In the aftermath of the Battle of Endor, a celebration and a funeral have led the twin rebels to consider what's next.
The Battle of Endor was a pivotal victory for the Rebel Alliance, and an occasion for joyous celebration for most.
But what happened after the last wokling was tucked into bed at the Ewok village, the music had ceased, and the embers had cooled on Darth Vader's funeral pyre?
In the first excerpt to be released from Star Wars: The Princess and the Scoundrel, the new novel by Beth Revis arriving this August, Luke and Leia take a moment to survey the damage of the Galactic Civil War and consider the work yet to be done to topple the Empire...
The fires had all died down, smoke trailing in the night sky, dissipating long before it could reach any of the countless glittering stars twinkling through the tree canopy. Leia’s hand trailed over the white and black helmets of the stormtroopers and Imperial fighters that the Ewoks had turned into an impromptu drum set. She had laughed and danced along with everyone else when the fires were bright and the drinks had flowed freely.
But now her hand lingered over the scratches and dents on a previously gleaming-white helmet.
A person, a living being, had been under this helmet.
Someone who would have shot to kill—any rebel, of course, but Leia knew that her death would have been the highlight of a stormtrooper’s career. Someone shot this person before they could shoot her. And then the dead trooper’s helmet had been plucked from their head and banged on like a drum.
She wondered who the trooper had been. Someone indoctrinated as a child, perhaps? That happened often enough. Someone from an occupied world, pressed into service? Had this stormtrooper chosen the path that led to their death and derision on a forest moon, or had they simply been unlucky?
Her fingers slid over the scuffed surface of the helmet, but her hand froze before she touched the next one.
It wasn’t his helmet, she knew. The night made the gray-green of the AT-ST operator’s helmet appear darker than it was, and the shape was similar but still distinctly different.
A hand fell on Leia’s left shoulder, fingers firm, pulling her back. Leia sucked in a harsh breath—the touch was too familiar. The hand pulled her back with the same pressure as before, the same spacing of fingers, one painfully on her clavicle, and when she shuddered at the touch, the same soft, almost gentle rub of a thumb against her shoulder blade.
“It’s just me,” Luke’s voice said, concern etched on his face when she jerked away and turned toward him.
Just Luke. Her brother.
Darth Vader’s son.
“You smell like...”
“Smoke?” Luke guessed. “We all do.” He attempted a smile, but Leia didn’t return it. Because the scent that clung to Luke’s black tunic was not the same as the smoke that still lingered throughout the Ewok village of Bright Tree. The stench of it made her sick to her stomach -- that, and the idea that while she’d danced, he had gone to give Darth Vader a funeral pyre.
Still, when she looked in his eyes, she saw only Luke. And he was sad.
“The whole galaxy celebrated while you mourned,” Leia said softly.
Luke shook his head. “I wasn’t the only one mourning.”
Leia glanced at the stormtrooper’s helmet. “No, I suppose not.”
“How are you?” Luke’s voice was sincere, but Leia wasn’t sure how to answer him. This was supposed to be a triumph, but all she really felt was confused. Not just about what Luke had told her about her lineage -- their connection was something she’d felt for some time, and it had been easy to accept Luke as her brother. She would not think about what that meant of her biological father. No -- it wasn’t just that.
“It’s the Force, isn’t it?” Luke asked.
Leia nodded. She had told Luke that she didn’t -- couldn’t -- understand the power he had, but he seemed eerily calm and confident that she could actually wield the Force as he did. Leia might not have any real experience with the Force, but there was no denying the power Luke had... the power she felt, too, like a fluttering of flitterfly wings just on the edge of her consciousness. Waiting for her to seize it.
“He told me to tell you --” Luke started, but Leia’s head whipped up, eyes fierce as she glared at him.
“Don’t,” she warned.
“They were his last words. He wanted me to tell you --”
“I don’t care.”
“He was good,” Luke insisted. “There was still good in him, after all...”
My father was good, Leia thought, but in her mind she pictured Bail Organa, not Darth Vader. Thinking of Bail made her think of Breha, her mother. Of her home. Of everything she had lost.
When she had spoken to Luke earlier this night, Leia had told him that she remembered the mother they shared, their birth mother. It had been vague images, feelings, really, nothing more. But she did have a memory -- of love, of closeness, of things she could not describe. It was impossible to put her feelings into words, but there was no denying their truth. It felt like... a connection, a bond made of light.
Yet Luke, who was a Jedi Knight, strong in the Force, had no memory of the woman who had birthed them both.
Did he have memories of their father? Was that why he was so capable of forgiving the monster that was Darth Vader? They had been separated at birth, not just from each other but from their biological parents. Maybe Leia had a connection with their mother, and Luke had a connection with their father.
Leia bit back a bitter laugh. Perhaps it wasn’t as deep as that. Perhaps it was merely that Luke had never been tortured by their biological father the way she had.
“What happens next?” Luke asked.
Leia looked at him. Since becoming a Jedi Knight, he had always seemed so calm, so sure of his direction.
He wasn’t sure now. His eyes searched hers. He’s waiting for me to decide my fate before he chooses his own, she realized. Their blood connection may be new knowledge, but he was also her friend. The threads of fate that had pulled them in separate directions could be rewoven.
Beyond Luke, in the shadows, Leia saw the outline of someone else. Han was backlit by a lingering torch, but she recognized his shoulders, his stance. Cocky, even when no one was looking. When his eyes settled on her, he strode directly toward her, his feet loud on the rickety boards of the walkway between the treetop dwellings.
Leia had no idea what would happen tomorrow or the next day or the next. But as she left Luke in the shadows and met Han on the bridge, she knew exactly what would happen tonight.
Star Wars: The Princess and the Scoundrel arrives August 16, 2022, and is available for pre-order now.