No one is ever really gone.
Padawan Bell Zettifar has lost his master. Now he must face one of the greatest challenges of being a Jedi: remaining in control of his emotions.
In StarWars.com’s exclusive new excerpt from Star Wars: The High Republic: The Rising Storm, the forthcoming Star Wars: The High Republic novel by Cavan Scott, we find Bell still reeling from the disappearance of Loden Greatstorm.
"Spending time with Bell Zettifar was one of the joys of writing The Rising Storm," Scott tells StarWars.com. "For me, his bravery, adaptability and willingness to question sums up the Jedi of the High Republic." In the new novel, "we see a Bell who is struggling to come to terms with the fact that he may never see his master Loden Greatstorm again, examining what grief and regret looks like for a Jedi. Life has moved on since Loden was presumed dead, and Bell is facing the reality that his vows means he has to move on with it."
Avid Star Wars: The High Republic readers already know something about Master Greatstorm's story. "The fun, of course, is that readers of Light of the Jedi know exactly what happened to Loden, even if Bell and the rest of the Order don’t," Scott says. "As for what happens to Loden next? Well, for that you’ll have to read The Rising Storm…”
Read the preview -- which focuses on Bell consulting his new teacher, Indeera Stokes, -- below, and pick up your own copy when The Rising Storm arrives June 29.
Not long ago, Padawan Bell Zettifar would have been excited by the sight that stretched out beneath him. He was standing on an observation platform in the largest hangar he had ever experienced, just part of the vast shipyards that orbited Cyclor, a relatively small green-and-brown planet in the Mid Rim. Below, gleaming bright in the hangar’s floodlights, was the vision in polished durasteel known as the Innovator. The starship, now hours from launch, was a technological marvel. Over 300 meters long and bristling with the latest scientific and medical equipment, the Innovator was quite simply the most sophisticated research vessel ever built, a fact its designer -- the famed Aqualish engineer Vam Targes --had told Bell himself when he had arrived at the shipyards.
“It runs on a network of no fewer than forty-two intellex-grade droid processors, don’t you know?” Targes had informed him as they strode through the ship’s vast operations center on a whirlwind tour, the engineer’s vocoder whirring excitedly as it translated Vam’s native Aqualish to Basic.
“That’s very . . . impressive,” Bell had offered, only to be told in no uncertain terms that it was considerably more than that. It was outstanding!
“The entire network is supported by a multi-motion framework of my own design, one that rivals the Jedi Archives on Coruscant, if I do say so myself.”
Bell didn’t know if that was true, but he hadn’t wanted to contradict the engineer. This was Vam’s moment, after all, or rather it would be when the Innovator arrived on Valo in a couple of days. The ship was to be a showpiece at the upcoming Republic Fair, the latest of Chancellor Lina Soh’s Great Works. Soon millions of festival-goers would be marveling at Targes’s achievement, and if they were anything like Bell, they would be dazzled. The Innovator boasted state-of-the-art cybernetic workshops alongside multiple bioengineering labs, analysis stations, research facilities, and a medical library second only to the Docha Institute on Dunnak.
But as extraordinary as the craft undoubtedly was, it was still nothing compared with the beings who had constructed the ship rivet by rivet. The Cyclorrians were a wonder, unlike anything Bell had seen before. Insectoid in nature, they stood about a meter in height with large bulbous heads dominated by a pair of large compound eyes, much like the heat-flies that had buzzed through the halls of the Jedi outpost on Elphrona where Bell had received most of his training. He watched as they swarmed across the glistening hull, completing final checks, each Cyclorrian working in unison with their teammates without seeming to utter a single word. It was incredible. Each seemed to know exactly what job needed doing instinctively, none of them getting under one another’s feet, each perfectly complementing the next. And the enthusiasm for their work was infectious. In the twenty-four hours since he had arrived, Bell hadn’t seen a single Cyclorrian complain, despite Targes’s reputation as a strict taskmaster. The insectoids just kept on working, hour after hour, antennae twitching happily as they buzzed from one task to the next. You couldn’t help but smile in their presence. It was exactly what Bell needed, especially now.
Beside him, Ember stirred. The charhound had been sitting patiently at his feet, Bell’s constant companion since they had left Elphrona. The dog had started life as a stray that had been adopted by the Elphronian Jedi, becoming something of a mascot at first and a loyal friend ever since. When Bell had left Elphrona, Ember had simply hopped into his Vector, her intention of staying by his side clear. She had been there ever since, his guardian and confidante. Now she was on her feet, looking expectantly at the door of the observation platform as it swished open to allow Indeera Stokes entry. The aging Jedi laughed as Ember bounded over, jumping up onto the Tholothian’s legs to be rewarded by a tickle beneath the orange-flecked chin.
“Yes, yes,” Indeera said. “I’m pleased to see you, too. Now down you get. That’s it. Good girl. Good girl.”
Ember obeyed, trotting back over to Bell where he had remained at the edge of the platform. Bell looked down at her and smiled, the charhound’s excited tail thwacking against his boots.
“I’m sure she likes you more than she does me,” he commented as Indeera joined him.
“I think we both know that’s a lie,” she said, joining him to gaze down at the majestic craft below. She leaned against the railing, shaking her head at the spectacle of the Cyclorrians hard at work. “Stars above, it takes your breath away, doesn’t it?”
“Indeed it does, Master. The Innovator is as impressive as those who constructed it.”
As always, Bell felt a pang as he addressed Indeera by her title. It was true, the Tholothian was his teacher now, having agreed to take on his training after his previous Master, Loden Greatstorm, had been lost defending settlers against the Nihil nearly a year ago. Their last conversation played regularly through his mind, Loden at the controls of his Vector.
“I’m not your Master anymore, Bell. You’re a Jedi Knight.”
“Not until the Council declares it, and I want you there when it happens.”
Now that would never be. Loden had told him that he would see Bell soon and had never come back from the attack. No one knew what had happened when Loden had abandoned his Vector . . . their Vector . . . to save the Blythe family from the Nihil. The Vector had been reduced to atoms by a Nihil cannon, and Loden, well, he was just gone. Indeera constantly reminded Bell that Loden’s final wishes had been for his Padawan to be Knighted, but Bell knew he wasn’t ready. How could he be, when he felt so empty inside, like something was missing?
He swallowed, suddenly aware that Indeera was studying him. His new teacher, no matter how weird that felt. And it shouldn’t. He’d known her for years, even fought by her side, and respected her more than any Jedi alive, which, of course, was the problem. Loden Greatstorm wasn’t coming back, that much had become blatantly clear, but no matter how much Bell admired Indeera, she could never replace the noble Twi’lek.
Bell offered a weak smile. “I was just thinking about how excited the crowd will be at the Republic Fair, seeing the Innovator for the first time.”
“They will. And what about you?”
“What about me?”
“Are you looking forward to Valo?”
He shifted uncomfortably, careful not to kick Ember who was nuzzling against his legs, her pelt warm through his synthleather boots. “It will be good to see Mikkel and Nib. And Burry, too, of course.” That was all true. He’d come to think of all three as friends, especially the Wookiee Burryaga, whom he had gotten to know after serving together at Hetzal.
“Of course,” Indeera parroted, still regarding him with those warm eyes. “There will be much to experience together.” She looked back at the ship. “Loden would have loved it. He would have loved this.”
A lump formed in Bell’s throat as Indeera continued. “I can imagine him standing here with us, watching the Cyclorrians work, appreciating their skill.”
Bell’s voice cracked as he tried to control his emotions. “And what do you think he would say? If he were here?”
The Tholothian pursed her lips. “I think he would compliment you on the shine of your holster buckle, tell you to smile more often, and point out that if you’re ever going to master a lateral roll you’re going to have to log at least two more hours a day in your Vector.”
A grin broke out on Bell’s face, despite himself. The last part of the sentence was pure Indeera, who always seemed happier in the sky than on her feet.
“He would also remind you how a Jedi faces the death of those they love,” she continued, and Bell’s smile immediately dropped away. “Because Jedi can love, Bell. We’re not droids, nor should we ever be. We are living creatures rich in the Force, with everything that brings. Joy, affection, and, yes, grief. Experiencing such emotions is part of life. It is light.”
“But while we experience such emotions, we should never let them rule us. A Jedi is the master of their emotions, never a slave. You miss what you might have shared with Loden if he were here. That is natural. I miss him, too. And so we acknowledge that hurt. We understand it, even embrace it, but eventually . . .”
“We let it go,” Bell said, looking back at the Innovator so Indeera couldn’t see the tears she must have known were in his eyes.
The Tholothian reached out, placing a comforting hand on Bell’s forearm. “I didn’t say it was easy. Just like a lateral roll.”
That made him smile again, as did the slight squeeze she gave him before turning back toward the ship. “Besides, no one is ever really gone. No matter what happens, Loden will be with you, now and forever. He is a part of all of us now.”
Again the tears pricked his eyes. “Through the Force.”
“Through the Force,” she agreed. “You believe that, don’t you?”
He nodded, hoping that she was fooled while knowing full well that she wasn’t. “Yes. Of course I do.”
“I’m glad to hear it,” she said, not sounding convinced. “Now, unless there’s anything else . . .”
“We should get off this platform and actually do something with the day,” he said, keen to bring the conversation to an end.
Indeera’s comlink beeped before she could respond.
“Maybe the Force agrees with you, my not-so-young Padawan.” Indeera fished the comlink from beneath her tan-colored jacket and activated the channel.
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.