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It creeps up on you. When you're in a war, you don't spend time thinking about your own personal well-being. You think about the present; where to send a newly recruited battalion of soldiers, or how to draw the enemy into the latest tactical trap planned out by the Fleet brass. You concentrate on the big picture, whether it's sacrificing a civilian planet to fortify a strategically placed space station, or abandoning whole systems to further your position. The small things, like disrupting a slave auction on Taris, are lost beneath the pressures of winning battle after battle. The names flash by faster than you can count. Dxun, Serrocco, Ossus, Yavin. And later, Malachor.

When you're in a war, you learn to take orders. Even though it's your best friend in command, she manages to make the distinction between you and her clear: you are still under her authority in all matters except personal ones. And you manage well enough: she was always the smarter one, after all. But sometimes, when she makes a series of moves that make no sense, like sending out much-needed troops to remote locations such as Korriban and Tatooine, you have to make your voice heard. In the privacy of her quarters, you rant and rail, asking her what the frack she thinks she is doing. And she arches her brow, in her why-are-you-even-asking-me-this look, and replies calmly that, yes, she knows what she is doing, and no, she doesn't care to explain it to you. Then she tells you to get out.

It isn't the act of pulling rank that offends you. She's done it often enough that it barely bothers you anymore. It's the breathtaking amount of arrogance that accompanies her words, the stunning realization that she does not trust you enough to tell you what she is doing. So you leave, before she throws you out, your friendship put under question. It occurs to you briefly that she may be trying to protect you, but this only succeeds in making you angrier. You are not a child. You passed your trials for Knighthood well before she did.

It is only later, after you have calmed down enough to think clearly, that you decide to trust her. She has led the Republic to too many victories to lose faith just yet. And she is still your friend, no matter what she may or may not think of you.

The war continues, but you start to keep track of her movements, taking note of all the irregularities in her actions that others wouldn't notice. Like sending less-then-satisfied officers under her command on dangerous and potentially fatal missions, and spending more and more time in the library, studying maps of remote systems for hours and hours on end. She is changing from the girl you knew to a stranger, one who hides her emotions behind flowing robes and black masks. One part of your mind tells you that this is normal, that the Mandalorians would not respect a female commander. Another, a smaller part that speaks with more urgency, tells you that there is something wrong.

You feel guilty about watching her, but you realize the necessity of your actions. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and she has control of the entire Fleet. Stronger minds than hers has felt the pull and fallen, most recently the ever present examples of Exan Kun and Ulic Qel Droma.

However, all seems well enough, and as hope comes to the Republic, you start to think that maybe you were wrong. She forgives the argument you had, and doesn't bring it up in conversations, but you know better then to think that she's forgotten it. She never forgets anything. But time goes on, and you move past it, and the war continues.

One night, when you are toasting her latest victory in her quarters, letting the headiness of alcohol and victory wash over you like a wave, she breaks down, telling you about her fears and worries, tears streaming down her cheeks. Part of you is insulted, knowing that only reason she is telling you this is because she is drunk. The other part feels only pity for a girl thrust into a position of leadership that she was woefully unprepared for. She babbles about some vague, shadowy threat, slurring her phrases and stumbling over words. She almost falls over, once, and you try to catch her carefully, your own actions impaired by drink.

And in that moment, with her bitter breath warm upon your neck, it feels right to kiss her, and you lose yourself for a moment in her scent and presence. Suddenly, you realize that you have felt this way ever since you were old enough to notice, and when she kisses you back you realize that she feels the same way.

Things change after that. She lets you in a little more, letting you look past her cold exterior as a Republic commander and allowing you to see the person within. She makes sure to tell you what she is doing before she does it, and often puts you in charge of making sure her orders are carried out to the last detail. You become more comfortable with the idea of the two of you in charge; her leading, you following. It seems as natural as using the Force. And you stop questioning her motives.

Then, she tells you her plans, one night under the stars, her hands clasped together in yours. She's going to win the war with the Mandalorians, she says, and then go find something that's been lost for a very long time. It will change everything, she insists. And her eyes are wide and pleading, and she's biting her lip, and what she says makes sense. It is then that you swear to follow her until the end. And it is there that you unknowingly seal your fate.

The war ends on Malachor V. The last of the officers that could defy her is broken beyond repair, and Mandalore lies defeated under her feet. She keeps her mask on, and her feelings are hidden from you, but you can tell she's happy from her stance and the tone of her voice. Treaties are signed, weapons are confiscated, and the word goes back to the Core: The Jedi are victorious. She makes a speech, displayed on holoscreens across the galaxy: she will not rest until the remains of the Mandalorian Army are wiped from existence.

You realize somewhat that at this point, she is no longer the person you knew. She is colder, and more calculating, and every sense the Jedi ever helped you discover is screaming for you to do something, but you do nothing. You love her, no matter what, and nothing is going to come between that.

Then, the Star Forge. High above Rakata Prime, the name given to it by the Builders so long ago. There is a feeling of power about the place, and it calls to you, telling you to throw off your shackles and become the Master. You ignore the calls, and she looks are you and you can tell that she knows, and she smiles and looks away, because she knows that you are hers, through and through. The Star Forge spins slowly, and you watch it for a moment, lost in the dark power of the station.

Them you look at her, her eyes lit up with awe and desire, and you notice the almost invisible golden tint that has appeared unannounced. Her skin seems a little paler, her hair a little drier. These could be warning signs, but you concentrate on the curve of her smile, the feel of her hand as it squeezes yours. She is happy, so you are happy, and that is all that really matters in the galaxy.

She uses the Star Forge to create an army, larger than anything the galaxy has ever seen before. You prepare for the moment of your return to known space, knowing that after this, you can never go back. Things have changed, and she will be the commander of a new order. And you will be by her side. The time comes, and you are ready. You will take over the Republic under her orders, and you will do it happily.

You follow her with almost mindless devotion, catering to her every command, protecting her life and honor with the same fervor with which you once protected your own. She mentions offhandedly that attacking civilian targets would strike fear into the heart of the Republic; you make her words your mantra, engineering invasions that mix tactics and brutality into one beautiful, terrible strike. She makes your duty clear; make it seems as if she has no clear plan by attacking targets seemingly at random, while she systematically destroys any chance the Republic has at victory.

The death toll rises astronomically, and a voice in the back of your mind tells you that you should worry, that something isn't right. Another voice, a louder one, quells it with the sure knowledge that you are saving the Republic, and that the cost is acceptable.

You are doing what no one else has managed to do: you are uniting the galaxy. And it doesn't seem arrogant when you say it out loud.

She wasn't happy about Telos, but you knew it had to be attacked. The enemy was growing too complacent, and someone had to make them stand up and notice that they were being attacked. None of the stodgy Republic leaders knew about her brilliance, and her beauty and wit. None of them knew what they were going up against. Telos was merely a taste.

After Telos, the galaxy begins to take note. No one is safe anymore, and the Jedi can remain stagnant no longer. The Council begins to send out Masters and Knights, raising morale and providing a second wind to the tattered Republic troops. Five years too late, you say, laughing over the events as battle after battle proves that they don't have the effect that they used to anymore.

Time passes, and as you conquer planet after planet, the voice inside your head has dimmed to almost nothing. You go through dangerous situations time and time again, and each time, you notice how she has changed. Her eyes are completely gold now, and veins mar her porcelain skin, giving it a deathly look. The tattoo's you both received on Korriban are still fresh, a splash of color on otherwise pale skin. The war is almost over. The Republic is on the edge of collapse.

And then, your situation changes. You lose your jaw, on a distant battlefield, while fighting a Jedi. The pain is unimaginable. You manage to kill your opponent, and limp back to your ship, where your her soldiers carry your unconscious body back to her. She spares you a glance, but her attention is concentrated on other things. Her lover is just not important enough.

And then, in that moment, when you glance up at her through pain-bleared eyes, you see that she is different. The spirit in her eyes has given way to cold calculation, and her warm smile has all but disappeared. You never noticed it happening.

You are fitted with a new jaw, made of metal and wires, and return to her, wary once more. She smiles cruelly at you, and tells you that you should have been more careful, and then sends you away. And you feel more pain then you did when you lost your jaw.

But the pain turns to anger, and you use it to win your next battle. But you realize, as you leave another battlefield for the next, that your anger is at her.

You begin to remember the Star Forge, and the power it promised you, and you begin to wonder if it wasn't lying, if you could be the master.

And one day, you look in the mirror (how long has it been since you did that?) and you run your hands over your tattoos, standing out against your space-pale skin and metal jaw, and look closely at your eyes, yellowed and filled with a malice you didn't think yourself capable of, and you realize what has happened. She has led you down an increasingly darker path, and you have fallen.

You have become the very villain that you swore to destroy.

And you never even noticed the change.


Author's Note: Written for DCC 18: Villains. I wanted to give Malak a little more backstory than he was given in game, and I hope it turned out alright! Enjoy! Comments, critiques, cookies... all are appreciated!