a hundred millennia before; arcane hints in that forbidden tome led him to the Valtaullu Rift and the shattered asteroid belt that once had been the planet-sized Temple of Korman Lao, the Lord Ravager of the long-vanished race of demon-worshipping reptoids known as the Kanzer Exiles. The lore in the Temple fragments gave him the knowledge he needed to capture the corrupt spirit essence of Dathka Graush, to rip it free from its resting place in Korriban's Valley of Golg, to eventually extract and consume even the most secret lore of Sith alchemy that the ancient tyrant had carried to his grave.
And that ancient Sith alchemy had given him the knowledge to forge a device to control the living crystal that formed the structure of Mindorese meltmassif...
Because the Emperor had once confided in him that the transference of the spirit to another was a pathway to the ultimate goal of a Sith: to cheat death. Of course, he had been thinking of clones, but Cronal's plans were more ambitious; if such a feat was possible, he determined that he would perform it—and not to a mere clone body, either. After all, his own body had never been strong, and his service to the Dark had eaten away what little strength he'd had until he could no longer stand—until he could no longer feed himself, or even breathe without the life-support functions built into his gravity chair. Why should he settle for exchanging his flawed and failing body for another of the same model, every bit as certain to fail?
No. His devotion to the Way of the Dark had shown him a path to power greater than Palpatine could have ever dreamed: to transfer his consciousness permanently into a body that was young, that was healthy and handsome in a way Cronal had never been. A body more powerful in the Force than Vader, potentially more powerful even than Palpatine. The body of a true hero, beloved by all rightthinking citizens in the galaxy as the very symbol of truth and justice…
He would not simply turn Luke Skywalker to the service of the Dark. Why should he? Luke Skywalker served the Dark already, without ever guessing; he had powers of destruction that humbled even the Death Star.
No: Cronal would become Luke Skywalker, and serve the Dark himself.
As mentioned in the perspective-based description above, Blackhole had theories on the Sith and the Jedi, but these were flawed. Because he denied there being any validity in the Force, Blackhole considered their endeavors inferior and believed that the Sith themselves were pawns in his own game. He failed to calculate the will of the Force or the Force’s very existent dual nature as relevant to the continuous thriving of the universe. But his theories began to infect Luke’s thoughts on the Jedi and Sith and life itself as well when he caused Luke to enter something of a dream-state, though it was more real than a dream. In this state, Luke simply hovered in empty space watching everything in the universe deteriorate for innumerable years until there was nothing left but the Dark, and this vision showed the full exactitude of the Dark. Where Mace, Yoda, and Anakin only had brief glances at the full scope of the Dark, Luke experienced the most potent, detailed, and comprehensive view of the Dark of any Jedi before him.
Though he was far from conscious, Luke knew something was wrong. He felt...cold.
Unbelievably cold. He'd been cold before—a couple years earlier, on Hoth, he'd come within a shaved centimeter of freezing to death before Han had found him—but this was different. That cold had been a creeping numbness, and weakness, and a growing inability to force his hypothermic muscles to move. This cold, though, froze him without the comfort of numbness. Tiny razor-edged crystals of ice—colder than ice, so cold they burned, cold as liquid air—grew inward through his skin at every pore, becoming hairlines of freeze that crept along his nerves.
And with the cold came silence.
Physical silence, deeper than a living creature can truly experience: not just the absence of external sound, but the absence of all concept of sound. No whisper of breath, no hush of blood coursing through arteries, no faintest beat of his heart. Not even the vaguest sensation of vibration, or pressure, or friction on his skin. But the cold and the silence went deeper than the merely physical. They were in his dreams.
These dreams were glacially slow, actionless, featureless hours of empty staring into empty space, hours becoming years that stretched into numberless millennia, as one by one the stars went out. He could do nothing, for there was nothing to do. Except watch the stars die.
And in their place was left nothing. Not even absence. Only him. Floating. Empty of everything. Without thought, without sensation. Forever.
His first thought in a million years trickled into his brain over the course of decades. Sleep. This is the end of everything. Nothing left but sleep.
The second thought, by contrast, followed instantly upon the second. Wait...somebody else is thinking with my mind.
Which meant he wasn't alone at the end of the universe.
Even in frozen dreams of eternity, the Force was strong with him. He opened himself to the Sleep Thought and drew it into the center of his being, where with the Force to guide and sustain him, he could examine the thought, turn it this way and that like an unfamiliar stone.
It had weight, this thought, and texture: like a hunk of volcanic basalt around a uranium core, it was unreasonably dense, and its surface was pebbled, as though it had once been soft and sticky and somebody had rolled it across a field of fine gravel. As he let the Force take his perception into greater and greater focus and detail, he came to understand that each of these pebbles was a person—human or near-human, every single one, bound into an aggregate matrix of frozen stone.
As the Force took him deeper, he came to understand that this stone he held was also holding him; even as he turned it in his hand, it also surrounded and enclosed him—that it was a prison for every one of these pebble-lives, and that these imprisoned lives were also imprisoning him.
He was the stone himself, he discovered: the very matrix of dark frozen stone that bound them all. He trapped them and they trapped him, and neither could let go. They were bound together by the very structure of the universe.
Frozen by the Dark.
And here was another strangeness: Since when did he think of the structure of the universe as capital-D Dark? Even if there might be some trace of truth in that bleak perception, when had he become the kind of man who would surrender to it? If the Dark wanted to drag him into eternal emptiness, it was going to have to fight him for every millimeter.
He started looking for the way out. Which was also, due to the curious paradox inherent in his Force perception, the way in. The imaginary thought-stone in his imaginary hand was a metaphor, he understood—even as was the frozen stone he had become—but it was also real on a level deeper than nonimaginary eyes could ever see. He was the stone...and so he did not need to reach out to touch the lives represented by the pebbles. He was touching them already. He only had to pay attention.
But each life-pebble on which he focused gave back no hint of light. No perception even of the human being it represented, only a featureless nonreflective surface like a smoothed and rounded spheroid of powdered graphite. Each one he touched gave back no hope, no purpose, no dream of escape, but instead drew these out from his frozen heart, swallowed them whole, and fed them to the Dark. And the Dark gave up no trace of evidence they had ever existed.
All he got from the pebbles was gentle wordless urging to let himself sleep. Struggle is futile. The Dark swallows everything in the end. All his hopes, all his fears, every heroic dream and every tragic reality. Every single distant descendant of everyone who had ever heard of him. All would be gone, leaving not even an echo to hint that they had ever existed. The only answer was sleep. Eternal sleep. Sleep.
Luke thought, Never.
He had an intuition that was half memory, half guess, and maybe altogether a hint from the Force, because when he again turned that imaginary stone in his imaginary hand, one of those imaginary pebbles of powdered graphite had a crack in it that wasn't imaginary at all. And through that crack, tiny beyond tiny, nanometrically infinitesimal, so small that if it hadn't been imaginary, Luke couldn't have seen it even with the most advanced instruments in the galaxy, shone the very faintest conceivable glimmer…
With the Force to guide him, he focused his perception into a similarly nanometric filament. And through that tiny crack of light within the imaginary stone, Luke found the universe.
Focusing his whole self into his Force perception with all his power and every scrap of the mental discipline that Ben and Master Yoda had pounded into him, Luke could send enough of himself along that filament of light that he could see again—dimly, distantly, through waves of bizarre distortion—and what he saw was sleeves.
Voluminous sleeves, draped together as though concealing folded hands...and beyond them, a floor of smooth stone, illuminated by cold, flickering blues, like the light cast by the screen of a holoplayer. He tried to lift his head, to get a look around, but the view didn't change, and he realized that the eyes through which he saw were not his.
With that realization, other perceptions began to flower within his consciousness. He became aware that the floor at which his borrowed eyes were staring was connected with him somehow...that it was not ordinary stone at all, but a curious semicolloidal structure of crystal...that it was, inexplicably, somehow alive.
That when he set his mind to it, he could feel the life, like a sub-sonic hum can raise a tingle on the skin. But it wasn't on his skin that he felt it, it wasinside his head...and he felt it because he had crystals of that semicolloidal somehow-living stone growing inside his brain...
Not his brain.
The crystals grew within the other brain, the one connected to the eyes he was borrowing from outside the universe. This became another subject of contemplation, like his imaginary stone, because like that imaginary stone he was both inside this borrowed brain and outside it, pushing in while looking out. And when he touched those crystals with his attention, he could hear—no, feel—the whisper of despair that had murmured to him at the end of the universe.
Sleep. Struggle is futile. All things end. Existence is an illusion. Only the Dark is real.
He could feel now that the whisper came from outside this borrowed brain, even as his own perception did, and that the crystals somehow picked up this whisper and amplified it, adding this brain's limited Force power to its own, the same as it had done with the other hundreds of brains that Luke could now feel were all linked into this bizarre system. There was somebody out there.
Luke thought, Blackhole.
And with that thought, he could feel the malignancy that fed this field of Dark: the ancient wheezing cripple entombed within his lifesupport capsule, who poured his bleak malice through a body-wide webwork of this selfsame crystal...
Just like the one growing within Luke's own body.
And with that understanding came power: he set his will upon the web of crystal within his body and allowed the Force to give power to his desire; now he was able to clearly perceive the link between his crystals and those within this borrowed brain. Then, when he willed the head to raise, it did, and when he willed the eyes to take in the room, he saw a stone cavern, dimly lit by waves of blue energy discharge that crawled along the stone walls and ceiling like living things—the same crackling discharge Luke had seen in the Cavern of the Shadow Throne—though this energy did no harm to the people gathered here.
The cavern was filled with Moon Hats. Each and every one among them stood motionless with head lowered, hands folded invisibly within the drape of their sleeves. Each and every one among them faced a large stone pedestal that stood empty in the center of the room. The pedestal was of a single piece with the floor, but not as though it had been carved from it; it looked as if it had grown there, like a tumor. It was about a meter and a half high, and its flat top was roughly the same size and shape as a comfortable single bed. From time to time, with a kind of regularized increase of frequency like the tide coming in, the electric discharge from the walls and ceiling would pause, and shiver in place as though captured between electrodes; then with a painfully bright flash, they would converge upon the stone pedestal and vanish into its surface.
Luke understood. That's me, he thought. That's where I am. Buried alive in solid rock.
This didn't particularly bother him; after spending eternity at the end of the universe, mere death didn't mean much at all. Death was better than what Blackhole was trying to do to him. With him.
He didn't know if he could save himself, but he might be able to help these people. That would have to be enough. Luke reached out through the crystals with the Force...and found nothing beyond this one lone brain to grasp. Though he could feel them clearly, though he could listen to the whisper of the crystals in their heads, he could find no surface on those crystals that his will could grasp. Exactly like his dream: these were the pebbles of featureless graphite. Nothing there but the Dark.
This one alone had that fissure of light...
In the distant reaches of his memory, he found a lesson of Yoda's, from one long solstice night, deep in the jungle near Dagobah's equator. When to the Force you truly give yourself, all you do expresses the truth of who you are, Yoda had said, leaning forward so that the knattik-root campfire painted blue shadows within the deep creases of his ancient face. Then through you the Force will flow, and guide your hand it will, until the greatest good might come of your smallest gesture.
He'd never really understood that lesson. He'd only tried to live according to the principle...but now there was an image slowly breaching the surface of his consciousness. An image of his own hand, delivering a punch. Just to the right of center, on the forehead of "Lord Shadowspawn." Which had been precisely the impact required to crack the crystalline matrix inside his brain.
A simple act of mercy, born of no other desire than to end a conflict without taking a life, now had become his own lifeline, by which he could draw himself back from the eternal nothing at the end of the universe. He could feel his connection now, could sense the control he might exert through this connection; a simple twist or will would seize this body and make it act at his command—he could even, he sensed, send his power with the Force through this body to serve his desire. He could make this man his puppet, and forge his own escape.
He could abandon his fear, and express the truth of who he was.
For Luke Skywalker, this was not even a choice. Instead of a command, he sent through the link a friendly suggestion.
Hey, Nick, he sent. Why don't you wake up?
--Taken from Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor
Somebody had switched on the lights inside Nick's head.
He jerked awake, blinking. His eyes wouldn't focus. "Man...I have been having the weirdest dream..."
He tried to rub his eyes, but his hands were tangled in something...what was this, sleeves? Since when did he wear pajamas? Especially pajamas made out of brocade so thick he could have used it as a survival tent on a Karthrexian glacier... And his head hurt, too, and his neck was stiff, because his head had gained a couple of dozen kilos—must have been some serious party, to leave him with this bad a hangover—and when he did finally free his hands and rub his eyes and massage his vision back into something resembling working order, he took in his surroundings...and blinked some more.
He was standing in a stone chamber along with about forty other people who were all wearing funny hats and robes just like his, who all stood motionless and silent in a crowd around a big stone pedestal with heads lowered and hands folded inside their sleeves, and he said, "Oh, okay. That explains it."
It hadn't been a dream.
Okay, sure, a nightmare, maybe—but he was wide awake now and the nightmare was still going on, which meant it was as real as the deep ache in his feet, not to mention his back and his neck. How long had he been standing like this, anyway? Plus there was this knuckle-sized knot of a bruise over his right eye...
Oh, he thought. Oh yeah, I remember.
For a long, long moment, he didn't move. He couldn't guess exactly how long he'd have to make his moves from the first instant he attracted Blackhole's attention, but he had a pretty good idea what the old ruskakk's reaction was gonna be: the walls and floor and ceiling of this whole chamber were made of meltmassif.
This was always the problem with Jedi, Nick decided. Whenever there were Jedi around, you ended up in some kind of trouble that nobody in the galaxy could possibly survive. Not even the Jedi himself. And this time, it wasn't even about dying. It was about getting stuck as Blackhole's sock puppet for the rest of his natural life. So what was he supposed to do?
On the other hand, doing nothing sure wouldn't make anything better. He could feel Blackhole inside his head—a cold slimy goo like the trail left behind by a Xerthian hound-slug on a damp autumn day—and he could feel, too, that Blackhole could snatch back control of Nick's arms and legs and brain anytime he felt like it; the only reason Nick had any self-awareness at all was that Blackhole's whole attention was focused on the kid inside the stone slab.
Overall, it looked like both of them were pretty well fragged. But, y'know, he reminded himself, that kid is supposed to be a Skywalker. Nick had never been superstitious, but there was something about that name. It seemed to carry the promise, or at least the possibility, that the day might be saved in some incomprehensibly improbable fashion. Even if the situation was so clearly hopeless that only a lunatic would even try.
Note the circumstances of Luke’s escape from that experience with the Dark: When Luke arrived on Mindor to diplomatically talk to Blackhole, Blackhole had Luke meet with his scapegoat, “Lord Shadowspawn” who was actually Nick Rostu under the control of Cronal’s Sith alchemical meltmassif control matrixes. When Luke fought Nick, he struck Nick in the head, which damaged the control matrix and severed Cronal’s control over Nick. When Luke was placed in the dream state, Nick was there as well, as were Blackhole’s other subordinates who had been afflicted with the same crystalline matrix. That crystalline matrix transmitted into their thoughts hopeless visions of the Dark. But because Nick’s control matrix was partially dismantled, those mental suggestions were not wholly successful, and Nick was able to retain a minuscule ray of light in Luke’s dream thought. That afforded Luke a way out of the Dark. “...one lone candle is enough to hold it back.” Sparing Nick’s life spared Luke from Blackhole’s control and spared him from the Dark.
For a time, Luke was unable to reconcile this experience with the Dark with his Jedi training, as he began to see life as pointless. He knew he had a mission and still saved lives where he could, but it wasn’t until he willingly explored the Dark to find Leia, whom Blackhole was attempting to subvert to his influence, that he threw back Cronal’s distorted view of the Force and life itself.
Making contact with the Melters wasn't the hard part. Luke simply laid his left hand on the shimmering black stone of the crypt wall. His hand's sprouted thatch of shadow web melded instantly with the stone's crystalline structure...
And they were there. He could feel them. It was an unfamiliar sensation, vaguely analogous to sight—he sensed them in the stone the way one human might see another from a distance. Getting their attention wasn't hard, either. They became aware of him in the same instant that he perceived them—and they knew he perceived them. He sensed their instant curiosity and puzzlement, and felt the interchange of lightning-fast pulses of energy between them like a conversation in a language he could not understand. The hard part was actually talking to them.
They sent tentative, questing pulses toward him in what could have been a cautious hello, and he felt his own shadow web respond, but not like an answer. More like an echo, or a harmonic overtone—as though the dark mirror of his nervous system was warping into some kind of resonance with their signal. To communicate with them, he would have to send his mind fully into the shadow web alongside his nerves, into his internal void that swallowed even the memory of light. He'd have to join them in the dark.
In the Dark.
To bring his consciousness into resonance with the Melters would require that he not only stare into that abyss, but dive into it headfirst. To drown himself in the void. To let the dark close over his face and seep into his ears and eyes and down his throat and entomb him in the empty, meaningless end of all things.
The Melters were at the core of this. Everything came back to them somehow. Meltmassif was their body, or bodies, or the medium in which they lived; meltmassif was the active ingredient in the Pawn Crowns. It was the control crystals and the deadly interlock inside each Pawn's brain. It was the underlying structure of Blackhole's entire base. It was the shadow web that Blackhole had used to infect Luke with despair.
It was what he would use to steal Leia's body.
It was dark where they were. Not just dark, but Dark.
And he was afraid.
Afraid that the Dark really was the truth. The only real truth. That everything else everyone pretended was important was only a deception, a distraction, a game to keep your mind off the eternal oblivion to come. He had spent aeons in the Dark and he knew its awful power.
Everything dies, it would whisper forever in his heart. Even stars burn out.
But if his nerve failed him now, he'd be leaving Leia in that Dark. Alone. Forever. The Dark would swallow her as if she'd never existed. What chance would she have to escape? She wasn't even a Jedi. How would she find light?
Because that's what Jedi do, isn't it? Luke thought. That's what we're for. We're the ones who bring the light.
So he gathered his courage and focused his mind to open a channel into the Force, because if he was going to dive into the absolute negation of light, he'd better bring along some of his own. He allowed his consciousness to touch the event horizon of the shadow web's black hole, and let himself slip across the threshold and fall forever into the Dark.
--Taken from Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor
His senses were useless here in the Dark. Here was no sight, no sound, no touch, no awareness of his body. He had only an inchoate awareness of being part of some kind of indefinable field of energy—or perhaps he was the indefinable field of energy. The only perception he could summon beyond simple awareness of his own existence was of certain modulations in this energy field: unreceivable signals, untouchable textures, unseeable colors. Irretrievably alien. Cold and ancient lives that had never experienced the beat of a heart, the touch of a hand, the taste of air.
Impossibly distant, unreachable, born of vanished stars.
Stars, he thought. Yes. That's it: stars. That's where they come from. That's where we meet. Because that's what I am, too.
Everything in the universe is born of dying stars. Every element is created in the fusion furnace of stellar cores. Every atom that exists was once part of some long-vanished star—and that star was part of others before it, an unbroken chain of ancestry back to the single cosmic fireball that had been the birth of the universe.
It is the death of stars that gives the universe life.
With the idea of stars on which to hang his imagination, he could bring his situation into a kind of focus. Instead of a formless field of barely perceptible energy, he visualized himself as part of a stellar cluster, vast and dim; those alien modulations of energy became distant stars.
Though every true star is functionally the same—a fusion furnace in space—each is also an individual. One may be larger, another hotter; one may be nearing the end of its life cycle, collapsing in upon itself or expanding to destruction, while another might be freshly forming by aggregating the dust and gases of ancient supernovae. In Luke's imagination, he could read their individual spectra the way he might recognize a human face: they looked tired, and old, and far apart, burning themselves out in the endless Dark.
But he, too, was a star, and the light that shone from him was the Force.
Each and every distant star on which he fixed his attention, however dim it was, instantly brightened as his light fed its own. They drew near, attracted by his energy, captured by his gravitational field, growing ever brighter as they approached, burning hotter, giving off bursts of exotic particles like gusts of delighted laughter. They fell into orbit around him, becoming a new system of infinite complexity wheeling through the Dark in joyous dance.
Here we are, in the Dark, he thought. And it's not empty. It's not meaningless. Not with us all here. It's beautiful.
And each one he had touched with the Force remained linked to him by pulsing threads of light as they basked gratefully in its power; they had been trapped in this freezing Dark for so long, their only light coming from the burning away of themselves and their kin, forever fading until one by one they would wink from existence...
With that, Luke discovered that he knew them now. Not as though they had told him about themselves; not as though there was any communication at all. Luke didn't need to be told. He was part of them now, joined to them by the Force. He knew their lives as if they were his own, because in the light of the Force he was those lives, and they were him. He knew them as they knew themselves: a corporate entity that was also an array of individuals, nodes of consciousness in a larger network of mind. They had—been born? been created? altered? evolved?—first become aware of themselves (themself?) as alive on Mindor's rocky, airless sister planet, which Luke knew only as Taspan II; they had no name for the planet that Luke could comprehend. There they had lived for untold millennia, basking in Taspan's unfiltered glare, in fear of nothing save the changes that could be wrought in the meltmassif that was their home by radiation from Taspan's occasional starspots and stellar storms.
They did not have any comprehension of the cause of the Big Crush; the Imperial weapons research facility on Taspan II had been entirely outside their concern. In those days, they hadn't even known what humans were; they'd never had experience of noncrystal-based life-forms. The Big Crush itself had been no disaster for them; on the contrary, the planet's destruction had simply scattered its crust into a vast cloud, with orders of magnitude more surface area to absorb the energy of the star. For the Melters, the Big Crush had been an all-too-brief Golden Age; their culture/mind had blossomed throughout the system, celebrating their accession to Paradise.
For these particular Melters, the Golden Age of Paradise had come to an abrupt and catastrophic end, as the chunks of their shattered home planet had drifted across the orbit of Mindor. Captured by its gravity, they had fallen to its surface in each and every rock storm, and soon found that their new home was less a home than a prison. An oubliette. A cosmic-extermination camp. Many, many individual Melters had been lost as their rocks had burned away in the atmosphere, and the radiation-absorbing qualities of the vaporized meltmassif screened the survivors from Taspan's life-giving rays. The survivors were slowly dying of energy asphyxiation.
They were drowning in the Dark.
Each rockfall brought new Melters into Mindor's lethal gloom, and every meteor that burned away deepened the shadow that was killing them. That shadow also cut them off from the rest of the Melter community out among the asteroids; they simply did not have the power to drive a signal very far into the planet's atmosphere. All they could do was wait, struggling to survive, and try to comfort the new victims falling into this planetary prison every day.
Comfort was what the Melters originally had sought from humans, as well; the human nervous system produced a tiny trickle of energy in the general wavelength of the Meltermind, which drew Melters to humans the way a glow rod attracted cave moths.
Cave moths, Luke thought. Perhaps that was what had happened to him at the cave...something in the meltmassif had been stealing light from inside him...
When these organic life-forms, these tiny flickering candle flames of warmth and light in the permanent midnight that was Mindor, had started shooting Melters with stun blasts that randomized the microcrystalline structure of meltmassif, the Melters had begun sequestering them in self-defense. There had never been malice in their attacks at all; they didn't even understand that their captives were dying—they were unclear on the whole concept of organic-death. It wasn't murder, or war, or even violence, because they really didn't comprehend any of those concepts, either. Their campaign against humanity had been, to them, merely pest control.
As all this information filtered through his consciousness, Luke at last became aware that the stellar cluster of which he was the center was itself moving, rolling through the Dark as though in orbit around some vastly more massive gravity source, something so huge and dark that it could be seen only by its effect on the stars of the Melters in his cluster. One by one they were peeled from his cluster, stripped away to spiral into decaying orbits around the inescapable void until one by one they flared with a last brief burst of light as they slipped over some invisible event horizon and vanished forever.
An event horizon of the Dark, consuming the last of the light in his universe...
Oh, he thought. I get it. It's a black hole.
Some kind of metaphor for how Blackhole—how appropriate that old code name seemed now—was controlling the Melters, he figured; Blackhole must be luring them down somehow, cutting them off from each other so their only source of light was what he chose to feed them...
Even thinking about it seemed to increase the imaginary black hole's gravity gradient; he found himself drifting closer and closer to the event horizon, gathering speed as his spiral orbit tightened, more and more of the stars around him falling away, some to vanish into the black hole's insatiable maw, others breaking free into higher orbits until he was entirely alone, no star left between him and the black hole...
One star like none of the others still swung through an orbit lower than his: a blue-white supergiant, far larger, far brighter than any his imagination had so far produced. This one did not feed upon his Force light, but shone with its own, as brilliant and powerful as his. It fell in a tightening tide-locked gyre down the black hole's gravity well, and as it fell the relentless pull of the void was stripping a huge jet of energy and mass from it, a fountain of star-stuff ripped from its heart and sucked down across the event horizon to vanish forever in dark beyond the Dark.
And he knew this star was Leia.
He reached out to her, but there was nothing to grasp, nor any hand to grasp it; he'd had some crazy half-formed idea to grab her and slingshot around the black hole and out again, because he'd half forgotten that this was only a vision after all, only a metaphor, and if he tried to stretch it into reality it would shatter. So instead he brought his light to bear, focusing a beam of the Force upon his sister star.
Leia, hang on, he tried to send. Don't give in to the Dark. I'm coming for you. Hang on.
He felt no response, only overwhelming sadness and crushing despair and that empty, lost meaninglessness at the end of the universe, and he couldn't even tell if this came from her or from himself. He tried to focus the Force on her, to make his beam of light a conduit for strength that might save her, even as the tiny crack of light he'd found in one imaginary pebble had saved him—but somehow his light could not add to hers. He burned a different color, but no more brightly.
He remembered too well that terrible void, the endless lack that was deeper than any darkness. If only there were some way he could show her that all the light she'd ever need shone from her own self...but that was only a metaphor. Wasn't it?
What Ben and Yoda had called the dark side wasn't actually dark; it had nothing at all to do with the visual spectrum. The phrase dark side of the Force was just an expression. An evocative shorthand to express a broad range of negative characteristics. A metaphor.
They could have called it the evil side, or the death-and-destruction side, or the enslaving-the-whole-galaxy side. But they didn't. They called it the dark side. But they'd never seen dark like this. Or had they?
Maybe they had been here, at the end of all things—or at least glimpsed it. Maybe they had seen the truth of the Dark. Maybe that's why they never talked about a "light side." Because there wasn't one.
But, Luke thought, gazing upon the brilliant blaze that was his sister, just because there's no "light side" doesn't mean there's no light.
He had thought he was bringing light with him into the darkness, by holding on to the Force. Now he saw that the Force's light didn't shine on him. It shone through him.
He was the light in the darkness.
He saw it now, and it made sense to him at last. That same light shone through Leia, and as soon as he understood that, he began to sense other lights, pinprick stars far out in the dark. Some of them he recognized: Han, and Lando...Wedge and Tycho, Hobbie and Wes and the rest of the Rogues...Nick, and Aeona Cantor, Lieutenant Tubrimi and Captain Tirossk and so many, many others, sailors and marines, even the impossibly distant spray of vanishingly faint stars that must have been the stormtroopers, for even they were lights in the darkness. All of them were stars. And every star, every life, was a thing of beauty.
And Leia couldn't see them. She couldn't even look their way, not anymore. Her star was tide-locked to the black hole—its gravity would not allow her to turn her face away. He couldn't even get her attention. And the black hole was aware of him now; the abyss he'd stared into was now staring into him. He felt its emptiness that nothing could fill, its bleak hunger that could never be satisfied. In his mind, it swelled toward him like jaws opening to swallow the universe, capturing every scrap of light and hope and love that Luke could channel from the Force. The longer he stared, the more he lost, and nothing he could do would help Leia at all. Once that maw closed around her, she would be lost to the Dark forever.
All right, he thought. I guess I'll have to do this the old-fashioned way.
He opened his eyes.
This is revealing. In his perception of the Dark, Luke sees many sides of the Dark not before shown. Where Blackhole and the Sorcerers of Rhand are dogmatic in their system of thinking that the Dark overarches over the universe and is entirely inevitable, Luke examines another truth: all life is light. And light can hold back darkness. The principal core of this matter rests with stars. The Dark constantly seems to be whispering that stars will burn out. What Luke observes is that the death of stars conserves life.
Think about just a few of the major distinctions between light and dark and life and death. Darkness resides behind all light. Light dispels darkness, but when the light goes out, the darkness returns. Life exists for a time, but when it dies, it dies forever. Darkness and death are permanent. Light and life are transient. “Existence is fleeting. Destruction is eternal.” But irrespective of the length of existence of any particular light or living being, what can light and life do that darkness and death cannot do? Reproduce. One candle can ignite another; life produces more life. Darkness may be able to spread where light is absent, but darkness is incapable of forming new darkness. Death may be continual, but the dead cannot produce more dead. Stars represent this disparity.
When one star “dies,” it leaves behind residual matter; that residual matter will gravitate to the residual matter of other stars. These collections of matter will eventually coalesce into a new star. Stars reproduce. A dying star creates a new star. As Luke perceived, this event marked the beginning of the universe. Blackhole mused about the heat death of the universe that would herald its destruction. But the dead-star principle applies on a universal scale as well. The original burst of matter and energy that bred the universe corresponds with that principle. What Luke found is that while life and light and the universe itself may be temporary, it can form new life and light and even a new universe. Once the Dark eventually does consume the entirety of reality, a new one will spring up from the previous one. Existence may be fleeting, but existence creates more existence. The Dark may be indefinite, but from Luke’s perception of the infinite Dark, the formulation of new life, light, stars, and universes from dead ones is indefinite as well. From this, Luke found that life is not meaningless, even if it is temporary. In fact, the temporal status of life is part of what makes it valuable. If it only exists for a time, then there is all the more reason to preserve it.
--Taken from Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor
Kar crouched, his bare back against an icy wall, in a stone chamber filled with the dead. Corpses in long robes littered the floor, and the room stank of corruption; the only light came from blue spark-chains that crackled across the ceiling. His heart hammered against his ribs, and his breath rasped in his throat. His teeth were bared in an involuntary snarl, and his fingers scrabbled against the stone at his back as if he could somehow dig his way through. All from fear of the small blond man.
The same small blond man who now stood on the far side of the piles of dead bodies, inoffensive and mild, his expression friendly, his hands, empty of weapons, spread wide in invitation.
Kar did not know where this place might be, or how he had come to be here; he had no memory of having been anywhere like this maze of stone peopled only by dead men. He knew only that he had never felt such terror. Not as a child, lost and alone in the lethal jungles of his homeworld; not in the dock of the Galactic Court on Coruscant; not even in the infinite deadly dark of Kessel's spice mines. He had come back to himself in the midst of battle, blind with rage, surrounded by armed men on a Starship's hull, He remembered seizing this little man in his unbreakable grip; he remembered sinking his needle teeth into the little man's throat, biting down like a vine cat strangling an akk wolf. And he remembered what the little man had done to him.
The hands that scrabbled against the wall at his back still sprouted the black crystal hairs. His mouth was full of these crystal hairs, stiff and sharp as needles; when he worked his jaw, they cut and slashed at his palate and punctured his gums. And he could feel them inside him, throughout his body, an infection of dead stone within his living flesh...
He snarled wordless animal sounds. What are you?
The small blond man started toward him. "I'm not your enemy, Kar."
"I can't. Too many lives depend on me."
I'll kill you! Kar gathered himself to spring. I will rip your head from your body. I will feast upon your guts!
"It's all right to be afraid, Kar. This is a frightening place. Things have been done to you here that should never be done to anyone."
It's so...dead. Something broke inside him then; his rage and terror fled, and he sagged to his knees. Nothing but stone and corpses. Everything dead. Dead within. Dead without. Dead forever.
"Not everything." Though the small blond man had to step over corpses to reach Kar's side, his expression of sympathy and compassion never flickered. "You're alive, Kar. I'm alive."
That means nothing. Kar's eyes burned as if he'd dipped his face in sand. We mean nothing.
"We're the only meaning there is." The small blond man extended a hand. "Trust me or kill me, Kar. In the end, it'll come out the same. I will not harm you."
What are you? His snarl had gone plaintive. What do you want from me?
"I'm a Jedi. My name is Luke Skywalker," the small blond man said. "And I want you to take my hand."
These are the answers to the Dark and the answers Luke brought to Cronal when Luke lastly challenged him in the Dark.
--Taken from Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor
Deep in hyperspace, Cronal reached up For the Shadow Crown. His life-support chamber was buried within an asteroid of meltmassif; with the Shadow Crown to focus and amplify his control, he could part the stone that shrouded his chamber's viewports and so enjoy the infinite nothing of hyperspace. He loved gazing into hyperspace, the nothing outside the universe. The place beyond even the concept of place... Ordinary mortals sometimes went mad, succumbing to the delirium of hyper-rapture, from gazing too long into the emptiness. Cronal found it soothing: a glimpse into the oblivion beyond the end of all things.
To him, it looked like the Dark.
It would be some consolation for the frustration he had faced these past days. How was it that everywhere he turned, there seemed to be a Skywalker waiting to bar his path? Still, the Skywalker boy's weakness had been a gift. How fortunate he was that Skywalker had lacked the strength of character to simply kill him.
Even in Cronal's wandering through the trackless wastes of hope where he had lost his way, he still had managed to deliver a blow to the infant second Republic from which it would never recover. Not to mention that he still had the advanced gravitic technology made possible by the properties of meltmassif, and he had the Shadow Crown itself.
Yes, he had lost his best chance to acquire a young, powerful, and influential body to carry his consciousness, but he still had his original body with all his powers intact. In a few days—long enough to be certain that every Republic ship still in the Taspan system was crewed only by the dead—he could return, harvest the meltmassif from the asteroid clouds, and begin anew. He would not repeat his mistake, however. Never again would he seek to build rather than destroy. Never again would he create anything but engines of ever-greater destruction. Never again would he forsake the Way of the Dark. His rule of the galaxy would be no mere Second Imperium, it would be the Reign of Death. He would preside over a universe of infinite suffering whose only end would he oblivion, meaningless as life itself. He would author the final act in the saga of the galaxy.
With that dream to comfort him in his temporary exile, he lowered the Shadow Crown upon his head and sent his will into the Dark beyond darkness, to take control of the mind in the stone.
But where there should have been Dark, he found only light.
White light, brilliant, blinding, a young star born within his head. It seared his mind, blasting away even his memory of darkness. He recoiled convulsively, like a worm encountering red-hot stone. This was more than light; it was the Light.
It was the power to drive off the Dark.
This was inconceivable. What could heat his absolute zero? What could banish his infinite night?
You should know. The voice of the Light was not a voice. It spoke without speaking, communicating not with words, but with understanding. You invited me here.
Skywalker? This light was Skywalker?
In the instant he thought the name, Cronal saw him: a shape of light, absolute, uncompromising, kneeling within the Election Center in the darkest heart of the Shadow Base, his hands solemnly interfolded with the massive paws of Kar Vastor. He had linked his shadow nerves to Vastor's, and through the intimate connection between Vastor and Cronal he had somehow stretched forth to touch the Shadow Lord himself.
In the Dark, Cronal saw Skywalker smile. Thank you for joining me here. I was a little worried you might get away with that silly crown of yours.
This was impossible. This must be some hallucination, a twisted product of his Darksight run amok. He was in hyperspace! Hyperspace did not, could not, interact with realspace—
I was with Ben Kenobi in hyperspace when he felt the destruction of Alderaan. No wall can contain the Force.
The Force, the Force, these pathetic Jedi kept nattering on about the Force! Did any of them even faintly comprehend how naive and foolish they were? If any of them had ever had so much as a glimpse of the real power of the Dark, that glimpse would have snuffed their tiny minds like candles in a hurricane—
Was my tiny mind snuffed? I must have missed that part.
Cronal could sense gentle amusement, like a tolerant uncle indulging a child's tantrum. Fury rose within him like molten lava climbing a volcanic fault. This simpleminded youth had fooled himself into believing his paltry light could fill the infinite Dark? Let him shine alone within eternal night. Cronal opened himself wholly to the Dark, cracking the very gates of his mind, expanding the sphere of his power like an event horizon yawning to swallow the universe. He surrounded Skywalker's light, and with a shrug of power he consumed it.
In this arena, minds naked to the Dark contending in nonspace beyond even hyperspace, there was no question of age, or health, or physical strength. Here the only power that counted was the power of will. Skywalker and his so-called Force could never match Cronal's mastery of the Way of the Dark. On this level, Cronal was Blackhole. From his grip no light could escape.
Escape? Me? Did you forget that you're the one who's running away?
Cronal suddenly felt, unaccountably—and unpleasantly—warm. At first he dismissed this unwelcome sensation; he was too experienced a servant of the Dark to be distracted by a minor malfunction in his life-support settings. But gradually he became aware that his body—specifically, his body's skin—did not seem to be warm at all. It was, in fact, chilly. And damp. As though he had broken out, somehow, in a cold sweat.
He turned his mind back to the Dark, and became again the ultimate black hole. He examined the abyss of darkness he had become and found it to be flawless. Perfect. The ultimate expression of the absolute power of the Dark. This boy, this infantile Jedi-ling, had thought his meager light could stand against that power? Cronal's black hole had swallowed every last lumen; Skywalker's light was gone forever. His puerile Force trick of light had done to Cronal nothing whatsoever.
That's because I'm not trying to do anything to you. I'm doing something through you.
What? How could Skywalker still speak?
A creeping dread began to poison Cronal's smug satisfaction. What if Skywalker was telling the truth? What if the boy had been so easily vanquished because he had intended to be? He had already used his tiny gift of the Force to forge a link through Kar Vastor to Cronal...what if his light had not been destroyed by falling into the black hole that was Cronal's mind? What if his light had simply passed through?
That's where you dark siders always stumble. What's the opposite of a black hole?
Cronal had heard this cosmological theory before: that matter falling into a black hole passes into another universe...and that matter falling through black holes in other universes could pass into ours, bursting forth in pure, transcendent energy.
The opposite of a black hole was a white fountain.
He thought, I've been suckered.
The Sith alchemy that had created the Shadow Crown had imbued it with control over meltmassif in all its forms; to drown Skywalker in the Dark, Cronal had opened a channel into the Crown. Through the Crown. Through the Shadow Crown, Skywalker's light could shine upon every crystal of darkness. Every shadow stormtrooper. Every gravity station. Every millimeter of the shadow web of crystalline nerves in his body, and Vastor's, and—
And Cronal's own!
With a snarl, he yanked his mind back into his body; it would require only a second to pull the Crown from his head. Or it would have, if he could have made his arms work...
In the shimmery glow from the viewscreens within his life-support capsule, Cronal could only sit and watch in horror as his skin began to leak black oil. This black oil flowed from every pore, from his ears and nose and mouth and eyes. This black oil drained even from the channels within the Shadow Crown. And not until the last drop of it had left his body could Cronal even take a breath.
He did not, however, have time for more than a single breath he fore the meltmassif rehardened, encasing him wholly in a sarcophagus of stone. The asteroid of meltmassif around his chamber melted, and its shreds vaporized as they fell from the hyperdrive zone. Very soon, the hyperdrive itself fell away, as it had been mounted on the stone, rather than on the chamber. The chamber, no longer within the hyperdrive's protective envelope of reality, simply dissolved.
Cronal had enough time to understand what was happening. He had enough time to feel his body lose its physical cohesion. He had time to feel his very atoms lose their reality and vanish into the infinite nothing of hyperspace.
And here finally you can see why I repeatedly capitalize the “L” in Light. Luke submitted to the Force as an empty conduit; in doing so, he opened himself to absolute Light, the antithesis of the Dark. The Light of the Force is an answer to the Dark, and in a very real way, the Light Luke projects is the Force. Where the Dark encapsulates nothingness, the Force is present in everything. The Force is the energy of life, a universal life force for all living beings (in a way both vitalistic and not), and as Luke discovered with the Melters, life is Light, which is to say, the Force is Light. In the Force lies every solution, so to speak, for the Dark.
This also proves that there is a definitive Light contrary to the Dark. From here we could assign the opposite characteristics to the Light that Revenge of the Sith did to the Dark. The Light is transparent, not meaningfully concealing or illusory in its demeanor. It does not deny the existence of the Dark; it simply manifests itself as an alternative to the Dark. It is unassuming in that it is not bent on overpowering anyone or anything; it is not mindful of its own status because its nature is to coruscate outward, not introspect its own ascendancy. It is not combative or forceful; it is willing to fall to the Dark but can shine through it even in its defeat. The Light seeds justice, compassion, and love. Its stars can die, but its dead stars amalgamate into new ones. The Light tolerates the Dark, even during the day when the Dark's shadows are cast. And the Light, for all its passivity, is powerful enough to restrain the Dark with even its smallest rays.
This concluding engagement between Luke and Cronal once again shows that Luke did not simply overpower his enemy. In fact, Luke allowed the Light of the Force to be devoured by Cronal’s singularity of the Dark. But Blackhole was oblivious to the fact that immersing Luke’s Light within himself didn’t eradicate that Light but instead caused it to travel through him, flooding all of the beings controlled by his alchemical systems and flooding his own power. Luke even proposed the idea that on the other side of Cronal's black hole would be a white fountain. The singularity could absorb the light, but it would release it again. As before, the Dark lost by winning, and the Light won by losing.
To elucidate on that, while these events were transpiring, Leia experienced the Dark for herself. Blackhole subjected Leia to a duplicate dream state that he put Luke under, but Leia’s reaction to it was somewhat different.
Cronal paused in the archway of the Cavern of the Shadow Throne. His Throne still hovered on its platform of meltmassif, all dark and sinister in the bloody glow of the lava-fall behind it. Looking upon the cavern through Kar Vastor's eyes, he felt a bit melancholy; it truly was a pity that his magnificently staged reality holodrama would never reach the broad audience it deserved. But such were the vicissitudes of life and art; rather than mourning his spoiled masterpiece, he resolved to focus entirely upon the truly important task of permanently securing a new and healthy body. Not to mention killing everyone who might know, or even suspect, that this young and lovely girl was in fact an old and ugly man.
He shifted the unconscious Skywalker girl from the massive shoulder of his stolen body and set her gently down. He could not help taking a moment to contemplate her, as she lay upon the stone, lovely and graceful even in unconsciousness. He could not help recalling how he had watched her, through his years in Imperial Intelligence; he'd monitored her anti-Imperial activities for a considerable span prior to her open break and alleged treason at the time of the Alderaan affair. Young Senator Organa, he mused. Princess Leia Skywalker, hiding in plain sight for all those years. Who'd have thought it?
She was a superior choice to her brother in almost every way. After all, she was no Jedi; in her body, no one would expect him to go gallivanting across the galaxy, risking his life to save strangers. No, after the traumatic experience of surviving the Imperial trap that had taken the lives of her brother, her raffish paramour, and so many of her friends and allies, she would reluctantly retire from her life of adventure and devote herself full-time to politics. She was perfect.
He closed his eyes and let his mind slip partially back into the ancient decrepit body that lay in its life-support chamber. From within that skull, he could send forth his mind into the rock from which the cavern had been shaped, and seize once more the wills of the creatures that used it as their physical forms.
The bridge that had connected the cavern's ledge to the Throne grew once more, carrying the Skywalker girl and Kar Vastor's bulk out to the platform of the Shadow Throne before once more shrinking away. The stone of the platform itself rippled and spread and curved upward to entomb the unconscious girl and the immobile man in a seamless rocky shell that hovered far out above the lake of molten lava. Cronal decided that this should very likely be sufficient to prevent unwelcome interruption.
Now all that remained was to ensure that his new body would not be consumed in the stellar conflagration that was already beginning. A palsied hand groped through the darkness to the chamber's voice modulator, which would transform his creaky wheeze into Shadowspawn's liquid basso, then he keyed a preset secure comm channel.
"Yes, my lord? Is it time?"
"It is," Cronal said simply. "Engage."
Then again he closed his eyes and returned his consciousness to the Vastor body. He didn't bother to open that stolen body's stolen eyes, for within the tomb of stone was only darkness. He had no need for eyes. He tuned his stolen brain to the proper frequency for control and pushed, and the stone of their tomb responded. Ultrafine hairlines of crystal began to thread themselves in through the Skywalker girl's pores, and in with the crystals came the full power of his will.
Sleep. This is the end of everything. Nothing left but sleep.
--Taken from Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor
In the absolute blackness of the Shadow Egg, Cronal had only one problem left.
The Shadow Egg, as he had mentally dubbed it in the instant of its creation, was his improvised cocoon of meltmassif in the Cavern of the Shadow Throne. It hovered where the Shadow Throne had once stood, held aloft by the repulsorlifts that had once supported the Throne. There was no longer a lava-fall behind it, nor a lake of molten lava below; whatever remained of the volcano's lifeblood, once the Shadow Base had cut free from the planet, had spilled from its underside in a rain of fire. The Shadow Egg bobbed gently in midair as the shock waves of the Shadow Base's ongoing destruction passed over it. This ongoing destruction was not Cronal's problem; it was not a problem at all. He had counted on it. Had the Republic forces not hit upon their idea of deflecting his own gravity bombs back at him, he would have been forced to blow the Shadow Base up himself.
The Battle of Mindor was to have only one survivor.
Nor was he concerned that all his preparation for his new life had focused upon impersonating Luke Skywalker rather than his sister; one useful lesson he had taken from working with Palpatine was the value in flexible planning. He would, as Leia, simply fake amnesia—traumatic brain injury would be an ideal explanation for any stumbles or fumbles he might make upon meeting the princess's old acquaintances—and then discreetly hire one of the countless hacks who scripted holothrillers to make something up. He would, he anticipated, even have this holothriller produced. He already had a few ideas for a title: Princess Leia and the Shadow Trap, for example. Or, perhaps, Princess Leia and the Black Holes of Mindor.
Nor was he worried about making an escape from his own trap, once the transfer of his consciousness was complete. Buried in meltmassif not far from the Election Center, he had secreted a custom craft to make his escape as Luke. Though in appearance it was a very ordinary-looking Lambda T-4a, its hull was layered with so much additional shielding that there was no cargo capacity at all, and virtually no room for passengers. The cockpit was altogether fake; a pilot and at most two or three others could be packed into a tiny capsule cocooned in additional radiation shielding in the center of what would have been, in an ordinary shuttle, the passenger compartment.
All necessary planning had been done. All difficulties had been anticipated, and all contingencies had been covered. Except one.
The blasted girl simply refused to break.
The incrystallation had gone flawlessly; the raw power of the Vaster body had enabled Cronal to propagate a shadow web of crystalline nerves throughout her body with the speed of frost spidering across supercooled transparisteel. With only a short time available—and no ready supply of thanatizine II—he had proceeded without drug suspension. After all, this was but a mere girl who had, through an accident of genetics, an exceptionally powerful connection to the small fraction of the Dark that Jedi had ignorantly named the Force. He should have been able to overwhelm her by brute strength alone.
He had taken her sight, cut away her hearing, erased her senses of smell and taste and touch. He had stripped her kinesthetic sense, so that she was no longer aware of her own body at all. He had shut down the activity of certain neurotransmitters in her brain, so that she could no longer even remember how being alive had felt.
She wasn't lighting him. She didn't know how. He wouldn't let her remember what fighting was.
She just wouldn't let go.
She had something that her brother had lacked, some inner spark of intransigence that sustained her against the Dark. He couldn't guess what this spark might be; some sort of primitive, girlish emotional attachment, he presumed. Whatever it was, it must be extinguished once and for all; she must sleep forever.
The problem was how to do it without killing her outright. The meltmassif shadow nerves would contain only his consciousness; he needed her brain to be fully functioning to maintain autonomic functions. He hadn't gone to all this trouble to simply trade his decaying body for one that was already dead.
This was taking far too long. The boy Jedi had been ready to let himself slip away in a fraction of the time; of course, the boy had given him more to work with. He carried with him an inner darkness that would no doubt have astonished his sister, had she lived long enough to discover it. Had Skywalker not damaged Shadowspawn's control crystals, none of this would have been necessary in the first place. But as the situation stood, he could only drive his will deeper into the Dark—to gnaw away her resistance with the single-minded intensity of a Klepthian rock otter chewing into a basalt clam's shell.
But when he finally did break through that resistance, he found her brain not weak and quivering, but hard like a burnberry stone, and shining with a brilliant white light that was not imaginary at all. That light stabbed him like a knife in the eye, and drove him reeling back.
He took that stone in the palm of a hand made of the Dark, and with a Dark rock hammer he struck it...and the imaginary hammer splintered in the imaginary hand. He came at the stone like a gem harpy, and swallowed it into a crop powerful enough to pulverize diamond, but it burned its way out. He made fists of whole galaxies and brought them together to crush this one tiny star, but when their cataclysm faded back into the Dark, the tiny star shone on.
"What is wrong with you?" he shouted at the star in frustration. "What are you, and why won't you die?"
But how did Leia stay untouched by the Dark’s power? What did she have that Luke lacked when he fell into that void? Cronal’s suggestion about a “primitive, girlish emotional attachment” is more accurate than he realized. This is what saved Leia:
--Taken from Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor
Han had stayed at Leia's side as her seizures quieted; he stayed at her side as her every pore oozed black and shiny meltmassif, as it drained off her and puddled on the blanket. And he would stay at her side as the groundquakes strengthened and the killing sun rose over the horizon. He would be at her side when the planet exploded.
A bitter irony: she had suffered so much from being forced to watch her homeworld destroyed. Now she would die in very much the same brutal fashion as had her family and all her people. That was why he figured he probably shouldn't wake her up.
But the Force again displayed that nasty sense of humor; Leia stirred, and her eyelids fluttered. "Han...?"
"I'm here, Leia." He felt like his heart would burst. "I'm right here."
Her hand sought his. "So dark..."
"Yeah," Han said. "But the sun's coming up."
"No...not here. Where I was." She drew in a deep breath and released it in a long, slow sigh. "It was so dark, Han. It was so dark for so long I couldn't even remember who I was. I couldn't remember anything."
Her eyes opened and found his face. "Except for you."
Han swallowed and squeezed her hand. He didn't trust his voice.
"It was like...like you were with me," she murmured. "You were all I had left—and I didn't need anything else."
"I'm with you now," he said, his voice hoarse, unsteady. "We're together. And we always will be."
Leia loved Han. That was what saved her. She was a star in Blackhole’s perception, and his desperate exertions to extinguish that star failed. Why? “Love is more than a candle. Love can ignite the stars.” If fear empowers the Dark, love empowers the Light. That was what made Leia invulnerable to the Dark. As long as she loved Han instead of fearing the Dark, it had no claim on her. Even when all her memories of everything else, any reality there is, were stripped from her, the Dark could not forcefully deprive her of love against her will. Even through the Dark's propensity for seeding doubt in love, Leia was still inextinguishable within it.
This was what saved Obi-Wan and Yoda as well when they died in A New Hope and Return of the Jedi respectively. After the inauguration of the New Order, Yoda was visited by the Force Ghost of Qui-Gon Jinn again, as he had been before. This time though, Qui-Gon imparts to Yoda the secret to life, which circumvents the Dark.
--Taken from Revenge of the Sith
Beyond the transparisteel crystal of the observation dome on the airless crags of Polis Massa, the galaxy wheeled in a spray of hard, cold pinpricks through the veil of infinite night. Beneath that dome sat Yoda. He did not look at the stars. He sat a very long time.
Even after nearly nine hundred years, the road to self-knowledge was rugged enough to leave him bruised and bleeding.
He spoke softly, but not to himself.
Though no one was with him, he was not alone.
"My failure, this was. Failed the Jedi, I did."
He spoke to the Force.
And the Force answered him. Do not blame yourself, my old friend.
As it sometimes had these past thirteen years, when the Force spoke to him, it spoke in the voice of Qui-Gon Jinn.
"Too old I was," Yoda said. "Too rigid. Too arrogant to see that the old way is not the only way. These Jedi, I trained to become the Jedi who had trained me, long centuries ago—but those ancient Jedi, of a different time they were. Changed, has the galaxy. Changed, the Order did not—because let it change, I did not."
More easily said than done, my friend.
"An infinite mystery is the Force." Yoda lifted his head and turned his gaze out into the wheel of stars. "Much to learn, there still is."
And you will have time to learn it.
"Infinite knowledge..." Yoda shook his head. "Infinite time, does that require."
With my help, you can learn to join with the Force, yet retain consciousness. You can join your light to it forever. Perhaps, in time, even your physical self.
Yoda did not move. "Eternal life..."
The ultimate goal of the Sith, yet they can never achieve it; it comes only by the release of self, not the exaltation of self. It comes through compassion, not greed. Love is the answer to the darkness.
"Become one with the Force, yet influence still to have..." Yoda mused. "A power greater than all, it is."
It cannot be granted; it can only be taught. It is yours to learn, if you wish it.
Slowly, Yoda nodded. "A very great Jedi Master you have become, Qui-Gon Jinn. A very great Jedi Master you always were, but too blind I was to see it."
He rose, and folded his hands before him, and inclined his head in the Jedi bow of respect.
The bow of the student, in the presence of the Master.
"Your apprentice, I gratefully become.”
Love is the discipline to maintain one's identity even after full submergence into the Force. Yoda had informed Whie of the fact that he loved in spite of what it cost him, but he neglected the full range of this disposition. The Rise of the Empire era Jedi were very opinionated about emotions; they tended to equate any strong emotion with a potentially dangerous attachment. In fact, this traditionalist mentality lent itself to Anakin's fall. When Anakin was worried over Padme's possible death in childbirth, he wanted to find wisdom from the Jedi but knew the subject matter of his concern was ostracized by the Order. When he spoke to Yoda, he was vague when he divulged his fear, and no wisdom on Yoda's part satisfied Anakin's turmoil. So he sought out a Sith Lord for help. If the Jedi had been more sympathetic toward attachments instead of complacently observing misguided traditions, there would have been less motivation for Anakin to join the Sith ranks. Yoda even admitted this in the above dialog. Qui-Gon had to teach him that love is not an attachment that should be abstained from. Yoda learned this, as did Obi-Wan, though they failed to learn it as exhaustively as Luke did. In Return of the Jedi, both Yoda and Obi-Wan urged Luke to simply kill Vader; although they accepted Qui-Gon's lessons, their mindset was still mired by their traditionalist views which left them unable to distance themselves from what they thought they knew. Fortunately, Luke disagreed with their counsel, as Yoda and Obi-Wan were incorrect.
This concept of becoming a Force Ghost through a yielding to love was also shown by Obi-Wan on the first Death Star when he dueled Darth Vader for the last time in A New Hope. He may not have been able to defeat Vader, but he could occupy Vader's attention (as Vader was eager for another opportunity to face Obi-Wan after the way Obi-Wan mutilated him on Mustafar) until Luke could depart the Death Star. Obi-Wan sacrificed himself, losing to the Dark, so that the star that is Luke could survive, and he achieved oneness with the Force. Love ignites stars, and love induces life with individuality within the Force.
On top of the Force Ghost item, we seem to have found another certainty: Love requires an object, just like fear does; because love is external, others are often the object of love. Where fear is egocentric, concerned over what might happen to the self or what might happen to an object of care for the sake of the self, love is entirely external. Its care is for others. With that in mind, this proved to save several characters. Luke’s love for his father saved Anakin from Darth Vader, and Leia’s love for Han saved her from the Dark. The external nature of this is visually conveyed by the contrast between a black hole and a fountain of light ("fountain" of light of course being one of many water metaphors for the Force). Black holes draw inward; fountains of light project outward. One is for the self; the other is for others. The key to this is the mindset toward others and the presence or lackthereof of another. Where darkness is solitary, unity drives back darkness.
This fact was demonstrated again when Luke temporarily served under the reborn Emperor Palpatine. Though he never fully turned to the dark side, he nearly descended into it as he chose to learn its ways. Luke did this for a slew of reasons, foremost of which included his desire to understand why Anakin chose the dark side in the first place, his need to ascertain information about the dark side to conquer it from within, and his plan to sabotage the Emperor’s efforts. Additionally, when Luke first stood before Palpatine’s throne on Byss, he was in a situation very analogous to his facing Palpatine on the second Death Star: if he struck Palpatine down, he ran the risk of falling to the dark side irrevocably, and even if he did, the Emperor’s spirit would return in a new body to plague the galaxy again. In short, the Sith seemed unbeatable yet again.
Though the Sith no longer embodied the dark side and had lost their grip on the galaxy at large and their grip on the balance of the Force after Anakin restored the balance, Palpatine had perfected a dark side power of a more destructive magnitude than he ever had before. To defeat the Sith, the influence of the dark side, and the destructive powers of the Emperor that serve the Dark, Luke had to lose yet again, but in this instance, he had no one there to help him. He was alone. Luke had only barely gained purchase on the knowledge of the necessity of unity for a Jedi, not only in battle against dark siders or the dark side itself but against the Dark as well.
Luke actually never defeated the Sith before; Anakin did. Luke simply operated as the catalyst that kindled Anakin’s Light; it was not a solitary achievement. But when he challenged the Emperor on Byss, he had no one to help him. A quality of both the light side of the Force and the Force itself is that it is not confined to a single being. Its will is to be distributed to all, and Jedi learn from this. They consider the Force the bloodline of their existence. However, adherents to the dark side revel in their own avarice for power and refuse to share it with others. The Sith even exercise this standpoint pervasively enough to defy the sovereignty of the Force itself; they became subservient to the dark side of the Force but eventually relegated the dark side as subservient to them, embodying its power. This, and corruption permeating the galaxy as a result of functional inadequacy on the part of the Republic and the Jedi Order, imbalanced the Force, but the Force demands balance. So it employed Anakin as its agent to destroy the Sith bodily, releasing the dark side from their physical forms, and in simultaneity releasing the galaxy from the captivity of the dark side. When the Emperor returned years later, he was without his former domination, and he wanted back what Anakin had forced him to lose.
Unlike the Light Side of the Force, which embraces the whole, the entire focus of the Dark Side is the self. The appeal of the Dark Side is its very destructiveness and its isolation. Those who seek power for selfish reasons find comfort in its narcissistic gaze. The Dark Side emphasizes aggrandizement of self to the exclusion of others. In this way, rage and anger are turned into sources of strength.
Many are attracted to the Dark Side because its selfish nature allows great and showy deeds. The ease with which power is summoned belies its danger, for anger and hatred consume the individual even as one dominates one’s surroundings. Ultimately, the Dark Side rejects the very celestial nature of life itself. To the Jedi, the Force is not a part of their existence; it is their existence. To a student of the Dark Side, this is incomprehensible.
--Taken from Dark Empire Sourcebook
What Palpatine realized was that the Dark Side had never gained the fame the Light held because it was a personal, secretive thing. The Light was good for simple tricks and for the altruistic, but such things were useless to one who knew the things the Force made one capable of. Palpatine became convinced the Dark Side was ignored because few had the courage to pay the price it demanded. Since the Dark Side didn’t lend itself to sharing and other such weak-minded attitudes, there had not been organizations of Dark Side servants to endure the ages.
But as before, Luke could not subdue Palpatine by himself. His mistake was in rejecting the aid of Leia when he divined through the Force that a consolidation of dark side power was growing and instead opposed it by himself, leading him to be transported to Byss. Because of that mistake, he was nearly lost to his dark side. But as Luke regarded Vader, Leia had confidence in Luke in that she knew he was not a confederate of the dark side yet; she believed, rightly, that there was good in him and that he could still be saved. Her raw compassion for him illuminated a Light that liberated him from Palpatine’s authority. Together, they combined their power in the Force to overcome the Emperor.
Through this whole ordeal, Luke also thoroughly appreciated the reality and life of the Force. The destructive powers the Emperor derived from the dark side were expedient for the Dark, but not only was Luke’s cognizance of the mandate of a Jedi and the duality of the light and dark sides of the Force magnified, he discerned the continuation of life forever that can be found on the planes of the Force. The Dark could only touch the material existence. The Force is reality, and in the Force, life lives on after physical death. Yoda's description about "luminous beings" now fits more. All life is Light in the Force, and the Force radiates throughout the universe, not only in living beings but even in non-living matter. There is a brightness to the Force's energies as well that, as before, emanates over the Dark. The "crude flesh" may be transient and may be subject to the Dark, but the Force, in all its intensity, is not.
Years later during the Kueller Crisis, Luke's resolution to facing Kueller was to replicate Obi-Wan's sacrifice. Luke was injured before his duel with Kueller by a ship explosion and was too weak to defeat him. His own anger at himself for failing Kueller, who was one of his former students, provoked the problem further. Kueller was Darth Vader to Luke's Obi-Wan. But Luke elicited the solution to this from Obi-Wan's duel with Darth Vader and from the knowledge he gained during the return of Palpatine on how to capitulate to the Force to become a Force spirit. He meant to let Kueller strike him down so his power could amplify. In that state, he could conjoin his power to Leia's, and the two of them, together, could stop Kueller. However, before his plan could come to completion, it was interrupted when Han, Chewbacca, and Mara Jade arrived with an ysalamiri, which dampened Luke and Kueller's connection to the Force. Regardless, although his tactic never came to fruition, Luke yet again evidenced lack of fear of death and the Dark; trust in the Force for continued existence and life; and unity as the substance of Jedi strength.
"Give up, Skywalker," Kueller said. "You lack the strength to defeat me. I will kill you this time. And then I will slaughter your sister."
Leia! She had her lightsaber. Luke extended his hand, and Kueller brought his blade down at it. Luke dodged as Leia's lightsaber sailed in the air toward him, landing neatly in his fingers. Immediately he ignited the blade and its reassuring hum echoed in the growing darkness.
"Ah," Kueller said. "So you have chosen to fight me. Careful, Master Skywalker. If you do so with the wrong attitude, you might join my side."
"I've fought better than you, Kueller," Luke said. The lightsaber felt odd in his hand. "And won."
"Years ago, Skywalker. You've become complacent." Kueller slashed at Luke. Luke parried, the electric clash of blades ringing in the night air.
Then Kueller whirled and blocked several bursts of blaster fire. Leia peeked out of the bay doors.
"Leave him alone, Kueller. It's me you want!" she yelled.
His death mask glowed from an internal light. It made his smile even more sinister than usual. "Actually, President, I want your entire family. Without them, there are no true Jedi."
Luke inched closer. His blade was still out, still humming. He wanted Kueller to fight him, not Leia. Leia wasn't ready yet. "Actually, Kueller, there are dozens of Jedi now."
"But not Jedi Masters, Skywalker."
"There are more than you imagine," Luke said, thinking of Callista. She would provide quite a battle against Kueller, even without the Force.
Kueller turned to Luke, and Leia fired again. Without even looking at her, Kueller blocked the blaster shots. The shots flew harmlessly to the sides. Then her blaster rose in the air, and exploded a few feet above her head. "Use another of those, President, and it will explode in your hand."
"You like explosions, don't you, Kueller?" she said. Luke suppressed a smile. She was trying to distract him so Luke could attack. But it wasn't that easy. Kueller had pushed Luke far enough that Luke's feelings were confused. He wasn't certain if he was going after Kueller out of anger or hatred, instead of in defense. That would only make Kueller stronger. He seemed to be stronger anyway, giving credence to Luke's theory.
"Small explosions, President," Kueller said, his blade still locked with Luke's. "Large ones destroy wealth."
Leia stepped out of the bay. She was unarmed. "Even if you kill us, Kueller, you won't get the rest of us. The explosives you put in the droids won't work. We shut the droids off."
"Did you, now?" Kueller's tone was mocking. Luke could feel the physical pressure Kueller was putting on the blade. They were locked in a battle of wills, their strength holding the blades together in a haze of light. "You managed to tell all the developed planets about the droids, President? Because if you didn't, then I will still get enough strength from one single order to defeat you all."
A chill ran through Luke. All those lives. All those billions of lives. They meant nothing more to Kueller than a breath of air, a surge of adrenaline, a swallow of food. Anger flowed through Luke, deep and fine and rich. He had created this monster. Luke, through his arrogance, had given Kueller all the tools he needed to destroy the entire galaxy. If Luke hadn't taught all his students about the dark side, if he hadn't warned them repeatedly and in detail about the quick and easy path, then Kueller would still be Dolph, not this hateful being who wore a death mask proudly and dealt in lives as a smuggler dealt in stolen goods.
Kueller turned toward Luke and grinned. His lightsaber broke free from the enmeshment and whooshed near Luke. Luke jumped aside, pain shivering through his back, and down his arms.
Kueller had suddenly gotten stronger.
"Kueller!" Leia shouted. She held another blaster. He turned his attention to her, and Luke thrust his blade toward Kueller's side, drawing blood before Kueller swirled away.
Easy blood. The lightsaber moved with a sureness Luke had never felt before.
Leia's blaster was turning red. She tossed it aside before it exploded, and rolled in the opposite direction.
Kueller had turned back to Luke, thrusting, parrying, thrusting, their sabers locked in a battle as loud and spark-filled as Luke's battle with Vader. Kueller's breath hissed through the mask, but it wasn't Vader's stentorian breathing that it imitated.
It was the Emperor's greedy gasping.
Luke staggered under Kueller's next blow, and barely managed to roll aside. His ankle kept buckling under him, but he forced himself to put weight on it. They had moved into the alleyway Luke had seen in that strange moment of vision. Stones littered the ground all around them, and the light only came through a small opening on either end. Luke could no longer see Leia.
Use your aggressive feelings, boy! Let the hate flow through you.
Kueller struck at him, his blow shattering a nearby rock. He was stronger. Much stronger. And his strength seemed to be increasing. Luke's arms were growing tired battling the power of Kueller's blade. Then Kueller laughed, a gurgling, familiar laugh. The Emperor's laugh, the unamused choking of a slave to the dark side.
Fueled by hatred, anger, and fear.
Luke was making him stronger. Luke's response, his hatred, his own self-loathing at creating this thing, this student who had become a horror, was making the thing even stronger. Kueller slammed his blade against Luke's, and the sparks lit the area all around them. Luke parried. Parried again. And again. He was trapped in a cycle of hatred and anger. If he fought, Kueller got stronger, and if he attacked, Kueller got stronger still.
Luke glanced at the mouth of the alley.
He was alone with this thing he had created. The rogue student. The Vader to his Ben.
Luke grinned. He suddenly knew what he had to do to break free.
Her hands were useless, and Kueller was no longer listening to her arguments. He was watching Luke.
Luke, who looked like a man possessed.
Luke, who had always warned her not to give in to anger, was giving in to his.
And Kueller was smiling. He seemed to be growing taller, and broader, the aura of power around him so great that it made him seem invincible.
Then a look passed across Luke's face. It was a familiar look, but it wasn't his. She had seen it before.
On the day she met him, so many years ago.
She had seen that look the only time she had seen Obi-Wan Kenobi alive. He had been fighting Darth Vader, and then he smiled, and raised his lightsaber—
—and Vader cut him in half. His lightsaber's blade faded, the hilt spinning through the air before landing on his empty, steaming cloak.
Luke had said Obi-Wan believed that moment made him stronger, but really it had only made him dead.
Leia stumbled a few steps forward. Luke didn't see her in the growing darkness. Kueller hesitated as Luke slowly raised his lightsaber blade toward his face.
Just as Obi-Wan had.
Just as Vader must have.
"Luuuuuuuuuuke!" Leia screamed as Kueller brought his lightsaber up, preparing to strike.
--Taken from The New Rebellion
Luke was raising his lightsaber, his heart pounding. He was reaching out with the Force, going back to the place he had gone when he first fought Exar Kun. He would be out of his body but protected within the Force. Just as Ben had done in his battle with Darth Vader. Luke would come back even stronger, and he would guide Leia to defeat Kueller.
Near the conclusion of the Yuuzhan Vong War, Luke reiterates this truth to Jacen during their conversation about Vergere's theories and the Unifying Force, stating it in the simplest possible diction. The physical world is not the only reality or even the truest or the most authentic reality; the Force is reality. And in the Force live beings of Light.
--Taken from The Unifying Force
"Each of us stands at a kind of midpoint, from which we're capable of seeing only so far in either direction. Our senses have been honed over countless millennia to allow us to navigate the intricacies of the physical world. But because of that, our senses blind us to the fact that we are much more than our bodies. We truly are beings of light, Jacen."
Love ignites stars. Stars produce more stars. More stars create more Light. Light holds back the Dark. It appears we have found something of an impasse. The Dark does not seem to be able to be defeated in a sense where it can no longer exist, but neither can the Light, which is to say the Force. But then, neither needs to be removed. The Force is all-encompassing and all-embracing; it really is a Unifying Force. The material existence of life may end, but it will endure in the non-literal realms of the Force. Certain Jedi can unite with the Force without surrendering their individuality while everyone and everything else simply surrenders to it. And the cycle of life will continue. Life will be born, it will die, it will return to the Force, and the Force will spark more life. The closing line of the Jedi code articulates this fact: “There is no death; there is the Force.”
--Taken from Jedi vs Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force
Despite their powers, even the most powerful of Jedi eventually die. For most, death is a release from their physical forms, and allows them to join the totality of the Force. However, encounters with Jedi apparitions indicate that some Jedi have learned how to maintain their identities even after death, so that they linger at the edges of the physical world of the living as Force spirits.
Hopefully, after this much of an explanatory post on the elements of the Dark, it can now be understood. With that done, we still have our initial question: What is the Dark to the Force? How are they related? Are they related at all? Is the Dark the dark side of the Force? To the latter question, Cronal answered that. His incorrect estimation of the Force notwithstanding, Cronal was correct when he delineated the Dark as more monumental than simply one side of the Force.
--Taken from Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor
The Dark was not a side of the Force, and it was no mere portion of reality.
To affirm Blackhole’s opinion, let’s contrast the Dark and the dark side of the Force. The dark side of the Force is a necessary and intrinsic dimension of the Force’s composite whole. It is an offset to the Force’s light side, both sides paralleling one another to both oppose and interconnect with one another while inclining toward a placid balance. The dark side epitomizes death, destruction, and chaos.
--Taken from Dark Empire Sourcebook
The Light is positive. It is intimately bound with the essence of living things; it is peace, harmony and knowledge. The Light Side springs from the great pattern of existence. It draws strength from diversity and tolerance. It is also inherently communal in nature, thriving on cooperation. Those emotions that enhance the existence of the whole flow from it and tap into its great reserves of strength and peace. Patience, humility and self-sacrifice are paths to enlightenment. Above all, it seeks harmony and perfection.
The Dark Side, in comparison, is the force of entropy and destruction. Chaos and rage feed it and are its sources of power. The Dark Side is a part of nature—it is not inherently evil, but evil comes from its irrationality, its intolerance and its lack of control. Bestial and predatory, domination is its goal. Mercilessly aggressive and unforgiving, its adherents are blinded by greed and lust for power over those weaker than themselves.
--Taken from The Dark Side Sourcebook
One all-encompassing driving Force influences the destiny of the galaxy. An energy field generated by all living things, the Force surrounds and penetrates everything, binding the galaxy together. Universal balance—life and death, creation and destruction—is reflected in the Force, and thus is reflected from the Force back into the galaxy at large. The Force, for all the mystery and the power it provides, is as much a part of the natural order as suns and planets and life itself.
The Force has as many mysteries as it has aspects. It may be a nonsentient energy field, the sum of all creation. It may be an eternal entity, knowing and unknowable. It may be both of these and more; it may be something else entirely. The only certain truth is that the Force exists and is omnipresent, and that’s enough for most who study its various influences. From the Living Force to the Unifying Force, this mysterious energy field consists of a multitude of properties. The light side and dark side are always present, constantly struggling for balance in the galaxy and within individual beings.
The natural order encompasses balance. Day and night, life and death, light and dark—each pair represents a different kind of balance. As a part of the natural order, the Force follows the same rules. The light side embodies peace, knowledge, and serenity. The dark side encompasses fear, anger, and aggression.
--Taken from Power of the Jedi Sourcebook
A Jedi should never commit murder, for any reason. When confronted with a life-or-death struggle, however, a Jedi may have to kill to complete her mission. This act is always unfortunate, because deliberately ending a life strengthens the dark side. However, if the cause is justified—if the Jedi is protecting others, serving the will of the Force, or even merely acting in self-defense—then the light side is equally strengthened.
--Taken from Darth Plagueis
Safeguarded by the powers of the dark side, the Sith could hardly fear death when they were allied to it.
The obvious response then is that if the dark side symbolizes death, what difference is there between the dark side and the Dark? The difference is that where the dark side is simply material death, the Dark is unmitigated decimation. Where the death of life augments the dark side, destruction to the degree of nonexistence is the faculty of the Dark. The Dark simply takes death farther to the point of complete oblivion. Even in the dark side of the Force, beings still exist. When Emperor Palpatine descended into death for the last time, he didn't cease to exist. Rather, he became adjoined to the Force as Obi-Wan and Yoda did, but where Obi-Wan and Yoda were fastened to the Force’s totality in peace, Palpatine was entrapped in Chaos within the dark side, along with other dark siders like him. We can also surmise divergence between the dark side and the Dark by the fact that the dark side needs the light side to devise a composite balance; the dark side focuses chaos as a counterbalance to the harmonious creation component of the light side. Conversely, the Dark is self-existent; it does not require a counterpart. In fact, the ultimate end of the Dark is for nothing to exist at all.
--Taken from Book of Sith: Secrets from the Dark Side
"One of the Emperor's Force Storms destroyed the Alliance base on the moon of Da Soocha and the entire fleet above it. Every day I'm reminded how lucky we are that Palpatine is lost to Chaos forever."
--Taken from Dark Empire Sourcebook
The Light and Dark Side manifest themselves in the way they are used; they are simply different interpretations of a single aspect of nature, and they exist in balance with themselves and the universe. Just as with any aspect of life and death, both the Dark Side and the Light Side are intertwined with each other, are necessary to each other and form a cosmic balance.
From this, we can state that the Dark is not the dark side, but there are similarities. The Dark and the dark side both thrive on destruction, though in unequal calibers. One of the chief uses of the dark side is to cause physical destruction, as opposed to the light side, which imparts far more powers for knowledge and healing. The Dark and the dark side also both collect power from fear. This was shown when Luke sensed fear in the Emperor on the second Death Star, when he learned not to fear the Dark during the Battle of Mindor, and when he discovered fear in the dark side during his tenure as the Emperor’s student. For that matter, the very thing that almost sent Luke into the dark side in Return of the Jedi was fear; the relentless assault he threw at Vader was subsequent to Vader's threat to corrupt Leia. Luke became afraid for her sake. Farther back than that in Revenge of the Sith, Anakin found that when he attained the mantle of Sith Lord, his fear never fled from him but instead ingrained itself even more assiduously into his being. All dark siders experience fear, though some reject that fact. Although it was a cold statement to make to a nine year old boy, Yoda's assessment that fear leads to the dark side was absolutely correct.
This is why dark siders, namely the Sorcerers of Rhand and the Sith Lords, are ideal for bolstering the Dark. The Jedi in the Old Republic stress dispassion as the road to service to the will of the Force, and Luke’s Jedi Order emphasizes that as well, but with more leniency for the proper and mandatory love of life. These offer little room for fear in the path of a Jedi, which, in conjunction with Jedi hesitation to kill, prevents Jedi from assisting the Dark. Other extremist light side pacifists and isolationists, such as the Fallanassi, would also not reinforce the Dark either. But the Sith, who enjoy powers of destruction as called for to meet their goals and who care nothing for beings they consider beneath them, would be fitting actuators for the Dark. Though the Sorcerers of Rhand, who knowingly serve the Dark, would be more appropriate devotees of the Dark, the Sith facilitate it well. This is why in stories that incorporate the Dark, it appeared that the Dark always favored dark siders. This is not due to the Dark being related to the dark side as much as the fact that dark siders will naturally promote that course of action anyway; light siders have just as much capability to further the destruction of the Dark but will be reluctant to because of their traditions.
--Taken from Dark Empire Sourcebook
Yet, in the Dark Side are anger and hatred and isolation and...fear. That fear drives the Jedi to isolation, jealousy and the desire to be the most powerful of all.
--Taken from Revenge of the Sith
Darth Vader stood on the command bridge of the Mustafar control center, hand of durasteel clasping hand of flesh behind him, and gazed up through the transparisteel view wall at the galaxy he would one day rule. He paid no attention to the litter of corpses around his feet. He could feel his power growing, indeed. He had the measure of his "Master" already; not long after Palpatine shared the secret of Darth Plagueis's discovery, their relationship would undergo a sudden...transformation.
A fatal transformation.
Everything was proceeding according to plan.
He couldn't shake a certain creeping sensation...a kind of cold, slimy ooze that slithered up the veins of his legs and spread clammy tendrils through his guts...
Almost as though he was still afraid...
She will die, you know, the dragon whispered.
He shook himself, scowling. Impossible. He was Darth Vader. Fear had no power over him. He had destroyed his fear.
All things die.
Yet it was as though when he had crushed the dragon under his boot, the dragon had sunk venomed fangs into his heel. Now its poison chilled him to the bone.
Even stars burn out.
He shook himself again and strode toward the holocomm. He would talk to his Master. Palpatine had always helped him keep the dragon down.
--Taken from Return of the Jedi
Luke paused, for he saw something else, as well; something he hadn’t seen before in the Emperor. Fear.
Luke saw fear in the Emperor—fear of Luke. Fear of Luke’s power, fear that this power could be turned on him—on the Emperor—in the same way Vader had turned it on Obi-Wan Kenobi. Luke saw this fear in the Emperor—and he knew, now, the odds had shifted slightly. He had glimpsed the Emperor’s nakedest self.
--Taken from Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor
When he finally withdrew his mind from the Dark, Luke found himself in darkness of the wholly ordinary sort. The flicker of the energy discharge had fled from the chamber that had once been the Election Center.
He knelt in darkness, and from that darkness came a long, slow growl that the Force allowed him to understand as words. Jedi Luke Skywalker. Is it done?
By reaching into the Force, he could feel the surviving Republic ships jump away as the artificial mass-shadows of the destroyed gravity stations shrank and vanished. He felt the final breakup of the Shadow Base, and the final destruction of Mindor under the killing radiation of Taspan's flares.
All gone, now. Everything was gone.
No more shadows.
"Yes," Luke said. "Yes, it is done."
Is this where we die?
"I don't know," Luke said. "Probably."
Luke sighed. "I don't know that either. I sealed the chamber when I came in, so we'll have air. For a while. But I don't know how thick the stone around us might be, now that the mountain's broken up. I don't know how much radiation it can block. We could be cooking right now."
And there is no one who can come for us.
"Their ships can't protect them. Not from radiation like this."
Then this will be where our lives end.
I do not like this place. I do not know how I came to be here, but I know I did not choose this.
"None of us did."
This is a bad place to die.
Granted a choice, I would not die beside a Jedi.
"I'm sorry," Luke said. And meant it.
I have known Jedi. Many, many years ago. That knowing was not a gladness for me. I believed I would never know another, and I rejoiced in that belief. But it is a gladness for me to be proven wrong. I am happy to have known you, Jedi Luke Skywalker. You are more than they were.
"That's—” Luke shook his head blankly, blinking against the darkness. "I mean, thanks, but I barely know anything."
So you believe. But I say to you: you are greater than the Jedi of former days.
Luke could only frown, and shake his head again. "What makes you say that?"
Because unlike the Knights of old, Jedi Luke Skywalker...
You are not afraid of the dark.
So what affiliation is there between the Dark and the Force? To resolve that inquiry, I will reply with another one: Where did the Force come from? What are its origins? Objective, out of universe sources and in-universe sources have unraveled that the Force always existed.
--Taken from Power of the Jedi Sourcebook
Although the Force always existed, it was first identified and developed by the group of “wizards and mystics” who eventually formed the Jedi Order.
--Taken from The Jedi Path: A Manual for Students of the Force
The Force is timeless, but we Jedi have not always been present to interpret its teachings.
So the Dark is the underlying reality, but so is the Force. Moreover, where is the Force? Cronal believed in a number of limitations on the Force that did not actually exist because he saw the Force as a paltry and temporary section of the Dark, but Luke proved him wrong. The Force pervades everywhere, even another dimension such as hyperspace.
--Taken from Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor
In the Dark, Cronal saw Skywalker smile. Thank you for joining me here. I was a little worried you might get away with that silly crown of yours.
This was impossible. This must be some hallucination, a twisted product of his Darksight run amok. He was in hyperspace! Hyperspace did not, could not, interact with realspace—
I was with Ben Kenobi in hyperspace when he felt the destruction of Alderaan. No wall can contain the Force.
--Taken from The Jedi Path: A Manual for Students of the Force
You already know of the Force as omnipresent, simultaneously existing as both a personal energy and as an imposing power through its Living and Unifying aspects.
--Taken from The Dark Side Sourcebook
The only certain truth is that the Force exists and is omnipresent, and that’s enough for most who study its various influences.
So the Dark is everywhere, and the Force is everywhere. But for the sake of contradistinction, what do the Force and the Dark embody? The Force embodies life and existence; the Dark embodies destruction and oblivion. If the Force is life, where did life originate from? The Force. The Force itself generated life.
--Taken from Power of the Jedi Sourcebook
The Force is not inherently good or evil. It has its light side and its dark side. It is a tool, and like any other tool it can be misused or even broken. Ignorance leads to improper use of the Force; the unwise use the Force emotionally. Incorrect use of the Force can lead to death and destruction. Only through proper training can the Force be justly applied.
In addition, the Force is a living entity, generating life. The Force is a necessary and vital part of the universe. When running a Jedi campaign, think of the Force as more than merely a means by which the characters can gain extreme powers. It is a metaphor for the universal nature of life itself, vibrant, dynamic, and dangerous. All Jedi are permeated by the Force, just as all beings are, but the Jedi are most aware of it. Events in one region might affect another as if the galaxy were one interconnected being, with the Force as its blood and life.
--Taken from Power of the Jedi Sourcebook
As Jedi learn more about the Force, they frequently form their own theories about how and why it works. They question how, if the Force creates and sustains life, it can have a dark side.
But don’t these truths about the Force contradict what we were told by the Jedi? According to Obi-Wan pertaining to the origins of the Force, “[the Force] is an energy field generated by living things.” Yoda paraphrased this definition, “Life creates [the Force] and makes it grow.” These two simple adages are common among most Jedi, and they can be attested to by the fact that the Force is life. All life is an extension of the Force, and when life dies, it returns to the universal consciousness of the Force. It has also been witnessed by Jedi that the death of a mass number of beings benefits the dark side but also that destruction on a grand enough scale diminishes the Force. But if the Force is self-existent, if the Force is transcendent of the natural conceptualization of time, if the Force is omnipresent, if the Force is life, and if the Force generated life, how could the Force be created by life in turn? The Dark offers an answer to this question. The Force did exist before the universe, before life; it did generate life from itself. But conversely, life also generates the Force. How can this be so? Because the Force as we know it is only one of the forms the Force has existed in.
We know the Force is not immutable; it can be altered. For instance, the balance of the Force can be moved by a series of causes, the utmost one being the quality of life in the universe. To take that a step further, the balance between its light and dark sides was an attribute of the Force acquired over time. As Luke elaborated on during his analysis of the Unifying Force in its totality, the Force’s light and dark sides are reflections of the light and dark sides within thinking individuals. Because people can make conscious decisions that can be allocated into light and dark sides, good and evil, the Force adopted this trait as well, developing a light and dark side (though, because the Force doesn’t have the characteristic of choice, its light and dark sides are not good or evil, unlike the light and dark sides of individuals). These are only two examples. The status of the Force itself can change. If it can change its status, then Obi-Wan and Yoda’s examination on the Force is only pertinent to the Force as they can conceive it within the realms of their experience and their present time. However, before life existed, the Force was a different body. It would have to be so, in any case.
If life is dependent on the Force and vice versa, how could one or the other have an origin related to one another? Both would need to have existed without a true beginning, and nothing would have brought them into being. This simply cannot be the case. Life does have an origin. The Force, on the other hand, is more difficult to explain. On the one hand, yes, the Force is finite and does have a definite origin as it was generated from life; on the other hand, the Force always existed. If this is true, then what was the Force before life?
I submit that the Dark is the Force before life existed. As the Revenge of the Sith interims said, the Dark brought the Light forth from the center of its own being while other sources tell us that the Force created life; these two sentiments are actually identical. Once life came into being, the Dark was transfigured into the Force as we now know it. So what Obi-Wan and Yoda said was true...from a certain point of view. The Force is timeless, never witnessing a conception, but this is true because of its Dark face. The Force, as Jedi know it, did have a beginning because life had a beginning. But the Force in a different form always existed. Odd Bnar illustrated this truth in a holocron entry. Though he didn't seem to grasp the gravity of his assessment or all the implications of it, he described that the universe was born out of a "Great Void," which bears resemblance to the nonexistence of the Dark, and that the Force interlaced itself into the universe as natural existence came into being.
--Taken from Tales of the Jedi Companion
Out of the Great Void came the universe, its galaxies, star systems, and suns. Everything that exists, and will ever exist, was spawned from the primordial plasma of time’s beginning. Over billions of years planets formed and life arose through a steady progression of increasingly complex organisms. Woven into and intertwined with all of this—from the smallest molecule to the largest star—was the Force. As civilizations grew upon these newly formed planets—newly formed on a celestial scale, that is—they began to sense, if only subconsciously at first, this mystical energy. Over the millennia, the Force has been called by an uncountable number of names: the Unity, the Way, the Power, Magic. All hint at one aspect or another of the Force’s all-encompassing presence, but none completely reflect its true nature.
And perhaps none shall, for the Force defies explanation. At times it seems dualistic, yet it has no separate components. Most prominent among the contradictions is the fact that the Force has two aspects, the light and the dark, yet without one the other would cease to exist. For most beings these concepts hang well out of reach, celestial nonsense better left unconsidered. But for a select few, the Force is everything.
Think of it like this. If the Dark is oblivion, absolute nothingness, then it would basically be a completely blank, dark space, something like this.
But fill that empty space with stars and a bursting Light. Now you have the Force.
This extrapolation makes sense especially when Luke communicated with the Melters in the Dark. He was connected to them by the Force which existed in the Dark. The Force being the Dark, or rather the Force formerly being the Dark, reconciles a few points in the descriptions about the Dark. For instance, if the Dark seeds cruelty into justice, contempt into compassion, and doubt into love, where did justice, compassion, and love come from if the Dark underlies all that is? Even if the Dark does always defeat the Light, why did it produce the Light from itself to begin with? What Light could Luke have refracted to repel the Dark if the Dark always wins? The Force justifies these questions.
While the Force itself is not a decision-making being, its light and dark sides do correspond to the light and dark sides of individuals, copying their peace and anger. But where did thinking beings attain the capacity for peace or anger in the first place if the Force had to adopt peace and anger from thinking beings? I contend that while the Dark seeds cruelty, contempt, and doubt, the Force seeds justice, compassion, and love; this was implied when Luke communicated with the Melters and channeled “light and hope and love” from the Force. This is to say, the Force seeds both love and fear as the Light and the Dark are part of the Force. The Force is impartial. It is not a benevolent or malevolent being; in fact, it is not a being of any kind. It is living but only because it is the essence of everyone and everything living. It does not and cannot force anyone to do anything. It has a will, or natural inclination, but doesn’t make conscious decisions. However, it can allow living beings who have the ability to make choices to experience cruelty or justice, contempt or compassion, doubt or love at their discretion. It can seed these properties or, to put it another way, provide the aptitude for these properties, but not force anyone to use them. The Force instigates cruelty, contempt, and doubt to feed its Dark face; it instigates justice, compassion, and love to feed its Light face. All are part of the Force. And once thinking beings capable of choice began to depend on their own personal light and dark sides that represent life and death, peace and chaos, the Force took on this attribute as well and willed a balance between them.
The Force formerly being the Dark also explains why life exists at all. The Force generated life but also accepts the death of life. It allows the universe to fall back into oblivion, back into the Dark, but from there recreates the universe from the old one. Life is part of the Force; so is death. Existence is part of the Force; so is nonexistence. The Dark does win, but so does the Force. And Luke opened himself as a vessel to the Force to push back the Dark. The Light he generated was the Light of existence melting away the Dark of nonexistence. The Force is the whole of both. And more than that, the Dark being the prior status of the Force explains a reputed statement of Yoda's: "Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter." But why is that so? If the Light and the Dark are part of the Force, why is life Light in the Force? Why are all living beings, not exclusively Jedi, luminous beings at their core instead entities of darkness? Because, as Luke perceived within the spaces of the Dark, the Dark is already there while living beings are the stars that populate the dark ether; life is the Light in the Dark.
The Dark is a very interesting concept within the Star Wars universe, and its relationship to the Force and the reactions it garners from different characters is what highlights its intrigue. What the Dark ultimately did as a narrative device was to add new dimensions to the Force while piecing together several key theme in the major stories.