The Dark Crusaders were a dark side organization that was dedicated to destroying the Jedi Order and ruling the galaxy. It was created by a group of individuals who split from the Jedi Order in pursuit of their own goals. This schism led to a conflict between the Jedi and the Dark Crusaders, which eventually led to the near utter defeat of the Crusaders and the displacement of the Jedi Order, who moved to Ossus as a result. The two factions developed a rivalry and caused many conflicts, nearly all of them for control of the Galactic Republic. By 1,000 BBY the organization had faded away in favor of the Sith, another organization of dark side Force users.
After the invention of the lightsaber, the Jedi Order split into two distinct factions that advocated two different ideologies. One wanted the Jedi to remain in its current role as the peacekeepers, where it had thrived for many millennia. The Dark Crusaders believed that the Jedi would have been better served to take a more militant role in galactic affairs. The complete separation of the Jedi and the Dark Crusaders, a militaristic faction of the Order, occurred in 7,000 BBY.
The dispute became so intense that they eventually came to combat. The Dark Crusaders, led by Sultan Saladeen, and the Jedi fought on many battlefields, including inside the Ashta Matha Monastery. The result of the battle was the crippling of the renegade effort after seventy percent of their forces were killed in the battle, as well as the destruction of the Ashta Matha Monastery, also known as the Jedi Monastery.
Now named the Dark Crusaders, the group fled the planet for the Horuset system.
Devastation of Ossus
A war fought between the Dark Crusaders and the Jedi Order, called the Great Crusader War reached its pinnacle in 3,996 BBY. The Dark Crusaders, led by Exar Kun, visited Ossus to recruit new members to their cause. While there, he entered the Chamber of Antiquities, slaying Odan-Urr to obtain one of the holocrons, Force imbued storage devices that could only be accessed by a Force user. Afterward, Ossus became a battlefield for the Jedi and Republic army, which eventually defeated the Dark Crusaders. Meanwhile, a supernova threatened to devastate the planet. Exar Kun tried to gain access to the library, but was prevented by the collapse of the foyer leading to the library. After Ossus had been evacuated, the supernova's shockwave damaged the system severely, resulting in a major victory for the Crusader forces. By now, the Crusaders had control of six foundation worlds and several minor planets taken from the Republic during the war. The Crusaders unofficially called their federation the Dark Crusader Empire, choosing the word "empire" to feed their greed and pride.
First Jedi Purge
Soon after the Great Crusader War, a succession of short-lived conflicts arose. The Mandalorian Wars, a conflict between the Mandalorian clans and the Republic, were finished by Jedi Knight Revan on Malachor V, a Crusader world. Revan was corrupted by the dark side energies on the planet and allied himself with the Crusaders, taking up the mantle of co-commander of the forces with Nurada Aladeen, the leader of the Crusader cult at the time of Revan's transformation and the end of the Mandalorian Wars. Nurada pushed the Mandalorians into the conflict with the Republic, which Revan had suspected later on, but could not confirm upon his travels to the Unknown Regions. Almost immediately afterward, the Jedi Civil War began. This time the Jedi were devoid of Revan's help, and they were quickly overcome. Near the end of the war, Revan defected back to the Republic, betraying the Dark Crusaders, and defeated Aladeen and Darth Malak, his former apprentice.
Following that, the Dark Crusaders, under the command of three Crusader Lords named Darth Traya, Darth Sion, and Darth Nihilus, returned yet again in the First Jedi Purge. The Purge lasted four years, from 3,955 BBY until 3,951 BBY. This purge saw nearly the entire Jedi Order disappear from the galaxy; the Order publicly disbanded and most of the survivors were killed by the Crusaders.
A former Jedi known as the Jedi Exile, who had been cut off from the Force and exiled by the Jedi Council after joining Malak and Revan, sought out the remaining Jedi councilors who were in hiding in an attempt to form a group to defeat the threat of the Crusader Triumvirate, who were threatening to annihilate the Jedi completely. As she traveled the galaxy in search of the hidden Jedi, the Exile trained several of her companions in the ways of the Force. She found Vrook Lamar on Dantooine, Zez-Kai Ell on Nar Shaddaa and Kavar on Onderon. The three former Councilors then met with the Exile on Dantooine. They decided not to reinstate her back into the Jedi ranks, as well as sever her completely from the Force. Kreia, the Exile's mentor, killed them as they attempted to destroy the Exile's connection to the Force. After she killed the Jedi leaders, she revealed her true identity as the third Crusader Lord, Darth Traya. After she left the Exile on Dantooine, the Exile traveled to Telos IV to fight the Crusader Lord Darth Nihilus. The Exile defeated Nihilus on his flagship above Telos, before traveling to Malachor V where she killed both Traya and Darth Sion.
Eventually, the group of individuals the Exile trained, known as the Lost Jedi, would come together to re-establish the Jedi Order.
Approximately three hundred years after the purge, the Jedi Order was struck another devastating blow as the Dark Crusaders returned. The Crusaders, led by Baibars Zenge, went for the victory very early on and attacked Coruscant, the political capital of the Republic and the location of the Jedi Order's main temple. Zenge planned on sacking Coruscant, which would essentially force the Jedi and the Republic to surrender. The sacking of Coruscant failed and the Dark Crusaders were forced to retreat with only the partial destruction of the Jedi Temple to use as a morale boost. Zenge eventually lost the war to the Republic and the Crusaders went into hiding again.
Nearly a millennia and a half later in 2,000 BBY, the Crusaders started what many believe was their last effort to destroy the Republic and the Jedi. The New Crusader Wars lasted one thousand years, the last century of which was known as the First Dark Age. The war concluded on Ruusan with the destruction of all but one of the Crusaders, Killick Orslan. The victory for the Republic came after Lord Hoth sacrificed himself to destroy nearly all the Dark Crusaders. He hoped to cause Lord Kaan to activate his thought bomb and thus devastate all his remaining Crusader Forces. The plan succeeded, but cost Hoth his life. The Seventh Battle of Ruusan marked the end of the Dark Crusader faction according to many historical sources, including the Jedi Archives.
The Dark Crusaders were considered to be completely destroyed after the Seventh Battle of Ruusan. They were forgotten about throughout the galaxy except by the Jedi Order. The Crusaders would be continued through the training of Killick Orslan's apprentice after the lone surviving Crusader went into seclusion. He reorganized the order into the Sith, an organization run by two elite dark side users. The organization would be scaled down considerably to avoid detection and to consolidate the power among every individual.
The Crusaders dissolved their military, which in turn reduced the power struggle immensely. The organization would feature a small elite guard of lesser Force users to do the bidding of the two leaders. By the time of the Great Galactic War the Sith had two leaders, a group of dark Force users and an army of non-Force users. This built the power and strength of their military without a clear way for the Jedi to detect it.
The Jedi Order split into two distinct factions that advocated two different ideologies. One, the traditionalists, wanted the Jedi to remain in its current role where it had thrived for many millennia. The other faction, the Dark Crusaders, believed that the Jedi would have been better served to take a more militant role in galactic affairs, even going as far as to suggest a coup d'etat, with the Jedi Order taking total control of the government.
They advocated taking their military might and experience and using it in a capacity similar to an army or to gain power in the galaxy. They embraced the boost in their power given to them by their emotions, something considered by mainstream Jedi to be power hungry and greedy. The Crusaders believed that conflict was the only true test of one's ability and so emphasized its importance. It was their belief that conflict challenged both individuals and civilizations and so forced them to grow and evolve. They believed that the avoidance of conflict–unlike the pacifist teachings of their brethren Jedi, who focused on peaceful resolutions–resulted in stagnation and decline.
Another purpose served by conflict was the elevation of the strong and the death of the weak. They believed that the strong should survive while the weak should be phased out. Likewise, after many years of conflict and service without what they deemed as gratitude, morality started to be treated as an obstacle to be overcome, as it got in the way of their ultimate task: to conquer and rule the Republic.
The Dark Crusader leadership was composed of one central leader during their initial formation. The Sultan was the title used for the leader, and, during the Schism, Sultan Saladeen assumed the role of Sultan. He acted as Supreme Commander and leader of the Crusaders in their first conflict with the Jedi. "Sultan" was a precursor to the "Sith Lord" title.
After Saladeen died, a power vacuum devastated the Crusaders. Two leaders rose and took the mantle of leader. It was decided amongst the two, that the organization would be composed of two leaders—one to keep the other in check. This essentially preserved the Dark Crusaders from being driven to destruction by a single leader, prevented the scenario of a leaderless organization, and kept a working government and the lower tier members in order if one leader died. It also allowed the surviving leader to choose a successor. Thus, the dual commanders were used to spread the Dark Crusaders path of conquest twinfold and split the Jedi Order's defense in half.
The officers were a step below the leadership in power, prestige, and command; they were a group of lesser experienced and weaker powered individuals in terms of Force potential. They were composed of apprentice-level Force users that were groomed to be the successors of the leadership and as the commanders of the battlefield. They were charged with executing the plan of attack and strategy and bringing stability to the troops. It was their responsibility to succeed in their part of the campaign or war effort. Failure resulted in death.
Grunts were the soldiers and fodder of the Dark Crusaders. They served as the main force of the military and almost all members of the army, and, as such, were not often trained in the Force. After the last Force users died in the first military, the rule was put into affect to forbid the training of any grunt in the Force. Grunts were the lowest-ranked members of the organization and did all the manual labor for the Crusaders and built all the structures and landmarks of the Dark Crusaders.
Korriban became the main planet of the Dark Crusaders after their Schism and war with the Jedi in 7,000 BBY. It was the location of two of their landmarks, the Crusader Temple and Tombs Row. The barren system was classified a desert world; not one area of the planet could sustain plant life or fauna. It was said that the dark energies corrupted the environment and made it impossible to sustain life on the system. It held the spirits of Saladeen, Nurada Aladeen, Baibars Zenge, and Killick Orslan.
The Crusader Temple was the first structure the Dark Crusaders built after they split with the Jedi Order and left Tython. It served as the living quarters and training center for the Dark Crusaders. It had a powerful radar system and communications center built into the basement level of the temple and had the ability to monitor Republic communications undetected.
Korriban Tombs was the name of a valley on Korriban that became the location of a set of tombs for influential Crusader Sultans. It overlooked a desert and a mountain range on the dark side imbued world; the Tombs were located near the Crusader Temple, separated by a small cave system. It housed the tombs of Saladeen, Nurada Aladeen, Baibars Zenge and Killick Orslan, which were said to contain the spirits of their respective occupants.
Ziost was a planet discovered and settled by Nurada Aladeen. It became the second system controlled and settled by the Dark Crusaders. Ziost was a world made up entirely of an ancient dark forest. However, the trees withered away and the planet became very similar (in landscape) to Korriban. It was a focal point of the dark side, which, coincidently, was said to have destroyed the forests of the system. The system would remain a dark side domain and fortress world of the Sith for many millennia.
Malachor V was an Outer Rim planet located in the Malachor system. It was the third established world of the Crusaders and the homeplanet of Baibars Zenge. Prior to the final battle of the Mandalorian Wars, the planet was fertile and hospitable. During the battle, the Crusader's brought in a new weapon of mass destruction, the Benzene Ring, also known as Saladeen's Ring, named after the founding member of the Dark Crusader cult, that gathered massive amounts of energy before unleashing it through the cannons located around the ring. After unleashing it on Malachor, the planet became a cracked and twisted wasteland covered with jagged cliffs and plagued by constant lightning storms after the attack, forcing the Crusaders to abandon it after the war.
The Crusader temple was actually on Dxun, Onderon's moon. The natural dark side energy and savage native species protected the Crusaders from detection by the Republic. It was a minor settlement for the Crusaders, akin to a Jedi academy. The temple ended up helping with the Crusader's resurgence as Killick Orslan spent many of his exiled years there training his apprentice.
Byss itself was somewhat of a myth, seeming to be the perfect place to live. Its eerie blue-green glow, caused by its sun, also added to the strangeness of the world. Despite this outward appearance, however, Killick Orslan's dark side energies were everywhere as he chose this system for his exile and to train his apprentice. Jedi believed his aura corrupted not only the inhabitants but the planet itself.
In 3,997 BBY, the fallen Jedi Exar Kun went to Yavin IV on the advice of the dark side spirit of Saladeen. There he discovered the Massassi people, and, as the new Sultan of the Crusaders, he enslaved the Massassi and took over Yavin IV. He created vicious Sithspawn including the battle hydras, terentateks, and the Night Beast.
Later, Kun allied himself with the Krath, another group of dark-siders based in the Empress Teta system under the leadership of Aleema Keto and another fallen Jedi, Ulic Qel-Droma. He then went to the Jedi world of Ossus and returned to Yavin IV having recruited twenty Jedi to his cause. The Crusaders built a monument on Yavin in honor of Kun for discovering the system and for achieving a major victory over the Jedi. In 3,996 BBY, Exar Kun and his Krath and Mandalorian allies waged war on the Republic and the Jedi. The Jedi eventually prevailed and gathered their forces for an assault on Yavin, the orbiting fleet launching a wall of light side power which bombarded the jungle moon. Kun, however, gathered his Massassi followers into the Great Monument and drained their life energies in order to free his spirit from his body and invest it into the surrounding structures where he would remain for millennia.
Yavin IV monument
During Exar Kun's lifetime, a monument was built as tribute to him as the Crusaders felt he had become an important figure in their history when he destroyed the Jedi Temple on Ossus and when he discovered Yavin IV. The monument was surrounded by dark energy and the hidden corridors that were rumored to lead to Exar's body were blocked off by overgrown jungle. It was also rumored that Exar Kun's spirit was trapped within the monument.
Behind the scenes
The Dark Crusaders was a dark side organization conceived to be a precursor to the Sith and to help flesh out the schism between the Jedi and the dark siders. I'm the Chosen One created the Crusaders for his Epic of the Star Wars Saga. All of the notable members of the Dark Crusaders are named after the leaders of the opposition to the Christian Crusades on the Holy Land of Palestine/Israel. This, like the Jedi Order, has its roots in the Crusades.