Knights of the Old Republic: Dark Covenant is a fan fiction novel written by user Jedi Master 76. Dark Covenant was a standalone novel not included in the original series, and the fourth novel to be released. The narrative was developed and written over the course of 2012 and finished and released in winter of that year.
Dark Covenant is a prequel story in the Days of Dissidence Series, forgoing the familiar characters of the previous novels in favor of establishing backstory and events of chronological significance. The protagonist, Malfon, is a character who appears only in this novel, and yet he meets several characters, including Northeus Ulsan and the bounty hunter Gheas, who go on to play roles in the Days of Dissidence series proper. Characters who play an important part in the Knights of the Old Republic metaseries, such as Kreia and Vima Sunrider, feature as well. For the majority of the novel, Malfon's growth and responsibilities as a Jedi Knight after the Great Sith War are explored.
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In order of appearance and/or mentioning.
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Order of the Sith Lords
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More than forty years before the events of Knights of the Old Republic and Convict's Dawn, Iridorian raiders are active in worlds beyond the Republic's frontier. The settlement they choose to attack is a simple farming colony, not even a member of the Galactic Republic, and easily falls to the roving marauders. A very young boy is the only survivor, and he only survives because of the sudden arrival of a team of Jedi Knights. Confused and saddened by the loss of his parents, the boy is convinced by the Jedi to go with them to Coruscant due to his Force-sensitivity. There, he is inducted into the Order and christened Malfon.
He advances through the rank of learner and becomes a Jedi Padawan. He has a less-than-friendly rivalry with other young pupils, including Elbrook and his groupies. His master, Rell Hernaster, is stern but fair, and he yearns for Malfon to become stronger so he is not easily mocked and beaten. While studying in the vast Jedi library on Coruscant, Malfon develops a friendship with another young Jedi, Northeus Ulsan, who is even more reserved and bookish than he is. They begin to spar together on a regular basis so they both improve.
Rell and Malfon go on their first mission together, helping Coruscant Security track down a murderer in the lower levels of Coruscant. They approach the prime suspect only to find themselves in a trap. While his master and the police are incapacitated, Malfon pursues the criminal. The insectoid proves too crafty for the young Jedi, and he uses a hallucinogenic spice to confuse Malfon while he escapes. The criminal is only stopped by the sudden arrival of Grandmaster Nomi Sunrider. Rell and Malfon are returned to the Jedi Sanctum for care and the police are revived at the nearest hospice.
After the mission, Malfon is determined to protect his mind from any further intrusions. He asks North to help him study. During these studies, Elbrook and his companions taunt them both and Northeus challenges them for Malfon's sake. Although the duo try their best against Elbrook and the others, they are easily bested. Raystin and Dandek Benax, brothers from Taris, watch them lose and decide to fight in their place. Although Dandek is not a Jedi and Raystin is only a Padawan, they both easily best Elbrook and his two friends. With the battle resolved, Raystin introduces Malfon and North to other young Jedi who arrived from Dantooine, including Lythi'arane, Olnara, and Harada. The new arrivals quickly prove themselves to the local Jedi, and Malfon spends more of his time studying in the library and practicing his skills of persuasion and control on non-sentient beings.
About halfway through his training, the Jedi Padawans are called together to create their own lightsabers. Raystin and Elbrook prove themselves skillful and finish quickly. Malfon struggles at first but eventually suceeds in creating a weapon of his own. Malfon and North become good friends with the other Jedi from Dantooine, and Raystin and Malfon get along particularly well. His relationship with his master, Rell, also improves, and student and teacher understand each other better after Rell explains more about his family and his past. In a lightsaber competition and training exercise, Malfon earns the approval of his master, although he again loses to Elbrook in one of the later matches. Raystin emerges victorious, with Elbrook as the runner-up.
The very next day, he is awakened and shipped off with his master to deal with a hostage situation in the Colonies. They are joined by Raystin and his own teacher, the Grandmaster herself. The four of them make it onto the captured ship safely, but they are immediately separated. Rell and Malfon go to the bridge, Grandmaster Sunrider heads for the main security room, and Raystin to the barracks. Their trek goes well, but an ambush at an intersection forces Rell to save Malfon at the cost of his own life. Wishing his student well, a dying Rell gives his pupil his lightsaber and dies in his arms. He presses on despite his grief, and he arrives at the bridge alone. He tries to bargain with the captors and even discards his weapon, realizing to late they intend to capture him as well. Raystin temporarily disables the lights on the bridge and gives the last captive, Duchess Junara Astal, a chance to use her close-combat skills and Force power to deal with the pirates. However, instead of taking the credit for herself, she plays up Malfon's role in the battle and vows to marry him to escape an arranged marriage that had been planned for her on Alderaan. Her retinue is furious, but neither they nor the other Jedi can do anything about it.
Shorty after their rescue mission, Raystin is promoted to Jedi Knight. Malfon also receives a new master in the form of Avaran Whell, a truly ancient Jedi who speaks cryptically and is far colder than Rell was. Not long after his first practice duel with Malfon, Olnara, Harada, and Lythi are sent away from Coruscant, much to the disappointment of Malfon and North.
About ten years pass after their departure. A young man, Malfon becomes more assured and skilled, an able Jedi learner despite Avaran's constant disapproval. The pair undertake a mission on the frontier where Iridorians attack a settlement not unlike the one Malfon had lived in as an infant. He tries to save as many of the locals as he can, forgoing his personal safety in the process. Although his master disproves of his efforts and he finds himself confined to a hoverchair, the Jedi Council approves of his actions and praise him for his heroism. Temporarily handicapped, he competes in games of strategy with North and Raystin and learns from the enigmatic Jedi Master Kreia. Elbrook meets with him, far more cordial now than he was in his youth, and invites Malfon to join him on a mission. When Avaran learns of this, he takes his pupil to the Jedi Watchcircle Dominus, where he has assembled a group of Jedi loyal only to him. Together, these Jedi heal his wounds. Their actions and his master secret agenda give Malfon much to think about.
Some weeks later, their old friends return from afar. Lythi and Harada are both Jedi Knights, although Olnara, North, and Malfon remain Padawans. They discuss recent happenings, including the disappearance of Grandmaster Sunrider and her daughter, Vima, before North departs for a mission and Raystin invites Malfon on one of his own. Malfon takes charge of the first part of the mission, interrogating a Bothan senator who appears to have hired an assassin to kill a Jedi. When he ends up being less than helpful, Malfon uses a mind trick to convince him to confess. When he returns, he and Raystin follow their new lead to the assassin's hideout. Malfon follows and puts up a good fight, but the assassin is a professional Jedi killer and nearly executes Malfon before Raystin arrives and saves him. With the mission completed, his master convinces the Jedi Council to grant Malfon the status of Jedi Knight.
He and another Jedi Knight travel to Corbos not long after, searching for a team of missing Republic agents. The mission turns south almost immediately, and they are assailed and defeated by Mandalorians who had been hiding near the planet. Malfon is captured and brought before Avaran Whell, who has been using Corbos as his base of operations for many centuries. In fact, he is an ancient Sith warrior, hiding in plain sight among the Jedi and using his status as a Jedi Master to draw trainees to the dark side. Malfon is hesitant to believe him at first, but he eventually proves the depths of his wickedness. Malfon feigns allegiance to his former master, hoping to use his time and proximity to him to find a way to defeat him.
Avaran takes him to Korriban, where he introduces him to other Dark Jedi who serve as executors of his will. There he meets Fasin, an assistant lorekeeper, who promises to help Malfon in his trials if Malfon helps him overthrow the current loremaster. Though he is suspicious of the Sith learner, Malfon agrees to a temporary alliance. He manages to kill one of Avaran's executors almost immediately, and he manages to deal with several more through guile and treachery. Fasin keeps up his end of the bargain and poisons the loremaster, eliminating another adversary. Only after these successes does Avaran call Malfon to his chambers and reveals that he knew what the young Jedi Knight was up to all along. In exchange for the deaths of his executors, Avaran sends Mandalorians to eliminate the ship Lythi was stationed on, killing her and many Republic crewers. Stunned at Avaran's ferocity, Malfon does not fight back and merely follows him back to Coruscant for his deceased friend's funeral.
Lythi's sudden death causes a stir amongst the Jedi Order. Neither Raystin nor North react to her death well and cause a scene at the funeral and in the library, respectively. He occasionally trades messages with Junara, whose interest in him was apparent not merely a means to an end. He alternates between staying on Coruscant and Korriban. The more Malfon trains with Avaran, the further he wanders from the Jedi way and the more he embraces the dark side of the Force. After several months, he surpasses Fasin's expectations. During his time on Korriban, he is introduced to Doctors Bancho and DeLarane, scientists in Avaran's employ, who help him create Force-sensitive clones. Malfon is both alarmed and intrigued to learn about this clone army Avaran has created and intends to use it for himself.
Using one of the awakened clones, whom he names Aurek, Malfon kills the penultimate executor (aside from himself) and fools the Jedi Covenant into attacking one of Avaran's Sith allies. Of course, Avaran realizes what Malfon is doing and tries to kill him with his last loyal executor and many Dark Jedi. Malfon surpasses them all and confronts Avaran. The ancient Sith stays his hand by convincing him that they are linked together through the Force because of how Avaran manipulated Malfon's birth. Concerned for his own life, Malfon stays his hand. To punish his upstart pupil, Avaran sends Harada—who was assigned to the same unit as Watchcircle Dominus—to his death.
He returns to Coruscant at Avaran's behest to pick up something important for his master. After he receives the package from the mercenary Gheas, Olnara arrives on the scene and tries to defeat them both. She does not recognize him in his disguise. Though Malfon has the upper hand, he hesitates and gives Olnara a chance to defeat him. Aurek guns down Olnara just before she kills Malfon, enraging him and nearly causing him to kill the loyal clone. He stays his hand and the pair go to Ulda Frav, where Malfon believes Avaran has a facility of some importance.
When Malfon arrives, he leaves Aurek with the ship and searches for Avaran's base. Still weak from his battle with Olnara, he is captured by Iridorian slavers and forced to fight a terentatek. He would have died if not for Avaran's sudden betrayal; the Sith Master sends Mandalorians to deal with Malfon and the Iridorians both. Malfon manages to fight his way out of the complex and defeat the terentatek, but his victory results in the death of Aurek. He greatly regrets how he scolded the clone earlier and tries to keep him alive, but he has become so caught up in the dark side that he fails. Barely alive, Malfon leaves the complex just in time to meet Elbrook and the others, who were sent to investigate and deal with the Iridorian base for the Jedi Order. They realize that Malfon is a Dark Jedi and nearly succeed in subduing him. Junara arrives—having been called to help Malfon by Avaran— and defeats the trio with Malfon's assistance.
At last, Malfon decides that he is strong enough to deal with Avaran Whell. He urges Fasin to take all of his knowledge and flee to Alderaan, where they will establish a base of operations. He and the doctors use the many clones on Korriban to eliminate their remaining enemies, and then Malfon orders them to follow Fasin to safety. He alone pursues Avaran into the Japrael system. He enters the old Sith's ship and tries to kill him, but he still isn't strong enough. Avaran would have seized the younger man's body for his own if not for the arrival of Raystin Benax. Knowing that Raystin would kill them both, Malfon confronts his old friend and his apprentice. Their duel is terrible and even though Malfon has completely embraced the dark side, he is still not match for Raystin. When his erstwhile companion shows him mercy, Malfon uses his terrible powers of mind control and shatters Raystin's will. He sends Raystin to kill Avaran while he flees the ship. The resulting explosion, caused by devices Malfon's allies had placed, kills both Avaran and Raystin. Malfon is weakened by his master's death, but he is not killed.
With the last of his Jedi companions—except Northeus—and all of his Sith adversaries defeated, Malfon assumes the identity of Raystin Benax. He arrives on Alderaan and meets with Fasin and a street urchin named De'dlay who the old Cathar believes has potential to be a powerful Sith. Malfon-now-Raystin takes on the moniker of Preux and becomes the Sith Master of Alderaan. From the day of his arrival to his marriage with Junara to the birth of his sons, everything in his life becomes part of his plan for the conquest of Alderaan and the primacy of the Sith.
Behind the scenes
Dark Covenant was not one of the books in the initial release schedule of the Days of Dissidence series. The idea for a prequel story came about after Jedi Master 76 expanded upon the backstory of the series in both Convict's Dawn and Hands of Evening and took interest in the character of Preux, Raen and Jaeln's father. The title of the story, which was originally going to be released after the chronologically final book, Jedi Mourning, was Jedi from Axar. Axar would have been a non-canon planet where Malfon would have been born and raised before ultimately being attacked by the Iridorian raiders. The working title was changed to better fit the running theme of titles in the series and given the name Dark Covenant when the author decided to write and release it before Jedi Mourning.
The story of Dark Covenant is essentially a character study of Malfon. His transition from Jedi Knight to fallen hero and eventually Master of the Sith was meant to be a villian's counterpart to the well-known Hero's Journey. While Malfon is growing as a Jedi Knight and becoming a villain, other characters like Raystin Benax, Northeus Ulsan, and Celsus Djan participate in missions of their own and grow in the background; while there is never a focus on any of them, their experiences and actions in this novel shape them into the characters they eventually become in the Jedi Civil War.
Every major character in the novel, in some way or another, serves as a foil to Malfon, whether in his current incarnation or as Preux in the later novels. Raystin Benax, as a successful, prodigious, and otherwise exemplary Jedi Knight, serves as an image into the future; he is what Malfon would have become had he remained on the path of light. Northeus shares his bookishness, loyalty, and kind-heartedness with Malfon at the onset of the novel, but as Malfon slides further and further toward the darkness Northeus finds his personality at odds with Malfon's. Rell Hernaster's strict but fair method of tutelage and Avaran Whell's harsh, callous methods are both eventually mimicked by Malfon when he takes on the identity of Preux in Convict's Dawn and trains his own Sith pupils. However, there is another character who is nearly as similar, and that is Tserne DeLarane from the main novels. Like Malfon, Tserne does not have a name (that he knows). He shares the title of assassin with Tserne, and the two struggle to overcome their past. Junara, both in character and in relation to Malfon, is a foil to Dynatha, Tserne's love interest. It is tragically ironic that Malfon becomes responsible for making Tserne into what he is.
Raystin Benax is a complex character who, if time and space permitted, would have been explored in greater detail. On the surface, he appears to be the perfect Jedi Knight, the greatest of all his peers, and absolutely devoted to the Jedi way. This is how Malfon, and the audience, mostly sees him. However, there are hints throughout the novel, from his failed relationship with his brother to his attempted suicide at the beginning of the third act, which hint that the burden of his responsibilities and the deaths of his friends and allies have taken a great toll upon him. In the end, despite overpowering Malfon in lightsaber combat and a duel of the Force, he cannot resist Malfon's mind control because of his internalized pain; he cannot bear to keep Malfon out of his mind, and this ultimately leads to his death. It is these same terrible feelings of resentment and guilt that keep him bound to galaxy as a Force ghost, and he returns in Jedi Mourning to aid the heroes and make right his failings in Dark Covenant.
The author realized that Malfon and his friends were only involved in passing scenes together; aside from Raystin and Northeus, the other Jedi received some, but not ample, characterization. Jedi Master 76 intended to write a lengthy sequence involving the entire “Padawan pack” journeying to a war torn planet and helping the Republic loyalists. This subplot would have solidified the existing friendships, given the minor Jedi Padawans more characterization, and made their deaths more impactful as Avaran dealt with them. However, in the interest of pacing and space, this subplot was eventually cut.
Aside from the obvious foils for Malfon, other characters could also be compared. Fasin is the dark counterpart of Northeus, although he does not play the same role in the later novels. Aurek, as a clone who received his life from Raystin, is a sort of representation of his future children, Jaeln and Raen. Raystin and Avaran are foils of one another; this is made obvious in Jedi Mourning. Rell and Avaran are also foils of each other, as are Elbrook and the Spy and the Seductress and Junara.
Junara and Northeus both had segments of their own that were cut late in the writing process. Aside from more scenes with Junara to cement her relationship with Malfon, Junara was going to have a scene of her own where she was confronted by Avaran and tempted just as Malfon had been. Although she resists at first, he eventually convinces her to join his cause by using her concern for Malfon against her—he guides her to Malfon to ensure that he survives his last few trials. Although this is implied by the nature of her sudden appearance in the third act, it is purposefully left ambiguous. However, it is implied that the lineage of Junara's family and her birth itself—like Malfon's—were orchestrated by Avaran. Northeus's scene was a short subplot during the second act where he goes on the mission he describes to Lythi'arane before she dies. This scene would have spent time describing Northeus and his relationship with his master, his thoughts and feelings for Malfon and Lythi'arane, and would also have introduced Haphren Marhe's father, who is referenced in Binding, Reclusion. Both of these scenes were cut because, up until then, the novel had only focused on Malfon with only brief changes of point of view to other characters, and the author thought the transition would have been too jarring so late into the novel.
The story draws heavily from Star Wars canon, particularly the Knights of the Old Republic metaseries and the the novelization of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Inspirations for character and events have been drawn from the video games Fire Emblem, the Halo series, the Mass Effect series, as well as the films The Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones, and the Alien franchise. The title refers to the evil pact Malfon made with Avaran to become a Sith, and his subsequent actions that eventually lead to his demise. Angst, the nature of evil, and the question of identity are all prominent themes within the story.