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A mysterious former Sith wanders the galaxy in this stunning Star Wars tale, an original novel inspired by the world of The Duel from the Star Wars Visions animated anthology.
The Jedi are the most loyal servants of the Empire.
Two decades ago, Jedi clans clashed in service to feuding lords. Sickened by this endless cycle, a sect of Jedi rebelled, seeking to control their own destiny and claim power in service of no master. They called themselves Sith.
The Sith rebellion failed, succumbing to infighting and betrayal, and the once rival lords unified to create an Empire . . . but even an Empire at peace is not free from violence.
Far on the edge of the Outer Rim, one former Sith wanders, accompanied only by a faithful droid and the ghost of a less civilized age. He carries a lightsaber, but claims lineage to no Jedi clan, and pledges allegiance to no lord. Little is known about him, including his name, for he never speaks of his past, nor his regrets. His history is as guarded as the red blade of destruction he carries sheathed at his side.
As the galaxy's perpetual cycle of violence continues to interrupt his self-imposed exile, and he is forced to duel an enigmatic bandit claiming the title of Sith, it becomes clear that no amount of wandering will ever let him outpace the specters of his former life.
Under the Cover
An excerpt from Star Wars Visions: Ronin
Two months after the Ronin arrived on the Outer Rim world of Genbara, he ran out of credits. This concerned him less than it did B5-56, who took every opportunity to scold.
“Look at it this way,” he told his trundling companion. “No need to worry about where we’ll sleep.”
A man with no coin had no reason to pace his trek in terms of outposts and inns. He could pay for no bed. Thus, he could wander to his heart’s content, and the woodland vistas of Genbara did reward the wandering. Vast stretches of pine were interrupted only by patches of farmland, claimed by settlers rebuilding their lives far from the scars war had left on worlds nearer the galaxy’s Core.
The Ronin slept that night under a small lean-to that a local woodcutter had told him of the day before, when he passed the old man’s hut on his way into the mountains.
“The mountains, sir? Are you sure?” the woodcutter had said as he sucked his teeth. They sat on the veranda of the man’s hut and shared a pot of stale tea. It had been the last in the Ronin’s tin, but he offered it freely in exchange for hot water and company. “You’ll want to follow this road up, past the ridge. It will take you to a village in the valley. If it’s still there.”
An ominous thing to say. To the Ronin, it suggested he was on the right course. B5 saw the look in his eye. The droid’s own eye flashed from red to blue under his thatched hat as he murmured a warning.
The woodcutter, who had no facility with Binary, mistook the dome-headed astromech’s sound for nervousness. He grinned. “There were four villages up there, little droid, when I first built my humble hut. Then there were three, then two—now just the one. Word is they angered a spirit. A spirit that doesn’t take kindly to settlers.”
Yet he thinks the spirits don’t mind him? said a voice in the Ronin’s ear.
“Mountains are different,” the Ronin said.
The woodcutter, who thought he had been spoken to, nodded sagely. B5 swiveled a baleful eye to fix on the Ronin in what was likely supposed to be a glare. The Ronin pretended not to notice it, but he did remind himself to be careful. On occasion, when in the company of others, his responses to the voice were dismissed. On other occasions, they were not, and this could go quite badly. If the village in the mountains still stood, he would be among new people soon, and they sounded like a superstitious lot.
The following morning, he stretched the cold out of his limbs as he rose and ate half a ration-stick from his pouch, the last remaining. The chewing was slow going, with the ache; he rubbed at the line of old metal that supported his jaw from ear to ear.
B5 grumbled at him all the while, calling him old and simple besides. Surely, the droid said, his master remembered that he had the means to acquire enough credits to fund his fool journey until it killed him—or at least enough to purchase a more up-to-date prosthetic. Yet he hoarded his bounty to the point that some shamefully mundane evil would doubtless get him first. Perhaps the chill, or infection, or worse.
“You know I would be more foolish to try to sell one of these,” said the Ronin, patting the treasures hidden in the folds of his robes. “Where would I say I got it?”
Then what do you plan to do with your winnings, other than collect them? the voice asked, rather bitterly at that.
He couldn’t give her an answer. Not one she could stand.
Moved by a reflexive guilt, he glanced at the inner lining of the long hooded vest he wore as a cloak. The robe had weighed the same for at least a year now, when he had last added to the collection within. The crystals sewn into the seam glinted as if in greeting, letting off red flickers that illuminated his fingers, elated by the promise of his attention. They wanted him to touch them, to take them and give them use.
He let the robe fall closed, crystals untouched. Here was his reason, even if she didn’t care for it: So long as he carried them, they could bring no further harm.
Outside of what harm you commit, she said.
“If you wish me dead,” he said as he stepped out onto the needle-strewn path between the pines, “you have only to point the way.”
Go on to your little village, then.
Experience told him that she would provide no further advice. After all, she would doubtless prefer that whatever he met in the village be the end of him rather than the other way around.
The chill of the night bled into spring as the sun rose. The Ronin stopped on the ridge overlooking the last village left in the mountains, B5-56 at his side. In the distance, at the far end of a pine-ridden valley, the swooping lines of a crashed ship gleamed whitely. Some sleek, gallant vessel that had met its ignoble end face-first in the sloping mountainside. Its silver hull shone like a star under the fierce morning light.
Poetic, wouldn’t you say? said the voice.
“I would say it’s broken,” said the Ronin.
B5 whined, disappointed.
“Doing what again? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
B5 sighed as magnificently as Binary allowed.
Together, they set off down the path to the last village in the mountains. Somewhere within it, they would find the Ronin’s quarry—or they would find nothing. A cowardly part of him hoped for the latter. Perhaps it was this part that made him slow as they reached the last rise before the village proper, where a teahouse stood beside an ancient bending pine. A troubling odor wafted out of the structure into the road, and despite B5’s scold—didn’t they have somewhere to be?—the Ronin let it lure him to the door. He found the shopkeep—a tidy Sullustan fellow whose rounded cheeks had grayed with age—seated on the clean-swept floor, fiddling with a rectangular power droid’s wiring and bemoaning its temperamental nature.
The Ronin’s shadow startled the shopkeep, who scrambled upright to study the stranger. His wary black eyes flicked up to take in the Ronin’s intimidating height, draped in road-stained garb, and down to the two scabbards hung conspicuously at his waist.
You look entirely evil, she said.
The Ronin frowned; the shopkeep flinched. “No, not you,” said the Ronin. Then he cursed, which didn’t help. “Your power droid. It’s leaking. I could smell it from the road. I can fix it for you.”
The shopkeep remained wary until B5 peered out from behind the Ronin’s cloak. The droid greeted the shopkeep and apologized for his companion’s dreadful appearance all in one go. Feed him, said B5, and he’ll fix any droid you point him to.
Even ten years ago, the Ronin might have argued for dignity’s sake—was he to be some manner of beggar, exchanging menial repairs for menial returns? Now he knew himself with the humility of age. When the shopkeep agreed, he simply asked where the man kept his tools.
The voice said nothing, though her impatience weighed on his mind like the threat of incoming rain. She would have preferred he throw himself boldly into whatever she had lying in wait. He preferred to make himself useful.
The power droid proved an easy enough fix. The Ronin had only to work off the stained front of its chassis and reach around its cabling to identify the leak. His fingers came away silty with exhaust debris that had disrupted the pathway of the power coupling. He asked the shopkeep if there was a sizable transmitter, or perhaps a chronometer he could bear to live without. The shopkeep returned with an ancient holoprojector, which the Ronin deftly dismantled. He found he only needed one of the projector’s two safety sealants to properly contain the leak and had the whole thing cleaned and fitted back together within the hour.
“Mortifying, isn’t it?” said the shopkeep to B5 as they watched the Ronin work. “I could have repaired an astromech like yourself in my sleep, back during the war. Still could, perhaps. But they never asked the specialists to look after our own power droids, and here I am, utterly helpless when it stops warming my tea.”
When the Ronin stood, the shopkeep ushered him out into the shaded seating area just outside the teahouse. He promised to provide a proper pot of his most exquisite blend, which was even now steeping on the humming power droid. “To think I mistook you for a bandit!”
The Ronin merely nodded thanks. From this vantage, he could see the entirety of the village proper. A humble affair, mostly comprising two rows of wooden slat and thatch-roofed houses reinforced with the discarded durasteel remnants of ships that had fallen in the war; these were lined neatly across from each other, aside from the handful of other outlying structures and a pair of simple, unfortified watchtowers. A grand storehouse occupied the center of town, hung with banners and protected by an old ship door. Most of the villagers worked the rice fields that sustained them, while some met in the central square before the storehouse to discuss this or that spot of business, and children ran cackling through the streets. A peaceful tableau. The sort only delicately held, this far into the Outer Rim.
Emma Mieko Candon is a queer author and escaped academic drawn to tales of devouring ghosts, cursed linguistics, and mediocre robots. Her work includes Star Wars Visions: Ronin, a Japanese reimagining of the Star Wars mythos, and The Archive Undying (2023), an original speculative novel about sad giant robots and fraught queer romance. As an actual cyborg whose blood has been taken for science, Emma’s grateful to be stationed at home in Hawaii, where they were born and raised as a fourth-generation Japanese settler. By day, they edit anime nonsense for Seven Seas Entertainment, and by night they remain academically haunted by identity, ideology, and imperialism. At all hours of the day, they are beholden to the whims of two lopsided cats and relieved by the support of an enviably handsome wife.