A Star Wars tie-in book has finally explained just how a sith cult operated from the shadows during the sequel era. Know that back during 2015, Lucasfilm began the Aftermath Trilogy.
This series of novels explained and explored the time between Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The book successfully set up Palpatine’s return years before it was even a glimmer of an idea on the sets of The Rise of Skywalker.
These books also introduced the Acolytes, who were a mysterious Force cult. They seemed to be way more critical to the overall Star Wars franchise than they ultimately turned out to be. Nevertheless, this dark side cult thrived after the Endor Battle. Imperial loyalists like Yupe Tashu created the Acolytes of the Beyond. Yupe believed that the cult was serving Palpatine and preparing for his return.
Now, it’s important to note that the cult members weren’t Force-sensitive. But they were obsessed with collecting Sith artifacts. On missions, they put on ancient and traditional Sith masks drenched in the dark side powers of the Force. Now, these masks didn’t have Sith spirits like the Darth Momin mask, but they did boost the physical abilities of their wearer. Thus, making them bloodthirsty and aggressive. The Emperor himself narrates the Secrets of the Sith book. And also includes his thoughts on the Acolytes of the Beyond:
“Not all who worship the dark side are strong with the Force. Some are merely fanatics who understand that the dark side is the one true path to victory—even if it is a path they are not capable of walking themselves. One such group of adherents was the Acolytes of the Beyond. They believed that the Force is akin to a river and that the dark side is the only means of changing its currents. To alter the future in their favor, they devoted themselves to gathering Sith arcana, destroying the objects, and releasing the dark energies within as a sacrificial offering to the ancient Sith Lords. Later, the Acolytes wisely decided that these irreplaceable artifacts should be revered, not destroyed. Led by several extreme loyalists—including my former Imperial advisor, Yupe Tashu—the Acolytes relentlessly pursued Sith secrets, fueling their unwavering devotion to my cause.”
It’s easy to figure out the Acolytes of the Beyond played in the Emperor’s plans. After Endor, Palpatine initiated Operation Cinder. This was meant to be an act of retribution against the galaxy. This was a scorched-earth policy where the most loyal followers of the Emperor launched genocidal attacks on multiple planets.
This operation was meant to fulfill a purpose- of destroying the hidden bases of Palpatine and erasing all sorts of traces of his secret plans. The Acolytes too, must have served such a similar goal initially. Thus, allowing Palpatine to have the ancient Sith relics destroyed before Luke Skywalker could get them. It can only be presumed that the Emperor’s focus shifted when Luke built his own Jedi temple. He instead ordered the Acolytes of the Beyond to collect the Sith artifacts and give them to him.
Note that the book Secrets of the Sith is penned down shortly before Rey’s arrival on Exegol. This was a desert world in the Unknown Regions. Also, it was home to the Final Order. It should also be noted that Palpatine used past tense to describe this cult called Acolytes of the Beyond. This is because they were always meant to be tools that could be discarded when their purpose ended.
Count Dooku and Darth Maul certainly learned it the hard way in the Prequel Star Wars Trilogy. It can be assumed that Palpatine did the same to the Acolytes. Overall, for now, this Sequel-era dark side sith cult’s place in the franchise’s lore has been explained.
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