A glimpse of Avon Starros means trouble in the first excerpt from the forthcoming middle-grade book by Justina Ireland.
It's not easy being among the youngest Jedi Knights, training a Padawan of almost the same age. On Kirima, Vernestra Rwoh hopes to focus on being the best teacher she can be, training Imri Cantaros in the delicate nature of using the Force to leap an otherwise impossible distance.
But the talented young Jedi is plagued by visions once more. And this time, it's personal.
In StarWars.com's exclusive excerpt from Star Wars: The High Republic: Mission to Disaster, the forthcoming Star Wars: The High Republic middle grade novel by Justina Ireland, Vern is pulled back to Port Haileap just when she was starting to feel like peace and balance had been restored to the galaxy once more. Read the preview below, and pick up your own copy when Mission to Disaster, part of wave 3 of books and comics in the initiative, arrives in January.
Vernestra Rwoh, Jedi Knight, master to Padawan Imri Cantaros, needed a nap.
“Come on, Vern, one more round! I think I’m ﬁnally getting the hang of it!” called Imri from the middle of the canyon, where he hung in midair after missing the jump. Vernestra was holding Imri aloft with the Force, and she very carefully set him down on the ground beside her. That was the thirty-third time she had caught him. She was exhausted.
Since Imri had become Vernestra’s Padawan after the Steady Wing disaster, they hadn’t had a lot of opportunities for controlled practice in the ﬁeld. Between ﬁghting the Drengir and then the Nihil and going to Coruscant to help Master Stellan, they’d been too busy to just take a day and practice the fundamentals. But now the Nihil leader, the mysterious Eye, was on the run, and the Republic and the Jedi had ﬁnally restored safety to the frontier and the hyperspace lanes.
Vernestra had decided it was beyond time that Imri had some more formalized instruction. They’d traveled to Kirima to give Imri a chance to practice a few different techniques, such as jumping longer distances and leaping great heights. Vernestra thought it would be a good place to ﬁnally practice the skills they hadn’t yet had a chance to explore.
Imri was, as usual, enthusiastic but maybe not the best at using the Force for great feats of strength. He was fantastic at creating bonds and using the Force to soothe emotions, something that Vernestra had worried over initially but now saw as just the way Imri interpreted the will of the Force. Working with the younger boy had been as much a learning experience for Vernestra as it had been for Imri. Vernestra had become a Jedi Knight at the tender age of ﬁfteen, much younger than most, and now at nearly eighteen she realized that she had learned much more from having a Padawan than from any other part of her life as a Jedi. Imri was to be thanked for that.
But she was really, really tired of catching the boy before he plunged to his death.
“I feel like Master Sskeer has a different idea of the best training for a Padawan than I do,” Vernestra said, eyeing the canyon before them once more. It had been Master Sskeer who had suggested the training location, and his former Padawan Keeve had laughed when Vernestra had asked her about her experience training with him on Kirima.
“Oh, Imri will ﬁnd it unforgettable. Trust me,” she had said with a grin. Vernestra had gotten the impression that she’d meant that in a bad way, but Imri was having a blast.
“Okay, one more time. And then we need to ﬁnd some lunch,” Vernestra said, her middle achingly empty. “Ready?”
Imri squared his shoulders and sank into a crouch. “Ready.”
Vernestra ran toward Imri, using the Force to push off the ground so each step became explosive. She sped past him, toward the looming edge of the cliff and the canyon beyond. At the last possible moment she jumped, using the Force to carry her up and across, her jump far more powerful than anything an average being could accomplish on their own.
She skidded to a stop on the other side and turned to see Imri grinning after her. “All right, it’s your turn!” she yelled back, cupping her hands around her mouth to make sure that her voice could carry across the distance.
Imri began to run toward the edge of the ravine, and Vernestra prepared to catch him if he needed her to. It was more likely than not. They had been on Kirima the whole day, and he had yet to make the jump.
This would be the time when he did. Vernestra could feel it.
Imri reached the edge of the canyon and launched himself across, his arms windmilling as he ﬂew through the air. Vernestra grinned at the trajectory and speed of his jump. He was going to make it.
Kirima faded away, and Vernestra was suddenly watching a man dressed as a Nihil shooting Avon, the girl falling to the ground in a laboratory Vernestra had never before seen. A ﬁgure loomed over her, and Vernestra reached out, trying to help her friend.
Imri slammed into Vernestra, and they both went tumbling backward into the dirt. Vernestra groaned as Imri scrambled to his feet.
“Vern! Are you okay? Did you see that? I made it! I did it!” Imri jumped up and down, punching the air in excitement.
“Ugh, yes, you did. Excellent job,” Vernestra climbed to her feet with a frown, dusting herself off as she did.
“Vern? What’s wrong? You’re troubled.” Imri’s ability to read the emotions of those around him was stronger than most Jedi’s, and he’d become a valuable asset to diplomatic missions because of it. It no longer overwhelmed him since he now had a number of targeted meditations he could use when the emotions of others became too much. Vernestra was proud that Imri had been able to ﬁnd a way to embrace his abilities instead of resisting them. She had helped, but the accomplishment was still due to his hard work. It was one of her favorite things about her Padawan. He just didn’t give up.
She wished she could be as brave as him.
“As you jumped I had a vision,” Vernestra said.
Imri’s mouth fell open. “Here? But I thought that usually only happened in hyperspace for you.”
“Yeah, which is why it was so alarming. I wonder if it’s because it was somehow more personal? I saw Avon, and she looked to be in danger.”
“Do you think something happened to Port Haileap?” Imri asked. The distant planet Haileap had been their home for a while when Vernestra had been a new Knight and Imri had been Padawan to Jedi Master Douglas Sunvale, who had perished in the devastation of the Steady Wing explosion. They both still had a number of friends on Haileap, and the thought that something terrible had happened there was not an easy one. “Do you think it could be the Nihil?”
Vernestra shook her head. “I’m not sure how. The person was dressed like the Nihil, but the efforts of the Jedi and the Republic have all but eliminated them. It might be nothing at all. Maybe I just need some water.”
Imri’s expression went hard. “We should send a call back to Haileap, just in case.”
Vernestra and Imri hiked back to their ship, which was only a couple of kilometers away. As they walked Vernestra tried not to let her thoughts run wild. There was no beneﬁt in that.
When they reached the ship, Imri’s expression had gone from worried to positively distraught. “Imri, don’t let your worry take hold of you. Accept it and let it wash over you and propel you into action,” Vernestra said with a smile that she hoped revealed none of her own concern. Was that sudden connection to Avon a vision of the future or a call for help? In the past couple of months Vernestra had begun having visions in hyperspace once again, a talent she’d thought lost to her days as a Padawan. But her visions had led her and Imri to Mari San Tekka, a hyperspace navigator being monstrously preserved by the Nihil for her ability to calculate seemingly impossible yet perfectly safe hyperspace routes at incredible rates. After the woman had passed on, Vernestra had thought her visions might cease, but she’d found that instead of stopping they’d changed. The ﬂashes she got didn’t make much sense, but she’d taken to noting them in a small recording rod she kept in one of her belt pouches. Perhaps one day she would understand them better. For now, she kept them to herself.
But she was left with frustration. Had her visions been pointing her to whatever Avon was now wrapped up in?
She kept seeing ﬁre rain down on a beautiful green-and-blue planet, people calling for help and shouting in despair. She’d tried going through the databanks to see if there had been any reported disasters of the magnitude she had seen on just such a planet, but she had not discovered anything. Which made Vernestra think that perhaps it hadn’t happened yet.
But that meant there was even more reason for concern. Vernestra had thought this excursion to Kirima would help clear their minds, but here they were, heading back with even more worries plaguing their thoughts. Fighting the Nihil had taken its toll, and Vernestra couldn’t help thinking that Imri might be right. Haileap could truly be in danger.
They boarded the small ship they’d been allowed to borrow, the Wishful Thinking. The Jedi quartermaster on Starlight Beacon, Master Nubarron, still hadn’t forgiven Vernestra for crashing not one but two of their prized ships, but they were at least letting her have smaller skiffs once more when she promised Imri would do most of the ﬂying. It was a good compromise. Imri was a capable pilot. She and Imri entered the shuttle and got a quick drink of water to wash the dust from their throats, and then Imri powered up the shuttle while Vernestra played the waiting message.
“Jedi Knight Vernestra Rwoh and Padawan Imri Cantaros,” the message began. The likeness of Jedi Master Estala Maru, the Jedi who ran the control center on Starlight Beacon and coordinated the activities of all who lived there, ﬂashed before them as the holomessage played. “We’ve had an alert from Master Jorinda that there was a possible Nihil attack in Port Haileap and there have been a number of casualties. Since you are the closest, Starlight Beacon is asking for you to respond. Please go to the out-post, assess the damage, and report back. Conﬁrm receipt of message.”
Vernestra sent back conﬁrmation and nodded to Imri. “Well, that saves us a call to Port Haileap. Let’s head straight there. I’ll grab a couple of ration packs out of the back and we can eat while we ﬂy.”
Imri bit his lip as the shuttle lifted off the ground. “I hope Avon is okay.”
“Me too,” Vernestra said, but she had a creeping feeling that her vision had been the real thing.
Star Wars: The High Republic: Mission to Disaster arrives January 4, 2022 and is available for pre-order now.
Visit Lucasfilm’s official hub for all things Star Wars: The High Republic at StarWars.com/TheHighRepublic.