It’s like something from a dream.
Jedi Master Luke Skywalker is haunted by visions of the dark side, foretelling an ominous secret growing somewhere in the depths of space, on a dead world called Exegol. The disturbance in the Force is undeniable and Luke’s worst fears are confirmed when his old friend Lando Calrissian comes to him with reports of a new Sith menace.
Today, StarWars.com is pleased to reveal the cover of the forthcoming novel Star Wars: Shadow of the Sith, tracing Luke and Lando’s quest to find Exegol in a story set between the events of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and Star Wars: The Force Awakens and featuring Ochi of Bestoon, the Sith assassin first introduced in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
The novel arrives this summer, but today you can read StarWars.com’s first excerpt from the forthcoming title following Luke’s impossible journey from the seeing stone on Tython to the ashy Sith world…
There was a bang, more like a thunderclap, and everything went black. The breeze dropped, the air still and warm. Luke took a breath and could taste dry dust on his tongue, and then he realized he wasn’t sitting on the seeing stone anymore. Tython was gone.
He looked down. He was standing now on black dirt, hard-packed, cracked, coated with dust that swirled in eddies around his boots.
He looked up. The world was black and dry, the sky dark and filled with roiling black clouds, lit by constant flashes of lightning that shorted directly down into the ground. If it was day or night, Luke couldn’t tell — the place was both light and dark at the same time, the vast, flat plain of black stone lit evenly from a sun that wasn’t there.
Luke took another breath, the taste getting stronger in his mouth. Already his eyes were drying out, the atmosphere, the ground, the whole place so old, so desiccated.
He knew immediately where he was. He had been here many times recently, this nightmare landscape of his visions.
Only now he knew its name.
This was Exegol, the hidden world of Sith only whispered about in ancient texts. A place reachable only with a wayfinder.
And… by meditation? Luke took a step forward, finding the ground solid and most definitely real under his feet. He walked a small and slow circle, eyes at the horizon. Lightning flashed, lighting the farther reaches of the plain, revealing it to be featureless and dead.
The same place as his visions, yes, but this felt… different.
This felt real.
Could he have been transported? Luke frowned, his mind racing along with his heart. True enough, he didn’t know the full extent of the powers of the seeing stone. He had researched the place for years, but he had never actually used the stone for its ancient purpose, to commune directly with the Force. He knew himself what a powerful Jedi he had become, what untapped potential he still had within himself despite — or perhaps because of — his years of self-directed, Masterless training.
Had he done it? He had the holocron, or what was left of it, and the kyber crystals. Was there enough of the holocron data core left for the seeing stone to have been able to read it, somehow, taking him to where the original owner had failed to reach, all those centuries ago? And what about the kyber crystals? They resonated with the Force, their very structures in a natural, sympathetic vibration with it. Were they the catalyst, making the journey possible? Was that what the original pilot had tried — combining two very different forms of Sith power to overcome their lack of a true wayfinder?
It was then that a far more important question entered Luke’s head.
Could he get back to Tython?
Then he spun, ducking instinctively as something brushed past the hood of his robe, strong enough to shift the heavy fabric over his shoulder. There was nobody behind him. He turned the circle again. He was alone on the plain, the air perfectly still, the caustic sour taste growing ever stronger in his mouth.
Again. Something brushing past him, this time with a distinct whoosh of the dry air and the sound of someone’s feet scraping along the hard ground. Luke ducked out of the way again, moving a few meters from his original position. Looking down he saw his footprints in the dust — it was hardly an impression, but enough for him to see his own tracks.
And the tracks of someone, or something, else. Two large arcs, not footsteps but the signs of something being dragged along the ground, on opposite sides of where Luke had just been standing.
He looked up, turning slowly to see all around him. There was no place to hide—no rocks, no buildings, nothing. Luke could see from horizon to empty horizon.
Lightning flashed and then he saw it, just for an instant as it was lit up by the electrical storm. A figure, a fair distance away, perhaps one hundred meters. And then it was gone, before Luke could register any features or form at all.
“Hello?” he called out, feeling slightly foolish. He tried again. “Who’s there?”
Again the sound, louder now, and he felt something physically push his back. He went with the movement to keep his own footing, moved forward farther, then spun around, his hand whipping his lightsaber from his belt and presenting it in one smooth, fluid movement. He paused, feet spread, weight low, the defensive position that was as instinctive, as automatic, for him as breathing.
Luke was surrounded. They were tall, thin. Nine of them. Nothing more than wraiths. Nothing more than shadows. Tall, thin ghosts, their bodies curved and arced in a new wind that had picked up, a wind that gusted across the black plain, changing direction constantly.
Luke adjusted his grip on his lightsaber and thumbed the activator. With a searing swoosh, the green blade ignited, illuminating a large circle around Luke and the wraiths, lighting the ashy dust that swirled in the air like a halo.
Luke braced himself. Because these weren’t ghosts or shadows or wraiths. They were very real. With each flash of lightning in the dark sky above, the wraiths were lit as solid, three-dimensional figures, black-robed, bandage-faced.
It was disorienting. Luke narrowed his eyes as he focused, the foes surrounding him flashing between translucent billowing shadows and solid humanoid figures.
Then they began to circle him. They kept the same distance from Luke, and from one another, as they moved, all of them keeping their front facing this intruder into their world. Luke, balanced on the balls of his feet, fingers adjusting, readjusting on the grip of his lightsaber, was ready for the attack he knew was coming, all the while his mind racing.
How did I get here… and how do I get back?
And then the wraiths, moving in unison as though some unseen, unheard communication had passed among them, reached into robes that were in one instant eddies of ash and in the next flash of lightning a heavy, woven black textile, and pulled out lightsabers of their own.
Luke, with his years of experience, years of learning to master his emotions and control his actions, did not allow the sight of these nine weapons to surprise him. Because… of course they had lightsabers. He was on Exegol, the Sith world, the heart of darkness. He had dared to see into the planet with the Force, and was now here, in physical reality, facing nine embodiments of the dark side who clearly wanted their existence to remain hidden.
The wraiths lifted their lightsabers and activated them. Luke didn’t so much hear their ignition as feel it inside, the familiar sound somehow high-pitched and distant, a half-forgotten memory rather than an actual physical sensation. The wraiths lifted their blades, ready to meet Luke’s, but they were nothing, mere black outlines against the black figures standing on the black ground under a black sky. But when the lightning flashed, the nine blades were inverted, a negative flash of white that made spots dance in Luke’s eyes. Dazzled, Luke’s control slipped for just a moment, and he took an involuntary half step backward.
It was what the wraiths had been waiting for. They rushed at him in silence, their robes of shadow-ash disintegrating in the wind as they moved, their whole bodies becoming insubstantial, particulate matter that blew away in the breeze. And then the lightning flashed and Luke was surrounded by nine very real, very solid, black-clad figures swinging lightsabers of blinding, impossible light.
Driven by instinct, guided by his connection to the Force, Luke parried the first blows, his lightsaber connecting with his enemies’ with a familiar high-energy splash. But with the lightning flashing along with the nine black-white blades of his enemies, Luke soon found he that he was, effectively, fighting blind, his vision nothing but purple spots and red smears.
But Luke Skywalker did not panic, did not fear. Deflecting another attack, Luke closed his eyes and let out a breath. He didn’t need eyes to see his enemies. All he had to do was look inward, to feel the Force flow through him, to feel its connection with himself, and the galaxy, and all the beings that lived within.
I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me.
The next attack was parried with perfection; Luke’s riposte was likewise a textbook example of the Jedi form.
But then his blade passed through… nothing.
Luke didn’t open his eyes, he just bowed his head, spinning on the spot to counter the attacks coming from the other side while he concentrated, trying to enter an almost meditative state so he could press an attack rather than let the Force guide him merely through a passive, automatic defense.
And then he faltered. A frown flickered across his face as he reached out with the Force and…
There was nothing. No connection. No feeling. It was as though he was still on Tython, on the seeing stone, at the center of a grace where the Force coalesced around him but not within him.
The beings around him, nine shadow wraiths with blades of light and dark, did not exist in the Force — they had no presence, no form.
This was impossible.
The Force connected all life in the galaxy, but it also surrounded and penetrated the inanimate. Objects — rocks, planets, starships, droids, everything — had a presence in the Force, or rather, an absence that could be felt as strongly as if they were living things themselves.
But the wraiths were nothing. Luke couldn’t sense them with the Force at all.
He turned left then right, lightsaber swinging up, then down, then out, parrying three more blows. But blinded and unable to even sense his opponents, he was unable to attack. He might as well just be swinging randomly at the air around him.
Which he did. He opened his eyes, squinting against the flashes of lightning and the searing sweeps of the wraith-blades, his own green lightsaber the one thing that was familiar, the only color in his nightmare.
But that faithful lightsaber could do nothing against the wraiths. He blocked a blow — his eyes and brain beginning to adjust, very slightly, to the disorienting world around him — and then came in with an attack, high and then low, completely avoiding his opponent’s blade. But his lightsaber passed through the wraith, dragging a wake of ash behind it, lit in the glowing green of Luke’s laser sword.
The wraith didn’t even seem to notice. It brought its blade up and Luke parried, parried again, ducked sideways and parried a blow from his left side, swung the lightsaber to the right to counter another, then carved a series of angled attacks that should have cut the three opponents in front of him to ribbons.
His blade met no resistance — on the contrary, the wraith directly in front of him stepped into his attack, apparently unaware or unconcerned as to the position of Luke’s blade.
Luke didn’t stop moving. He dodged the shadow-blade of the wraith even as he passed through the being himself, the cloud of ash and dust thick around his face, coating his skin, his tongue, filling his mouth with the taste of hot metal. Now behind the group, he turned, and pressed a fresh attack to their rear, swinging his lightsaber left and right and left again, blocking the thrust of a shadow-blade as one wraith turned in a whirlwind of spinning black smoke and brought its weapon to bear. Once again, lightsaber met lightsaber, green light met shadow-blade, and Luke could feel the jolt through the hilt of his own weapon, could see the fizz of energy as his blade slid along the length of his enemy’s, before the wraith pulled away in one direction and Luke in the other, both then turning to cut in at a sharp angle. Blade met blade again, this time with a bang of spitting plasma, as though the wraiths were toying with him, one moment their weapons real, the next, a shadowed imitation of reality.
Sensing this change, Luke’s next blow was powerful enough to knock the other blade away, and he quickly made his riposte, straight through the neck and torso of the apparition.
Once again, his blade met nothing. The shadow-form parted like smoke, even as lightning flashed again and the being was as solid as Luke’s own body.
Luke swung again, and again, and again, sweeping now with his blade with no particular intent or design except to keep the nine wraiths at a distance, his focus now not on the fight but on figuring a way out.
The wraiths pressed their attack, Luke’s blade passing harmlessly through them. As they got closer and closer, they raised their own lightsabers again, acting together in telepathic union, ready to make their final strike.
Nine blades against one. Luke didn’t like the odds, but he braced himself nonetheless.
The wraiths attacked, nine shadow-blades held by shadow-arms cutting down at speed —
And that was when a new light appeared. Not the white flash of lightning, or the wraith blades as they were lit by the unholy light. Not the green glow of Luke’s lightsaber, illuminating the ashy ground like a green flashlight.
No, this light was pale blue. It shimmered in the air, streaking a little it swept down, throwing the attackers off in one smooth movement.
It was a lightsaber, the blade blue and strong, the hilt —
The hilt was transparent, nothing but a blue glow, held in a transparent blue hand.
Luke fell backward, onto his elbows, and gasped at the pain in his joints and also in sheer surprise at the sight before him.
Standing between himself and the wraiths was another figure—a man in flowing pale robes, his back to Luke, his head hidden under a voluminous hood. The entire figure glowed like soft electricity, bright in this world of endless night. When the lightning flashed, Luke could see the nine solid wraiths through the form of the man who stood between them and their quarry.
Luke’s mind raced as he tried to identify the spirit of the Force who had arrived to protect him.
No, it wasn’t Ben… the robe, the man’s form, was —
The spectral being lifted his lightsaber, holding it high above his head, the blade parallel to the ground.
For the first time, the wraiths seemed to take note of their enemy. They backed away, nine forms huddling together, blades lowered. They were screaming from their blank bandaged faces, although Luke wasn’t sure whether it was a real sound or just an echo inside his head. It was hard to concentrate on what he was seeing, the way the Force reverberated around the figure in blue. His entire vision seemed to buckle around him.
The wraiths continued to back away, and then they vanished, their shadow-shapes evaporating into dust that spun away on the last eddy of the dying wind.
For a moment, all was still.
Then the blue figure turned around, his lightsaber extinguished.
Luke pushed himself up onto his elbows. He blinked.
It couldn’t be.
It couldn’t be.
The blue figure lifted his hood back to reveal the strong, sharp face of a young man, his gaze intense beneath a furrowed brow that was bisected by straight, vertical scar. His thick hair was shoulder-length and had a slight wave to it.
Anakin Skywalker reached out his hand.
Luke took it, and everything went white.
Pre-order Star Wars: Shadow of the Sith by Adam Christopher before it arrives June 28, 2022.
Learn more about this and other news in the latest episode of This Week! In Star Wars below.
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