Well, that was more like the Star Wars I’m used to. I’m speaking, of course, of the tales of the Lost Tribe of the Sith.
John Jackson Miller wrote nine stories of the Lost Tribe of the Sith – eight short (30-40 page) e-books and a final, much-longer story. The first eight were briefly posted online, free of charge, while the longer Pandemonium was only just published in the Collected Stories anthology. They span roughly two thousand years (5,000-2,975 years before the Battle of Yavin) and are meant to introduce readers to the Lost Tribe we meet in the Fate of the Jedi series.
After reading all nine stories, I have to say I really enjoyed them, although I wished they had been longer; some scenes and relationships could have been expanded a bit to provide more depth to the characters. Despite that, I thought the stories definitely provided a believable backstory for the Lost Tribe met by Luke Skywalker in the Fate novels, and explained a few ‘quirks’ of their society that had puzzled me when I read the Fate stories.
Draigons of spoilers ahead
Read at your own peril
The first two stories – Precipice and Skyborn – relate how the Sith came to be on the planet Kesh. They take place at the same time, but view events from two, vastly different perspectives – that of Yaru Korsin, the captain of the Sith ship Omen, and Adari Vaal, a Keshiri widow.
Right from the start, Precipice dumps you into the Sith power games.
Omen is a mining ship, crewed by a mix of human and alien species, almost all of them ‘Sith,’ along with a complement of the deadly Massassi troops. She is the property of the Sith Lord Naga Sadow, a true Red Sith. It’s interesting that Sadow, and his fellow Sith Lords, are of an alien species, while the human Sith like Yaru Korsin are merely servants/slaves of their overlords. Very interesting, given that Palpatine/Darth Sidious had a distinct bias against non-humans, to realize that the Sith actually started as a non-human species.
As the story opens, Omen is returning to Sadow with a full cargo of crystals. However, the ship makes an uncontrolled jump through hyperspace, hits a gravity well, and emerges above an unknown world which promptly begins pulling the ship to the surface.
As Yaru Korsin, Omen’s human captain, puts it, a Sith glories in the ’exaltation of the self,’ each Sith ready to strike at any time and advance their own personal interests. That doesn’t help very much, though, when your ship is disintegrating around you – during the crash, Yaru’s half-brother Devore is busy accusing the navigator of making a mistake in his piloting rather than finding some way to save the ship. The rest of the bridge crew, with the exception of a non-Sith Houk named Gloyd, aren’t much more help to Korsin.
That type of attitude is even less useful when you’ve crashed, with minimal supplies, on an unknown, hostile world. And Kesh is very definitely hostile, at least to intruders. The survivors of the crash, roughly 350 Sith and 80 Massassi, manage to stumble out of Omen’s burning, wrecked hulk, only to have some of them fall off the mountain on the way down from the crash site. Then the Massassi get sick – something in Kesh’s atmostphere just plain hates them. They’re dead in just a few days. The animals on the planet appear to be inedible and downright poisonous to the survivors. And true to form, Devore and the other Sith kill the navigator and are now ready to start killing each other.
So Yaru makes a desperate hike back up the mountain to activate the transmitter and wait for rescue, only to find that the transmitter is fried and useless. The same can be said of his brother, who’s waiting, drugged up, to challenge his command. Instead, Yaru kills him, then heads back down the mountain and lies to the remaining crew that he activated the transmitter.
Korsin struck me as a bit of an unusual Sith, more interested in doing a good job as captain than playing the power games of his fellow Sith. Oh, he’s not above protecting himself and advancing his position in the hierarchy – witness the fact that he kills his brother when he realizes the idiot lied about him to Sadow – but he’s focused more on holding the remaining Sith together and finding some way to get off the planet and back into Sadow’s good graces than in joining the genocidal blame games the others have started.
Devore’s widow, Seelah, though, is more traditional – having guessed that Korsin had something to do with Devore’s death, she fires up her anger and hatred, then smiles invitingly at Korsin, prepared to wait for her revenge.
Just like a Sith.
The second story, Skyborn, looks at the Sith’s arrival from the viewpoint of Adari Vaal, the widow of an uvak rider. Her husband allegedly died gloriously – only she knows that Nink, his uvak, became tired of being abused and dumped his rider off in the ocean. Adari has been left with a good (by Keshtiri standards) house, her nagging mother, two dim-witted children, and sincere gratitude that her people have done away with the ancient tradition of killing the family of a dead uvak-rider.
Her position as a widow should now assure her of relative comfort and peace – but we start the story with Adari on trial as a heretic. Her crime? Challenging the accepted dogma surrounding the creation of the Keshtiri continents.
The Neshtovar, or uvak-riders, who run Keshtiri society, are trying Adari her for heresy because she’s pointed out that volcanos elsewhere on the continent are creating new land. Since the same kind of stones can be found around her village, that land too must have been created by volcanos. However, their mythology holds that the Skyborn, the creators from above, made everything, including the continent of Keshtah, and nothing new can be created — ever.
Fundamentalism, it seems, is a universal concept.
During the trial, a distant mountain appears to erupt, despite the fact that Adari knows it to be granite and therefore incapable of an eruption. The Keshtiri interpret this as an omen of a different kind – that Adari is endangering them. They gather into a mob and start lighting torches to burn her house – and her.
Adari wisely escapes out the back door – and up into the sky, aboard a rather startled Nink. She decides to investigate the site of the flaming mountain – Omen’s crash site – and spots the crushed ship, which she at first thinks is a shell hatching, well, something unidentifiable. In reality, she’s watching Yaru and Devore fight, witnessing brother killing brother. Ultimately, she ends up stumbling into the Sith camp, where she is ‘captured’ and then slowly ‘persuaded’ to aid the Sith to escape from the mountain by going for help on Nink. And she does, even though she was initially treated hostiley by the Sith, and even though she can tell that at least some of them, including Seelah, dislike her. Intensely.
My favorite part of the story was when Korsin asks her ‘how many are her people’. She replies that they’re numberless. He assumes she means they’ve never been counted, and she corrects him – it’s not that no one’s tried to count them, but their language doesn’t have a number large enough to tally the population.
Korsin, who may have intended only to seek help from the natives, is momentariy stunned, and then switches gears, asking her for the legends of the Skyborn. Clearly, he’s intending to masquerade his people as the Kesh’s gods.
The story ends with a grateful Adari, whose life has been saved and social status elevated by the return to Kesh of the ‘Skyborn’, wondering about the future of her world. She knows the Sith are not the Skyborn, but since they are clearly more advanced than her people, she’s eager to learn from them. And she knows one more thing – although the Sith don’t believe her.
The metals the Sith need to repair Omen and leave Kesh don’t exist on her world.
The Sith – are stuck.
Put together, these two stories serve as a good introduction to the Sith of planet Kesh. I would have liked to have more backstory on Devore and Seelah – their hatred and animosity against Yaru didn’t feel fully fleshed out at this point. We’re asked to accept that they have reason to hate Yaru, although, particularly in Seelah’s case, there doesn’t seem to be a basis for it beyond the fact that her man, Devore, hates his brother. Seelah seems a very independent person, much smarter than Devore. I can’t see her just blindly hating whoever Devore hates unless it furthers her interests somehow.
Also, I really would have liked an explanation of why Adari’s husband was called the uvak rider ‘upon whom all hope had rested.’ Which hopes, and why?
But overall, the stories were very good, and nicely set up the next two in the series.