Author: Courtney Woods
Medium: Short story
Publication Date: July 28, 2015 on SWTOR.com
Timeline Placement: 3,637 BBY
Thank God, finally something interesting.
This is the beginning of the Knights of the Fallen Empire sub-section of The Old Republic, when the 44-year conflict between the Republic and the Sith Empire is brushed aside by the emergence of a new threat, the Eternal Empire of Zakuul. A common complaint I’ve seen among TOR players is that this is the point where the game jumped the proverbial shark, dumping all that sweet, sweet Jedi-vs.-Sith Star Wars action that had characterized the previous four years of the MMO. Not having played these expansions, I can’t vouch for their execution, and it is a little silly to suddenly have another all-powerful empire emerge from the Unknown Regions and take the galaxy by storm following centuries of building its forces in secret after the Sith Empire started this era doing the same thing, but goddamn at least it’s not the fucking Sith again. I applaud BioWare for doing something different.
Thexan and Arcann are the twin sons of Emperor Valkorion, ruler of the Eternal Empire. Tasked by their father with conquering both the Sith Empire and the Republic, the princes are engaged with the forces of Darth Atroxa on Korriban, homeworld of the Sith and most evil planet in the galaxy. Thexan narrates the story, relating how an injury suffered by his brother cost him an arm and half of his face, replaced with cybernetic prostheses: “In an instant, it was the face of a stranger. And we were no longer twins.”
Thexan retires to his tent and receives a holographic transmission from the “Immortal Emperor Valkorion, Slayer of Izax.” Thexan reports on his brother’s injuries but Valkorion makes it clear that he’s uninterested and cares only about the mission, which Arcann went on only in defiance of their father’s command. Thexan reflects on how his brother’s impatience with their father grows with every interaction and the knowledge that Valkorion is only pushing them to become stronger does nothing to quell his anger, an anger that Thexan doesn’t share.
Valkorion terminates the call and Thexan goes to visit his brother. “A man can have anything, if he’s willing to sacrifice,” Arcann says, ironically imitating their father’s favorite lesson. Thexan remembers how he and his twin once practically shared a single mind, able to communicate and strategize without speaking, but Arcann’s hatred of their father has poisoned him and Thexan feels his brother slipping away. Thexan pledges to fight for his twin, telling him “Your dreams are mine.” They clasp hands, and for a moment Thexan hopes that maybe they haven’t yet lost each other after all.
Really short, a bit simplistic, but compared to the disposable tie-in crap we’ve been reading, this is a revelation. I really like that line at the beginning, “we were no longer twins.” A weirdly understated and nuanced turn of phrase for this type of writing; Arcann’s face has been spoiled by war, so he’s no longer his brother’s twin in physical appearance, but it’s also reflective of a deeper change inside him, a change in attitude that is the real source of the crack in Thexan’s mirror. I like that. 3.5/5 Death Stars.
[Continuity Note: Btw Valkorion is actually the reincarnated spirit of Vitiate, aka Tenebrae, aka the Sith Emperor. Surprise!]