Wednesday, September 30, 2009

3998 BBY - 3996 BBY: The Sith War.

The next source for my Star Wars Chronology Project brings me back to a familiar text: Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force. In this mine of Jedi information we once again engage with the Tedryn holocron, but this time with the words of Jedi Master Vodo-Siosk Bass, and addendum’s by Tionne Solusar.

Master Bass succinctly summates the events of the Sith War, and recounts his own interaction and involvement in it. He comments that his former student, Exar Kun, formed his own version of the Jedi Code, and distorted what the Jedi knew to be true and right.

As I was reading this, it made me think of the Council of Trent after the Protestant reformation, and it made of think of Master Bass in the same way as one of the Cardinal defenders of the Catholic Church. In the Council of Trent, the Catholic Church clarified their doctrinal teachings after Martin Luther called into question some of their practices (and rightfully so). Here, Master Bass says (speaking of Exar Kun): “He imitated the ways of the long-fallen Sith and used then to form his own philosophy of the Jedi Code, a distortion of all we know to be true and right”. It’s his use of the words “true and right” which rang out to me here, and I almost got the sense that Master Bass felt the need to reiterate some of the Jedi teachings in light of Exar Kun’s doctrinal damage, and promises of “ancient secrets revealed”.

From a purely textual point of view, Exar Kun’s new philosophy or interpretation of the Jedi Code is never laid out. As a matter of fact, in the SWCP I have yet to come across a textual etching of the Jedi Code at all. I’m sure it has been reference in the source material I’ve looked at thus far, but an actual textual codification is still absent. It’s my hope that I come across such a thing in my travels along the road of Star Wars history.

Bass asserts that Kun claimed for himself the title of the first Dark Lords of the Sith, but we now know that the first Dark Lord of the Sith on record was Marka Ragnos, (the Master of Naga Sadow) or arguably even before that Ajunta Pall – the first “Dark Jedi” to lead and take command of the Sith people. Exar Kun was obviously not the first ‘Dark Lords of the Sith’, but he was the first to appropriate the title after the Great Hyperspace War.

Though Vodo Siosk Bass was slain by his former apprentice, (and Bass makes reference to his “failure” here in the holocron’s recordings) it seems his consciousness was contained within the Tedryn holocron, similar in fashion to the way that Exar Kun infused his spirit within the frame of the temples he erected on Yavin 4.

In the holocron, Bass makes note of two significant events to occur during the Sith War, and events I myself glossed over in my last post. I’ll address these events now.
The first was Kun’s ability to use his Sith powers to recruit Jedi apprentices to the darkside (which I made reference to), and then dispatch them to assassinate their former Masters (which I did not). Kun was mostly successful in this plot, but failed in killing Master Thon using the hands of Oss Wilum.

The second significant event was using Naga Sadow's former Sith flagship, and using the darkside witch Aleema to initiate its powers, to destroy the ten suns of the Cron cluster, thus creating a massive shockwave to ripple through the universe, destroying many worlds, including Ossus, and leaving in ruin the home of the Jedi and the seat of Jedi knowledge.

At the end of this source we are left with Tionne Solusar’s addenda to Master Bass’. She commented on the Jedi chasing Kun to Yavin 4, and Kun placing his disembodied consciousness within his temple. She also commented on Nomi Sunrider’s “most unusual” Force ability to strip a Jedi of his powers. This makes me think that I may not come across another such incident of this again if in 40 ABY a Jedi historian is referring to this as “most unusual” ability. It also makes me appreciate even more how powerful a Jedi Nomi Sunrider was, as well as the Master she learned the ability from, Odan-Urr.

I am nearly at the end of this particular time frame in Star Wars chronology, as I have only one more source to examine. Joe Bongiomo, in his chronology, makes reference again to Knights of the Old Republic #33, but it’s a flash-back, and I’m going to deal with that text when I get to it.

For my next post I’ll be going to Star Wars Galaxy Magazine, issue #13, and a story called Jedi Protector. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

3998 BBY - 3996 BBY: The Sith War.

This six issue comic series published by Darkhorse was action packed from beginning to end. In this series we reach the conclusion of the Ulic Qel-Droma / Exar Kun chronicle, and discover the fate of these two fallen Jedi.

The series opens with an introduction of the Mandalorian warriors. Realizing that the Tetan system has been weakened in its conflict with the Republic, the Mandalorian tribe strikes the system with the purposes of conquering.

The Mandalorians, in my opinion, are the coolest things about Star Wars, even cooler than the Jedi. There has been nearly endless ink spilled on the progenitor of the Mandalorian image, the character of Boba Fett, and all for good reason. The Mandalorians embody everything we love about the warrior spirit, and symbolize, in their entire essence, the ancient Greek notion of ‘arĂȘte’ - personal glory and excellence. Every Mandalorian is an Achilles: aggressive, intelligent, arrogant, and deadly in combat.

My character was a Mandalorian bounty hunter when I played Star Wars Galaxies. I remember spending endless evenings in the Death Watch bunker trying to get the parts for my character’s jet pack. I eventually put together a set of Mandalorian armor, along with a jetpack. I also had over 100 Jedi kills with my character, with over 40% of them being solo kills, which in my opinion was pretty impressive considering how powerfully unbalanced the Jedi character was to the other player characters. Unfortunately, Sony Online Entertainment ruined the game with its New Game Enhancements. I had so much fun hunting Jedi with my small guild of Jedi killers. I’m looking forward to the Old Republic MMO being produced by Bioware. Anyway, back to my reactions to The Sith War.

Upon entering the Tetan system, Mandalore the Great challenges Ulic to a duel. Ulic wins the fight, and in doing so unites the Mandalorians under his banner of leadership. Mandalore the Great becomes Ulic’s right hand man.

Meanwhile, Exar Kun made his way to Ossus in order to recruit Jedi to his cause, and surreptitiously convert them to the darkside. He lures recruits with the promise of ancient secrets reveled, but he makes sure never to couch his secrets in terms of Sith knowledge, or darkside workings. He was very careful to use the word ‘Jedi’ whenever he references the new knowledge he gained.

I found it strange that Exar Kun, being a Dark Lords of the Sith, was able to walk around the planet Ossus unimpeded, not arouse suspicion, and begin trying to actively recruit Jedi to his cause. But then again, Palpatine did the same for a very long time. The Jedi were not aware that Kun was the Dark Lord of the Sith the same way that the Jedi council was unaware of Palpatine’s connection to the darkside. It must be a darkside ability to be able to cloak your darkness from other force sensitive beings.

Kun’s path eventually leads him to Master Odan-Urr, and the real reason he traveled to Ossus – to collect for himself the old Jedi Master’s Sith holocron; the same holocron Odan-Urr retrieved from Naga Sadow’s ship. When the two meet, Kun reveals his true Sith identity, and takes the holocron by force from the old Master. Odan-Urr is killed in the exchange. But the manner in which his is killed is not depicted well. One panel shows Odan-Urr throwing Exar Kun back using the force, the next panel has Kun merely extending his hand to the old Master, and Urr simply withering away. I wish this particular scene had been dramatized a bit better. Be that as it may, the old Master was killed amongst his books and scrolls, as his own Master predicted millennia ago.

Kun manages to gain some darkside recruits, and grabs for the reader familiar Jedi to his cause, like Oss Wilum and Crado the Cathar. He takes them to Yavin 4, and there destroys the Sith holocron he stole. In the ensuing chaos of the holocron’s destruction, Wilum and the other Jedi become infected by the holocron’s broken shards, and are subsequently infected by the darkside. They then become the pupils of Kun.

Meanwhile, Ulic, Aleema, and Mandalore stage an attack on Coruscant in order to bring down the Republic’s government. They were almost successful, if not for treachery on the part of Aleema. Aleema fed Mandalore inaccurate information, which lead to the capture of Ulic at the hands of his former Jedi friends. It seems Aleema feared Ulic enough to want to put him out of the picture and give to herself full control of the Tetan system. Mandalore realizes Aleema’s treachery, and enlists the help of Exar Kun to rescue his captured sovereign.

Mandalore and Kun made their way back to Coruscant to free Ulic, where a showdown between Kun and his former Master Vodo-Siosok Bass ensued. Kun brandishes a double bladed lightsaber, reminiscent of the one featured by Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace, and kills his old Master.

What I find interesting about this scene is the lack of red lightsabers brandished by the Sith. Kun sports a blue lightsaber, while Ulic carries a green one. Precedence for the red lightsaber has already been established by Jackson-Miller’s short stories, so I wonder at their absence here. I guess the simple answer is that Viech and Anderson did not feel that red sabers were necessary components to their villains. I think this idea also goes along with that fact that neither of these characters underwent a name change when they took on their Sith monikers. I suppose if a name change occurred the characters may have had a lightsaber change as well. Anyway, moving on with the story and my reactions…

After freeing Ulic, a brother vs. brother showdown occurs. Cay tells his brother he loves him, while Ulic answers Cay’s love with a slash from his saber, killing him. Ulic immediately regrets what he’s done, but Nomi Sunrider, in her inconsolable grief at the situation, curses Ulic with the most aggressive and powerful attack the lightside of the force has to offer. She strips from Ulic his force abilities, neutering his power. Odan-Urr taught Nomi this technique, warning her that it is a grave thing to take away a Jedi’s connection to the force, even a Jedi who had embraced the darkness. Left completely powerless, Ulic agrees to lead the Jedi to Exar Kun.

I found this scene extremely fascinating, and consider it the climax of the story. Prior to reading this I didn’t even know that a Jedi could strip another Jedi of his abilities, but what I find even more intriguing is that this is a lightside ability. Indeed, the light is powerful, powerful enough to envelope one in itself, completely cutting one off from the darkness, and even the Force. I agree with Odan-Urr, this is a freighting ability. I wonder if this ability is used again in Star Wars history.

Thousands of Jedi converge on Yavin 4 to defeat Exar Kun. Kun, realizing his defeat is at hand, retreats to his knowledge of the darkside. Kun then chains himself to one of the pillars at the bottom of his own temple, and here, leaves the material world and retreats to the spirit world. It seems Kun effused the temple with his being, leaving no corporeal remains behind, in an almost inverted type rapture.

While Kun prepared his spirit to leave the material world, the Jedi initiate a powerful lightside attack from orbit. Unfortunately, the attack was too powerful, and ended up setting fire to the planet. They knew they defeated Kun, but had to ask themselves, ‘at what cost?’

Two years later, Ulic, still without his Force abilities, visits the temple of Yavin 4 in search of a part of himself that has been lost. He enters the temple, but leaves it still feeling empty. The final frames of the story I found quite profound and sad. In the final pictorials of the Sith War, we see Exar Kun, surrounded by darkness, pleading Ulic to come back into the temple. He pleads with Ulic “It’s dark. I’m trapped. Don’t leave me!”, and ends with a pathetic ‘Ulic?”.

The Sith War was an awesome series, action packed from beginning to end. For my next post I’ll be going back to the source Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

3998 BBY - 3996 BBY: The Most Dangerous Foe

The simple stories are usually the most entertaining. The Most Dangerous Foe, by Angela Phillips, is a framed narrative – a story within a story. The framed narrative is one of my favorite literary devices, ancient in its origins, and effective in its purpose. One of my favorite movies of all time, The Princess Bride, is an example of a framed narrative.

The title of this tale reminds me of a short story I teach in grade 9 English, The Most Dangerous Game. In that story we have a big game hunter who has found himself on a deserted island being chased by another hunter – one who hunts humans. From early on in the tale we understand that ‘the most dangerous game’ is ‘man’. This story is similar in its point. ‘The most dangerous foe’ is our self. We are our own worst enemy, as the old saying goes.

The Most Dangerous Foe, taken from Star Wars Adventure Journal # 11, starts off on Yavin base shortly after the destruction of the first Death Star. The rebels are attempting to dismantle the base, and presumably move operations to Hoth. Deen Voorson, our in-story narrator, is taking care of some of the officer’s children, when one of the children asks him to tell them a story. Deen complies, and tells the children the story of Vici Ramunee, a Jedi padawan on the eve of her trial into knighthood during the Sith War.

Vici is lead by Mistress Tannis, who guides her with some final wisdom before sending Vici out on her test. Mistress Tannis tells Vici to trust in the Force, and not to trust her physical senses, as they will deceive her. Vici has one full day to complete her test. She must make her way to the cave of truth, and once there, enter it, and face ‘the most dangerous foe’. Vici’s Mistress tells her not to take anything, not even her lightsaber. Vici agrees, and sets out on her quest.

Unbeknownst to Vici, her little brother tags along. He too is at the Jedi praxium studying to become a Jedi. He tried to give Vici her lightsaber, but Vici admonishes the boy, and does not take her Jedi weapon.

On the way to the cave, Vici and her brother encounter a giant dragon. When the dragon rounded the bend and encountered the two, Vici ignited her lightsaber and began to swing. The dragon was shocked by this greeting, and said: “The Sith Wars must be going badly, if Tannis is forced to graduate Jedi who can’t tell friend from foe”.

It is here we have an indication of the chronological setting of our story. In the last tale I examined, Light and Shadow, there was no indication of chronology found within the story (maybe there was and I missed it, though I don’t think so). I was only working from Joe Bongiomo’s list, and I assume that he’s privy to some information that definitively sets the story Light and Shadow before this one. I like that this story gave its reader some kind of chronological queue (especially for the purposes of this project).

The dragon’s name is Willm Lywin, and he is to escort Vici to the cave of truth. We learn during their travels that Willm is very old, and has been assisting in training Jedi for many hundreds and possibly even thousands of years.

Vici’s encounter with Willim is similar to that of Nomi Sunrider’s encounter with Master Thon, and Luke Skywalker’s encounter with Master Yoda. The moral of these meetings is always “never judge a book by its cover”.

Once they reach the entrance of the cave, Willim tells Vici to enter, and she does. She believes she has entered the cave to face an enemy, and indeed she has. As she goes through the cave she encounters several trials, but never a one-on-one encounter with another entity. At the final stage, she is trapped in a flooding room of mirrors. She believes that her “foe” has trapped her, and she draws her lightsaber in anger. Her reflection in one of the mirrors frightens her, as her face is skewed in rage. She de-ignites her saber, and reaches out with the force, and in doing so, walks through one of the mirrors to her safety.

On the other side she is met by her Mistress who congratulates her on the successful completion of her trial, and is now a fully fledged Jedi Knight. Tannis tells Vici that she did indeed fight in the cave, she fought impatience, physical limits, fear, and greed: she essentially fought herself.

There were two particular trials that Vici encountered in the cave of truth I want to comment on, as I found them endlessly fascinating.

At one particular point in her journey through the cave, Vici encountered a door that lead out of a room she was trapped in, but behind the door was total chaos: “It opened to chaos: a black yawning void filled with rushing winds”. Behind this door there was no up, no down, just black nothingness. This reminds me of one of my favorite existential philosophers, Soren Kierkegaard. One of Kierkegaard’s most famous works is Fear and Trembling, and in this text Kierkegaard explains the idea of the ‘Knight of Faith’. In short, the ‘Knight of Faith’ believes that with God, all things are possible, and the Knight of Faith completely trusts in God, and has no hesitation in stepping out into the void of unknowing, improvable faith – essentially complete belief in God.

Here Vici puts aside what it is she sees, and completely trusts in the Force, and steps through the door. In Kierkegaard’s esteem, she acted as Abraham did with God’s command to sacrifice his only son, and as the Virgin Mary did, by saying yes to God, and becoming the mother of Jesus.

After Vici walks through the door she finds herself on a narrow path. I couldn’t help but smile a little bit, as Matthew’s gospel jumped right out at me: “The passage began growing smaller. Soon Vici found herself stooping, then crawling on hands and knees as the tunnel shrank around her. Part of her mind began wondering if she’d taken the right tunnel. No, she thought, it still feels like the right way, even though it’s certainly not easy”. Matthew’s gospel says something very similar: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matt 7:13-14).

Our story ends on the first frame of Deen and the children. One of the officers comes in, and tells Deen he liked the story. I’m not certain, but I think the officer who enters is Luke Skywalker, but the text is cryptic enough for that conclusion to be left to the reader.

The Most Dangerous Foe was a most enjoyable tale. For my next post I’ll be moving on to the Sith War, as presented in Darkhorse comics. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

3998 BBY - 3996 BBY: Light and Shadow

Light and Shadow is a short story taken from Star Wars Adventure Journal #18, written by Paul Danner. The story remains unpublished because the Adventure Journal series never made it past issue #15 due to financial woes by West End Games who produced the chain. The Adventure Journals were used in conjunction with the Star Wars Role Playing game, and compiled a litany of short stories players could use to enhance their role-playing adventures. I myself own a few copies. I bought them in the late nineties because I thought that the idea of multiple short stories from various Star Wars timelines was neat. I especially liked how after each story, there were role-playing stats on the main characters: things like their blaster skill, their starship piloting skills, or even their gambling skill. I wish there was a company that still did this – compile a bi-monthly or even semi-annually publication of Star Wars short stories. It need not be connect to the role-playing aspect of Star Wars (but that would be cool). I have a few stories I’d like to submit myself.

Paul Danner does well in telling his tale. His language is descriptive and concise enough to move the action of the narrative.

Light and Shadow is a story about a wayward Jedi, who has fallen into the precipice of the darkside, yet at the end of the tale manages to redeem himself enough to bring him back to the ways of the light (we hope).

Lian Dray is our protagonist, and at the beginning of our tale we learn he has exiled himself to an uncharted planet in order to come to terms with the murder of his Master by his own hands. For some reason which we, the reader, are not privy too, Dray became seduced by the darkside, murdered his Master, and is now fleeing the retribution of his fellow Jedi.

His escape from justice leads him to a verdant forest world. We first encounter Dray trying to use lightside meditative techniques taught to him by his Master to calm his soul. Unfortunately, the storm that is the darkside looms menacingly on his emotional horizon, simultaneously seducing and threatening the lost Jedi.

His meditation is broken when a starship streaks through the sky crash-landing on the planet. Dray finds the ship engulfed in flame, and trapped inside the flames is a little girl. Dray saves the girl, who we learn latter is extremely strong in the Force.

Before long, two darkside adepts come looking for the little one, and a lightsaber duel ensues as Dray attempts to save her from them. Dray kills one adept, and by calling upon the darkside, kills the other. The little girl is horrified by his actions, and runs away into the wilderness. After momentarily contemplating as to whether or not he should give pursuit, Dray decides that the girl has now become his responsibility and he must go after her.

Unluckily, a darkside sorcerer named Thannor Keth catches the girl, and she is quickly locked in a Force suppressing cage. Thannor Keth was the Master of the two darkside adepts that Dray dispatched. Dray quickly trackers her down, and after distracting Keth, rescues the girl from the cage. As they are fleeing, the young girl, named Nova, pleads with Dray to not use the darkside of the Force anymore. Dray hesitantly agrees.

Keth quickly pursues the two, when the darkside sorcerer knocks Dray down with Force lightning. Another duel ensues, where Dray seems outmatched and outgunned. Keth manages to gain the upper hand on Dray. During this agonizing assault, Dray began to reach for the darkside. He felt this was his only option. As he began to let the anger and hate flow through him, he saw the look of dismay on Nova’s face. He ceased his darkside activities, and began to understand the Jedi saying ‘there is no death, only the Force’. Before Keth managed to cast the deathblow on Dray, Nova interceded, and placed around the fallen Jedi a shield of light. Keth’s darkside power backfired on him, and he was left a heaping mass of smoking flesh.

Dray and Nova made it back to his ship, where they plotted a course for Ossus to begin the girl’s training in the Jedi way, and for Dray to begin the atonement necessary for his transgressions.

I’ve always found the stories contained within the Adventure Journals entertaining. There are a few things I want to comment on with regards to this tale.

Firstly, There was a bit in this story about how the Dark Lords of the Sith overuse their abilities:

“As Dray quickly wiped the sweat from his forehead, he considered his actions. The first method would have been easier, but an unnecessary reliance on the Force to do something just as easily accomplished with a little sweat. He had a sudden fleeting image of depraved Sith overlords sitting on their thrones, using the Force to attend to their every insignificant need. Some were so bloated from years of inactivity their limbs had all but atrophied.”

There is something visceral about this description. I never even thought that overuse of the Force could lead a Jedi astray, but after reading this, I find that it makes perfect sense, and reconciles well with Jedi philosophy. Dray’s response to this thought was also very Jedi:

“He prepared to manipulate the Force again, this time to lift the heavy cylinder off the girl’s leg. Dray wasn’t sure why, but instead found himself reaching down to grasp the heavy machinery. He bent his legs and lifted for all he was worth. The cylinder screeched in annoyance at being disturbed, reluctant to release its grip, but with a final grunt of exertion Dray managed to free the girl from her make-shift prison.”

I’m reminded of the scene in Attack of the Clones when Anakin used the Force to float a fruit to Padme. He emphasizes the scene with a comment like “Master Obi Wan would be quite mad if he saw me doing this”. I think I instinctively understood why Obi Wan would find this use of the Force extravagant and therefore worthy of chastisement, but now I understand that too much reliance on the Force can lead one to the vice of sloth.

Secondly, I find it interesting that another darkside sorcerer has crept up in Star Wars history. In the Tales of the Jedi series, Ulic Qel-Droma’s impetus for not dispatching Satal and Aleema at his first opportunity was that if he did so the darkside would manifest itself somewhere else in the universe, and he would then be unable to track it. He kept them alive, not for some altruistic Jedi philosophy, but because he wanted to destroy the darkside from within. Unfortunately for Ulic, it seems that the darkside had indeed already manifested itself somewhere else, which begs the question – where did Thannor Keth come from, and what’s his background story?

I left the story of Light and Shadow hoping for Lian Dray’s redemption. I find that there are too many Star Wars stories which account for a character’s fall from grace, and not enough which demonstrate the transformative power and strength of the light.

Lets see if we can convince the powers that be that the Star Wars Adventure Journal is a viable format, worthy of a second chance. If you are interested in reading the story for yourself you can find it here. For my next post I’ll be examining another Adventure Journal story, this one titled The Most Dangerous Foe. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

3998 BBY - 3996 BBY: Dark Lords of the Sith Audio Drama

I’m finding that audio dramas are highly entertaining. I really enjoyed the first one I listened to, which was the Tales of the Jedi series. Likewise, I enjoyed the Dark Lords of the Sith audio drama. They’re only 2 hours in length, and I listen to them whenever I’m able to catch a little downtime.

What I found most remarkable about the Dark Lords of the Sith audio drama was how little it deviated from the original story. In the Tales of the Jedi audio drama, there were many deviations from the original comic, all of them welcome because they added depth and detail to the story. Here, very little was added, except some minor pieces of dialogue. Like the last Star Wars audio drama I listened too, this one had strong voice actors, and typical Star Wars sound effects which were lifted straight from the movie soundtrack which made the listening experience very entertaining.

Since very little was added in the way of detail in this particular source, I’ll comment on aspects of the story I overlooked for brevity’s sake in my last post.

There are only two things I really want to address in this post. The first is the nature of the darkside of the force. I know I’ve talked a lot about this before, but I have some additional thoughts about this that I’ve gleaned from this story. The second is that lack of name changes for darkside characters. I’ll explain what I mean by this a little later on.

Many times throughout the story the “Force” becomes blocked off to the characters of Exar Kun and Ulic Qel-Droma. I find this intriguing for several reasons. Firstly, I’ve come to understand that when these characters refer to the “Force” what they mean is the “lightside” of the Force. When the “darkside” of the Force is referenced, it’s never called “the darkside of the Force”, rather, simply “the darkside”. But by calling it “the darkside”, ‘of the force’ is implied in its meaning. Which makes me ask, if it’s not “the Force” giving a dark Jedi his or her ability, should it not then be called something else?

If the darkside is not being referenced in this manner, Jedi always seem to refer to it as “magic”, and the practitioners of the darkside as “magicians” and “sorcerers”. I commented on this a few posts back, and I found this puzzling since it was my impression that light and dark Jedi alike pulled their power from the same well of energy. By the end of that post, I came to the conclusion that indeed, the light and darkside of the force did originate from the same well of power; it was simply that each was so irreconcilable to the other that either side found the other untranslatable. Yet here, in this story, when Ulic and Exar strayed too far from the light, all of their Jedi abilities were cut off. They were unable to use “The Force”, but instead had to rely on “The Darkside”. This makes me question whether “The Force” is responsible for darkside abilities. What I’m trying to get at here is this: is there a dualism here that is not accounted for? Should the darkside be called something else, rather than “the darkside”, since “the Force” is cut off to those who no longer hold to the tenants of the Force proffered by the Jedi Knights?

What I’m struggling to understand is why these characters couldn’t call upon “The Force” in general, whether is be for good intentions or bad ones. Intentionality seems to play a large role in one’s ability to use the power of the Force. If my intentions are good, I can call upon “The Force” to help me. But if my intentions are bad, “The Force” no longer recognizes me, and I must call upon “the Darkside” to help me out. This is what seems to have occurred in these stories, which makes me wonder if this means that there are two powers in this galaxy, each offering a small percentage of sentient beings the ability to use their abilities. For lack of a better comparison, do we have a Zoroastrian good deity / evil deity set up here, or are we still using the Taoist ying-yang in our understanding of the nature of the force?

I don’t know. I was under the impression that the Force operated like a Taoist ying-yang. Light cannot exist without the dark, and the dark cannot exist without the light. But now I’m not so sure.

I think in the Star Wars Universe, the nearly unanimous understanding is that “The Force” is responsible for both the lightside and the darkside. So then why couldn’t Ulic and Exar use “The Force” to help them? I guess the most obvious answer is that they had turned their back on the “ying” and had to rely on the “yang”, and since they had turned their backs to the “light” the only option open to them was the “dark”.

Ultimately, the nature of the Force seems hard to grasp. I guess understanding the force relies on how one chooses to interface with it. Am I doing something for the good of others (agape love) or am I doing something for the sole benefit of myself (erotic love).

Moving on to my second point, I find it interesting that in the Star Wars stories I’ve examined so far, a name changed has not accompanied the characters who went from the light to the dark. Anakin Skywalker ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and was instead Darth Vader when he moved from the light to the dark. We’ve yet to encounter this particular literary trope. Exar Kun was still Exar Kun after his transformation, and Ulic was still Ulic after his. I’m looking forward to when the name change occurs in one who has made a dramatic shift in personal philosophy, and when the “Darth” moniker is used for the first time.

For my next post I’ll be examining a short story titled Light and Shadow from Star Wars Adventure Journal # 18. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

3998 BBY - 3996 BBY: The Dark Lords of the Sith

Leisure time is at a low, and my ability to trek down the path of my doctorate in Star Wars-ology has become hampered with others things that take priority. We’re now into week three of classes, and projects that were assigned the first week have now boomeranged back into my hands for assessment and evaluation. Teaching is fun – it’s the marking that becomes dreary.

Be that as it may, the fire that burns in my belly for the journey of this project is still hot, and I’m looking forward to recording my thoughts and reactions to the Dark Lords of the Sith series.
Our spot in Star Wars chronology picks up a few months after the Freedon Nadd uprising. The students of Master Arca are enjoying some leisure time on the planet of Onderon, and it seems that a relationship based on mutual affection has developed between Nomi Sunrider and Ulic Qel-Dorma.

The darkside which was once powerful on this planet seems to have weakened. This is because Onderon is no longer a seed of power for the darkside. That mantle has been passed to Satal and Aleema, the heirs to the Empress Teta system. It seems that in the short months these two apprenticed themselves to Freedon Nadd, they have grown very powerful in the workings of Sith magic. So much so, in fact, that they managed to stage a military coup of their parents rule, and by force, managed to take over and subjugate much of the Teta system. It is here that the Jedi Knights – defenders of peace and justice in the galaxy – enter the picture.

During a meeting on Deneba, where many of the Jedi Knights and their Masters gathered to discuss the Jedi response to this darkside threat, the Jedi were attacked by the minions of Satal and Aleema (Who call themselves the Krath). In a “retaliate first” mentality, the followers of the darkside managed to discombobulate the Jedi by striking them first, and in the process, killing Jedi Master Arca Jeth.

Ulic Qel-Dorma swears vengeance on the Krath, and devises a plan to infiltrate the Krath posing as a fallen Jedi looking for instruction in the darkside of the Force. His fellow Jedi and the Masters on the council advise him against this idea. But his mind is made up, and he sets his plans in motion.

Before long Ulic manages to persuade Satal and Aleema that he is one of them, but his ruse did not come cheap. It seems that the further he goes along with his plan, the further he walks away from the lightside of the Force, until, finally, he’s unable to use any of his lightside abilities.

His fellow Jedi, lead by Ulic’s brother Cay, and Nomi Sunrider attempt a rescue mission of their lost friend. However, in a fit of rage Ulic tells them all to go away. Most heart-breaking is Ulic’s treatment of Nomi – it seems that Ulic has found a new love, in the form of the darkside witch Aleema. Nomi acquiesces to Ulic’s demands, and the Jedi leave Cinnagar empty handed.

After killing Satal, Ulic and Aleema are left as the sole disciples of the spirit of Freedon Nadd. It seems that Ulic, in an attempt to destroy the darkside of the force, only became consumed by it.

In a story running parallel with this one, we learned of Exar Kun, an arrogant and powerful Jedi who is the apprentice of Master Vodo-Siosk Baas. Our introduction to this man comes in the form of a chastisement from his Master. It seems Exar Kun is obsessed with the lore of the Sith, and he is caught studying his Master’s holocron on the history of the Sith – when he’s been expressidly forbidden to do so.

Later, we see Exar sparing with the other apprentices of Master Vodo. He is very aggressive and ruthless in the sparring sessions with his fellow apprentices – which leads one of them to denounce him as a Jedi. Sylvar, a female Cathar, sees right through Exar Kun, and sees that his heart is full of dark intentions.

Exar Kun leaves his master, and begins his search for Sith artifacts to study. His travels bring him to Onderon, and Master Arca. Arca has no time for the wayward Jedi, and in no uncertain terms, tells Exar Kun that he knows what his intentions are, and that he’s headed down the path of darkness.

Wandering the streets of Iziz, Kun manages to find remnants of the sect of Freedon Nadd. They take him to Korriban, the ancient resting place of the Sith, and it is here that Kun comes into contact with the spirit of Freedon Nadd. Nadd has planned this meeting, and swiftly brings an avalanche of rock upon the fallen Jedi, crushing nearly every bone in his body. Nadd offers Kun a choice – accept the darkside, and I’ll heal you –or else perish. Kun accepts Nadd’s deal, and the darkside becomes his. The spirit of Freedon Nadd then offers Kun a powerful Sith amulet, which, ironically, Kun turns on Nadd; thereby destroying the spirit of Freedon Nadd, presumably forever.

From this point Exar Kun looks to find the remaining threats to his darkside rule – Ulic and Aleema.

Kun uncovers the two on Cinnigar, and quickly a lightsaber duel erupts between Ulic Qel-Dorma and Exar Kun. Neither is able to gain the upper hand. Suddenly, and ancient spirit forms out of the darkside amulets the two are wearing. The spirit does not identify itself, but tells the two to stop fighting. They do, and the spirit brandishes Exar Kun as the Dark Lord of the Sith, and Ulic Qel-Dorma as his foremost apprentice. It is here at this dark pact that the story of the Dark Lords of the Sith ends

I found many things interesting and enjoyable with this story; namely, some of the technology presented, the idea of multiple apprentices, the characterization of Exar Kun, his relationship to his Master, the nature of the darkside of the force, and the beginning of the one master, one apprentice darkside rule.

Firstly, and briefly, I want to point out that the Tetan starships drawn in the comic hold a precursor-type resemblance to the starships of the Imperial navy that are depicted in the films. I wonder if there is a design linage that connects the build of the Tetan warship to the later representation of the starship in the Imperial navy.

Secondly, I found it interesting that Master Vodo had several apprentices, and what is more, two of them were involved in a romantic relationship with one another. In a scene where Exar Kun is dueling one of his fellow Jedi, he handedly defeats his fellow students, then disparages him after he beats him. Crado, who was defeated by Kun, is then comforted by another apprentice of Master Vodo – Sylvar. She tells him that when their training is complete, they’ll start a family. Sylvar then goes on to defend the honor of her man, and duels Kun, scaring him with her claws (her species is Cathar). It seems that in the ancient days, Jedi marriage is not forbidden, nor is starting a family while simultaneously being a Jedi Knight. I know I’ve spilt much ink on this in my previous posts, but I again wonder when the restriction on marriage and family worked its way into the Jedi Code. Also, I wonder when it became inappropriate to Master more than one apprentice. In our stories so far, each Jedi Master encountered has more than one apprentice. In Episode 1, Yoda tells Qui-Gon Jinn that he cannot take Anakin as his apprentice, as he already has one – Obi Wan Kenobi.

This heated duel Exar Kun and Sylvar lead to Master Vodo getting involved, and its here that a classic Master vs. apprentice duel erupted. Using a wooden stick, Master Vodo defeats Kun, and reminds him that he is indeed the Master, and Kun is the apprentice. Kun does not take defeat gracefully, and instead of accepting the lesson of his master, uses a second lightsaber and begins to duel his master once more. This time, the result is not so clear cut, as Kun battles Vodo to a draw. Master Vodo sees much darkness in Kun’s heart, to which Exar Kun replies "Only I know my heart”.

I really enjoyed the dynamic between these two characters. I got the sense that Master Vodo was often irritated, and possibly angered by his apprentice, but that he always came from a place of love and concern when he had to rein him in. It seemed to me that Master Vodo, although maybe harsh with Kun, needed to be in order to get through to his apprentice. What I also found what that these “tough love” sessions seemed to be lost on Kun, in that he never saw the love and concern behind the lesson, but just felt that Master Vodo was simply proving that he was more powerful than him. I could be reading into this, as I’ve had this dynamic with my own students in the past.

I also get the sense that no matter how much “tough love” Vodo gave to Kun, that Exar was fatally lost to the darkside of the force.

Thirdly, I enjoyed the characterization of Exar Kun. Right from the beginning of the story, I had the sense that he was jerk. His arrogance and obnoxious attitude were delineated clearly in the opening pages of the story. You like Exar Kun because he’s powerful. You like Exar Kun because he’s a jerk. He’s fun to like, and simultaneously hate.

Fourthly, some “truths” about the nature of the darkside of the Force came to light for me. Before Exar Kun destroyed Freedon Nadd with the Sith amulet the latter supplied to him, Nadd requested that Kun ‘resurrect’ him into a corporeal body. This is never flushed out in the story, as Kun destroys Nadd at his first opportunity, but this scene reminded me of a piece of dialogue from Revenge of the Sith. When Anakin was sitting with Emperor Palpatine, and the Emperor was revealing some of the techniques behind the darkside of the Force, Palpatine says to Anakin: “The Dark Side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural”. It’s this ability of unnatural resurrection that I think Palpatine may have been referring to. Indeed, Palpatine, like many Sith Lords before him, is searching for immortality – as is Freedon Nadd.

Fifthly, building upon the previous scene mentioned, I get the impression that only the darkside of the Force can defeat the darkside. In the Dark Lords of the Sith, Kun destroys the spirit of Freedon Nadd with a powerful Sith amulet, presumably forever. In Episode 6, it took Vader to defeat the Emperor. It makes me wonder, can the darkside of the Force only be destroyed by the darkside?

Finally, It is in this tale that we are witness to the first time in Star Wars chronology the idea of the one Master, one apprentice darkside rule. At the end of the story, an unnamed Sith spirit designates Exar Kun as the Dark Lord of the Sith, and Ulic Qel-Dorma as his foremost apprentice (it leaves room here for the master to have more than one apprentice BTW). This is the first time this relationship is brought out. It has been alluded to in the past, with the mention by Master Arca that Nadd apprenticed himself to a Dark Lord of the Sith, but here this piece of Star Wars dogma is put front and center. Interesting.

For my next post I’ll be moving outside of Joe Bongimo’s chronology once again, and examining the Dark Lords of the Sith Audio drama. Hopefully there will be less days between my updates. Until then, may the Force be with you.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

3998 BBY - 3996 BBY: The Shadow of Freedon Nadd

Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force is one of my favorite sources to turn to. Not a novel, not a comic, not a source book, it’s its own unique form of literature. See my post 7000 BBY for my first encounter with this text. It’ll be from this source I turn to today to examine our next segment in the Star Wars Chronology Project: The Shadow of Freedon Nadd.

It’s not a very long piece- only a few paragraphs from Jedi Master Arca, and Tionne Solusar, the Jedi Archivist and keeper of Jedi lore. History wise, Master Arca tells us nothing we already didn’t know, except that there appears to be some inconsistencies around the history of Freedon Nadd himself.

In this source Master Arca tells us: “Unable to become a Sith Lord as long as his Master lived, Nadd came to the planet Onderon to make himself a king” There is no mention here of Nadd murdering his Master, and what is more, his Master is not named. This is different from our source Tales of the Jedi Companion which says: “Since there could never be more than one Dark Lord, Nadd murdered his teacher and assumed the title”. So, we have conflicting stories here, one telling us that Nadd murdered his master, the other making no mention of a murder.

To further complicate the issue, Sith researcher Murk Lundi’s studies found that Nadd did not even apprentice himself to a Sith Lord, instead he learned the secrets of the darkside from the holocron of King Adas, and ancient Sith king.

There is mention of “other sources” which say that Nadd did apprentice himself to a Sith Lord, and that Sith Lord was Naga Sadow (in spirit form presumably). And he apprenticed himself on Yavin 4. But no details are provided here, and there is no mention that Nadd murdered Sadow.
What I’m calling into question here is the source from Wookieepedia which says that Nadd did indeed apprentice under Sadow, and then somehow “murdered” him, or “destroyed” Sadow’s spirit once he was done with his apprenticeship. I’m not saying Wookieepedia is wrong, but as of my findings so far, the only conclusion I can come to is that the history of Freedon Nadd is still shrouded in mystery. I’m really hoping another source somewhere down the line clears this up – or not – the point here is that I’m having fun discovering that Nadd’s past is mysterious, and it may simply be left at that.

For my next post I’ll be moving on to the six issue comics series The Dark Lords of the Sith – until then, may the force be with you.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

3998 BBY - 3996 BBY: Tales of the Jedi Audio Drama

This was by far the most entertaining piece of media I’ve encountered in the Star Wars Chronology Project so far. The voice acting was excellent, and the narration was enjoyable. It had a very classic Star Wars/Buck Rogers vibe to it. The music and sound effects were lifted straight from the movies, which gave the audio drama an air of familiarity as you were listening. I felt like a kid again as I was listening.

This audio drama consisted of the stories Ulic Qel-Dorma and the Beast Wars of Onderon, The Saga of Nomi Sunrider, and The Freedon Nadd Uprising. The audio drama was not a boring textual reading of the Tales of the Jedi stories, but a well acted drama, in every sense of the word drama. There were sound effects, several different voice actors, and music, all put together to make an entertaining piece of Star Wars history.

There were a few deviations from the comic, most of them improvements to the story.

Firstly, there was an improvement in dialogue. There is a particular scene in the Beast Wars of Onderon when 2 beast-rider commandos dismounted off their mounts and went to capture princess Galia. In the comic, Tott Doneeta exclaims “Two Beast boys are getting away” or something to that effect. In the audio drama this piece of dialogue is improved to “Two beast riders have slipped through. I bet a Hutt’s ransom they’re after the Queen!”

Secondly, there is an added scene before the three Jedi intrude upon Orin Kira and Princess Galia’s wedding. Before they entered the ceremony, Ulic managed to use his Jedi mind trick ability to confuse two guards. This is the first time (in chronological order) that the Jedi mind trick has been presented an ability a Jedi may possess.

Thirdly, the character of Novar had a more prominent role. Novar is flushed out in more detail in the Tales of the Jedi Companion, and in the audio drama the details from the RPG book are brought to life in more scenes where he is the focus of our attention. We learn through the RPG book and audio drama that Novar is a darkside magician, and is the leader of one of the cults of Freedon Nadd. After King Ommin and Queen Amanoa, Novar seems to be the next in line with regards to darkside pecking order in the city of Iziz. He’s more than just a servant to the king and Queen, but possesses significant darkside power.

Fourthly, there is more of a connection in the audio drama to Cay replacing his arm. In the comic book, Cay has his arm sliced off, and a few scenes later we see him removing the arm of a droid and replacing his lost arm with the droid arm. There is not much in the way of plot or dialogue to explain to us how he was able to replace his arm with a droid arm so quickly. This gap is partially filled in the audio drama. After Cay loses his arm, he and his brother Ulic find themselves in King Ommin’s cybernetics laboratory. This makes sense because King Ommin needed cybernetics in order to stand upright (See my original post on the Tales of the Jedi Companion for more details on King Ommin). Cay tinkers around the laboratory a bit, and then manages to attach his arm. Though details were not provided on exactly how this occurred, it was better than thinking he had simply attached the droid arm with a lightsaber and a screw-driver.

Fifthly, the dramatization of Queen Amanoa’s battle meditation, and then Master Arca’s battle meditation was awesome. It decently portrayed the effects the battle meditation had on the morale of the troops. This was one of the more enjoyable scenes in the entire piece.

The stories of The Saga of Nomi Sunrider and The Freedon Nadd Uprising ran with very few deviations. There were a couple of added battle scenes between the Jedi and the followers of Freedon Nadd. What was most conspicuous though was the absence of Dace Diath, Kith Kark, Qrrl Toq, and Shoaned Culu. Of the five originally sent from Ossus to help in the quelling of the Freedon Nadd uprising, the only one included was Nomi Sunrider – for obvious reasons of course. I found this unfortunate as I was really looking forward to how the audio drama was going to present these characters.

All-in-all the audio drama rocked, and it comes highly recommended. I look forward to the next audio drama I come across, which will be the Dark Lords of the Sith story arc. For my next post however, I’ll be examining The Shadow of Freedon Nadd, from the Essential Guide to the Force, until then, may the Force be with you.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

3998 BBY - 3996 BBY: Tales of the Jedi Companion

For the next instalment in my quest to achieve a PhD in Star Wars-ology, I revisit the role-playing game text, Tales of the Jedi Companion. In this post I’ll be recording my thoughts on chapters 1, 2, 5, the chapter headings of 6 through to 12, and chapter 13.

As I said in my last post regarding role-playing game texts, I love going through them for the nitty-gritty details they provide on Star Wars history.

Chapter 1 is simply a summation of the stories The Beast Wars of Onderon, The Saga of Nomi Sunrider, and The Freedon Nadd Uprising. I was already familiar with the information presented; the only bit that stood out for me was the mention that Freedon Nadd had murdered his old master. I was under the impression that he had not murdered his teacher. I thought that he simply left wherever it was he came from, found the planet Onderon, and proceeded to dominate the beings on that planet. I guess I was wrong. On page 11 of the text it says: “Arca then tells his students that Freedon Nadd apprenticed himself to a Dark Lord of the Sith. Since there could never be more than one Dark Lord, Nadd murdered his teacher and assumed the title”.

What I find interesting here, and I’ve mentioned it before, is that Freedon Nadd’s teacher remains shrouded in mystery – at least in the chronological order of Star Wars history. I know in my last post I said I’ve been steering clear of Wookieepedia to discover if his master is indeed unknown for fear of having something ruined for me. I finally relented and discovered that Wookieepedia listed Naga Sadow as Nadd’s teacher. What is more, it also said that Nadd destroyed Sadow. I found this somewhat surprising, and I look forward to coming across this information, and exactly how this drama played out, in an original source text.

Moving on, chapter two was more interesting, as it provided some very fun and informative history on the group of Jedi involved in the above tales. Nitty-gritty detail is again the theme here, as I was enlightened regarding the history behind Andur Sunrider, and his Jedi Knight grandfather, Jev Sunrider, who fell in the line of duty. I was enthralled with the story of Jedi Master Arca Jeth, and the skirmish behind the first time he used his battle meditation and saved his fellow knights; of Cay Qel-Dorma, and how he uses his humour to hide his true feelings; of Master Chamma’s battle with the dark side, and his subsequent century long self exile; of Dace Diath overcoming his self doubt; of Kith Kark’s calling to Jedi Knighthood; of Ood Bnar’s ability to sever himself from the Force and learn about the darkside without being seduced by it; of Oss Wilum realizing that his actions do make a difference in such a large universe; of Qrrl Toq’s beginnings as a royal price; of Shoaneb Culu’s desire to bring the teachings of the Jedi Way back to her home world; of Master Thon’s desire to constantly test himself against the darkside; of Tott Doneeta being rescued from slavers by Master Arca; and finally, of Ulic Qel-Dorma’s penchant for quickly becoming bored with whatever he is learning. It’s these nitty-gritty details that give the Star Wars universe life.

Chapter 5 dealt with Sith powers and Sith artifacts. Beyond discovering that it is nearly impossible to destroy a Sith amulet, this chapter told the story of Vora Nreem, a Jedi who tried to destroy the darkside of the force, but was quickly defeated by it, and left trapped in a shroud of eternal agony. In her final moments she regretted underestimating the power of the darkside.

Chapter 6 through 12 provided mostly technical game details on species, planets, weapons, and organizations.

Chapter thirteen, the last chapter of the book, was a single player role-playing adventure. Remember reading “Chose your own Adventure” books when you were a kid? Well, chapter thirteen was an introduction to the role-playing game, but instead of simply making choices and turning to a page, one must make dice rolls, and the outcome of the dice roll dictates where the adventure goes.

The story is about a Jedi Knight named Kevel Raffan (who you play) and his quest to retrieve a bag of coins from the ‘Ruins of Kabus-Dabeh’ (the title of the adventure and chapter). Through your choices and dice rolls, Kevel manages to retrieve the bag of coins, and prove himself worthy as a mediator to the Muzara tribe and their dealings with the settlers on the planet.

I have now basically read this book from cover to cover, and I look forward to when another role-playing game sourcebook crosses my path in the Star Wars Chronology Project.

For my next post I’ll be moving outside of Joe Bongiomo’s chronological list to the Tales of the Jedi audio drama. This source was brought up by one of my readers as something I may not want to pass up, and in the spirit of this project, something I’ll defiantly examine. Until then, may the Force be with you.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

3998 BBY - 3996 BBY: The Freedon Nadd Uprising

The Freedon Nadd Uprising

The Freedon Nadd Uprising furthers the story of Nomi Sunrider, Ulic Qel-Dorma, and company.

We travel back to the city of Iziz on the planet of Onderon, and it is here that the Naddists have risen against the new government of Queen Galia (formerly Princess Galia) and her Beast Lord husband. Ulic, Cay, and Tott enlisted the help of Oss Wilum – Master Thon’s apprentice from our last episode, and together with Master Arca Jeth, battle the insurgents of Iziz.

However, the Naddists score a victory and manage to rescue the sarcophagus of Freedon Nadd, which the Jedi were trying to ship to a distant moon in order to remove the presence of the darkside from the city.

It is here that King Ommin makes his first apprentice in the story, and manages to overwhelm Master Arca with darkside sorcery, and kidnap him away from his apprentices. We learn later that King Ommin plans to twist Master Arca to the darkside of the force. Disheartened by the kidnapping, Ulic sends word to Ossus, the planet which operates as the central hub of Jedi culture and activity (Remember Master Oddan-Urr and his desire to create a library on this planet?) to recruit Jedi willing to help rescue Master Arca. Nomi Sunrider is subscripted to the cause, and it is here that the story line of Nomi Sunrider connects with Ulic Qel-Dorma.

Nomi travels with five other Jedi from Ossus to Onderon, and together with Ulic, Cay, Tott, and Oss, (9 Jedi in total) they manage to defeat King Ommin, and rescue Master Arca Jeth.

The spirit of Freedon Nadd makes many appearances in this story, echoing words of Sith prophesy and doom-and-gloom for the Jedi. Referring to Ulic Qel-Dorma, Nadd says, “a great destiny awaits him". Even though the Naddists and the darkside appear to have lost in this story, Freedon Nadd disagrees, and says “The Jedi have lost today!”

The story ends with Ulic asking his Master what Freedon Nadd meant by this. Master Arca then tells Ulic of a prophecy that the Dark Lords of the Sith will rise again, and that the Jedi must cling to the light to prevent this from happening.

This story, much like Ulic Qel-Dorma and the Beast Wars of Onderon, was very swash-buckling in nature, and why I enjoyed it: people getting kidnapped then rescued, good winning over evil – that sort of thing. And it is always the little things that I enjoy most in a story. Some aspects of this tale I want to comment on are the character Freedon Nadd, Vima – Nomi’s daughter, and the idea of Jedi having children, a Sith museum, and how the darkside of the force is always referred to as “sorcery”, while the light seems to avoid these labels.

I become increasingly more fascinated with the character of Freedon Nadd every time I come across him. What I find interesting about Freedon Nadd this time around, is how there is never any reference to who his Master was, or where he learned his ability to use the darkside of the force. Even in the narration of the tale at the beginning we are told, “ Arca knows that Freedon Nadd was a student of ancient Sith Lords…”. There is never any direct mention of a specific Master. I am curious to find out if light is shed on this in my future readings. I’m also hesitant in this circumstance to reference Wookieepedia for the answer, for fear of having some interesting detail about future events spoiled for me. I’ve been steering clear of Wookieepedia for a while for this very reason.

The idea of Jedi family life is also a subject I have been pondering lately. In The Freedon Nadd Uprising, Nomi Sunrider is forced to leave her daughter on the planet Ossus while she goes on her mission. In my last post I talked about how I am against the idea of married Jedi, and care of children is an aspect of this argument that I think supports my stance. Nomi could have very well been killed in this conflict, and where would that leave her daughter? One may argue, ‘Well, she’s safe with Master Thon on Ossus’, or ‘She’ll receive much love from the other Jedi around her’, but I dare say that the loss of a mother’s love is devastating to a child. She’s already lost her father, should her mother be put in harms way? Should Jedi be having children when they occupy such a dangerous position as peacekeeper of the galaxy? I’m not certain. I still think Jedi should remain single, and now I also think they should remain childless.

One of the side stories to the Freedon Nadd Uprising is the tale of two young aristocrats named Satal and Aleema. They are cousins, and the descendants of Empress Teta, the ruler of the Koros system from 1000 years in the past (The Koros system in now referred to as the Empress Teta system). These two cousins are beginning to dabble in darkside “sorcery”, and have found their way to the Galactic Museum on the planet Coruscant. They made their way to the Sith artifact wing, and through fate, or the will of the Force, managed to steal an ancient Sith tome.
A couple of things stand out at me in this story line. Firstly, I’ve always liked how Star Wars had an ‘old look’ to it. It always seemed like an ancient universe, where everything has a used feel. The weapons have rust, and speeders are old and break down a lot. This particular episode reminded me of this old-world feel. Here I am, reading a story that takes place nearly 4000 years prior to the Battle of Yavin, and the characters of this story are marveling about artifacts from still another 1000 years in their past. This scene gave Star Wars a more layered texture for me. I enjoyed it.

Secondly, I marveled at the arrogance and ignorance of the Galactic Republic, and quite possibly the order of the Jedi Knights of this time. What are they doing putting Sith artifacts and tomes on display for the general populace to wonder at, and possibly pocket for their own selfish use? I was a little irritated by this part of the story. Didn’t a least one Jedi Master think that having these objects out in the open was a recipe for disaster?

My last speaking point with regards to this story is how the characters in the tale reference the darkside of the force. More often than not, when referring to the powers of the darkside, or practitioners of the darkside, it is labeled as “magic”, or the practitioners are labeled as “sorcerers” and “magicians”. I wonder at this, especially when a Jedi Master says such a thing. In the story, this his how Master Arca often referred to the darkside. Is he not aware that the power of the darkside gains its strength from the same place as the light – the place where his own power comes from? Darkside powers are no more “magic” that a Jedi’s battle meditation, or levitation of objects. Or is it? Does the darkside of the Force gain its strength from some other well of power? I’m not likely to agree with this – I think the powers of dark come from the same place as the power of light.

I thought about this for a while, and I’ve come to the conclusion that Jedi are well aware that the power of the darkside originates from the same well as their own power, but that the darkside is so foreign to their teaching, so wholly different from what they know, that they are left with a lack of knowledge when trying to grapple with the reality of the darkside. When something seems strange to us, or unexplainable, we have a tendency to call it “magic”. We can’t explain a card trick, or an illusion, so we say “it was magic”. I think this is how Jedi of the light react to darksiders. The power the Sith pull from is so opposite from what the Jedi know, the Jedi are left simply calling that power “magic” or “sorcery”, and its practitioners “magicians” and “sorcerers”.
For my next post I’ll be moving back to the Tales of the Jedi Companion. Until then, may the force be with you.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

3998 BBY - 3996 BBY: The Saga of Nomi Sunrider.

The Saga of Nomi Sunrider.

In the rush and excitement of my last post regarding Ulic Qel-dorma and the Beast Wars of Onderon, there were a couple of things I wanted to mention but forgot to. I’ll do so here, but after I provide a brief synopsis of the Saga of Nomi Sunrider, and my reactions to this story.

I remember reading this story when it was first published and sort-of enjoying it then. Upon a second read, I enjoyed it a little more. I discovered some subtleties in the artwork that I had overlooked earlier. Before I get there allow me to summarize the story.

The Saga of Nomi Sunrider begins with her husband, Andur Sunrider – a Jedi Knight who is off to meet his new Master. He is on a mission to deliver some rare lightsaber crystal to his new Master who goes by the name of Thon. The crystals are a gift from Andur’s former Master, and Thon lives on a distant world. Andur packs himself and his family, Nomi and daughter Vima, on their starship, and they are off on a little holiday. However, tragedy strikes, and Andur Sunrider is killed in a lecherous star-port by thieves trying to steal his lightsaber crystals. Upon his death, Nomi picks up her husband’s lightsaber, and kills one of the attackers. The others flee in fear. The spirit of Andur tells his wife to continue on the journey to meet Master Thon, and deliver the lightsaber crystals to him. Nomi does as her husband asks.

When Nomi reaches the planet she first comes across Oss Wilum, Master Thon’s apprentice. He welcomes her into his cabin, and she tells him about the death of her husband. He is saddened by the news. When Nomi first meets Oss Wilum, he is riding upon the back of a large beast. We learn later that this beast is Master Thon, and are reminded of the lesson that looks can be deceiving.

Conflict quickly finds the Jedi, as the robbers from the star-port have tracked Nomi, and are looking to steal the lightsaber crystals one more. Master Thon quickly intervenes, sending the bad guys fleeing.

Master Thon echoes the sentiments of Nomi’s late husband, and recognizes the force is strong with Nomi and her daughter, and that one day both will be great Jedi Knights. He does not take Nomi as his apprentice right away though. He gives her time to mourn the loss of her husband.

After several months, Tott Doneeta, a student of Master Jeth, arrives on the planet to collect Oss Wilum and Master Thon. Tott is from our other story Ulic Qel-Dorma and the Beast Wars of Onderon. Apparently the city of Iziz needs Jedi help with putting down the Freedon Nadd uprising, and battling the followers of the darkside of the force. Oss Wilum goes, but Master Thon stays behind to begin Nomi’s training.

The story ends with Nomi and Master Thon battling off the thieves once more, and Nomi reluctantly accepting her fate that she will indeed become a Jedi Knight.

I liked this story because it was simple. Once again, Tom Veitch gives his readers organized story-telling with sensible dialogue. The artwork wasn’t the best I’ve ever seen, but there were some good scenes that were depicted quite nicely by Janine Johnston. Once scene I really liked was at the beginning. On the first page on the fourth panel there is a touching scene between Andur and Nomi. As Andur is telling his wife that she is strong with the force, and Nomi is shyly telling him she’d be too timid to be a Jedi Knight, the two have their fingers interlaced. I found this little bit of intimacy between the two quite touching, and gave weight to Andur’s death later. Maybe I enjoyed this story more now because I myself am married. I read this story long ago when I was single. Now that I’m married, I appreciate the relationship between Andur and Nomi a little more.

This scene also broached upon a point of Jedi history that interests me, specifically the idea of married Jedi. I remember in Attack of the Clones Obi-Wan telling Anakin that attachment is forbidden for a Jedi (very Buddhist BTW), and that human attachment is expressidly forbidden. I wonder when this was added to the Jedi Code. I look forward to discovering the answer. But what is more, I think that married Jedi is indeed a bad idea.

I’m reminded of an assignment I did in one of my world religions courses. On the subject of Christianity, my students read an article that I presented them with defending the practice of a non-married clergy. Before I read the article, I was a proponent for priests being able to marry, but after reading it, I understood, and in fact, agreed, with the stance that they should not. Though the article was somewhat problematic in some areas, I thought the author made some very good points. If you are interested you can read the article for yourself here.

Anyway, I think given the nature of what it means to be a Jedi Knight, that it is best for a Jedi to remain single. Referring back to our text, the Saga of Nomi Sunrider, there were scenes at the end where Nomi expressed her deep sadness at Andur shipping off on another Jedi mission, and wondering if he’d return. Perhaps it’s best if Jedi keep their attachments to a minimum.

Another thing which interested me in this story, as well as our last, was the advancement of lightsaber technology. I didn’t mention it in Ulic Qel-Dorma and the Beast Wars of Onderon, but I’ll mention it here. No longer are Jedi restricted to powering their lightsabers with power packs and cords attached to their belts. Instead we have free-wheeling lightsabers, powered by some other source. The lightsabers also look very cool – almost more organic and deadly in nature.

For my next post I’ll be moving on to the Freedon Nadd Uprising, found in Tales of the Jedi volume 2. Until then, may the force be with you.