Darth Bane, the reigning Dark Lord of the Sith, kicked the covers from his bed and swung his feet over the edge, resting them on the cold marble floor. He tilted his head from side to side; straining to work out the knots in his heavily muscled neck and shoulders.
He finally rose with an audible grunt. Taking a deep breath, he exhaled slowly, reaching his arms up high above his head as he stretched to his full two-meter height. He could feel the sharp pop-pop-pop of each individual vertebra along his spine loosening as he extended himself until his fingertips brushed against the ceiling.
Satisfied, he lowered his arms and scooped up his lightsaber from the ornate nightstand at the side of the bed. The curved handle felt reassuring in his grip. Familiar. Solid. Yet holding it couldn’t stop his free hand from trembling ever so slightly. Scowling, he clenched his left hand into a fist, the fingers digging into the flesh of his palm-a crude but effective way to tame the tremor.
Moving silently, he slipped from the bedchamber out into the hallways of the mansion he now called home. Luminous tapestries covered the walls and colorful, hand-woven rugs lined the corridors as he made his way past room after room, each decorated with custom-made furniture, rare objets d’art, and other unmistakable signs of wealth. It took him almost a full minute to traverse the length of the building and reach the back door that led out to the open-air grounds surrounding his estate.
Barefoot and naked from the waist up, he shivered and glanced down at the abstract mosaic of the stone courtyard illuminated in the light of Ciutric IV’s twin moons. Goose bumps crawled across his flesh, but he ignored the night’s chill as he ignited his lightsaber and began to practice the aggressive forms of Djem So.
His muscles groaned in protest, his joints clicking and grinding as he moved carefully through a variety of sequences. Slash.
Feint. Thrust. The soles of his feet slapped softly against the surface of the courtyard stones, a sporadic rhythm marking the progress of every advance and retreat against his imaginary opponent.
The last vestiges of sleep and fatigue clung stubbornly to his body, spurring the tiny voice inside that urged him to abandon his training and return to the comfort of his bed. Bane drowned it out by silently reciting the opening line of the Sith Code: Peace is a lie; there is only passion.
Ten standard years had passed since he had lost his orbalisk armor. Ten years since his body had been burned almost beyond recognition by the devastating power of Force lightning unleashed from his own hand. Ten years since the healer Caleb had brought him back from the brink of death and Zannah, his apprentice, had slaughtered Caleb and the Jedi who had come to find them.
Thanks to Zannah’s manipulations, the Jedi now believed the Sith to be extinct. Bane and his apprentice had spent the decade since those events perpetuating that myth: living in the shadows, gathering resources, and harboring their strength for the day they would strike back against the Jedi. On that glorious day the Sith would reveal themselves, even as they wiped their enemies from existence.
Bane knew he might never live to see that day. He was in his mid-forties now, and the first faint scars of time and age had begun to leave their marks on his body. Yet he had dedicated himself to the idea that one day, even if it took centuries, the Sith-his Sith-would rule the galaxy.