THE PRICE OF FREEDOM

Disclaimer: This is the fanfiction sequel of a fanfiction story, written by a fan for other fans. It is not intended as an attack against the legitimate copyright holders. Star Wars and all related characters and concepts are property of George Lucas and Lucasfilm Ltd.

Foreword: This is the sequel of To Betray A Traitor, an AU for the Star Wars series. For those who have not read TBAT or don't remember the relevant details, the story is as follows.

During the battle of Coruscant, Darth Tyranus has a vision of his death and understands Sidious' betrayal. He duels his master and kills him as a result of an apparent happenstance. However, Dooku has been taken to his limits in the fight and is forced to surrender when Kenobi and Skywalker arrive.

Anakin almost falls into the darkness when he sees Palpatine dead and Kenobi barely snaps him out of it. When they are forced to leave R2-D2 in the Invisible Hand, Anakin goes berserk and Kenobi is forced to subdue him violently, much to his chagrin.

Without orders from the Sith Lords, General Grievous orders a retreat of the Confederacy, but not before attacking Coruscant with heavy turbolasers that cause massive destruction. TBAT ends with Mass Amedda as the acting Chancellor, who offers Bail Organa the chance to become the next head of government, while Dooku becomes the secret prisoner of the Jedi Council, who fake his death.

But with Palpatine gone, minor players such as a powerful darksider called Rokur Gepta, the last Sorcerer of Tund, are now free to further their own agendas. Only the Force knows what the future might hold... and it is not telling.

I- Woes of the Fallen

There were a great many things disliked about his present situation. He had lost his freedom, which was unfortunate but a small price to pay for his survival, yet he had failed to consider some small, irksome details when he had decided to surrender to Kenobi. He really should have anticipated that his connection with the Force would be blocked, for example.

He had done the same thing with many unfortunate Jedi over the last couple of years. It had even been the usual procedure for dealing with dangerous Dark Jedi back when he was a member of the Order. But he hadn't anticipated it and, for the first time in many years, Dooku was feeling the full weight of his advanced age as a normal human would. It was not an enjoyable experience, particularly with the extremely unpleasant itch focused around his ruined right arm that lasted for several hours after each bacta bath.

If his jailors weren't Jedi, he would have been sure that it was some kind of petty revenge.

And the worst thing was that this was far from the only problem. His cell was woefully inadequate... although the Count was quite sure that he would have a long time to grow used to it. Mace Windu had been less than impressed when the prisoner had mentioned the possibility of different living arrangements, but at least some headway had been made in the matter of physical exercise.

The Korun Jedi knew that now that the Count was unable to use the Force to bolster his dwindling vitality, his health might suffer so Dooku had been promised that "something would be arranged". The Thousand Fountains and the Twilight Halls were almost certainly out of the question, unfortunately, but even being allowed to move through the corridors of the prison complex would be a significative improvement.

After that was solved, Dooku decided, the next step would be to do something about the culinary disaster that was his new diet. He had been over ten years away from the Temple and the excellent cuisine of his cooks might have spoiled him in the last decade, but he was quite sure that it took a very acute lack of talent to make cardboard flavoured cake. The food probably contained some rather exotic drugs, but those were supposed to be tasteless. In other words, whoever was guilty for the barely edible junk that he was being fed needed to find a new job. At once. Under duress, if needed...

The sound of someone clearing his throat startled the old man, who turned. Mace Windu was standing there, inside the cell. Dooku had been lost in his thoughts and watching with some interest a documentary about the Stark War in the holocomp, but he had heard nothing. Neither Windu's approach, not the deactivation and reactivation of the force-field door of his cell. Oh yes, diminished senses. Yet another of those new things he didn't like too much.

"Good day, Master Windu. How may I help you?"

"Telling us all you know, those facts that you have kept hidden so far, would be helpful," commented the Jedi, sitting himself on the bed.

"I have told you so much that you can't even deal with the information anymore on your own. You will have to look for help outside the Order soon and still you want more. Greed does not befit a Jedi."

"Save the humour, Tyranus. The Council wants the information you have been withholding for the last week. I am here to procure it in any way I see fit."

"In the last week, I have told you everything you might need to know about the key Confederate agents in around a thousand worlds, my own personal spy networks, and the Confederacy and its military. Secret shipyards hidden in deep space. Fortress worlds you hadn't even heard about, until I gave you their name and location. And Mustafar. Let's not forget Mustafar and what is hidden there."

"It is hidden under a planetary shield of such power that the Republic would need to summon every single warship it can field and throw it against Mustafar. A direct assault is impossible at this point and even infiltration might turn out to be problematic. If we cannot gain access, the information is interesting, but ultimately worthless. And I am not here to ask you about the Confederacy, although we are sure that you have kept some secrets in this regard, too, but about the Sith."

"About the Sith?"

"Indeed. You have been flooding us with information about Grievous, the commerce guilds and the droid armies that was too valuable to ignore, but you have given up precious little information about the Sith. At this point, the Council is largely convinced that this is some kind of ploy and even Yoda..."

"Chaos! Do you think that any Sith would accept being crippled like I have been for a ploy? Do you understand the mind of the Sith at all, Master Windu?" snapped the Count with sudden vehemence.

"I'd say that I have a fair idea of how it works..."

"Do you? Truly? Sincerely, I do not think so. You have emotions, my friend, I know you well enough to know this, but not even Master Yoda keeps himself under the level of emotional control you use. The truth, Mace Windu, is that the power of the style you created terrifies you and you have transformed yourself to stop the darkness that you fear in your heart of hearts. In that regard, you have won. You will never be captured by the shadows of Vaapad the way poor Sora Bulq was. But you will never be able to understand the Sith way, either."

"Supposing that you are right, I can live with it. Now, let's focus, even if I am a fascinating subject of discussion," replied Windu, words laced with just the slightest hint of sarcasm. "The Sith, Tyranus. Particularly Darth Sidious, your master."

"Not my master. Not anymore. He banished me and I renounced my Sith name. Call me Dooku, please."

"Dooku was a Jedi, a good man and a friend of mine. And as far as I am concerned, he died many years ago, Tyranus. You are a Sith, anything but a good man and most certainly no friend of mine. Don't test my mercy. Give me the answers we want."

With a sigh, Dooku nodded. "Ask. Maybe I will answer. Maybe I will not. Maybe I will ignore the information you ask for. But I will not lie."

Feeling sincerity in this statement, the Jedi Master began. "Is it true that there are only two Sith?"

"Interesting question. Only two Sith Lords. That is the Rule of Two, written by Darth Bane, the only Sith Lord who survived the battles of Ruusan, the first of a chain of eighty-four masters that has hidden in the shadows for the last thousand years."

"And what are you willing to tell us about Darth Sidious?"

"He was the last apprentice of Darth Plagueis, a long lived Sith scholar of the Muun species. Sidious murdered Plagueis, although I was never told the details. Darth Maul, the Sith killed by Obi-Wan Kenobi in Naboo, was his first apprentice."

"Yes, we already know this. Or at least what we supposed," replied Mace Windu. Excluding the part about this Darth Plagueis, thought the Jedi. The name of a previously unknown Sith lord had just been revealed and that would have to be investigated. But there were more pressing concerns. "Give us something useful, Tyranus."

"Darth Sidious is human. I know that you have had some very amusing debates about his identity, although I am not quite sure how much you have learned since the destruction of my listening devices. But I can confirm that Darth Sidious is a human male. Probably in his early sixties or whereabouts. I cannot be more accurate, because I consider that everything he ever told me is suspect. He is no member of Palpatine's Inner Circle, either, although he has an agent there."

"Sate Pestage?"

"Yes. I take it that he has escaped already?"

"He disappeared in the confusion following the bombardment."

"Of course, of course. He has been working for Sidious for a very long time and has some minuscule talent in the Force, particularly in the field of mental manipulation. He must have known that you suspected and now that his position as personal friend of the Chancellor is no longer useful..."

"Does Mas Amedda work for you?"

"He certainly doesn't work for me, but it is entirely possible that he has worked for Sidious. I know for a fact that he has a fine collection of Sith artifacts. I learned this after some of my agents were killed in a squabble with his relic hunters over a few jewels found in the Yavin system."

"That is... interesting. Why do you think that he might have worked for Palpatine without you knowing it?"

"Because dependence is weakness and a worthy Sith apprentice cannot be weak. After becoming Sidious apprentice, I was forced to create my own organization, my own spy networks and my own plots. I seldom was allowed to glimpse Sidious' own. Anything else?"

"A great many things, particularly..."

The Jedi said no more. He closed his mouth and averted his eyes, ignoring Dooku's sudden interest. There was something in Windu's face, a mixture of emotions that had been boiling beneath the stony surface and that was finally coming to the fore. Struggling to keep his voice free of emotion, Mace Windu finally whispered.

"Why, Dooku?"

"That question is not easily answered, my friend. I wish you had not asked at all."

"You owe us the truth. The blood of two thousand Jedi stains your hands. If there is anything left of the man you once were, you will tell me the truth, Dooku."

It was perhaps the use of his name that finally convinced the Count, but after a long instant of silence, the old nobleman nodded.

"You are right. I owe you, but I do not relish it. I will tell you my tale, but only once. I will reveal you a great many things in telling you this and I ask only one thing in return. Don't call me Tyranus ever again."

"You have a deal."

"Then, let's go back fifteen years to the snow-fields of Galidraan. I have had years to think about it and I think that everything began there."

"Galidraan. A cold, remote world. With a small population, even smaller natural resources and nothing of interest for the galaxy at large. The kind of world that, when invaded by murderous Mandalorian mercenaries, could only call for the Jedi and hope for the best."

"Dealing with a small band of mercenaries should be an easy mission, that a few dozen young Knights and a single Master should be able to solve without too much trouble. Or so the Council had considered. After all, the days of glory of the Mandalorian clans were long past now. The great warriors that had been able to stand against the might of the Jedi had been reduced to mere thugs with fancy armour."

"Such overconfidence. When I look back and consider what might have happened... I still consider Galidraan one of my finest moments. Finding the Mandalorians was almost too easy. They were in a camp hidden inside a tiny valley... or rather a large hole in the snow. There were a few hundred of them, all wearing their traditional battle armour and with their weapons ready to fire."

"I demanded their surrender. Then, Komari said something that I don't quite remember. And the Mandalorian leader ordered his troops to open fire. All hell was about to break loose, so I decided to try something."

"I had spent the week-long journey reading about the Mandalorians, because I felt that something useful might turn out of it. And it turned out that I was right, because when I said 'Susulur, Mando'ad!' they felt such surprise that not a shot was fired."

"Of course, it is possible that my Force-enhanced yell startled them a bit, too, but I think that deep down it was surprise. Not many of their enemies know how to speak Mando'a."

During the tale, Mace Windu had regained his usual self-control, but his face showed some interest now and he used the pause to ask. "You served the Sith back then, too?"

"No, no, no. I have said that everything began in Galidraan, not that I was Sidious' man back then. This Order has a great many shortcomings, but no Sith agent could possibly hide in your midst undetected. Not for long. And I was a respected, well known member of the Order for two more years, after Galidraan. But it was in Galidraan where the gates of the dark path opened for me."

"What do you mean?"

"I think... I think... Yes. I will show you, Master Windu. I do not intend to betray you, so enter my mind now if you want to see things the way I saw them."

Windu blinked and then reached with his mind to touch Dooku's. As he had learned during the last week, it had a diamond-like quality: cold and precisely shaped. Usually, the thousand faces of the gem were perfectly opaque, but now one of them had disappeared. There was a very gentle tug and the Jedi Master allowed himself to be drawn in.

Notes: Originally I intended to make longer chapters in this story, but I feel that the pacing suffers if I write anything above the four thousand words line, so I decided to keep the chapters a bit in the short side, as I did in TBAT. Comments welcome. Praise very welcome. Constructive criticism welcome too.