He felt it first in the throne room, seven years after he had dominated the pathetic and insignificant minds of the Jedi crusaders that called themselves Revan and Malak. They wished to destroy him, to conquer the Empire he had cultivated with his cunning, and his right and nature to rule. But he had felt it across the galaxy, but it was not the Republic, nor the Jedi, but something of a darker natureā€¦and far more dangerous than any Jedi could be. A new power was rising.

Darth Manthrak: Ascension

Chapter 1

She lay dead before him, his supposed Master's shell, and he felt no signs of life through the Force. "Now the core of this planet will be your grave," he said in his hollow voice. And he dragged her body to the edge of the Trayus Core, and cast it into the planet and the toxic fumes. Kreia's body fell into the green abyss and his comlink buzzed on his wrist. The Iridonian wanted confirmation to activate the Mass-Shadow Generator, the machine that would cripple Malachor V for a second time. But he needed Malachor, and the teachings that lay buried here. "Greeting: It is a great pleasure to see you alive and undamaged, Master," a sycophantic voice said from behind him. "I was afraid, though very delighted, of very well having to dismantle many unfortunate meatbags, and I received my wish."

Derresh chuckled to himself. He turned to face a faded bronze droid, the assassin model HK-47. He had enjoyed traveling with this droid over the past few months; it was overly eager to destroying Derresh's enemies and he was more than willing to oblige. Though the droid did have its setbacks; it was the same type of make as a group of assassin droids that had tracked him across the galaxy, the HK-50's. He had encountered four directly, seven indirectly if he counted his followers' exploits on Nar Shaddaa. They had followed him everywhere, from Telos to Peragus II, all in the task of either killing him or bringing him to their 'Master', who had been unidentified. This model however, was an earlier version, but he knew not of his manufacturer or previous masters, for the droid had claimed of memory loss. But it mattered not.

"You followed me here?"

"Answer: Of course, Master! What do you take me for, a loading droid? Statement: I would follow you to the fires of death, Master, or in my case, a large durasteel scrap heap."

"How did you manage to escape the ship?" Their vessel, the Ebon Hawk, had suffered a crash landing in the upper levels of Malachor V, and the ship had sustained considerable damage. She was an old vessel; her previous masters were all smugglers, pirates, or scoundrels, except its most recent master, The Jedi Master Revan himself. Revan was a living legend; ten years ago, he had disobeyed the Jedi Council and called followers to fight the Mandalorians for the Republic. Derresh was one such called, for he was loyal and he had formed a strong bond with Revan fighting in the Outer Rim against the Mandalorians, who he considered worthy adversaries.

After the war, Revan disappeared with Malak and the bulk of the Republic fleet. Derresh had gone back to face judgment of the Jedi Council and for his audacity and defiance, they banished him from the Order and branded him as the Exile. He had lost his affinity to the Force in the final battle, here, at Malachor V, when the mass-shadow generator was activated. He did not know precisely what happened; the catastrophes at Malachor had ravaged both Republic and Mandalorian fleets, and completely crippled Malachor's surface. The chaos and horror had caused him to cut himself off from the Force, and he had done this instinctively.

A year passed. When Revan returned, he returned with a vengeance. He was now Darth Revan; the hero had become the conqueror. With Malak as his apprentice he had amassed a fleet of an alien power and soon all of Republic Space became a war zone. Derresh had only just realized this; during the ten years between now and the end of the Mandalorian Wars, he had been removed from galactic events. He had taken up his title as Exile, and he had been wandering the galaxy. He traveled alone, until Kreia had discovered him aboard the Republic frigate the Harbinger.

"Explanation: Master I was cast from the ship when our meatbag pilot crashed into several of the jagged rock faces that cover this planet's environment. I then tracked you to this place and watch you slaughter many a creature and Dark Jedi and then witnessed a considerable degree of power as you gutted the old woman whom you had been traveling with. Irritated Statement: I was rather put off that you would not appoint me to kill her, Master. Doing so would do my programming a much needed workout."

Derresh thought back to his battle with Traya. They had fought at first blade upon blade, and then he severed her right and only hand. She had told him to cut her down and he would have done so had she not telekinetically summoned three violet lightsabers to protect herself. She still did not think he was ready to assume the title of 'Master', and she was prepared to kill him to prove it.

After he had dispatched the last of the blades she relinquished, and she volunteered to tell him everything he wished to know about his companions, the Republic, the Sith, and each world he had traveled to. Yet something still disturbed him; she had said that she saw the end of the Force itself when she looked upon him. He was a wound in the Force, and after he had crippled Malachor, he left known space with eyes blind to the Force. But he had returned, and had become more powerful than ever.

"Query: Master you appear to be troubled. Does some unfortunate meatbag require assassination protocols?"

"No, droid." He answered drolly, devoid of emotion. He was pondering upon what his next course of action would be. Kreia had given him three options: take the Ebon Hawk and follow Revan into the Unknown Regions, remain here upon Malachor V, and await for the 'others' who were touched by the Force, who would eventually come to this world, or return to his Exile, to wander the Galaxy as he had done for the past decade.

He was not a scholar, nor an historian, and waiting upon this world for the Force knew how long did not seem appealing as did exploring the Unknown Regions. Atris or Kreia would have embraced the role without question, but both women lay dead in the halls with their teachings and collected works. Kreia's corpse now was decomposing in the heart of Malachor and Atris' body was rotting in the cold where the Exile had killed the wretch upon Telos, shortly before he had killed Darth Nihilus.

Exile was not an option. The Force had manifested itself inside him again for a purpose, but he had yet to discover it. He was required to do something but it was not restore the Jedi Order, he knew this to be true. The Jedi were now extinct, their teachings were now buried and exposed just as their Masters in hallowed halls. Dantooine's Enclave had burned after Malak's attack, Katarr had been ravaged with the Force by Nihilus, and Coruscant now lay empty, the room of a Thousand Fountains lay still. He would not reassume exile.

Following Revan had its advantages; he would finally learn of the Jedi's fate and perhaps cripple the ancient Sith Empire that Kreia had spoken of. They were to be a true test of his strength's, and fighting alongside Revan again would be a true honor again, even for a dark side adept like himself. But he would be a fool if he were to do it as an emissary of the light.

"Query: Master I did overhear the old one speak of you fulfilling your programming beyond the Outer Rim. What is your eventual intention?"

Derresh looked into the orange photoreceptors of the assassin droid. "I am going to destroy the Sith." He activated his double-bladed lightsaber and stared into its brilliant ruby-red light. He was no longer Derresh Norelco; he would now assume the mantle of the Sith, he was now Darth Manthrak, destroyer of the Sith Triumvirate, liberator of Onderon and the scourge of the Jedi Order. A new reign had begun.