Author: John Jackson Miller
Medium: Ebook novella
Publication Date: February 10, 2010 on StarWars.com
- Anthologized Jul 2012 in Lost Tribe of the Sith: The Collected Stories
Timeline Placement: 4,985 BBY
Series: Lost Tribe of the Sith
The Sith have been stuck on Kesh for 15 years, hatching failed escape attempts and subjugating the Keshiri. Unable to breed with their willing subjects, the human Sith have been reproducing to increase their dominance over the planet, while the Red Sith have been unable to produce any surviving offspring. Korsin and Seelah are married now and have had a daughter together. This chapter in the series is told from Seelah’s point of view.
We open with Seelah standing naked in front of a mirror after a bath, musing on how fit she still looks for a woman in her forties. Her personal assistant, a male Keshiri, awkwardly stands nearby and tries not to look at her. Apparently this is like a daily ritual of theirs. Seelah then belittles him by ignoring the clothes he has laid out for her and picking out her own outfit instead. Seems kind of skeevy, but to be fair if I ever became a licensed Star Wars author I think the first thing I would do would be to canonize my softcore erotic fanfiction, too.
There’s disappointingly little Adari Vaal in this story. She just shows up briefly to talk with Korsin and we learn that the two of them have been taking long, daily walks in the wilderness together for almost as long as the Sith have been on the planet. Despite marrying Korsin, Seelah still hates him for killing her previous husband and is plotting his murder, but she is also insanely jealous of Adari, even though she knows Korsin isn’t actually cheating on her and she wouldn’t care if he was. Women are complex like that.
Korsin sends Ravilan, the spokesperson for the dwindling faction of non-human Sith, to some other Keshiri village in the south to investigate some fluorescent algae. Shortly after his arrival, the town’s entire Keshiri population drops dead from some unknown plague. At Ravilan’s urging, Korsin determines that the Sith will cut off all contact from the Keshiri in order to protect themselves from infection. All of the Sith are recalled to the Omen’s mountain crash site, but before they have all returned, several more villages on the Ragnos Lakes are wiped out as well.
Seelah draws Korsin’s attention to the fact that everywhere the plague has struck was a location being visited by Red Sith. Korsin deduces that Ravilan and his ilk must be spreading the plague on purpose in order to force the Sith to redouble their efforts to escape from the planet, where the Red Sith have proven unable to reproduce. With a heavy heart, Korsin orders the holocaust of every non-human Sith on Keshtah, excluding his friend Gloyd the Houk because he is a Muggle.
Ravilan is captured and Seelah has him tortured while his people are being murdered and having their severed heads mounted on pikes. In his despair, Ravilan confesses that he poisoned the water supply of the first infected village to try to make Korsin care more about getting off the planet, but he has no idea how it spread to the other outbreak sites. Seelah reveals that she was responsible for this, having caught on to what Ravilan was doing and sacrificing millions of innocent Keshiri to turn Korsin against the Red Sith.
Seeing how badly he’s been played, Ravilan realizes that Seelah, as the Sith’s chief medical administrator, also must have been responsible for ensuring none of the Red Sith’s children lived past infancy. He curses her for her treachery and is hacked to death with a vibroblade and lightsaber by Jariad Korsin, Seelah’s teenaged son from her first marrage. Jariad is unsatisfied with this grisly murder, lamenting that it wasn’t his stupid stepfather, who just doesn’t understand him. Seelah assures him that it will be soon enough.
Also now Adari Vaal feels bad about saving the Sith because of how they’ve subjugated the Keshiri and she has become the leader of an underground resistance movement plotting to overthrow them.
I don’t really know what the title of this story refers to, because I feel like everyone in it definitely racks up more Renegade points than Paragon, but this story is up there with the scant few good ones we’ve read so far. Almost as good as Skyborn, it succeeds in making Seelah, my most hated character from the previous two stories, actually interesting to read about, and not just because of the scene where she studies her naked body in the mirror for an awkwardly long time.
The best parts of Paragon didn’t even come up in the above summary. Each chapter begins with a brief flashback to Seelah’s early life as a slave in the Sith Empire. It turns out that she was the personal foot-care servant of our old friend Ludo Kressh. This particular passage may be the best in the entire canon so far:
“Do you know why I do this?” Kressh had asked one night. His drunken rage had touched the entire household, Seelah included. “I have seen the holocrons—I know what waits beyond. My son looks like me—and so does the future of the Sith.
“But only as long as we’re here. Out there,” he’d spat, between bloody punches, “out there, the future looks like you.”
Just before this, Seelah reflects on how Kressh spent all his free time trying to develop a magical device to protect his young son from harm. In a few short lines, John Jackson Miller takes one of the flattest, least memorable characters we’ve met so far and completely reinvents our whole perspective on him. Everything Ludo Kressh did in The Golden Age of the Sith and The Fall of the Sith Empire, he did out of love for his son. I mean sure, he was still an evil, murderous, power-hungry dick, but that was all he was when KJA wrote him. He gets more development in two lines of Paragon, long after his death, than he did in two entire story arcs of Tales of the Jedi.
At the same time, Miller also develops Seelah’s character and explains her deep-seated racism against the Sith species. She suffered for years in servitude to Kressh, and eventually saw her entire family executed on his orders because she couldn’t cure his twisted ankle. She ran away and defected to Naga Sadow’s fiefdom, where she met and married Devore Korsin. Sadow was apparently a huge equal rights advocate and believed that anyone could rise in prestige among the Sith regardless of their birthright. Bizarrely, this egalitarianism does have its roots in his original characterization, as a one-off line in a narrative textbox established that he was beloved by the Sith foot soldiers because he treated them with more respect than the other Sith Lords did.
Paragon also finally explains where all these non-Sith Sith came from in the first place. The worlds of the Sith Empire were secluded within the Stygian Caldera, a massive nebula that impeded hyperspace navigation. Ships that ventured in from the outside were rarely able to find their way back out and their crews ended up enslaved by the Sith. Apparently this happened so frequently that a significant chunk of the Sith Empire wasn’t even Sith. I’m not sure when or why this retcon came about because it doesn’t remotely match the empire’s visual depiction in Golden Age and Fall, but the Sith in the prequels were humans with red lightsabers so I guess they had to be that way in the EU too.
This story needed more Adari Vaal child neglect, but it made up for it with classic literary themes of eugenics, racial cleansing, and post-birth abortion. 4/5 Death Stars.