“Intriguing. Tell me more.”
“A dyad, Lord Sidious,” explained Unkrecht. “Two separate beings who are one in the Force. The prophecy has been passed down amongst my people for millennia. The elders believe the time is nigh.”
Vader watched his master stroke his chin thoughtfully and crossed his arms in front of his chest. He didn’t trust this Unkrecht character, plain and simple. Unkrecht was human, middle-aged, and by all outward appearances wholly unremarkable. Although not Force-sensitive himself, he claimed to hail from an ancient Sith world in the Unknown Regions that had been colonized shortly after the founding of the original Sith Order by rogue Jedi, several hundred years before the Jedi-Sith War. His ancestors had served and worshipped the Sith as gods, and their descendants, lineages unbroken through countless generations, had kept the faith alive.
“The elders have spoken; the first condition has been met: A Dark Lord of the Sith rules the galaxy,” continued Unkrecht, both his words and body language fawning and obsequious before the Imperial throne. “Your power exceeds any who have come before you. If ever there was a being to fulfill the prophecy and realize the potential of a dyad in the Force, it should be you, Lord Sidious.”
His master leaned forward slightly. But however much he may bask in the praise, he did not allow it to cloud his judgment. “This prophecy you refer to—might you possess a copy of the text of it for me to examine?”
“I am an Acolyte of the Sith Eternal, and I carry the sacred prophecies here”—Unkrecht tapped his temple with the tip of his index finger—“in my memory. Allow me to recite it for you.”
This, he did. Vader recognized the language. It was in the ancient Sith tongue, a novel dialectical variation thereof. Behind his mask, Vader rolled his eyes; clearly, this man was an utter moron.
“How curious,” said his master, his tone deceptively conversational and light. It was as if the discussion were simply academic. Ah, well—his master was a politician born and bred, Vader knew, whereas Vader had always been the soldier. “The similarity to the Rule of Two is unmistakable. Perhaps your ‘prophecy’ is merely an erroneous transcription of the original writings of Darth Bane. Which, I should add, are among the my many archival holdings.”
Vader was having exactly the same thoughts about the potential relationship to the writings of Darth Bane, but Unkrecht waved a hand dismissively. “It was Lord Bane who made the error of transcription, not the Sith Eternal. I should not criticize overmuch, though. His teachings, however misconstrued, were well-intentioned, and they eventually gave the galaxy you, Lord Sidious. And in any event,” Unkrecht hastened to add, lest either Vader of his Master be inclined to defend the honor of Bane’s Sith lineage, “you do not need to take my word for it. Perform the dyadic ritual, Lord Sidious, and you and your apprentice will be reborn as a dyad in the Force.”
In another life, Vader would have laughed uproariously and called it so much bantha poodoo. He and his master, made into one? Vader had had other masters. One had been like a father and a brother to him. He’d even had a wife! Oneness in the Force was just a child’s bedtime story, a ludicrous fantasy for lonelyhearted fools who believed in the redemptive potential of true love—
“And what, Unkrecht, pray tell, does this ‘dyadic ritual’ entail?” his master asked.
When Vader imagines rituals, he imagines scrupulously choreographed ceremonies, chock-a-block with symbolic gestures and ominous chanting. Perhaps some flashy bursts of smoke and flame to awe ignorant audience members.
The ritual Unkrecht has in mind, however, entails both more and less than Vader feels he had reason to suspect. There is to be no chanting, no explosions. He and his master simply sit face to face, their hands clasped. Their only audience is Unkrecht himself, who is issuing instructions.
“For two to become one, you must simply will it so. All that you are, all that you ever were—bring everything to the surface, give everything to be taken, take everything that is given, and merge,” says Unkrecht.
Vader does not fear his master’s hidden depths, his darkness. This man, known throughout the galaxy by varied names and titles, is an implacable enemy to his foes and uncompromising in victory, this is true, but he is also an unswervingly loyal friend. When those whom Vader had loved betrayed him, one after the other after the other, only his master refused to abandon him. Only his master would not let him die. His master loves him—everything he is, everything he was. He can feel it.
But Vader does not love everything about himself. There are parts of his past which he would disavow forever, that make the man he has become burn with hate…
…and, at the crucial moment, when the Force would bond him and his master together forevermore, he holds that which he hates back. He sabotages the ritual. He cannot help himself.
“The ritual was a failure,” said Vader.
This was a statement of fact, not a question; he would have known if it had succeeded. They both would have felt the change, surely.
“Indeed.” His master gazed thoughtfully at him over his long, steepled fingers. “Your misgivings seem to have been justified.”
He did not suspect Vader’s sabotage, thank the gods, but Vader knew better than to seem to gloat or preen in victory. The breaths through his mask’s respirator were slow, measured. He counted up to five before continuing. “What shall we do about this self-styled Sith Eternal…cultist…in light of this failure? He knows Sheev Palpatine’s true identity, my Master. He could be a threat to us. To the Empire.”
“Indeed he could.” His master’s expression was unreadable. The yellow-gold of his eyes shone dimly.
“We should eliminate him. Give the order. I will take sole responsibility.”
“That will not be necessary, Lord Vader.” His master shook his head, cowl rustling. “I will deal with Unkrecht myself.”
“Understood, my Master.” The artificial tones of his vocoder were steady, mild. They did not gloat, and they did not doubt.
“As you know, ISB confiscated two artifacts from Unkrecht’s person upon his arrival to Coruscant. I have since examined them personally. They are Sith wayfinders, among the oldest I have ever personally seen. And they appear to have been intended as gifts—one for me and one for you, Lord Vader.”
“I have had one of the wayfinders sent to your private quarters at the Palace. I will expect you to study it thoroughly. Knowledge is power, Lord Vader.”
“Of course, my Master. Understood. I will do as you command,” said Vader.
Actually, Vader planned to do no such thing. He was a loyal soldier with terrorist rebels to vanquish, not a scholar, and even in his former life he’d detested studying dusty old books and artifacts. He fully intended to place this Sith wayfinder in his Mustafar vault and forget he’d ever heard the words “Sith Eternal” and “Exegol.”