The Third Lesson
Author: Paul S. Kemp
Medium: Short story
Publication Date: March 2011 in Star Wars Insider #124
Timeline Placement: 3,667 BBY
Series: The Old Republic
“The Third Lesson” picks up right where Hope left off, with the Sith forces in retreat from Alderaan as Republic reinforcements arrive. Darth Malgus has somehow unburied himself from the rubble Satele Shan dropped on him and is making a reluctant getaway aboard his personal shuttle. Enraged by having victory snatched from his jaws by a Republic trooper and a “Jedi witch,” and dealing with a respiratory infection brought on by a grenade detonating in his face to boot, Malgus is looking for someone to take out his frustration on. Through the Force, he senses a Jedi below him in one of Alderaan’s ravaged cities and hurls himself out of his shuttle to go murder it. As Malgus and the Jedi fight, Malgus thinks back to when he was a boy named Veradun and his father taught him three important lessons that help him win this battle.
1. “Senseless savagery is the province of animals, not men. Savagery is useful only if it’s controlled and put in service to an end. The end is everything.”
2. “Often things that pretend weakness await only the right moment to show strength.”
The third he learned the day he was accepted for training at the Dromund Kaas academy, when his father showed him a cage in their family zoo covered with a tarp, which Veradun removed to find nothing inside:
3. “Sometimes there’s just an empty cage.”
He puts this lesson to use when he allows the Jedi to think he’s going to spare him, then runs him through with his lightsaber while he’s still wondering why Malgus would show him mercy.
This story is very short and probably didn’t take the author much more than an hour to churn out, but if you’re reading the EU in chronological order like I am you might be shocked by how much better it is than the last prose we read. Look at this simile: “The burned-out buildings below stuck out of the scorched earth like rotted teeth, crooked and black.” That’s not the most sophisticated or original imagery I’ve ever read, but at least it’s something, which is so much more preferable than nothing.
The story is fine for what it is: our first glimpse into the mind of one of the TOR era’s most notable villains. Obviously it isn’t great literature, nor is it trying to be, but this small sample has increased my interest in the Paul Kemp books waiting for us down the timeline. 3/5 Death Stars.