The High Republic is no longer in a time of peace. After the events of Charles Soule’s Light of the Jedi, the first adult book set in Lucasfilm’s new wave of Star Wars stories set some 200 years before the events of the movies, the galaxy is under attack by the marauders of the Nihil and suffering from the Great Hyperspace Disaster caused by their leader Marchion Ro.
Now Ro plans to attack the upcoming Republic Fair, but how? This exclusive from Cavan Scott’s The Rising Storm, the follow-up to Light of the Jedi, doesn’t fully answer this question, but it does reveal the answer is much, much more complicated than it seems. In it, Marchion Ro arrives at an unknown frozen planet for a very mysterious purpose…
Cold had never worried Udi Dis. He had never experienced it growing up, but that had been so long ago now, the tropics of Talor little more than a distant memory. There had been so many worlds since then, so many routes plotted and sold. His father would have been ashamed of the life his son had led, but what else was new. None of this stopped Dis’s breath catching as the Spider’s ramp thudded down on the dusty ground. The cold was intense even here in Rystan’s habitable band, but Dis couldn’t let it show. He wouldn’t. He strode down the ramp wearing a fur-lined cloak and mask to protect his eyes from the wind, the metal clattering beneath his clawed feet, ignoring the chill that sliced through his feathers like a vibroknife.
“There she is,” croaked a voice as Marchion Ro himself exited the craft. Dis dropped into a defensive position, his grip on his wingblades tightening, the curved weapons the only possession he still had from home. A bundle of furs was rushing toward them, leading a trio of large creatures that looked like escapees from a bio-splicer’s nightmare, a hideous mix that was part blurrg and part bantha. Not for the first time, Dis wished his affinity for the Force, the kinesthesia that allowed him to navigate the stars with such precision, extended to the Jedi’s fabled premonition, a sense of danger before it struck. For all he knew, those thick pelts hid a disintegrator or laser-flail.
He flinched as Ro’s hand settled on his shoulder.
“At ease, soldier. That’s our contact.”
Soldier. It had been a long time since Dis had been a soldier. It had been a long time since Dis had been anything. Long before he found the Nihil.
Ro strode past him, stepping off the ramp as the newcomer threw her arms wide.
“Marchion, Marchion, Marchion,” she wheezed with familial joy. “You have come back to us. Finally. You have returned to the Path.”
“Kufa,” Ro responded, but he made no attempt to return the embrace that the old woman so obviously desired. Instead she let her arms fall to her swaddled sides once more, content to grin at the man who had unleashed a reign of terror on the Outer Rim. “It is good to see you, Cousin.”
Another surprise. Was this crone, with her leathery skin and toothless smile, a relative of the Eye himself? Dis knew little about Ro’s past, save for the fact that he had inherited the title of Eye from his father, Asgar. Beyond that, no one knew much about Ro’s lineage, or even his species with their slate-grey skin and pitch-black eyes. And yet there was something in the face of this woman — with its strange tattoos so similar to lightning bolts of the Nihil — that was familiar, even if Ro looked like he could snap her like a barium reed.
“We have missed you,” the woman said, gazing up at the Eye. “When we received your message, the Elder barely believed it . . .” She trailed off, lifting a shaking finger to his mask. Ro allowed her to touch it, another first as far as Dis knew. “Although I would rather see your face. It’s been so long.”
Ro guided her hand back down, holding it warmly in his hands. “Later. When we are in the Shrine.”
That, at least, seemed to placate her for the time. “Yes. Yes, the Shrine. Although the temperature will be worse, not better.”
“I can well believe it.”
“But it will be worth it . . . to look upon the Leveler. To feel its nullifying peace.”
“As our ancestor did, long ago.”
“As we were taught. All of us.”
Tears shone in the old woman’s dark eyes. Dis wondered if they would freeze.
“You have truly come back from the darkness.”
Ro released her hand.
“You will take us, then?”
Kufa’s gaze shifted to Dis, as if seeing him for the first time. “And who would you bring to the fields of Golamaran? Who would you bring to the Shrine?”
“This is Udi Dis,” Ro told her, raising a hand in Dis’s direction. “A . . . a friend.”
Dis liked that. Not a bodyguard. Not even just a pilot. A friend.
The old crone’s eyes bored into him.
“He is . . . what?”
Dis wanted to yell that he was freezing.
“He is Talortai,” Ro answered for him. “A species strong in the Force.”
Her eyes flicked back to her cousin’s masked face.
This time Dis spoke up. “I am a navigator. A pathfinder.”
She chuckled, obviously amused by his choice of words. “Are you now? Well, whatever you are, whatever you can do, you are welcome.” Again she glanced up at Ro. “As were the credits that came before you. Such generosity.”
“I knew the journey here would be difficult for you,” Ro said. “Do you still have that old rust bucket?”
“The Open Hand? Yes, yes I do. Half devoured by rust-weevils, but she still flies, although not to the Shrine.” She patted the hide of one of the shaggy beasts that waited patiently beside her. “The slarga will get us where no transport will fly. They are strong.” She glanced back at Ro. “They have to be, where we’re going.”
Excerpt from Cavan Scott’s Star Wars: The High Republic – The Rising Storm reprinted by permission. Copyright Del Rey.
Star Wars: The High Republic – The Rising Storm will be available on June 29, along with its audiobook by longtime Star Wars narrator Marc Thompson, from Del Rey.