*So, this one’s also in that collected stories book I mentioned last time.
*Once again, I just have to tout Miller’s incredibly facility with humor. This one starts with a great gag: “Heretic!” “Good to see you too, Mother.”
*So, we open this story by introducing Adari Vaal. She is a teacher and a scientist who has come under fire for espousing views about the creation of Kesh that go against the native religion.
*There’s a great running gag where Adari collects rocks and everyone that hates her is always throwing rocks at her. “Who needed expeditions when you had an angry mob to collect samples?”
*So, Adari is a widow, her husband having been killed by his uvak, which is what those winged beasts are.
*So, Adari appears before the village council, the Neshtovar. She is defending her proposition that many of the Keshiri rocks were formed by volcanic activity. The Neshtovar say that this blasphemes against the Skyborn, the Gods who created Kesh from their own blood.
*This just perfectly captures the extremity of religious beliefs: “Do you think the village is going to fall into a hole because I talked to your children about some rocks?” “It very well could!”
*And then, during the hearing, everyone is distracted by the sound of an explosion on a mountain peak nearby. They are puzzled by this, but we readers are not; the Omen has just hit Kesh like a ton of bricks.
*So, Adari flees her village because she thinks the Neshtovar are about to pass a death sentence on her. She takes her husband’s uvak, Nink, and flies to the sight of the ‘eruption,’ which is, of course, the Omen’s crash site. And she passes overhead as Yaru Korsin is tossing Devore off the cliff. She then is the rider Yaru saw; and she has seen something too: a cold blooded murder.
*So, Adari sneaks up to the Sith campsite at night out of curiosity and also because the Sith are manipulating her through the Force. She is captured.
*So, Korsin quizzes Adari on all things Keshiri and comes up with a fine ploy. The Sith, using the Force for illusions and tricks, will pass themselves off as the Skyborn, at last descended to their people.
*So, the Sith use Adari to make contact with the Keshiri and they begin a mining operation to find workable material to repair the Omen and also, as cover, begin building a temple on the mountain, near the crash site.
*There’s a killer scene of Adari and Yaru talking about the fact that she saw Yaru murder Devore. The two bond over their shared predicament; Adari has turned her people over to the Sith to be manipulated and exploited because she was an outcast; Yaru was forced to kill his own brother because his brother refused to be controlled. These are two people who have been forced to do things they find distasteful in order that the greater good be served, or, and this is perhaps most troubling to both of them, perhaps they only did these things for selfish reasons.
*But if Precipice ended with Yaru keeping a dangerous secret and this story ends with Yaru finally sharing that secret with Adari, Adari has another secret. As a scientist, she is familiar with the soil of Kesh; the materials the Sith need to repair the Omen are not here. The Sith, Adari realizes, are going to be on Kesh for a long, long time. And she begins to wonder if, all that time in the balance, she has made the right decision.
*So, this story was really great too. In Adari Vaal, Miller has created a strong, fascinating female character to contrast with Yaru. Both Adari and Yaru are pragmatic; both consider themselves trapped; both share a secret; and both will be together for a long, long time. Like I said last time, it’s time that is the theme of this series. Last time, it was the specter of how little time Yaru had to assert control over the survivors; this time, it’s the specter of just how much time Adari and Yaru are going to be in this devil’s bargain together.
*I mean, the old “Force user pretends to be a God” is not a new trope. But the characters here are so wonderfully sketched that you don’t mind that the plot itself is somewhat predictable this time out.
*CANONICAL STATUS: The historical records of the Sith on Kesh are of superlative accuracy. This text should be seen as an exact accounting of the events it details. This work is RECOMMENDED as a historical resource.
*** out of **** stars.
John Jackson Miller
*Okay, next time, we’ll leave Kesh and catch back up to how things are going in the larger galaxy. Join me next time for Tales of the Jedi: The Fall of the Sith Empire 4: The Dogs of War!