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Star Wars Darth Bane: Rule of Two

Author: Drew Karpyshyn

Cover artist: John Van Fleet

Publisher: Del Rey

Released: December 26, 2007

Era: Rise of the Empire era

Timeline: 1,000 BBY – 990 BBY

Series: Darth Bane

get, OCR, proof: Голодный Эвок Грызли (Hungry Ewok Gryzley)

http://www.holonet.ru

Update: 1/04/2008

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

PROLOGUE

Darovit made his stumbling way through the bodies that littered the battlefield, his mind numb with grief and horror. He recognized many of the dead: some were servants of the light side, allies of the Jedi; others were followers of the dark side, minions of the Sith. And even in his dazed stupor, Darovit couldn't help but wonder which side he belonged with.

A few months earlier he'd still gone by his childhood name, Tomcat. Back then he'd been nothing more than a thin, dark-haired boy of thirteen living with his cousins Rain and Bug back on the small world of Somov Rit. They had heard rumblings of the never-ending war between the Jedi and the Sith, but they never thought it would touch their quiet, ordinary lives… until the Jedi scout had come to see Root, their appointed guardian.

General Hoth, leader of the Jedi Army of Light, was desperate for more Jedi, the scout had explained. The fate of the entire galaxy hung in the balance. And the children under Root's care had shown an affinity for the Force.

At first Root had refused. He claimed his charges were too young to go off to war. But the scout had persisted. Finally, realizing that if the children did not go to the Jedi, the Sith might come and take them forcibly, Root had relented. Darovit and his cousins had left Somov Rit with the Jedi scout and headed for Ruusan. At the time, the children had thought it was the beginning of a grand adventure. Now Darovit knew better.

Too much had happened since they'd all arrived on Ruusan. Everything had changed. And the youth-for he had lived through too much in the past weeks to be called a boy anymore-didn't understand any of it.

He'd come to Ruusan full of hope and ambition, dreaming of the glory that would be his when he helped General Hoth and the Jedi Army of Light defeat the Sith serving in Lord Kaan's Brotherhood of Darkness. But there was no glory to be found on Ruusan; not for him. And not for his cousins.

Rain had died even before their ship touched down on Ruusan. They'd been ambushed by a squadron of Sith Buzzards only seconds after they broke atmosphere, the tail of their vessel shorn off in the attack. Darovit had watched in horror as Rain was swept away by the blast, literally ripped from his arms before plunging to an unseen death hundreds of meters below.

His other cousin, Bug, had died only a few minutes ago, a victim of the thought bomb, his spirit consumed by the terrible power of Lord Kaan's final, suicidal weapon. Now he was gone. Like all the Jedi and all the Sith. The thought bomb had destroyed every living being strong enough to wield the power of the Force. Everyone except Darovit. And this he couldn't understand.

In fact, nothing on Ruusan made any sense to him. Nothing! He'd arrived expecting to see the legendary Army of Light he'd heard about in stories and poems: heroic Jedi defending the galaxy against the dark side of the Force. Instead he'd witnessed men, women, and other beings who fought and died like common soldiers, ground into the mud and blood of the battlefield.

He'd felt cheated. Betrayed. Everything he'd heard about the Jedi had been a lie. They weren't shining heroes: their clothes were soiled with grime; their camp stank of sweat and fear. And they were losing! The Jedi whom Darovit had encountered on Ruusan were defeated and downtrodden, weary from the seemingly endless series of battles against Lord Kaan's Sith, stubbornly refusing to surrender even when it was clear they couldn't win. And all the power of the Force couldn't restore them to the shining icons of his naive imagination.

There was movement on the far edge of the battlefield. Squinting against the sun, Darovit saw half a dozen figures slowly making their way through the carnage, gathering up the fallen bodies of friend and foe alike. He wasn't alone-others had survived the thought bomb too!

He ran forward, but his excitement cooled as he drew close enough to make out the features of those tasked with cleaning the battlefield. He recognized them as volunteers from the Army of Light. Not Jedi, but ordinary men and women who'd sworn allegiance to Lord Hoth. The thought bomb had only taken those with sufficient power to touch the Force: Non-Force-using folk like these were immune to its devastating effects. But Darovit wasn't like them. He had a gift. Some of his earliest memories were of using the Force to levitate toys for the amusement of his younger cousin Rain, when they were both children. These people had survived because they were ordinary, plain. They weren't special like he was. Darovit's survival was a mystery-just one more thing about all this he didn't understand.

As he approached, one of the figures sat down on a rock, weary from the task of gathering the dead. He was an older man, nearly fifty. His face looked drawn and haggard, as if the grim task had sapped his mental reserves along with the physical. Darovit recognized his features from those first few weeks he'd spent in the Jedi camp, though he'd never bothered to learn the old man's name.

A sudden realization froze Darovit in his tracks. If he recognized the man, then the man might also recognize him. He might remember Darovit. He might know the young man was a traitor.

The truth about the Jedi had disgusted Darovit. Repulsed him. His illusions and daydreams crushed by the weight of harsh reality, he'd acted like a spoiled child and turned against the Jedi. Seduced by easy promises of the dark side's power, he'd switched sides in the war and thrown himself in with the Brotherhood of Darkness. It was only now that he understood how wrong he'd been.

The realization had come upon him as he'd witnessed Bug's death-a death for which he was partly responsible. Too late he had learned the true cost of the dark side. Too late he understood that, through the thought bomb, Lord Kaan's madness had brought devastation upon them all.

He was no longer a follower of the Sith; he no longer hungered to learn the secrets of the dark side. But how could this old man, a devoted follower of General Hoth, know that? If he remembered Darovit, he would remember him only as the enemy.

For a second he thought about trying to escape. Just turn and run, and the tired old man still catching his breath wouldn't be able to stop him. It was the kind of thing he'd once done all the time. But things were different now. Whether it was from guilt, maturity, or simply a desire to see it all end, Darovit didn't run away. Whatever fate awaited him, he chose to stay and face it.

Moving with slow but determined steps, he approached the rock where the man was sitting, seemingly lost in thought. Darovit was only a few meters away when the man finally glanced up to acknowledge him.

There was no glint of recognition in his eyes. There was only an empty, haunted look.

'All of them,' the man mumbled, though whether he was talking to Darovit or himself wasn't clear. 'All the Jedi and all of the Sith… all gone.'

The man turned his head, fixing his vacant stare on the dark entrance to a small cave nearby. A chill went through Darovit as he realized what the man was talking about. The entrance led underground, through twisting tunnels to the cavern deep beneath the ground where Kaan and his Sith had gathered to unleash the thought bomb.

The man grunted and shook his head, dispelling the morbid state he had slipped into. Standing up with a weary

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