A lot has happened in Star Wars: The High Republic since we last left big bad Marchion Ro—the Eye of the Nihil, and the biggest threat the Jedi and the Republic had faced in generations—triumphant. A whole phase of the transmedia initiative, in fact, as it jumped back in time to set the stage for a climactic third act: one that is finally beginning.
Phase 3 of The High Republic, called “Trials of the Jedi,” will take place a year after the events of the first phase, which climaxed with the tyrannical pirate forces of the Nihil, in a stunning move, infiltrating and destroying Starlight Beacon—the Republic and the Jedi Order’s command station on the edges of Republic space, the forefront of their efforts to expand their reach and influence in the Outer Rim. With Starlight lost and countless dead—including some of the Jedi’s most noble Knights—the Republic and the Order alike are in disarray as the Nihil rule the fringes of their territory with a seemingly impenetrable barrier dividing Republic and Jedi holdouts from the rest of a wounded galaxy.
And now, Marchion Ro is here to gloat about it. In our exclusive excerpt from The Eye of Darkness, George Mann’s new novel formally kicking off “Trials of the Jedi” this month, below you can see the Nihil’s leader declare to the galaxy and the Jedi alike his new force in the galaxy… and unleash a threat that could undo the Jedi’s apex all together.
Check out our excerpt from The Eye of Darkness below—or if you’d prefer to hear it, you can also preview Marc Thompson’s reading from the audiobook too!
Today was the anniversary of the fall of Starlight Beacon, and rather than confining her broadcast to the planets of the Occlusion Zone, Marchion Ro was forcing Rhil Dairo to speak to the entire galaxy.
She only hoped that people would understand. Would know this wasn’t her. Would believe that she was no willing collaborator. That she was only doing this because she had no choice. And if she wanted to continue helping those inside the zone, she had to survive.
Rhil told herself that, over and over.
It’s okay to want to live. And living means fighting, in any small way I can. It means helping others to fight, too.
Today, it meant going along with whatever Marchion Ro had planned.
“It’s time.” Ro’s voice cut across her thoughts, dragging her back to the here and now.
Rhil steeled herself. She looked directly into the bank of cams. Lights blinked red. Words scrolled across a monitor for her to read. She cleared her throat and started.
“Greetings. This is Rhil Dairo, reporting live from the Gaze Electric, the flagship of the Nihil fleet, under the direct command of the great Eye of the Nihil himself, Marchion Ro.
“I speak to you all on this important day to commemorate the great triumph of the Nihil that took place precisely one year ago: the destruction of Starlight Beacon and the freeing of the Outer Rim from the oppression of the Republic and their lapdog Jedi. For too long, the Republic has imposed rules and laws upon the simple people of worlds who wish to have nothing to do with their Senate, and their sects, and their hypocrisy.
“Now those people are free. Nihil space is a testament to that freedom, a protected realm where people are at liberty to be who they want to be. To live free from the interference of politicians.”
Rhil took a deep breath, fighting back the rising bile in her throat. The words tasted bitter in her mouth. “The Nihil have found a home. They kindly allow others to share in that place of respite, to benefit from their benevolence and become a part of something greater. And they are flourishing. Yet the Republic continues to interfere, to send its agents deep into this protected zone. To try to do us harm. And so, on this otherwise great day, when the entire galaxy should be celebrating the anniversary of this moment of liberation, we are instead forced to bear witness to a trial, for the most heinous of crimes.”
The words had finished scrolling on the monitor. Uncertain, but filled with a mounting sense of dread, Rhil turned to regard Marchion Ro. He studied her with blank, emotionless eyes. The cams swung about to face him, leaving Rhil to slump back, her shoulders dropping as she expelled air from her lungs. But it was too early to feel any sense of relief. What was this trial?
Ro stood before the bank of cams, smiling for the lenses, revealing his gleaming, pointed teeth. “I couldn’t have said it better myself. It is, indeed, a day of joy and celebration, and I for one will not allow the misguided efforts of the Jedi to undermine that, for any of us.” He turned, looking briefly away from the cams. “Bring in the prisoner.”
Rhil’s heart was in her mouth. A prisoner? She wasn’t aware the Nihil were holding anyone but her. She glanced over at the three ministers. Boolan was grinning ominously. Viess was watching with affected disinterest. Only Ghirra Starros looked uncomfortable, fidgeting in her seat.
The door slid open. Two Nihil pushed a thin, stooped figure into the room. The cams slid closer, tracking his movements. The prisoner was wearing voluminous white-and-gold robes, freshly cleaned, the hood raised over their head like a shroud.
The figure raised its head, shaking off the grip of their two guards, and as the hood fell open, Rhil caught a glimpse of the thin Tarnab face beneath.
Pra-Tre Veter. A Jedi Grand Master she’d met back on Coruscant, back before any of this. Back when the galaxy had seemed safe and predictable. Back before anyone had even heard the name Marchion Ro.
Veter looked ill. His cheeks were sunken, his eyes bruised pits. His hair was shaggy and unkempt, and the horns had been shorn from his head, leaving raw, blood-encrusted stumps. He’d lost a great deal of weight, and one of his arms—Rhil could see by the way the robes had been pinned—was missing from just below the elbow. Yet his expression remained one of defiance. Of calm and acceptance.
The two guards led him closer, until they stood just a few meters from Marchion Ro. All around, Nihil were jeering and spitting, muttering curses and insults. Ro waved them quiet. The two guards pushed Veter onto his knees. He didn’t even try to resist.
“Pra-Tre Veter. Are you not a Jedi?” said Ro, emphasizing the last word with evident disgust. “A grand master, no less?”
“I am.” Even Veter’s voice seemed thin and dry. Rhil could hardly believe that someone so powerful had been brought so low. She only hoped that it was all an act, just like she’d been acting, going along with what Ro wanted until the right moment. Maybe Veter was waiting, too…
“And do you deny that, for the past year, the Jedi have been carrying out illegal operations in Nihil space, attempting to undermine the good work of the Nihil people, to seed rebellion among the subjects of Nihil space, and otherwise interfering with Nihil operations,” continued Ro.
“This is an illegal and unjust occupation. I was captured in Republic space and brought here against my will. I deny the very legitimacy of your regime. I stand against everything you represent. All Jedi do.” Veter’s tone was calm, even. “So yes, the Jedi have worked to undermine what you have done. For Light and Life.”
Marchion Ro turned to the cams. “See? You see what he claims to represent? You see how boldly he admits to the Jedi’s crimes?” He paused, as if weighing his words. “There can be only one judgment. Only one outcome. You, Pra-Tre Veter, Jedi, must serve as an example to the galaxy. Your fate shall serve as a reminder, a warning, to the rest of the Republic, and your ridiculous Order, what happens to those who stand against the Nihil.”
Rhil took a step forward, as if to hurry to Veter’s side, but Petrik was once again at her back, grasping her painfully by the wrist, holding her at bay. She felt the blaster pressing into her spine. “Oh no, princess. Not this time.”
Ro gestured to more guards, who hurried out of the door. “You have brought this upon yourselves. You left me no choice, just as, a year ago, you forced me to destroy your so-called Beacon. I am transmitting this trial on Starlight Beacon’s frequency now, into the homes of people all across the galaxy. The Nihil will not be stopped. Not by anyone. Least of all a mere Jedi.” He looked up, and Rhil followed his gaze.
The guards returned, and one of them now held a long, electrified chain leash, with one of Ro’s disgusting pets straining at the end of it. Rhil could hardly look at the thing. It was a creature born of nightmare, a twisted, malformed horror of gangly limbs and writhing proboscises, its body moving in a stuttering, awkward gait. How the natural systems of any world could have given rise to something so inherently monstrous, Rhil couldn’t even begin to imagine. Worse, she knew what the Nameless could do. She’d never seen it, but she’d heard the stories, whispered with reverence even by the Nihil.
It was a Jedi-killer.
Star Wars: The High Republic – The Eye of Darkness hits shelves next week on November 14.
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