The Imperial Warlords: Despoilers of an Empire, Part 3

Did the Rebels truly defeat Palpatine’s Empire at the Battle of Endor? The deep roots of the Star Wars mythos continue exploring that subject with tremendous zeal. In the literature of the galaxy far, far away, the conflict between the Alliance to Restore the Republic and the crumbling Empire has played out in a multitude of wars for years beyond Return of the Jedi. Though the Galactic Civil War finally came to an end with the signing of a peace treaty almost two decades after the desolation of the second Death Star, this no-holds-barred primer profiles the most memorable and powerful Imperial renegades of those intervening years, the so-called “Warlords,” who fought valiantly, viciously and fanatically for the scraps of the once-glorious First Galactic Empire and whose selfishness ultimately brought about its self-destruction. (In case you missed them, you can also read part one and part two in the series.)

The Nihilism and Artistry of Lord Shadowspawn (~0.3-11 Years After Endor)

Lord Shadowspawn

Who, or what, is Lord Shadowspawn? The answer to that is a riddle wrapped in a Lodi mystery inside a Rakata mind trap.

The simplest answer is that he was not one man, but many. NewsNet reporter Andor Javin of TriNebulon News, known for its flagrant sensationalism, had identified him as the Arkanian genetics master K’am’ir Zaarin in league with a warrior army of clones…including one of the dead Grand Moff Tarkin. Ironically, this outlandish tabloidism was not so far from the truth. In reality, Shadowspawn was both a persona of the dark side adept Lord Cronal — playing on his Imperial codename of “Blackhole” — and the designation he applied to the Force-sensitive generals he used as his decoys and mind-controlled puppets, a.k.a. Lord Shadow’s Pawns.

Lord Cronal’s path to enigmatic Imperial warlord exceeded a Tlönian labyrinth in its perplexity. Ripped from his mother’s chest shortly after his birth—Cronal suspected her a Dathomiri witch — the centuried sorcerer reached adulthood among the frightening warlocks of the planet Rhand in the Unknown Regions, committed to a philosophy idealizing impermanence (and therefore ultimately worshiping destruction) known as the Way of the Dark. In the spirit of Karnak the Maleficent and the pureblooded Sith of Tund, the Rhandites’ unique perspective gave these Force-sensitives access to inordinate capabilities, such as Exceptional Senectitude and the Darkshear — described as a piercing metaphysical spear of midnight black. But of these abilities, the most cherished was Darksight: the capacity to foresee viable futures and beget the fate one most favored among them—so long as it aligned with maximum annihilation.

A master of Darksight, Cronal prided himself on his view of the universe, transcending the dualistic classification of the Force into light and dark sides…though whether this entropic philosophy was an expression or the cause of his general obsession with data and information theory is difficult to say. All the same, it was this insatiable craving for knowledge, past and prospective, that led him to the enclave of the Prophets of the Dark Side, a group of Sith heretics with incomparable gifts of divination. Cronal spent many years with them on Dromund Kaas, perfecting his aptitude for Darksight and passing it on to the raven-haired Nightsister and prophetess Merili, whom he considered his greatest pupil. Inculcated by Cronal with such mania, Merili amalgamated this skill with learnings in Aing-Tii flow-walking, Dathomirian Heartshadow and her own dark side deconstructions of spacetime — superseding her guru’s own proficiency notwithstanding her being driven supertemporally insane. Cronal spared his own daughter, Sariss, this horror of the mind only to scar her far more deeply. Born of his tryst with a fellow Prophetess, Cronal shamefully deemed his offspring’s existence a tribute to creation and hence a transgression against the nihilism of the Dark. Thus he disavowed his daughter in the most heinous way possible: allowing not only the other Prophets of the Dark Side to freely engage her in congress but partaking in this revulsion himself. All the better to venerate the Way of the Dark.

Lord Cronal

Lord Cronal utilized a special apparatus called a distorter to remain anonymous behind his fabricated personality of “Blackhole.”

Sometime before the Clone Wars, Darth Sidious rediscovered this Sith splinter group, securing its service. In due course, as Cronal clashed with the ex-Jedi Kadann for the title of Supreme Prophet, the Dark Lord summoned the Rhandite to work for him directly. Cronal became Palpatine’s “monster maker” and chief dark side adept exploring the “Science of Darkness” in the tradition of Darth Plagueis. As an Emperor’s Hand, he used his sorcery to create Sithspawn — alchemically mutated beings — and to refine the machine-manipulating Sith technique mechu-deru to infuse thaissen crystal-based Force Detectors with the ability to ascertain a subject’s Force-sensitivity and light or dark side affinity.

Cronal, however, saw these technological tricks, transmogrifications and philosophical reductionisms as annoyances to be tolerated while he fulfilled the will of the Dark. His chance came when the Director of Imperial Intelligence was executed by his own protégé and daughter Ysanne Isard. Palpatine subsequently installed Cronal as the interim director, giving him the infamous codename “Blackhole.” With the Empire’s immense intelligence network under his control, all the galaxy’s knowledge was at the mage’s emaciated fingertips, now free to travel in his own stygian-triprismatic camouflaged Star Destroyer Singularity searching for Force artifacts, guided by his Darksight. Even once Isard officially took over Imperial Intelligence, Cronal never relinquished his newly acquired mandate or surveillance powers, assuming an equivalent role overseeing the Imperial Security Bureau as part of the Emperor’s shadow government: a dark side theocracy named the Dark Empire intended to inevitably supplant the First Galactic Empire. Maintaining his anonymity, Cronal utilized the HoloNet to project his menacing identity of “Blackhole” — a wraith-like holographic phantom—across the cosmos, terrorizing civilians and Imperial officers alike.

Then came his fateful encounter with Luke Skywalker.

Cronal always knew his primary obstacle to achieving prepotency, besides the Emperor, was Palpatine’s lapdog Darth Vader. Therefore, to obtain leverage on Vader, Cronal had his shadowtroopers kidnap Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia during their mission to contact President Natala Vanden of Vorzyd V — for his visions and gnostic algorithms had exposed to him the secret of the Skywalker genealogy. In his holographic guise as Blackhole, Cronal tortured the Rebels, but they escaped, and Skywalker vowed to call the Rhandite to reckoning.

With the help of his Blackhole Stormtroopers, Cronal kidnapped and tortured Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia.

With the help of his Blackhole Stormtroopers, Cronal kidnapped and tortured Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, awakening in the mage the idea to transfer his essence into either of their youthful, Force-strong bodies.

Not only was Cronal impressed by the siblings’ puissant wills, he perceived Skywalker as an innate agent of the Dark by very virtue of his prodigious destruction of the Death Star. Thus, he began conspiring to transfer his consciousness from his increasingly withering body into one of these robust Force receptacles. Part of that plot involved his agreement with Grand Vizier Sate Pestage to set up an Imperial-sanctioned religion, the Church of the Dark Side, upon Palpatine’s demise at Endor. Cronal saw this venture as a means of drawing attention away from his own plans and a satisfying mockery of the traitorous Kadann and his Prophets. Soon after, however, Cronal disappeared.

And that’s when macabre tales of the unknown Lord Shadowspawn’s raids, and the thousands of civilian lives they claimed, began pouring in. Tracking advanced TIE Defender starfighters to the Imperial warlord’s Shadow Realm on the planet Mindor, the New Republic launched its Rapid Response Task Force led by General Skywalker, who realized Shadowspawn was his old nemesis Blackhole. Though the Jedi successfully defeated Cronal’s Pawns and shadowtroopers, the sorcerer nearly succeeded in transplanting his essence into Skywalker’s body and then his sister’s. In the end, though, the wizened Rhandite’s gambit backfired and, as he fled Mindor in hyperspace, Skywalker turned Cronal’s own black arts against him, seemingly decohering the warlord to his fundamental atoms through the Force—all despite never even having truly seen his enemy face to face.

Yet, almost unimaginably, that was not the end of Cronal, though what happened next is not clear.

Most likely is the possibility that the mystic’s spirit was summoned back from Chaos by necromancing Dathomiri shamans, or even his former co-conspirator Sate Pestage. Even more portentously, however, the warlock potentially negated his own oblivion by reaching out with his infinite dying thought and every last gram of his olamic cowardice to cross the ineffable threshold from hyperspace to Otherspace: an aberrant dimension where he accessed a perverted dynamism denominated the anti-Force. In any case, Cronal lived … albeit at tremendous cost. His body, save for his head and neck, was completely cybernetically reconstituted via mechu-deru — much as Nightsisters regenerated the bisected body of Darth Maul — while his mind itself was all but shattered from transcendental combat with Skywalker.

Much like his offspring, Cronal’s very persistence in existing now became a criminal iniquity against the Dark itself. Forsaken by his faith, the profligate father thus sought out his daughter to beg her forgiveness for his unforgivable abuses … finding her, at last, a worm-eaten corpse on the planet Ruusan, apparently cut down in a lightsaber duel.

In that eternal instant of guilt and heartbreak, the deranged Rhandite lost all grip on reality and his philosophy of entropy. Wholly embracing mechu-deru and his cold corporal circuitry, he began blending technology with Sith alchemy to therapeutically sow creation from the seed of destruction: what he baptized his Stygian Art. He experimented first by “resculpting” the natives, fauna and flora of the lush, Force-steeped planet Trailia. He spent many years performing these permutational experiments, but eventually abandoned the world, accompanied by the finest of his Trailian technobeasts, in favor of the bowels of Coruscant. There he conducted the transformation of the Force-sensitive miscreant Irek Ismaren into a colossal cyborg, intending to forge a runic masterpiece. But the subject proved unstable and, sacrificing his teratogenic Trailian squires, Cronal barely survived the titan’s rampage, hammering a lightsaber through Ismaren’s mind.

Fleeing, the sorcerer set up in an abandoned droid depot on the industrial world Andooweel, reinventing himself as the cyber-artist Perek — said to be his pre-Rhandite birthname. The place would prove to be his grave. While in thrall to the reborn Emperor, Skywalker’s mechanical right hand had been replaced by one polluted with mechu-deru, and this alchemically-altered appendage drew the Jedi instinctively to Andooweel and into a final confrontation with Cronal. The mage used technobeast nanodroids to infect the circuitry of Skywalker’s hand and precipitate a monstrous metamorphosis into a totemic ativism of the Force — his most magnificent creation! — for Cronal to possess.

The craftsman Perek

The craftsman “Perek”: the final cybered manifestation of Lord Cronal, completely given over to mechu-deru.

Yet, it was all in vain for, in his madness, Lord Cronal had already foreseen his final fate. Almost taking on a life of its own, Skywalker’s grotesque hand wrapped itself around sorcerer’s neck and strangled every last drop of life out of him, even as the Jedi hacked off his own malevolent limb with a lightsaber. And at last, the decrepit man who was a plenitude of men—warlock, intelligencer, warlord, scientist, artist—had become…nothing.

The Delusions of Grandeur of Admiral Gaen Drommel (~0-12 Years After Endor)

Gaen Drommel 1

Lowly petty officers on the Guardian liked to remind themselves of an old Imperial truism: There’s something small about a man who needs a Super Star Destroyer to feel big.

Admiral Gaen Drommel certainly thought of himself as a giant among Patitites and not without some justification. Not only was he counted among the few endowed with stewardship of one of the Emperor’s handful of 19,000-meter-long Executor-class Star Dreadnoughts — bestowed after Drommel’s timely decimation of Rebel bases on Aargonar 3, Randa and the Valsedian asteroid belt—but he also commanded a group of three Imperial Star Destroyers and a throng of supporting attack vessels. When Drommel began sporting a custom-made black Imperial uniform, complete with a cape and Tusk-cat riding whip, some thought the prestigious appointment had gone to his head. Others, such as his executive officer Gastos Niovi, confirmed these delusions of grandeur first hand, as when he was ordered to personally pick up the fine Oplovis linens from Drommel’s homeworld for the admiral’s new personal quarters.

For all that, Drommel was without question a brilliant if cruel man, earning equal parts respect — at least, early on — and fear from his crew. He spent much of his free time reading works of classic literature, particularly Lyechusas’ celebrated plays of Xim the Despot and the Oplovian love poems of Sumi Zanthe. Modern masterpieces such as Tarkin’s “Doctrine of Fear” and Palpatine’s political treatise The Paths to Power also ranked highly on Drommel’s reading list. But the admiral considered himself superior to all these thinkers. After all, in the end, the measure of a man’s ideas was their practical benefit — and Tarkin and Palpatine were, in the end, very dead.

This logic served Drommel’s psyche well. After Endor, he abandoned his Imperial masters and started his own campaign against the New Republic. Headquartered around his home system, he gained allies and momentum in a string of easy victories (most called them massacres) against defenseless Alliance safeworlds. But disinformation lured Drommel into the Tantive system where the Guardian was routed by New Republic forces in conjunction with the opportunistic warlord Admiral Krennel. The Guardian limped to the Soullex system where, sans hyperdrive, Drommel rotted for a dozen years, becoming increasingly delusional. He watched impotently as Zsinj, Thrawn, the reborn Emperor and Admirals Daala and Pellaeon all launched massive campaigns against the New Republic. Drommel was comforted by their failures—particularly since no one bothered to contact him—and nurtured his ego by torturing and executing his subordinates for the slightest infractions of military protocol.

Gaen Drommel 2

While Gaen Drommel raises his tusk-cat whip in triumph, Colonel Niovi looks on with a mixture of hope and detestation as the repaired Guardian hurtles once again through hyperspace.

Drommel’s glorious moment seemed at hand when, after more than a decade of cautiously assembling hyperdrive components, the Guardian was finally hyperspace capable again. But in a cruel twist of fate, Drommel successfully test jumped the behemoth battleship into the waiting arms of a New Republic armada. The livid admiral opted for a fight to the last man rather than capitulation, but Drommel’s second-in-command Colonel Niovi, fueled by years of odium and aggravation, took the admiral’s own Tusk-cat riding crop and choked him dead with it, surrendering to the New Republic on behalf of the Guardian’s weary crew.

Governor Foga Brill and the Agonies of the Afterlife (0-14 Years After Endor)

Darth Andeddu
Foga Brill may have been the most miserable man in the galaxy. But he was never happier than when he found a sanctified reason for making everyone else suffer as much as humanly possible.

Brill was a Director of Investigation for the Republic Judicial Department disgusted with his tired job pursuing petty criminals at the time Palpatine declared his First Galactic Empire. As such, Brill welcomed the change, hoping something better for him might come along. What Brill didn’t realize was that Palpatine’s new regime was only a prelude to the Emperor’s true vision: the institution of an unholy Dark Empire.

In fact, things didn’t change much for Brill. He took a stab at politics, becoming a mediocre local senator in the planetary congress of his overcrowded homeworld Taris—and by the end of his term, he felt about ready to exit life’s airlock mid-hyperspace jump. But that’s when he started hearing the whispers about the Emperor’s private retreat on Byss. They were alluring stories of a paradisiacal planet, some said in the Deep Galactic Core, with sublime, breathtaking vistas, rejuvenating waters and ambrosial airs reputed to expand life spans by dozens of years — a place of perpetual bliss. Calling in every favor and pulling every string, particularly with his fellow Tarisian native Admiral Peccati Syn, Brill did everything to lockdown a governorship in the enchanted Deep Core.

What he got was the infernal world of Prakith.

Far from being paradise, if a hell existed, this was it. Prakith was a Deep Core fortress world shaped by volcanism, overrun by deadly jagged terrain and treacherous seas, and wracked by paranoia. The latter was chiefly due to quartering the dreaded Citadel Inquisitorius, home to Imperial torturers and Jedi hunters. Brill never even realized that these Inquisitors were feeding their putrilaginous spirits by leeching the life energies out of the populace, rendering Brill loathsomer and loathsomer.

Prakith was home to the Imperial Inquisitorius

Prakith was home to the Imperial Inquisitorius as well as Darth Andeddu, a mummified Sith Lord that claimed the title of Sith’ari (or Immortal God-King) of Prakith.

Still, he tried making the most of his new gubernatorial position, ingratiating himself with the darksiders by lavishing fawning praise on their mutilative techniques as well as becoming the confidant of Admiral Malfkla Yzu of the 15th Deep Core Reserve Fleet. Even so, his true solace came in the form of his closeted adoption of the fatalist creed of Maryx Minor’s Ancient Order of Pessimists along with the stimulating theological debates he engaged in with his religious colleague Syn, whose military achievements and vitality he admired. It wasn’t long, however, before he witnessed yet another political revolution: this time as the Rebel Alliance burst the Empire’s Death Stars and murdered Palpatine. Of course, as a devotee of Pessimistic dogmata, Brill had already known the worst was fated to happen.

In the aftermath, Yzu declared himself a warlord and awarded Brill the title of moff. Meanwhile, Grand Admiral Syn came calling on Brill with extraordinary news. The dead Emperor’s steward, Sate Pestage, had sanctioned an exciting, new Imperial religion: the Church of the Dark Side. Trusting in Syn’s keen judgment, Brill converted to the innovative faith, coming to possess the belief that all beings suffered relentlessly in an afterlife alluded to as Chaos, and that the Emperor was prophesied to defy death. Faced with this prospect of eternal torment, the moff suddenly stopped contemplating suicide — mourning for Syn when his old friend was unceremoniously delivered unto Chaos in a New Republic attack.

It was at that point that the neophyte Brill, having spent so much time around the Inquisitors’ diabolical cruciations, took a doctrinal leap. If all beings suffered in the afterlife, Brill concluded that he could appease the netherworld’s demons and lessen his own suffering by tormenting the living! The epiphany ushered in a reign of absolute terror. Brill’s jackbooted Red Police, intoxicated with their orders and authority, began rousting Prakith citizens in the dead of night and commanding them to dig their own graves before their summary executions. Others endured the horrors of Brill’s torture chambers, where victims were forced to engage in cannibalism. Indeed, Brill felt his actions were justified when, spectacularly, Palpatine did rise from the dead — after all, Darth Sidious had manufactured the faux religion predicting it — and the besotted moff joined his Dark Empire with demented glee. When the reincarnated Emperor soon returned to dust, Brill only became more committed to his bloodthirsty depravity, more panic-stricken than ever in his fear of the hereafter.

Brill cultivated influence under Yzu’s political lackey based around Odik, Grand Moff Cinzero Gann, until Yzu fell dead, victim of Admiral Daala’s mass murder of the region’s ranking warlords. In the power vacuum, Brill shrewdly promoted Gann as a figurehead ruler to succeed Yzu, established the Constitutional Protectorate of Prakith and gave himself the title “His Glory,” earning a sick notoriety in the next ten years. He and the other second-rate “replacement warlords” of the Deep Core soon enough banded together under Daala’s leadership, and during this time General Lando Calrissian — his rank reactivated by the New Republic—ran afoul of Brill’s deep patrols. Though he managed to escape, Calrissian’s outrage at Brill’s tyrannical lunacy eventually blossomed into a final mission of his famed irregulars, Lando’s Commandos…this time including a fleet of starship-sized droids called Silentium. The people of Prakith broke out in tearful celebrations when His Glory was enticed into a trap by these guerillas, disguised as the governor’s loyal officers. The vile despot was thusly dissolved by pinpoint orbital neutron dissembler ray, expediting Brill’s reunion with his Sith messiah in the everlasting agony of Chaos and establishing a global holiday.

Special thanks to Mark Hudson

Abel G. Peña is the author of dozens of Star Wars fiction and nonfiction articles for Star Wars Insider, Star Wars Gamer, Star Wars Fact Files and StarWars.com, a co-author of Vader: The Ultimate Guide and Knights of the Old Republic Campaign Guide, and a translator of rare and forgotten Star Wars comics. Abel’s work has also appeared in the anthology Italy From a Backpack, Dungeon/Polyhedron and the Wizards of the Coast official website. Abel can be found at abelgpena.com, Facebook and Twitter.

Daniel Wallace is the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: The New Essential Guide to Characters, as well as many more books that explore the underpinnings of the Star Wars universe including The Jedi Path: A Manual for Students of the Force and Book of Sith: Secrets of the Dark Side. He has written for other universes, too, including Indiana Jones, Smallville, Supernatural, DC Comics and Marvel Comics.

Sources

The Black Fleet Crisis

Byss and the Deep Core

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Dark Empire Sourcebook

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Darksaber

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Wanted by Cracken

Who’s Who: Imperial Grand Admirals

X-Wing: Isard’s Revenge

X-Wing: Mercy Kill

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X-Wing: Solo Command

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