The Start of Shadows

No satisfaction. Funny how that worked - he thought that blasting that annoying planet to rubble would at least quench his thirst for blood, would cool the anger in him for a little while.

Ah, but it is the same void. Nothing can fill it, and it keeps gnawing at me, an inescapable thirst. But the taste of blood seems only to make it thirst for more.

The Leviathan left for the Sith's hidden world, and Malak's cold palaces. He had the purest power now, intoxicating, demanding. He had armies of followers, and was sweeping across the decrepit Republic as a firestorm would blast across dry timber. So, why was he never pleased?

His focus had narrowed to another target for his displeasure, though he knew on some level it would be like the other targets - once he had it in his grasp, the thrill would fade, leaving him bereft again. Did it matter? Not anymore.

Dozens of small ships had decided to risk fleeing the destruction of Taris - several slipped through his grasp. On one of those, he could sense his quarry. How was it that Jedi woman could be so elusive? He could see her in his mind - haughty beauty and a dancer's grace. As long as she was shackled to the Jedi, she was a danger to the Sith. Bastila was the one whose abilities hindered Malak's conquest of the galaxy. Well...he also had Bastila to thank for his position on the Sith throne. She had been the one that gave him the opening, the opportunity to eliminate Revan.

Did he regret turning on Revan? A Sith Lord did not regret. He was dissatisfied, certainly. It was another part of the thirst, the void. It added to his hate, but gave nothing else. How he had wanted to face Revan in the ancient Sith tradition of single combat, but Bastila's interference gave him a chance he could not turn from. Yet, he did not have to hear the whispers among the ranks of the Dark Jedi, or sense the doubts of his admirals. He still walked in Revan's shadow, and it had almost been a year since he had seized power.

He sat in his quarters, deep in meditation, concentrating on that abyss. He let the rage and hatred fuel him, let it burn until he no longer perceived emptiness.

The door to his quarters slid open. Malak broke his trance to see Admiral Karath waiting patiently. As soon as Malak opened his eyes, Karath saluted sharply. "Lord Malak, the Star Forge is operating at 200% capacity - far beyond our expectations."

Malak rose, turning towards the magnificent windows behind him, the transparent-steel affording a breathtaking view of the stars in hyperspace, one he did not care about. "I am more interested in the young Jedi Bastila and her Battle Meditation. Have you learned how she was able to escape the destruction of Taris?"

"She was aided by Carth Onasi, my lord, a decorated war hero of the Republic and a legendary soldier," Karath said, his voice heavy with disappointment. "During the Mandalorian campaigns, he was honored many times for his bravery."

"You know this man?"

"Yes, my Lord. He served under me when I still followed the Republic. You could say I was his mentor."

"Interesting, how did you acquire this information, Admiral?"

"An eyewitness," Karath explained. The door opened and Calo Nord strode in. The squat bounty hunter's expressionless face and quietly precise movements would be eerie to anyone other than a Dark Lord, who saw in this man the same kind of insatiable bloodlust. Karath gestured to the man and continued. "Calo Nord, a bounty hunter, was there when Bastila and Carth escaped the planet. Apparently, they left him for dead."

Malak appraised the man. "A Jedi and a war hero - it is a wonder you survived the encounter."

"I'm hard to kill, Lord Malak."

"Mr. Nord has agreed to help us capture the young Bastila - for a very hefty fee, of course. I can assure, you, however, that he is worth the price. His reputation as a bounty hunter is well-earned."

Speaking directly to Calo, Malak gave his order. "Her companions are nothing to me, Mr. Nord, but I desire Bastila taken alive if at all possible." His voice darkened. "But, Admiral. You have yet to state your reason for interrupting me in my quarters rather than bringing this to my attention on the bridge."

Karath looked very uncomfortable, almost shaken. That was odd to see in such a long-time soldier. "Lord Malak, forgive me. There is...something else. It is not for ears of the common soldiers."

"I trust you are not wasting my time, Admiral Karath?"

"No, m'lord. I promise that you will be most interested in the descriptions Calo Nord provided of Bastila's other companions...."