Star Wars: The High Republic entered its second year in January, with tales of Jedi awesomeness and terrifying threats more than 200 years before the events of The Phantom Menace playing out in novels and comics. The era's third wave of stories is now rolling out, with Claudia Gray's The Fallen Star seeing nasty space pirates the Nihil making a bold attack on the Jedi's base in the galaxy's Outer Rim.
Daniel José Older's Midnight Horizon, which comes out Feb. 1, takes place before The Fallen Star. The Nihil are seemingly on the run, so the Jedi are shocked to learn of them making a suspected attack on Corellia (Han Solo's homeworld, as seen later in the timeline in Solo).
Sent to investigate the incident are Jedi Masters Cohmac Vitus and Kantam Sy, with Padawans Reath Silas and Ram Jomaram. Like many Star Wars stories, Midnight Horizon also features flashbacks that reveal more about its characters.
"This excerpt is from a thread we follow in Midnight Horizon that focuses on the past -- it's one of my favorite throughlines of the book and it gives us a chance to step outside the present day action and get a deeper understanding of the complex emotional issues many of these characters face, both in terms of their roles within the Jedi Order and the galaxy as a whole," Older said of these sections in a release to CNET.
The author noted that we get to learn about Kantam Sy, a non-binary Jedi also seen in Older's High Republic Adventures comic series.
"When we meet Kantam in the present day storytelling, they are Lula's master and renowned for their calm and measured responses. One inspiration for Kantam was Jin from [beloved anime] Samurai Champloo, a paragon of both discipline and chill, but also a fierce warrior when that's what's needed," Older said. "I wanted to explore some of what led up to that epic calmness, and Kantam's turbulent Padawan era was a perfect way to do that."
Older also hinted at Yoda's role in his novel, since this excerpt sees him training an uncertain Kantam.
"Can't tell you much, of course, but we've had a lot of discussions about this, and what I can say is that Yoda has been going through some very, very rough times. Of course, it would have to be bad for it to keep him out of commission all this time, when the galaxy needs him most," the author said. "I can't confirm whether or not we'll see Yoda again during this particular storytelling era of the High Republic… but the good part is he's been an active member of so many of our Jedi's lives, and that's why it was so important to bring him in with these flashback sequences, like the one we have here."
Check out the excerpt below and continue the story when Star Wars: The High Republic: Midnight Horizon hits shelves Feb. 1. You can also hear Older and his fellow authors talk about the era's upcoming Phase 2 in an anniversary special video that dropped earlier this month.
Kantam already had tears welling up in their eyes when they stepped up to the door of the meditation room. A million scenarios pounded through their head, each more elaborate and ridiculous than the last. A million ways to try to explain. None made any sense -- because this didn't make sense. That was all there was to it. Some things were beyond logic and reason. The Force, for instance. And love.
Was that what this was? Kantam had read about it, watched those goofy holos about people falling in love, sometimes even Jedi. It had always seemed like a big joke—something other people did. Not that Kantam judged love, or people who fell in love. It just wasn't for them.
Until, very suddenly, it seemed to consume Kantam's every movement and breath.
Didn't matter. This was the moment they existed in, the reality they had to face. No amount of logic, or even poetry about the lack of logic, would change that.
The door slid open.
Master Yoda stood inside, back straight, facing the far wall.
For a flickering moment, Kantam wondered absurdly if Yoda was going to challenge them to a duel, as punishment for tarnishing the image of the Jedi Order and throwing all that training out the window.
Then Yoda extended his lightsaber.
Kantam let out an audible gasp.
Yoda chuckled in that Yoda way: raspy, high-pitched, relentlessly endearing. "Many times, have we dueled in this very room, Padawan Sy. No?"
"I . . ."
"One last session," Yoda said solemnly, then turned and looked up, meeting Kantam's gaze. "Perhaps?"
Kantam extended their saber. You didn't say no to a duel with Master Yoda. Even in these fraught circumstances. It just wasn't done. "Of course, Master. But . . . you know?"
Yoda whipped up into the air in a swirling cartwheel, that bright green blade flashing in fierce spirals around him. He landed in a crouch, one hand out, lightsaber poised above his head.
From any other master, that may have been intimidating. Paired with the implicit understanding that something very real was up, Kantam would've normally understood this to be a veiled threat of some kind.
But this was exactly how Kantam and Master Yoda had always found understanding, ever since Kantam was just a tiny youngling. They would spar, and spar, and spar some more, and somehow in that grapple of stick against stick -- then later, saber against saber—whatever was troubling Kantam would start to untangle itself; the world would slip back into harmony. Even if the problem wasn't resolved, Kantam would leave sweat-soaked and invigorated and feeling like somehow there was an answer out there, and if there was an answer, Kantam would find it.
They had no such expectations of this duel, but it didn't matter. Sparring with Yoda was the answer, in this moment, the only moment that truly mattered. So they leapt forward, unleashing a controlled downward slice that Yoda easily parried, then followed up with a straight sweep across their shoulders. Yoda ducked, then sprang straight up, lightsaber needling directly at Kantam, who swatted each stab away while backstepping gracefully.
"Come, the time has," Yoda said, "to make a choice, hm."
"Yes, but . . ." Kantam leapt sideways, avoiding an upswing from Yoda, and backflipped away, gaining enough distance to catch their breath. "How can I make a choice for the rest of my life when I barely understand what the choice is?"
Yoda lowered his head, sighed. It was a loving sigh, not exasperation. But there was a sadness there, too; Kantam felt it. "Not that choice, my Padawan. Every day, hm? The Force chooses Kantam Sy. The Force chose you to be its conduit, its living embodiment, as it does all Jedi, when you were born, yes?"
"Of course," Kantam said, holding very still to preserve energy. Yoda's counterattack would come at any moment, whenever Kantam least expected it.
"But when does Kantam choose the Force, hm?"
"Every day!" Kantam yelled, a surge of anger moving through them. They released it, as Yoda had taught them to do, and then released it again because it hadn't gone anywhere. "Every day," they said again, quieter. "I wake up here, a Padawan. I train, I meditate, I study. I -- " They were getting worked up, shoulders rising and falling with fury, confusion, so of course that's when Yoda chose to attack again.
Kantam never understood how such a tiny body could move with so much explosiveness. Yoda seemed to simply burst sideways with barely even a muscle twitch of anticipation. He went running along the wall, flipped upward off the ceiling, and came down swinging at Kantam.
Kantam raised their own saber to block Yoda's and was rewarded with a sharp green foot landing on their shoulder.
Yoda flipped forward, landed in a squat behind Kantam, then sprang into a curved sweep past Kantam's feet, which they barely had time to hurl out of the way of. They landed in a heap on the floor and rolled onto their back.
"Hm," Yoda said gravely, "Is it a choice we make when we don't truly believe other options there are?" He extinguished his saber.
Kantam propped themself up on their elbows. "I don't understand."
"A reason there is, why I have not knighted you yet, even though immensely qualified in almost every way, you are."
"I know, Master, and I'm not in a hurry. I've never been." Yoda nodded, offering his tiny green hand to help Kantam up, just as he had done so many years before, when Kantam was the tiny one, and so many times since. "Mm."
Without another word, they sat facing each other and let the silence speak a while.
Kantam tried every meditation trick they knew to calm all those raging thoughts, doubts, fears, hopes.
There was a reason Yoda hadn't knighted them. This had never bothered Kantam before. The time would come; there was no question. Now it seemed foolish to ever think there wasn't a question. "Are you saying I should leave the Order, Master Yoda?"
Yoda let out a small chuckle, eyes closed. "There is no should, young Kantam. The right thing to do very often is an idea we invent, hm? To make ourselves feel better. What I know, my Padawan, is that stopped listening, you have."
Even as Yoda spoke, Kantam knew it was true. They could barely hang on to a single sentence, let alone concentrate on the Force. Too many thoughts danced through them.
"Very like the wind, our feelings are," Yoda said. It was something he'd repeated many times over the years Kantam had been training with him, and Kantam had never totally known what to do with it.
"The wind touches us. We experience it," Kantam said, finishing the teaching. "It is real. But it passes. So, too, do our feelings."
Yoda nodded. "But sometimes, there is a hurricane. The winds are so strong, they lift us. Carried away, we can be. Everything we know and trust, gone, hm? Then easy it becomes to give in to anger, aggression, hm? Fear."
"So I should stay?" Kantam knew that wasn't the right answer, that there wasn't one. But all these poems and metaphors just seemed a million light-years away, even as they hit home to what Kantam felt.
Yoda opened his eyes, met Kantam's worried gaze. "You must choose the Force. One does not fall into being a Jedi Knight by mistake, hm? Or because it is convenient! You must choose the Force, with your whole heart. To do this, you must learn, again, to listen. To hear the world, the world outside of your own emotions. Even when they are very, very loud, heh, a hurricane."
"Patient, Yoda is, hm? The only one in a hurry is Kantam."
A strange peace finally fell over Kantam. The emotions still surged, the nightmares and fantasies. But the path ahead was clear. Or as clear as it could be in that moment. The next step, which was the only step Kantam needed to understand.
Slowly, they unsheathed their lightsaber and placed it on the mat in front of Master Yoda.