Elzar Mann is a man consumed by a vision he can’t quite comprehend. Pain and suffering, the faces of his dearest friends and people he has yet to meet, swirl around him. But what does it mean?
In StarWars.com’s exclusive excerpt of the prologue from Star Wars: The High Republic: The Rising Storm, the forthcoming Star Wars: The High Republic novel by Cavan Scott, Elzar tries to unravel the terrifying images that suggest an end to the Jedi. Read the preview below, and pick up your own copy when The Rising Storm arrives June 29.
Ashla, Moon of Tython
The screams had never left Elzar Mann. Many months had passed since Starlight Beacon’s dedication ceremony, since he had stood alongside his fellow Jedi. Since he had stood alongside Avar Kriss.
The eyes of the galaxy had been upon them in their temple finery, that damned collar itching as he’d listened to the speeches and platitudes, first from Chancellor Lina Soh, leader of the Galactic Republic, and then from Avar. His Avar. The Hero of Hetzal.
The Beacon was their promise to the galaxy, Avar had said. It was their covenant. He could still hear her words.
Whenever you feel alone . . . whenever darkness closes in . . . know that the Force is with you. Know that we are with you . . . For light and life.
For light and life.
But that hadn’t stopped the darkness from closing in later that day. A wave of pain and suffering, a vision of the future too terrible to comprehend. He had staggered, grabbing hold of a rail, blood gushing from his nose as the pressure in his head threatened to split his skull in two.
What he had seen had haunted him ever since. It had consumed him.
Jedi dying one by one, picked off by a twisting, unfathomable cloud. Stellan. Avar. Everyone he had ever known in the past and everyone he would meet in days to come. Faces both familiar and strange torn apart.
And the screams.
The screams were the worst.
He had made it through the rest of the evening in a daze, going through the motions, not quite present, the echo of what he had seen . . . what he had heard . . . burned onto his mind’s eye. There had been mistakes, a few too many glasses of Kattadan rosé at the reception, Avar asking for that dance she’d mentioned, Elzar leaning in a little too eagerly, a little too publicly.
He could still feel her hand on his chest, pushing him back.
“El. What are you doing?”
They had argued, privately, his head still spinning.
“We’re not Padawans anymore.”
It had been months since he saw her again, and when he did, the atmosphere was as frosty as a dawn on Vandor. Avar had changed toward him. She was more distant. Preoccupied with her new duties as marshal of Starlight Beacon.
Or maybe he was the one who was preoccupied. Elzar had meditated on the vision day and night since the dedication. He should have gone to Avar, to apologize and ask for her guidance, or if not her, then Stellan Gios, his oldest friend, but Stellan had duties of his own. He was a Council member now, responsible for guiding the Order as a whole. He would not have time. Besides, asking for help was hardly Elzar’s style. Elzar Mann was the one who solved problems, not posed them. He found solutions. Answers. New ways of getting the job done. So, Elzar did what he had always done: He tried to solve the problem alone.
First he had consulted the Archives in the Great Temple, poring over countless textfiles and holocrons in the collection, even going so far as attempting to decipher the mysteries of the Ga’Garen Codex, the ancient grimoire whose text had confounded linguists for thousands of years.
Even then, sitting in the Archives, under the watchful gaze of the statues of the Lost, Elzar had heard the screams at the back of his mind, seen the faces of the slain in every reflective surface or passing Padawan.
The Codex had brought him here, to Ashla, Tython’s primary moon. The ancients had called this stretch of land the Isle of Seclusion, which was exactly what he needed if he was ever going to fully understand what he had seen. He needed solitude; focus. The last straw had been receiving a message from Stellan’s old Master, the esteemed Rana Kant, congratulating him on his elevation to Jedi Master. Furthermore, the Council had a posting for him; he was to be marshal of the Jedi outpost on Valo on the edge of the Rseik sector.
Him? A marshal? How could they be so blind? Couldn’t they see he wasn’t ready? Couldn’t they see how troubled he was?
Elzar walked toward the ocean, feeling the warm sand beneath his feet, discarding his outer robes as he approached the water. Yes, this was better. This was where he would finally see the truth. Where he would finally understand. He didn’t stop at the shore but strode out purposefully into the waves. Up to his knees. Up to his waist. Soon he was swimming out to sea, stopping only when he could no longer see land. He spun slowly, treading water, surrounded only by the sea and the Force itself.
It was time.
Elzar took a deep breath and pushed himself down beneath the waves, eyes closed, water rushing into his ears, blocking every other sound.
Give me the answers I seek
There was nothing. No revelation. No response.
He kicked back up, drawing air into his lungs before plunging back down again.
I am here.
I want to learn.
I need to understand.
Where were the answers he’d been promised? Where was the understanding?
He repeated the ritual, breaking for air, plunging back down, letting the ocean swallow him whole. Again, and again, and . . .
It was like hitting an air pocket. All at once he wasn’t sinking, he was running, his fellow Jedi at his side as nightmares snapped at their heels. They weren’t in water, but in fog. Thick. Acrid. Impenetrable. Nothing made sense. Not the chaos, not the panic.
Not the fear.
He opened his mouth to cry out, seawater rushing in from far away, from a different world, from a different time.
What is this?
Where is this?
Speak to me!
And the Force spoke with such strength that Elzar was thrown into a spin, images flashing past his stinging eyes like purple lightning.
A Tholothian . . . Indeera Stokes? No, one of her tendrils was missing, an unfamiliar face contorted in rage.
Eyes clouded, no longer able to see.
And the screams. The screams were louder than ever. Harsher than ever. And his scream was loudest of all.
Elzar’s shoulders heaved, seawater spluttering from his lungs. He was back on Ashla’s shore, salt drying on his skin, baked by the burning sun. He looked around, eyes still blurry, trying to focus on the golden sands that stretched out to either side of him, wingmaws circling in the sky above, ready to pick the flesh from his bones. But he wasn’t dead yet. None of them were.
He pushed himself up and stumbled back toward his Vector, gathering his robes as he went. He needed to get off Ashla. Needed to leave the Core. The Force had spoken. It had already answered his question, if only he had listened.
One name, a planet, where he would finally be able to put things right.
Star Wars: The High Republic: The Rising Storm arrives June 29 and is available for pre-order now.
Visit Lucasfilm’s official hub for all things Star Wars: The High Republic at StarWars.com/TheHighRepublic.
StarWars.com. All Star Wars, all the time.
Site tags: #StarWarsBlog, #TheHighRepublic