Star Wars: The Eye of Darkness (The High Republic)

About the Book

One year after the tragic events of The Fallen Star, the Jedi fight to break the Nihil’s control over the galaxy.
The galaxy is divided. Following the shocking destruction of Starlight Beacon, the Nihil have established an impenetrable barrier called the Stormwall around part of the Outer Rim, where Marchion Ro rules and his followers wreak havoc at his every whim. Jedi trapped behind enemy lines, including Avar Kriss, must fight to help the worlds being pillaged by the Nihil while staying one step ahead of the marauders and their Nameless terrors.
Outside the Nihil’s so-called Occlusion Zone, Elzar Mann, Bell Zettifar, and the other Jedi work alongside the Republic to reach the worlds that have been cut off from the rest of the galaxy. But every attempt to breach the Stormwall has failed, and even communication across the barrier is impossible. The failures and losses weigh heavily upon both Elzar and Bell as they search desperately for a solution.
But even if the Republic and Jedi forces manage to breach the Stormwall, how can the Jedi fight back against the Nameless creatures that prey on the Jedi’s connection to the Force? And what other horrors does Marchion Ro have in store? As desperation for both the Jedi and the Republic grows, any hope of reuniting the galaxy could be all but extinguished. . . .
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Star Wars: The Eye of Darkness (The High Republic)

Chapter One


High above the soaring spires of Coruscant, the stars turned in their firmament as they always had, as they always would. Pinpricks of light denoting distant suns, distant worlds, distant peoples, mirrored by the glittering lights of the city far below.

It should have been beautiful.

Yet to Elzar Mann, the stars looked wrong. No matter how hard or how long he peered up at them from his vantage point on the grand balcony outside the chancellor’s office, they just seemed somehow off kilter, out of sorts. As if the galaxy had become kinked, twisted, changed. As if everything he’d once relied upon—every still point in a chaotic galaxy—had been suddenly yanked away, pulled out roughly from under him while he tried to remain standing.

It had been the same ever since the fall of Starlight Beacon and . . . 

. . . and Stellan.

Elzar closed his eyes and allowed the breeze to ruffle his unkempt hair, as if hoping that the chill wind could somehow sweep away the memories, carry them off into the streaming lanes of traffic and away through the spires and domes until they were gone. He’d noticed that a few gray strands had appeared around his temples in recent months. He’d lost weight, too, and while he was still toned—he’d taken to practicing lightsaber drills late into the night, most nights—he’d grown thin. He’d tried to convince himself that it was a result of the work, of keeping himself so busy trying to figure out a solution to the Nihil problem, but he knew he was allowing things to worry away at him.

How Stellan would have laughed at him. Nudged him in the ribs and told him to cease dwelling on things that were done. To focus on the here and now. To do what needed to be done, and accept that the Force guided his hand, now as it always had.

But Stellan was gone. He was one with the Force. He had been for a year. Elzar knew that his old friend had found peace. And yet his absence was still marked. Not just a hole in the Jedi’s hearts and minds, but in their leadership, too. Especially now that the Nihil had won, had shattered Starlight Beacon and subsequently annexed dozens of worlds, an entire sector of the Outer Rim, from the rest of the galaxy. This area was being called the Nihil Occlusion Zone, and was separated by an invisible barrier that made it all possible.

The Stormwall: a vast web that disrupted hyperspace travel, causing any vessel that attempted to cross it to be wrenched violently back out of hyperspace, either destroying it immediately or causing it to disappear without a trace. There’d been much debate about what exactly happened to those missing ships, given that communication across the Stormwall was also impeded, but the assumption was that any ships that weren’t destroyed in the attempt were being corralled by Nihil patrols on the other side, deposited into so-called kill zones. Certainly, they were never heard from again.

Worse, the network of relays and buoys—or “stormseeds”—that powered the Stormwall was so large that traveling across it without lightspeed was equally out of the question. Any ship trying to breach such a vast gulf of space at sublight speeds would have to travel for a hundred years before reaching its destination. Not only that, but any attempt at sublight ingress was being met and destroyed by Nihil patrols or swarms of scav-droids, alerted by whatever automated systems controlled the Stormwall technology. Patrols that could traverse the Stormwall and deliver a killing blow before the target was even aware it had happened.

It was ingenious, in its own way, and it had so far frustrated all Jedi or Republic attempts to bypass it, usually with disastrous results. Ships flown by droids. Electromagnetic pulses. Data slicing. Sustained attack on the well-shielded stormseeds. Nothing had worked. Nothing at all.

With the Stormwall, the Nihil had carved out their own domain, challenging the Republic at every turn. And with the Nameless—or “Force Eaters,” as they were also known—they had unleashed a weapon that even the Jedi could not stop. A weapon that targeted the very essence of who the Jedi were. A weapon designed to obliterate them.

Elzar exhaled.

This would all have been so much easier if Avar were there by his side. Instead, she was somewhere out there, deep in the Occlusion Zone, as distant to him as Stellan was.

They’d stood together on Eiram, watching the last vestiges of the Beacon slip beneath the cold, crushing waves, carrying all the Republic’s hopes and dreams down with it. It had been a symbol of strength and unity, of light in the dark, of hope. And the Nihil, led by Marchion Ro, had turned that symbol against them. Now it was a symbol of nothing but failure and loss.

Elzar had allowed Avar to take his hand in that moment, to lend him strength. He’d taken comfort from that; a shared understanding, a silent acknowledgment that they still had each other, despite everything. Despite the galaxy turning to chaos around them. But he cursed himself now that, lost in his own shock and grief, his own shame at what he had done, he had failed to ask Avar how she had felt. Had failed to offer her the comfort that she had offered him. And that pain she’d been carrying, that sense of loss and failure, had driven her away.

Unless it was him that had driven her away. That was the notion that haunted him, that plagued him with uncertainty and shame. He’d finally worked up the courage to confide in her about what had happened in the final moments of Starlight Beacon. How he’d acted without thought, murdering the young Nihil woman, Chancey Yarrow, as she’d tried to save them all. He hadn’t known it at the time, of course. He’d assumed she was just another Nihil trying to sabotage the Jedi’s attempts to save the station. But the results were the same: He’d ended their last chance at saving Starlight, and in doing so had taken the life of someone who’d been trying to help.

Everything that had come afterward was now partly his fault. He had to make amends, to try to embody even a tiny sliver of the good that Stellan had gifted to the galaxy. To somehow try to fill the hole that Stellan had left behind. He’d told Avar all of this, the words spilling from his mouth on the shores of Eiram.

Avar had said all the right things, of course. All the platitudes and reassurances, repeating all the tenets of the Force and the reminders that everything happened for a reason, that he wasn’t to blame. That only the Nihil carried that weight upon their shoulders. She’d shown him all the mercy and understanding for which he’d hoped.

And yet . . . Elzar couldn’t help but wonder if it had also been part of the reason she’d gone, accepting a mission to try to get closer to the Nihil, to discover their intentions in the aftermath of their victory. Intentions that none of them could have anticipated.

Now she, too, was lost. Trapped behind the Stormwall, deep in Nihil space. He didn’t even know if she was still alive.

No, Elzar. You’d know. She’s still out there.

She has to be.

He would bring her back. Avar and the others who shared her fate. He would find a way. The threat of the Nihil would be ended. The Stormwall would fall, and peace would be returned to the galaxy.

There was no choice. He would do what Stellan would have done. No matter that they’d already tried everything they could think of. No matter that the Nihil had defeated them at every turn.

He would find a way.

He had to.

It was the only way to make things right.

Elzar turned at the sound of the balcony doors swooshing open behind him. A familiar droid trundled out on its rolling base, its upper, vaguely humanoid half turning to regard him. It fixed him with its blank, coppery visage. The droid he had gifted to Stellan, JJ-5145. A final tether to his old friend.

“Supreme Chancellor Soh is almost ready to begin, Master Elzar,” said the droid. Its chirpy, electronic tones seemed abrasive after the silence of Elzar’s contemplation. Abrasive, but a welcome distraction, nonetheless.

“Thank you, Forfive. I’ll join you in just a moment.”

The droid held his gaze for a moment. “Your hesitation suggests uncertainty. If you would care to share your concerns, I can help to order your thoughts and prioritize your responses.”

“I’m fine, Forfive.”

“Hmmm,” was the droid’s only response. It turned and trundled back through the sliding doors.

Elzar grinned. Trust Stellan’s droid to see through him better than he could see through himself. He’d given JJ-5145 to Stellan as a joke, but also as a way of reminding Stellan to ask for help, to lean on others when he needed to. And now JJ-5145 was reminding him of that very same lesson. Urging him to live in the here and now, to concentrate on the task before him.

Elzar smoothed the front of his temple robes and set out after the snarky droid.

Star Wars: The High Republic Series

Star Wars: Temptation of the Force (The High Republic)
Star Wars: The Eye of Darkness (The High Republic)
Star Wars: Tempest Runner (The High Republic)
Star Wars: The Fallen Star (The High Republic)
Star Wars: The Rising Storm (The High Republic)
Star Wars: Tempest Runner (The High Republic)
Star Wars: Light of the Jedi (The High Republic)

About the Author

George Mann
George Mann is a Sunday Times bestselling novelist, comics writer, and screenwriter. He’s the creator of the Wychwood supernatural mystery series as well as the popular Newbury & Hobbes and Tales of the Ghost series. He’s written comics, novels, and audio dramas for properties such as Star Wars, Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes, Judge Dredd, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Dark Souls, and was recently part of the writers’ room on several adult animated television shows. George lives near Grantham, England, with his wife, children, and two noisy dogs. He loves mythology and folklore, Kate Bush, and chocolate. He is constantly surrounded by tottering piles of comics and books. More by George Mann
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