Suicide by Star Wars Apocrypha: Return to Kesh

Purgatory

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Author: John Jackson Miller

Medium: Ebook novella

Publication Date: October 2010 on StarWars.com

  • Anthologized Jul 2012 in Lost Tribe of the Sith: The Collected Stories

Timeline Placement: 3,960 BBY

Series: Lost Tribe of the Sith

(Suicide by Star Wars Apocrypha is a foolish attempt to examine the entirety of the now decanonized Star Wars Expanded Universe and quantify its assorted artistic merits. Read the introduction. Check out the archives.)

We’ve been away more than a thousand years, so it’s probably time we checked in on the stranded Lost Tribe of Sith on the planet Kesh to see how they’re coming along.

After Nida Korsin’s only son died without leaving an heir, the Sith abolished their dynastic system of rule, replacing it with an oligarchical meritocracy. Part of their new social hierarchy saw the implementation of the slave caste, a class of humans subject to the Sith overlords but still above the native purple-skinned Keshiri, the lowest of the low.

One such slave is Jeff of Minnesota, a herbalist hermit who has attracted the attention of 25-year-old Orielle Kitai, a Sith Saber and the daughter of the newest High Lord on the Sith ruling council. None of these goofy ranks matter at all so don’t bother trying to figure out what they mean. Ori has made several trips out to Jeff’s isolated woodland home on her flying uvak in order to procure the best decorative flowers in the tribe, and also to admire Jeff’s well-muscled arms and fantasize about him shoveling mud onto a boat.

Ori’s mother holds an important position on the Sith council; newly promoted to High Lord, her political allegiances are not yet known, making her the tie-breaker when the Sith vote to elect a new Grand Lord to replace Lillia Venn, who is like 100 years old. Things go south for the Kitais just as they were starting to look up, however; during a rake-riding competition to celebrate the Sith holiday Donellan’s Day, the contestant put forth by Ori’s mom tries to assassinate the Grand Lord. He’s immediately killed, but blame falls on the Kitai family. They are kicked out of their estate and demoted to the slave caste.

While Ori’s mother is put to work mucking out the uvak stables, Ori goes on the run before she can be enslaved and have her uvak confiscated. She flies out to Jeff’s farm because she has nowhere else to go. Initially consumed with rage, she plots ways to discover the truth of what happened and restore her family to glory, but Jeff tells her that the whole thing was probably orchestrated by Lillia Venn herself. Knowing that the political factions on the council were planning to install a new Grand Lord, she wiped out their only way of securing a majority vote and used the opportunity to eliminate her other political rivals as well.

Ori realizes that she is doomed to live in squalor, bereft of the life of luxury she has always known. Jeff senses a deeper humanity within her, however, and believes that she is not completely consumed by hate like the other Sith. He allows her to stay with him despite his better judgment, and eventually they screw.

Ori has been out in the hinterlands for about two weeks when the Luzo brothers, minions of the Grand Lord, show up looking for her while Jeff is out hunting. They kill her uvak and confiscate her lightsaber, as slaves are allowed to own neither. After they depart, Ori flies into a rage and destroys Jeff’s garden, and in the process discovers something metal buried beneath a large pile of manure in the barn. She continues digging to uncover a Republic starfighter.

Up in the mountains, Jeff senses Ori’s distress through the Force and rushes back to the farm, where he finds his ship exposed and Ori gone. A former Shadow agent of the Jedi Covenant, Jeff went on the run after the Covenant fell three years ago. Shortly afterward, his starfighter was caught in a meteor shower and crashed on Kesh, where to his horror he discovered the Covenant’s greatest fear come true: the Sith still lived. He had almost completed the repairs to his ship when Ori Kitai came into his life and complicated everything. Now he rushes off to find her, determined to stop her from giving the Sith a way off Kesh, no matter the cost.

Like most of the Lost Tribe stories, this one’s pretty short, clocking in at just about 30 pages. That’s probably for the best, because it allows these characters to hook us with their situation instead of their personalities. There isn’t time to get to know them that well; we’re just shown the gist of who they are and allowed to fill in the details ourselves while the plot carries us along. What’s not interesting about a budding romance between an impoverished slave and a former aristocrat fallen from grace? It’s just long enough and the characters are just fleshed out enough to work.

The final few pages, once Jeff’s secret is revealed, are very tense and suspenseful, and the way this seemingly isolated narrative ties back into the greater affairs of the galaxy is a smart twist. The Old Republic era may have started with Tales of the Jedi, but I like how John Jackson Miller, through Knights of the Old RepublicLost Tribe of the Sith, and later Knight Errant, has basically made it his own, with interconnected narratives spanning almost the entire length of it. I was not expecting the Covenant to show up in this series; the fact that it does, so soon after reading about their botched crusade against Zayne Carrick, was another fun reminder of how continuity can work when it’s done right.

I haven’t talked much about the characters because, as I said, the story is too short to really get into them in any meaty way, but you actually find yourself really liking them and rooting for their relationship, which makes the revelation that Jeff is a Jedi trapped on a planet full of Sith all the more unexpected.

4/5 Death Stars.

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Ori Kitai, another 25-year-old QT in the EU.