Author: John Jackson Miller
Medium: Ebook novella
Publication Date: July 21, 2009 on StarWars.com
- Anthologized Jul 2012 in Lost Tribe of the Sith: The Collected Stories
Timeline Placement: 5,000 BBY
Series: Lost Tribe of the Sith
The winged creature was an uvak (not a vacuum brand) and its rider was Adari Vaal, a female Keshiri. The Keshiri are the indigenous race on the continent of Keshtah on the planet Kesh. They look identical to humans except that they have purple skin. Aliens!
Adari is the widow of an uvak-rider whose surly mount, Nink, murdered him one day by flying out over the ocean and turning upside down. Adari is okay with this, however, because she never liked him anyway and she barely likes their two dim-witted children any better. She lives with her kids and her overbearing mother in her dead husband’s luxurious house; Nink stays in the backyard. Adari tries to socialize with her family as little as possible, however, and spends most of her time collecting rock samples and studying geology.
Her inquisitive, scientific nature has put her at odds with the rigid, faith-based society of her people. The Keshiri believe that Keshtah was created in ancient times from the blood of deities known as the Skyborn, and Adari has been labeled a heretic for suggesting that volcanic eruptions may be caused by something other than the Skyborn’s displeasure with their worshippers. So Purple Space Galileo is being publicly reprimanded for her heresy by the village elders on the day the Omen crashes, and the Keshiri witness its impact on a mountaintop in the distance.
Believing the Omen to be an omen of the Skyborn’s displeasure, the whole town turns up at Adari’s house that night to burn it down, but she escapes out the back door and flies away on Nink. It is illegal for a woman to ride an uvak, so she has no choice but to flee to the edge of the continent, heading towards the exploding mountain out of geologic curiosity. She arrives just in time to see Yaru Korsin throw his brother off the mountaintop. She and Nink are equally freaked out by this non-purple dude with a beam of light for a hand killing some guy next to a giant metal egg that fell from heaven, and the uvak hightails it out of there with Adari clinging to his back foot for dear life.
She steals back to the mountain later that night, however, after receiving a telepathic summons from Korsin. She tries to watch the Sith camp from a distance but they immediately sense her presence and overpower her. They telekinetically hurl her against a tree and force their language into her brain. She is unconscious for an entire day as a result of the trauma, but when she awakens, she is able to understand them.
She stays with the Sith for a few days as she recovers from her ordeal. Korsin treats her with kindness but Seelah, Devore’s widow (I guess they were married now even though in the previous story Korsin only thought of her derisively as “Devore’s woman”), acts like a psycho the whole time, yelling and glaring at her and treating her suspiciously. Dude threw the wrong person off that mountain, I’m telling you.
Korsin explains that his people are trapped on the mountain and they need her to fly them off so they can search for materials to repair their ship. Adari knows that Nink would never consent to that, though, and convinces Korsin to let her leave and bring back help. She returns a week later with several uvak-riders, who stop dead when they see 240 alien-colored strangers waiting for them with lightsabers drawn. (Seriously, everyone in the Sith Empire has a lightsaber now? The entire crew of this ship, even all the low-level schlubs? It’s like no one even read those terrible boring comics that no one should ever read.)
The Sith claim to be the Skyborn, returned from heaven to walk among their children for a while, and convince the village elders of this with a display of their Force powers. They kick the elders out of their opulent homes and move themselves in, dispatching uvak-riders to spread the word of their arrival to every village on the continent. Adari is by their side the whole time, her heresy forgotten, her name put into the history books as the Discoverer.
Unable to stop herself, Adari confesses to Korsin that she saw him kill Devore. She fears his reprisal, but he tells her that he knows she won’t tell the other Sith for the same reason he knows why she came back to the mountain after witnessing the murder. She is tired of being persecuted by society, and the Sith can make her powerful instead of a victim. Korsin sees her ambition and knows that she was glad when her husband died, because he was holding her back from becoming her true self. He promises that he will help her achieve that goal for however long the Sith remain on Kesh. The story ends with Adari musing that they may be stuck there longer than he thinks, and suddenly she is worried.
This story is actually very good. I really enjoyed reading it and there isn’t much to make fun of. I wasn’t sold on the Sith as characters in Precipice because none of them are very interesting so far, but viewing them through the eyes of an outsider who doesn’t realize what she’s getting herself into added a lot of tension and urgency to the story. Since we’ll never get to see the story of the Dark Jedi exiles tricking the Sith into worshipping them as gods, this same premise playing out on Kesh will have to do.
Adari Vaal is a great character and very entertaining to read. She is quick-witted, funny, and likable despite her complete misanthropy. She cannot stand any of her own people and is constantly mocking them, either in her internal monologue or right to their faces. The only person from her own planet for whom she evinces a modicum of respect is Nink, because he killed her stupid boring husband. She maintains her cool even when facing the prospect of everything she has being taken from her, because nothing she has really matters, not even her children. The only thing she cares about is her quest for self-realization.
Overall Skyborn is a major step up from Precipice and I’m looking forward to seeing where this series goes next. 4/5 Death Stars.