Dark Force Rising, Chapter 24

z: Hello, gentlebeings, and welcome back to Force Visions, to a chapter in which things go big, and people go home.

will: Ooh, nice.

You’d be amazed, reader–sometimes I think the single most difficult part of a post is the opening and ending. The rest can run on rails.

z: I have to agree.

will: By the way, this weekend, I’ll be spending a little bit of my Saturday at Boskone, the other major Boston sci-fi convention, but I won’t be on panels or the like, so it may be harder to find me.

z: It’s just after sunset on Honoghr, and Leia is getting ready to head to Nystao City with Chewie and Threepio, to attempt to free Khabarakh and escape, “or die trying.”  She’s regretful.  It had felt right to her to come to Honoghr, but it has been a failure as a mission in her book, plus it has brought a lot of extra trouble to the people she is staying with. She has doubts about whether it was “the right side” of the Force that had nudged her to come here, if it had even been the Force.

This is something worth thinking about.  I’ve always thought of the difference between the Light Side and the Dark Side as one of what provides your motivation and your motivating force: Passive, reactive, protective motives and finding skill and power in calm and serenity for the Light Side, power- or revenge-seeking motives and finding skill and power in rage and hatred for the Dark Side. But Leia seems to think that the Dark Side of the Force might have nudged her to go there because of the potential of bringing harm to the Noghri.  I just hadn’t thought of either side of the Force as being active actors, as it were.  But that may just reflect Leia’s understanding of things, which even she admits is not too deep.

will: Yeah, I’m tending to think that the Dark Side isn’t big on this sort of thing–it nudges toward power, toward the quick path. It wouldn’t nudge her to this. But if you look at it as “all she has done is brought more misery and complication,” it’s more metaphorical.

(For an example where both sides are big on nudging, when they aren’t outright ordering, I can’t help but think of the Belgariad and the Malloreon, by David Eddings, where the equivalents of the Light and Dark Sides are…much more active. Ahem.)

z: Right.  And the Elenium or whatever that one was called, which is the only one of his series I’ve read, by the way.  I am told that I have effectively read them all.

(There is a section here in which Leia has memories of her own mother, which in my opinion were not invalidated with the prequels, but I’ll leave it to Will to comment on those.)

will: Eh, I tend to think they likely are invalidated–but in the end, who cares. There could have been some other memories inserted here, it’s just her thinking about all the “pain and misery and fear” that Vader, who is after all in her blood, caused.

So honestly, it’s even more validated by The Force Awakens. And Luke’s thoughts earlier about evil passing down generations.

z: Feeling melancholy while watching the sunset from the door of the dukha, she is about to go in when Threepio approaches. Threepio’s initial topic of conversation: Making sure Leia wasn’t planning to leave him behind. Awwww. When Leia reassures him, he is only partially relieved, and says that there’s something else he thinks she should know. Remember that he had been placed with decon droids as a vague sort of camouflage against long-range scans, and had spent a lot of time with them since, because it turned out Leia didn’t really need a translator after all?  Now he says that one of the decon droids “has been behaving very strangely.”

Like…?

Like the decon droid’s been “asking a lot of questions,” and sneaking about after dark, past the time when he should have been deactivated.

will: There’s an element of “why do droids need to be deactivated?” here, by the way. Leia doesn’t react to it, but unless Droid Local No. 1138 has a really good deal with the Empire, I don’t know why they’d have “night” periods. Maybe for charging?

z: One thing that isn’t played as significant, but I saw it as significant nonetheless, in light of all the tangential discussions we’ve been having in Force Visions:  “He” isn’t my choice of pronoun here; it’s what Threepio refers to the decon droid with. From the description of Leia’s earlier observation of the decon droids working, my mental image had been something very close to Wall-E in terms of form factor, but heaven (and definitely Pixar) know that’s no barrier to thinking of the droid as a he or she, something that you’ll in fact be incapable of not doing after watching thirty seconds of the eponymical movie character. Of course, Threepio has been calling Artoo “he” all along, but this is the first confirmation we get in text that it’s natural for him to not refer to any droid with “it.”  In contrast, computers (Millennium Falcon‘s; Luke’s X-Wing’s) are always “it” even when they interface with droids.

will: Good catch. Honestly, I have to assume that a lot of that is 1990s, and these days, there could be a wider range of options for pronouns, since, you know, there are, at least in public awareness. But anyway, yeah, we’ve mostly seen either insufficiently anthropomorphic, or else male, droids–occasional female droids in protocol positions, as determined by voice, though.

z: But anyway, that tangent over.  Leia, already distracted and worried about the coming rescue/escape attempt, mentions that droids can be curious too (hilariously, Threepio immediately interprets this remark as being about Artoo, which, well, he’s got a point).  But, she says, why don’t you still keep an eye on this droid for me.

will: I can’t quite tell whether Leia is being indulgent or serious here. Probably both. She probably thinks it’s nothing, and this does get Threepio out of her way as needed. but you never do know. As we’ll see.

z: I agree. Threepio leaves, and Leia goes back inside the dukha, looking over and tracing the family trees carved inside. She’s just contemplating that the Noghri probably see both their triumphs and their failures as recorded there when the maitrakh just appears behind her and makes her jump. The maitrakh has an interesting question: “Do you see in the wood the end of our family, Lady Vader?”

will: There’s also the part where Leia makes a comment about how annoying the Stealth Hi/Bye is, and the maitrakh gets in a dig at her.

z: Oh, that has a name.  Of course it does.  Nope, not going There.  But heh.

The maitrakh wants to know if Leia is foreseeing, in particular, foreseeing the end for her family.  Leia says that she does not foresee anything; instead she was thinking about children, raising them, how much of their character a family can mold (because just now she had been worrying about “the darkness in [her] family) and how much is innate in themselves. The maitrakh basically says, you’re new to this mothering thing aren’t you, and Leia says that yes, she’s carrying her first two children. You fear for them, the maitrakh observes, and Leia explains that the Empire wants to take them away from her. The maitrakh is stricken by this: She says that she would help if she could. After all, the Empire taking children is a very personal experience for her, too, as the subsequent conversation reveals.  She says that it never got easier to send her children to fight for the Empire. She had had four sons, and three died out there; one came back disabled and died after living in depression for a while. And now, Leia winces inwardly, she may also lose Khabarakh–

–wait.  If all four of her sons died… but she called Khabarakh “thirdson…”?

will: And here it comes. In retrospect, this is a lesson in making sure you understand what’s being said–Khabarakh has been called “thirdson” this whole time, after all.

We put a pin in this fourteen chapters ago. Time to pull it.

z: The maitrakh explains. “Thirdson” doesn’t mean Khabarakh is her third-born son; rather, he’s the son of her grandson.  She’s old enough to be a great-grandmother… Leia hadn’t realized that.  But the maitrakh had witnessed the space battle which had devastated Honoghr? Personally?

will: This is a bit of the wrong question. She had witnessed the space battle which had devastated Honoghr when she was young.

z: Yes, the maitrakh says, that was forty-four Empire years ago.

Forty. Four.

“It didn’t happen during the Rebellion. It happened during the Clone Wars.”

(blah blah prequel timeline shift it might sort of work anyway blah don’t care.)

will: It almost/sort of works–Episode I takes place 41 years before this, so if you consider the entire history of the fall of the Republic, starting around the Trade Federation’s blockade of Naboo, “the Clone Wars”–and I think you could–that works. But yeah, don’t care.

(Apparently there was a comic that featured prequel-era characters encountering the Noghri and the battle that destroyed Honoghr. That, I’m willing to consign to non-discussion.)

z: Leia’s first reaction is immense relief, because she had been also carrying along the guilt of her belief that it was probably a Rebel Alliance ship, with their older designs, had caused the deadly chemical spill.  But that thought comes to a screeching halt:

And suddenly the shock gave way to a wall of blazing-white anger. “Forty-four years,” she snarled.  “They’ve held you like this for forty-four years?

She calls out loud for Chewie.  “Enraged” isn’t in it. The maitrakh wants to know what is the matter; Leia, her feelings changing from hot anger to “icy resolve,” says that forty-four years is the matter, that’s what, the Noghri has been kept by the Empire as dependent, disposable battle slaves for nearly half a century. What’s out there is so much not forty-four years’ worth of decontamination work.

One might quibble. Why didn’t she get so angry when she believed it was only five, eight years or so?  Because she hadn’t realized they were talking entire generations there, generations wasted that way by the Empire’s lies and cheating; she had come to Honoghr hoping she could lift the Noghri out of slavery, but she had not realized that there were entire generations dead and gone that she can’t retroactively save. And there’s one more thing; see ahead. One might also quibble: So what’s that about the difference in motivation and motive force between the Dark and Light sides, and where is Leia now, all enraged like this? That one’s also easy: She isn’t going to act in anger; in fact, the hot anger has already explicitly faded. Determination born of a sense, the size of the Galaxy, of what’s right (that’s Leia in a nutshell) is not one of the Dark Side characteristics.

will: When I was young and stupider, I used to say that I didn’t get angry, I got righteously indignant. I mean, I still do that, but I also get angry. Still, there’s a difference, and Leia carried righteous fury and passion for justice.

z: In the meantime Leia has something else in mind: “And if they aren’t just cleaning the dirt–” Chewie barging in cuts down the rest of the sentence, but we have no trouble concluding it mentally as “–what in the deepest darkest pit of Kessel have they been doing!?”

Chewie, of course, has assumed that Leia was calling for help, but Leia says she isn’t in danger, but she needs him to get her some more samples.  Not of the soil this time, but of the kholm-grass, which the maitrakh had said has been smelling different since the polluted rain.  She tells the maitrakh that she suspects there may be a connection there that they had missed; that she still wants to go to Nystao, but not to sneak in and try to snatch Khabarakh this time: If the samples confirm her suspicions she’ll go directly to speak to the dynasts.

will: I’ll say right up front here, for discussion later. that I can never quite follow the logic and evidence Leia has. But I don’t really care. It’s not about the logic.

z: I couldn’t either, but I thought about this recently.  Somewhere, somehow, Leia has witnessed soil decontamination.  Clearing an area for a Rebel base in a normally non-livable planet, fixing things after a big accident on Alderaan, somewhere.  So she has an idea of how fast it can be, and hadn’t previously seen any contradiction between the idea that the damage had been done during the Rebellion and the amount of land she sees has been cleared.  But 44 years?  Nope.

will: Sure, I get that. It’s more about what comes later. Still, we’ll get there.

z: When the maitrakh asks what happens if the dynasts refuse to listen, Leia says that they can’t afford not to: “You’ve already lost three generations of your sons.  You can’t afford to lose any more.”

On the one hand, that didn’t answer the maitrakh’s question.  On the other hand, that is the correct answer.

will: Leia does say “they can’t refuse,” in a manner that says “I’ll make them listen.”

z: The maitrakh stares at her for a moment, declares that Leia speaks truth, and moves to leave, saying that she will be back within the hour.  When Leia asks where she’s going, the response is just “You’re right, they have to listen. I will be back.”

Scene shift, but not point of view.  A short scene with no dialogue but beautiful mood-writing describes Leia setting off for Nystao City in a slowly-moving speeder, with the maitrakh, with Chewie carrying kholm-grass samples that they put in for analysis immediately, and an “uncharacteristically quiet” Threepio.  As they head out of the village, Noghri gather around them and start escorting, maybe a dozen; the maitrakh also walks with them. Some cropland, another village, cropland, next village… and at one point, one moon shines through a cloud bank and Leia realizes that there are maybe a couple of hundred Noghri walking with them by then. Chewie is also surprised, because although he has been aware that their escort was growing at each village, he hasn’t realized how much. The maitrakh, Leia notes, has just made sure that at least they won’t be disappeared quietly.  That’s only a chance to speak; she still has to make it work.

will: I should say that there’s one image I’ve always carried around for this…when I was a teenager, I did a Birthright trip to Israel, and we got a lecture from a man who had been Mossad (probably still was, come to think–reserves) and participated in Operation Moses, the airlift of a community of Ethiopian Jews to Israel. He ended up taking a team of soldiers escorting a passel of children on an overnight trek from the village to the airstrip they were using to fly out. And the way he described them moving was a lot like that. That same deliberate silence of purpose.

z: Scene shift.  Just before sunrise they reach the edge of the city to find another crowd of Noghri is waiting for them. The maitrakh now reveals that she has sent word ahead, saying that Lady Vader has come with a message: That their debt of honor to the Empire has been paid in full and Lady Vader will offer a new life.

Chewie shows Leia the analysis results.  Leia says that she can prove the debt has been paid.

Most of those waiting are female, elderly, or children, but the dynasts have also heard and sent an official escort. They go to the Grand Dukha. This one has a much different design: Metal walls, no carvings, stone steps leading up to a flagstone entrance terrace; an unfriendly place.  Leia thinks it might have been built by the Empire instead of the Noghri themselves. I think she’s probably right.

will: Yeah. It was “we will build this in your style, but it will be our place, and not yours.” Puts an additional spin on Thrawn taking the Noghri’s obesiences there…

z: The dynasts are waiting at the terrace. Khabarakh is also there, chained to two upright posts.  The public shaming has taken its toll, but he’s awake and alert.  Leia reminds Chewie that they aren’t there to fight, then puts on the princess demeanor and walks up the steps.

will: Khabarakh is described as something close to crucified. No nails, but held up by his arms, sagging against the restraints.

z: She declares herself as daughter of “your Lord Darth Vader. He who came to you in your distress, and brought you aid.”  She offers her hand, which the dynast on the center of the line sniff-tests three times before calling her Leia Organa Solo, not “Lady Vader,” and saying that the new Lord Grand Admiral ordered them to bring her to him so come and wait for transport.

Chewie snarls from the bottom of the stairs.  Leia says she didn’t come to surrender; the dynast says “tough.” Leia questions whether he serves the Empire or the people of Honoghr.  He weasels “both.”

will: He says that to serve the Noghri is to serve the Empire, in effect. I wouldn’t call that a weasel, just the party line.

z: Leia questions if serving the Noghri means sending generations of their young people to die.  The dynast outright says “You’re an alien, you don’t understand us,” which… ordinarily, yeah, but Leia is really not ordinary, y’know?  He tells guards to take her in. Chewie snarls again. Leia asks the obvious: Are you afraid of one alien speaking, then?  Do I step on your turf?  The dynast snaps that she will “speak no words of discord and poison.” Leia raises her voice:

“My words are not of discord.  My words are of treachery.”

The dynast actually says shut up, or I will make you, and when the maitrakh calls out that she’d like to hear what Leia has to say, threatens her also: He’s not called a convocate, she shouldn’t be there anyway. The maitrakh displays her political savvy: You didn’t call the convocate but it is here. We will hear the Lady Vader.  “From prison,” the dynast continues to threaten, and Leia decides that the “You and what army?” moment has come.  She reaches out with the Force:

And her lightsaber leaped from her belt, breaking free from its quick-release and jumping up in front of her.  Her eyes and mind found the switch, and with a snap-hiss the brilliant green-white blade flashed into existence, carving out a vertical line between her and the line of dynasts.

All that is happening in the pre-dawn light, remember.  It’s cinematic as all hell, and  I want fan art.

will: The official comic adaptation’s pretty good for it too…

z: We’re nowhere near done with bad-assitude. The Noghri gasp and freeze, and Leia explains how it is: I am not only the daughter of Vader, but the Mal’ary’ush, heir to his authority and power.

This is important.  Khabarakh had immediately accepted her authority without question and without asking for a demonstration of her power.  Here, she shows them explicitly that she has got the Force.  She’s got his power; they’re supposed to infer her authority from that.

will: Exactly. Given that Vader had the Force (and presumably used it), and Grand Admiral Thrawn does not, I can’t think of a better way for her to claim some speaking ground through him. But speaking of cinematics, I want a recording of Carrie Goddamn Fisher saying this:

I am not merely the daughter of the Lord Vader. I am the Mal’ary’ush, heir to his authority and his power. I have come through many dangers to reveal the treachery that has been done to the Noghri people. Will you hear me? Or will you instead choose death?”

z: Yes please make it two of that.

There’s a long, drawn-out moment of tension, and then one of the dynasts steps forward and says that he would hear her words. It’s Irkhaim, dynast of clan Kihm’bar, so the recalcitrant dynast says that he only wants to save his clan’s honor, and when Irkhaim responds we get a name for the opposition: Vor’corkh.

will: As in, put a Vor’corkh in it…

z: …I had hoped.  Oh, how I had hoped.  But no, of course you wouldn’t let that one by.

Irkhaim says that maybe he also wants to save the Noghri people, imagine that, and asks if he stands alone.  And other dynasts step out one by one, until nine of the thirteen have silently declared they want to listen to the Mal’ary’ush.  Vor’corkh declares that “the dynasts of Honoghr have chosen,” and steps back, and Leia is released.

will: Credit to the big V, he seems pissed, but he drops it. With the dynasts agreeing, he lets Leia speak.

z: She picks her lightsaber out of midair, turns it off and returns it to her belt, saying that she will tell the story twice: Once as the Empire told it, once as it actually was, and they will decide whether their debt has been paid.

She summarizes: Big space battle; many environmental disasters; the remnant that gathered here was visited by Lord Darth Vader. All plants except the kholm-grass died after the strange-smelling rain that had been falling; the Empire had explained that the ground was poisoned and offered machines–the decon droids–to clean it… and demanded their lives of service in return.

will: Which, by the way, would be enough itself to be a problem for Leia. If the Noghri had volunteered to serve, that would be one thing. But clearly, if the Noghri didn’t serve, they would be left all alone.

z: A dynast points out that the ground had indeed been poisoned, because they had tried to grow stuff in un-decontaminated ground but it never worked. Leia says that is so, but it wasn’t the soil that was poisoned actually. Chewie brings the analyzer and one sample plant at her signal.  Leia says she will now tell the true story.  After the Lord Vader left, there were other ships who came and flew all over the world, were there not?  They said they were surveying or searching for survivors or some such.  But what they actually did was to seed the land with this plant, which looks like kholm-grass of old, but isn’t; you’ve noticed that it smells a bit different even; it’s this plant that poisons the soil.

will: I actually like Vor’corkh’s reply, in that mythical way: “your truth is dreams,” he says, because kholm-grass has grown “since the beginning of knowledge.”

z: Yup.

The crowd breaks into surprised discussion, and as they discuss Leia looks around.  There are now close to a thousand Noghri around; she decides news of her must still be spreading… and wait, what’s that metallic glint over there?

A decon-droid, lurking in the shadow of another building. Threepio’s “curious decon droid” story comes back to her, and she realizes that more than fifty miles away from where it should be, this particular decon droid must be something more than just “curious”.  Well, the Grand Admiral would have left behind at least one spy. She points it out to Chewie, quietly, and Chewie goes back down the steps and heads that way, but Leia is afraid that if the droid has a transmitter, he’d be sending all its data off before Chewie could get to it.  She calls to the crowd, points out the decon droid and says she’ll prove what she said is true; “bring [the droid] to me.” The crowd isn’t certain, but when they turn to look, the droid actually runs.

Biiiig mistake.

will: As Leia notes, the Noghri have all grown up around decon droids–especially given they’ve been running for half a century. So they know how they should act. And this one…isn’t.

z: Noghri take off after him. One of the guards up there with Leia lets out an immensely loud signal cry. Other Noghri will be joining the hunt. Leia thinks it’s futile if the droid has a transmitter, but they can’t do anything else… but very shortly, the Noghri come back actually carrying the struggling droid aloft,  and Leia cuts it open with her lightsaber.

will: The scene is, I imagine, supposed to evoke the Ewok hunt–Zahn ties it to every “home from the hunt bearing the kill aloft” image. Appropriately.

z: Even knowing what I do know, I felt uncomfortable this read-through–there’s no mention of deactivating the droid first, and even though Leia presumably didn’t “kill” the droid, since it could just be reassembled without the pieces she’s about to take out, it’s still… a bit off.

will: See above re Droid Local 1138, I guess, though I suspect that Imperial probe droids (a la the one on Hoth) aren’t quite fully sentient. I wouldn’t make them such, if I had a choice.

Besides, droid rights issues…are a mess in universe.

z: No kidding.

There’s the motivator/recorder unit from an Imperial probe droid installed there, sure enough, but the antenna jack is empty: “Luck, or the Force, was still with them.”  Nice way to phrase it.  Chewie rummages through a bit more and takes out a large cylinder and slender needle from somewhere “near the intake hopper.”

I really have no idea, nor can I visualize, what a “hopper” might be in this context, but “intake” is clear enough: This is where the droid takes in the contaminated sample to “decontaminate” it.

will: Ah, English. “Hopper” is a bulk container. My reference is always the basket of tennis balls in an automatic ball-shooter, which is a hopper. In this case, think “bucket.”

z: …but of course it makes perfect sense to call a container “hopper,” I mean if you think about it they probably used to call the thing they stored hops in “hopper” in particular because you can’t live without a separate word for that and we already have eight hundred thousand what is one more–

will: Funny thing is, I would not be at all surprised if–because the term is primarily referring to a grain storage container–hops, as in, the flower used in beer, was where it comes from originally.

z: –in spite of all of the above, dear reader, I actually love the English language to bits, and I’m outspoken about it.  It’s so very… human.

Leia asks the dynasts to witness that they took this particular cylinder from the inside of a decon droid.  Fine, they will.  The machines don’t decontaminate the ground at all, she says; the plant secretes something to poison the soil, so the decon droids are actually just destroying the plants.  Vor’corkh scoffs that the droids take twenty days to clean some unit-of-area of land, while “his daughters” could just destroy the grass there in one. Exactly, Leia says. The droids are destroying the grass. Very, very slowly.

Much more slowly than they can, actually.

will: And we start to get into where my lawyer-brain turns on…

z: She touches a drop of liquid from the tip of the syringe attached to the cylinder to the stem of the kholm-grass plant, and for a few seconds nothing happens… and then the grass literally dries up, blackens, starts smoking, and falls to ash in a few more seconds.

Well, then.

will: OK, but here’s the thing–I feel like there are some pieces missing. All we know is that the droids could destroy kholm-grass very quickly. But that isn’t really proof of anything! It doesn’t prove that’s what, or all, the droids do, it doesn’t prove the kholm-grass is what’s poisoning the soil…I mean, that’s sort of not the point, and maybe there would be more if it were done “in person,” but.

It doesn’t…quite gel for me.

z: Yes, you are completely right, and I think this is what’s missing: “Chewie dug around everywhere in the droid, but there was no sign of [insert made-up name for standard soil-decontamination thingy here] anywhere.”  Only in other words.  I had those thoughts too.  But then there’d be still the question of how she can prove to the Noghri, who obviously don’t have the decontamination tech themselves, that the thingy isn’t there… it could be done, but would stretch out the scene.  So instead, we assume that the characters know more things than has been explicitly shown.

will: Right. Eh. It has the important thing: it looks awesome.

z: Exactly.

Leia expects shouts; instead what she gets is a very unnerving silence.  The Noghri get it.  Leia speaks to the dynasts in that silence: “I have shown you my proof.  You must now decide whether the Noghri debt has been paid.”

Then she does something very touching, obviously nudged by the Force: “…moved by an impulse she couldn’t explain, she unhooked her lightsaber from her belt and put it in [Vor’corkh’s] hand.”  Then she moves over to Khabarakh and apologizes for him going through all this for her.  It’s his turn to be touching: “The Empire has long taught us that it is a warrior’s pride and duty to face pain for his overlord.  Should I do less for the Mal’ary’ush of the Lord Vader?”

Leia, for the first time, openly refuses what honor he tries to accord to her–now that she’s spoken her piece and  been heard, she probably figures she does not need the extra authority, and she never had wanted it anyway. “I am not your overlord, Khabarakh, and I never will be.  The Noghri are a free people.  I came only to try to restore that freedom to you.”

…should we talk about this now?  I guess we should.

There’s the trope of the Great White Saviour in literature, and it comes up far too often in fantasy literature for us to not notice it here.  So is this–Leia taking it on herself to restore the Noghri’s freedom, the story obviously told in approbation–problematic?

Somewhat, but not completely. The catch is that, in fact the Noghri, or rather, their sense of honor and duty which was there before the Empire came and decided to make use of it, enslaved themselves.  What triggered it was the lies the Empire told them.  What Leia has done here is to reveal those lies as lies.  And now it is going to be the Noghri themselves again who has the chance to decide to take themselves out of slavery.

will: That said, it is inevitable that there will be some of this, especially because…a land where all that grows is grass? So, basically, a savanna? With primitive people, somewhat dark-skinned, who are excellent fighters who could resist invasion by a technologically superior foe for a while at least?

Familiar with the Anglo-Zulu war, anyone?

So yeah, Leia’s still the Flame of the Rebellion and all that, but she’s a Human, and light skinned, and of privilege. Like Z said, it’s not as bad as it could have been (and frequently is). But…it’s there.

Well noted.

z: Also count that in the list of things I did not notice in my teenage years.  We learn.

Vor’corkh is sarcastic, upon hearing that line from Leia: “And to bring us on your side against the Empire.”  Leia says that she would wish that, but will not ask it.  Giving the Noghri the freedom to choose means just that; no hidden bonds, no catches, no more damn debt of honor.  Vor’corkh, given to pause, returns Leia’s lightsaber (“reluctantly”), and says that such a big decision cannot be taken immediately, so a full convocate of the Noghri people must be called.  Khabarakh is feeling well enough to talk back, even while still chained: “Then call it. The Mal’ary’ush of the Lord Vader is here.”

Unsaid: Duh.

will: Khabarakh, by all accounts, would be well enough to talk back if he were legally dead. Dude has snark.

z: Vor’corkh reveals his hostility to be born of caution when he asks if that Mal’ary’ush can protect them against the Empire, then, when they will get double-crossed?  Leia agrees.  Khabarakh is disdainful: Have the Noghri forgotten how to fight?  Vor’corkh points out, not unreasonably, that forty-four years ago their skill didn’t work that well against the Empire, so if they show open defiance now they might all as well go hide somewhere else.  And, Leia supports him, that would mean that the commando teams that are now out there with the Empire forces would be instantly killed.  She’s learned to speak to what’s most important to the Noghri: Such a death, she points out, would have no honor in it.  This prompts Vor’corkh to remark that she speaks wisdom; he’s beginning to show her respect.  “True warriors understand the value of patience. You will leave us now?”

will: Leia doesn’t say this, not as such, but there’s also the element of, if the Noghri have switched sides, and the Empire doesn’t know it, and keeps using them as trusted slaves…that can be useful.

Which, well…yep, it will, at that.

z: Leia says that indeed she will leave, but she would like to take Khabarakh along.  Vor’corkh’s response is both awesome and hilarious, given the circumstances:

Vor’corkh looked at Khabarakh.  “Khabarakh’s family conspired to free him,” he said.  “They succeeded, and he escaped into space.  Three commando teams who were here on leave have followed in pursuit.  The entire clan Kihm’bar will be in disgrace until they yield up the names of those responsible.  After this I am immigrating to Coruscant; I heard that they pay good money to holodrama scriptwriters.”

Okay, so I made that last line up.  But he’d be great at it, since he just rattles all of that off without a pause. There’s also the interesting point that he’s confidently assuming the cooperation of not only the entire clan Kihm’bar, who will have to pretend to be in disgrace, but also of everyone else, who will have to pretend the clan Kihm’bar is in disgrace, and in particular of the commando teams, who will “volunteer” to go “search.”  And he probably knows of which he speaks, so there’s that.

will: Advantage of being tactical thinkers with a common goal and honor. Vor’corkh is a politician of a Noghri, but he’s still a Noghri.

z: Leia approves of the story. There’s a little bit more hilarity when she tries to caution them to warn the commando teams to utter secrecy about this and gets told to go teach her grandmother to knit: “Do not presume to tell warriors their job.”  Vor’corkh asks if she can get them more of the plant-destroying liquid. She promises to get them a supply from Coruscant after they stop by at Endor and pick up her ship.

Uh.

About that.

But Vor’corkh hesitantly asks if they can get the supply sooner, and Leia decides to skip Endor and head directly to Coruscant first; they can go pick up the Millennium Falcon later.  But be careful where you use the liquid, she says, or the Empire will notice, and naturally gets told to go teach her grandmother how to crochet too: “Do not presume, either, to tell farmers their job.”  Heh.

will: Vor’corkh is stated to have “dry humor” in his voice (Zahn’s favorite kind) on that one.

z: Leia, explicitly thinking that the Force is with her, cuts Khabarakh loose with her lightsaber and heads off with him.

I am fairly certain that this is the longest chapter review we’ve written yet.  But I wouldn’t want to edit it down, nor to split it:  This is awesome, from beginning to end, and easily as climactic as any space battle you care to name with a trench and impressive barrel rolls in it.  So there.

Will?

will: Yeah, what you said. When Zahn said that Heir was light on Leia, I disagreed, but there’s no doubt that this is one of the centerpieces of the entire trilogy, and it’s all Leia as the Princess, the Liberator, and interestingly, as Vader’s heir.

We usually focus on Luke as Vader’s son, because, well. Skywalker name, Jedi training, and all that. So I really like that Leia gets her reconciliation, at least a little, with being the Lady Vader. That it’s so key to her storyline.

And like I said, while I have my quibbles with the actual details of what made for the proof, I don’t care, because the emotional impact follows through at full power.

Join us next week, when the dice are rolled and everything comes up snakes. Until then, may the Force be with you.

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2 thoughts on “Dark Force Rising, Chapter 24

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